I found this inspiring article in Forbes magazine. In light of my sermon last Sunday on living a grateful life, I thought it would inspire all of us to begin this one practice which changed one man’s life. Enjoy!
By Omaid Homayun
September 13, 2015, Forbes magazine
“Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have, you will not receive the things you want,” is what the voice in John Kralik’s head said to him on one New Year’s Day in Pasadena.
Rewinding a few years ago on January 9, 2010 I received a phone call that would change my life forever. I pulled into the parking lot at the Flint Center in Cupertino for an event and saw that I had a missed call and a voicemail from my aunt. I had the feeling in my bones that something was wrong. She said something happened to my father and I needed to get to the hospital. That was all the information I had; there was a million thoughts going through my mind.
My girlfriend drove back and as we were on the freeway I received the worst news possible from my sister. As she uttered the words I dropped my cell phone and felt a puddle of tears in my palms, she said my father passed away from a heart attack. When I arrived to the hospital his body was still warm and I couldn’t help to think he was going to wake up. My mother was 7,500 miles away in Afghanistan and my sisters and I were at a loss for words in the waiting room.
I didn’t expect the tragic event on January 9, I just had dinner with close friends at my father’s restaurant where he cooked us a meal the night before. For months after my life was spiraling in the wrong direction. I tweeted Tony Robbins and asked him what he recommended. He actually tweeted back a suggestion and I picked up a set of his tapes. Instead of getting what I wanted (which was to get my health in order), I got what I needed. My first experience with gratitude.
Have I always been thankful for everything in my life? Of course. But I never practiced gratitude until then. Recently, I stumbled on a book called A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. I don’t know how it got on my book shelve, almost as if it was meant to be there. I read the first 10 pages and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s about a guy whose life was a disaster. He was miserable, broke, overweight, and on his second divorce living in a crumby apartment in LA with no air conditioning. He was an attorney and he couldn’t afford to pay his employees their Christmas bonuses because his clients weren’t paying their bills on time — and sometimes not paying them at all.
It’s easy to complain about your life until you have someone else’s life to compare to. How did this guy survive? What did he do to overcome adversity? I wanted to know more about his journey so I read on. His story is about gratitude, but what did he have to be thankful for?
The premise is that John had an epiphany while he was hiking in the hills of LA on New Year’s Day. He decided that his goal was to write one thank you note each day for the next year, for a total of 365 thank you notes. He wanted to find a reason to be thankful and grateful every single day. Incredibly enough, there were things right under his nose to be thankful for that he hadn’t noticed.
I recently caught up with John to see how his life has evolved since the publishing of his book. There are countless studies about how practicing gratitude can improve you overall well-being. Nonetheless, John’s story has caught on fire; he’s written and received over 2,000 thank you notes to this day. John said that writing the thank you notes over the course of the year taught him to value the good things and created a discipline of positive focus. “Gratitude presses outwards and that creates good feelings in the universe. A lot of that comes back to you eventually,” he said.
Receiving a hand written thank you card delivers a special meaning, especially if you want to make an impression. John explains, “When you receive something from a machine, there’s inevitably a feeling that the machine generated it and it’s disposable. When a prospective employer or client or someone you’re trying to network with receives a thank you note as a courtesy that’s going to make you stand out. It’s going to create something around you that isn’t there and sets you apart. It’s going to give you a certain amount of peace and confidence that you have had a good life, and you have had a lot going for you.”
His story inspired me to think about the people who I should thank. I wrote my first thank you note to my better half:
You are my source of inspiration. Thank you for driving me to become a better man, I hope through this I can become a better husband and father. You do so much for me out of the kindness of your heart, and for that I will always be grateful. We may be two different people, but combined our hearts fit perfectly together.
Expressing gratitude will give you positive emotions, but the purpose of writing the notes is because it’s the right thing to do. John says our natural tendency is to notice the 9 bad things that happened to us each day, but instead what if we focused on the one good thing? If you’re interested in practicing gratitude by writing thank you notes you should consider reading his book and putting the practice into play. Make it fun and challenge yourself to write 30 thank you notes in 30 days. I record mine in an excel spreadsheet to remember who I wrote to and what the specific message was. You’ll notice the more you write the better your notes will get.
John’s book is about someone who thought he didn’t have anything to be thankful for. It’s the story of how he started to notice those things. “If you write a book about the best in people, you connect with the best people,” he explains. To paraphrase Edmund Wilson, gratitude is one of those rare things you get more of by giving it away.