November 13, 2019

What a Gift

One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was during my freshman year of high school.

My mother surprised me with a solo-trip to see my extended family in New York City. I was 13 years old and she put me on a flight all by myself. We were a family of average means, but I remember that season of life being really difficult. I still don't know how she pulled it off, but she did, and I was thrilled.

We lived in a small town, so there were a couple of connections (SGF—>STL—>JFK). I think I talked to every single person on those planes. I sat in every cockpit, bobbed and bounced around the giant airports, and used all of my film before I even made it to New York. I remember people’s faces evolve from funny looks to smiles and waves. Looking back, it felt like the opening scene to a low-budget holiday film.

Another holiday season is upon us...

And if you’re a teacher, a manager, a partner, a friend, or part of a family unit, you’re starting to think about gifts.

There is no playbook to giving gifts. Every person, team, and classroom is vastly different. But here are a few reminders before you get caught up in the hoopla of this season:

Not about the Benjamins

It may seem cliche, but it’s still worth starting here. Everyone needs this reminder: if you don’t have the resources for something seemingly spectacular, don’t stretch yourself. The stress of overspending is worse than the fleeting moment of satisfaction watching someone unbox something that will pass.

Lean on Memories

Every person and group has important moments. Think of ways to capture those or bring them back to the surface. Bring up an inside joke, a memorable success, a happy day. Print old photos, find momentos that are stuffed away in boxes, hunt for a quirky gift that will be a reminder, or just write a thoughtful letter and let that stand on its own.

Break Bread

You’re going to share a lot of meals in the coming weeks. Those moments will be great in their own way, but there are probably small things you can do to make them extra special. Think about how you want to start or end a meal, or things that can be shared during the conversation (everyone bring an important object from their year, take 15 seconds to pause and think of something each of you are grateful for, ask everyone to share a high/low from the year, etc). Even a little bit of thought can turn these moments from just another meal, to a memorable gift.


I’m not just including this reminder because we’re called Experience Institute (but it doesn’t hurt….) You have time now to think about what others around you need to experience. Ask yourself what they might want to KNOW, FEEL, or DO?

Do they need a good laugh? Find a comedy night or hire someone to do an improv class at your office. Do they need a dose of inspiration? Take a trip to a local museum, film screening, or architecture tour. Do they need time with family? Host a potluck, make a playlist, and bring some games. Do they need some solo-time? Give them a well-made journal, a nice pen, and a gift card to a local coffee shop.

And if you don’t know what they want/need, just ask and listen.

It’s ok to wait.

Last year, the Ei team hosted our holiday dinner AFTER the holidays, in January. It was nice to fill some of the early days of January with a night out together. We caught the tail end of everyone’s holiday spirit and kicked off the year in style. So you may not need to force something before January 1. It may be a welcomed surprise to do something just a little later.

That trip to NYC was one of the most generous gifts I've ever received. It showed my mother's thoughtfulness, taught me the value of family, and reminded me of the power of being present with those we love.

What keeps you centered around the holidays? What reminders do you hold closely?

PS: If you're reading this and you are looking for thoughtful gifts for family, friends, students, or teams, we're offering 15% off of all products in the Ei store through this Sunday, November 17th. Just use the code GOODGIFT or click herefor the code to be automatically applied. Enjoy!

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