What if I told you that a one-time investment of $0.30 could reap a lifetime of rewards?
Not insider trading on a penny stock.
Not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Not a scam investment.
This is about investing in the greatest source of capital around you — people. To start this investment, you need to commit to a two-week habit of expressing appreciation. And $0.30 (3 dimes to be exact).
But first, let me explain why appreciation and human capital are so powerful.
The Power of Human Capital
You can go at life as a series of transactions, or you can go at life building relationships. Transactions can give you success, but only relationships make for a great life.
— Bill Lazier, in Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0
Think about the worst jobs or assignments you have ever had. If I had to guess, I would bet that 90% of the time, it was the people that made it difficult — a boss, a co-worker, an employee.
Think about the best jobs or assignments you’ve had. I’ll likewise bet that 90% of the time it was the people you worked with that made the difference.
For me, given the choice between cleaning up sewage with a group of smart, motivated, fun colleagues, or doing highly impactful, life-changing work with a team of jerks, duds, and sycophants, I’d pick sewage every time.
We often forget the power of the people around us. We focus on tasks, to-do lists, money, bonuses, raises, awards, and our own personal agenda. It’s a natural part of human psychology to focus on our own efforts and minimize the contributions of others.
However, a moment of reflection will reveal the power of others. We often celebrate the lone genius, the brave explorer, and the dynamic personality. Almost without exception, behind each individual triumph is a team of support.
Einstein’s great scientific papers were completed with support from his wife as well as conversations and feedback from colleagues.
Lincoln relied on his “Team of Rivals” to keep the United States together during the Civil War.
Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole with a team of explorers and the backing of financial supporters.
Every movie star, famous musician, and celebrity has a host of mentors, supporters, and fans.
We cannot minimize the importance of those around us to make us who we are. We need the best people around us to help us be the best.
However, we cannot attract and keep the best people around us unless we appreciate and express our appreciation for those people.
The Power and Art of Expressing Appreciation
What you appreciate, appreciates
Appreciation comes in two parts. First, we have to recognize the good that others are doing. This is not always easy — we tend to focus more on ourselves than others.
A little practice each day with a few key questions, though, will help you get better at recognizing what others do.
Who did something today to help me — something that I could not do myself?
What has someone done for me that was uncomfortable or difficult for them?
Who does the ‘quiet’ work that nobody really notices, but if halted, would significantly alter my life?
Who in my life is always there to listen, help, and encourage me?
With questions like these, you will start to notice the impact of other individuals on your own success each day. Even small, quotidian actions generate a benefit that can be appreciated.
Consider, for example:
- The letter carrier who brings your mail.
- The custodian who cleans up your facility.
- The restaurant server who keeps your complicated order straight.
- Your family members that support you and cheer you on.
- The colleague that delivers work on time.
- The friend that never forgets important events in your life.
- The boss that encourages you.
As you start a habit of gratitude and appreciation, you will start seeing more and more good things around you. As the saying goes, “What you appreciate, appreciates.”
This is itself a victory. It will bring you greater happiness and optimism. It will draw other good things into your life.
However, appreciating others is only the first step. The next step is where many of us fall short.
The next step is to express our appreciation. It is one thing to feel appreciative; it is another thing to express appreciation. We are usually full of excuses to not express our appreciation.
“If I give it away too readily, it won’t be worth anything.”
“I’m not a ‘gushing’ kind of person.”
“I’ll express appreciation once the task is done.”
“I want to do it right, so I’ll wait until I can get a card or flowers or something.”
But here’s the beauty and power of appreciation — you only have to give it out when it’s merited, it doesn’t have to be flowery, it doesn’t have to be difficult, and you can develop a habit of doing it.
Once you become active in noticing the good things that others do around you, you will have no shortage of genuine appreciation to express. You now only need to learn the art of expressing appreciation effectively.
The book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership teaches that there are four key elements to expressing appreciation effectively. These four elements of appreciation are: sincerity, unarguability, specificity, and succinctness.
Of utmost importance, you have to express appreciation with full sincerity. Any degree of superficiality or insincerity will be detected immediately and nullify the effects of the appreciation.
How do you express appreciation in an unarguable manner? You stick to the facts. You don’t have to say “You’re the best” or “You’re always so good.” Those are arguable statements of opinion. You can make a statement unarguable in two ways. First, stick to observable actions and outcomes. “You spent X hours working on that report over the weekend to get it done on time. Thank you.”
Second, use statements of how you think or feel. “When you did X, that really made me happy” or “When you said XYZ, that really meant a lot to me.” If you can express how something makes you think or feel (sincerely), that statement is unarguable.
The more specific you can be the better. “You always do a great job” is vague and can be easily dismissed. “I really enjoyed your presentation” is better. “I really liked the pace you used during your presentation and how you kept the audience engaged” is even better still.
If you take too long to express appreciation, people can begin to doubt your sincerity. You might also wear yourself out doing it. If you can be succinct in your expression of appreciation others will know you mean it, and you’ll realize it doesn’t require a $50 gift or a trip to the Hallmark store.
3 Dimes and a 2-Week Challenge
This habit challenge is quite simple (idea courtesy of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership). Find 3 dimes (or some other type of coin). Find somewhere you will see them each day, such as your work desk.
At the start of each day, put the dimes heads side up.
As you go through your day, find 3 opportunities to express appreciation in a sincere, unarguable, specific, and succinct manner. Each time you do this, flip a dime over.
Before I started doing this habit, I thought I expressed appreciation frequently. As I started doing the habit I realized that I did not express appreciation as frequently as I thought.
While I said ‘thank you’ many times during a day, I was very rarely sincere, unarguable, specific, and succinct in my appreciation.
However, as I started this habit I started to become more natural at doing this. There would be some days where I would fail. But my dimes would be there the next day. I’d flip them over and begin again.
Despite missed days and failures, I learned it’s never too late to start again on better appreciating others.
The best part of this investment is that there are two payoffs.
The first payoff will come immediately. So to be honest, this is a get-rich-quick investment in an odd sort of way. When you express honest appreciation, you will find that it will be difficult to not immediately feel good about yourself. It’s one of the paradoxes of life that the more you focus on others, the happier you will be.
The second payoff will come over time. You won’t notice this payoff immediately. However, as you develop the habit of appreciating others, you will start to see the compound effect in action.
Others will begin appreciating you. The happiness you send out will come back to you. You will attract other good people to work with you because they feel good when they are around you. People will work harder for you. Life will become a bit better and brighter.
Grab your three dimes. Start today.
As you start your day, think ahead about who you might encounter that you could express appreciation for. I’ve found if I don’t think about it ahead of time I often forget to do it in the moment.
Also, don’t forget that written appreciation counts too. If you get to the end of the day and haven’t hit your 3 dimes limit, you can always send off an email or two expressing appreciation.
After publishing this post in January 2021, I’ve continue to do this habit, although not necessarily every day. The truth is there are long spells where I forget about being explicit in showing appreciation each day. I start doing it, and then I think “I’ll just keep doing this, it’s easy.”
But it is not.
And so I start up the habit again. And then start it again. It’s worth it every time. I even bought myself some sticky notes that say “Thanks” or “Great Job” so I can easily write a note to co-workers.
One more thing, I wanted to update my return on investment, so instead of 3 dimes, I switched to 3 pennies. Now it’s the best 3 cents I spend every day.