By Emslie

Back in 1997 Seinfeld had an episode entitled, “The Strike.” There are a whole bunch of laughs in this episode. My favorite running story line is that George tells everyone at his job, Kruger, that he has given charitable donations in their names as their Christmas gift. Of course, every charity has to have a title. George dubs his fictional charity, “The Human Fund.”

Thinking of this episode quickly reminds me how shallow Christmas can become if we are not careful. The mere appearance of giving a gift, even if it really has no value, can cause great admiration and respect from one’s peers. Before you say it, No, I’m not advocating that everyone go out and start creating fake charities and then passing out cards to their co-workers. What I’m advocating is the reality of what George pretended to do.

Generally when I give gifts to people at Christmas the list too often consist of people who already have a ton of stuff. There have literally been occasions when I have spent hours trying to figure out what to get someone that they don’t already have. This only happens when the person you’re trying to shop for really doesn’t NEED anything (or is extremely picky).

So what do you give the person that has everything?

Yes, you can give them love (as the Temptations would say). You can also give them the gift of giving.

There are countless charities out there that give nice little cards and/or plaques to donors. Making a charitable gift in the name of someone you love is like personally putting one of the bricks in place for their mansion in heaven. You can then turn around and give them the card and/or plaque for their desk at work. They’ll have a selfless conversation starter and you’ll have the satisfaction of servanthood. Here is a list of the Top 5 Christmas Charities.

P.S. If you are afraid of showing up empty handed at your family gatherings buy a handful of gift cards to your favorite restaurants. You can pick these up at grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations or local convenience stores. I have yet to see a person turn away a free meal from a good restaurant. This will also keep you out of the long lines at the mall.

Today I want to step back a little further and express my thanks that I live in the United States of America. Without appearing too melodramatic, I want to express my gratitude to Lady Liberty, diplomacy, and the whole mixing pot of cultures that have made me who I am today.

It may sound shallow. I’m thankful that the NFL didn’t go into a long, drawn out labor strike that would have ruined the holidays by cancelling the amazing season that the Detroit Lions have had so far. At 7 and 3, they just might make the playoffs. Even if they don’t beat the Packers this week they are still winners in my book…. Why? Because people think they can. A few years back when they went 0 and 13 nobody outside of Detroit would even care that they were playing on turkey day.

Where I live now
I’m thankful that I live in a neighborhood where on one side I have a Hispanic family (straight from the Dominican Republic) and on the other side a Caucasian family. Though I don’t talk to them nearly as much as I should, I know there was a time where this kind of diversity was unheard of.

Where I work
I’m thankful that I have a job to go to everyday where my thoughts are appreciated. It is not my age, gender, or ethnicity that make me (or limit me). Luckily, I am just as likely to get a promotion as the vast array of different aged, different gender, and different ethnic people who make up my peers. (If the government finds out otherwise I have the right to sue). That is saying a lot for a country that less than 100 years ago wouldn’t allow women to legally vote.

Where I’m from
 I’m thankful that even though I grew up with a ton of obstacles, I had the support system behind me to push me to adulthood. For all of the people in the world who think Detroit, Michigan is a horrible place… try visiting a third world nation and you’ll quickly change your tune. I know that all of the things the Motor City embedded in me as a child weren’t perfect but I honestly wouldn’t change one moment of youth.

I’m not naïve
 This Thanksgiving I have to be brutally honest. My life is not perfect. Why? I’m not perfect. My world is not perfect. More specifically, my country is not perfect. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned in the last thirty years it is that we can learn, we can grow, and we can change.

The diversity and freedom we have does not have to be a by-product of the laws that we set. We can make freedom, liberty, and unity really real! This holiday season I challenge you to be the change you want to see in the world.

Another reason I’m thankful… There is no other countries you can visit with 6625 Wendy’s, 12,000 Burger Kings, and over 30,000 Mc Donald’s.  The even better news is, in spite of this greasy abundance, most people will not have a burger on Thanksgiving. Eat some REAL food. I plan to be one of these people!

A good friend asked me what all this “NETWORKING TALK” was about. I told him to check out the below post… he laughed, read it twice, and hasn’t asked me another question about networking in a year. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.


Most large companies start out as small companies — even Walmart started as a thought in the mind of Sam Walton. Getting from here to there requires time, effort, planning and a little luck. Some business leaders focus their planning on how to grow the company, without planning for how essential networking (internally and externally) is to their success.

It’s Not Who YOU Know, It’s “Who Knows YOU!”

One of my favorite co-workers says this phrase at least twice every week. I didn’t fully appreciate it’s power until I got into my current role in August.

Get rid of the guilt

Through my entire professional working career I have tried to build strong relationships with my bosses, co-workers, and clients. Yet, I never really tried to leverage these relationships to birth new opportunities. I always felt that it may backfire and hurt my existing relationship(s). I also felt kind of guilty asking for help from people.

It wasn’t until I reached out to an old friend in hopes of helping a person I had just met that I saw the TRUE power of networking.

What are the benefits of Networking?

Networking with purpose can save you tons of time, make you lots of friends, and open countless doors. I won’t even attempt to give a comprehensive list of all the things that can birth out of networking. I’ll just say that a co-worker of mine just got back from Philadelphia because he had box seats to a Colts/Eagles game that he received from someone his wife met through networking! They couldn’t go themselves and wanted to give them to someone who would use them. Think, those tickets could have been offered to you if you were in the same network, lol. Continue reading ““Read this Twice and Call me In the Morning”” »

The GREATEST Journey

I had lunch last week with a high-ranking business woman for a fortune 500 company. Considering I’ve been on this quest to outline the tenets of success in a practical manner I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask her what tips she would give to someone early in their career. Without hesitation she jumped […]

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The Reward of Fearlessness

Unsurprisingly my suggestion to use a “growth platform format” to measure success generated a lot of controversy as several of the most cerebral “A Spark Starts” readers scoffed at the ideal of charting growth for life. Yet, overall, it was well received. One of the positive comments came from Michael Charney. He stated: “What would […]

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