Better to share thanks like Hanks than be scary like Larry

Food 4 Thought:

I am excited to bring you some Food 4 Thought with the intent of sparking new ways to look at and approach your day, tackle the changes we are faced with in life and maximize the opportunities you have to connect and grow with one another.

Today, I am inspired by another great leader and friend, Jessica Swanson, who shared a phenomenal TED article on gratitude. I have made my way through the article and its embedded TED talks and I wanted to highlight one in the Food 4 Thought today.

It is a talk by AJ Jacobs about a topic near and dear to all of our hearts : coffee!!! yeah!! We love our coffee!

…well it is about a bit more than coffee….and it is called:

My Journey to Thank Everyone Responsible for My Morning Coffee

AJ is a writer who sets about to thank everyone who contributes to the making and serving of his coffee. As with most TED Talks, it is well worth the investment of 15 minutes to listen to him tell that story than to have me recount it here, but here are some of the main discoveries he made:

He writes in his book and recalls in his talk about what this process taught him.

  • AJ discovered he could alter his natural disposition of being more grumpy and less grateful to being more earnest, grateful and kind (he says in his book he was “more of a Larry David and less of a Tom Hanks”)
  • He discovered that one cup of coffee requires the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of people
  • AJ learned that this was not a local endeavor, but a global endeavor
  • He recounts the way we tend to treat those in service to us as if they are simply robots or automatons vs people with rich, full lives and problems and triumphs just like ours


  • AJ describes that his whole world changed, and his posture in it transformed when his young child pointed out to him that instead of thanking people “in theory” around the dinner table, he ought to go out into the world and thank people in person. In other words, his kid prompted him to really show up for the people he was thanking and deeply engage with them vs paying them lip service.

It is this last piece that I want to spend some time on with you because it resonates with me so much. You see, like AJ at the dinner table, theoretically thanking people, I used to think I was doing a lot more to live into my full contribution and purpose at home and at work than I was really doing.

Unlike AJ, it took a lot more than some innocent prompting by a child to change my ways and see a more fully realized way to show up in the world. It took some falling down and some eye opening and a whole lot of loving people, in all the aspects of my life, home, work, church to help me to find a New Life.

A couple of years after that happened, I wrote something about this metamorphosis in my pastor’s blog and then my personal blog.

I am adapting it today to our broader world and my journey over the last few years at work to help me bring my point across.

It is called I Was You, and I want to make it clear I am not implying that this refers to all of you or maybe even most of you, but once, I was this person and maybe there is someone out there who still is? If they read this, however corny it may be, and it helps them find another way to show up, either here or at home, I would be eternally grateful for that.

One more caveat, before I launch into this, I struggle with this every single day. I don’t always get this “Food 4 Thought Guy” thing right. In fact, maybe I get it wrong more than I get it right? The difference is I now have the benefit of seeing some fruit from when I do manage to pull it together and I want more than anything for those that are more like the “old me,” “the more Larry David than Tom Hanks me,” to see that fruit too.

You see I was much like the “pre-caffeinated” AJ once and hopefully, now I am a bit more like the new AJ?

(and I love to drink me some of both the regular version of the coffee mixed with some of the euphemistic version* : i.e. “the coaching cup of coffee for the heart, mind, and soul”)

(*this is an additional inside joke coffee-related homage to the movie Kicking and Screaming (Mosaic Media Group, 2005) starring Will Ferrell-watch his hilarious “coffee evolution” [more like the reverse of AJ : from Hanks to David] here-3:22 if you need a laugh break from this much too serious and syrupy post)

“I was you”

I was you

You wouldn’t know it now

My brand has changed

What you see now is “The Food 4 Thought Guy”

As some of the “yutes” call me, the “Dumbledore Guy”

It is hilarious to me, that when I meet you…

You think I am “one of them”

I used to sit in my silo

Hoping no one would notice

Hoping no one would call me out

It was safe back there

Before I ever moved to a broader role

Before I ever wrote a blog

I prayed my bosses and other leaders wouldn’t make me stretch

Make me go broader

Make me share my ideas wider

I was the “fix it guy”

The seal team commander you call in to tackle a complex project or problem

The guy who comes in and conquers the enemy

…and silently gets ready for the next one

I shined my Swiss Army knife of skills with pride

I avoided the larger community

I now care for so deeply

Took hubristic pity on their endless quest for “magical system solutions”

My old brand was just fine

Only it wasn’t fine at all

I was carrying way too much of “my stuff”

Like a poison that “stuff” leaked out

It was slowly killing me

It was possibly holding back those around me

I thought I could have it all, from the protection of the silo

I thought I needed only a select few around me

Slowly, the broader team started to chip away at the armor

Nothing spectacular

They showed me their new brand

Like a relentless jingle

Their new behaviors and values of better together and courageous vulnerability

Got stuck in my head

And before I knew it I wanted “it”

At first, I turned down many invitations

I smiled and shook hands with many

All the while thinking, I’ll never change

Mysteriously, at some point, I started to say yes

I said yes, I will go try this new role,

Yes, I will go speak with this broader voice,

Yes, I will go teach a larger set of others my skill set,

Yes, I will look my own arrogance and ignorance in the face

Yes, I will give this a chance

Yes, I will be part of the change

Yes, I will lean into encouragement

As I started to say yes, the brand only shined clearer

I started to see glimpses of a different way to be

Glimpses of a different me

All my old stuff came crashing in on the old me

I gave away (most of) my old stuff

I was so tired of carrying it

So tired of languishing and anguishing

I wanted to contribute and care, unconditionally

The way I was cared for

The way their new brand taught me to care

I still feel like an imposter some days

Some days maybe I am?

Most days, I am just grateful

Grateful that the jingle got stuck in my head

And this old heart changed, forever

Bringing it all together

Here is your Food 4 Thought

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you stuck in an old brand that is more like the old JJ or the old AJ?
  • What can some simple practices from AJ’s talk, Jessica’s article, previous Food 4 Thought posts or other sources do to help you change your brand?
  • Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear the same jingle? (see what I did there? 🙂 ) If you don’t sincerely believe you are hearing or seeing the change in culture I describe, what can YOU do to make it more a reality?

If this all sounds like a poorly sung Christmas Carol or a hokey soap selling jingle to you, and /or if this does not inspire you to change your brand or move out into the world we inhabit differently, it is ok, after all, it is just food 4 thought.

I love it when I hear stories or receive requests for themes! Just shoot me a message on one of my social platforms and I will add your idea to my list.

If you want to contribute to keep Four4Soaring Media going there are many ways you can do that. Purchase a book from books4soaring or one of our other Amazon Links or explore our donate page here.

All photos royalty and copyright free from WordPress, Pixabay or Unsplash

By J Johnson

I am seeking to discover, find and share salt and light into the world. After growing up in financial poverty, but with a wealth of loving people lifting me up all along the way, I struggled for a good while to "do it all on my own." Until I finally found something indescribable in a mere "about me" section of a blog. Now I have the peace that discovery provides as well as the overwhelming urge to share everything I can with as many as I can. I am now trying to use those life experiences, my formal and informal education and my over 20 years of human resources and leadership experience to have a broader conversation with the world about that something, that Light, and about Love and Leadership...with a dose of Laughter along the way. 4 Ls to live by and to soar by. Four for Soaring.

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