A.J. Jacobs: How Can We Thank Those We Take for Granted?


Ryan Lash Ryan Lash / TED

A.J. Jacobs speaks at TEDNYC Intersections in 2018.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode TED Radio Wow-er

How many people helped make your morning coffee? A.J. Jacobs set out to thank them—from the farmer to the barista and everyone in between—and discovered the list was much longer than he thought.

About A.J. Jacobs

A.J. Jacobs is the author of four New York Times bestsellers. His most recent book is Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey.

He is also the editor at large at Esquire magazine, an NPR commentator, and a columnist for Mental Floss.

Jacobs’ writing often chronicles his self-experiments, which have involved taking a vow of total honesty, following the Bible literally for a year, and reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica.

Access the original TED Radio Hour segment here.

Activity Guide – Printable PDF

Activity 1: Gratitude Letter

Expressing gratitude can make you and those around you happier. As Guy talks about in the episode, there’s a lot of research that supports gratitude as a way to find happiness and some of that research supports this very exercise.

While we all know we should thank those who do kind things for us, sometimes our thank yous can be hurried or not very meaningful. This exercise encourages you to express gratitude in a thoughtful and deliberate way by writing—and, ideally, delivering—a letter of gratitude to a person you have never properly thanked.


How To Do It:

(Source: adapted from Greater Good In Action)

Activity 2: Sketch Noting

If you’ve ever found yourself doodling during class, this activity and skill is for you. The whole point of written notes is to capture concepts and connections from a given source, but bullet points and sentences aren’t the only way you can convey those. Sketch noting combines drawings with words to do the same thing. By the end, you may have found a whole new note-taking system you’d like to use in the future.


How To Do It:

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