“Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of kind souls who lent couches or gym back rooms where I could sleep; of mentors who shared wisdom and advice; of idols who motivated me from the pages of magazines (and, as my life grew, from personal interaction).” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.” – Albert Einstein
Everything that we are and create is a direct reflection of the people who’ve supported us, taught us, loved us, laughed with us, shared with us, inspired us, and influenced us.
Who are some of the people who’ve had the biggest impact on you? Are you open to celebrating them today? Depending on how much time you have, that could mean:
- 2-5 minutes: Sending a quick text or email saying “Hey! I was thinking about that time when…” or “I wanted to let you know how grateful I am for…” or “I really admire how you do ___, it’s something I’m working on improving and you’re really an inspiration for me!”
- 5-45 minutes: Same as above, but call the person instead. If they don’t answer, leave a voicemail.
- 15-30 minutes: Write a handwritten gratitude letter highlighting the positive elements of the relationship – past, present, and future – and then mail it.
- 60+ minutes: Invite someone you’ve been wanting to spend more time with for a drink or meal, and then pick up the tab when you meet. If they resist, just tell them to pass it forward.
What are you waiting for? Pick an item from the list and put it into practice as soon as you finish reading, or create an event on your calendar with high-priority importance.
Relationship Warmth = Life Satisfaction
For 75 years, starting between 1939 and 1945, researchers followed 268 Harvard college students and 456 disadvantaged non-delinquent inner-city youths who grew up in Boston. Officially named The Grant Study, but more commonly known as The Harvard Longitudinal Study, the goal was to identify predictors of health and well-being.1
In the end, “warmth of relationships throughout life have the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction’,” concluded George Vaillant, director of the study for more than 30 years. Or, as he explained more simply, “Happiness is love. Full stop.”
One of the easiest ways we can add more warmth to our relationships is by celebrating and appreciating those around us. If it seems simple and obvious, that’s because it is! But that doesn’t make it less important.
The actions above aren’t just effective for increasing the quality of personal relationships, but the capabilities of organizations as well. “The simplest thing you can do is a two-minute email praising or thanking one person that you know,” explain Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan, authors, partners, and two of the founders behind GoodThink. “We’ve done this at Facebook, at US Foods, we’ve done this at Microsoft. We had them write a two-minute email praising or thanking one person they know, and a different person each day for 21 days in a row. That’s it. What we find is this dramatically increases their social connection which is the greatest predictor of happiness we have in organizations. It also improves teamwork. We’ve measured the collective IQ of teams and the collective years of experience of teams but both of those metrics are trumped by social cohesion.”2
People I’d Like To Celebrate
I’ve been practicing most of the above strategies for years, but I’d like to take the opportunity to publicly highlight and celebrate many of the people who’ve had an impact on me. They’ve influenced who I am and what I’m able to do.
The ideas that I practice and share are very rarely my own. I’m certain that even the seemingly novel insights were originally planted by outside sources long ago – ruminating, growing, and mixing with other ideas until they surprisingly sprout. I happen to be the fortunate vehicle through which they occasionally choose to emerge.
In my work, I do my best to cite original sources, as well as the people who introduce ideas to me. But, the reality is that it’s an impossible task, and many deserving people go un-acknowledged.
So, to better express the immense gratitude that I feel for every single person who’s touched both my life and work in some way, I’ve created a permanent place to say “thanks.”
Check it out here. If you recognize someone on the list, next time you see them would you please tell them thanks for me? And, if you see your own name, THANK YOU!