The Ultimate Gift - Part 2: The Twelve Gifts


Just under two months ago, I wrote Part 1 of this two-part series. At that time, I focused on the book The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die by John Izzo. It seemed an appropriate choice given that the time around the Holidays tends to be one of reflection and introspection for many of us. 

Now that we’re in the New Year, I’d like to introduce another book: The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall. Unlike Izzo’s book about how to live a better life from the inside out, I view Stovall’s book as a guide on how to improve your life from the outside in; how doing can be as powerful as willing change in learning important lessons. 

I believe The Ultimate Gift resonates with people around the world because it dispels the big lie our society presents that if we just had enough money, we wouldn’t have any problems. Then it goes further to pass along life lessons that are the essence of what many of us want to become and the legacy we want to leave behind.
— Jim Stovall

Another difference between the two books is that while Izzo’s book covers finding from interviews with over 200 people identified as having lived a “good life”, Stovall’s book is a work of fiction that guides the reader through important lessons through the experiences of a young man who needs all the help he can get. 

Here’s a synopsis:

A billionaire’s great nephew is a spoiled, entitled young man who values little in life. He has everything he wants, spends lavishly and has little to do with his family, no real friends, no cares or goals to speak of other than select hedonistic pursuits. He’s an empty vessel filling his personal void with with luxuries but he doesn’t realize how miserable he is because he’s never known anything else.

Upon his death, the billionaire (“Red”) leaves his great nephew Jason an inheritance, of sorts. In order to earn it, he must learn twelve lessons—gifts—over the coming year. If he fails at any point to fulfill the requirements, as determined by the executor of the estate, he loses everything.

Though the story is an approachable, relatively quick read, there is also a movie based somewhat loosely on the book, which is how I first stumbled across Stovall’s book. Here’s the trailer:


The Twelve Gifts

What are the twelve gifts this great nephew needs to learn? Here they are, along with a relevant quote or two for context:

  1. The gift of work: “One of the things my wealth has robbed from you and the entire family is the privilege and satisfaction that comes from doing an honest day’s work.”
  2. The gift of money: “There is absolutely nothing that can replace money in the things that money does, but regarding the rest of the things in the world, money is absolutely useless. For example, all the money in the world won’t buy you one more day of life.”
  3. The gift of friends: “It is a wealthy person, indeed, who calculates riches not in gold but in friends...Friend is a word that is thrown around far too easily by people who don’t know the meaning of it.”
  4. The gift of learning: “Education is a lifelong journey whose destination expands as you travel…”
  5. The gift of problems: “When we can learn from our own problems, we begin to deal with life. When we can learn from other people’s problems, we begin to master life.”
  6. The gift of family: “Some people are born into wonderful families. Others have to find or create them. Being a member of a family is a priceless privilege which costs nothing but love.”
  7. The gift of laughter: “Many people live unhappy lives because they take things too seriously…life without laughter is not worth living.”
  8. The gift of dreams: “A person who can live his entire life with a burning passion for his dream to the extent that he shares it on his deathbed—that is a fortunate person...Your dreams for your life must be yours. They cannot belong to someone else, and they must continue to grow and expand.”
  9. The gift of giving: “The only way you can truly get more out of life for yourself is to give part of yourself away.”
  10. The gift of gratitude: “I have always found it ironic that the people in this world who have the most to be thankful for are often the least thankful, and somehow the people who have virtually nothing, many times live lives full of gratitude.”
  11. The gift of a day: “If we are living our lives the way we should, everything should be in such an order that we wouldn’t change the last day of our life from any other day.”
  12. The gift of love: “…I learned that loving money leads to a hollow, empty existence. But when you learn how to love people and use money, everything is in its proper perspective...When we truly love others, our love makes each of us a different person, and it makes each one we love a different person too.”

The Ultimate Gift

By practicing the twelve gifts, we can give ourselves the ultimate gift: 

A life lived to its fullest. 

I had no idea that the greatest gift anyone could be given is the awareness of all of the gifts he or she already has.
— Jason, p. 153, The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall

Conveniently for us, Stovall’s book covers twelve lessons and, last time I checked, there are twelve months in the calendar year. I’ll continue to explore these themes throughout 2016. It seems realistic to focus on one aspect of living the good life each month while also tending to our other responsibilities. After all, we are what we do, so let's make time for the good stuff.

What good stuff are you focusing on in 2016?

Image credit/copyright: Master isolated images/

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