Goal Accomplished! Write 100 Thank You Notes in 100 Days (2014)

thank you pink flower tree card

Photo Credit: AForestFrolic (stampinmom) on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
–Henry Ward Beecher

First, thank you to everyone who supported me in achieving this goal. Your encouragement and kind words were much appreciated.

This post is a general reflection of the goal and how it went, as well as an attempt to answer some of the questions that came up during the 100 days, for those of you who are considering doing this project on your own.

There were many expectations that I had for myself and for this goal when I started out, most of which didn’t turn out like I thought they would.

I thought I’d write 1 thank you note each day. What I actually did was write an average of 1 per day (1 at first, then none for a few days, then 5 the next day, etc).

Number of notes written during the 100 days

I thought it would “give me motivation and structure to be more intentional about expressing gratitude” – This one happened, just by the nature of the goal. I am slightly surprised that I finished this goal, and even went 2 notes over goal in less than 100 days. Sometimes I get really excited about starting projects but don’t always finish them unless I have a deadline, which I did in this case, but 100 days seemed like a really long time/really far away (I know, it’s all perspective, 100 days isn’t really that long, but it felt that way at first, until I realized I only had 16 days left, and then it felt really fast!).

I thought I would suddenly become a more grateful person – It seems funny to think about now, but there really was a part of me that thought that by the end of 100 days, I would have this gratitude thing completely figured out. Silly me. There is no magical shortcut or special project that can hasten the process, but I still think the practice was good for me.

I thought this would be a one-way project, where I wrote cards to people, and then… that was it. Instead, I ended up getting many notes in return, which cheered me up and allowed me to be the recipient of other people’s gratitude. This made me realize graciously accepting gratitude takes more humility than sharing my gratitude with someone else.

I worried people wouldn’t think I was sincere if they found out about the goal, or that I wouldn’t feel sincere writing the notes because of the goal. This was a concern brought up by a few people when I told them about the goal, and that came to mind several times during these 100 days. I decided not to tell the people I was writing to, unless they asked about it, because I wanted to make sure that as much as possible this issue didn’t come up. Whenever it did come up, whether in my mind or in conversation, the important thing for me to remember was that I needed to write what I would have written regardless of whether I was doing it for this goal list item or as an individual thank you note. The 100 thank you notes wasn’t just a goal to meet, it was a prompt to be more grateful. It’s not insincere to write a card even if a gratitude project inspired it, unless you don’t mean it and you’re just writing it to meet a quota.

Another issue that came up was how to thank people in a way that they would be sure to get the note. I decided that as much as possible, I would send real mail to people (cards, letters, postcards, etc) because it’s fun to get mail. For the people I see on a regular basis, I tried to hand-deliver. For people I was unable to reach by any other written form of communication, I wrote in a journal (for example, I wrote a thank you to God, but this would also work for those who have passed away). Many people I sent notes to I communicate mostly through email, LinkedIn, or Facebook, so those are the methods I used to write their thank you notes. Website contact forms were used for organizations that didn’t list an email or have a mailing address.

Types of thank you notes written

When I started this goal, I thought it would be easy to think of 100 people/organizations to write to, but the day I started planning who to write to, I only could think of about 40 (I quickly filled in the rest, and then realized there were still more people to thank after the 100). I also wanted to make sure that I sent groups of people their thank you notes at the same time, so that no one in the group felt left out, so I saved them after I wrote them until I had one for everyone in the group. For example, everyone at work got their card on the same day, or as close to it as I could.

I’m glad that I did this goal when I did. It helped me get in touch with friends I hadn’t talked with in a while, reminded me to notice things I was grateful for, and helped me express and receive gratitude. I would recommend a project like this to everyone.

If you want more info, you can:

How to Be Thankful and Improve Your Life, an article by David Hochman from a 2009 Reader’s Digest issue. David shares his experience with his Month of Gratitude project, as well as tips about expressing gratitude from experts he interviewed, including this tip relevant to projects like the one I did: “‘If you overdo gratitude, it loses its meaning or, worse, becomes a chore,’ Martin E. P. Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness, told me when I mentioned my slump. Be selective, he advised, and focus on thanking the unsung heroes in your life.”

Other Info:

If you want to get more posts like this delivered to your email, you can sign up for free.

I’m entered in the Big Blog Exchange competition – winning bloggers exchange places with a blogger from another country. I’d love your support, it only takes 4 min to vote for me. My hope for this is to learn more about people, cultures, and what we value by talking with people around the world about their dreams for their lives, and by meeting people living out their dreams and inspiring others to do the same.

Interview with Neil Patel, serial entrepreneur

Neil Patel (www.quicksprout.com and www.neilpatel.com) - Photo used with permission

Neil Patel – Photo used with permission

Many people have “start a business” on their bucket lists, and in general, stories of entrepreneurship are very inspiring because there’s determination, hard work, and dream fulfillment involved. For this interview, I chose Neil Patel, a serial “entrepreneur, investor, advisor and blogger” (quote from his Twitter profile). I wanted to feature him because he has an inspiring life story (recommended reading for more motivation for achieving your dreams).

Name and website:
Neil Patel (neilpatel.com)

Fun fact about you:
I love running… so much that I run at a mile a day.

Funner fact:
I enjoy ironing clothes. It actually relieves my stress and calms me down… no clue why…

Funnest fact:
I enjoy making a fool of myself. I rarely ever get embarrassed…

What do you think has been essential to your success as an entrepreneur?
I execute fast. No matter what I am doing, I move extremely quickly while taking data into account. When things don’t go the way I want, I make adjustments and keep pushing forward.

What was something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
When I first started out, I really enjoyed starting companies. I thought it was extremely fun and easy to do… but I always struggled with growing each of my businesses. As time went on, I found that growth is actually a lot easier than starting a company and I eventually got good at it. I never thought that starting out and getting the initial traction would be the hardest part about entrepreneurship.

Who or what inspires you?
Elon Musk. When he believes in something, nothing can stop him. He has big dreams, but unlike most people, he is making his dreams come true.

What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)?
Run a marathon in every state.

If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say?
Blog about content marketing.

If you weren’t doing anything related to your businesses, what would you be doing in your free time?
Watching TV or spending time with my family.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Learn from other people’s mistakes. If you can avoid making mistakes as an entrepreneur you’ll drastically increase your chance to succeed.

Thank you Neil for taking the time to reply and share your advice with us. If you want to learn more about Neil, please read his story (on his blog), check out his website, and follow him on Twitter.

Want more interviews like this? Leave a comment and let me know who you would like to see featured, and be sure to sign up to stay updated on all the latest posts!

Please also vote for me for the Big Blog Exchange so I can bring you more interviews from around the world. (Thanks if you’ve already voted. It doesn’t let me see who votes, just the number of votes. I appreciate all of your support!)

Everyone has a story: Rilla Zerbert

After introducing the mini-interviews last week, I’ve received a lot of interest in continuing them, so consider them now a permanent part of the blog!

Today’s mini-interview is with Rilla Zerbert, an American writer working on a new book called Dragonfly Prince.

Rilla Zerbert - Photo used with permission

Rilla Zerbert – Photo used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
My temporal dream is to publish my book, Dragonfly Prince. It’s a modern Alice-In-Neverland adventure.

My eternal dream is to go to heaven. I want to be with God always. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn what it is to love in an eternal sense.

What is something on your bucket list?
I’d like to visit Ta Prohm temple monastery, dating from 1186 A.D. I’ll like to see with my own eyes the decorative carvings of the animals, specifically the stegosaurus. I get super excited by the evidence of humans living with dinosaurs. Ever since I learned about the Dracorex Hogwartsia, I’ve been interested in the correlations between dinosaurs and dragonlore. And, yeah, I’m a nerd.

What is the best advice you ever received?
“Give it a week, and you’ll have a whole new set of problems.”

That probably sounds pessimistic, but I don’t view it that way. It means that what I’m going through now isn’t going to be forever, and I’m going to be challenged more in the future. As much as I hate the struggles and crises, they force me to focus on the whole picture and my priorities. That’s always good thing.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Rilla!
(If you would like to be interviewed for this blog, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

Also, please take 4 quick minutes to vote so I can get a chance at a foreign exchange blog trip through the Big Blog Exchange. This will be a great opportunity to ask more people from around the world about their dreams.

Boy Behind Viral Birthday Plea Gets ‘GMA’ Surprise Party

Do you ever find out about huge internet trends way after they happen? I’m not sure how I managed to NOT hear about this while it was happening, but I found it today and want to share it with you.

Colin ended up with millions of Internet friends and a huge surprise birthday party on Good Morning America (click to watch video). Of course, I like this story because it is like all the other feel-good-we-can-be-a-community-even-though-we-don’t-live-near-each-other stories, but I also like it because I remember feeling like I had no friends around that same age. My classmates threw me a surprise birthday party one year where they brought me toys from their own houses, and someone gave me a cupcake, and they had cards and sang Happy Birthday and I remember being really surprised and very confused, because they seemed to really like me. I hope we all get the chance to know real friendship and to be real friends.

Watch the video, feel inspired, and go be a friend to someone today.

Everyone has a story to share: Introducing Mini-Interviews!

Everyone has a story to share. For several years, I’ve wanted to interview “normal people” (any person I meet in whatever way) about their dreams for their lives and to find out what was the best advice they ever received.

I’ve incorporated the advice question into my longer interviews on this blog (and on my nail art blog), as well as in many “real life” discussions. Additionally, having a bucket list — and being as stubbornly enthusiastic as I am about it — means that bucket-list-specific dreams come up in many of my conversations. However, the third question about life dreams that I’m including in this mini-interview is broader, and I hope will begin to show a bit about what we care about, whether big or small.

The first person to do this mini-interview with me is Ty DeLong, a web programmer in Tennessee, USA.

Ty DeLong - Photo used with permission

Ty DeLong – Photo used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
One of my dreams in life is (when the time comes) to have a job flexible enough that I can be present during all of the important moments in my family’s life. The legacy each of us leaves through our work is important, but I think that the legacy we leave through our family echoes even further. I can imagine nothing better than using my skills doing work which has an impact for good while still having the freedom to be at every spelling bee, soccer game, and family dinner, pouring myself into the next generation who will be shaping the world.

What is something on your bucket list?
Something on my bucket list is to visit Asia. I’m not even particularly picky about which part, but I recognize that the other side of the globe sees things so differently than I have growing up in the West. It’s fascinating to me that humans who are all on this same journey can experience life so differently and draw such different conclusions. I would love to experience that up-close, as shocking and out-of-my-element as I’m sure it will be.

What is the best advice you ever received?
The best advice I have ever received is to “always give more than you take.” It has been a common saying of my father, particularly in recent years, and it truly is the most blessed way to live. There is a paradigm shift that occurs when we stop thinking about how we can benefit from every situation, and instead focus on how we can benefit those around us. When material goods freely pass through our hands to others, we see them for what they are:  temporal. Not that life is an equation to be balanced, but if everyone followed this piece of advice, the world would be quite a different place.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Ty!
(If you would like to be interviewed for this blog, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

Also, please don’t forget to vote for me to get a foreign exchange blog trip through the Big Blog Exchange, so that I can ask more people from around the world about their dreams.

Give flowers to a stranger (2014)

Flowers by Anderson Mancini (ektogamat) on Flickr - Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Flowers by Anderson Mancini on Flickr
Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

Earth laughs in flowers.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flowers make me happy, especially daisies and similar flowers, because they look so friendly and cheerful. For this list item, I bought the most cheerful, bright orange flowers I could find, then gave them away.

The flowers were labeled “garden bouquet” which I thought was kind of cute. They were long-stemmed, with huge flowers. I think 5 or 6 came in a bunch, and I briefly thought about separating them to give away one to each person, but then I liked the idea of giving a bunch of flowers to one person more.

It took me forever to try to get the price sticker off the wrapper holding the bouquet. I was trying to hold the wrapper, plus the sleeve they give you so the flowers don’t drip water all over, plus another bag and I’m uncoordinated at times, so I was dropping things all over while trying not to squish the flowers.

My original idea was to give away the flowers to someone who looked like they were having a difficult day, like a mother whose children were causing grief, or to someone who just looked a little sad. I wandered over to the neighborhood center to find a distressed mother, but (thankfully) no such luck. All the children I passed were well-behaved and the mothers all appeared to be pretty happy (it was early in the day).

So I kept walking through the center until I got to a cupcake shop where two ladies (one older, one middle-aged) were sitting eating cupcakes.

I walked up to the older lady (she was sitting closest to the walkway), and said, “Hi! My name is Shelly and I bought these flowers and I’m giving them away to a random person today. Would you accept them?”

They both looked at me kind of weird, and then the lady smiled, and took the flowers. The younger lady said, “That’s so nice!” and the older lady who accepted the flowers said, “You’re just giving them away?” in an amazed voice.

I was a little surprised the older lady didn’t seem as intensely happy as the younger one, even though she was the one with the flowers, but I figured, hey, maybe she was weirded out that I chose her. I didn’t want to make things awkward, so I said, “Have a nice day!” and started to leave.

As I walked away, the older lady was smelling her flowers and the younger lady was still saying “That’s so nice!” Then, just before I headed down the steps to the exit, I hear the older lady shout:

“And it’s my birthday tomorrow!”

I turned around and she was grinning from ear to ear, smelling her flowers and laughing. I wished her a happy birthday, said something like, “It’s perfect timing, then!” and manage to make a graceful exit without falling down any of the stairs on the way out.

I really can’t believe how well this bucket list item worked out for the lady who received the flowers. It really was great timing!

Thanks to those of you who have voted for me in the Big Blog Exchange. If you haven’t voted, please consider taking 4 min of your time to vote for me in the Big Blog Exchange, to help give me a chance to win a foreign exchange blog trip. Click the button that says Vote for Me (right above About Me), enter your email, and confirm the vote via email (or it won’t count).

Be part of a talk show audience (live studio audience) (2012)

My mom and I in the New Day Northwest live studio audience. Photo is a screen shot from a New Day Northwest video filmed 7/28/12

My mom and I in the New Day Northwest live studio audience
Photo is a screen shot from a New Day Northwest video filmed 7/28/12

Have you ever clapped so hard and loudly that your hands felt bruised?

When my mom and I (along with the rest of the live studio audience) were coached on how to be good audience members, we were told to clap as loudly as we could, and to do it much faster than we would normally clap, because it sounds better on TV. We were also told to cheer and to not look at the cameras or the screens displaying how the show would look to viewers at home, or we’d inevitably be caught with our “mouths open and staring into the sky” when the cameras panned over the audience (“It happens all the time, and then people watch themselves later and get mad that they look like that,” according to the person giving the orientation).

I found out about New Day Northwest (a local late morning talk show) because one of my friends works there, and he told me they’re always looking for audience members, so I figured it would be a great way to do this bucket list item.

Similar to what people say about being a movie extra, there is a lot of waiting involved with this activity, but I think it was worth it. After arriving early and waiting in an area with some couches, we were given a brief introduction to being audience members, then directed inside the studio, where we chose/were assigned seats (depending on how many people were in each group). After sitting down, there was… more waiting! But this time, we could watch the crew set up and run tests, so it didn’t seem like waiting with nothing to do.

We had our coaching session on clapping and cheering, and then they explained how each of the guests will come out, talk with the host or do whatever it was they were going to do during their segment, and then they’d cut to commercials. During the commercials, the audience would get a chance to ask extra questions to the guests, who would come up to the front row of the audience to talk with us.

The overall experience was pretty fun. We saw a variety of segments, including

(Each of those links goes to the video segment from the show)

I also vaguely remember a martial arts/dance/physical comedy group, but I can’t find anything about that online, so maybe I made that up.

We also got free samples and gifts for being in the audience (no, nothing like a new car, but a bunch of fun things). We got posters and tickets to Paranorman, a gourmet foods sampler box (included vanilla beans, dried shiitake mushrooms, truffle salt, fregola sarda, dried beans, etc), coupon to Teatro Zinzanni, and a free game code from Big Fish Games. There was also a drawing to win tickets to the special one-night-only Francine Reed show. Guess who won? My mom! (We ended up giving them away, so it made even more people happy).

And then, at the end of the recording, although only one audience member tried the Szechuan button on the air, we all got to try it (and truffle salted popcorn) after filming ended (watch the video to know what I’m talking about). It really does feel like electricity in your mouth, and I’m not making that up – I accidentally shocked myself when I was younger by putting a cord in my mouth (very not recommended, but if you want the same feeling but without the risk of electrocution, eat a tiny piece of the Szechuan button).

This list item was so much fun, especially because I got to do it with my mom. I highly recommend being in a studio audience if you get the chance. Almost every show that films in front of a live audience is looking for people to fill those seats. It could be you! Information is usually available on the network’s website.

Resource: This brief page about Audience Etiquette, originally written for people visiting Los Angeles, is relevant to my experience too, and can give you an idea of what to expect.

Thanks to those of you who have voted for me in the Big Blog Exchange. If you haven’t voted, please consider taking 4 min of your time to vote for me in the Big Blog Exchange, to help give me a chance to win a foreign exchange blog trip. Click the button that says Vote for Me (right above About Me), enter your email, and confirm the vote via email (or it won’t count).