My All-Purpose Holiday Gift & End of Year Lessons

Neil StraussNew Years

Here’s a quick holiday suite of messages, plus a few more lessons from the fires. Thanks for the great responses, via email and in person. Glad the epiphany landed with you too.

If you’re seeing family over the holidays, then this is your big chance to put everything you’ve learned during the Year of Deep Inner Game into practice.

I’ve often said one of my goals in life is to have no “buttons” that other people can press. To be non-reactive.

So being with your family (aka The Button Creators) is the ultimate test of your inner game progress.

Your mission: Don’t come to them as a child, with your emotional umbilical cord out, looking to get  emotional needs met. And be vigilant about not over-reacting if a parent is, well, still themselves.

The true sign that you are an independent adult is not when you are no longer financially dependent on your family. It’s when you’re no longer emotionally dependent on them and don’t age-regress around them.

So if reactivity (whether outward or inward) is an issue for you, stay connected to your best, most adult self while with your family.

And instead of feeling like a victim when they press a button or do that thing that annoys you, respond with empathy: Both for them and your childhood self, who had to grow up around that.

Having healthy boundaries at home, where most of your issues were created, will reverberate all through the rest of your life.

Now here’s some easier holiday advice…

My All-Purpose Holiday Gift

Every year, I try to get a little something for the people in my inner circle, whether it’s the person delivering the mail every day or Richard Arthur, who writes the excellent Society emails, which I hope you’re receiving.

And there are a few gifts I’ve found that nearly everyone will appreciate.

Here is what I gave as an all-purpose gift last year… (I can’t give away this year’s gift yet since not everyone has received it yet.)

MyCharge Portable Charger

The reason I recommend this for external phone charging is that a foldable wall plug is attached to the device, so you can just stick it right into the outlet. And the cables are attached, so it’s not useless if you forgot your cords. It can charge an iPhone or an Android – or both at the same time.

At $50, this is the one that offers the most power (6x battery life), but there are smaller ones that cost less if you’re not as, um, generous as me:

Or if you want something more economical yet also more useful, you can get them a great book. Some that I regularly give in the $10 – $16 dollar range include:

Oura Ring

If you want to go all out for someone, I’ve been loving my Oura 2 ring for activity and sleep tracking – mainly the latter.

The Oura has allowed me to see that even though I was getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night, I wasn’t getting enough Deep Sleep. And, consequently, I wasn’t waking up feeling rested.

So through experimenting and tracking, especially using a light diet and sleep masks (more on these coming in a biohacking blogpost), I was able to get my sleep and recovery dialed in.

A quick conflict of interest note is that I’m an investor in Oura. But the good news about this is that you get a $50 discount on the ring if you use my promo code—which you should already have if you’re on the Inner Circle mailing list.

And I guess I’m not so generous, because I got Richard Arthur the lowest priced one on the far right of the page. But it’s also the one I have: Who needs diamonds on their sleep tracking device?

The most amazing thing about the Oura 2 is that it’s lightweight and actually looks good.

More Fire Lessons

A few other things I’ve also learned, which reinforce many of the lessons in Emergency:

1. Your “stuff” doesn’t matter. The people in your life do.

2. Your survival skills are helpful. But not as helpful as the people in your community. Get to know them.

3. You can have all the right “equipment” to save yourself, your family, or your home. But if you’re not home, it’s useless. So have two plans worked out with your family, any roommates, and your neighbors for emergencies: One plan for staying home, one for leaving.

3A. Create and post a list of what everyone would like to be “rescued” in case of evacuation: photos, computers, hard drives, valuables, passports, important documents, and so on.

3B. Have a good escape route. It took five hours on average to get out of Malibu. Communities are poorly prepared, and do not adequately prepare residents, for evacuation. In a different scenario, people leaving could have been hurt or worse. So, depending on where you live, have a plan to circumvent traffic congestion.

3C. Have stockpiled in your home whatever you’d need to be comfortable for at least 2 weeks with no electricity, water, gas, stores, or outside services whatsoever.

4. Social media can be dangerous for disaster survival. Because a lot of people who stayed behind to save their homes put heroic posts on Instagram, many others I spoke to said they’d stay behind next time to save their homes. Bad idea. Evacuate—unless you have proper training, knowledge, equipment, and a disaster-proof escape route.

5. In a disaster, expect to be on your own. Don’t expect first responders to help you or save your stuff. They are fighting the disaster itself, not taking care of individuals or their property. And depending on the size of the emergency, they are likely under-resourced as it is.

6. Beware of disaster capitalism. After an emergency, fear and greed start to spread. Companies magically appear, charging you and insurance companies a lot of money to protect you from, in many cases, nothing. Other unlicensed companies offer the same services for less–beware. It was wild to see teams of technicians making houses safe from toxic ash for a small fortune while residents stayed in hotels. But many workers I saw weren’t actually wearing air filter masks while they worked in all that “toxic ash,” or even doing all the services they billed for. Scammers abound after disasters, on an individual and institutional level. And then there are the lawyers who ingratiate themselves into the community, promising residents small fortunes if they sue, whether warranted or not.

7. The sense of community and generosity fostered by an emergency is powerful but short-lived. On the positive side, I truly believe that my home was only saved by community members who organized themselves, and selflessly and tirelessly put out spot fires for days. And I’m not alone in my debt and gratitude to them. At the same time, it was shocking to see people who’d offered their homes and so much more to anyone affected by the fires suddenly rescind that offer, once someone actually wanted to take them up on it. Life returns to “the new normal” quickly after an emergency, and soon many who were initially grateful just to be alive revert to sweating over small, inconsequential things again.

8. For me and many others, we discovered that it’s psychologically important to have a place to call home…even if we’re never there.

9. In life, always expect the best…and prepare for the worst.


Going to write a blog post in a few days with a special announcement specifically for therapists, coaches, and social workers in the Inner Circle. And a cool announcement involving Netflix. Stand by.

Have a great holiday. And take care of yourself as deeply and compassionately as you can. You are the gift.