New Year’s Resolution #3: If you want to be remembered, remember others. Thank, applaud, congratulate, recognize, or honor one person every single d

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New Year’s Resolution #3:

If you want to be remembered, remember others.

Thank, applaud, congratulate, recognize, or honor one person every single day.

Jim’s Wisdom #17

January 28, 2021

1. My First Lesson - A Personal Story
2. The Mark Eklund Story: All the Good Things - Reader’s Digest, December 1991
3. The Power of a Note - Reader’s Digest, by Fred Bauer
4. What Makes a Good Thank You Note?

Three Memorable Stories

The main reason I publish notes sent to me is to show you examples of ways to thank others and recognize their contributions, achievements, thoughtfulness, aspirations, and what they do that matters for others. These notes are truly powerful, personally memorable, and energizing.

Personal Belief

1. My First Lesson (A Personal Story)

I was 26 years old and a junior manager in a Minneapolis retail music store. The way they went about teaching management was to put junior managers in charge of something real. One of my first “real” management jobs was to oversee the stereo components department in the company’s downtown store. I had a pretty tough, old fashioned supervisor who had only a few requirements for my first month as manager: conduct a sales meeting on Tuesdays at 7:30 AM, present a new selling idea to the group of five, and write at least one complimentary note to a sales staff member during the month. More than one note was encouraged.

One day, one of the long-time salesmen passed away. It wasn’t my fault. My manager came down and asked me to go through his desk to make sure there was nothing embarrassing to him or the company. The family was coming in to spend some time in the department where the salesmen had spent most of his working life.

I went through his desk, an old-fashioned World War II surplus desk with deep drawers. In the back there was a big box of papers; I couldn’t make heads or tails of it, but I soon noticed that everything inside the box was in chronological order, with the youngest documents first. As I was trying to figure out what it was all about, I noticed that on every piece of paper, going back more than 30 years, there was a handwritten note from somebody making a nice comment about this gentleman’s work.

There were even several notes from more than 30 years ago, from the company’s founder. Some were just scribbles, “Great job with the Wilsons, we couldn’t crack them, you sold them”, “Thanks”, “You really did a great job resolving the concerns of the Olsons, they kept the merchandise after all. Nice going.” Then it struck me that he had likely saved every positive piece of paper he received. There, on top, was my recent handwritten compliment. I kind of teared up.

When the family came, I put the box on the top of his desk, and his family members began going through it and talking about how many of these notes they knew about. Seems he talked about them at the dinner table whenever he got one. As I think back over that dramatic day, in the context of my career, something I could have done a lot more would have been to consistently and constantly thank people, compliment people, and to congratulate people. The lesson and perhaps the moral is if you want to be remembered, remember others.

2. The Mark Eklund Story, From Reader’s Digest December 1991

He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary’s School in Morris, Minn. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. Very neat in appearance, but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischievousness delightful.

Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving - “Thank you for correcting me, Sister!” I didn’t know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.

One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made a novice teacher’s mistake. I looked at Mark and said, If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!” It wasn’t ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, “Mark is talking again.” I hadn’t asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.

I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark’s desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark’s desk, removed the tape, and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, “Thank you for correcting me, Sister.”

At the end of the year, I was asked to teach junior-high math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instruction in the “new math,” he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in third. One Friday, things just didn’t feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves and edgy with one another.

I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, “Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend.” That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday I gave each student his or her list Before long, entire class was smiling. Really?” I heard whispered. “I never knew that meant anything to anyone!” I didn’t know others liked me so much.” No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another again.

That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions about the trip, the weather, my experiences in general. There was a lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply says, “Dad?” My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. “The Eklunds called last night,” he began “Really?” I said. “I haven’t heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is.” Dad responded quietly. “Mark was killed in Vietnam,” he said. “The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend.” To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.

I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was, “Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me.” The church was packed with Mark’s friends Chuck’s sister sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water. I was the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to me. Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. “Mark talked about you a lot,” he said.

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates headed to Chuck’s farmhouse for lunch. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me. “We want to show you something, his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.” Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him. “Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.” Mark’s classmates started to gather around us.

Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. I keep it in the top drawer of my desk at home.” Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.””I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.” Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said without batting an eyelash. “I think we all saved our lists.” That’s when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don’t know when that one day will be. So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.

3. The Power of a Note, From Reader’s Digest

By Fred Bauer

On my first job as sports editor for the Montpelier (Ohio) Leader Enterprise, I didn't get a lot of fan mail, so I was intrigued by a letter plopped on my desk one morning. The envelope bore the logo of the closest big-city paper, the Toledo Blade.

When I opened it, I read: "Sweet piece of writing on the Tigers. Keep up the good work." It was signed by Don Wolfe, the sports editor. Because I was a teen-ager (being paid the grand total of 1 5 cents a column inch), his words couldn't have been more exhilarating. I kept the letter in my desk drawer until. it got rag-eared. Whenever I doubted I had the right stuff to be a writer, I would reread Don’s note and walk on air again. Later, when I got to know him, I learned that Don made a habit of jotting a quick, encouraging word to people in all walks of life. "When I make others feel good about themselves," he told me, "I feel good too."

Not surprisingly, he had a body of friends as big as nearby Lake Erie. When he died last year at 75, the paper was inundated with calls and letters from people who had been recipients of his spirit-lifting words. Mr. Toledo Blade, as he came to be known, had indeed made them feel good about themselves.

Over the years, I've tried to emulate Don and other friends who care enough to write uplifting comments, because I think they are on to something important. In a world too often c_old and unresponsive, such notes are springs of warmth and reassurance. We all need a boost from time to time, and a few lines of praise have been known to turn around a day, even a life.

Why, then, are upbeat note writers in such short supply? My guess is that many who shy away from the practice are too self-conscious. They're afraid they'll be misunderstood, sound corny or fawning. Also, writing takes time; it's far easier to pick up the phone.
The drawback with phone calls, of course, is that they don't last. A note attaches more importance to our well-wishing. It is a matter of record, and our words can be read more than once, savored and treasured.

Even though note writing may take longer, some pretty busy people do it, including George Bush. Some say he owes much of his success in politics to his ever-ready pen. How? Throughout his career he has followed up virtually every contact with a cordial response-a compliment, a line of praise or a nod of thanks. His notes go not only to friends and associates, but to casual acquaintances and total strangers-like the surprised person who got a warm, calligraphic back pat for lending Bush an umbrella. Even members of the news media, not normally any President's favorite pen pals, have received solicitous notes from the Commander-in-Chief. And so have members of their families.

One summer day, when Bush invited some of the press corps to Kennebunkport for a barbecue, the young daughter of Jack Gallivan, a director of ABC's "Primetime Live," went swimming in the Bushes' pool and lost her tooth. Noticing Katie Gallivan crying, Bush asked her what had happened. When he heard, he knew from his own children what that meant: no proof under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy! He called an aide to bring him a Presidential note card bearing an etching of his Kennebunkport house. Bush made a small X on the card and wrote:

Dear Tooth Fairy-

Katie's tooth came out where the X is. It really did­ I promise. -George Bush

It fulfilled the best prerequisites for inspirational note writing: it was short on verbiage and long on empathy. And most important, it dried Katie's tears.

Another gifted Presidential note writer was Abraham Lincoln. One of his most famous personal letters was a tender condolence to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston, who had lost two sons in battle. "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming," he wrote. "I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Lincoln's wartime letter of loss brings to mind a more recent conflict and some letters of gain. When a New Jersey newspaper urged its subscribers to write to service men and women in Operation Desert Storm, schoolteacher Connie Stanzione accepted the challenge with patriotic fervor. In all, she sent 50 or so letters to anonymous troops.

"I told them how proud I was of them and how much I appreciated their sacrifices for the cause of freedom," she recalls. One who wrote back was 30-year-old Army sergeant Kerry Walters, who thanked Connie for her thoughtfulness. She answered him, and so it went. Gradually, as they exchanged letters about themselves, they became friends.

After they traded photographs, romance blossomed. Their letters were no longer signed "your friend," but "with love" and "fondly." After a $129 phone call, Kerry sent a letter that concluded: "I pray that I've touched your heart like you have touched mine and that you would like to build a family together. Constance, will you marry me?" Connie immediately accepted. Fittingly, their wedding ceremony included an inspirational message about love from one of the most famous letter writers of all time- S t. Paul. His first letter to a small, embattled band of Christians in Corinth so challenged and in­ spired them that it has been treasured and preserved for 2000 years. I Corinthians 13 tells us that love never ends. And that is exactly the power in words of praise.

Even top corporate managers, who have mostly affected styles of leadership that can be characterized only as tough, cold and aloof, have begun to learn the lesson, and earn the benefits, of writing notes that lift people up. Former Ford chairman Donald Petersen, who is largely credited for turning the company around in the 1980s, made it a practice to jot positive messages to associates every day. ''I'd just scribble them on a memo pad or the corner of a letter and pass them along," he says. "The most important ten minutes of your day are those you spend doing something to boost the people who work for you."
"Too often," he observed, "people we genuinely like have no idea how we feel about them. Too often we think, I haven't said anything critical; why do I have to say some­ thing positive? We forget that human beings need positive reinforcement-in fact, we thrive on it!"

What does it take to write letters that lift spirits and warm hearts? Only unselfish eyes and a willing­ ness to express our appreciation. The most successful practitioners include what I call the four "S's" of note writing:

1. They are sincere. No one wants their sails filled with smoke.
2. They are usually short. If you can't speak your piece in three sentences, you're probably straining.
3. They are specific. Complimenting a business colleague by telling him "good speech" is one thing; "great story about Warren Buffet's investment strategy' is another.
4. They are spontaneous. This gives them the freshness and enthusiasm that will linger in the reader's mind long afterward.

It's difficult to be spontaneous when you have to hunt for letter­ writing materials, so I keep paper, envelopes and stamps close at hand, even when I travel. Fancy stationery isn't necessary; it's the thought that counts.

So, who around you deserves a note of thanks or approval? A neighbor, your librarian, a relative, your mayor, your mate, a teacher, your doctor? You don't need to be poetic. If you need a reason, look for a milestone, the anniversary of a special event you shared, or a birth­ day or holiday. For the last 25 years, I've prepared an annual Christmas letter for long-distance friends, and I often add a handwritten word of thanks or congratulations. Acknowledging some success or good fortune that has happened during the year seems particularly appropriate considering the spirit of the season.

Don't be stinting with your praise. Superlatives like "greatest," "smartest," " prettiest" - they make us all feel good. Even if your plaudits run a little ahead of reality, remember that expectations are of­ ten the parents of dreams fulfilled. Today I got a warm, complimentary letter from my old boss and mentor, Norman Vincent Peale. He once told me that the purpose of writing inspirational notes (he is the best three-sentence letter writer I have ever known) is simply "to build others up because there are too many people in the demolition business today."
His little note to me was full of uplifting phrases, and it sent me to my typewriter to compose a few overdue letters of my own. I don't know if they will make anybody else's day, but they made mine. As my friend Don Wolfe said, making others feel good about themselves makes me feel good too.

Courtesy of Reader’s Digest, Copyright © 1991, reprinted with permission of Trusted Media Brands, Inc., Copyright © 2020

Thank You Note

Thank, applaud, congratulate, recognize, or honor one person every single day.

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