My Take-Aways from The Ultimate Gift

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, August 23, 2007 at 05:44 AM with 0 comments

You can’t take it with you. Growing up Italian-American, I heard that phrase a lot because Italians always talk about death. You can start talking about pasta or baseball, but it would ultimately lead to the topic of death. And when receiving an unexpected gift from a relative, their response to your questioning the gift is they can’t take it with them, so they want you to have it so they can see you enjoy it before their, well, you know.

You may not be able to take money with you to the grave, but can you effect what happens to your money after you die? Especially if you realized near the end of your life you didn’t do such a good job with doling it out when alive? This is the core of The Ultimate Gift.

Though the book is fiction, it tells a true tale of the value of money and life and can resonate with anyone. The book was published almost a decade ago, but a recent mention in Forbes magazine and an upcoming movie based on the book have refocused attention on it. It is the story Howard “Red” Stevens, a successful entrepreneur who dies at the beginning of the story. At the reading of his will, his drooling relatives get their inheritances, with the exception of one, his great-nephew Jason. Red’s attorney, Ted Hamilton, is charged in Red’s will with leading Jason on a year-long journey, and at the end if he completes all 12 one-month steps, he gets to inherit “The Ultimate Gift” which is not revealed unless he completes all steps. Needless to say Jason is irked but agrees to go through the process, and the book tells of the learning odyssey by all parties involved.

I read this book right after The 4-Hour Workweek, and it turned out to be a good order to read them. It continued my thinking of how to evaluate how we spend our time and what is truly important in life. As Red Stevens learned this in life, he reassured my thinking of how we can only affect what happens going forward, and cannot change the past. This is important from an entrepreneur’s standpoint for if we fail or don’t do as planned, we can always try again!

It is a short book and a quick read. Each month of the journey is interesting, and I was compelled to want to finish the book to find out if Jason gets The Ultimate Gift and what it is. If you’re looking for a light-hearted read this is a good book you can read on a single flight. And I would not be complete if I didn’t point out there is a reference in the book to my beloved New England Patriots, as the attorney is based in Boston.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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