The Seven Gifts in my opinion, should be mandatory reading for anyone in business, especially those in a management position, especially those in Human Resources. David provides a foundation to understand people’s differences and ways to improve personal and professional relationships through the lens of the Seven Gifts. —Charles Navarro, Owner, LN Engineering

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A “Gift Map” featuring assorted images, from a Humpback Whale to a set of salt and pepper shakers, greets you when you open this book. What does this have to do with wisdom? It’s a funny little teaser (gorgeously illustrated Syed Muhammed Waqas) that draws you in and makes you want to begin reading, and it perfectly encapsulates the beauty and whimsy of The Seven Gifts (HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc) by the introspective author David B. Whitacre. Everyone falls under the category of a Gift, an emotional and spiritual motivation that guides your subsequent behavior. Discerning yours will improve your quality of life in a myriad of ways while making you a more deeply understanding, and understood, individual. 

The book is divided into Volume One: Diaries and Volume Two: The Seven Gifts. In the first, the narrator sets the tone by setting the scene with his backstory and some musings. But when it comes down to it, while he does digress into the personal and the philosophical, he’s here to discuss a particular subject. “I think a reasonable person would observe that people are complex creatures, each like a Rubik’s cube, a seemingly impossible and complicated puzzle. People are intricate and mysterious, more than we can possibly know. Yet it is also true that there are some people who have figured out how to solve a Rubik’s cube in just a few moves.” In short, he’s an expert on the puzzle of personhood. Apparently, once you start the journey there’s no going back. 

DECODING AND HONORING YOUR GIFT

Whitacre’s parents were artists, and though he grew up without much money he did have an overflow of color in his world thanks to their creativity. He began to understand at a young age that financial value does not equal intrinsic value. Our author details many touching and trenchant lessons learned and observations tucked away from his youth and the quality time spent with family. He romanticizes his father and his father’s culture, but is self-aware enough to realize it; also, he is externally aware enough to tell that his father sees his “obvious weakness for loyalty and nostalgia” too. It seems that Whitacre was always primed for a lifetime spent diving into the grey areas of what it means to be human.  

Nonetheless, he went from one extreme to the other over the course of his life: “I have painted Missouri barns high up on three-story wooden ladders in strong winds, dined at the Vice President’s dinner table, bartered yard work for food with my second family of Antiguan immigrants so I could survive at college, and attended John Kennedy, Jr.’s private twenty-first birthday party at Jackie Onassis’s Manhattan penthouse.” He shares these anecdotes and vignettes to reassure the reader that he has a broadminded perspective and that the Gifts are not a ruse or ploy to pigeonhole people. They lead to freedom, not limitation.

FINDING FREEDOM WITHIN THE FORMS

Volume Two closely analyzes the seven Gifts themselves, the subject of the book. Whitacre sets the disclaimer that there is no SparkNotes version of the subject at hand; if you’re intrigued at all by this review and the concept of these Gifts you’re going to want to get the whole story. Meanwhile, the seven Gifts are Mercy, Server, Exhorter, Organizer, Prophet, Teacher, and Giver, with each receiving thoroughly in-depth treatment by the author. Discerning your personal Gift takes some effort that will eventually pay off with a wealth of self-awareness.

Whitacre learned from studying a variety of sources, from Carl Jung to Charles Darwin, to eventually disclose what he confidently claims is the single best system to get to the heart of humanity. It all starts with core motivation; what leads someone to their actions is far more enlightening than the action itself. Each gift does have both a light and a dark side, a refreshing realism that grounds the mystic air surrounding the Gifts. Knowing your Gift is knowing yourself, and while this all sounds quite serious, the author assures us that there’s nothing as fun as some good old Gift humor. 

Steven Speilberg is a Mercy Unicorn. “Don’t be surprised to see some Pepto Bismol on a Server’s desk.” The Exhorter’s Polar Gift is the Teacher. Do you have questions? Read the book; Whitacre explains everything, typing together these seemingly random or puzzling facets. Ultimately, the takeaway is clear; “The Gifts animate the tapestry of our race and the elegant pattern of our respective specialties and purposes and functions, allowing us to see how truly wonderfully made we are.”

David B. Whitacre is a professional planner living in Chicago, the White City, and working in a skyscraper next to what most locals still call the Sears Tower. David was born in 1962 in Columbus, Ohio but grew up mainly in Kansas City. He graduated with Honors in English from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and also studied Philosophy and Psychology there. David is father to Liza (Rest in Peace), Owa (Lauren), and Max, and is stepfather to Lolo (Lauren) and Evan. He lives in the West Loop, loves fast cars, and enjoys Recreational Organizing. The Seven Gifts was written over four years as an act of love for the kids, friends, and eternity while riding the train to and from work and in neighborhood coffee shops. David is still in pursuit of his Gift Ph.D.