(Just here for the TEDx talk without all the commentary? Here you go.)
In late 2011 I made a startling discovery: I was terrible at expressing gratitude.
I realized that while I often felt thankful, I wasn’t purposeful about expressing it. Gertrude Stein said, “silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone,” and I couldn’t agree more. It feels great when someone expresses gratitude to me, so keeping thankfulness to myself was like stealing that feeling from the people to whom I was grateful.
I wanted to be better about expressing gratitude so I decided to send a thank you card every business day in 2012, a decision that basically changed my whole entire life.
After spending the early part of the year designing, printing, and mailing original thank you cards from the printing company I co-own I had a crazy idea: what if my little company gave these cards away to people in our community so they could easily express their gratitude?
I posed the idea to my business partner and we spent the next 15 minutes scratching out the broad strokes of a project called Thanks Fairbanks, which we named for the city in Alaska where we live and work. We got to work immediately and launched within a month.
The project is pretty simple: Fairbanks residents can sign up in our store or online to receive 3 free cards immediately, and four times each year we mail all participants 3 more original thank you cards, for free. It’s our way of spreading a culture of gratitude in our community.
Thanks Fairbanks shares thousands of cards each year and has afforded me amazing opportunities to talk about gratitude all over town. From FairbanksAlaska.com, to the evening news, to the front page of the newspaper, to high school and college campuses, to the stage at TEDx, to national marketing conferences, I’ve been invited over and over to talk about how something as simple as expressing gratitude can deeply connect people and communities. We even dubbed our lobby at Date-Line the “Fortress of Gratitude” and invite people to post things for which they are thankful on our walls.
The intersection where something you are good at and something you care about collide is an amazing place indeed.