Archives for the Month of December, 2012

The Gift of Christmas Spirit

Ho! Ho! Ho!

December is one of my favourite months of the year. Call me a traditionalist. I value a time when many people converge on giving, sharing and generally making that extra bit of effort in being kind towards one another.

The Christmas Challenge

While Christmas day itself can be a sizeable test of one’s personal agility, the real challenge I find is with giving the right presents. I know, I know. “There’s no right or wrong when it comes to gift giving!” I hear you say. Only there is. It’s all too easy to get things “too wrong”.

So here’s my strategy for gift giving this Christmas:

  1. Be value-driven – Don’t just settle for spending money on tat. Figure out what the recipient is passionate about and values then go from there. Don’t be seduced by the sheer prettiness of shiny packaging. Believe you can find something that’s substantial and well-presented
  2. Set a budget – Do this for both your overall gift budget and amount per individual. Setting a budget allows you to calculate the relative Return-On-Investment of a gift for everyone on your list and helps you distribute the joy more evenly
  3. Spend time browsing – Giving a “good” (aka valuable) gift is a test of how well you know the recipient. If you’re stuck for ideas, put on your creative thinking hat and imagine what they would like. I recommend investing at least 15 minutes browsing per person or gift. Within that time box, challenge yourself to come up with at least 3 ideas to choose from before making a decision
  4. Ring a friend – Ask for help. Borrow ideas. Find out what others are buying their family and friends. Remember, you can always ask recipients directly for their wish list with no obligation to buy
  5. Give a gift of skill or service – What shareable special skills or interests do you have? Consider giving personal service tokens such as “This certificate qualifies you for 3 months worth of lawn mowing” or “Your child is entitled to 6 music lessons” or “This voucher gives you 3 arts and crafts sessions guaranteed to wow your friends”

Christmas doesn’t have to be commercial

If you’re still feeling “Bah! Humbug!” about Christmas, remember that commodification is in the eye of the gift giver. Imagine what a fairy godmother would give to someone you love.

Last but not least, when someone gives you a gift, you can always give the gift of gratitude.

Mum’s the Word

Eight months ago, I applied for a new job as “Mum-To-Be”. My first release will be around Christmas Day, plus or minus two weeks. I’m hoping for a calm and smooth release instead of the “big bang” kind we see all too often on software projects. If the release goes well, I will be promoted to “full-time Mum” (part-timers need not apply).

“It’s a 24/7 job for life regardless of whether or not you have a day job. Are you sure you’re ready for this level of commitment and this kind of responsibility?” asked the Quiet Voice in my head to which my Heart and Mind both replied, “We’ll do our best.”

The Magical Role of Mum

Given the importance of the role of Mum (and of course the equally important role of Dad), you’d think there would be a definitive parent job description, complete with responsibilities, skills, qualifications and attributes clearly laid out and readily available to everyone.

Only it turns out that parenting is one of the most controversial topics you’ll ever stumble upon, be it in the playground or by the water cooler at work. And no such definitive parent job description exists.

A Case of the Vital Vacancy

That’s when I decide to apply my hard-learned principle of “Use what I know”. I know I want to do a good job and since motivation is key to a job well done, I look to Dan Pink’s theory on motivation (aka drive) for inspiration. According to Dan, developing and maintaining motivation requires three vital ingredients. Dan gives a compelling talk on on the theory.

  1. Autonomy – Be self-directing
  2. Mastery – Improve continuously
  3. Purpose – Serve something beyond our own needs

After all, life’s a marathon not a sprint. Sustaining good performance is equally as important as attaining a level of good performance in the first place.

Words from the Wise

But there’s no need to take a wannabee’s word for the real deal when it comes to parenting. Here’s what my parenting friends tell me:

“You’re going to learn at the fastest rate since you yourself was a child. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride!”

“Hope you enjoy every second! It is an amazing adventure. It won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.”

“We’ll miss you a lot – looking forward to hearing how Agile works with kids!”

“You’re going to have more fun than you can possibly imagine!”

“Forget about 2-week sprints. Prepare for 2-hour sprints day… and night!”

“Hope the release goes according to plan!”