Think Outside the Box

Tis the season to give and receive presents. What to give? How to choose? There’s intention and talent behind those who are the Jordan Spieths of gift giving. Those for whom every gift delivered is a hole-in-one and brings the appreciative roar of the crowd. My brother Josh is one of those people. He’s got a unique philosophy of gift selection, one that has broad applications and is worth adopting.

Josh is a self-taught computer language programmer. In the early days of his career he once said to me, “When I stopped trying to make the machine do what I wanted it to do and began to think the way it thinks, the work became easy.” This is so related to his gift (pardon the pun) for making successful choices at the mall. Josh’s gift selection strategy: don’t go out to buy what you think your recipient would buy for him/herself. Look for something your friend or family would never put down the cash for. Sound crazy? It’s not. His approach relies first on presence, the presents are secondary.

mouse-with-gift-copyTo be a successful gift-giver you have to first pay attention to your intended recipient’s interests, personality, and preferences. You have to get inside the box with them, inside their hearts and minds, setting your own thoughts and feelings aside for the moment. You have to imagine yourself shopping with that person, not for her. That’s presence.

Then, once you’re in the right department in the right aisle, you step outside the box. Choose something that’s beyond the realm of purchases they’d lay down their own cash for. Is it a bit extravagant? Yay! Offbeat: guaranteed to provoke a laugh. Innovative: wow! Tangentially-related: delightful. You get the idea? “Oh I love it; this is something I’d never have thought of buying myself.”

One last thought. Sometimes our presence, without bringing anything else, is exactly the present that is most wanted, most special. Is there someone in your life you haven’t called or sat with for a while who may feel the sparkle of the season through the gift your presence? Go for it!