“The measure of a person,” says Mark Cover, “is not only how many people show up at his funeral, but how much variety there is in the group of people who show up.” The more variety, the richer the life.
“I’m not sure where I learned this,” he continues, “but somewhere in my twenties, I realized that I could learn from literally every single person I came into contact with. I think a lot of lives get short changed because many people don’t believe that.”
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Mark came from a rural farming community. Growing up, he had no idea what a real estate developer even was. No one would have ever predicted that he would become the CEO for a division of a multi-billion-dollar real estate development firm. He jokes that when he first graduated from college, all he had was a couple polyester suits, a smile, and debt. It is that humble beginning that taught him about the many opportunities available to someone with an open mind and a willingness to learn without preconceived judgments.
Although, at this point in this life, it would be easy for Mark to limit his contacts to business colleagues, investors and neighbors in his affluent neighborhood, he goes out of his way to cultivate relationships with diverse groups of people he wouldn’t typically run into in the normal course of a day. Every Sunday, he and his wife drive 35 minutes to a church that is in a neighborhood very different from their own. Sure, they could go to the church that is only a few minutes away. But, Mark doesn’t believe he can serve or learn as much close to home.
Parenting, Money and a Learner’s Permit
One group of people Mark has had the pleasure of learning from are private wealth holders. Because of his career, Mark has had the opportunity to meet the ultra affluent and financially savvy. And he’s observed what wealth can do to family dynamics. Inheriting great sums of money doesn’t always lead to more freedom. In fact, Mark says many second- or third-generation wealth holders are “frozen in fear.” They are afraid they will mismanage the money and ruin their family’s legacy.
“That’s why,” he says, “I’m a big believer in enabling young people with a sense of wonder, excitement and optimism for their personal opportunity and ability to accomplish things that matter to them.”
He also believes that parents must reflect respect for their children from an early age and that is how he raised his four children (now adults). Mark and his wife had a parenting philosophy in which they openly talked with their children, shared insights and wisdom and “always gave them a little more rope than they expected.” For example, in Texas, you can get a learner’s permit when you are 15. So, Mark says he pushed each one of his children to get their learner’s permit as close to their fifteenth birthday as possible. Lots of other parents were terrified to have their children start driving in the big city, but Mark has always viewed things from the other side. “It’s your life,” he says. “It’s short. Go out and grab it by the horns. As long as it doesn’t hurt yourself or someone else, go for it!”
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