Archive for the ‘2011’ Category

An Exceptional Holiday Gift Everyone Can Afford

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

We have all seen the TV ads for Black Friday and our mailboxes are being filled with retail advertisements for holiday shopping.  For many of us the experience of gift giving is stressful not only because we feel the need to buy the perfect gift, but we also feel pressure to spend money at a time when budgets are tight.

Make the most of this holiday season with a personal, thoughtful and inexpensive gift that will be a perfect “fit.”

There is nothing more personal than a gift of explicit gratitude to someone who has made a real difference in your life. This is a gift only you can give and in doing so, it is likely that you will enrich your life, enhance your relationship and bring joy to the recipient.

I recognize that it’s highly unlikely that anyone will take a journey similar to my yearlong victory lap. I was fortunate to have the time and resources to devote to this significant undertaking, and it was also important for me to do it in this way.

All of our life circumstances are different, however, and our processes and journeys will of course go in various directions. I did things my way, and you should do them your way. For example, you don’t have to travel around the country having face-to-face conversations with people. If you do want to meet in person, you can start with those close to home and schedule others during vacations, holiday visits, business trips, and so forth.

Writing a letter costs the paper it’s written on and a stamp, and e-mails and phone calls are virtually free. In other words, everyone can afford to make these expressions of gratitude. The investment is low and the payoff is high, and there are so few opportunities in life that this can be said for. How you go about conveying your messages is entirely up to you; just design a way that’s meaningful but doable (and affordable) for you.

In my book This Is The Moment! I share a story entitled “44-cent stamp.”  It is the real-life tale of two marines that had a relationship spanning over a half a century.  My friend, one of the marines shared with me that by writing a letter to his dying friend took just 15 minutes required only two pieces of paper, an envelope, and a 44-cent stamp but in doing so gave him amazing peace of mind and closure to this all important relationship.

Take a few moments this holiday season to give the perfect gift.  I’d love to hear how you expressed profound gratitude and the reactions it created.

Ripples of Gratitude

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

In the short time since I completed my personal victory lap, I’ve started hearing about how it’s also serving others who weren’t part of my journey, and even people that I’ve never met. I hope you find the following story as fascinating as I do.

48 Hours

One driven businessman in his 40s, who heard about my journey from a mutual friend, said that it was life-changing for him. It enabled him to renew his relationship with his grandmother, who’d done everything for him when he was younger except give birth to him.

This man hadn’t visited his grandmother in some time because he had no patience for spending time with an 88-year-old who, like many elderly people, tended to repeat stories and was hard of hearing. But now he was inspired to call her on a Friday night, and he simply listened to her for an hour. “She so appreciated my time,” he said.

The experience made him feel so good that he called her again the next day, talked for another 45 minutes, and then invited her to Sunday brunch. She was so excited that she said she was going to visit the beauty parlor in anticipation of the outing.

When the man and his grandmother saw each other, they cried, realizing how much they valued and missed each other. “There won’t be another 48 hours of my life that goes by without my calling her,” he vowed.

Have you been putting off expressing gratitude to someone significant in your life?  Or have you shared your gratitude and enriched a relationship?  I would love to hear your story and share it with our community.  Please use the Comments section below or send me a private message by using the Share Your Story form on this website.

The preceding is an excerpt from This is the Moment!:  How One Man’s Yearlong Journey Captured the Power of Extraordinary Gratitude (Hay House, October, 2010)

Join Us this Saturday: American Cancer Society Bark for Life Event

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

I am so much looking forward to being the Closing Ceremonies speaker this Saturday at 1PM at the American Cancer Society Bark for Life Event in San Diego, Ca.

Of course, supporting the American Cancer Society is important to me, especially so, since I remember the days following my Mother’s radical mastectomy when she was 37 and I was 9 years old. A lot of progress on this awful disease has been made since then in diagnosis, treatment and survivability but it still remains the number two cause of death in the United States. My message will be quite simple.

While we are fighting to eradicate this disease, we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to let them know while they are still with us just how important they have been in our lives. This expression of deep gratitude will enrich our lives, enhance these special relationships and eliminate the prospects for having those all to frequent deep regrets for what we have left unsaid. Hope to see you there. For details, go to website: www.relayforlife.org/barksandiegoca

What Does Gratitude and A Bucket List Have in Common?

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Do you have a bucket list?  Do you think you’re too young to have your dream experiences written down or too old to still make them happen?  You are never too young to make a list of all the wonderful things you wish to do and see.  You are also never too old to still capture some of your special unfilled dreams.

I recently had the thrill of accomplishing a feat that has been on my list of important achievements I would like to do before I die.  For years when I listen to music in my home or car, I added to my enjoyment by simulating the experience of conducting the musicians.   I believed being an orchestra conductor could combine my desire to create beautiful music with the enjoyment of bringing out the most in people (in this case musicians) and my pleasure to influence and control 70 to 100 musicians through the movement of my arms, eyes, and body.

When the conductor of the Desert Symphony Orchestra said he was going to auction off the opportunity to conduct this fine orchestra to an audience of more than 1,000 people at the McCallum Theatre, I was all in.  I was ultimately the highest bidder and was blessed to conduct John Phillip Souza’s “The Washington Post” to open the concert.

So how does completing an item on a bucket list compare to expressing profound gratitude to those who have been important in my life as was the main focus of my yearlong journey of gratitude (my “victory lap”)?

As I reflected on this question, I concluded that in some ways it was the same but in some aspects it was different.

Bucket lists are intended to be done before we die which was the case with my yearlong journey of gratitude captured in my book, This is the Moment.  This journey was intended to not only reach out and visit people who have been important to me while they are alive and well but to encourage others to “do it now”.

Just like the cost of completing items on one’s bucket list could be minor, so is the act of expressing profound gratitude.  Doing it in an extraordinary way does not have to cost any significant expenditures of money.  A good example of this is the “44 cents” story I share in the book about a friend who was able to communicate how important a lifelong friend was to him with the use of two pieces of paper, an envelope and a 44-cent stamp.

Bucket lists and expressions of extraordinary gratitude also share a build-up of excitement, anticipation, anxiety and ultimately a feeling of sheer joy when it’s completed.

A bucket list could include reaching out and reconnecting with people but more often than not it refers to travel adventures and unique experiences.

Items on a bucket list could be the same activity for you as they could be for your friends and loved ones (bungee jumping, Alaskan cruise, etc.), but an expression of extraordinary gratitude is unique to each and every expression.  Each expression is different, which is what makes adding it to your bucket list so special.

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight that the most important aspect that one’s bucket list and expressing extraordinary gratitude is that these are life opportunities that should not be missed.

It is never too early to add expressions of gratitude to your bucket list, but it can be too late.  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.  Connect with your significant relationships today.

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How Gratitude Sparks Continue to Ignite

Monday, July 18th, 2011

A friend sees a video and shares it on Facebook and you share it with your friends.

A family member reads a great book and forwards it to you and in turn you forward it on when you’re finished with it.

A colleague shows you a new way to use a software program that helps your productivity and you share it with your team.

All of these simple gestures have the potential to improve your life and create a ripple effect in the lives of others.

Expressing profound gratitude works in much the same way.  When I wrote This is the Moment my intention was to share the story of my yearlong journey of gratitude with others so they could see how easy and rewarding it can be.  What has happened is a ripple effect.

For instance, my son, Jason, gave away several copies of the book to friends and business colleagues.  He used the book both as an introduction to his own expressions of gratitude as well as to people who he felt might benefit from the story.  Jason’s gifts ignited several sparks of gratitude.

After reading the book, one of his business colleagues delivered a deep and profound expression of gratitude to his grandmother.  He was so moved by the impact of this experience that he apparently bought some 200 copies to give to his colleagues, family and friends.  One of these recipients who read the book was inspired to write to his childhood scoutmaster.  Much to his and my surprise, the scoutmaster said it was the first time in his life he had received such an acknowledgement and he treasured it.

How wonderful is it to see something so positive move from person to person, state to state and country to country.  In the age of wanting everything to go viral on the internet, it is wonderful to know we all have the ability to take something as beautiful as an expression of profound gratitude and touch the lives of many through this ripple effect.

Here’s how you can ignite your own spark…

Think of a teacher, a colleague, a family member or your scoutmaster from your childhood. We may or may not have thanked these people at the time for a specific contribution they may have made to our lives.  We assume because of their position and passion for helping other people, they are well compensated in the gratitude department.  We assume those they’ve helped have taken the time to express gratitude for the lessons they’ve learned and their influence on their lives.

That is rarely the case.

For the past year I’ve had the pleasure of hearing your stories of expressing profound gratitude to people who have impacted your life and how much it has enriched your lives and relationships.  It has been a delight to watch these sparks of gratitude ignite across generations and decades of friendships.

What continues to surprise me is how infrequently these life influencers are thanked for what they do.  They are seldom appreciated for the life-long impact they’ve made in our lives.  Who can you remember from 10 years ago, 20 years ago who taught you a lesson or made a real difference in your life?  Don’t assume they know how much they meant to you.  Start your own ripple effect and have the conversation, create the video, write the song or write the letter that will tell them what you have been thinking all of these years.

I would love for you to share your story with our gratitude community through a comment below or by writing to me here, at Share Your Story link.

The Perfect Gift for Father’s Day

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

In anticipation of Father’s Day it is my sincere hope to help you enhance your relationships with your father, grandfather, mentor or any father figure in your lives. This act will also eliminate any regrets for things left unsaid and give you a great gift idea for Father’s Day—the gift of a sincere “thank you” and the knowledge of how these men helped change the course of your life.

When I took my yearlong journey to thank the people who made a significant impact on me it enriched my life! Specifically, it made me much more conscious of my good fortune in having each person in my life—and, moreover, thankful for what they did for me.

That’s why on Father’s Day, explicitly expressing gratitude will enhance your relationship with the person you are thanking. It not only increases their awareness of your gratitude, but it makes you think and express the ways in which the person affected your life. Everyone loves to know that they have made a real difference in someone’s life, especially on Father’s Day!

There is nothing more special than a personal gift and nothing more personal than an expression of gratitude for the many acts of love and support that one has received from one’s Father. It’s also an easy gift—you don’t have to concern yourself with what they need or want, or if it fits or runs on batteries.

How to give this gift of gratitude on Father’s Day

The easiest and most genuine thing sons or daughters can do is to set aside time during the day to express gratitude to their Father—and schedule it so that neither of you will be interrupted. The location should be quiet and devoid of distractions. It is important to take some time beforehand to jot down notes on specific instances where your father made a difference in your life: times when he served as an example, taught you a lesson, and when he gave you love, inspiration or support. It is also important to take notes about how these moments changed you, your outlook on the world, or simply made you feel loved. I brought notes with me to all my visits and found it very helpful in setting the pace for the meeting.

If you cannot be with your father in person, a letter, perhaps accompanied by a photograph of a shared time together (stating much the same things described above), would work just fine.

For those who are not the best at expressing themselves in letters, I’ve heard testimonies from people who have inscribed the title page of This Is the Moment with a short note of gratitude within it. By reading the book, along with the note, a father will understand the significance without needing to have it expressed literally.

The gift you give to yourself

It is my hope to inspire you to not miss this opportunity to express explicit gratitude to your Father, or father figures on this day. It will enrich your life and theirs, enhance the relationships, and give you peace of mind knowing nothing is left unsaid.

Everyone wants validation, needs it, and it’s always a good fit. It is especially helpful in these tough economic times that it is not only a wonderful gift, but it is one that everyone can afford! The last third of my book, This Is the Moment is all about making it easy. You can also get a free guide to help you with your expression of gratitude by accessing the Ignite Your Spark downloadable pdf at the bottom of the pages of this website.

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Mentee and Mentor Express Gratitude After 23 years

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

For many of us we have been blessed to have great teachers, influencers and mentors in our lives.  They helped shape who we are, what career paths we took and what we gave back to our communities.  We think of them often, recounting lessons and laughter, and our intention is to reconnect if for no other reason than to thank them for being in our lives at what turned out to be the perfect time.  Time goes by – months, years and decades and our good intentions stay with us but we don’t always act on them.

Twenty-three years ago a colleague and friend of mine, Christine was a senior English major in college and was spending her last semester student teaching at Milton Hershey High School in Pennsylvania.  Her supervising teacher on staff was Jim Cudworth who was in his twelfth year of teaching and would go on to spend his entire thirty-three year teaching career at Milton Hershey.

After she graduated and moved across the country to California, Christine stayed in contact with Jim through handwritten letters but their correspondence fell off after a couple of years.   She thought of Jim often, especially when his lessons were in the forefront of her mind during various life experiences.  She always had the intention to reconnect with him but never reached out.

After reading my book, This is the Moment! Christine was inspired to not let any more time pass to set her intentions into action.  She did all of the modern techniques to try to find Jim – she Googled him, looked him up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, all with no success.  She would often give up her search temporarily and then try again a few weeks later.  After a couple of months of this routine, she finally did an online search for Jim and his wife and stumbled upon a funeral notice for his wife’s mother that took place more than a year ago.  Within the announcement it listed Jim, his wife and the town where they were now living in Pennsylvania.  As she tells the story, “I decided to go old-school and actually pick up the phone.  I called 411 and asked for his phone number based on the town of record in the announcement.”  She did not hesitate and dialed the number immediately.  His wife answered and she explained that he was out on a bike ride and she was happy to give him a message.

Christine began with, “Well, he probably doesn’t remember me but I was his student teacher in 1987-88.” To that Jim’s wife responded, “Oh I am sure he remembers you.” Christine thought that was a very kind thing to say but she was not completely convinced he would remember her.

That evening Jim called her back.  He started the conversation with a comment that made Christine’s heart fill with the warmth only a good friend can provide, no matter how much time has passed.  “Of course I remember you I have been quoting you for 23 years.”  Jim explained that some of Christine’s observations during their few months working together had made such an impact on him that he not only remembered the lessons she taught him, but used her words to share them with his colleagues for the last two decades.

That first conversation lasted two hours and it was filled with each of them taking turns sharing fun stories, lessons learned and tremendous gratitude for what each one of them meant and still means to one another.  Just the simple act of retelling a story provided new insights into how grateful they were to have been involved in each other’s lives at just the right time.

As it turned out both Jim and Christine had regrets for things unsaid, paths not taken and correspondence not maintained.  Within hours of their phone call long emails were exchanged and although they live 3,000 miles away from each other, a date has already been set to reconnect during Christine’s next East Coast trip in less than a month.

This is a heartwarming and very common story that occurs between a mentor and a mentee.  We often believe the mentor’s role is to teach and impart wisdom on behalf of the mentee.  However, what we don’t always realize and acknowledge is the influence the mentee has to bring forth new observations, fresh ideas and in Christine and Jim’s case, a shared sense of humor that lighten even the toughest days in the classroom.

Thankfully it was not too late for Christine to share with Jim what a tremendous impact he made on her life and how grateful she was to him for all of the lessons (professionally and personally) he taught her.

We all have good intentions to reconnect and share our gratitude – what is stopping you?  Where is the hesitation coming from?  Remember, hesitation is just one step from taking action.  Start searching for that long-lost mentee or mentor.  Don’t experience the pain of regret that comes from waiting too long to reach out. Do it today!

I feel blessed that Christine shared her story with me.  If you have a similar story about expressing profound gratitude to someone who has impacted your life, please click on the Share Your Story page of this website and send me the details.  I would love to hear it and with your permission, share it on the This is the Moment! blog.

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What does Gratitude and a Bucket List Have in Common?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Do you have a bucket list?  Do you think you’re too young to have your dream experiences written down or too old to still make them happen?  You are never too young to make a list of all the wonderful things you wish to do and see.  You are also never too old to still capture some of your special unfilled dreams.

I recently had the thrill of accomplishing a feat that has been on my list of important achievements I would like to do before I die.  For years when I listen to music in my home or car, I added to my enjoyment by simulating the experience of conducting the musicians.   I believed being an orchestra conductor could combine my desire to create beautiful music with the enjoyment of bringing out the most in people (in this case musicians) and my pleasure to influence and control 70 to 100 musicians through the movement of my arms, eyes, and body.

Three weeks ago, when the conductor of the Desert Symphony Orchestra said he was going to auction off the opportunity to conduct this fine orchestra to an audience of more than 1,000 people at the McCallum Theatre, I was all in.  I was ultimately the highest bidder and was blessed to conduct John Phillip Souza’s “The Washington Post” to open the concert last week.

So how does completing an item on a bucket list compare to expressing profound gratitude to those who have been important in my life as was the main focus of my yearlong journey of gratitude (my “victory lap”)?

As I reflected on this question, I concluded that in some ways it was the same but in some aspects it was different.

Bucket lists are intended to be done before we die which was the case with my yearlong journey of gratitude captured in my book, This is the Moment.  This journey was intended to not only reach out and visit people who have been important to me while they are alive and well but to encourage others to “do it now”.

Just like the cost of completing items on one’s bucket list could be minor, so is the act of expressing profound gratitude.  Doing it in an extraordinary way does not have to cost any significant expenditures of money.  A good example of this is the “44 cents” story I share in the book about a friend who was able to communicate how important a lifelong friend was to him with the use of two pieces of paper, an envelope and a 44-cent stamp.

Bucket lists and expressions of extraordinary gratitude also share a build-up of excitement, anticipation, anxiety and ultimately a feeling of sheer joy when it’s completed.

A bucket list could include reaching out and reconnecting with people but more often than not it refers to travel adventures and unique experiences.

Items on a bucket list could be the same activity for you as they could be for your friends and loved ones (bungee jumping, Alaskan cruise, etc.), but an expression of extraordinary gratitude is unique to each and every expression.  Each expression is different, which is what makes adding it to your bucket list so special.

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight that the most important aspect that one’s bucket list and expressing extraordinary gratitude is that these are life opportunities that should not be missed.

It is never too early to add expressions of gratitude to your bucket list, but it can be too late.  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.  Connect with your significant relationships today.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Introducing a Very Special Person…

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

This past weekend I had the pleasure to speak to members of the Chief Executive Organization and their spouses at a conference in Las Vegas.  In the audience was a CEO of a major financial firm who was to introduce the speaker following my presentation.

As the CEO finished describing the speaker’s impressive achievements in developing Las Vegas into the entertainment, gambling and convention center mecca that it is today, he took a few minutes to add an impromptu expression of profound gratitude.  He addressed the audience with, “I want to add a few more remarks that were inspired by Walter’s earlier presentation.”  He proceeded to describe his heartfelt gratitude for all this man had done for him and the impact he had on him over more than two decades.  It was obviously done spontaneously and he became very emotional.

It was a remarkable moment on several counts.  First, it was clearly a tribute that the person was so very pleased to be able to give.  Second, the recipient of his praise was also moved.  Last but not least, it was a remarkable demonstration for the whole audience in not only the power of expressing gratitude but also the logic of doing it now.  It was clear that the message of This Is the Moment resonated with the audience but it was doubly gratifying for me to hear it beautifully modeled within moments following my presentation.

If you had an opportunity to introduce someone who made a significant impact in your life, what would you share with the audience?  What memories would come to mind?  It only takes a few moments to make an impromptu and heartfelt expression of gratitude.

Reach out to someone today and make them center stage.  I’d love to hear your dedication.   Please share them with our gratitude community in the comments section below or share your story confidentially by clicking here .

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Is There Room in Your Organization for Expressions of Gratitude?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

I couldn’t agree more with Andrew Scharf in his piece entitled, “The Optimism Of Gratitude: Business.” He writes, “In many organizations, focus is given to mistakes or errors made. What this stipulates is that leaders and managers often hone in on what they do not like and drive the errors or mistake into a state culpability.”  As a result, “the firm becomes fixated on problems rather than geared to promoting innovation or out-of-the-box solutions.”

The power of positive acknowledgement in business has been written about from Ken Blanchard’s, The One Minute Manager to the leadership visions of Peter Drucker.   When I was CEO/Chairman of my company with some 1,400 employees, I introduced the concept of “one-on-ones” which provided me the opportunity to meet with individuals two or more reporting levels below me.  I was able to express my gratitude to these people for their specific contributions to the company.

This acknowledgement and personal connection was a real motivator not just because someone was expressing sincere and genuine gratitude but because it came from a level within the organization that was unexpected.  It carried more weight and I believe I got just as much out of the experience as they did.  It was a wonderful way to spend time with the staff and it enriched the level of trust and respect throughout the organization.

When I took my yearlong journey of gratitude that I wrote about in my book, This Is the Moment, I included those people who had influenced my life in and out of business.  I was happy that I did it at this stage even if it was after I had sold the company, but knowing what I know now, I would have made a point to recognize more of my colleagues for their lifetime of influence during the time we worked together.

What practices do you have in place at your organization that promote gratitude and enriches relationships among colleagues and departments?  Please share them with the other readers here in the comments section.  Your idea may be the best thing that could happen to someone else’s organization.

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