What Do You Actually Want?

Why Are You Buying That Gift

Have you ever seen an annual sales chart for a retailer?

This is Best Buy’s sales by quarter for the last 5 years.

Each of those big jumps is of course the holiday season.

On some level we all know that, duh, people buy more stuff in December.

But 2-5x as much? What the heck are we all buying?

And more importantly, why are we buying so much stuff for each other all at the same time??

I had to go to a Target yesterday for non-shopping reasons and was floored by how many people, how much traffic, how many cars.

I wanted to go up to every person and interview them:

Who is this for?

Why are you buying it now?

Do they expect a gift?

How would they feel if you didn’t get them something?

How would you feel if you didn’t get them something?

Why didn’t you instead get them something in, say, July?

Do you think this gift would be more meaningful now or in July?

I don’t mean to question the value of Christmas gifts. If people like my late grandmother really want to load up the back of a trailer with gifts to surprise their grandchildren in a final Christmas, then go for it!

But what I do want is to briefly shake everyone by the shoulders and get them to ask why they’re buying the stuff, and whether that’s what they actually want to do.

A Tale of 2 Grandmothers

My other grandmother used to make enormous monthly Sunday dinners for her 6 adult children, their spouses, and her 15+ grandchildren.

She did this for years with basically zero help from anyone. It was a great way to bring the family together & it turned into something we all expected, as much a capital-T Tradition as other B-list holidays.

But one day she decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore. She loved her family, but she weighed the pros and cons and decided a full day of prep and cleanup was a load of work she no longer wanted to carry.

Were there consequences to her decision? Of course. A lot of us were disappointed. “How could you stop? This is our excuse to see family!”

But of course we all eventually moved on. I’m sure the fallout wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as she’d expected.

Default Decisions

We all get stuck grinding in the ruts of Default Decisions: those things we think we’re expected or supposed to do. These personal & group expectations come in different forms depending on your background:

I should go to college

I should have kids now

I should have kids later

I should go to church

I shouldn’t go to church

I should be a lawyer/doctor/dentist

I should buy Valentine/birthday/anniversary/holiday gifts

I should read more

I should buy a house

I should rent

I should spend my time doing what others expect of me

To be clear, none of these things are inherently good or bad.

But there’s so much joy at the end of the tunnel that is figuring out what you actually want, because you want it & for no other reason.

None of this means be rude to others or to be selfish & not think of your loved ones.

But sometimes I want to grab those people in Target and get them to think of all the other possible ways they could fulfill their end goals in more creative, unique, and ultimately fulfilling ways.

The possibilities of the human experience are more unbounded than we each realize. And going a few steps of creativity outside the norm can ultimately create more joy for everyone.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go finish my Christmas shopping.

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