Joe Maddon, the only baseball manager that was able to bring my Chicago Cubs to win the World Series in 2016 had a motto for his players: "Try Not To Suck."
Pretty straightforward coaching strategy, if you ask me.
Giving Presents is based on the same formula: "Try Not To Suck." I'm sure this will be a new Christmas motto in no time. "Dear Santa, I've been good this year. Last year I got a pencil and pen set. Santa, this year, try not to suck."
This isn't that hard, but it takes some thought, and I want to digress for just a second to explain what kind of thought it takes to "not suck":
Now, I could've titled this essay with the words, "Compassionate Thinking" but who wants to read an essay about that, anyway? Well, you do, because you're about a third of the way through, so just keep reading. And I've gotten your attention, so I'll make it quick.
You have to think with your heart, for five seconds, on the person whom you are buying the present. But not on them, on their stuff.
Think of the person's stuff. Got an idea? Even a vague one? OK, great. Doesn't have to be crystal clear. Just a general idea will do.
Now, if you're really sharp, do you see anything that they own that is a little worn, weathered, and could use to be replaced? A briefcase? Jacket? Sweater? Spouse?
OK, let's say you don't see something worn. Do you see something or know something that they really like? Use a lot?
Good. Now get them that.
You want to give them something they value. Something nice, but something that is in the ballpark of their need, preferences, or style. And this takes some focus, but it takes a vision of caring.
That's Compassionate Thinking. It's caring to remember what they use, like, and feel close to. If you're their friend, this is an easy retrieval. If you're an acquaintance, just reach this as best you can from your memory. It may be easier to ask somebody they know, but it's cheating. This has to come from your heart, not theirs. That's the best, and really the only way, a present is given.
If you just can't think of anything to give them, it's OK to write something you love about them in a card. And make it specific to their personality or demeanor: Their laugh, their intelligence, or recall an event from the previous year that the two of you shared.
But a present can be a game changer in your relationship. Take just a little time and give it some thought. Present giving is based on the attention you've given them throughout the year. If you can't think of anything to give them, now you at least know that in the upcoming year, you need to give them a little more focus and attention so that next Christmas, you won't have to read this essay again and figure out how not to suck.
Compassionate Thinking. Give it a shot. Good luck.