The Power of Gratitude

Of all the attributes successful people possess few are more important than a grateful heart.

Back in my days of working with the Dale Carnegie Organization there was a 50 something guy in one of our classes who looked very successful. He obviously had money, drove his choice of the many fancy cars he owned. He had houses (notice I didn’t say homes) around the world in which he could live comfortably. At first glance he appeared to have it all.

But it was never enough. He was one of the most unhappy and “relationship poor” people I had ever met.

The stories he told were in stark contrast to the ones told by a 30 something guy with 5 kids. It seemed as if every example from the younger man was laced with struggles and challenges that the older man knew nothing about. His stories were also filled with something else missing from the older man’s…a grateful heart.

He appreciated the opportunity every challenge presented him. He appreciated the chance to learn and overcome obstacles which he knew would better prepare him for the future. He found “the silver lining” in every cloud.

It was in that particular 12 week Dale Carnegie course that I learned about the true power of gratefulness.

The older, more successful appearing man in the 12 week program knew nothing of his gifts. He knew little of his actual strengths, and he had long ago surrendered his power to be happy.

The younger man’s thoughts were focused on appreciating what he had, not what he wanted. He was thankful for what he was able to earn. Thankful for his God given gifts that made it possible for him to support his family. Thankful for his one overcrowded home in a modest neighborhood and I suspect thankful every time his 20 year old car actually started.

He was happy and as far as he was concerned, one of the richest people on earth.

Now I ask you…which of those two men was the most successful?

You may find this difficult to believe if you find yourself struggling. You will find it hard to believe if you’re a “keeping up with the Joneses” type person. But your greatest happiness is within you, not in chasing what you’re without.

Practice gratefulness each day. Absolutely work hard for your dreams but make time each day to also appreciate what you already have.

If you find it hard to be grateful for what you have today it’s very likely you’ll find it just as hard to be grateful for what you may have tomorrow. It has been my experience that an ungrateful heart is also an unhappy one.

“Things” will never make you happy but the power of gratitude most certainly will. If nothing else, be grateful for that.

Thanksgiving Is Better as a Verb

Once a year the United States stops for a day to give thanks. That day of thanks is known as Thanksgiving Day. In the English language Thanksgiving is used as a name therefore it’s a noun.

 

But in a twist that causes great confusion for people attempting to learn the English language “Thanksgiving” is also an action which means it’s a verb. 

 

Which one is it for you? Is Thanksgiving a day you don’t have to work or is thanksgiving something you do?

 

Stopping for a day to reflect on all we have to be thankful for is fine but living a life full of thankfulness is better. The challenge is, at least for me, is that we take soooooo much for granted. 

 

The fact that a day is set aside to give thanks somehow seems to make it okay to give thanks one day a year. But we all know that’s not okay. So here’s an idea….

 

Since smartphones are such a big part of our life let’s use them to help us remember to live a life of thankfulness. When I open the calendar on my iPhone it says “Thanksgiving Day” on only one day a year. 

 

I’m going to scatter “Thanksgiving Day” throughout the year on my calendar. I’m going to use that device I look at many times a day to remind myself that Thanksgiving is best when it’s a verb and not merely a noun. I’d add Thanksgiving to everyday except for the fact that if I saw it everyday it wouldn’t be long before I didn’t even notice it anymore. 

 

I’d never presume to tell you what you have to be thankful for but I am certain that no matter your situation you have many things and people if your life that you would miss horribly if they were gone. 


Be thankful for them!


The Lost Art of Thank You Notes

So, in my last post I wrote about saying “Thank You.” As powerful as a sincere verbal thank you can be it’s magnified tenfold when it’s written down. So I want to take my last post a step further and suggest that you do more than merely say thank you, I’d encourage you to at least occasionally write your “Thank You” down, like in a note, with a pen, handwritten. Just like the old days.

 

I know that seems really old fashioned to a whole lot of people reading this and it may seem like a huge waste of time when you can just send a quick email or an even quicker text. But I assure you, it’s anything but a waste of time. 

 

You may think taking the extra five minutes to hand write a card and toss it in the mail (for those of you who have never done this “the mail” is those blue kinda curvy topped boxes you see sitting on street corners here and there) is a waste of time but I’m betting big time that if you received one you wouldn’t think it was a waste of time at all. You would appreciate, maybe greatly appreciate, the extra effort it took the person to send it to you. 

 

There was a time when I frequently suggested to people that they send 7 Thank You cards a week. I used to do that religiously; I’ve somehow gotten away from that and it’s truly a shame. People used to comment to me all the time about how much they appreciated the thoughtfulness. 

 

I still send a fair amount of “Thank You’s,” I just do it by email and I almost never hear a word about thoughtfulness. 

 

So I just went and bought a box of Thank You Notes (it was nice to see they still sell them in stores) and a book of stamps. It’s positively retro! I’m going to start slow and commit to sending one a week, every week. I’ll try to do more but over-committing is a sure way to kill any momentum I might develop.

 

Will you join me in rediscovering this lost art? No one’s handwriting is worse than mine so don’t try using that as an excuse; like those Nike people say… Just do it!


My grandfather used to sell cards in his store, I still remember a sign by the cards he sold. It said “Costs so little yet means so much.” Those words still hold true today; make a difference in someone’s life today, drop them a note and let them know they matter.


Two Little Words

Sometimes little things can make a big difference. Sometimes, when combined with another little thing they can make a huge difference. Such is the case with two little words, thank and you. 

 

Now “thank” almost doesn’t sound right alone. About the only way it makes sense is when used in a sentence like “remember to thank someone” or something like that. We can add an “s” to the word which makes it far more useful but all alone “thank” just doesn’t accomplish that much.

 

As for “you” well that’s another matter. With just in slight change in the tone of our voice we can make “you” mean very different things. We can say it with a smile and a friendly look and it tells a person that we think they are someone special. Or…we can say it with a growl and a stern look and they almost instinctly know that whatever we say next isn’t going to be meant as a compliment. 

 

It’s when we combine the word “thank” with the word “you” that magic begins to happen. When spoken together with sincerity and conviction “Thank You” has the power to change someone’s day. It has the power to let them know that they matter, that the things they do are noticed, and that they are appreciated.

 

Authentic Servant Leaders seldom if ever miss an opportunity to say Thank You when appropriate. They do not take acts of kindness for granted. They do not take good work for granted. They do not take extra effort for granted. They do not take their people for granted. 

 

If you have not used those two little words together in the last day or so (maybe the last hour or so) then I can virtually guarantee that you have missed an opportunity to demonstrate to someone that you appreciate them. That you do not take them or their efforts for granted. 

 

Now, just to be clear, a little half-hearted “thanks” said in passing doesn’t get it done. Look the other person in the eye and in your strongest, clearest voice say “Thank You” and mean it…sincerely. 


If you’re truly looking you won’t have to wait look for your first opportunity to appear. 

Who Really Won the Election

As the United States celebrates it’s Thanksgiving holiday this weekend all Americans have much to be thankful for. Starting with the results of the recent election. 

It doesn’t matter who got the most votes, it doesn’t matter who won the electoral college. The real winner of the election is the American people… they won because they had a choice. They won because they are free to support the winner or protest against him. There are a whole lot of places where that is just not the case.

That’s a privilege that should never be taken for granted. 

We Americans tend to take a lot for granted so here’s an idea on one of the biggest “taking” weekends of the year.

While you’re out chasing the good deals on Black Friday and helping out the American economy, keep a little cash in your pocket to give to those who can only imagine the freedom and prosperity we regularly enjoy.

Give a little back! Most Americans have so much that sometimes we forget how little it can take to make a really big difference. 

Be thankful for all you have as we begin this holiday season and do what you can to provide someone else with something to be thankful for as well. You’ll be glad you did, that much I can guarantee!

People Matter

If you lead people then you undoubtedly know that people matter. What you may not know is how much they need to know that you know they matter. We humans need to know we matter almost as much as we need air to breath. If we don’t see, without a doubt that we matter then doubt is what we will do. We’ll wonder if we really do matter…to anyone.

You can tell people everyday that they matter and still leave some doubt. If you really want them to know that you know they matter then don’t just tell them, show them.

Showing that someone matters doesn’t take one bit of extra effort, it merely requires a little thoughtfulness and effort that you should already be putting forth.

It’s unlikely that any true leader would intentionally tell their people that they don’t matter, but it happens unintentionally all too often.

For instance, nothing says “you don’t matter” more than picking up a call or texting while you’re talking with someone else.  You know how you feel when someone does that to you…well guess what, most everybody feels that way too. Ignore your cell phone or put it away completely. If you absolutely have to take a call, apologize, explain why and make it quick. 

Be present with whoever it is you’re talking with. Make them feel as if they are the most important person in your world, because in that very moment, they actually are.

Never forget the value of appreciation. Think about a time when you did something nice for someone and they never even acknowledged it with a simple thanks. There are many many times during an average day to recognize someone with a thank you. Many leaders actually think it’s a sign of weakness to thank a person who works for them. It is not, as a matter of fact, Authentic Servant Leaders seldom miss an opportunity to show their appreciation for a job well done. Don’t overlook the power of those two words and how they recognize a person.

Honor every commitment. Everybody knows undependable people. They say they will meet us and they never show. They are constantly canceling lunch plans at the last minute or not confirming their plans to attend until the very last second. The message they send is that their schedule is far more important than yours. If that by chance describes you then you need to change that habit. Show the other person they matter by honoring all commitments that you make in the time frame that you make them. Doing anything else is telling the person that they don’t truly matter.

You will never meet a person who doesn’t matter. It takes only a little forethought to let them know that you know, without a doubt, that they matter to you.

A Day of Thanksgiving?

I was asked a couple of days ago about what I would be blogging about this week. I said today’s post would be about the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday. I was then asked why not just post that on Thursday, which is of course actually Thanksgiving day in the U.S.

That very question speaks to the premise of this post.

That question might seem to indicate that we are thankful one day a year, or at the very least it indicates that we only stop to “thankfully reflect” one day a year. That really doesn’t make sense when you think about it.

Now I love all the traditions around Thanksgiving, I even love fighting the hordes for bargains on Black Friday. I over eat along with the majority of Americans, watch some football, and have too much whipped cream on my Pumpkin Pie. Somewhere along the line of course we, at least some, stop eating long enough to be thankful. For a day.

Then it’s back to taking way way too much stuff for granted. Now, I’m not just throwing rocks at other people, I’m throwing them at myself too. I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

If you live in the United States you have so much to be grateful for. You truly live in the land of opportunity, virtually nothing is out of reach. (Actually, if makes no difference where you live, if you look hard enough you can find at least a ray of hope)

Okay, okay, it’s about here that some, perhaps many, of you are already thinking “what a crock,” doesn’t this idiot know how tough things are… Yes I know. I also know that on our worst day life is still pretty darn good, especially when compared to the struggles of much of the world.

When we focus on what’s wrong it causes us to miss most of what’s right. On any given day we have much more to be thankful for than we have to complain about but we choose to focus on the negative. One day a year we choose to look past the bad and be thankful for the good.

I wonder why we focus so little of our time on finding things and people to be thankful for. Is it because we measure our lives in years and there’s always next year? What if we measured our lives in days?

I have worked at the same company for over 18 years. Does that seem like a lot? How about this, I’ve really worked there for 6762 days. 9,737,280 minutes, 584,236,800 seconds. Now I’m sure not all of the seconds and minutes were good but I can pretty much guarantee that something good happened on each one of those 6762 days.

I can also pretty much guarantee that I have failed to be grateful for each one of my 6762 days of employment. I’m also sure that I’ve had something to be thankful for each of the 21,756 days of my life but I’ve only “officially” stopped for 59 of those days to give thanks.

That’s just not right. So join me in the coming seconds, minutes, days and years to stop everyday, every single day, to be grateful, to focus on the good things and good people that surround you.

I’ll bet that when we put in the effort to find the good we’ll discover that it doesn’t take much effort at all, it just takes a choice!