Imagine yourself in the Hawaiian Islands, where you marvel at the exotic vegetation, sandy beaches, and glorious mountain ranges. Above you, the sky is a brilliant blue, and all around you are the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. As the sun rises on this particular day, you step onto the deck of a magnificent 65-foot catamaran, where you are greeted by the smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns, and the friendly staff welcome you with hot coffee, hot chocolate, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
As the sun steadily climbs into the cloudless sky, you sail to Molokini for a spectacular snorkelling experience under the watchful eye of the experienced crew. After spending an unforgettable morning splashing in the water, you recline on the foredeck for the leisurely sail home. En route, you are treated to BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, and tropical libations. This is exactly what my family and I experienced a number of years ago during one of our most memorable family vacations.
Welcome to Trilogy Excursions—Maui’s leading on-water tourist attraction—offering visitors the ocean excursion of their dreams, whether it be the opportunity to snorkel with schools of exotic fish or to watch whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures in their natural habitat or to have a romantic evening dinner cruise. You can leave all your worries behind because the company is an industry leader in safety, environmental stewardship, and Hawaiian hospitality. For all these reasons and more, Trilogy has repeatedly been voted one of the premier tourist experiences in the Hawaiian Islands.
This enterprise is now owned and operated by the third-generation members of the Coon family. It was founded 46 years ago, when two Coon brothers headed to Hawaii as part of an epic family sailing trip around the world. Maui was supposed to be a pit stop to replenish their supplies, but it turned into a love affair with the land, its people, and two island girls. The boys had found their home. They planted roots, established families, and cofounded a business that allows them to share miraculous ocean adventures with the island’s visitors.
Almost all of the second- and third-generation Coon family members work at Trilogy, enjoying the idyllic environment as they continue to build their successful, award-winning family business.
It is difficult to imagine that this is not the perfect picture of contentment for everyone, but there is one Coon family member who has found her sense of contentment by following a different path.
A Different Passion But the Same Spirit of Adventure
MeiLi Coon is a gifted aesthetician and makeup artist. These are her passions, and she has chosen to follow them rather than to work in the family business. It may seem like a far cry from ocean excursions and adventures, but her determination to forge her own way on an unknown path reflects the same spirit that inspired her dad and uncle when they set out for the South Pacific almost 50 years ago.
In 2014, MeiLi founded her own bridal services business, MeiLi Autumn Beauty. Today the business is thriving, and she is happy in her chosen career. More importantly, she has found contentment in pursuing her own dreams.
Three Secrets to Contentment
MeiLi has given a lot of thought to what constitutes contentment. With great wisdom and insight, she offers the three attitudes that she says have been crucial in cultivating a heart of contentment.
MeiLi actively stimulates a sense of gratitude each day by reminding herself that the vast majority of the people in the world would happily switch places with her, especially if it meant living in the Hawaiian Islands, with its natural beauty, temperate climate, and magnificent culture. As the sun rises each morning, MeiLi’s heart beats with gratitude.
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- Stay Present.
MeiLi has developed the habit of being present each day and enjoying life as it comes. To her, that means she is not focused on the past or past regrets; nor is she looking to the future to bring her satisfaction and contentment. Instead, she lives in the present, experiencing life as the beautiful gift that it is. Her ability to remain focused and present also contributes to her capabilities as a great makeup artist, uniquely enabling her to do an exemplary job for each and every patron.
MeiLi knows that there are always people who have more authority, more responsibility, and more financial resources than she does. At the same time, she realizes that there are always those who have far less. MeiLi has learned that contentment is not rooted in comparison or in acquiring more things. She does not focus on her bank account or waste time comparing herself to her siblings or cousins who work in the family business. She says, “I am content because I have a job that gives me the freedom I want to spend time daily with my precious little daughter, and I continue to earn enough to pay the bills and to afford my own little apartment.”
She also takes time to remind herself that she is “living [her] dreams, one day at a time” and “Regardless of what you have, it is always enough.”
The Temptation to Do More
MeiLi has a bright future, as she continues to work hard, grow her business, and extend her reputation as a highly respected artist. But she is also very aware of the constant pressure to do more when you run your own business. She says, “There is literally no end to the potential for creating new streams of revenue, potential for growth, new marketing strategies, and better systems. It never ends.”
In the face of this, MeiLi knows that she is, once again, confronted with a choice to be content, emphatically stating, “Either we find alignment with our business and enjoy the journey or we can let it become an obsessive force that robs us of our joy.”
With great insight she notes, “If you are not content with where you are at with your business, at this very moment, then in six months or five years, when you hit those benchmarks, make that goal, or see the bank statement with those extra 0s, it will never be enough. If you live for the next horizon, you will find yourself always reaching for the next thing, and you will miss out on celebrating the steps that get you there.”
MeiLi acknowledges that it is good to have lofty goals for the future of your company, but she also points out, “We will not have a feeling of victory when we stand on the peak of whatever mountain we’ve been climbing if we’ve grumbled the whole way while getting there.”
Recognizing the need to enjoy the journey is why she regularly asks herself the following three questions:
Is this fun?
Are you enjoying it?
Would you do it if you weren’t getting paid?
If she cannot truthfully answer these questions with a yes, then she knows it is time for her to change her path in life.
MeiLi summarizes her thoughts on contentment this way: “If you can have joy in the beginning (the rush of launching), joy in the execution (establishing well-oiled systems), and joy in the accomplishment, then you will have mastered not just the art of business, but you will have cultivated the art of living well and being content. You will naturally exude a spirit of gratitude and contentment, which will, in turn, make your victories that much more rewarding.”
Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Printed with permission of the author.
BOOK: Dear Younger Me
Dear Younger Me: Wisdom for Family Enterprise Successors
by David C. Bentall
Most business leaders eventually discover that their education, leadership skills and years of hard work do little to prepare them for leading through the realities of a family business and the critical challenges encountered, that if not harnessed, can tear a family business apart.
In Dear Younger Me David Bentall explores the nine most important character traits that he wished he had been wise enough to develop when he was a young executive. These traits present practical guidance and advice for cultivating emotional intelligence and personal character, and transforming leadership through HUMILITY, CURIOSITY, LISTENING, EMPATHY, FORGIVENESS, GRATITUDE, CRITICAL THINKING, PATIENCE and CONTENTMENT. David believes that each trait is necessary for successors to develop the skills and relationships required to successfully lead any family enterprise.
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About the Author
David C. Bentall is founder of Next Step Advisors and has been advising family enterprises for over 25 years. He also has a deep understanding of the succession process, acquired as a third-generation executive in his family's real estate and construction businesses. Additionally, he is a gifted author, coach, speaker and facilitator.
His book, Dear Younger Me: Wisdom for Family Enterprise Successors explores the character traits critical for navigating the interpersonal demands of a family business enterprise. Learn more at NextStepAdvisors.ca.