This time of year, we tend to think about different kinds of wealth: the bonds of family, the bounty of the harvest, the richness of life when surrounded by friends and loved ones.
Many of us will soon gather together around a festive table, celebrating our holiday with the tradition of everyone taking a turn, before passing around the turkey and endless delicious dishes, to speak about what they are most thankful for.
But a profound book about how we measure and understand the real nature of prosperity has helped me reconsider the ritual of annual Thanksgiving sharing.
What if, for instance, we each created our own personal tradition of celebrating gratitude as well?
And what if – instead of waiting once a year to share a few thoughts with others – we remind ourselves, at the beginning and end of each day, to take stock of what we already have to appreciate? To give? To earn? To preserve? To share?
All of which is why, when it comes to asset management and investing wisely, the best advice I have to offer you this holiday season may very well come in the form of some non-traditional advice about all kinds of wealth: give yourself a present, and invest a little time reading The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall.
In this unconventional fictional history of a considerable personal portfolio, the author manages to weave together succinctly and seamlessly the underlying principles of true, relational values that bind together our work, our money, our learning, our giving, our dreaming, our sharing, and our most important connections to each other.
The story begins just after the passing of a wealthy patriarch and oil baron named Red Stevens. What might have been the cut-and-dried reading of his will suddenly becomes a suspenseful, tumultuous, yet ultimately rewarding series of tests and experiences for the surprise designated heir: spoiled and self-centered grandson, Jason.
In setting forth these challenges for Jason, Red bequeaths his grandson an inheritance of both wealth and wisdom he couldn’t explain while he was alive, and Jason couldn’t appreciate while still living off his trust fund: the opportunity to earn and learn the value of what he may – or may not – eventually receive from his grandfather’s estate.
What Jason discovers is that he can’t possibly realize his own wealth, needs, values and place in the world until he has learned to see them clearly – both from honest self-examination, and through the eyes and experiences of others. And to learn how to be a responsible and moral custodian of his money and resources while here, he must learn, like his grandfather, to appreciate the present… while planning for the impact he may be able to have on others in the future.
I believe that carefully considering the 12 gifts Red leaves for Jason can be a timely gift for us as well, and that this book can remind us all how to make the most of the time, relationships, and resources of abundance we celebrate together in this season of Thanksgiving.
- The Gift of Work
This is the deep satisfaction of being able to measure the effects of something we’ve made or accomplished during the day. The long-term satisfaction knowing what we build now will be a legacy for others. When we connect our results with our sense of purpose, it helps us remember why we work so hard in the first place.
- The Gift of Money
We all do things to earn money, and we all spend money. However, when we stop to consider how to make that money work harder for ourselves and others, it becomes more than just a means to pay bills and put food on the table – it becomes a powerful tool. How we choose to use it determines whether we see money as a gift, or as a means to simply get.
- The Gift of Friends
These are the people in life we can’t buy, hire, or bribe – loyal to us through adversity; thrilled for us when we prosper. True friends are an amazing gift; cherish them.
- The Gift of Learning
Learning is the key to adapting to change and recognizing new opportunities. When we offer someone else a chance to learn, we help unlock those doors for them, too.
- The Gift of Problems
Of all the gifts, this one is the most counter-intuitive. Problems can change your perspective if you let them. If you see life as 5% what happens to you and 95% how you choose to take it, you will always look harder to see something valuable in problems that others let get the best of them.
- The Gift of Family
I love my family; they are the reason I do what I do. Sometimes family can be difficult, but I believe that even if there is tension between family members, there is always an opportunity to appreciate others. Don’t let the gift of family pass you by.
- The Gift of Laughter
Do you ever notice that even the smallest chuckle has the power to lighten the tension of almost any situation? And that we can’t help but feel closer to others when we share a laugh? Sometimes, seeing the humor of a situation can open your mind and heart, even despite yourself.
- The Gift of Dreams
The freedom to let your mind wander and your aspirations soar is the creative motivation for practical hard work toward achieving your goals. That small space between our ears, when we allow it to, truly can open a limitless universe to inspire ourselves and others to action.
- The Gift of Giving
To be generous with others, we must rise above our fears, avarice and selfishness. When the mere act of giving helps us overcome our own worst traits, who do you think is the biggest beneficiary of our giving?
- The Gift of Gratitude
The author recommends making a list every morning of 10 things you are grateful for. When you pause to recognize and express appreciation, if only to yourself, this act alone can change your attitude and experience for the entire day that follows!
- The Gift of a Day
We can all get caught up in thinking, anticipating, planning – and even worrying– about a far-away future. We count the years until retirement, or the months until vacation, or the weeks before a big presentation. What is in our control, however – right now – is the ability to stop at the end of a single day to notice, and be thankful, for what happened.
- The Gift of Love
The most powerful by far, this is what gives meaning to all the above. A place of love is where we learn the most, where we give the most, where we laugh the most, where we change the most, where we dream the most. It’s also where we are closest to friends, family, each other…and where we realize our best life with all of them.
This Thanksgiving, it is my heartfelt wish that you take time to reflect and be thankful for what you received or accomplished this year. I believe expressing gratitude is an act of respect for what we have gained, and for the people we share it with.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, and consider adding The Ultimate Gift to your reading list.