The Gift that Keeps on Giving

By Anne M. McCarthy

On Thursday, most Americans will observe Thanksgiving Day. Whether this annual day of feasting is celebrated via Zoom or with a smaller-than-usual-gathering of friends and family, I bet GRATITUDE will be a unifying theme across Wi-Fi connections and around dining room tables. At the stroke of midnight on Thursday, that universal spirit of thankfulness will undoubtedly flip to the frenetic season of GIFT GIVING.

Before you digest that last morsel of pumpkin pie and blow up your Amazon account or succumb to one of the zillions of Black Friday deals, take a moment. What gifts have made a genuine difference in your life?

I’ve always loved receiving high-tech gadgets or accessories to round out my weekend warrior habits like skiing, cycling, tennis or golf. I still remember the year Santa granted me the wish of a lifetime and gave me my very own unicycle! That one-wheeled contraption generated a multitude of bruises and skinned knees, but it inspired me to be courageous, confident and curious for the rest of my life.

When I think about the most significant gifts I’ve ever received, they had one thing in common – the most significant gifts were usually impossible to wrap. For me, the best gifts are the gifts that keep on giving. Here are a few favorites:

  • Taking a flight from Frankfurt to Philadelphia and sitting next to a retired Fortune 100 CEO who shared his World War II encounters with me for the entire 10-hour flight;
  • Participating in an intense off-site session at Fontainebleau with colleagues and friends to learn new concepts and experiment with new ways to solve old personal and professional problems;
  • Challenging my natural sensibilities and skiing down the highest peak in Breckenridge (and North America) – 12,840 above sea level – after making a boastful bet and accepting the consequences. (No bones were broken and I’ve pledged to never return.);
  • Repotting myself by accepting new jobs, learning new industries and moving to new cities to cast off any signs of complacency; and
  • Serving as a caregiver for my elderly mother during her final chapter of life and gaining a new appreciation for the importance of kindness and patience despite looming deadlines and competing priorities.

As we wrap up 2020, my hope is that the GIFTS we give and receive this year are meaningful and lasting.

To that end, my colleagues and I have created and packaged a gift designed for recent college graduates. We call it 6×6. 6×6 is chock-full of our collective wisdom and our best advice for the next generation of leaders to discover the life they were meant to live. As Jason Mraz, the American singer and songwriter, so eloquently sings, our wish is for the class of 2019, 2020 and beyond is to “Have it all.”

My wish for you is to find a unicycle this holiday season and give it to someone you love.


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