365 Thank Yous by John Kralik

December 2, 2011

Summary (from the publisher): One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams— including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge— seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.

Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’ s Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’ t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.

Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal— come what may— of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year.

One by one, day after day, he began to handwrite thank yous— for gifts or kindnesses he’ d received from loved ones and coworkers, from past business associates and current foes, from college friends and doctors and store clerks and handymen and neighbors, and anyone, really, absolutely anyone, who’ d done him a good turn, however large or small. Immediately after he’ d sent his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John’ s way— from financial gain to true friendship, from weight loss to inner peace. While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John’ s whole life turned around.

365 Thank Yous is a rare memoir: its touching, immediately accessible message— and benefits— come to readers from the plainspoken storytelling of an ordinary man. Kralik sets a believable, doable example of how to live a miraculously good life. To read 365 Thank Yous is to be changed.

Liked:

  • I like the idea of taking stock of your life and handwriting thank you notes to the people who have helped make a difference. Kralik approached the task as more of a “find something to be grateful for every day” exercise, which is absolutely necessary to reach 365 notes, but while reading, but I think my way works pretty well also.
  • Kralik seemed to be pretty honest throughout the book. Obviously I have no way of knowing this for sure, but at least he admitted that the notes weren’t some miracle cure that suddenly helped make everything rosy and perfect. He was also honest about his own shortcomings, which was refreshing to hear in a memoir.
  • The book refrained from being preachy. Kralik didn’t insist that EVERYONE should try what he did, nor did he proclaim that this was the way to salvage your soul. I can easily imagine other writers going there, which would have made me put the book aside without finishing it.

Disliked:

  • I’m sorry, but some of the thank you notes were utterly cheesy. Handwriting a note to a Starbucks barista or the guy who installed a swimming pool safety net for the apartment complex??? Come on, that’s way too much of a stretch for most people’s lives. I try to be pleasant and friendly to cashiers and similar service providers, but I cannot imagine writing any of them a thank you note!
  • Kralik’s life sounds pretty mundane and boring, so it took some slogging to get through even this very short book. All the stuff about training for a marathon and the state of his on-again off-again relationship with Grace practically put me to sleep.
  • With a project like this, I think there was probably a good chance Kralik wrote at least a few of his thank you notes merely to satisfy his quota instead of because he was inspired by true feelings of gratitude. He never admitted as much, but I could definitely see that happening.
  • This book wasn’t nearly as inspirational as I’d hoped. At first, I did feel like making a list of people to write thank yous to, but as the book plodded along, my interest began to wane. I think a big reason for this was the fact that so many of Kralik’s notes were about run-of-the-mill things like Christmas presents and birthday gifts. There’s nothing inspiring about sending a thank you for a gift; that’s just common courtesy.

Rating:

I have mixed feelings about 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik. On the one hand, the project clearly helped pull Kralik out of his funk and made him appreciate all the good things in his life. On the other hand, I probably won’t end up applying any of his advice to my own life. Yes, I try to be grateful for the little things — but not to the point that I would write a thank you note to the person who cuts my hair or serves my breakfast at McDonald’s. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.

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