Author thanks 1,000 people who contributed to his morning coffee

Dec 12, 2018, 3:58 PM | Updated: 4:43 pm
Photo by Laura Johnston on Unsplash

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.

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Newsradio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

Owner Sophia Walker believes in fitness AND doughnuts. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Walker)...
Rachel Belle

Seattle’s No Judgement Fitness is a safe space for the LGBTQ community to workout

No Judgement Fitness is mirror free and focuses on body positivity, not weight loss. 
3 days ago
(Brooke Lark/Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

New LinkedIn data shows more women are promoted to manager in Seattle than any other city

Women in Seattle are 80% more likely than the national average to advance to manager. 
5 days ago
Marsha and Matt Owen opened Skein & Tipple, in Clinton, last Tuesday. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

Skein and Tipple: Whidbey Island’s newest craft cocktail bar is also a yarn store

Yarn up front, cocktails in back! When the liquor control board told the owners they must have live entertainment, they cooked up Tuesday Knit Night. 
10 days ago
Irene Crawford (left) looks at Beatles memorabilia in her little sister Barbara Horn’s scrapbook....
Rachel Belle

Seattle sisters saw the Beatles in 1964, return to the same venue tonight to see Paul McCartney

Barbara Horn and Irene Crawford reminisce about seeing Beatles at Seattle Center in 1964.
13 days ago
(Photo by Ingrid Barrentine, courtesy of Alaska Airlines)...
Rachel Belle

Alaska Airlines is the first US carrier to introduce gender neutral uniforms

Alaska Airlines' new policy gives also all employees permission to wear makeup, earrings, fingernail polish, and gender-neutral uniforms.
19 days ago
(Palle Knudsen / Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

Fewer pills, more parks: More doctors are prescribing nature to patients

Non-profit programs in the US and Canada encourage doctors to sign on and prescribe their patients time spent outside or, for some, more time at a sunny window. 
20 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Author thanks 1,000 people who contributed to his morning coffee