At the end of 2007, lawyer John Kralik hit bottom in his life. His law firm was on its last legs, his divorce from his second wife was stalled, his savings were depleted, he was 40 pounds overweight, and he had just broken up with his latest girlfriend. Then on a walk through the hills, Kralik heard a voice: "Until you learn to be grateful for the things you have," it said, "you will not receive the things you want." Inspired by a thank-you note from his ex-girlfriend for his Christmas gift, the author came up with the idea of trying to find one person to thank each day of the year.
One of the first things to notice about this project is that Kralik shifts the focus of his life from his woes to a growing sense of gratitude to others for what they have done. It's fairly easy to take for granted the blessings showered upon us by family, friends, co-workers, and strangers who make our lives feasible in so many ways. Kralik begins by sending handwritten thank-you notes to his two sons but then expands the circle of gratitude to old college friends and his employees. He discovers a surprising benefit of this project:
"One of the most comforting aspects of writing a thank-you note was that it produced a tangible product. Although I was giving it away and not keeping a copy, I felt I had introduced something into the world that made a small positive difference. A piece of paper that would most certainly have been thrown out had been turned into a concrete expression of gratitude to someone else — and would have a positive effect by reminding a person that they had touched me in a positive way."
At work, Kralik finds that his employees pick up the habit of thank-you notes and there is a keener sense of camaraderie in the place. The author improves his relationship with clients by thanking them in notes for paying their bills on time. Ninety days into the project, Kralik writes to his Starbucks barista:
"Scott, Thank you for taking the time each morning to greet me in a friendly way. It is also so wonderful to me that you took the time and trouble to remember my name. In this day and age, few people make this effort, and fewer still do it in a way that feels sincere. You do both. It really makes a difference to me every day."
By sending kindness and generosity out into the universe, Kralik sees a marked improvement in his work and his relationships. Many people respond by writing him return thank-you notes. In the end, it takes the author 15 months to achieve his goal of sending out 365 thank-you notes. Kralik is buoyed up by his experience and concludes that it not only made the world a little better place but definitely made him a better person.