The greatest gift for the holidays

By Greg Dardis | Guest Column

Oprah Winfrey could do a dramatic reveal in her sleep. So, when it’s time to announce her holiday gift guide, she is more than ready.

Donned in a red dress and surrounded by Christmas trees, her speaking voice morphs into falsetto and her arms raise like angel wings.

“Tis the season for fay-vorite thi-ings!” she belts out.

This year, 79 “absolute must-haves” made the cut, to quote Oprah – ranging from $12 for a reusable coffee cup to $1,300 for a Flywheel home bike. The second priciest pick is a $900 De’Longhi coffee maker that allows you to customize your coffee by adjusting foam levels and bean grinding.

Other high-end products include a $550 griddle (“the perfect pancake maker”), a $400 “emergency backpack” and a $129 dog collar that comes with GPS tracking.

Oprah and her team undertook extensive taste testing: pies and pretzels, tea and truffles, salmon and salami, caramels and crumb cakes. Once they were stuffed to the brim, they could roll into the $99 “Marshmallow Hooded Lounger” – a dress-length hoodie that allows you to “redefine your relaxation wardrobe,” according to the Amazon description.

In sum, they comprise “the perfect presents of 2019,” Oprah pledges, and they come slickly packaged in the December issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

It makes for an entertaining read – and some interesting cultural commentary in the age of Amazon Prime, when the scarcest resource for many businesspeople is not money but time. Oprah’s may be the splashiest, but a recent proliferation of gift guides from “influencers” delivers holiday shopping by osmosis. Critical thinking gets dulled even more when you add in the YouTube “unboxing” phenomenon – gushy pseudo-commercials made by kids for kids that rack up millions of views.

As a father, I feel compelled to step back and take a clear-eyed look at Christmas gifts. I’m guided by my wife, who was raised in a big family on an Iowa farm and has a good perspective. We talk about quality versus quantity. We debate fun versus frivolous. We shift our focus from extras to experiences.

I’ve come to conclude that nothing beats ongoing education. It is the gift that keeps giving. And being in the business of executive training, I see this day after day. When someone takes a Dardis seminar, they sharpen vital soft skills: public speaking, professional image and leadership presence. They learn how to make a better impression, to put their best foot forward and speak as well as they think. It’s empowering.

As you look to the new year, consider some leadership training of your own. It can provide a major confidence boost, and help you secure that promotion or launch that new initiative you’ve been thinking about. Then consider giving back by mentoring younger professionals.

That’s the beauty of ongoing ed: once you start, you want to keep going. You become driven to make yourself better.

“It’s always nice to continue to learn and improve,” one client wrote after a Dardis seminar.

“It made me a better person professionally and personally,” another client wrote.

No pancake maker can rival that feeling.

Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Communications, based in Coralville. For more information, visit