‘Tis the season. Who doesn’t love to receive beautifully wrapped presents from family and friends?

It’s EASY to be thankful for those.

But as we celebrate the holidays, I’m most grateful for things that I didn’t see as a gift. Some of these gifts without wrapping seemed tough and even painful in the moment. With time to reflect, they are some of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever received.

Here is a short list of my favorite unwrapped gifts:

- Parents who say no. My folks gave our family a lot, investing heavily in our education. But they weren’t afraid to say no. We didn’t need the indulgences we craved and begged for, and it made it even more fun when they said yes. Delayed gratification helped us grow into responsible adults. I’d like to think it’s helped my own kids mature.
- Failures. It’s only when you fail that you can really savor success. I played high school football. Badly. Missouri Military Academy was not a football factory, and I had little talent. Assessing our performance, the late President of MMA, Col. C.R. Stribling, would occasionally quip, “We are building a lot of character.” True enough. We did build character. If you’re not embracing your failures and learning from them, you’re missing out on a gift.
- Rigorous editors. One of my earliest editors was a curmudgeonly radio news editor at the Missouri School of Journalism, Nick George. Once when a friend presented his copy, he scanned it, glared at him above his glasses and inquired, “Is English your first language?” Ouch. But because of him, I learned to keep my writing tight and deliver my best effort every time. A great editor is an invaluable colleague. My wife is almost as tough an editor as Nick, by the way. It’s not always a recipe for marital harmony, but it makes my writing more effective.

What are the tough gifts for which you are most grateful?

As 2020 approaches, I hope you have plenty of gifts to celebrate, both wrapped and unwrapped. It’s my aim to do better in the year ahead, giving gifts of character to my clients, friends and family.