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Want to change your perspective? Say thanks

Josh Clark, CEO Richer Life

March 26, 2015

Anytime you’re out front, you’re gonna get stabbed in the back.

Every leader understands this truth. It comes with the territory. People who can’t handle criticism or rejection don’t make it long-term as leaders. But just because you grow to accept the negative aspects of leadership doesn’t mean you have to enjoy them.

Leadership is tough. Visionary leaders have the ability to create and articulate a credible and attractive vision of the future that improves on the present situation. The problem is that no single vision can improve everyone’s situation. Visionary change simultaneously produces excitement and disappointment. So whether you’re leading at church, the marketplace or at home, being a leader requires a tireless commitment to your vision. It also requires you to implement your vision in a way that energizes others, so that you can in effect jump-start the future by calling forth the skills and resources required to make your vision happen.

Sound difficult? It is, and if you’ve ever tried to lead the change you know that it can be exhausting. So what does all of this have to do with saying thanks? The answer is simple: everything.

I have a stack of papers in my office. I keep them in a large wooden box I purchased in Haiti when I was thirteen. They are some of my most treasured possessions. You’ve probably guessed what they are. If you haven’t, let me tell you. They’re thank you notes; gathered over time from my life as a leader. Some of them were scribbled quickly and handed to me in a meeting. Others were carefully written on expensive stationary. Most were sent via cyberspace. The medium doesn’t matter; what matters is the fresh courage I get every time I read them.

It’s not that I read them often. In fact, I usually don’t pull them out more than once or twice a year. But when I find myself pulling an extra long knife from my back or retreating from my vision in fear. I pull out my box of thank you notes and remember why I have to lead. Simple words like:

You changed my life. Thank you.
I wouldn’t be the man I am today without you. Thank you.
You were there when I needed you. Thank you.
What you said helped me. Thank you.

When you feel gratitude, it’s really about you. There is something cathartic about counting your blessings. It’s when you express gratitude that it has the power to transform lives. For many years, I felt good about feeling grateful, mistakenly thinking that gratitude was all about me. Then I read the story of Jesus healing the lepers in Luke 17.

In the story Jesus stepped out in front, putting himself in line for some back-stabbings as a result of interacting with a group of lepers. You can imagine the level of gratitude each of them felt as they rushed back to their lives and families. One moment they were social outcasts, suffering from a terminal disease. And the next moment they were running home to hug their wives and kids. You can bet they all felt gratitude. But only one stopped long enough to tell Jesus thanks. In his response to this grateful leper, Jesus made it clear how important expressing gratitude is. Jesus knew that,

“Expressing gratitude has the potential to change your perspective on everything.”

He also knew just how powerful it was to hear the words “thank you.” I don’t know if Jesus kept a small wooden box filled with his favorite thank you notes, but I like to think he did. You can think whatever you want, but you have to admit, “There is a difference between feeling gratitude and expressing it.”

So then next time you feel gratitude, don’t stop there. Express it. Write it down in an email and press send. Scribble it on the back of a memo and put it in your coworkers box. Color it in crayon and slide it under a pillow. Whatever you do, if you feel gratitude – express it.

And if you are blessed to follow a great leader, chances are you’ve already received a thank you note from them. Great leaders don’t lead because of what’s in it for them. Great leaders lead because of what’s in it for everyone. But great leaders need to hear you say thanks. So the next time a leader makes a difference for you, send them a note of thanks. Chances are they’ll read it, put it in their box and pull it out every time the going gets tough.

Thanks for reading.

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