Updated on 12.23.11

Ten Pieces of Inspiration #52

Trent Hamm

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

1. Little brown packages tied up with string…
… these are a few of my favorite things.

christmas presents

I absolutely love presents wrapped in brown paper and decorated in a handmade fashion. I find them far more appealing than presents wrapped in ordinary paper, though it takes a lot more work to do it well.

Thanks to Gillian Maniscalco for the wonderful example of homemade gift wrapping.

2. Elizabeth Hardwick on the best gift
This is the single best thing my parents did for me, I think. They instilled a love of reading in me. They read all the time in front of me and constantly encouraged me to read.

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” –Elizabeth Hardwick

If there is one thing I can imbue on my children, it’s a love of reading and learning. If they have that, they’ll have one of the best tools they can have in life.

3. Daniel Goldstein on the battle between your present and future self
I view a person’s future self as being incredibly unreliable. Countless things can happen to make your future self not as reliable as you’d expect. A car accident. A disease. A damaged relationship.

The best thing we can do for this is to constantly make choices to make our future selves better. That’s the theme of this talk, which really hammers it home.

4. John Wesley on earning, saving, and giving
One of the big debates that I often have with my wife and some of my extended family is the balance between earning money and charity. Should a person give even if they don’t have much, or should they focus on maximizing their income and give more later?

“Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” – John Wesley

I’m of the opinion that if you have the capacity to earn a lot, you should focus on that and invest in that if needed. If being a little less charitable this year and investing in something means you can give a lot more in the future, that’s a good move.

It’s a really interesting philosophical question.

5. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Winter), performed by I Musici
This is a wonderful version of a wonderful piece.

I often mention that I close my eyes to some musical pieces and just let the music flow over me. This is definitely one of those pieces.

6. Sydney Smith on the best gift
What can you do to make someone happy today?

“Try to make at least one person happy every day, and then in ten years you may have made three thousand, six hundred and fifty persons happy, or brightened a small town by your contribution to the fund of general enjoyment.” – Sydney Smith

I consider this a powerful call to arms in my daily life.

7. Winter Wonderland
I’d love to have a white Christmas this year. It doesn’t look like we’re going to have it here, but one can dream.

Winter Wonderland

Great picture, Stasha Bella.

8. Schemer
This is going to be an absolutely wonderful tool – it’s in beta testing right now.

Schemer is a Google-made tool that allows you to find things to do. You simply type in things you’re interested in and it gives you suggestions on where and how to do it in your area. There are also tons of lists of suggestions for things to do in your area (or anywhere).

After just playing around with it for a few minutes, I found a ton of interesting ideas for things to do – and it’s only going to improve.

9. Ring Out, Wild Bells by G. K. Chesterton
I love this poem. It really captures this time of the year – the chill in the air and the sentiment of the days.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

10. Linus and Lucy
I can’t think of an instrumental that makes me smile more and gets me in a great mood for this time of the year than this one.

When I was growing up, watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special was an annual tradition. I think it’s carried forward for me in at least one way.

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  1. David says:

    The actual words are “Brown paper packages tied up with strings”, although while Hammerstein was writing the song his original and preferable cod lyric was “Cute little babies that fall out of swings”.

  2. Jules says:

    Argh. For a guy that professes to love them, Trent sure manages to bungle the “brown paper packages” lyric every time. Seriously. It’s not that hard to google the correct one, and this is the third time, at least, that it’s been mangled.

    And I agree–the packages look very pretty. But unlike the packages that Trent had up as his examples, you can tell that work, and love, and care went into it.

  3. Kathy M says:

    Merry Christmas, Trent. Blessings to you all.

  4. deRuiter says:

    “The actual words are “Brown paper packages tied up with strings”. Jules and David have caught this recurring error, thank you both.

  5. Kate says:

    It’s sad to see that Trent’s readers can be snarky, even around brown paper Christmas packages. Trent didn’t cite the “song” so he has a perfect right to make up any brown paper wording for the title that he wants.
    #2 is so true: as a public educator, I realize that many parents are not readers themselves so they do not value reading and don’t give their children the encouragement to read…in fact, ridicule is often given to a reader in a non-reading family.
    #4: giving can be done with time and often that is the one thing that organizations need and don’t get. We had very little extra money when my children were young, but I gave freely of my time in their schools and in their extra-curricular activities.
    Happy Holidays to all!

  6. Hilary says:

    Ring Out Wild Bells is Tennyson, not Chesterton. One of my favorites as well, from my all-time favorite poet.

  7. Misha says:

    Kate @#6: Trent didn’t cite the “song” so he has a perfect right to make up any brown paper wording for the title that he wants.

    No, I’m sorry, if someone follows that up, as Trent did, with the phrase “These are a few of my favorite things,” that is absolutely citing the song.

  8. David says:

    “Ring Out Wild Bells” is indeed by Tennyson, not Chesterton. The latter, though, did write many poems to do with Christmas, and to keep the balance straight I reproduce (as faithfully as my poor memory serves) one of them here.

    A certain day when Henry Chard
    Was standing on his head,
    The King came by with all his Guard,
    With officers all plumed and starred,
    And said “I wish, oh Master Chard,
    I could do that instead.”

    He tried in vain, then with a sigh
    Our Henry he did choose
    And made him Duke and CSI
    And ZPC and KXY,
    And he was everything that’s high,
    Till he at last was mentioned by
    The London Daily News.

    When Henry Chard heard this, his gay
    Indifference was shocking.
    He said “I won’t be AQK
    Or XYL or PDA –
    Your friends are Dukes, I guess, and they
    Seem to be anything but gay,
    And all I want on Christmas Day
    Is something in my stocking.”

    The King he swore a mighty vow
    And did not seek to hide it.
    “By Heaven and this Imperial brow,
    There’s something in your stocking now
    That Heaven has put there – Heaven knows how –
    Though you have never spied it;
    A wonderful thing with ears and eyes
    And cartwheels turned and wondrous cries.
    O, the self is sad and the soul is gone
    For all the kings that the sun shone on,
    But well for you when all is done
    If you can put your stocking on
    And find yourself inside it.”

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