I was on a five-day, solo backpacking adventure in Yosemite National Park, listening to Guy Spier’s book The Education of a Value Investor (paid link), when I felt the inspiration to start writing letters of gratitude. As I climbed up through the alpine wilderness and sat looking across the surface of lakes mirroring snowcapped peaks, I learned about how Guy had incorporated the practice of writing notes of gratitude into his life; this busy hedge fund manager writes three notes of gratitude per day. He claims that it’s one of the most valuable things he does, turning his mind to abundance and opportunity, and leading to the creation of powerful and fulfilling alliances.
After attending a talk by Mohnish Pabrai, author of The Dhando Investor: The Low-Risk Value Method to High Returns (paid link), Guy wrote a note to Mohnish expressing his gratitude. This led to them becoming close friends and to a winning bid of $650,100 for a charity lunch with Warren Buffett.
When I got back from Yosemite, I wrote a letter of gratitude to both Guy Spier and to a park ranger who I met and chatted with on the trail. That started a regular practice of writing the letters. At the time of writing this article, I have written to 48 people. The frequency of my letter-writing varies, but it’s averaging six letters per month now. What follows are some things I have learned from this practice.
The power of gratitude has been widely written about and researched. Higher levels of measured gratitude have been correlated with positive life-experiences, including better sleep, more robust physiological well-being, increased longevity (via positive emotion), and higher energy levels. However, it’s hard to simply decide to feel more grateful or to just think more grateful thoughts. I have found that writing letters of gratitude actually grounds the practice into reality. It’s a physical, visceral experience, requiring the creation of a real artifact. That letter is also then sent to a real person, a person for whom the content has been created specifically. The letter is a deeply vulnerable and authentic expression of a feeling of gratitude and this kindles and nurtures a strong feeling of gratitude in the sender (me).