The RSJ Thought Center

John Steinbeck and a Nazi Propagandist: Lessons in Human Capital

Posted by Tony A. Rose on Nov 4, 2015 10:15:25 AM

What defines the essence of a person?

While some wealth-holders define themselves by the size of their bank accounts, we believe that a person’s substance is only truly
defined by looking at his or her human capital: What is the depth of his or her intelligences? How rich are his or her values? And how focused are his or her striving instincts?

Intelligences, values, and striving instincts: These are the three components of human capital, which is the first of the five intertwined capitals that comprise a person or business’s success.

Let’s consider the three components of human capital one at a time:


This isn’t a typo: the word intelligences is plural. This is because there is no such thing as being intelligent or unintelligent. All of us have multiple intelligences. A person could be intelligent in his or her capacity to think in musical notes, hear patterns, and manipulate them. He or she might have the ability to solve physical problems, but lack the ability to understand other people. Regardless, any of these intelligences can be equally important when applied to the right setting.

Within a family, one person’s intelligences—whatever they are—are just as important and valuable as the next, but this alone does not define the richness of a person’s human capital. Consider, for instance, that both author John Steinbeck and Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels both had incredible linguistic and interpersonal intelligences. So why was the effect they had on the world and society so stunningly different?

It had to do with the second component of human capital: values.


Steinbeck and Goebbels had opposing methods of deploying their intelligences: Steinbeck, through the gentler values of inspiration, kindness, and art; and Goebbels, through ruthless and destructive values.

Your values, whatever they are, define how you express your intelligences. Failing to identify positive values stops you from leveraging them to their fullest extent. In a family, failing to honor a set of values can tear loved ones apart.

By recognizing and naming values, we are able to make decisions that better reinforce and honor not only our values, but also the relationships they support. And we are more likely to avoid making huge mistakes when we realize that certain behaviors would violate our values.

Striving Instincts

Your striving instincts are the third part of your human capital. Think of striving instincts like internal wiring: If you want to do something because of your values, and you know how to do it because of your intelligences, your striving instinct is the way you go about doing it.

What is your first instinct when faced with a task or a goal? You might be a fact finder, meaning you gather and share information. You might arrange and design solutions. Or you jump in, comfortable sorting through the risk and uncertainty. You might need to make models or create something tangible out of the unknown.

All of us tend to go about solving problems in ways that seem right to us. Our brains do not operate as efficiently when we are forced to act in ways that do not fit the natural way we get things done. If you like to jump in and get to work, but you are faced with a project that requires heavy research, you will likely be bored and exhausted—you will probably procrastinate.

Knowing your striving instinct allows you to delegate tasks that do not fit within your profile. By working with your striving instinct, you can preserve energy and better apply your values and intelligences to solving problems.

Together, intelligences, values, and striving instincts create the essence of you as a person—and they create the essence of every member of your family. We believe families of wealth can strengthen their bonds to one another by truly seeing each member’s intelligences, values, and striving instinct. A family who has a deep understanding of the essence of each of its members can better work alongside one another, deepening its roots and creating the kind of bond that creates a shield against familial rifts and rivalries.

At Rose, Snyder & Jacobs, we do this through an annual family meeting. You can read more about family meetings in our free whitepaper, click here to download it now. 

Topics: Wealth transfer in ultra-high net worth families, Estate planning

Rose, Snyder & Jacobs LLP is a CPA firm based in Encino, CA that serves private and public companies, business owners and high-net-worth families. Our services include tax, assurance, estate planning, business advisory, and wealth transition consulting. We deliver a long-term perspective and innovative accounting solutions so our clients can focus on their success. Call us at 818.461.0600 for a confidential, no-obligation discussion.
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