John Israel on Gratitude during COVID-19 | FP Bonus Episode

John Israel on Gratitude during COVID-19 | FP Bonus Episode

How can you be more grateful during this challenging time? What can you do to make this time count? What can you do to make your clients feel hopeful?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with John Israel about gratitude and what you can do to be more grateful.

Meet John Israel

John is an author, speaker, and social entrepreneur. He is the founder of The Mr. Thank You Project which is a global movement to inspire 74 million Thank You Cards written around the world.

He has been featured on ABC News, Fox News, Pop Sugar, and has even given a TEDx talk. John lives in Plano TX with his wife Monica, and 3 children ages 5yrs, 3yrs, and 7 months.

Visit John’s website and connect with him on Instagram.

In This Podcast


  • Seeking a greater purpose
  • The year of thank you
  • How to be grateful when you don’t want to be
  • What people need right now
  • How to make a connection/how to write a thank you card

Seeking a greater purpose

Excuse me I cannot hear what you are saying because who you are speaks so loudly – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

The Mr Thank You project was an outpouring of a desire for a greater sense of purpose in John’s work. In 2016 John was a professional gratitude salesman and he found himself stuck in a place where he was stressed and no longer grateful for what he was doing. John watched a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek and learned that people don’t care what you do, they care why you do it. In business they don’t care what you sell, they care why you are selling it. So, if you want to change your life and business, start with why. At this point John’s ‘why’ was survival, getting by.

The Year of Thank You

John was figuring out how he could embody gratitude because at this point he didn’t feel grateful at all. At the time he was working with a business coach who helped him formulate this whole project, which was initially called The Year of Thank You, but then later became the Mr Thank You Project. This project was where he made a commitment for 365 days to write a 5 thank you cards every single day.

How to be grateful when you don’t want to be

By allowing myself to process and experience the emotions of the day, I was able to make that shift into gratitude.

There were certain rules for this project:

  1. 5 handwritten cards every day, the next day starts at 0, can’t do 30 in one day and none the next
  2. 3 thank you cards max per person
  3. Commitment to the process: Every day he missed, he would have to donate $1,000 to charity

Gratitude is a reflective state and you have to stop and pause and think of the past and add positive meaning to it.

What people need right now

Be like a beacon of light, to show that there is still good in the world.

Right now, the big decision driver is fear. People seem to have a big disconnection with the words sympathy and empathy. Sympathy says I feel what you feel. Empathy says I understand how you feel. Empathy is really required for leadership right now, and that is what people need. Now is the time you need to have courage, and courage is that willingness to still help and still market your business so that you can help people.

Reach out with everyone you have been business within the past. Be authentic and reach out and ask if there is anything they need help with.

How to make a connection/how to write a thank you card

You make a VOW:
V: Values – what are their values, what do they care about?
O: Outcome – what is their goal, what do they want to accomplish?
W: Weakness – What is the hardest thing they are dealing with?

When you know these things about someone, you can make such a great connection with them.

Click here to join John’s 30 day challenge.

Books by John

Watch John’s Ted Talk here:

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Whitney Ownens | Build a faith-based practiceWhitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY OWENS]: The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to\network.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. My name is Whitney Owens and I’m recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week, either through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective.
If you’ve been following the podcast, you know that I’m doing some special bonus episodes during this time of the Covid-19 crisis to help you build your practices and I’m super excited about today’s episode. I have a very appropriate guests, Mr. Thank You on so we can talk about what it’s like to have gratitude and when we come into struggles within our practice, how we can move forward in that mindset. So, to tell you a little bit about Mr. Thank You, his name is John Israel. He’s an author, speaker and social entrepreneur. He’s the founder of the Mr. Thank You project with a global movement to inspire 74 million Thank You cards written around the world. He’s been featured on ABC News, Fox News, Pop Sugar, and has even given a Ted Talk. John lives in Plano, Texas with his wife, Monica, three children, ages five, three, and seven months. Hey John, how are you?
[JOHN ISRAEL]: I am good. Thanks for having me Whitney.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, thanks for coming on the show. So, you’ve got a full house there at home, huh?
[JOHN]: We do. Yeah. And we, you know, we already homeschool our kids anyways, so we, it’s not too big of a difference, but the fact that we’re all now in the same house at the same time. I don’t get to work out of the house. I have to work in the house with everyone. So, I’m probably feeling it more than everybody else.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, it’s definitely a transition. So, for our audience, if you hear noises, any kids screaming, dogs barking, that’s what’s going on. So, we’re all in this together.
[JOHN]: Exactly.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. So, why don’t you go ahead and share with people what the Mr. Thank You project is and kind of how that came to be.
[JOHN]: Yeah, it’s a great question. So, the Mr. Thank You project was really the kind of an outpouring for a desire for a greater sense of purpose in my work. So, at the time when all this started back in 2016, I was a professional gratitude salesman. It’s a real job. I was a corporate gifting consultant, which means that I basically consult with companies, corporations, businesses with the types of gifts they give out to their clients, their employees around the holidays or strategically throughout the year. So, yeah, it was like a professional Santa Claus. So, that’s what I did for a living. And in 2016 I was this gratitude salesman who was no longer grateful for what he did. And it was more of like personal things were going on and happening, which as we all know, personal life affects business life.
Speaker 2: And at that time my wife and I, we had our first child. We had just bought our first home. She decided she was going to leave her job to become a stay-at-home mom, and then we found out we’re expecting our second child and then simultaneously I get an offer to move from Southern California where we lived at the time to Dallas, Texas for a new job opportunity within the same company. So, like any one of those things, right? Like having a child, buying a home, job changes, career changes; all those things have stress. So, all of them at the same time really just rocked my world. And that became the kind of the precipice for seeking something, seeking a greater purpose in what I did. And I came across this really beautiful Ted talk. I’m sure a lot of your listeners have heard by a guy named Simon Sinek and the talk was called Start With Why. Have you heard of this one Whitney?
[WHITNEY]: Yes, I have.
[JOHN]: Great message, right? And what I loved about what he said, if you haven’t heard the talk, I’ll summarize it for you in two sentences. What Simon talks about is that people don’t care what you do. They care why you do it. And in business, people don’t care what you sell, they care why you’re selling it. So, if you want to change your life and change your business, start with ‘Why.’ And that was a really interesting concept for me because at that time of my life, Whitney, if I was honest with myself what my ‘Why’ was, it was survival. You know, it was making ends meet. It was getting by. And you know, I’m sure my clients could feel that. So, I thought, “Okay, well what this guy says is true, that people don’t buy what you sell, they buy why you’re selling it and you get to choose your ‘Why.’.
What might I decide to be driven by? And you know, one of our core values is gratitude as a gratitude company. So, I thought, well, what if that’s the thing? What if that’s what we’d led with and we made gratitude kind of the core component of our business model and how we approach what we do and how we interact with people? And there’s this really great quote that I heard one time at a conference. It’s one of those quotes that when you hear it, you never get to unhear it. And it’s an old school, Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, and he says, “Excuse me, I cannot hear what you were saying because who you are speaks so loudly.” And to me, Whitney, what that really was, was a call to be truthful in your actions as aligned with your words.
And the problem with that statement was, for me, you know, how can I be this guy who says he’s all about gratitude, but yet in my life I don’t embody it? I wasn’t a grateful person at that time. It’s one thing to just say, “Oh, let’s just be, let’s put a vision statement to our practice or to our business.” But if you don’t live it, people can feel it. So, I thought, “Well, what’s a way I could do that?” And I had a business coach that I worked with at the time and he actually helped me formulate this whole project and it became known as the Mr. Thank You project. It was actually called something different in the beginning. It was just called The Year of Thank You. And The Year of Thank You was this project where I made a commitment for 365 days to write five thank you cards every day for an entire year. And that’s a total of 1,825 letters of appreciation. So, you know, you don’t need to know everything that happened to know that. Just any level of commitment like that to practice expressing positive emotion regularly is going to have some massive change. And that’s kind of the precipice for the story and really the project as it is.
[WHITNEY]: It’s amazing. I love it. And I just really am feeling moved now hearing your words and just thinking about the crisis that we’re in, and they idea of gratitude. And so, I’m going to guess along the way there were many times you probably didn’t feel very grateful. So, how did you kind of move from that idea of even when the world’s not going well lives, like we’re sitting in our practices and we’re struggling, you know? How did you find ways to be grateful?
[JOHN]: Yeah, that’s a great question. And for me, one of the core challenges of the project was to explore and expand my capacity to experience and express gratitude, which really means how do you be grateful when you don’t want to be. Now a part that’s probably good for your listeners to know is that there were some rules to my project, which, number one role was five cards had to be handwritten every day and every day reset at zero. So, that means I couldn’t write like 35 thank you cards on Sunday. So, it really had to be a daily, everyday practice. Second rule is I could write a max of three cards per person. So, meaning I couldn’t write like 75 thank you cards to my mother, although she might’ve loved that. I just wanted to make sure that they were really authentic and really genuine and really like really thoughtful.
But I wanted it to challenge me to be finding people doing something good and being authentically grateful in the moment. And the final rule, which was a really interesting one, which was around commitment to the process. And this is relevant to like, how do you be grateful when you don’t want to be? So, for me, I made this commitment that for any and every day that I missed, I would donate a thousand dollars to charity. So, that’s what was at stake every day for an entire year. So, which means I wasn’t going to not do it, which was really interesting because it became this, like, can you almost force yourself to be grateful? And what I learned is you can’t. You can’t just force someone to do anything but what you can, because the interesting thing with gratitude is you can’t be like upset and grateful at the same time.
Like you’ve got to make it a mental, emotional shift. And that means if you wanted the cards to be good, in my opinion. So, I mean, I guess if someone was upset and they tried to write thank you cards, they’d be like, “Well I’m glad somebody remembered my birthday.” Like there would be a level of like tone to it that would be like, “Oh, that’s kind of an awkward thing card. I don’t really know what to think about that.” But I wanted them to be good. And so, the example I give to that is there was one particular day when I came home and it was a rough day. Like I had, you know, I was in sales at the time and I had five appointments for the day, three of them canceled, the two clients I sat down with didn’t look like it was going to turn into much. I check my email, I get not positive response from another client saying they want to cancel their order and then I’m driving home bumper to bumper traffic.
Like not ideal gratitude setting. And I came home and I got home a little early because I was like, “Okay, let me get home a little early, work on my thank you cards and then I can get ready for dinner.” And so, we had just moved to Plano, Texas. I get home, I put my key in the door, now immediately when I do that, I hear the dog bark. And then as soon as I opened the door, the dog starts barking more and then that wakes up one of our sleeping children who’s sleeping on a couch in the living room, which then wakes up the other child who’s almost asleep that my wife is nursing at the time. And then we’ve got a barking dog, two screaming children. And then my wife looking at me burning a hole in my head with like laser beams coming out of her eyes like, “Why are you home right now?”
And I was like, oh, I just felt like the worst husband in the world. And then it’s like, “I’m going to go upstairs now and work on my thank you cards.” Like it just felt so inauthentic. And here’s the thing. I tried to do it and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t authentically be grateful because there were so many things that were just tumultuous emotionally in my life that all I knew to do, and this is more of an emotional intelligence strategy which was, I turned off the lights, I laid on the ground and I processed the day. And I just allowed myself to be with all the emotions. I mean these, you know, you’re talking to mental health practitioners. You guys get this, right? And the visual, I like to think about what these moments of high emotional energy is like a snow globe. And when you have that snow globe and you shake it up, it’s like when you have a really tough day and there’s just so much going on, you can’t even see straight.
And the only way to really like get to that life solace, that piece is to just stop in the pause. So, I laid on the floor for like 10 minutes, processed the day, thought about my thoughts, thought about my feelings, noticed everything was going on, kind of let the dust settle a little bit. I stood up, I grabbed my journal, I jotted a few notes out of like, “Okay, well what am I afraid of? What am I worried about? What am I upset about? What am I sad about?” And I just journaled. And then once I get everything fleshed out, like Whitney, it was crazy. It was, those cards that I had to write, they happen in like minutes. And just a few moments ago I couldn’t get myself to do it, but my allowing myself to process and experience the emotions of the day, I was able to make that shift into gratitude.
And that’s the whole thing with gratitude. It’s that it’s a reflective state. You have to stop and pause and think of the past and add positive meaning to it. Well, that’s hard to do when you’re so calm. Your mind is convoluted with negativity. So, for me, the practice became allowing myself to process the emotions of the day and then start the gratitude exercise and it was a game changer.
[WHITNEY]: I love that story. I think it’s the perfect example for kind of where people are now. But even as I’m hearing you say it, I’m like, “Oh yeah, if you were my client, I would totally tell you to do that. But how often do I take my own advice and stop and process my day and experience those emotions. We’re scared of them. We don’t want to deal with them. In fact, we actually make our negativity worse when we push it away.
[JOHN]: Right? Absolutely. And to bring like an active component to this, one of the, can I share a different story, but it’s somewhat related?
[WHITNEY]: Oh, please. I love your stories.
[WHITNEY]: Well, and this is a very appropriate one. We’re recording this, you know, I don’t know when this is going to go live, but it’s in March and I’m a big March madness basketball guy, you know, like the NCAA tournament. And so, I went to one of the universities that’s always in that tournament. I went to Gonzaga University in Washington state and during the Mr. Thank You project, what was really unique about that year was my team was actually ranked number one in the country and we went into the NCAA tournament and we made it to the national championship. And it was this huge deal for myself, for all the alumni, for my family. Like that Sunday, we had like, I had my Jersey on, my kids had their Gonzaga gear on that I bought them before they were born and like we were like ready for the game and we watched it and it was a train wreck.
I mean it was not a good game and we lost and it was such a, like I’ve heard people talk about seeing their favorite sports team lose and being like emotionally distraught and like depressed. I always thought like, “Okay, that’s bogus.” I get it. Like I totally get it now because that was awful. I remember literally Whitney, I felt sick to my stomach after that game was over. And it was this really interesting experience because I hadn’t written my thank you cards yet and I had this really severe external like, it’s not trauma to the true sense of what people really deal with, but it was a very challenging experience.
And I remember sitting in my office again with that experience of like, “Oh, the last thing I want to do is to write thank you cards and to be grateful for anything. My team just lost. This is a terrible day.” And I just remembered that challenge. How can I expand my capacity to experience and express gratitude? And one of the questions I learned to ask is where’s the gift? That goes aligned with a great definition for people to be aware of on the word gratitude. The best definition I ever learned about gratitude is gratitude is the emotion one feels when you receive a gift or experience something as a gift, which means there’s room for interpretation, which means you can look at something and when you can find the gift in it, you can actually shift your emotional state to one of gratitude.
And so, when I asked myself like, where’s the gift in this experience? And another way of saying that is what’s great about this experience. What I was able to see, it was like literally a light bulb Whitney that went off and it was like you didn’t just watch your team lose the national championship. You just witnessed the best team in your school’s history. I mean, you just made it to the national championship. There are teams that dream for just making it to the tournament. You guys made it to the very end. This deserves celebration. This doesn’t deserve sadness. Like this is something to be honored. And I thought about it and I said, “What if I wrote a letter to every player of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team?” And I was like, “Oh, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” And I went on and I got all the players names and I looked up their stats, I looked at the newsreel, I looked up when what players had their best games and I wrote all these really personal letters to every single player on the team.
And I wrote them to the red shirts; people who didn’t play that season. And I just said, “Hey, you know, championship teams are not made and championship games are made with every practice that led up to it. So, thank you for being a part of what made our team the best our school has ever seen.” And it was like, Whitney, it was this painful experience that became so joyful. And I wrote all these letters to the coaches, the players, I sent them out and here’s where I knew that there was something. We were onto something here. Have you ever had like a negative experience? I mean, of course you do, right? This is the basis of psychology, where there’s an emotionally charged negative experience and just thinking about the thing causes you to feel negative.
It’s just natural. And what I noticed was that would be the case of thinking about this game that we lost. But instead of feeling that negative emotion, a couple of weeks later, I actually felt joy. It’s like I intentionally anchored joy to this experience and it was like life-changing just to be able to know I can choose how I feel and experience about things. And that’s a beautiful thing because, you know, I bet some of your listeners have experiences in life that they haven’t found the gift in yet, and they still have that negative charged emotion. And if they can find the way to ask themselves, where is the gift in this? Where is the positive benefit? They can change their life. And the last piece of that story, and then I’ll let you ask some questions because I’m talking a lot here, but here’s the crazy part.
So, two months go by. I honestly forget I had even done this. Just life goes on. It’s May 21st, which is my birthday, and I’m going out to dinner with my wife and our kids and my sister and we’re out at dinner and my wife pulls out a letter from her purse and she says, “Oh, by the way, you got this in the mail today.” And it was a letter addressed from the Gonzaga men’s basketball team. And I was like, “No freaking way.” And I opened the letter and it’s a handwritten letter from the head coach Mark Few of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team. And the letter is just this authentic, just gratitude and appreciation for a true fan. For an alumni. And he thanked me for all the letters that I wrote and for how much it meant to him and the team and how he’s grateful for me and the alumni and what we do for the program.
And it was amazing. And it was something I didn’t ask for, but it just showed up, which is just one of those things that I think comes to people when you choose to be somebody who is known for looking for what’s right and acknowledging people for it. And not to get anything, not to get a sale, not to get business or to like elicit a response, but to just authentically be a grateful person. Like the world wants you to exist. Like, they’re polling for your success and it made, like that made my year. That was one of the greatest letters I received back that entire year. And it was just such a beautiful gift that I received.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you for sharing that story. If I had been you, I totally would have fallen out of my chair right there in the restaurant. I’m actually huge Atlanta Falcons fan, so I know what it’s like to make it big and then lose in the last game. And so, you’re like, yeah, that super bowl. I was like all by myself. I didn’t want any distractions and said I never want a super bowl and then the awful second half. And I was ‘Ah.” It was just devastating. So, I know that feeling you’re talking about in the pit of your stomach and we all can resonate with that if it’s sports or whatever it is and being able to change our mindset. So, you have now changed the way I’m going to be watching the Falcons. Next season, I’m going to be a little bit more grateful even when we have our losses.
[JOHN]: That’s great.
[WHITNEY]: So, could you maybe give some tips or some of your thoughts. There’s people that are listening and in private, a lot of people who listen to this podcast or even solo private practice owners, and a lot of times unfortunately when the economy dips, a lot of times people don’t take care of their mental health. You know, they think of it as an afterthought, which really, unfortunately, even over the past week as I’ve seen, like mental health is starting to become more and more of a concern. As the economy is sinking, people are going to get anxious and depressed. But then us as practice owners are doing all we can, but we’re feeling really discouraged. How do we make a positive out of this? How do we be grateful when all of a sudden, like I would say easily, we’ve lost 20 clients at my practice when this all started. We used to get 10 calls, 20 calls a week, and now we’re down to three or five calls a week. And so, how do you change your mindset? What are some advice and tips you have for my listeners?
[JOHN]: Oh, this is a good one. I think I might pull out a couple of different tools here for this. So, what I do now and, just so you know, Whitney and your practice listener, so, I do sales and performance coaching for a lot of salespeople, sales teams because that’s my background. I’m a salesperson by trade. And I say this because everything is a sale, right? When you interact with a patient, the moment they choose to enter an agreement or contract, like you have essentially sold them on the idea. You didn’t have to maybe do a big presentation or any anything fancy, but you had a conversation that resulted in them making a decision. That’s what I believe a sale is. It’s helping people make decisions.
Well, right now the big decision driver is fear. So, many people right now are consumed with fear and it is a very unique time because it’s the time in the world where it is almost like universally understood. And I think that what happens is people have a disconnection with the words sympathy and empathy. And sympathy is this like I feel what you feel. I feel that fear as well. And empathy is more of like, I understand how you feel and let me help you make the best decision for you with what you’re feeling. And I think that empathy is really required for leadership right now. And more than anything, what people need is they need leadership. They need guidance. They need that help. They need, whether it be therapy or coaching or something now more than ever. And the challenge that people are experiencing, and this is more of like understanding economics in business, is that it was going a certain way last month, clients were coming in at a certain pace, and that is not the same.
You might’ve even and likely have lost clients. I have lost clients. Everybody has. So, the point is what are you going to allow to be led by? Is it going to be fear or is it going to be courage? And courage is that willingness to reach out to people and to still market and to still help. Not because you’re afraid of coming across like you’re selling your business or anything, but because you actually care. Like that’s the thing; it’s what’s below the fear. It’s care and you’re, and I bet all your listeners, they really care about their clients. They want them to do well and they need you to market to them. They need to find you because otherwise they’re just in their hole at home and they’re terrified. And there’s so many great things that people can do now like therapy via Zoom or like virtual consulting that you can do and people need that.
So, on the sense of, you know, again, that’s not as much on like the gratitude piece, but what I can say with connecting the two together is one of the great things, one of the best things that you can do for your business right now is to reach out to everybody you’ve ever done business with in the past. And not to say, “Hey, do you need to come in? Do you need help?” But to just authentically reach out and just let them know you are thinking about them, you hope they’re okay. If there’s anything you can do to let you know. And you know, one of the new challenges I put on my Facebook feed is this five a day, instead of writing five cards a day, it’s to make five videos a day to people, to clients, to friends, to family, and just to make a video, like five videos every day, send it to them via text.
They have to be short that they’d be like 60 to 90 seconds max to fit through a text and just all you have to do in the text is just say what I love about you. And I started this practice Whitney and it is amazing. Just, number one, by just reaching out to these people and just saying, “Hey, I was thinking about you today. You know, I wanted to let you know what I love about you is blank.” Or if it’s a client you don’t feel comfortable using that language, you can say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you today and I appreciate so much our time together and how much you grew in that time and what you learned and how you restored your marriage or you deepened your faith or whatever it was. Actually, it inspired me. So, grateful for you. If there’s anything you need, please let me know.”
And what I can tell you is that in doing that, number one, emotionally we shift. We remind ourselves of why we do what we do. We remind ourselves that, yes, we’re a good person. There is good in the world because we’re looking for it. And then what happens Whitney, is those videos don’t just go dormant. Like they don’t just sit in someone’s text box and never get responded to. Like a high percentage of them, people respond back with a video or with a text message like, “This made my day. I can’t believe it. This is so amazing. I really needed this right now.” And I think one of the best things that we can do as business owners is to be like a beacon of light. That there is still good, that there’s still good in the world, that there are resources, that we can be a resource to help people and to not, not have to be like just trying to hard sell what we do, but to just be there and the business will show up. That’s what we’re noticing in our business and our practice. And I think that that’s what people can see as well. They make that commitment.
[WHITNEY]: I’m loving what you’re saying. And I was thinking about the very beginning of our interview, you were talking about your ‘Why’ and you’ve realized you’d kind of lost that, you know, with the gratitude and when we go into times of crisis, I mean, I keep thinking of, it’s almost like we’re in a pressure cooker here and waiting on this to pass by or whatever it is. So, then our yuckiness comes out, our negativity and we do kind of lose sight of our ‘Why’ because we’re so stressed about money and so, focused on the wrong things. And so, as practice owners, like taking it back to the ‘Why’, what exactly what you’re talking about, because we love our clients because we know that they can get better by being with us. We know that they have a better life and they have hope. And being able to display that message instead of living in that fear, the courage of our ‘Why’ would be what motivates us to move forward.
[JOHN]: Absolutely.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Do you have any other thoughts or tips for the audience thinking about this current situation they’re in and how to be more grateful?
[JOHN]: How to be more grateful during this time? Well, why don’t you share with me, so, what might be a specific challenge that you think that is maybe consistent that some of the listeners experience that we can maybe apply this to?
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, I mean, I think the idea that they can’t see their clients is really discouraging. People early enjoy going into the office and being with clients and even some of our clients don’t want to do tele-health because they think they’re not going to have the same experience, or, we even had somebody, people have asked for discounts like, “Oh, well I don’t want to have to pay so much for therapy because I’m doing it over a video,” as if it changes that relationship. So, that’s one of the things I think people and clients are not feeling as grateful about. And obviously the financial burden and the stress of that, and then the other thing is just people are getting very fixated on the now, like this now with this virus. Instead of thinking about their purpose and instead of thinking about long-term goals, they’re very focused on short term goals instead of thinking about where’s my practice going to be a year from now, two years, how can I serve the community? They’re just fixated on how do I survive today.
[JOHN]: Yeah. And, that’s very real. I think that that’s probably one of the most common things of all business people right now. And everyone’s getting hit a little differently, right? Like if some people, if you physically close your doors, you know, you can’t, they’re not like the government’s not letting you work. You know, our chiropractor, I love the guy. I would love to go see him. I physically am not allowed to right now. I hate it. He financially can’t be compensated because he’s just not able to do his work. Some people just physically don’t have the ability and some do. And I think that the things that have really helped bring me through this and my, you know, I won’t deny that I’ve had my own experiences of just like every like six hours checking like the death rate and how many new cases we have in the U.S. It’s like a train wreck.
I can’t stop watching it. And it’s just like, “Oh my gosh, the world’s ending.” And this is really beautiful because can I share a little bit, this is a Christian podcast. So, can I share something more of like a spiritual insight?
[WHITNEY]: Please do.
[JOHN]: Oh, this was a game changer for me because, and this was literally last week. So, I had just three days in a row of just not feeling good, which is really unusual for me for the sake of like consistently, it’s one time like, yeah, I’ve had that day or whatever, but like three days in a row where I’m like, “I don’t feel good. I’m not happy.” And I wasn’t worried, but I was consumed. I was so just stuck with trying to strategize how do I handle this? What do I do? And I went on, my wife was putting the kids to bed, I was actually walking our seven-month-old that just, I like to go on walks with her at night because she can’t talk. So, she’s like a good therapist. She’ll just sit there and listen to me for five minutes.
[WHITNEY]: That’s right.
[JOHN]: And so, I’m on this walk with her and she falls asleep and I get to this, we have this green belt in Plano where it’s just this big beautiful green pasture. There’s nothing in front of you. Just big green grass and I’m walking on this by myself and I just realized like what was missing for me was God. It was just this relationship that I had and I didn’t think about this until right now, but there’s actually a real tie in with the Mr. Thank You project and what I learned about it and what I learned in developing a relationship with God in that moment, which was the, one of the things I learned in how to write a really great thank you card to somebody, which also became the same theme of how do you make a good connection with anybody is you learn to, you make a vow. And that’s an acronym.
So, V, O, W. So, V stands for values and asking yourself, what does this person value? What do they care about? O stands for outcomes. What is their goal? What do they want to accomplish and W stands for weakness or their pain? What is the hardest thing they’re dealing with? And when you can know those about any one person, you are so much more connected with them than anybody else. And you think about it. You know, I put a post out on Facebook awhile back about friendship. And I said, “How do you know somebody is a great friend?” And what was fascinating was the response that came back; was people saying how a friend really showed up in a time of pain, in a time of weakness, when their spouse lost a job, when something happened, and how that showed the depth of the relationship of who really mattered to them and who they really cared about.
And that was the precipice for all the cards that I wrote; is I wrote them through that lens of what does this person want? What do they care about? What are their values? What are maybe some of the struggles they go through? And sometimes when you can acknowledge people and the challenges that they go through, like it is the most meaningful things that you can do. And so, I thought about this when I was on my walk and I thought about, you know, what is, I want to build my relationship with God here. What are my values with God? What does God value? You know, what are God’s outcomes and goals that He has for us as His children? And then what are not His weaknesses, but where does He feel the most pain. And this is what came to me, which was what does God value?
He keeps values people honoring Him and praising Him and celebrating Him. He values people in community being together, getting together. He loves when we celebrate Him. And what are God’s outcomes? And the outcomes are the people know him better, that they come to Jesus, that they build their faith. And when is God in pain? It’s when He sees people walk away from their faith, when He sees people in pain and not able to see that He is right there for them. And so, I thought about those things and I thought, how can I honor those things and build my relationship with God? And as I was walking back to my house, it just got really simple. Pick up my Bible and read, listen to some praise and worship music, and reach out to my fellow believers and just spread some hope and cheer.
And honestly, interestingly enough, that’s where the idea of this five videos a day challenge came from; is that I started making these videos to my friends who were believers and just reaching out and just saying, “Hey, how are you doing? What do you need? How is God working in your life?” And I just started this conversation, keeping community alive. And it just changed my attitude, it changed my heart, and ever since that moment it is like every day is a great day. So, if I was to give some advice for practitioners out there who are people who have their own practice, it would be to consider that for yourself. You know, what is God calling, how is God moving and working in your life right now? And when we can take the focus off of ourselves and put the focus on Him and why He wants us here and what is our purpose, we realize that He has purposes bigger than us always.
That is always the case and there are so many things in life that we can reflect on. This is where we go back to that definition of gratitude, which is the ability to look back at something and find the gift in that experience. Well, I bet right now you could look at so many past traumatic challenges, breakups, business things that fell apart that just seemed like it didn’t make sense in the moment that you were so upset about, that now you can be grateful for. You’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I wasn’t still at that, not still with that person I dated in high school because I married this really amazing human being. I’m glad I found them.” There will be some gifts in the future. You might not know them yet, but just to sit with the possibility of that I think can be a great place of peace for people right now
[WHITNEY]: And you are preaching it and I love it. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling too. I’m like to tears listening, thinking about just how, I guess what I feel like God has been kind of speaking in this moment is making it count. And like you’re saying, I don’t want to go back after Covid-19 and look at my life and be like, “Oh, I didn’t accomplish anything or I didn’t move anywhere.” And yeah, we can talk about that with our relationships in our practice, but it really comes back to that basic of our relationship with God. Like God is doing something now, even when I don’t have all the luxuries and I don’t get to do the things, that I don’t even probably get to go to church on Easter. Like that’s going to be really sad, but He’s doing something now and I don’t want to miss that.
And when I’m not feeling grateful, I better take a step back and spend some time in prayers, be in a quiet moment, if it’s on a walk or whatever that is, and listen and let Him lead me in what he wants me to do in this moment that I’m in because I think He’s got something big going on right now.
[JOHN]: Absolutely.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Oh, so I appreciate you kind of speaking to that and I think a lot of us are in that place and when we get that place of stress and negativity, like taking that step back and prayer and with community. I mean the community is what helps pull us out of that. So, John, if people are wanting to follow you, get more information about you could you tell them how to do that? And I think you have a freebie for us today?
[JOHN]: Yeah, absolutely. So, everything you can find me everywhere Mr. Thank You. So, Instagram, it’s @themrthankyou. Mr. Thank You. Instagram, Facebook, same thing. My email is And the, yeah, I definitely have a giveaway I’d love to give to everyone here, which is really around essentially developing that practice of gratitude. And I have a 30-day challenge of, you know, for 30 days in a row writing, you don’t have to write five cards every day. And I think that’s where, for people to know is like, I don’t think that people should do what I did. It was super hard and you can get a lot of benefit just by writing one card today. Or like I said, making one video a day. But if you go to, so just the number is three zero, we’ll send you a 30-day challenge and it’s got some ideas of how to write a really good thank you card, the language to use, things to think about, types of cards that you can write, who you can write them to.
It’s a really great PDF that you can download. And so, that’s and you can download the 30-day challenge. And also, we have the book, Mr. Thank You project on Amazon. So, you can always go there. There’s a lot more stories. I mean it was such a crazy prolific year that has changed my life and impacted, this point, millions of people. And that’s come from the Ted talk. You can find it on YouTube. Just search, just look Mr. Thank You anywhere, you can find it. And then the last piece that I would say with this is that when it comes to your own life and your own happiness, you know, you’re still alive. You know, you’re still here, which I believe means that you have a purpose. There’s something you’re here to do. And it’s really hard to find that when we’re standing in darkness and we’re focusing on what’s wrong or when we’re looking at the problems. So, keep listening to this podcast, keep finding the people that put yourself around that. They are going to support you and keep you focused on what you can do. And if there’s anything that Mr. Thank You can do to support you in that journey let us know. So, that’s it.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you. Thank you. I do want to encourage you guys about the book because I’ve heard John do lots of different talks. He has been on lots of podcasts and the stories, we didn’t even scratch the surface on some of the amazing stories of what happened while you were doing the Mr. Thank You project. So, I do want to encourage listeners to go check out the book, listen to other podcasts because yeah, we didn’t even scratch the surface.
[JOHN]: It was a fun year for sure.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. And so, I ask every interviewee at the end of the podcast, what do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know?
[JOHN]: What I believe every Christian counselor needs to know under great question? I think what every Christian counselor needs to know is that beneath every surface, beneath every job title, beneath every scarred life of a challenge is a human being just like you and me. And one of the great experiences of writing all these thank you cards is that I get the fortune of getting to speak at a lot of conferences and events and I’ll share stories of, you know, writing them to a plane pilot or to a waitress or to the Uber driver or to like any number of people and what really shocks me is how many people come up and they say, “Oh my gosh, like that story was so amazing and I love that you did that because you know, my daughter is a waitress and you’re right. That’s exactly how she feels. She doesn’t feel valued, she doesn’t feel appreciated.”
And then what I get is that she’s not just a server. She is somebody’s daughter. She is somebody, she will be somebody’s wife someday. And every person that you interact with, that’s who they are. They’re a human being below all of those things that has the same goals, the same values, the same desires. And at the end of the day, we’re all children of God as well. So, the fact that you get to serve them is like such a great calling and such a great gift. So, just really want to share with people that perspective that below all of the behavioral issues or whatever you deal with clients, it’s just a human being who is just calling for help. So, just keep that in mind. Keep the faith with that, do the work, and remember right now you’re probably going to have to work twice as hard to get half the results through this time. That is just a fact. So, understand that that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what you got to do and do your best to help people. And I think that you’ll do some good in the world.
[WHITNEY]: It has been such a pleasure to have you on the show today. Thank you so much for providing all this great information and just for motivating us just one step forward.
[JOHN]: Yeah, thanks for having me, Whitney.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email, Would love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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