Gift giving

You unwrap the thin reindeer-covered box and notice the familiar brown of an Amazon package. After tearing the tape off the corners, you reveal a pair of socks bedecked in a pattern of mini Tabasco bottles. To boot, the size is L. You’re M. Your pal looks at you with expectation as you feign a smile through gritted teeth.

“Thanks, Jimbo,” you say, mustering what little resolve you have left in the tank. A flutter of fear flashes across his face and he knows he goofed.

Finding this scenario relatable? A 2021 survey conducted by The National Retail Federation1 indicates that the rate of gift returns shot up from 10.6% in 2020 to 16.6% in 2021. Seems that many Americans miss the mark on what they think others will like and what they truly enjoy. So, how can we give gifts that last the test of time? Below are a few tips on giving a great gift during the holidays:

  1. It might be a good idea to take time to reflect on the receiver’s personality type. A recent NPR report says that catering your gift to someone who is either into experiences, is practical, sentimental, cozy, or just an enigma to you can go a long way toward getting something that they will enjoy2.
  2. Consider giving an experience rather than a gift. Many times, givers tend to focus on the receiver’s immediate reaction, and more often than not, buy tangible items that can be used or consumed immediately, rather than a gift that takes longer to enjoy. However, a recent study has shown that doing this may be of greater benefit to the receiver in the long run3.
  3. Give a gift that has sentimental value! What experiences have you and the receiver had that you both cherish? Giving a gift that speaks to that relationship may sound risky, but will more than likely result in a better outcome than a gift that just caters to what you think the receiver’s preferences are4.

All this being said, simply showing someone that you care this season goes a long way. Just giving your time to give that call to a distant friend or relative may be the best gift of all.

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday season filled with fun, family, friends, and joy!


5 things I’ve learned at 25

In light of now being a quarter of a century old, I thought I’d share some lessons learned along the crazy, bumpy, and invigorating ride of life.

1. Learn to say no

This is a hard one for me. As someone who likes to please others, I tend to want to say yes to every invite thrown my way. I’ve learned that it’s just not possible to do that and be consistent with the people that mean the most to me. Learn to say yes to the important things and people in your life, and realize that it’s OK to sacrifice some ground in other areas.

2. Try something new

This is a typical one, but in all reality, the times I’ve tried new things have been quite enlightening and worthwhile. I’m not saying travel to Thailand and shake hands with a monk dwelling in a cave on the side of some snowy cliff. That’s just too far. But try to get out of your comfort zone. Do something that stretches you. We live in a world that continually seeks comfort. It’s time to swim against the flow and try something uncomfortable. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Strike up a conversation with someone on the bus next to you who seems lonely. Those things really count. You’ll feel better for it too.

3. Break some rules

For real. Some of you won’t be happy hearing this, but you can’t live by the book all the time. I’ve seen people that have, and they tend to live cut and dry lifestyles. It’s no fun. Do something on the edge. Once a year my brother and I sneak under a fence into a “no trespassing” area near town (no details) and bring a laptop loaded with a new movie we haven’t seen. We’ll chill and watch the movie out on a beautiful overlook where we shouldn’t be. But let me tell you, those are some of the most crucial times of bonding I’ve had with my brother.

4. Learn to give

Yes. My friends, most of you have been given extraordinary opportunities that so many people in this world would do anything for. Don’t take that for granted. Living in Kenya showed me circumstances in which people can survive and yet emanate a surprising happiness. You’ve heard it said, but I’ll say it again. The love of wealth will not bring you happiness. Learn to give some of what you’ve been given away while you’re younger, and you’ll thank yourself for it when you get older.

5. Learn to be yourself

This is a tough one to swallow for me. The above phrase is a staple in many self help books, discussed in many groups, and constitutes quite a bit of inspirational media, so it must be easy, right? Wrong. I still tend to fall into the trap of agreeing with everything people say, regardless of opinion. I’m continuing to learn that it’s OK to disagree with people and leave it at that. For example, I am a Christian, and hold certain values and ideas for a way of living that I believe works. This rubs many people the wrong way, but that’s all right.

So there you have it. The five things I’ve learned at 25. Thanks for reading, and I hope you got something out of this. If you want to add what you’ve learned or continue the conversation, please comment with your thoughts.

Much love, Jay.