“Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones…” (Bob Dylan)
Lots of talk about gratitude these days. There are entire movements (run by schmaltzy guru’s in nice suits) centered on getting folks to feel the gratitude, to embrace and become it.
Like it’s magic or something.
Knowing how to appreciate the important stuff in your life is a good thing, of course. Being grateful for what you have should be a daily moment, part of being mindful about what’s going on around you and within you (and around and within those you love, deal with, oppose and haven’t met yet).
Early in my career, while devouring self-help books — I read one Og Mandino for every biz book I read for awhile, just to keep my heart and soul moving forward along with my brain — I even went so far as to acknowledge the non-living things around me.
I would thank a keyboard, for example, for serving me so well when I replaced it. And mean it. Give it a decent burial in the trash, introduce myself to the new keyboard and get back to work.
Same with my shoes, my thrashed car (which needed the encouragement, I can assure you), my favorite pens, and so on. It doesn’t even seem silly now… it makes sense to be mindful of the tools that help us do what we do. Astronauts name their shuttles, sailors name their ships, and I assign my beat-up leather coat a personality.
So I’m an old hand at thanking the universe and the things and people around me as I move along.
But a little perspective, please.
For too many business people, there’s no real thought given to the notion of gratitude.
They act like just saying the word creates a magical forcefield of wonderment and power.
So we get airline flight attendants urgently crooning over the intercom that if there is ANYTHING they can do to make our flight more comfortable, just ask.
Which is, of course, pure bullshit.
The things that would make me more comfy — like more leg room, wider and plusher seats, and maybe a mickey in the drunk’s beer next to me so he’ll shut up — are not within their toolkit.
I mean, a foot massage would be nice, too, but even mentioning it would have the air marshals on your butt in a heartbeat.
So why do they even say it?
Sometimes it’s just habit, from the old scripts they used to read. The job requirements included big smiles, friendly demeanor even in the face of rudeness, and a steady stream of patter to calm folks down while the jet screamed through the heavens eight miles high.
So even in towns like Reno, you still get the pilots schmoozing about “we know you have a choice when you fly”… when we absolutely do NOT.
And every passenger on the plane knows it. If you’re headed anywhere on the beaten track, it’s Southwest or the highway.
And AT&T robots love to drone while you’re on hold, about how grateful they are to have you as a customer. It’s all please and thank you and yes, sir. The gratitude practically drips from the phone…
… but they aren’t grateful enough to hire more operators to handle your complaint.
I mean, c’mon, people. Get real. Those 30-minute hold times are planned… to cull the mob down. Just part of the biz strategy created by evil fuckers with big smiles all bubbly with gratitude for your business.
Yeah, get real.
Which is what I always advise entrepreneurs and biz owners to do when crafting their business plans and operating scripts. Don’t use the drivel doled out by big corporations when you’re creating pitches to your prospect and customer bases. Be real, tell the truth, and don’t make promises your ass can’t fulfill.
The worst are businesses that hire some PR firm to write up a “mission statement”. This is all the rage every so often, as the MBA schools recycle old tropes on doing biz. Not understanding what a USP is, and possessing no clue on how to actually deal with a prospect or customer, dazed biz owners will spend a lot of time and money positioning a statement out that is supposed to “define” the “culture” of the joint.
So we get lots of vague “the customer is king” and “you’re the boss” crap… which sounds great, but is just blabbering babble if not put into action.
Just like your old drinking buddy who would swear on his mother’s grave to pay you back for the ten-spot he borrows when he needs it…
… but, of course, has no ability to bring that promise along with him into the future, because he spends every dollar he makes, can’t plan to save his life, and gets offended when you become that asshole who wants his money back.
Being true to your word is a vague concept without real meaning. Stop bugging me, man.
If you decide you want to shine at customer service, then DO IT.
Don’t talk about it.
Don’t slime me with your bullshit sincerity and grandiose promises.
Just be really fucking good at customer service. The word will get out, trust me.
Think about this, and about your relationship with gratitude.
Yes, you’re VERY thankful to the grubby dude from the garage who drove out to fix your car in the rain. At the time he’s getting things done, and you’re sensing you’re gonna get out of this ordeal after all, you want to hug him. And you say, over and over again, how grateful you are that he exists.
Yeah, yeah, whatever.
You’re not grateful enough to invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner, are you? You gonna help him move to a new apartment next weekend? Go watch the big game with him at the garage?
No, you’re not. Your main tool is expressing your gratitude, by saying it over and over.
But once you’re off on your way, he’s a distant memory.
A nice twenty buck tip gets oodles more mileage than another heartfelt handshake.
He may even go out of his way to rescue you the next time you run into a tree, remembering how monetarily grateful you were.
On the other hand, he may demure and not come at all, if he’s all creeped out over your slobbering hugs of impotent gratitude.
Lying is lying.
The small lies in life set up the big ones.
Nobody trusts nobody these days, for good reason — trust is and always has been earned, one act at a time.
You can’t just announce that you’re trustworthy and have it mean anything.
In fact, one of the old street maxims is: Take whatever the guy says, and figure the opposite is true.
In biz, the client who brags about money not being a problem… has a cash flow problem.
The colleague who talks big about trust is screwing your spouse.
The accountant who has a mission statement centered on “serving the client” is embezzling.
The joint is filled with liars.
This means there is always one darn good way to stand out in even the most crowded, cutthroat market out there.
Just be honest, without making a big damn deal about it.
In fact, don’t even bring it up.
Don’t bullshit your audience, and don’t try to front-load your reputation with promises you can’t fulfill.
Your audience will let you know what your “real world” reputation is, soon enough.
Don’t be like that pilot blabbing about choices when there aren’t any. He is announcing to everyone that he is, at best, a mindless corporate shill. And if he wanders into the cabin during the flight and tells you something about not worrying, everything’s just dandy…
… you will be excused if your next act is to look for a parachute.
Stop lying to yourself, to others, and to your business.
Yes, to your business — it may not be a living, breathing thing, but it still operates in the corporeal world, just like the rest of us.
Don’t turn yourself into a lying shit-heel, just because you want to sound all corporate-like.
Real gratitude has teeth, and is connected at the hip with action. Not bluster.
No, really, thanks.
P.S. Make sure you check out all the goodies available in the right hand column here. My books and courses make excellent Christmas gifts, you know…
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