My year of thanks: 52 folks who made a difference in my life

I have decided to take a cue from one of my MSU students, Megan Gebhart.  Megan, in her senior year at MSU, had coffee with 52 different folks each week of year and wrote about it here.  Her 52 cups year is over, but it is worth reading about the conversations she had because it was an interesting journey and led her to a new job as an ambassador for the MSU alumni association.  You can also follow her @megangebhart.  Combining this with my recent writing on thank-you notes, it seemed like a thank-you each week would make perfect sense as I wind my way towards the big 5-0.  It seems like an intimidating number.  Maybe if I focus on my blessings, it will not seem so overwhelming.

I will start on my 49th birthday, on the 4th of July, and then end next year at the same place.  I try to be a disciplined person, but this will be an entirely new level of discipline.  There are so many friends, family members, teachers, and even strangers who have been a blessing in my life.  I hope you will enjoy meeting them.


Thank a service man and woman this weekend with a million thanks

On a weekend like this, I feel helpless.  I want to show my appreciation to the men and women who have served my country and who serve it now, but I’m not sure what to do.  Then, I came across this today, a campaign for A Million Thanks.

Its Mission: 

A Million Thanks is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation for our U.S. Military Men and Women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, and prayers.

I have just purchased my Wounded Warrior Commemorative Pen and will begin my own personal letter writing campaign soon.

It is a small thing, but as we know, saying thank-you is a powerful way to connect with others and build a closer, more trusting relationship with them.

Just be thankful for the little things…

We have a little friend, Preston, who is battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).  Preston is 4 and is our neighbor.  We met him when he was trick-or-treating with his sisters, Abby and Stephanie.  Our 17-year old daughter Maggie introduced herself to them and offered to babysit.  I asked her why she offered to babysit them and not anyone else and she said, “They were the most polite children and I knew that I wouldhave fun with them.”  She didn’t know at the time that Preston had been battling AML for two years and would continue his battle.

Preston is going through his third round of chemo right now and will undergo another bone marrow transplant soon.  We pray every day for Preston that the medicine all works the way it is supposed to and the God gives him this miracle to be healed from this terrible disease.

Preston’s mom, Celeste, is such a strong Christian, sharing her frustrations with Preston’s illness and struggle, while praying that he would get his miracle.  She is right in reminding us that we need to be thankful for the little things in life and remember that our problems are also insignificant, in comparison.  We have many friends in our life who are battling major diseases right now, including cancer, ALS, and one friend who just died from a long struggle with MS.

Are we thankful for the little things in life?  Do we focus on thanks only when things are big and eventful or should we remember that an attitude of gratitude will take us a long way toward a more positive outlook on life?


image from

When Someone Helps You Look Better On LinkedIn (or Anywhere Else), Say ‘Thank-You’

I’ve given plenty of unpaid help to people looking to improve their professional communications over the years, mostly to my students looking for feedback on their resumes, but also to friends and colleagues who wanted to improve their resumes, cover letters, academic manuscripts, and other important written communications.  I’ve received such help myself as well from many people over the years, and I’ve always been grateful for it.  All I’ve expected for my help is a simple “thank-you,” either oral or written, and most of the time, I have received such thanks.

That is why I get so irked when people don’t express any gratitude, and the more help I’ve given without any thanks, the more irritated I become.  Earlier this year, I spent over an hour helping an MBA student in his job search over coffee, and then introduced the person to several people in my various networks so that the person could request informational interviews and advice about his job search.  I did this as a favor to a good friend, as I had never taught the MBA student and indeed he attended a university with which I wasn’t affiliated.  I never once received any thanks from the student, and recently learned that the person had received a permanent job offer.  I’m glad he got the offer, but I would have also appreciated learning this from the person himself rather than from someone else (who also had provided help to the student and who also had never been thanked as it turns out).

Then today, I learned that someone had viewed my profile on LinkedIn.  Curious person that I am, I checked out this person’s profile to guess as to why they might have wanted to learn more about me.  In reading the person’s profile, I noticed a grammatical mistake.  She had written “works good under immense pressure” when she should have written “works well under immense pressure.”  (Obviously, she doesn’t write well under pressure, even though she has a bachelor’s degree in “mass communication/media studies,” but I digress.)  I thought she’d want to know this, and so I sent her and InMail message on LinkedIn letting her about the mistake.

Several hours later, I was back on LinkedIn, and received a notice saying another person had checked out my profile, and so I went to see who it was.  It turns out it was the same person.  Again, being curious, I decided to see if she had fixed her profile.  Well, indeed she had, but she never bothered to thank me for letting her know about her mistake.

I’m certainly not going to let these two people keep me from helping others in the future.   Their lack of gratitude, however, means that I’ll probably first consider consider whether a person is the type to “pay it forward” to others in the future before I take the time to provide help, solicited or unsolicited.



Thank you notes: required or optional?

Update 4-25-12:

Elsewhere on this blog, Aneil writes today about why people should thank total strangers when they receive unsolicited help, especially when they make use of help!

Update 2-29-11 (Leap Day!):

We believe that showing gratitude is so important that we devoted an entire chapter, entitled “Think Thank-You” in our first book, Trust is Everything.

Here’s the chapter, Think Thank-You.

Here’s why not sending a thank-you email message after an interview will kill your chances of being considered further.

Update: 1-31-12

Shortly after I wrote about this about thank-you notes, Dick Gordon of The Story (from our local NPR station, WUNC), interviewed a man who is on a quest to make e-mail thank-you’s more acceptable.  I heard this interview one night on my way back from teaching my evening MBA class and realized that this was actually a topic that many had opinions on.  I am anxious to hear what you think.

I agree that there are times when you don’t have time to write a formal thank-you and an email will convey your message quickly and effectively.  For instance, an email is helpful when you have interviewed for a job and they are selecting a candidate the next day and you want to make sure your interviewer knows you are grateful for their time and are the best candidate for the job!  But, there are other times that a hand-written gesture is most appreciated, as evidenced by the stack in my late grandmother’s bedroom.

Original Post on 1-7-12

A USA Today snapshot reveals that I am one of only 31% of mothers who always require my children to send a thank-you note.  An almost equal amount NEVER ask their children to write thank-you notes.  What is this world coming to?!

My teenagers have been writing thank-you notes since they were born.  Yes, I signed the cards for them then.  Then, as they could draw, they would scribble something, then add their name, then a word, then a sentence, then write the whole card.  It was a gradual evolution, but I have always wanted them to understand gratitude.  If we don’t say thank-you, how can we express our gratitude and have a grateful heart?

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I know that when I wrote thank-you notes to my co-workers when I was in sales and marketing, for a small act of kindness they did for our customers, Coke and Pepsi, they were so grateful that someone noticed their work.  I know how much my parents love getting notes from my teenagers, even the short ones they write now.  My grandmother loved my notes (thank you and otherwise) so much that my parents found a pile of them in her room after she died.

In our first book, we wrote a chapter called, “Think Thank-you”.  Being grateful also comes from a place of compassion, where you appreciate what you have and what others do for you.  One of my favorite thank-you notes I ever received was from the late Wake Forest basketball coach, Skip Prosser.  One of my students was on the basketball team and invited me to be a “guest coach” for one of the games.  It was a thrill to watch him play from the floor, sitting right behind the team.  I sent Skip a thank-you note, telling him how much it meant to include me and my family in something like that.  Skip Prosser actually sent me a thank-you note for my thank you note (!), thanking me for my teaching and service to Wake Forest University.  He was the only one to ever thank me for doing my job.

You never know how much those words will mean to someone.


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