The Ultimate Gift
by Jim Stovall
Pub. Date: September 2001, David C. Cook
ISBN- 9781589193574
162 Pages
Success Rating:5

Why I Read this Book: This book concisely sums up what creates a fulfilled and meaningful life. I cannot think of a better gift. It refocused me on what’s truly important to myself, my relationships and life overall.

Topics Covered:

  • Thinking outside of yourself
  • Happiness and fulfillment
  • Materialism and it’s dangers
  • The importance of relationships
  • Giving and philanthropy


This book has the perfect title. My mother gave it to me last week and I had it finished in an hour and a half. Never before have I come across a book so powerful and profound, yet unbelievably simple that inspired me to address life in a different way. After putting it down I could not stop the thoughts going through my head about my life and the way it will affect and improve the lives of others going forward. We should all be grateful for the gift Jim Stoval has given us in these 150 odd pages. It is just as relevant to the maturing teenager as it is for a grandparent nearing the end of his life. On three separate occasions my eyes teared up. That’s difficult to do with a book.

The ultimate gift that Jim describes is one that all of us posses yet few of us take advantage of often enough. It has nothing to do with money or material things, which often carry too much emphasis, especially during the holidays. I wouldn’t dare take away the surprise from my readers since I know you would much rather hear it from Jim than me. I’d prefer to focus on what I took away from it. The gift that I received after finishing this book was that of a road map to a successful and meaningful life…meaningful describes it better than anything.

So many of us search for meaning in money, status and simply a bunch of things that most likely leave us disappointed and unfulfilled when we finally “get there”. Any of you who have tried to tell yourself that your lifes meaning can be achieved through a finite financial or material goal, have likely found that the problem is you never actually “get there”. When life is about material gifts and awards, you find that that desire to want more seems to always take over… and the emptiness continues.

This is much the case with the main character, Jason, in the Ultimate Gift. His very wealthy relative, Red, has recently passed away and left a fortune as his legacy. Unfortunately, all his heirs have turned into less than savory characters due to the unlimited access to money they have experienced in life. He saw Jason as the only hope for recovery, being just 24 years old. Instead of offering him a huge pile of money like Red does to the rest of his heirs, he offers Jason a year long journey where he’ll experience the twelve gifts of life. Since Red has passed away, his close friend will be guiding Jason via videos and letters provided in Red’s will. Jason’s inheritance, the ultimate gift, will only be received if he adequately makes it through each month.

Jason’s greedy self reluctantly accepts the offer, seeing the only redeeming thing being whatever has been left for him at the end of the year. Similar to his relatives, Jason has led a less than meaningful life up to this point. He lacks compassion for others, has never had to work for anything and has few if any real relationships. On top of that, he is grateful for nothing. Those of you who have strictly defined your success in terms of money up to this point, may have had similar experiences. The good news is it’s never too late to refocus.

Little does Jason know that he is about to embark on a subtle journey of life transformation and will come away with a reborn understanding of the true meaning of his life and those around him. The brilliant thing is the reader receives the

These monthly gifts touch on most things close to me and ReadingForYourSuccess. Here is a shortened list:

  • The gift of work: Appreciation and satisfaction come from earning something. Leisure is only enjoyable when you earn it.
  • The gift of friends: True loyal friends are hard to find so treat them that way. You never know when a new friendship is about to begin.
  • The gift of learning: Have a burning desire and love for self education.
  • The gift of problems: These prepare us for what’s ahead in life so embrace them and enjoy the accomplishment.
  • The gift of family: Some are born with a wonderful family, others have to find and create one. Either way, it’s essential.
  • The gift of dreams: See yourself accomplishing your goals and desires before you live through them. Dream until your last day.
  • The gift of giving: Small gifts to you could be huge gifts for others. Give more than you take.
  • The gift of love: The one required ingredient in every part of life. It makes each gift and experience worth living.

It’s hard for me to provide just a partial list but I hope this will wet your pallet. Jim’s explanation of each gift through Jason’s growth and understanding will surely give you at least a chill or two and leave you thinking differently. So I will leave the rest of the inspiration to him.

Jim is able to provide us all with a reminder and road map to creating genuine happiness and meaning. That’s what makes this book so far reaching. It covers just about every core topic of ReadingForYourSuccess and it applies to every possible reader. It doesn’t matter your age or place in life, either this will be a simple reminder or a much needed introduction to true meaning. Many books touch on a few of the gifts but few hit what I consider to be them all. Most of us know the power of a smile, a true friend or perhaps a loving family, but imagine if you could live all that Jim teaches each day of your life. I challenge you to incorporate these gifts in your ever-refining definition of success. You will find that the small speed bumps you come across, be it a job missed, not having quite enough money or an opportunity passed by, will be just that–small and manageable. They will not build up and pull your life down but instead will be diluted by a life whose core is based on the principles of love, giving and gratitude. A core so powerful that nothing will ever really be able to stand in its way.

Every one of these gifts is in our control and it is up to us to choose to make them our focus. Doing so makes the unconrollables much less significant. We often let these uncontrollables control our lives which leaves us with nothing to show for but added stress and disappointment. A simple refocus may be all you need to remove what’s keeping happiness out of you life. That refocus may be needed every day or maybe just every year. Either way, be sure it happens.

I am incredibly grateful that I have a family and friends that have brought me up living and believing these principles. But despite having learned them in the past, I felt reborn as I read through each gift and realized where I should be better spending my time and my thoughts. With how focused and busy we all get on our life’s success, it is so easy for us to forget what matters most. In running my investment fund I find myself consumed in things that I can’t do anything about and as a result, at times my stress levels rise and my enjoyment fades. So this was a much needed refocus that changed my state immediately to pure excitement and energy. It was an amazing feeling as I finished each chapter. What a powerful gift. After all, without things like dreams, love and relationships, nothing about your business, career or finances would make a difference. When in doubt, simply thinking outside of yourself is often all it takes to put your mind in the right place. That was all Red wished for Jason.

All of us deserve to live a meaningful and happy life so we must be sure to spend our time and focus our mind, time and energy in the right way to do so. As we move into the holiday seasons, or any season for that matter, keep close in mind that at the end of the day (and at the end of your life), your success, meaning and fulfillment will be measured much more by the number of lives you truly made better, than by anything you accumulate or consume. I encourage you to live accordingly and treat this as a gift to those you wish to do the same. Make this your gift to life and to you this year. Step outside of yourself and have a look around. Others may need you more than you think. Often the best gifts don’t cost even a dime. Happy holidays!

-Reading for Your Success

Buy The Ultimate Gift at Amazon

Leave a comment: I always appreciate hearing your experiences, feelings and thoughts, so please share. Who in your life needs The Ultimate Gift? Who may have already given it to you? Was it through stories, experiences or just living?

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Valuable Quotes:

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

It is a wealthy person, indeed who calculates riches not in gold but in friends.

Problems can only be avoided by exercising good judgment. Good judgment can only be gained by experiencing life’s problems.

Joy comes from overcoming a problem or simply learning to live with it while being joyful.

The only way you can truly get more out of life for yourself is to give part of yourself away.

A small gift when it is given can be a magnificent gift as it is received.

In times when we yearn to have more in our lives, we should dwell on the things we already have. In doing so, we will often find that our lives are already full to overflowing.

Love is a treasure for which we can never pay. The only way to keep it is to give it away.

If we are living our lives the way we should, everything should be in such an order that we wouldn’t change the last day of our life from any other day. Please always remember that none of us is guaranteed a long life. We’re not guaranteed anything but today.

Anything good, honorable, and desirable in life is based on love. Anything bad or evil is simply life without the love involved.

When you just worry about yourself, you are always disappointed.

  • Pat Hughes

    Great post / review Scott. I just attended a funeral yesterday for a friend of mine’s father who died from a sudden heart attack. This was a man of very few words and a pretty simple guy. However, the outpouring of love from the huge crowd showed that he truly had touched many people in a very simple, loving way that improved many lives. It was a very powerful display of what really is important, and very consistent with what you have written.

    Thanks for your review – I’ll be adding this book to my list of “gotta get” books.

  • scott

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for your comment and for continuing to check in for my reviews. You are one of my biggest supporters and I love it. This book touched me in a way that I don’t think any book has. It was unbelievable how it made me feel. And the great thing about it is that it’s so simply written and can be finished in a couple hours. I plan to read it each year. I’ve given about 7 out as gifts.

    So sorry to hear about your friend’s father. Life is indeed so fragile and unfortunately it often takes things like that for us to get shaken back to reality of what’s important. It reminds us that our effect on others and the relationships we have is our biggest gift to the world and ourselves. All the other noise related to money and outward success is just that, noise…

    Enjoy the book.

  • Joanie Fischer

    This was a very inspirational, and thought provoking story. It made me reflect on what is really important in life. Giving of ourselves to others is the best gift.

  • scott

    I am glad it struck you as strongly as it did me Joanie. I have this one on my list to read at the beginning of each year. I actually recently had a really fun chat with the author. His number is in the back of the book and he answered right away! He recommended the movie by the same title, and Chelsea and I just watched it. It was awesome.


  • Mindy


    Great recommendation! I read the book yesterday and was both touched (sobbed several times in some of the chapters) and enlightened by it. It really made reflect on myself, re-prioritize what are the important things in life, and how to live a fulfilling life.


  • scott

    So glad you enjoyed the review and got even more out of the book! I have decided that that’s a book to be read every year or so just to remind myself of my priorities and the things that really make life so magnificent. With how busy things can get, it’s all too easy to lose track of that. Sounds like the book had a similar impact on you as it did on me! Might make the perfect gift for the holidays.

    Happy Reading,

  • mae

    i read this book… this is one book worth my time. thanks for the great review.

  • Katherine Happle

    I happened to pick this book up at my local Goodwill store for $1…brought it home & read it from cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down. I thought it was the best book I had ever read. I truly loved it and was so inspired by it that I immediately wanted to share it with friends and family. I only wished that I could have found more copies of it there so I could give special family members their own copy. Anyway, it is my all time favorite for sure! It is definitely an exceptional book!

    I am hoping that before Christmas, I will be able to get enough money to buy about 10 or 12 copies of this book to send out to friends and family. (I have been unemployed for some time now, which is why I was in Goodwill in the first place.)

    This book has the power to change ones outlook and attitude about life!

    Many blessings to all!

  • Shara

    I’d love to use this book review in our monthly newsletter. Would that be ok? If so, how would you like me to credit you – the author?

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