Smiling with the Hario hand grinder. Combine with the AeroPress below, and you can make world-class coffee on an airplane meal tray.
I dislike shopping, but I do love finding the perfect gift.
Finding that gift, though, gets harder with time. Those damn adults seem to already have everything. That includes me.
More salt and pepper shakers? Nah. Alternate versions of the shirts I got last year? No, thank you. In the eternal quest to eliminate clutter, I now give Santa a not-to-buy list instead of a wish list.
If you’re having trouble thinking up killer (in the good sense) gifts, here are 11 goods that deliver.
Prices are estimates, I advise two of them thanks to obsessions (#1 and #10), and all of them have either changed my life or saved my ass. OK, almost all. A few were thrown in purely for fun…
#1 – CLEAR Card – $49 for six months (35%+ off of normal $79)
I first used CLEAR card in 2007. It’s one of my secret weapons, and I never travel without it.
Hate the feeling of arriving at the airport and wondering if the security lines will take 5 minutes or 45 minutes…maybe longer? CLEAR allows you to skip security lines completely at enrolled airports (San Francisco, DFW, Denver, and more).
Now, I am never anxious going to airport. Uber takes 15 minutes from my door to check-in kiosk (eliminating parking), and I know CLEAR can get me through security in 5 minutes or less. Last time I timed myself during SFO rush hour, I was 25 minutes faster than the first-class line and more than an hour faster than the economy line… all with an economy ticket. Gift cards can be e-mailed or printed, and kids under 18 traveling with you go through the CLEAR lane for free.
#2 – Kershaw Ken Onion Leek Serrated Folding Knife with Speed Safe – $39
I have collected knives since taking pack trips through the Teton mountain range as a teenager.
This Kershaw knife with “open-assist” (basically a side-opening switchblade) is the most all-around convenient and useful knife I own. Fixed blade knives are awesome, and I own many, but the balance and utility of this Kershaw blade makes it my go-to default at home or on the road.
Be sure to get it with the serrated edge. Be sure not to leave it in your carry-on luggage. The TSA will make a frowny face otherwise.
#3 – Three Books, Three Eras
The Education of Cyrus (Cyropaedia) by Xenophon -
This was written a few years ago…in the 4th century BC. If you like Seneca or my other philosophical favorites, you’ll like this one. It was introduced to me by Wofford College president Ben Dunlap, one of the best teachers I’ve ever met in my life. For those interested, here’s his unreal Wikipedia entry. He embodies many of the lessons taught in The Education of Cyrus, as is clear in own his TED talk on lifelong learning and passion (the last 5 minutes are gold, if you need to skip around).
Levels of the Game by John McPhee -
John McPhee is probably my favorite non-fiction writer of all-time. He’s written about everything from oranges to hardwood canoes, and he transforms every subject into page-turning fascination. In Levels of the Game, published in 1979, McPhee writes his first book on tennis. I’m not a tennis player, but I loved this short, 149-page book. The critics got it right: “This may be the high point of American sports journalism.” (The New York Times) “McPhee has produced what is probably the best tennis book ever written.” (Life)
The 4-Hour Chef by Some Long Islander -
Writing The 4-Hour Chef changed how I look at learning, passion, and creativity forever. In 2007, if I’d had the contacts I do now, I would have written this book before The 4-Hour Workweek. Accelerated learning is the foundation for everything I enjoy, and it’s the force multiplier for everything in my previous two books.
Sidenote: If you’d like to explore the gear in the first 150 pages of the book, I’ve put it all here.
I own an Apple TV, but I barely use it. Why?
Simple: An Amazon Prime membership gives me free 2-day shipping on almost everything Amazon.com, as well as 1,000s of free streaming movies and TV shows. To watch them on my TV, I just need the Roku box, which I also bought for my parents. It’s dead simple to use.
The most inspiring and life-affirming TV series I’ve watched using Prime/Roku combo is the British Channel 4′s Escape to River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you’ve ever fantasized about escaping the city to live in the country and live off the land, you will love this series.
#5 – AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker – $32
For this beauty, more than 300 reviewer said something like this: “I have a drip coffee machine, a french press and a Krups espresso maker, and they are all officially retired thanks to the Aeropress.”
If you combine it with a hand grinder and a non-stabby pocket thermometer, you can make the best coffee of your life on a plane flight…on the meal tray of a middle seat. I’m not kidding. Baristas often travel with an AeroPress for this reason exactly, and it takes less time to clean than a butter knife. Winning.
Extra trivia: The AeroPress was invented by the same rogue Stanford mechanical engineer who created the Aerobie toy craze.
#6 – BioTrust Low-Carb Protein Powder – $49.95
I am always asked about protein powders, often related to my “30 within 30″ recommendation of consuming 30 grams (g) of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. My dad, as one example, went from 5 pounds of average monthly fat loss to 17.85 pounds/month in the first month of adopting this habit.
But what to use?
For the last several months, I’ve used BioTrust low-carb protein powder, and I plan to continue doing so. It contains just 4g net carbs per serving, mixes easily with a spoon, and I find the combination of undenatured whey protein isolate, micellar casein, and other proteins easy to digest but filling enough to act as a (small) meal replacement. This is an unusual combo, and I regularly keep six or so jars at home, and I travel with two jars. During book launch, I used the “30 within 30″ rule to sustain immune function while sleeping 2-3 hours per night at hotels around the country.
Be forewarned: I love the product, but like many companies, BioTrust has frequent e-mail follow-up for their related nutritional products. I’m allergic to e-mail and in elimination mode, so I opted out of this.
#7 – WaterPik Ultra Water Flosser – $45
I’ll keep this one short.
I have hated flossing my entire life. Each year, I got a lecture from the dentist, and each year, I’d attempt flossing for 2-3 days and throw in the towel. No longer.
Using the WaterPik in combination with the free Lift app got me to floss consistently for the first time. Now, I look forward to it. Weird.
#8 – Jumpcut – Free
This free download saved my sanity. It is my small gift for you.
As a writer, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve copied something important to the clipboard, gotten distracted, then copied something else…losing hours of work! Damnation! At the very least, such mistakes meant frustration and feeling like a sad keyboard monkey.
Jumpcut appears on your toolbar and saves around 40 items you’ve copied to your clipboard. You won’t realize how time-saving (even life-changing) this is until you start using it. There are positive side-effects, too. Know all those temporary text files you use for notetaking for later in the day or whenever? Forgettaboutit — Jumpcut to the rescue. Special thanks to Maneesh Sethi for introducing me to this tool.
#9 – Splurge at The Billionaire Shop -$1,000,000+
Finally, a way for you to shop for your Danish Zenvo ST1 (limited to 15 in the world) online!
Ah, the conveniences of the Internet. No more shlepping down to your local Lamborghini dealership or waiting for helicopter catalogs. You can max out your AMEX black card here with one click, and that perfect X-mas gift will depreciate in 30 minutes more than the value of my current house. Enjoy!
#10 – Quarterly – My 4-Hour Obsession – $100/Quarter
Readers have been asking me for a box of physical goodies for years. So, my Lords and Ladies, I have created one with the start-up Quarterly.
Every three months — 4 times a year — you’ll get a box full of my favorite things, my newest and favorite obsessions. Through my global travels, my guinea pig self-experiments, my extensive product testing, and adventures/misadventures, I’ll find the coolest gems to share with you and pick the best for the box.
Tim Ferriss not your thing? A little too Ferrissy for ya’? Well, then… get off my lawn! But seriously, there are other cool folks to choose from, including Veronica Belmont, Mark Frauenfelder, Tina Roth Eisenberg (swissmiss), Jason Kottke, and Megan Collins. For gifting, you have the option of sending the gift confirmation directly (and immediately) to the recipient, or sending it to yourself so you can print or forward it as you see fit.
And Most Important of All…
#11 – What You Already Have – Priceless
The holiday season shouldn’t be all about stuff. It should be about connecting with others and reconnecting with yourself. Don’t get me wrong: I like toys and encourage you to play. Just don’t get so lost in the X-Box that you skip a proper year-in-review introspection.
Looking back on the year, looking ahead to the next, ask yourself:
- What and who am I grateful for?
- What and who should I be more grateful for?
Remember that if you don’t appreciate what you have now, nothing you get (e.g. house, jet, business, spouse, whatever) will make you happier, much less fulfilled. There’s more to life than increasing its speed and size. Drive both without focus and your life will end up resembling the Exxon Valdez: unwieldy and hard to control.
In the new year, what will you remove from your life? What will you learn and teach? What will you simplify?
Just as I recommend these questions, I’m asking them myself.
Happy holidays, all!
Wishing you and yours the most joyous of holiday seasons,