If you know me and you've sat down
with me for over a few hours, inevitably you'll hear about the Paradox of
Choice. The book, by author Barry Schwartz, was recommended to me a few years
ago by Esther Dyson … it is a great book with many non-obvious thoughts. I've since read many articles and papers by
Schwartz who I think is one of the most interesting minds I have come
across. While I don’t always agree with
him, he always makes me think.
Fast forward to April this year when
I got an email from Dina Kaplan. That,
in itself, isn’t big news … Dina is a dear friend of mine who I talk to
regularly. But the content was
interesting … Dina had gotten me a unique birthday present … a lunch with Barry Schwartz.
Before last week, I had never met
Professor Schwartz but constantly talked about his work. I assumed Dina (who is the most connected
person I know) knew Schwartz and called in a favor to have him go to lunch with
me. What I only found out later is that
she cold emailed him, told him I was a big fan, and convinced him to have lunch
Well last week Schwartz and I sat
down for a great lunch. I was like a
kid in the candy store peppering him with questions, asking him about his
theories (many of which had to do with hiring and motivating employees …
something I am very focused on right now), and hearing his thoughts about
It turns out that it was, by far,
the best birthday present I have ever received. And it set a new standard for giving
Gifting can be really powerful if it
is super personalized. And the best gift
isn't a thing, it is an experience. And
it isn’t the dollar amount you spend on someone (at least it shouldn't be), but
the thought and effort.
Dina did a few things that earn her
the gold medal in gift giving:
1. she thought a lot about the
recipient. 99.9% of people would not
appreciate a gift of lunch with a random professor from Swarthmore College
… so it was obvious the gift was targeted to me.
2. she did her research. She dug up Schwartz's email address … she
thought of a clever pitch … and she convinced him to go to lunch with me.
3. she was persistent. Who knows how many people she
contacted. Maybe Schwartz was the first
person she contacted but maybe he was the tenth.
If gifting is an art and a science,
then Dina Kaplan wins its Nobel Prize.
Thank you Dina!
I had a very complex set of business decisions to make a few years ago, on a project with many possible approaches, none of which was clearly “the best.” Reading Schwartz’s book was instrumental in finding a solution that made sense. (And everything worked out very well.)