"The greatest gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy."
-- Meryl Streep
"The greatest gift is a portion of thyself."
-- Robert Louis Stevenson
The holiday season is all about gift giving; tangible items such as new gadgets and clothes, and intangible items such as one's empathy, affection, time, unconditional support; all of which are becoming rare commodities in our frightfully busy, increasingly transparent and fickle "take-out" and "throw-away" mindsets. Many of us have gotten into a mindset where we increasingly forget the need to balance Me vs. We and humanity vs. technology. It seems that the race to acquire "stuff" is on again, and that tangible items are sadly winning out over the intangible items in our collective consciousness and shopping frenzy. I touched on this around Thanksgiving time, when I wrote about what thankfulness really is, and what we can all learn from the Pilgrims. You can read that article here.
This week, it behooves us to heed a cautionary tale with "Buyers Beware" written all over it; the Target security breach that impacted so many people, myself included. In our rush to use those elusive coupons and get that "once in a lifetime" deal, I think we need to ask ourselves:
Is it better to give or to receive?
The truth is thus: The greatest gift we can give other women, and subsequently ourselves, is our generous, open, cross-pollinated (online and offline) support of their endeavors to achieve a true work/life balance and do something great; for themselves and for others.
So which gifts are really worth giving? What can we do?
1. Help women break the "glass ceiling" at work and tap into their potential to do something great. Thanks to Denise Brosseau for her upcoming book and for sharing this YouTube video link on Twitter. Her writings for her blog and for the Women 2.0 blog have really made me think about the state of female entrepreneurship, especially this one.
2. Help women promote real happiness and civic engagement for a better society. Thanks to Julia Pimsleur for her contributions to Forbes and for sharing this NY Times article on Twitter: A Formula for Happiness. She got on my radar when she wrote about her insights into women trying to have it all, in October 2012, when she explained why she kept her last name. You can read more about it here.
3. Help women embrace and promote imperfection and forgiveness in themselves and others; at work and at home. Thanks to Lolly Daskal for her motivational book and her wonderful blogpost, The Gift of Receiving. Her deceptively simple lessons hold universal truths that really resonate with me as a woman and a bootstrapping entrepreneur.
4. Help women nurture talents in themselves and others; especially re: social media and visual content marketing campaigns. Help them pave the way for learning and for more people to achieve personal growth, a better work/life balance, and better balance of humanity/technology because of them. Thanks to Bruce Kasanoff for his awesome Slideshare presentations, especially this one; The Best Talent is Bringing Out Talent in Others.
5. Help women's voices, ideas, thought processes, aspirations, missions, questions, and answers to those questions, be heard. Help women entrepreneurs found more startups and engage in more effective communication. Help them have a "sustainable competitive advantage" by really listening to them. Thanks to Martin Zwilling for his pithy and practical advice worth pondering in his blogpost, Most Startup Founders Spend Too Much Time Talking. Some women need to contend with that, but others need to contend with the desire and right to be heard!
6. Help more women entrepreneurs shine in leadership and thought leadership roles at work. Help them showcase their high levels of multiple intelligence, emotional IQ, and collaboration, for increased workflow, performance, and quality. Help them work together with their male counterparts and colleagues to do work that matters, and to also hit home the message Mark Crowley has been trying so hard to spread in male domains, in his book and blog, Lead from the Heart. Thanks to Mark for his erudite, uplifting, and optimistic blogpost on current leadership trends. It contains implications for the future of employees and female entrepreneurship in our globally connected but emotionally fragmented society.
We can all work together to do something great. It begins now. It's time to support more women in their pursuit of entrepreneurship. It's also time to rethink the holiday gift giving rituals that are meant to unite people but somehow continue to divide them.
Consider the "Haves" and "Have Nots", especially in this economy. Consider the serious, meaningful presents vs. the frivolous, ephemeral ones not worth the price or time it took to get them. What does the gift you give really say about you? How does it enhance your Story or the one intersecting with yours, that of the recipient? What memories will it evoke months/years from now and what kind of legacy will it provide?