On Gratitude.

On Gratitude.

When the big stack of mail gets plopped on my desk each day, I won’t lie, there are many letters I’d prefer not to open. When I see a return address from an attorney or the IRS, I react with as much gleeful anticipation as a toddler sitting in front of a very large bowl of steamed broccoli.

It’s on these days that a hand-written thank you card from a Burleson Seminars member shines through like a ray of sunshine. I receive a lot of these cards, which I attribute to the caliber of our member doctors and not the worthiness of their leader. As a general rule, I get far too much credit for the amazing things our members do, but it never hurts to hear that what we’re teaching makes a difference.

I received such a note from Dr. Sean Tarpenning, a very smart and talented member this week and I share it here as a method of inspiration and to highlight a powerful coaching lesson. The card read: “Dr. Burleson – Just wanted to drop you a note to say ‘thank you.’ You took time to answer one of my questions – way more thoroughly than expected – really appreciated that. Over the years there have been so many things you’ve given to your members – and for me a number of tools that I’ve been able to use and implement to make great lasting changes both personally and professionally. So thank you for pushing, pulling and dragging all of us to higher ground. It is so appreciated. Cheers – Dr. Sean Tarpenning”

Now, I can’t say with certainty that Dr. Tarpenning writes his patients and colleagues similar notes of gratitude, but I’d bet my bronze baby booties he probably does. If he receives a gift, I’d wager a sizable bet he faithfully sends a hand-written thank you note, not a text or email to the person who sent the gift. I’m guessing his office is also really good at expressing gratitude and presents one of many reasons why it is so successful – people love going to see doctors and dentists who embrace this simple but powerful act.

Gratitude is the engine of humility and understanding. Gratitude is the foundation for all abundance. You can sense its presence or absence very quickly when interacting with a person or business. Dr. Tarpenning’s employees follow his lead and they treat his patients the same way he treats everyone in his universe – with grateful acknowledgement and appreciation for their time, attention and money.

Compare and contrast this behavior and attitude to everything else you see going on around you. Capitalism and free markets scream from the mountaintops that it’s perfectly fine to sell anything consumers are willing to buy, regardless of the long-term consequences of the promises we make and fail to deliver as good stewards of our planet and society. This attitude breeds a winner-take-all landscape where people get used and money is loved, instead of the other way around.

Gratitude turns this upside down.

As a business owner, with our heads screwed on straight, gratitude reminds us that money is simply a tool to be used in our pursuit of serving (i.e., loving) others by improving their lives.

This weekend, I read the transcript of an interview with Harley Finkelstein, the president of Shopify, a $186 billion e-commerce giant and Canada’s largest publicly-traded company. Harley explains how he is scaling to 10,000 employees and said something succinct and profound. He said as the leader of your organization, you have to be willing to grow faster than the company. Too often, the average small business owner expects his or her company to grow faster than they are willing to grow.

Because you are not average, Faithful Reader, you already know the antithesis to this behavior and mindset (i.e., expecting your company to grow faster than you are willing to grow) is to start becoming the leader your company needs you to be 12 months from now. If you want to grow faster than your company, the best rocket fuel on the planet to help you achieve this goal is gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

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Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.