Posts Tagged ‘Thanks A Thousand’

I discovered this new book by A.J.Jacobs by accident when I was browsing at the bookshop a couple of weeks back. I got it for my friend and I was so tempted that I got another copy for myself. I finished reading it today.

In ‘Thanks a Thousand : A Gratitude Journey from Bean to Cup‘, A.J.Jacobs tells us that he wants to change himself and feel more happy. (He says in one place that his default mental state is ‘generalized annoyance and impatience‘ and in another place he describes himself as ‘My innate disposition is moderately grumpy, more Larry David than Tom Hanks.’) To accomplish this, he focuses on his morning cup of coffee, which he loves very much. He decides to find out who are all the people who are responsible for his morning cup of coffee, and thank them individually, either in person or on the phone. He hopes that by feeling gratitude towards people who bring joy to him everyday through his cup of coffee, he will feel more happy. He starts by thanking the barista at the local coffee shop. He next meets the person who buys coffee for that coffee shop and thanks him. A.J.Jacobs thus continues on his gratitude journey during the course of which he goes to interesting places and meets all kinds of fascinating people, including people working at a steel mill, and people working at a post office, and Colombian farmers who grow coffee. It is a fascinating journey and it is fun to vicariously take that journey alongwith A.J.Jacobs, while reading his book.

I loved ‘Thanks a Thousand‘. It is a beautiful book. It is just 112 pages long, but it has a lot of interesting things in it. We learn how many diverse elements are involved in coffee making, we learn about the fascinating kinds of people involved in it, and it is mind-boggling to learn that so much of work goes into putting that morning cup of coffee in our hands. It is something that I should definitely feel thankful for. A lot. The book is well-written, A.J.Jacobs’ humour is charming, and the pages fly. I am glad I read the book. Now I want to read more on coffee.

I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book. Unfortunately, they are not about coffee.

“I should really be thanking my mom, especially on this day. It seems odd that birthday celebrations are all about the kid, when they should be really honoring the mom. The emphasis is askew. I mean, what did I do on that day several decades ago? I came out, I cried, I demanded food, I got a mediocre score on my Apgar. The real hero is my mom. She’s the one who had her body dangerously distorted by my infant skull.”

“We overemphasize individual achievement when, in fact, almost everything good in the world is the result of teamwork…. By elevating individual achievement over cooperation, we’re creating a glut of wannabe superstars who don’t have time for collaboration. We desperately need more bassists in the world. We can see this playing out in many industries, but let me stick with science for a second. Your typical scientist craves the glory of creating a bold new hypothesis, instead of the equally important but less flashy task of replicating experiments to make sure the conclusions are true. This has led to what’s called the “replication crisis.” A shocking amount of our scientific knowledge may be inaccurate because we don’t have enough bassists in labcoats doing backup.
I’m not immune to the responsibility bias. This book has my name on the cover, but its existence is the work of dozens of people. The idea of a lone author warps reality. In a more accurate world, this book would have many names on the cover, not just mine. We considered it, but my editor, Michelle Quint – one of the best bassists in publishing – thought such a cover would be too confusing and hard to read, so here I am, perpetuating the lead singer myth.”

“I’ve been obsessed with luck for many years, and especially with the debate over whether our lives are ruled by randomness, or whether we are the powerful captains of our own fates.
It’s an ancient debate, of course. When I wrote a book about the Bible, I learned the scriptures contain both points of view. In Proverbs, the reader is told over and over : Work hard and you’ll be rewarded on this earth. If you follow the rules, if you’re not lazy, your crops will flourish and your offspring will be plentiful. This line of thinking has persisted. You can see it in Ayn Rand novels and the ideals of the American Dream and the Puritan work ethic.
But there’s another way of looking at the world. The very next chapter following Proverbs is Ecclesiastes, the most modern and philosophical of the Bible’s books. Ecclesiastes says : “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, not favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.” In other words : Don’t be prideful. Fate is fickle. More than fickle – fate has Borderline Personality Disorder.
The real world is no doubt a combination of luck and skill, but I lean strongly towards Ecclesiastes. If I had to put numbers to it, 20 percent of my fate has been determined by hard work and persistence, and 80 percent has been cosmic Powerball…
I’m not dismissing the need for effort and persistence. Those who worked their way up from the bottom, who didn’t have the advantages I had, need effort and persistence even more than I did. I also acknowledge that, to a certain extent, you make your own luck and create your own opportunities. But only to a certain extent. You also need pure luck. As Barack Obama said in a postpresidential interview with David Letterman, “I worked hard and I’ve got some talent, but there are a lot of hardworking, talented people out there. There was an element of chance to it, this element of serendipity.”
I agree with our former president. There are millions of hardworking, persistent people around the world living below the poverty line. I believe there are thousands of could-have-been Meryl Streeps working as waitresses because they didn’t get the lucky breaks. There are thousands of alternative-universe Steve Jobs working in assembly lines in factories.
Here’s why I’m a fan of thanking our lucky stars every day : it helps with forgiving yourself your failures; it cuts down on celebrity worship and boosts humility; and, perhaps most important, it makes us more compassionate.”

Have you read ‘Thanks a Thousand‘? What do you think about it?

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