Always Say Thank You To the People Who Got You Where You Are

There are people in our lives, both past and present, who influence us for good and help us grow and develop.

You might never have taken the path that life offered you without their guidance, inspiration, and support.

Now, the only question remaining is whether you said thanks to any of these individuals for what they did for you.

I won’t pretend I have thanked everyone who has made a difference in my life, especially from the past. But I certainly work on thanking everyone today who has affected me. 

School-day Memories 

Mr. Frank Eric Claytor was the headmaster at Therfield Secondary School in Leatherhead, Surrey, England, where I grew up and attended school. My strong recollection of this fine leader was the fact that he only had one arm. But he never let this impediment affect his participation in any sports activity. 

Mr. Claytor had to fill in for a couple of weeks for the art teacher in the art class we had. We were working on paintings to submit to a local youth art competition. I saw myself as a budding artist back then. Mr. Claytor looked at my work and gave me some pointers to consider. He encouraged me to send in my painting to the art competition. While I did not win or place in the competition, I respected his advice and moral support. 

Mr. Claytor was an encourager. 

This was a reflection I had in life but never acted on to thank him. Time helps you to ponder those who have influenced you in your life.

My First Job

Do you recall your first job? Was there someone who stood out for you where you worked? Perhaps a person who made your first job memorable. 

For me, it was Mrs. “A.” Mrs. A was actually Jean Alderton, who was the customer service representative (or clerk back then) at the Surrey Trustee Savings Bank, at 21 Church Street in uptown Leatherhead, Surrey, England. She was the one who taught me the most about being a teller and how to always be positive and helping towards the customer.  

She was born in France and had a touch of her native accent in her speech. It was her kindness and patience with teaching me the ropes of British banking that made the difference to me. She helped to boost my lack of confidence as a teenager.

Naturally, when my family and I left to emigrate to Canada, I wrote a short and probably not the best written thank-you card to dear Mrs. “A.” 

Searching for Direction 

When I turned 18, I found I wanted to job hop all the time. This made me realize I had better figure life out and find a stable career. That’s when I came across James H. Medhurst & Company Limited, an executive search and development firm. I was fortunate to work with the president, Jim Medhurst, for the counseling I needed. 

The psychological assessment and ongoing coaching gave me the direction toward a positive career. And Jim also gave me one pithy piece of advice that I have shared with many over the years.

When I had to make a tough decision and face my father about it, Jim told me, “Whatever is totally right for you is totally right for everyone else. Whether they see it that way of not is their problem.”

Isn’t it incredible how a few words can change your life? I know his counsel has blessed mine.

Morale Boosting from the Sidelines 

Bill Evershed was first a member of our church congregation in London, Ontario. Bill was born near London in England and had a strong British accent even after years of being in Canada. 

I was studying to become a speech-language pathologist (SLP) at Western University. Bill would repeatedly tell me about possibly working at Parkwood Hospital, where he worked. He was the gateway to introducing me to the director of Communication Disorders. Then, when the province announced the building of a new rehabilitation facility to carry on the Parkwood name, Bill was an enthusiastic supporter of my filling one of the new positions.

I still had one and half more years left of schooling to do at Wayne State University to get my master’s degree. This meant moving away from London, Ontario. He kept in contact with me by letter. Even when I hadn’t quite finished my last semester, he wrote to me and strongly told me to apply anyway for one of the SLP positions, which I did. 

One application, with one almost complete resume, one interview, and I got the dream job I had hoped for. Bill was my inspiration for keeping me focused on working where he worked. 

And, yes, I wrote him a note card to thank him for his persistent and optimistic support during my education and job searching. 

It humbled me that only four years after starting work at Parkwood Hospital, his wife asked me to be a pallbearer at Bill’s funeral. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 67. It was a very emotional experience to carry this man in his coffin when he had carried me for so many years.

Thanking a Book Author

Has reading a book ever change you, whether it was fiction or non-fiction? Did you take time to write the author and thank them for writing their book?

One book that changed my life as a teenager was Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking.” I found it on a library shelf when they had filed it in the wrong section. Took it home to read, and it changed my outlook on life. Peale’s ideas were practical, and I found his suggestions motivational and inspiring. It helped set me on a straight path.

When I began professionally speaking years later, I realized then how much Dr. Peale’s work had impacted me. So, I put my thoughts and gratitude into a letter and sent it off. Imagine my surprise to get a letter back from Dr. Peale expressing his appreciation for my letter. And he also accompanied his letter with a signed copy of his latest book “The Power of Positive Living.”

Stop and make time to write an author who has affected you positively. 

Believing in One’s Potential 

Then there are people who do a remarkable job of believing in you and encouraging you through the later years of your career. 

That was the case with my friend and former CEO, Peter Hart. Peter reached out to me almost 17 years ago and acquired my training and consultancy company. This action saved me and my family financially. We had come out of a global financial crisis and on the business side; I lost several clients because of it.

His mission was to make me famous, he said, and his support and encouragement helped take my work around the world. I had never imagined that possibility.

With Peter’s help, I have taken my recognition principles and teachings into leading global organizations. This has affected thousands and thousands of people, both leaders and employees, to give Real Recognition™ the right way, wherever they work. 

When Peter said he wanted me on board with the company, I was stunned. With the acquisition, I could focus on what I do best and have the internal company supports to make up for my weaknesses.

I immediately wrote a careful letter of appreciation and thanks at the beginning of this experience. On one of my visits to Peter’s home, he showed me how he had framed my letter to him and hung it in his office. 

You will never know how much thanking those individuals who have influenced your life will mean to them. Reach out and thank someone who has made a difference in your life. 

Recognition Reflection: Is there someone in your life who you need to reach out to and express your thanks to?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

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