Have you ever given a crummy gift because you thought it was expected? Have you ever put out second-rate work because you couldn’t figure out what first-rate work looked like or because you didn’t even know it was second rate? I know that I have.
A couple of years ago I was getting ready to marry my beautiful wife and was looking for gifts for my groomsmen. I wanted to get them nice, useful gifts because I valued them and their friendship but I was held back by something. I was held back by convention.
Held Back By Convention
“What do you mean, ‘Held back by convention,’” you ask?
I couldn’t think of any great gifts because I knew what kinds of gifts were expected. Were “traditional.” To be fair, my friends and I really aren’t the “monogramed beer stein and cigar” crowd but most of the recommended gifts (Amazon link) for groomsmen are what I would call useless. The kind of thing that my groomsmen would never actually want but would feel obliged to keep simply because it had been a gift.
For whatever reason, I found my brain locked into junk gifts as though I were a moth circling a fluorescent bulb. I couldn’t see any further than the “conventional” gifts and found myself anchored to them in the same way that a manufacturer’s suggested retail price makes us think we got a great deal when we have just been fleeced.
Sadly, I got them exactly that kind of gift. Though I don’t know exactly what I gave them any more – probably a travel coffee mug with our wedding date on it or something like that – I can guarantee it was almost entirely useless. And that, whatever it was, it certainly didn’t express what these guys have meant to me and I doubt that even one of them has it any more.
A Whole New World
Of course, at the time I felt pretty good about myself for fulfilling the convention. That is until a couple of weeks ago when I was a groomsman. I was in a friend’s wedding and he got us a super-cool gift. As you can see, he didn’t defy the tradition, but he wasn’t imprisoned by the “conventional” gifts. I suspect he thought long and hard about what to do.