Thanks a Thousand… and One

We enjoy a lot of treats directing Weequahic. I don’t just mean having the key to Canteen or a chef that makes just a few extra chocolate chip cookies. (And, yes, those are seriously tempting treats!)

It’s so much more than that. We get to travel to see our families throughout the year. We host really bowling parties with a bunch of our kiddos and parents. We get to meet and work with fantastic staff members, spend the offseason working with close friends…. There is so much for which to be grateful.

Sure, running camp has its moments when it’s not all chocolate chips cookies and slush puppies. But that’s with anything we do. We make mistakes from time to time and are grateful for the families who show patience as we learn from those mistakes.

Yes, indeed, we are even thankful for the mistakes.  We could not get better without them. (And neither can you!)

Are you starting to catch the ‘grateful’ theme yet? Good… because I’m laying it on pretty thick.

A Thousand Thanks

Imagine my delight when one of our camp dads, AJ Jacobs, asked if I would read and comment on an early edition of his new book, Thanks a Thousand, A Gratitude Journey.

I’ve been a fan of the Jacobs family (especially their son, Lucas) for several years.  Ever since reading his Year of Living Biblically, I’ve been a fan of AJ’s writing, too. With his deep dives into things and a humor that is right up my alley, I find myself learning, laughing and thinking all at the same time.

Thanks a Thousand is all about AJ’s attempt to thank everyone involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. And, no, he doesn’t stop with the local barista. When AJ jumps in, he goes deep. For example, he thanked the lady who kept the coffee bean warehouse bug-free.

Along the journey, AJ did a great deal of research on gratitude and shares a number of ideas on how we can develop the attitude of gratitude more fully in our lives. With his permission, I’m sharing seven of his ‘greatest hits.’ And, yes, I’ll do my best to connect them to camp, too!

Focus on What Goes Right

There are so many things that go right in a day that it’s hard to count. We just rarely try! For example, the line moved quickly at the store. All of your homework was turned in on time and done well. A pretty awesome dinner arrived at your door.

As I say at campfire often, when you start being grateful that which you have in your life, well… things get better quickly!

The Art of Savoring

How many of our campers want camp to be over quickly? (The answer is ‘none.’) How many are surprised it’s over so quickly? (The answer is ‘everyone!’) When you intentionally try to stretch out a moment, a taste, a connection, you are savoring things.

It doesn’t take an incredible meal, three weeks at Camp Weequahic, or anything else ‘special.’ You can savor anything you put your mind to draw out. And that act of savoring is closely linked with gratitude.

Practice Six Degrees of Thankfulness

When learning about his coffee, AJ realized it takes thousands of people to make it all come together.

It’s no different for camp: 220 staff members, 700 campers over the summer, 530 sets of parents, the bus company, the food suppliers, the farmers who produce the food, our undaunted US Postal Service workers, the team behind CampMinder….

The thing is, at camp (or at school) you are part of something bigger than just yourself. And that, my camp friend, is important to realize and acknowledge.

Using Gratitude to Fall Asleep

I love this one. We’ve been trying it at home since I heard it last week and I’m thrilled to say it works!

The idea is this: say something for which you are grateful that starts with the letter ‘A’, move to ‘B’, then ‘C’, and on and on until you fall asleep. What a great thing to try at camp next summer!

Thou Shalt Not Have (Delusional) Nostalgia

You often hear people talk about the good ol’ days when things seem like they were better. (AJ’s mantra when he falls into this trap are three words: surgery without anesthesia.)

More often than you would think, our second summer campers say ‘this is summer is different than last summer.’ Yes, it is! Every summer at camp is different because the people – staff, campers, parents – are all a year older and have changed, even just a little bit.

The important point to remember is this: glorifying the past is a thief of joy. Instead, be grateful and excited about this opportunity that you have right now.

Fake It Until You Make It

There are going to be days when you just aren’t ‘feeling it’, when gratitude is hard to conceive of, much less express. One of the leaders of Save the Children, Jerry Sternin, reminds us that it’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting.

So, if you want to be more grateful and accrue all the good things which those habit produce, start acting the part, even if you aren’t feeling it!

Go Analogue

Parents often ask if our staff can accept tips (thank you, but no) or gifts. I always respond, “they’d love to get a ‘thank you’ note.” We overestimate the awkwardness and underestimate the effect.

Two other quick ideas along these lines: First, ‘I’m grateful’ is more effective than ‘thank you.’ Second, those who write ‘thank you’ notes for a job interview get more call-backs.

Okay, I know that is a lot longer than my usual Friday Night campfire post. I hope you’ll agree, though, that there are too many good ideas to keep it to one page! I challenge you to take one or two ideas and put them into practice.

A Final ‘Thank You’

Finally, I’ve got to add my own ‘thanks’ to the thousand passed along for a cup of coffee. AJ, I’m grateful to have been a (very small) part of this journey and pledge to continue the gratitude drumbeat at Weequahic.

Have a great week everyone!

Cole

PS – If you’d like to learn more from AJ’s adventures in gratitude, there are a two options other than purchasing the book. You can listen to AJ on the Tim Ferriss podcast or watch his TED Talk on gratitude. Enjoy!