Author thanks 1,000 people who contributed to his morning coffee
New York Times bestselling author AJ Jacobs thought he was cultivating a pretty good gratitude practice. Before every meal, he would thank the people who contributed to getting the food on his table.
“The guy who drove the truck and the woman who sold the tomatoes at the grocery store,” Jacobs said. “And my son pointed out that I’m kind of lame because those people, I’m thanking them, but they can’t hear me because they are not in our apartment. He said, ‘If you really cared, you would go and thank them in person.'”
Jacobs agreed, and got to work researching a gratitude journey that he chronicles in his new book, “Thanks a Thousand.” His journey revolves around coffee and he thanked a thousand people who played a role in getting him his morning cup; either in person, on the phone or via email.
“So I started with the barista at my local coffee shop in New York who brewed the coffee. Then I went to the guy who buys the coffee beans, who goes to South America and buys them. Then I thanked everyone from the logo designer to the people who made the garbage bags at the cafe.”
He thanked people who do jobs you may have never associated with coffee.
“I called the woman who does pest control for the warehouse where my coffee is stored. I called her and I said, ‘I know this sounds weird but I just want to thank you for keeping the insects out of my coffee. And she said, ‘That is weird, but thank you. That just made my day. We don’t get a lot of appreciation here.’ And her being happy made me happy and that’s what I find: when it works, gratitude should be a two way street.”
He thanked the truck drivers who delivered the coffee, the tire makers that gave the truck the ability to roll down the street and the rubber growers who provided the rubber to make tires. And through thanking all of these people, Jacobs felt better.
“I think there are two sides to everyone’s brain. There’s is the Larry David side and the Mr Roger’s side. So you’ve got the optimistic grateful side and then the cynical pessimistic side. It’s a battle and it’s still a battle for me. But my problem was that my Larry David was just dominating my Mr Rogers. As humans we are very good at finding the negative in the world because that was helpful when we were on the Savannah in Africa and we needed to notice the lions. But now the negative bias of the brain is not so healthy for our sanity and our mood. So this book was all about finding strategies to build up and notice the hundreds of good things that happen everyday.”
Jacobs says there’s a mountain of evidence that proves gratitude is good for our health.
“Everything from it makes you sleep better, it helps fight depression.”
Speaking of sleep:
“When I go to sleep, instead of counting sheep I try and count things I’m grateful for. And I try and do it alphabetically because that’s key, that’s what gives it the structure. I’ll lie in bed and say, A, I’m thankful for the apple pancakes my kids made over the weekend and B, I’m thankful for Barry on HBO with Henry Winkler who is just a genius in that show. So it doesn’t have to be big things. In fact, the smaller and more mundane the better. I have never made it to Z. I fall asleep around F or G and it’s so much better than worrying about what you’re going to do the next day or worrying about what you should have done the day before.”
The book is as much about gratitude – a very hashtaggable word these days – as it is interesting facts and stories behind your cup of coffee. For example, do you know what a zarf is?
“Z-a-r-f. That is the official word for the cardboard sleeve that goes around your coffee so you don’t burn your fingers. So thank you, zarf’s inventor who lives in Portland.”
AJ Jacobs would be very grateful if you bought his book, which you can find here.