The Wisdom and Wealth Podcast

Intangible Balance Sheet 48: Thomas Damsgaard

September 23, 2023 Joshua Klooz
The Wisdom and Wealth Podcast
Intangible Balance Sheet 48: Thomas Damsgaard
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome to this week's Intangible Balance Sheet conversation. We catch up with Thomas Damsgaard, who shares his experiences coming from growing up in Denmark. You'll hear of his tie to agriculture, the importance of family, resourcefulness, hard work and so much more. Thomas shares about how he believes in building a life not of silos but of harmony. 
 
 In this conversation, he takes us through his soul-searching sabbaticals and his significant volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, and his belief in the transformative power of giving. Listen in for an incredible story! 

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JOSH KLOOZ, CFP®, MBA
WEALTH ADVISOR

Phone 281.719.0036
Text 281.699.8691
Fax 281.719.0156
jklooz@carsonwealth.com

1780 Hughes Landing | Suite 570
The Woodlands, TX 77380

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Speaker 1:

Welcome in again to the wisdom and wealth podcast. I'm Josh clues, the senior wealth planner for Carson wealth here in the woodlands, texas. Today is another of our intangible balance sheet episodes and it is my pleasure to introduce Thomas dams guard to our podcast and hear a little bit more about his intangible balance sheet. Thomas, welcome to the podcast and thank you for joining us.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much, Josh. I'm really looking forward to this conversation with you.

Speaker 1:

Likewise, before we dive in, thomas, would you mind introducing us just briefly to who you are before we dive into your intangible balance sheet?

Speaker 2:

Absolutely. As I'm sure the accent gives it away, I'm not from around this neck of the woods. I was actually born and raised in Denmark. Famous for Legos and hands, christian Anderson, the little mermaid. I came to the states as 16 years old as an exchange student of an Washington state for year. Fennel love with the US knew that I wanted to come back here and I moved to Texas in 1992 permanently, where I've been since. So yeah, I consider myself a Texan these days.

Speaker 1:

Now, every once in a while your accent sounds a little bit Australian. So does anyone ever, you wonder? You know, and totally get, get your accent off geographically.

Speaker 2:

Constantly. I have gotten all kinds of suggestions. I have a little sister that lives in England and she speaks with this very British high English where everything is gorgeous. It's funny when you put her and I together in the room. I have my flat A's and she has this very, very high British English. So yeah, accents are funny thing. But yeah, I usually say it makes people pay a little bit more attention when I'm out doing presentations and stuff.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, I bet you it probably does. There is something to that as far as like the way the, the pronunciations hit the ear and make people lean in a bit. Thank you again, thomas, for joining us and for those listeners that are joining us and and you're not familiar with the podcast, we call it the intangible balance sheet because we want to focus on the things of life that make it worth living, and typically those intangible principles, first principles and value systems. Value systems are best passed on through stories. That that's the thing I found through my life that has cemented them to my psyche and even to my lifestyle, because of the, the family stories in some cases, that are even passed on to us. So I guess that the whole idea behind this is for you to get an idea of where they come from and what those first principles are in the unique ways in which those first principles are lived out. And so, with that in mind, thomas, would you mind sharing just a little bit more, even about your grandparents or parents? Are there any stories that you attribute back to? You know the first and second generations, removed from where you are today?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely Like I said, I was raised in Denmark, born and raised in Denmark by a single mom. My mom and dad got divorced when I was 70 years old. This is back in the early 70s where it was not very common. In my school I was actually the one with the first parents that were divorced, you know. So that had a big influence, of course, on my upbringing. I did not have a male figure growing up, but this is where my grandparents actually came in, especially my granddad ended up being that male figure in my upbringing. My grandparents they were pig farmers in the northwestern part of Denmark. They had a pig farm about, I think, 1100 heads of pig up there. They were the first generation. They were born right before the first world war and they lived through the second world war, so actually a generation of very resourceful people, but also meant that everything was cooked at home. They had a home butcher showing up twice a year to slaughter the pigs on the farm as well. Very few things were born. So again, I learned that aspect of being resourceful in just every single thing that you do. My grandmother also was the influence on me, on my love for good food and good wine, and to this day I'm still sending her thoughts back. And whenever I'm baking in the kitchen, you know, or we're having guests over to the house as well too. So, yeah, and my granddad you know, being farmers at 365 days a year, it's early rises and late to bed every night, so really taught me a work ethic, rain or shine, and that has carried me through many episodes in my life later on, and many times I'm thinking back to how they would have responded in some difficult situations when I've been going through it.

Speaker 1:

Hmm, I, it's funny you bring up. So I grew up on a farm and ranch as well, and when people talk about work life balance, I tend to be a little bit obtuse because it's like, hey, it wasn't so much of work life balance, that wasn't an option, it was priority balance, and sometimes you didn't get to choose your priorities right Like you. Just hey, this is what needs to be done, and so that 100% resonates with me. Now you talked about the food. I don't want to, I don't want to pass on. It sounds like you ever thought.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I do. On this whole thing about work life balance, and you're hitting a really sore spot for me, because I actually believe in life harmony, yeah, and whenever and I've seen it when people they try to get work life balance, there seems to be when something goes up, something else has to go down, and I don't believe that's necessarily the case, and I think oftentimes we are forgetting the whole dimension of time as well too In that equation where you're trying to split time. Equally well, you can always split things, so it's. I think it's really about harmony in life, you know, instead of this thing where you have this balance thing, where things got a struggle against each other. I don't think that's the case and it is one of my life principles actually, in many ways.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think we're largely aligned there. It's a the. The seeking of balance is probably you're looking for something in the wrong, so something's out of balance. Yeah, shouldn't be there. Something's out of harmony that's leading to the imbalance. Yeah, now, before I forget, talk to me about the food. What, what, what? How is it different? How is it unique? That's the one piece of travel that I Feel a little bit spoiled when it comes to that aspect here in Houston, because a lot of that Cultural exposure comes to us rather than us having to go to it sometimes. Yeah, talk to me about your, the food of, of your native land.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so. So going back to you know my grandparents is from the war, so they've always been very resourceful, so everything was grown on the farm. Growing up, I remember mom being a single mom. We did not have a lot. So it's about forging as well too, in the fall being out picking rose hips for jam or blackberries. You're not on the side of the road kind of thing, you know, and it's interesting. Later on in life I have still enjoyed doing those things and I'll be on runs with my wife. She's from Texas but we'll be out running in Denmark on the country roads and I cannot run by a blackberry, bush or any kind of berries. It's kind of like I'm seeking it out and she's laughing at me, say you know, when we out running together I don't need to bring any kind of goo or any kind of nutrition because you're just gonna forge off the the side of the road. So it's, it's, it's a big passion of mine and I. I did not have store-bought jam until I moved out of my mom's house in my late teens, if that says anything. And still this day today, it's. It's a big passion of mine. I travel for restaurants and Copenhagen just happens then, which is the capital of Denmark just happens to become the become one of the food capitals of the world now with the new Nordic cuisine and the best restaurants in the world. So and and we do frequent them and have many really good shear friends that are running some of these big restaurants, so yeah, Hmm. I love it.

Speaker 1:

That is a treat, to be sure. Now, as you talk to me about your decision to Be a part of the exchange exchange program, what were you seeking and and did you find it? How are you rewarded in that process? What was all behind that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah it's. It probably goes a little bit deeper than just coming to the States. My parents, while they were still married, they started me in school one year early, so I've always been the youngest in class, which means also the smallest, most scrawny kid, and for a closet introvert as I am, that's a hard situation to be in. But I think through my parents divorce where I was I'm the oldest of three siblings I saw the most of that very, very harsh Divorce. It actually also taught me that you know, putting myself in difficult situations that's kind of and this is where you're growing, growing outside of the comfort zone, actually providing me opportunities. So up through my school years, after seventh grade, I wanted to go to England on a language school and my mom Again not very resourceful Supported me in that and that's kind of what got me going on. You know the curiosity of traveling outside Denmark. Oftentimes I have wondered whether it was an escape for me, because I have some really bad memories from my upbringing and and with my parents and so forth. You know that this was kind of just getting away from that, but again it has been very rewarding to me. And then that year I spent in Washington state on the Olympic Peninsula with an amazing family being out in nature. It's a bit more than most beautiful places in North America. I think the Northwest Really gave me a lot. 16 years old, you cry yourself to sleep a lot of times, homesick, you know. But you know what doesn't kill you makes you stronger also, and it definitely, you know. I found myself a lot more through that process and I would not be here today had it not been for that year I spent Going to high school in Washington state, in forks of all places, which later on Became famous for these twilight teenage movies. That was my high school 34 students in my graduating senior class. So it gives you an idea of how small it was, but yeah, it's yeah, you knew everything about everybody, and maybe even a little bit more. Yeah, I have never seen an episode of it, but that's what High school is famous for today.

Speaker 1:

Now talk to me about the beliefs and principles that are most important to you and that, as you reflect back on your your life, have guided you the most.

Speaker 2:

I think I've been given opportunities through my life that, on the paper, should not have had. And when I reflect back at these opportunities and this is, you know, if I'm thinking about my professional career and what I've done it oftentimes has been more about less about what I have done, but more about how I have done it. You know, I got involved with some organizations and learned to give back in a very early age some charitable organizations, and that is a guiding principle for me through my life is this aspect of giving back, being unselfish and humble at times as well too, and then having the belief that if you're not necessarily seeking out the financial wealth but you're seeking out the things that are really important, then you will be rewarded financially also. And I have, through my professional career, three times I've taken sabbaticals when I had a hard time connecting with the organizations I was tied into, or because there's other things in life that became very important, like after 9-11, to give that as an example. You know where, all of a sudden, I think we all stopped up and were reflecting on life and say you know what is the purpose here? And I was on a career path and I had missed birthdays, funerals, baptisms, with family back in Denmark and was really disconnected to where my roots were, to my grandparents again, and I finally stopped up and said, listen, I need to take some time here to reconnect and being on a career track where an organization believes in you, invest in you. It's really hard to do and I was asking, I asked for getting some time off to go and reconnect, and they said nope, you know we're not gonna support you on that and I took the consequences off and said, okay, fine, other things that are more important in life than making the next dollar. So I took a leave, spent time with my grandmother and with my family back in Europe and then I connected up with Habitat for Humanity and that has been a very big part of my life since then, both here in the States but also in the Global Village Program, and this is something that I use on a similar regular basis, at least before the pandemic. It's been a little bit harder afterwards, but when I feel I'm getting too caught up in the world, the materialistic world, I'll make sure that I put in a habitat build and then I'll go to Cambodia and I'll build houses in the slum of Cambodia, where you're seeing four-year-olds picking through trash on the dumpsides or have issues with trial, prostitution and stuff. I really like really hardship and going out there and making a difference and it's kind of bringing me back to planet Earth, so to speak.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, Do you find that in the volunteering of your time in that way that there's something? Often I find when I talk to people that there's something in the back of our brains that our brains are working on different problems. Even at work, or just maybe even in congruencies throughout our life, we're working out those problems. Even though we're physically doing something else, our subconscious is working out and working through different challenges that we have to face. Have you experienced that as well as you volunteer your time?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. I think there's something very liberating on being out and aligning with other people that are driven by passion and are driven by maybe more the heart. Again, when we're in business, oftentimes it's the hit that we're using, but this aspect of leading with the heart is sometimes being put, especially in this very performance-driven society we're living in North America and I feel that volunteerism and I serve on several voluntary boards and I give back wherever I can I feel that that pulls more on my heart strings and that makes sure that I stay connected as well and humble as well. I think it comes back to this, where we talk about this work, life Balance as well, because I think this is really about creating harmony in life, and life is part energy and you create the energy. The energy you give out is what you're gonna receive back as well. So I think it was a Martin Luther King that said be the change you wanna see, and we can't sit and complain about the lives we're living in unless we go and do something about it. And ability commits, and when you're able to do something, then you're also committed to use those resources to make this a better place and help people that sometimes can't see it themselves. They can't help themselves.

Speaker 1:

And it's interesting you mentioned that I've noted Americans give lots of money to things that they're passionate about philanthropically or charitably, but I and I haven't seen very many studies, but I think that there's a disconnect personally, that, when I look at it, of the we somehow divorce the giving of time from the giving of money as well. When the two go together there's something magical that happens that I've witnessed personally in the lives of others. So it's unique to me that you're hitting on that, thank you.

Speaker 2:

I think to that aspect. Let me just give you one, because, looking at it as a European as well too, I actually give Americans credit for really making a difference in society, and I think both church and other institutions out there are doing a lot for society here. Growing up in Europe, you don't have that culture over there. There you have government looking out for many of these things, right. So, there's no, there's not the same level. You have plenty of grassroots initiatives, but you don't have the same, the same kind of communal caring as we are seeing here, and I think that's something that is uniquely North American, actually, or US at least. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Sometimes I wonder if that's because we are a at root, we are a society of immigrants and so when you don't have the family, the nuclear family, to fall back on, your neighbor was all you had. So the social fabric was, you know, paramount. But I for another topic probably. But that's what strikes me is, is maybe some of that. But it's interesting to see you point out that distinction. When you took your, your sabbatical, that you mentioned going back to Europe, what were some of the? Were there any stories bound up in that time off that brought life into perspective for you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, again, first and foremost, it was going back and really connecting with family, because I felt I had, you know, I'd abandon them for a while there, as I said, and then it was spending some time with my grandmother, who by that time has law. She had lost my granddad, so she was living by herself and Was very lonely. So the fact being able to sit down and talk to her about her upbringing and her history and where we came from, and and again Going and spending time with I had nights where I was laying and falling asleep, holding her hand, I was laying on my granddad's side of the bed and just that, that kind of Connection that I had with her, you know, so she was not feeling lonely and giving somewhat back to as well Too was incredibly important for me. Like I said, I got involved also with habitat during that period and I worked with the first habitat built in North America. I was actually built by inmates, was in Dallas, and I was part of the supervisory team with that and and connecting with that other part of society as well, to gain me some some interesting perspectives as well too. So, yeah, it's, I think, when you Take time off like that and I have done it more. I've done it three times during my professional career Create these spaces where I've gone out and done on other things and creating that kind of perspective. I think it makes me a better human being become. I become a better leader when I then are Stepping back into organizations again, which in my professional life, oftentimes I've stepped in and done turnarounds and and and fixed hurt organizations as well too, and it's a renewal of energy and it's this aspect of again Harmony in life and then creating energy within yourself. You know, so you can go on and and pour out more of it, yeah the.

Speaker 1:

It's interesting to hear you you talk about the, the harmony. In most cases, I think we're we see life as a zero-sum game when it comes to time, because you know there is a trade-off, but there's, there's a reward that you know we maybe can't see when it comes to volunteering piece, and the reason I like the way you framed volunteering so well is because it goes back to a theme that I've traced through David Brooks, the New York Times columnist. He said you know, there's that magical point in life where we realized that we were building a resume, but what we should have been building was a eulogy, because one actually has meaning. You know, over and above and beyond, what we, what we do here and now, and so I'm hearing those themes coming out From your story quite a bit.

Speaker 2:

Again, stephen Coey, seven habits of highly effective people. His first chapter, what you know. You sit down, you write the letter they're gonna Read the day you buried, right. So what do you want to be remembered by?

Speaker 1:

but on that, that dovetails into our next, our next Question, which is in line with that. What are some of those themes that you hope are in that, that letter that you remembered by that ethical will or or that eulogy?

Speaker 2:

And it is really about Creating a kinder place, being kind to people and supporting the, helping people and lift them up. And that's, you know, and it doesn't matter whether it's in the slum of Cambodia or or it's in a boardroom for for a startup, you know that are struggling is really coming in there and Helping people. You know to be the best they can be. That's what I would like to be remembered by this level of self Selflessness. You know we come with nothing and we're leaving here with nothing, and it's really important for me that I leave all the energy that I absolutely can In my wake and that people are becoming better because of it. I run the world's largest maritime organization, the americas. Now we just opened it up last year. It's been a seven year project. What we've been trying to get this organization to open america and americas and that's another aspect of it I've taken my professional career and that is now pivoting as well to Help an industry as a membership, not for profit organization, you know, to really make this. This is the that we're going through right now on global decarbonization and making the planet a better place for next generations.

Speaker 1:

Thomas, thank you so much for your time today. Are there any other parting, parting thoughts that we didn't get to or anything else that you'd like to cover before we sign off for today?

Speaker 2:

No, I think I'm Again. It takes courage, life takes courage, and I think you know to live a fulfilling life, you know you gotta be courageous, but I think there's more laws for not trying and there is from trying, and oftentimes you regret the things you didn't do. Really, do you regret the things you do? So it's something that I keep reminding myself. So, yeah, I would like to close with that.

Speaker 1:

Thank you again, thomas, for sharing of your time, your experience, your wisdom. Really appreciate it and look forward to talking with you in the future. And, as always, like I always sign off we truly do wish you and your family truth, beauty and goodness in the road ahead, and thank you again.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much, just appreciate it. Thanks for the opportunity.

Intangible Balance Sheet and Cultural Influences
Volunteering and Finding Harmony in Life
The Power of Courage in Life