Thursday, March 25, 2010

INSPIRATION | The Power of Thanks

“Thanks.” The word packs a punch. Yet we overlook its value.

Hopefully when we do someone a favor, our motive is a desire to help improve that individual’s life. We don’t seek the thanks itself. But its absence is like the screech of a bullhorn.

Have you had the pleasure of someone not saying thanks? It’s common courtesy. It takes less than one second to say.

I remember the awkwardness of putting together materials to solicit literary agents. When you’re a newbie, you have no idea where to start. And when you do begin, you wonder if you’ve constructed everything correctly. So I like to visit a discussion board to answer questions from people who want to know how to do it.

That’s when I noticed the percentage of those who replied to say thanks—probably half! Quite a shocker. I mean, Mom and Dad raised us to say thanks, right? Honestly, my motive was to help, not to be thanked or try to look good. But when it hits you that gratitude isn’t as common as you might expect, it leaves you dumbfounded!

Not long ago, a guy posted to that board. He’d finished his first novel and asked for guidelines on how to look for an agent. I provided a rundown. His immediate reaction: a word of thanks. I remember the excitement you feel when you have the answers you need, so I felt thrilled for the guy.

Fast forward a couple of months. The guy returned to the board and asked if anyone was willing to read his query letter, which is a cover letter you send to literary agents to ask if they’d consider your manuscript. Immediately I recognized him as the person who said thanks the last time around. And because of the courtesy he’d shown, I invested two hours the next night fine-tuning his query, embedding input, and explaining the whys behind the whats.

If you want to see the power of thanks at your workplace, think of all the little parties and events designed to motivate you. Think of the laudatory speeches from an executive who tells you what a wonderful job your team has done. But if you can count on one hand the number of times that executive has ever said thanks to you when an audience wasn’t watching, how much credibility would you give his speeches?

Our peers are more willing to help today if we’ve taken the time to thank them for what they’ve done for us in the past. Criticism fosters a halfhearted attempt, a plodding through the motions. But our peers tend to invest their hearts in the task if we’ve earned a reputation for gratitude.

“Thanks” is emotional fuel. And unlike the price of gas, its cost doesn’t skyrocket during summer. It’s a long-term investment. One of those rare things you can give away in abundance without jeopardizing your bottom line.

Never give up!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

INSPIRATION | The Value of a Minute

Do you have a dream? Do you have time to pursue it?

Bill Gates has 24 hours a day just like we do. So how does he accomplish so much more in his 24 hours than many of us do? My best guess: He’s discovered the value of a minute.

For years I tucked long-term dreams in my heart—only to find, year after year, despite all the time I spent dreaming, it didn’t result in a tangible end product. My biggest dream was to write novels, a significant time commitment. My biggest excuse for why I couldn’t accomplish it: “I don’t have time!”

Most who read this post probably have a job or go to school. In my case, I worked a full-time job, which consumed 1/3 of each day. At the end of each day, I had to sleep. And in between came the daily routine: exercise, dinner, laundry, Bible time, and the list went on. Where’s a guy supposed to find the hours to write a book?

Somehow it hit me: I didn’t need hours. I needed minutes.

And minutes add up to hours.

So I looked for areas in my day where I could cut the fat—sections of wasted time and minutes I could reinvest. For example, I’m a walker, and I walked an hour a day. By cutting that in half—a sacrifice, but still—I gained 30 minutes to write. Rather than cooking a meal each night, I cooked one meal that would last three days—that provided an extra 10 minutes a day. (Hey, trust me, when you’re a bachelor, it only takes 10 minutes to cook—or more precisely, to “cook.”)

For a few months, I spent my lunch writing on the laptop. I also had to say “no” to TV and other options. Actually, it meant saying “no” to TV permanently. But by the time I’d cut the fat, I’d discovered two or three hours a day to invest in writing. Five months later, I completed the first draft of a book.

So what’s your dream? If you can find the minutes, you can place yourself on the road to achieve them. Are you a working mom or a high-level manager with only 30 minutes a day to spare for your dream? After four days, you’d have two hours. That’s eight hours a month—an entire workday. And once you get into a routine, you’ll probably make more progress in less time.

Are you ready to discover the value of a minute? If so, then once again …

Do you have a dream? Do you have time to pursue it?

Never give up!