It’s a Public Good – Take As Much of it as You Want

Ivana, a former law student of mine, gave me this week’s “Reading for Leading story,” while we were having a drink to celebrate numerous goals that she had recently completed. She told me how another student approached her and asked why she always has a smile on her face. She told him, “I believe Happiness is a public good.” What an awesome starting point–for this week and for life in general.

It’s become increasingly clear that positive virtues build engaged-and-thus-productive organizations. Stories in Sunday’s New York Times, for instance, highlight the work of Gretchen Spreitzer (of the University Michigan’s Ross School of Business) that quantifies how “jerks” damage organizations, and conversely how powerful, positive energy is for groups. A second article reveals the power of gratitude. I offer three thoughts about gratitude:

  1. Our work colleagues give us so much, and cultivating that thanks pays social, economic and spiritual dividends. The easiest way to do this is to mimic the habit that my associate Miranda and I bring to every single meeting we hold: we simply “begin with gratitude.” Sometimes it’s spoken for the work, or each other; sometimes one of us is gushing with enthusiasm while at other times what we’re grateful for is known-more-than-felt. But the shared expression of gratitude always does something to our shared energy: it’s more fluid, more positive, more resilient.  I don’t know how or why.  I have not the tools to measure it. Yet I know it’s real.
  2. Please accept my thanks.  I am grateful to know you will read this (maybe not every week 🙂 ), and your attention causes me to think as best I can, share as honestly and write as well as I can muster.
  3. If you don’t do so already, I implore you to not be afraid to ritualize some form of spoken thanks-giving – at work and home.  I got an email this week from the sister of one of my best friends from college.  Six weeks ago my roommate was in a horrific motorcycle accident, and was in a coma for most of the time since. He’s now speaking, was just transferred to a long term care facility, and there are continued hopes for full recovery.  I was struck that she could write at the end of her email that “we have more than ever to be thankful for this year.”  The mind reels, and says “really — after all that??!!!” She continues her thought:  “Family and friends mean everything.”

Isn’t Vanessa paraphrasing Ivana’s awesome wisdom, with which I began this missive:  “Gratitude is a public good.” I’d add that it’s a miraculously renewable public good; the more we give it, the more we have. 

Give thanks to lead with your best self!

  • Well said, Daniel! Given how incredible trees are, especially in fall, I use them as trigger points to remind me to be Thankful for all that I have. There is sooo much to be thankful for…I find its good to build awareness aids all around myself to remind me how rich I am.

  • My minister’s sermon on giving praise and thanks quoted a statistic that said for a successful workplace the praise/thank you to constructive critisism ratio should be 4 to 1.

  • Wow. Well said. Happiness and gratitude are a public good. We have so much for which to be thankful and grateful. God bless you all.

  • Thank you, Dan. Living a life of gratitude makes all the difference in the world. I’m so fortunate to be part of such a wonderful team at Pondera Advisors, and our goal of “building leaders for others,” carries through to each other as we attempt to build for the future with thanksgiving for all.

    Best wishes, Jackie

  • Thanks Dan! In our lives we have so much to be grateful for and sometimes it is so easy to forget..What a concept “Happiness and gratitude are a public good”

    God bless and have an amazing holidays

  • I immediately thought of the phrase the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” “pursuit of happiness” makes an interesting Internet search term.

  • Thank you for your writing this week and always. I’m in France just now. I am struck by how people are living in spite of recent horrifying events. We sat in a restaurant next to a father and college-age daughter, talking, laughing and celebrating the dad’s birthday.

  • Thank you for this article Dan.
    I think gratitude is really important for leaders to motivate and encourage their team to keep on doing good. It is so easy to thank people, and sometimes a simple “thank you” can mean much more for them.

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