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To Be Thankful In Business

A Business Gratitude List

I never cared much for Christmas cards. There. I said it. At least not the corporate kind. We receive them every year, as do most businesses. Well-meaning expressions of clichéd holiday cheer churned out by the Hallmark factory.

Although I confess to some vague feeling of appreciation that I was once thought to be included in a contact database and matched with a send holiday card code, they really mean next to nothing to me, truth to tell. Even those adorned with handwritten signatures make me think of those poor people who wait with dread for the piles of hundreds of cards for signing.

So there it is. Bah, humbug.

But Thanksgiving, now, that’s another story. I may be lying if I said that I give thanks every day for the fact that I am able to work in my own company alongside the people I’m lucky enough to call my colleagues, but that’s not too far off. Thanksgiving as a business holiday is something I wholeheartedly embrace.

I thought I’d beat the crowd this year, or at least stay at its forefront, and post a short list of the things for which I find myself most thankful.

Being Caught Off Guard. How boring would it be to anticipate all the questions and know all the answers? I work with colleagues and clients who challenge me to find my best and theirs.

Curmudgeons. I was told a long time ago to be careful of the “fines.” People will always say things are “fine” even when they’ve had a horrible experience. You know it. You’ve probably done it. The waiter forgot your order and spilled soup on your wife. When you left, some chipper young hostess asks you how you enjoyed your experience. “Fine,” you mumbled as you walked out the door, never to return.

Curmudgeons are different. They’d turn around and tell that hostess exactly why they won’t be returning. Uncomfortable conversation? You bet. Better for their business? Absolutely.

I want people to tell me exactly where I stand. I’m thankful for curmudgeons.

Gluttony. Websters defines gluttony as “greedy or excessive indulgence.” I’m thankful for that or, more precisely, the people and companies that cater to that. I’m not talking about gluttony in the food-consumption sense (although anyone who knows me knows I don’t turn away a good steak). I’m talking about content.

I love content. When Freakonmics has a podcast episode on whether the U.S. should merge with Mexico, I’m all in. When I see that a company has built an app specifically to align your brainwaves to bring on meditation and a restful sleep environment, I can’t wait to learn more.

I’m not just talking variety here. I’m talking about choice of platform. The book is a click away. I can read a chapter on my phone while waiting for my son to finish up his violin lesson. I can catch a podcast on the treadmill. As Zig Ziglar said, I can turn my car into a rolling university.

Gridlock. Is there anything that challenges you more than when the flurry of your activity is surprised with a pause? Sometimes the machine just stops and you sit there. If you sit long enough, you begin to hear the whisper “over, under or around…over under or around…over under or around.” There is no achievement that is not at least a little bit enhanced by overcoming.

The Intolerables and the Mundane. I’ve worked with thousands of business people over the course of my career and I have yet to meet one who doesn’t occasionally have a day populated by people they would rather not see. Sometimes these people, be they vendors, customers, auditors or IRS agents, are rude and sometimes they’re just, well, fine. Either way, the time spent with them is just something to get through.

But having done that – having survived the intolerables and the mundane – how much more do you appreciate the stars in your particular galaxy? Imagine planning a party. You send out a bunch of invitations and watch the responses trickle in. I would hope that you’d be glad to see most everyone on your list. There are those, however, who’s positive responses are greeted with fist pumps.

Those are the people who burn brighter in your orbit and become both more noticeable and more precious because of the others. I’m thankful for the dark and gray. Not only do they make the light so much better, but they provide guideposts for the way forward. If you fill your days with more of the light and less of the gray, you are undoubtedly moving in the right direction.

Being Overwhelmed. One day, with luck and grace hopefully many days from this one, I may find myself wishing for more to do. Today is not that day. I’m thankful for that.

As my wife and colleagues could tell you, I could go on. I think, however, that this post is long enough. So with that, I’ll close by wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving. And let me be the first to wish for you that the coming year brings you surprises, curmudgeons, gluttony, gridlock, idiots, and that unmistakable feeling of being overwhelmed.

What are you most thankful for in business? Share your answer with us in a comment to this post, or share on Twitter – just make sure to add @wagonheim and the hashtag #thankful to your tweet. 

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