The Ultimate Gift – A book review

Today I want to talk with you all about the book The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall. This book was written in 2001, has sold over 3 million copies, and has been turned into a movie.

I wanted to discuss this book because there is a Christmas scene in the movie and it’s around the holiday season. It’s a great family movie that you can watch through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or iTunes. There are some great lessons for everyone and we’re going to learn about a few today. The main character in the book is Jason Stevens and Jason is a trust fund kid, just graduated from college, has all the money he needs, and has a lot of friends because of his money. Suddenly, Jason’s great-uncle Red passed away and the money goes with him. When all the family members are called in for the reading of the will, everyone receives some money, except for Jason. Of course, Jason is very upset by this and what he is told is to come back at a different time and Mr. Hamilton, the state attorney, and Mrs. Hastings will speak with him. So Jason returns later and Mr. Hamilton plays a video for him. Red had recorded him a video because he felt that Jason had something in him and he wanted to teach him some lessons. Here is a quick quote from that first video.

“One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was when I gave everyone in our family everything they thought they ever wanted. It took me many years to figure out that everything we ever do, or know, or have in this life is a gift from the good Lord. He has a special plan for each of us. He has provided everything we need to fulfill that plan. I spent many years trying to achieve happiness or buy it for friends. Only as an old man did I come to learn that all happiness comes from the gifts that God gives us. Unfortunately, the money and possessions I spread around didn’t help people to understand the gifts that have been provided for us. In trying to make up for all the times I wasn’t there, I gave them all material things and in doing so I robbed them of everything that makes life wonderful.”

Many times we’ve all seen the guilt factor when you try to buy happiness and in this case, Red figured out that it didn’t work. So what Red does is teach Jason a bunch of lessons, 12 to be precise. There is a test every month, so each lesson is 30 days. That means that Jason spends a year of his life trying to learn these lessons.

Lesson 1 is the gift of work. With this lessons, Jason is sent to Gus, a friend of Red’s, who owns a ranch, and Jason is put to work. If you have ever laid fence or dug fence posts, you know the amount of hard work Jason had ahead of him. At the end of the month, Jason has developed pride in his work and enjoys it, even though he’s never worked a day in his life.

Lesson 2 is the gift of money. The challenge here is that Jason is given $1500 and told to help 5 people and make a real difference in their lives. At the end of the month, Jason ends up giving away $1800, $300 of his own.

Lesson 3 is the gift of friends. In this challenge, he is charged with reporting to Mr. Hamilton an example of true friendship demonstrated by his principles. If you want to learn the ending here, I suggest reading the book or watching the movie.

Lesson 4 is the gift of learning. Jason goes to South America to the Howard Stevens Library to Learn Life Lessons. Red had built this library and filled it with books so that people could learn, but when Jason gets there, there are very few books on the shelves. It just so happens that Red had taught the people that books on the shelves won’t do much good, if you want to learn, you must take the book from the shelf and read. So most of the books were out when Jason was there.

Lesson 5 is the gift of problems. Jason has to go and find someone who has problems at each stage in life, a child, a young adult, an adult, and an elderly person. Each one had to be experiencing a profound problem in their life. Then he was to return and describe the benefits of the lessons from each specific situation.

Lesson 6 is the gift of family. Jason is sent to the Red Stevens Home for Boys. These boys didn’t have parents of a family, but Jason learned that they had more of a family than he had.

Lesson 7 is the gift of laughter. The challenge for Jason this time around is to find someone who has experienced difficulties and challenges in his or her life yet still maintains the ability to laugh. He found a person who was reading a magazine, but the person reading it was blind. There’s a quote from this section that reads, “Sometimes in life you either laugh or you cry. I prefer to laugh.”

Lesson 8 is the gift of dreams. The challenge here was to make a list of all you want to do in this life and then prioritize it to discover what you have as a passion in life. I believe that’s a great lesson for all of us.

Lesson 9 is the gift of giving. The more you give, the more you have. Abundance creates the ability to give. Giving creates more abundance. The challenge here was for Jason to give something of his, so no money. Jason had to find something that could work as a gift. He gave a pint of blood, he carried boxes, he told someone about a sale. So there are things for all of us to learn from this lesson, that there are things we can give that are do not revolve around money.

Lesson 10 is the gift of gratitude. Red had been handed down a tradition from friends. The tradition was to make a list, called the golden list, of 10 things that you are grateful for.

Lesson 11 is the gift of a day. Red tells Jason to plan how he would live the last day of his life. This teaches how much can be packed into one simple day. That is if your life that day as your last.

Lesson 12 is the gift of love. Red says that anything good, honorable, or desirable in life is based on love. Real love only comes from God. The challenge is to explore how love is involved in all the other 11 gifts.

For the ultimate gift or lesson, you must read the book or the watch the movie, but I will leave you with a quote.

“In the end, a person is only known for the impact he or she has on others.”

So, do you have a plan for your life? Is it written out? One of the things I cover in my coaching program is to help people put a plan together for their life. To learn more contact me at or through my website. Thanks for reading/listening and remember, Be Great!



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