Project Wonderful

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pro-Tip: Be Thankful

Years ago, a career counselor at my alma mater advised me to write holiday cards to people who had helped me in my job search. Her logic was that this was an unobtrusive way of keeping myself on their radars, while reminding them of my impeccable charm and business etiquette should I need their help in future.

I thought this was sort of brilliant and I've adapted it to my own tastes over the years to include more than just casual business contacts and to take place around Thanksgiving rather than New Years. Every year I write an e-mail to candidates, bosses, co-workers and volunteers who have made an impact on me in the most recent election year. Yes, it's a good career move, but I'm recommending thankfulness in general. Here's why:

1) Elections are by nature a cynical business. We spend a lot of time talking about what's wrong, railing against injustice or warning about what could happen if the other side gets its way. There have been times on elections and even in school when I think about everything going on in the world and all the issues I care about and worry "how will we ever, ever fix that?" In our rush to make things better, we can spend our whole lives focusing on what's left to do and not consider all the progress we've made. This year I am thankful for (among many other things) Gilad Shalit, an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell, New York marriage equality, victories in Connecticut, continued protection for a woman's right to choose, and a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. In the lead up to what promises to be a challenging election year, let's not forget that we have a lot to be proud of.

2) It means more to thank someone when you don't need anything from them. Any organizer worth her call list knows to thank her volunteers when they come in the office, but what about the election? I once attended a training where a now fairly prominent field director told us that volunteers are like tissues because you get as much as you can out of them, and then you throw them out. Lovely. I know, I'm such the karma police that Radiohead could write a song about me, but it seems to me that if you thank someone you should mean it. Especially if you plan to go ahead and do it again with a whole new group of people next year. You're asking people to do things that are sometimes scary, often boring and often time consuming. As we all know, volunteers come into the office for the candidate, but they stay for you. One of the things that broke my heart about John Edwardsgate was that I had asked people to give up their time and energy to help him. I put my reputation and integrity on the line to them for him. Afterwards, I felt like I had let them down. Writing them a thank you note almost a year later allowed me to let them know that even though things worked out very, very differently than we had hoped, their hard work was not unappreciated, and not in vain.

3) We stand on the shoulders of giants. Whether you're in school, on a campaign, or doing something equally important but unrelated, sometimes its hard to stay motivated. It's less so when you think about all the people who have come before you to make your job/school/life possible. I am thankful for the founding fathers and mothers and revolutionaries who risked being hung for treason so that I could be part of the longest running democracy in history, for the people who have died defending it and for the women who took part in the suffrage movement. I am also thankful for the doctors and pharmacists who made it possible for me to be alive and healthy enough to contribute to a movement I find incredibly rewarding. I have no intention of letting any of them down.

This year I am thankful to all of you for reading my blog and sharing it with others, especially my darling friend Cole Imperi who helped me with its new design (official launch coming soon). Please let me know how I can help you achieve your goals this coming year. I wish you a festive and meaningful holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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