On October 10th 2016, I began the journey of writing 5 Thank you cards per day, every day, for 365 days. In total, that will add up to 1825 handwritten notes in 1 years time.
By profession, I am a gift salesman. More specifically, I specialize in selling gifts to Realtors and Mortgage professionals that they give away after a sale. Strange as it may sound, it’s a good gig and I’ve worked for the same company (Cutco Cutlery, and Cutco Closing Gifts) for 14 years.
Simon Sinek once told me (and a million other people in his TED talk) to “start with WHY”. People don’t buy what you sell, they buy WHY you are selling it. They don’t care what you do, they care why you’re doing it.
I took this advice to heart and set forth a personal mission that through my work “I will elevate the level of gratitude on the planet…by 1%”. Strange as it may sound, 1% was an inspiring # to me. 1% of 7.4 Billion people is 74 million. How can whatever I’m doing inspire deeper levels of gratitude and appreciation to that many people?
To give you a different perspective on that project, think about all the ocean water on planet earth. Trillions of gallons. What would it take to increase the temperature of all those bodies of water by 1 degree (Fahrenheit, or Celsius)? Massive, massive amounts of energy. More energy than one fish, one person, one country could produce. The point is, this is a mission that would require more than the efforts of one John Israel, and might take more than my life time to complete.
You’re asking excellent questions here. Several years back, while going through a serious personal growth binge after college, I had an extraordinary experience of gratitude. I was driving my, then girlfriend, now wife to the airport at 5am. Normally, I’d be pretty annoyed to do this. But because of all that personal growth work I was going through, I surprisingly in a really good mood. So I drove to the beach, sat in my car for 2 hours and journaled. All that was coming out were words of appreciation about my life. More specifically, about the teachers the impacted me, leaders in my company who took the time to seriously dig in and help me improve. Mentors, coaches from sports. It was just this intense feeling of gratitude.
After that, I looked up as many of these people’s emails and began writing them heart felt Thank You’s for how they impacted my life. It felt great to do, but when I started to see the responses back appreciating my acknowledgement, that feeling of gratitude multiplied. Easily one of the highest moments in my life. And I remember thinking, “Man, If only I could feel like this every day. What would my life be like?”
That moment changed my life forever and I continued in search of that experience again.
FAST FORWARD to TODAY
The mission of “elevating the level of gratitude on the planet by 1%”, for selfish reasons gave me a greater sense of purpose in how I worked, sold, and built my business. When someone gives a gift, they are expressing gratitude with this other person. It made sense in my mind.
But was I personally living into that mission I set forth? Is selling more gifts going to be a way to reach 74 million people? Honestly, I couldn’t say yes to that. I, John Israel, would be the bottle neck in this situation.
In October of 2016, I was attending a Sales and personal development training with the guys at Epic Impact in San Francisco. It really got my wheels turning how to truly honor this commitment I had set forth.
It was really serendipitous. During a break, I wrote a mantra on the white board that came to me. It said, “Go for it. Be seen. Be Heard. Make a difference.”
This was relevant as my wife, I, and our 2 kids were about to move to TX from CA and start a new chapter in our lives. This statement inspired me. But then…
Another attendee at the conference walked up to the board, read my quote, and erased a word. He took off “Make” and replaced it with “Be”.
“Go for it. Be seen. Be heard. BE the difference.”
It hit me in that moment. My actions were trying to get others to feel grateful, by selling them a product to help them experience that. BUT was I truly BEING grateful? Was it a significant part of my life that I put time energy and attention to. It’s one thing to say, is another to do, it’s another to BE.
One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Who you ARE speaks so loudly. I cannot hear what you are saying.”
In that moment I had a flashback to that moment in the car, at the beach, with my journal thinking to myself, “If I could only feel this gratitude every.”
After about 24 hours of mulling these ideas over, I came to a conclusion. If I were to truly be GRATEFUL every day, AND I were committed to elevating the level of gratitude on the planet, I would need to find a daily activity that would change my state to one of gratitude every day that would #1) Be doable #2) Be challenging #3) Be duplicatable
I had already discovered the powerful emotions that show up after writing someone a Thank You email. But I wanted to do something a little more challenging.
I want to hand write Thank You cards every day.
WHY HANDWRITTEN CARDS:
They mean so much more to an individual than a text, or an email, or a Facebook comment. It takes time to #1) Buy a card, #2) Write something thoughtful #3) Buy a stamp and mail it.
The next question was, “Well, how many cards should I write per day?”
1- That’s doable, but not challenging
10- That’s challenging, and I would question the authenticity of the words in the note
5- 5 Would be doable, would be hard, and would be duplicatable.
Then we needed rules and pain:
Realistically, this sounded like a really cool idea. BUT, as we all know, the value really cool ideas fade as life begins old habits resurface.
So I made a commitment to my mentor Ben Schemper, that if I missed a single day I’d donate $100 to charity. He said, “Make it $1000.” I gulped.
He said, “$100 lets you off the hook too easy. $1000 puts some skin in the game.”
That was rule #1) Miss a day, donate $1000 to charity.
Rule #2) All notes MUST be handwritten.
Rule #3) Every day 5 must be written. And every day starts at 0. Meaning I can’t wait until Sunday and write 35 Thank You cards. If this is going to be an action that forces me into the emotional state of gratitude EVERY DAY, then it’s an activity that must be done every day.
Rule #4) A maximum of 3 cards count per individual. This means, I can’t write 365 cards to my wife and count them. I can count up to three for her, and then any card I write to her afterwards is because I want to, but does not count towards the 5/day challenge.
BUT WHAT’s THE PURPOSE? WHAT’s THE POINT?
Purpose #1 of this journey is to “Explore my capacity to experience and express gratitude.” When is it easy, when is it hard. How do we transcend these barriers.
Purpose #2: To inspire others to start their own journey of appreciating the people and world around them. Not necessarily by writing 1865 Thank you notes in a year, or 5/day, but maybe 1/day. Or just being more open to the inspiration to appreciate something or someone in the moment. That’s how we are going to reach the 74 million.
Purpose #3: To write a book that can multiply this mission. That inspires millions to take on their own gratitude project. Not just to write down in a journal that gives you good feelings in the moment, but to take on gratitude as an expression and LIVE IT EVERY DAY.
That’s the purpose. That’s the mission.
Now, the question you’re probably wondering right now is, “Who the heck do you write 1825 Thank You notes to.” That my friend is where this challenge begins.
I hope you enjoy the blog. Make sure to hit the follow button for regular updates, and connect with me on IG or FB.
It means a lot that you invested your time, energy, and brain space to read this opening section. I’m grateful to connect with you on this journey.
P.S. If at any point you feel this project inspires you to start writing more Thank You notes in your life. Let me know in a comment, and or post the photos of your note on Instagram or FB and tag #TheYearOfThankYou . Find me at @TheJohnIzzy