Thanksgiving: Know the “Three and Out” Gratitude Rule?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Ari Weinzweig Managing Ourselves from Zingermans

Click this cover to visit Zingerman’s webpage for the book.

Yesterday was a traditional day of giving thanks, but we’re surrounded by opportunities to express gratitude every day—if only we look for them.

For example, do you know the “three and out” rule?

Thanksgiving is our theme this week. So far, we’ve discussed how more Americans traveled yesterday than at any time since 2007, the rise of gigantic “mutant turkey” on the Thanksgiving menu, the cost of the holiday, and whether we should boycott big-box stores that were open Thanksgiving.

Today, we end the week with a positive practice about thankfulness. This positive practice comes from Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In his latest book, Managing Ourselves, he recounts the rule:

“When I feel my energy sliding into the negative realm, I find someone around me—whether in person, on the phone, or via email, and I thank them. Sincerely. For something that they’ve done that I honestly do appreciate. I always get back positive energy. Then I immediately find someone else and do it again. Bingo. I get back more positive energy. Within a matter of minutes, I repeat my act of appreciation a third time. Voila! More positive energy.”

Psychologists who study happiness uniformly report that the expression of gratitude elevates positive emotions—in the giver and the receiver. Ari’s “three and out” rule is a good way of putting that insight into practice.

Who or what are you grateful for?
Would you try the “three and out” rule and tell us what happened?

Your viewpoint is important!

You can leave a comment below. Or, you can talk with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook or envelope-shaped email icons and asking friends to read this series with you. You’re also free to print out these columns and use them to spark discussion in your class or small group.

Positive Business: Celebrate what’s right?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Positive Business

Ross School of Business About Us page

Should business be a force for positive change in the world?
Or, is the sole purpose of business to make money for its owners?

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has taken a stand on the matter, making “positive” the keystone of its mission to be the global center for excellence in positive business and to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world. And, this week, you can learn all about it at the first annual conference on positive business taking place on May 15–17, 2014, at the Ross School (Ann Arbor, MI). Does positive business appeal to you? (Click the image, above, to visit the conference’s website.)

Positive business is an ethical position with explicit values and principles. One of these is called “Celebrate what’s right with the world.” This is a philosophy espoused by award-winning professional photographer Dewitt Jones, who learned it from the National Geographic when he worked as a photojournalist for the organization. I show his training video “Celebrate what’s right with the world” on the first class meeting of every business course I teach at the Ross School.

“Celebrate what’s right” is what the National Geographic charged him with each time they sent him out. He says it changed his perspective on the world and inspired his work as a photographer. The perspective doesn’t deny reality. It doesn’t deny what’s wrong with the world. Rather, it shifts our perspective, gives a more positive way of viewing the world, and opens up a world of new possibilities.

On his website, he puts it this way. “Every day we are inundated with messages that tell us what’s wrong with the world. It’s not surprising that we lose sight of all the things that are right with it; of all that is truly worth celebrating. As a photographer, I have a choice of what lens I put on my camera; a choice of how I am going to view the world. I choose to celebrate. Why? Because it imbues me with gratitude, because it allows me to see the best in people and situations, because it fills me with energy.” For more of his message—and some truly stunning photography—I encourage you to visit his site.

What do you think of the idea of celebrating what’s right with the world?

What about the concept of positive business?

False Truths: Can you believe this?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series False Truths
Tombstone I wish I had spent more time at the office

JUST KIDDING (but it sure makes you think). These days, Google lists a whole host of “tombstone generators” like the one that produced this mock up.

Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, we welcome columnist Terry Gallagher for a series on popular assumptions that … perhaps we should question. Here’s Terry …

How often have you heard this? “No one ever said on his deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’”

Most often attributed to best-selling author Rabbi Harold Kushner, the expression seems to mean that we should focus on things more important than work, like family or community.

While it may be true that you don’t hear anyone saying on their deathbed that they wished they spent more time working—you might hear it said by the stereotypical Wal-Mart greeters, retirees who are forced back into the labor market because their savings are running out.

The Great Recession has pushed back retirement plans for many workers, according to a poll released last fall by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“Stung by a recession that sapped investments and home values . . . . older Americans appear to have accepted the reality of a retirement that comes later in life and no longer represents a complete exit from the workforce,” according to a report on the poll.

And you know what? A lot of people enjoy working, and find meaning in their work.

In a critique of the deathbed-regret cliché, career adviser Ruth Graham wrote: “The thing is, if you’re an ambitious person and/or you think you have something to contribute to the world, why is it so impossible to imagine you’d look back on your professional life and think, ‘I could have done more’?”

So what do you think of today’s False Truth?

Do you enjoy your work too much to give it up?

What other False Truths do you wish people would quit repeating?

United America, Core Value 7: Getting Ahead

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series United America
Cover of The Triple Package by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Cultural superiority + deep-seated insecurity + impulse control = success.

That’s the latest formula for success, served up in The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. That’s the new book by the wife-husband team of Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld. They are professors of law at Yale University. Chua is the “Tiger Mom” in her book about driving their children to succeed.

What do you make of their success formula?

The Chua-Rubenfeld book is an attempt to explain why members of some cultural groups get better grades in school, earn more money, and climb the social ladder faster than members of other cultural groups. The answer, they say, is the triple package of success. First, parents and their children believe that their particular culture is superior to others. Second, parents make their children insecure by driving them to achieve but never being satisfied with what their children achieve. Third, the achievers are good at “impulse control,” otherwise known as delaying gratification.

Whatever you think of their thesis, it is true that getting ahead is one of the 10 Core American Values. Monetary success is a traditional indicator, but so is rising social status and mobility.

Core Value 7: “Getting ahead”—the guiding principle of “individual achievement, status, and success.”

The rub is that actually getting ahead in America is not so easy. Climbing the economic ladder is easier for citizens in several other countries than it is for Americans. But social mobility has not changed much over the decades, according to widely reported research by economists. What has changed is that the gulf between the lowest economic bracket and the highest economic bracket.

Another view of Getting Ahead

Getting ahead can mean more than money. One can get ahead by pursuing a calling—working for a higher purpose—even if it doesn’t yield more money or status. A calling orientation is instilled by parents, according to new research by me and Kathryn Dekas. This gives parents another option than Chua-Rubenfeld’s prescription of superiority and inadequacy.

Do you approve and disapprove of the “triple package” theory?

What did your parents teach you about getting ahead?

United America, Core Value 6: Equal Opportunity

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the series United America
Regional highs and lows in minimum wage laws. As of January 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor published this color-coded map. GREEN: States with minimum wage rates higher than the Federal. BLUE: States with minimum wage rates the same as the Federal. YELLOW: States with no minimum wage law. RED: States with minimum wage rates lower than the Federal.

Regional highs and lows in minimum wage laws. As of January 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor published this color-coded map. GREEN: States with minimum wage rates higher than the Federal. BLUE: States with minimum wage rates the same as the Federal. YELLOW: States with no minimum wage law. RED: States with minimum wage rates lower than the Federal. NOTE: Where Federal and state law have different minimum wage rates, the higher standard applies. (Click on the map to visit the Labor Department’s website for more state-by-state information.)

We are continuing with our series, exploring each of the 10 core values. (Visit our United America Resource Page to download a free poster of America’s Ten Core Values and other resources.)

It’s a cliché to call America the Land of Opportunity but it’s a cliché that has a certain truth to it.

Americans embrace the principle of equality but have constantly wrestled with its application. Take, for example, the minimum wage. In his 2014 State of the Union address, Obama argued for an increase in the wage. If you believe in equal opportunity, should you support raising the minimum wage? In other words, would a higher minimum wage result in greater opportunities for the wage earner?

Core Value 6: “Equal opportunity”—“Equal access to jobs, education, voting, etc. regardless of age, gender, race, or other factors; a level playing field.”

Economic outcomes (like the size of your paycheck) are clearly linked to opportunities. As a writer in The Economist put it, “Wealth is just distilled opportunity. Our opportunities are in no small part a function of our parents’ level of economic achievement—of their economic ‘outcome’.” Fast food workers understand the logic. If their wages keep them and their families in poverty, they can’t afford opportunities such as education for their children. Recently, we’ve seen walk-outs and strikes by fast food workers. Just a few days ago, fast food workers at the Pentagon had a one-day strike.

Equal opportunity is one of America’s 10 core values. It’s inevitable that we wrestle with how to put into this guiding principle into practice. Despite the political controversies about raising the minimum wage, however, more than 75% of Americans favor raising it, according to Gallup.

Americans have a lot of common ground. That is the central message of my new book, United America. Based on years of polling, I learned that Americans share 10 core values—strongly held principles that are shared across demographic, religious, and political lines. The purpose of the book is to broadcast that message and to stimulate healing conversations. More progress can be made by starting with what we have in common rather than what divides us. Last week, we looked at the first 5 core values. This week, we look at the next 5 values. (Visit to download a free poster of America’s Ten Core Values and other resources.)

How important is the value of equality for you?

Should we focus on economic outcomes to secure more opportunities?

Do you favor or oppose raising the minimum wage?

United America, Core Value 5: Self-reliance & individualism

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series United America
Curious about my work with the Reciprocity Ring? Click this image to visit the Humax Networks website and learn more.

Curious about my work with the Reciprocity Ring? Click this image to visit the Humax Networks website and learn more.

The Third Metric—do you know about it?

The Third Metric is a social movement created by Arianna Huffington that’s focused on well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. It’s a focus beyond the first two metrics of success: money and power. I was in New York City yesterday, a guest speaker at one of their events. My topic was reciprocity, and I emphasized the importance of giving and asking for help.

Which do you think is more difficult: giving help to others or asking for help?

After 14 years of using the Reciprocity Ring to help groups practice reciprocity, I’ve concluded that giving is the easy part. Most people are willing to help others. The difficulty is asking for help. One reason has to do with one of the 10 core values documented in my new book, United America: self-reliance and individualism. Most Americans have so internalized this value that it’s hard to ask for what one needs.

Today, we are looking at Core Value 5: “Self-reliance & individualism” means “reliance on oneself; independence; emphasis on individual strengths and accomplishments.”

Of course, there are some people who have no trouble asking for what they want and they don’t give back. Adam Grant calls them “takers” in his best-seller, Give & Take. For most people, however, asking for help is hard to do. This fact illustrates the double-edged nature of values. Self-reliance is an admirable American characteristic. But taken too far, it becomes a liability.

This week, we talked about the core values of respect for others, symbolic patriotism, freedom, security, and now self-reliance. We’ll continue next week, focusing on the other five values that make up America’s 10 core values.

I typically end each column with two or three questions. Today, I’ll overcome my own reticence to ask for help and make two requests.

Would you tell your friends and family about the free resources related to United America? These include a downloadable poster of the 10 core values and videos of fellow Americans talking values.

One purpose of the book and resources is to stimulate civil dialog. Would you make a comment today and tell fellow readers idea you have for making that happen?

Big Government: The biggest threat?

US Capitol Building at nightAs we close out 2013 and head into 2014, most of us are thinking about our hopes and fears. And, a new Gallup poll offers a remarkable insight into our fears.

Americans have always had an uneasy relationship with government, especially anything perceived as Big Government—the idea of an intrusive, micromanaging government. Americans’ preference for limited government is distinctive among economically advanced democracies. But is Big Government an actual threat to the country?

Is it a bigger threat than Big Labor or Big Business?

A record number of Americans think so, according to this Gallup poll. Almost three quarters (72%) said that Big Government “will be the biggest threat to the country in the future,” compared to Big Business or Big Labor. That’s the highest percentage since Gallup starting asking this survey question in 1965. Then, only 35% of Americans felt that Big Government was a bigger threat than Big Labor or Big Business.

Today, only 5% say that Big Labor is the biggest threat to the future of the country. Big Labor was perceived as a much bigger threat in the past. In 1965, 29% of Americans said that Big Labor was the biggest threat. Fears of Big Labor began to drop in 1995.

How about Big Business? Concerns about Big Business have fluctuated over the years, but in 2013, 21% named Big Business as the biggest threat. The figure was 32% in 2009. The peak since 1965 was 2002, with almost four of ten (38%) saying that Big Business was a bigger threat than Big Government or Big Labor.

Americans have become more opinionated over time. In 1965, 19% said that they had “no opinion” about the question at hand. This percentage declined into the single digits in 1999 (9% with no opinion) and has not been higher than 6% since then. Today, only 2% say they don’t have an opinion on which institution—Big Government, Big Labor, or Big Business—is the biggest threat to the nation.

Do you feel that Big Government is the biggest threat to our country?

Is Big Business the biggest threat?

What about Big Labor?