Let People Help: Co-Creation and Why You Should Give Participatory Gifts

Yesterday I decided to make breakfast for 16 of my friends. They were visiting Atlanta, most for the first time, and I wanted to celebrate their time here in style.

I had it all planned out (or so I thought) in my mind, until this morning. Then I realized that cooking for 16 teenagers and 20-somethings is bloody hard, even when you have the stove space.

I could not do it alone. I had to ask for help. *Grrrrrr* *Ego resists*

Fortunately, my friends are amazing. We ended up making that feast for 16, but I had about half of that number gladly helping me cut fruit, cook bacon, make french toast, and scramble eggs.

It was a chaotic dance of spatulas and frying pans and baking sheets and strawberries.

And you know what?

We made a party out of it. The food tasted better. People enjoyed it more. People actually told me the experience “nourished their souls.” We had a blast, and I will remember that time. In the end, we all ended up giving the gift of breakfast to each other.

I have a theory about why letting others help made this breakfast better: I think people genuinely enjoy gifts more when they get to co-create them.

Think about the best and most impactful gifts you’ve received in life. Maybe it was a boat you got to restore with your father, or a massive LEGO set you spent hours building with your friends or siblings (without following the directions). You were not just consuming a finished product. Those “finished product” gifts give the shortest burst of pleasure.

Instead, you were participating in the making of the gift itself. You were using your ingenuity and skills and creativity. You were present in all of the ways that give meaning to your best moments at work and while exploring the world around you.

This morning’s breakfast was a gift from me, yes, but its recipients also helped in the creating of that gift. In the process, they gave back to me, they gave additional meaning to the breakfast, and they got more fully into the experience.

This was a small taste of a important metaphorical reality about life itself: it’s a “gift” you get to co-create with whatever source gave you life and existence in the first place. You’re alive for some reason or another. Lucky you! Now what you do with it is up to you. What you turn your world into is up to you.

You can choose to let that be a scary realization – like my own internal “oh snap” moment with breakfast this morning. But you can also choose to enjoy the process of creating as part of the gift itself. And you can remember that you have billions of people co-creating their lives and co-creating the world alongside you. Help each other out. Make a party of it.

And remind yourself of all this by giving participatory gifts – like massive breakfasts.

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James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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