Express Your Gratitude

Last July someone asked me, “If you could have a conversation with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?” I knew my answer in less than one second: Stephen Sondheim. And then I got angry at myself, “Jen, Stephen Sondheim is very much alive. The reason you have never had a conversation with him is because you have never reached out! If you really wanted to talk to him, you would write him a damn letter. Pick someone else.” So, I changed my answer: “Martin Luther King”. The conversation moved on.

For hours I couldn’t shake the fact that there are people walking around the earth at this very moment whose ideas have helped me to change for the better, and I’ve never said thank you.

So the next day, I gave myself a homework assignment: write to someone and say thank you.

I read a lot. Many books have had an impact on me. But in my adult life, two books in particular have completely transformed the way I see the world:

1) Start With Why by Simon Sinek

2) Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Shiela Heen

I had met Simon years earlier (his work deserves many posts of its own), so the answer was obvious: write to Douglas and Shiela.

I composed a note of gratitude, explaining how their book had helped not only me, but so many theatre artists who are in a constant feedback loop. I wrote about making a difference in the arts and giving artists the courage to speak up and act with integrity. Then I went to their website to look for a “contact” button, and I saw it hiding out in the upper right hand corner: “Business Book Writers Reatreat - February 2019”.

The wise Jasper Grant always says, “Leave room for serendipity.” This felt exactly like what he was talking about.

A few weeks earlier, I had been awakened at 3am by a jolt of inspiration about the book I was meant to write. I was energized and excited but unsure about how to get started. And now, the writers whose work had inspired my own were leading a retreat for people who were writing a book. It was too perfect.

I rewrote my note, asked for a spot in the retreat, took a breath, and hit “send.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

I just returned from the week with Douglas and Shiela and 13 other people who are writing books. My mind is blown. It will take me weeks, maybe longer, to sort through everything I learned and fully process the experience. But for now, I can tell you this…. Gratitude made it possible.

Gratitude is about giving, not about taking. Gratitude must come with no strings attached and no expectation of a return on your emotional investment. I can’t promise that reaching out to someone in gratitude will result in you spending a week with them. I CAN promise you this: gratitude doesn’t cost you anything, but holding it in does come with a cost.

If you don’t express your gratitude, you may find yourself expressing your regret.