Change Your Perspective through Gratitude
Gratitude and thankfulness are the ultimate shifters.
Darin Hollingsworth is Chief Gratitude and Accountability Officer and host of the Working Gratitude podcast. He is passionate about helping successful professionals realize and exceed their personal and professional potential through encouragement and being grateful.
“There is truly always something to be grateful for in life and in work.”
Odonata Coaching & Consulting
Darin works with businesses, non-profit executives and boards of directors to create new possibilities for transformation in customer and donor relationships and organizational culture. Through collaboration and consulting, Darin engages with clients, empowering them to build upon strengths and face challenges with confidence and expertise.
Darin is the creator and host of the podcast “Working Gratitude” launched in 2012 to stimulate conversation about research based best practices of gratitude in the workplace. Darin and his guests explore ways that gratefulness is expressed via community impact and giving. In over 70 conversations, Darin has explored ways that gratitude can shift individual perspective and organizational culture.
“When you are grateful for something, it means you’ve accepted something from someone else or something beautiful in your life.”
Odonata Coaching & Consulting
Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.
Today’s podcast is dedicated to all of the non-profit organizations across the country that we were privileged to support at our various trade-show booth campaigns. These have included local Habitat for Humanity chapters in Indianapolis, Chicago, Fort Worth, Nashville, and Central Arizona, as well as Friends of Long Beach Animals, Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, and most recently Lifeline Puppy Rescue, in Denver.
Michael Kurland (00:01):
All right. Welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host Michael Kurland and I’ve got a very special guest today. We’re talking about gratitude. Darin Hollingsworth, Chief Gratitude and Accountability Officer from the Working Gratitude podcast. Welcome to the show Darin. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself and your podcast.
Darin Hollingsworth (00:25):
Well, thanks. It’s great to reconnect with you from us having had a great discussion on working gratitude and that evolved from my work in coaching and consulting. I was encountering leaders like you and others who really were exhibiting gratitude in the workplace. I wanted to bring some focus to that. The funny part of it is I started podcasting back in 2012 when nobody knew what a podcast was and everybody had to download them to an iPod. So it’s fun to see how it’s evolved. My work continues with coaching and consulting, both in the nonprofit space and other executives with a conversation always around what they are grateful for at work.
Michael Kurland (01:09):
For those of you out there that don’t know, Darin actually took the leap of faith and reached out to me and asked me to be on his podcast many moons ago, which sparked the interest of myself in podcasting. Because I was not very interested in it at all until I came on your show and here we are. I guess it’s probably two, two and a half years later and you’re on my show and it’s great how it’s come full circle, right?
Darin Hollingsworth (01:43):
The world brings us back around doesn’t it?
Michael Kurland (01:46):
It does. It does. We are grateful for that. So speaking of gratitude I want to jump right in and ask you, how do you personally practice gratitude on a daily basis?
Darin Hollingsworth (01:58):
There are a couple of practices that have evolved over the years daily. I do a gratitude list and for me, I found an app years ago, produced originally by gratefulness.org, a network for grateful living. It’s a simple, fun, little app that you plant a seed of gratitude and make your list and you can put a picture with it and then you come back to it the next day. When you plant the next seed, the first flower grows a little bit. I smile when I say that because I did it just because it was convenient and it was one of the first apps of its kind out there back, like I said, probably 2013, 14, 15, and I shared it with some clients and they ended up sharing it with their children. That brought me great joy with the work that I was doing with adults.
Darin Hollingsworth (02:52):
I don’t have kids but it trickled down to their kids. That’s one of them. Then I do some type of affirmative outreach to a particular person every day with some call of gratitude or a text of gratitude about a way that they’ve impacted my life recently. It can be simple. It doesn’t have to be high and lofty. It’s just thanks for being there for me or thanks for showing up for that meeting or thanks for covering for me for that meeting, whatever it might be.
Michael Kurland (03:27):
I think one thing you just said that I’ve found recently in my own life is it doesn’t always have to be like depth. You said depth and lofty, right? You don’t have to have this humongous showing of gratitude to someone. It could be as simple as saying thank you when someone opens a door. But I think sometimes for a lot of people, when they’re first starting to get into being grateful and reciprocating and showing gratitude on a daily basis, because they’ve probably either had it absent from their life, where they’re starting to realize that they need to get it into their life because of whatever other reasons, you feel like maybe you haven’t been grateful, so you’ve got to make up for all this loss, lack of gratefulness that you didn’t practice over a certain amount of time. But I think really it is the small things and for me, I was journaling on a daily basis. I actually had similar to your app. I had this journal and it was a five-year journal and it was a page for every day of the year, with five years on it.
Darin Hollingsworth (04:38):
I remember seeing a book like that. I’ve seen one of those.
Michael Kurland (04:41):
So you would fill it in and then you’d go through every single day of every year and then year over year, and then you can go back and read it. I got through year three of it and then it was like I’m doing this just to do it. I’m not really doing it to have gratitude. I got through the exercise because I did want to capture the memories. I took a year off. So it took me six years to capture five years because I was burnt out of doing it by year four. So I don’t think you have to have this set schedule of gratitude. I don’t think you have to have this overwhelming set, what you think is the right way to produce gratitude.
Darin Hollingsworth (05:20):
Right. I totally agree with you, Michael, because when I started the app, I actually started it because I was living in San Francisco and I used it on public transportation. Because I was on public transportation, going back and forth to work or going back and forth to meetings even, or in my social life. It was just easy to do. So it was a different time of day. Now my practice is at the beginning of the day, but you hit on a good point that if you do something rote, there are good habits and there are bad habits. But if you do something that is rote and just out of habit, you’ve either got to mix it up or look at exactly why you’re doing it, what it’s giving you and how it’s exhibiting elsewhere in your life. I think that’s great that you gave yourself permission to take a year off.
Michael Kurland (06:09):
I think that’s the one thing I’ve been practicing a lot since the beginning of 2021 is this grace for myself. That’s another thing that I think a lot of people don’t practice and I am such a self-motivator, self-starter that if I miss my workout, I’m beating myself up. If I didn’t write in that journal on 10:00 AM on Tuesday and I missed a day, Oh, you’re the worst. You’re the worst gratitude journalist ever. But now I’m starting to realize as I’ve gotten into my lower forties, I’m starting to really realize that it’s okay. It’s okay to miss a day because if I’m writing every day just to write, then that’s a chore. That’s not actually practicing gratitude. But if I can write once a week and I can have a thoughtful one or two pages, however long it is, and I really get some good gratitude onto that page, then that’s what it’s all about.
Darin Hollingsworth (07:07):
You’ve used a great word that I love. I avoided the word for a long time because to me it was, it, it had some trailing of an overly fundamentalist, conservative religious background, but the word grace is full of heart and allowing and accepting first for yourself. That’s exactly what you’ve talked about. So I love finding things that go with gratitude really well, but grace, gratitude and growth are the things you just talked about, right? Because you’ve grown from a list or a rote memory list to a writing and a journaling. I have watched tons of people do that over time. I will put a little plugin for sticking with it like you did, and coming back to it when you did and letting it evolve. Your listeners won’t know this, but they can find out more about me is that I had a really serious mental health crisis in 2018.
Darin Hollingsworth (08:05):
It was a while before I could really get back to gratitude. It took doing the gratitude for the simple things, my dog, my best friend, and not things at all, but really people and services that came to me. Then the smooth transition that happened for me moving from San Francisco back to Tennessee. So I did re-implement it in my life almost as a baseline. If I do that, I know I’m going to get healthier and that’s where I say gratitude is a shifter and opens access to other higher level emotions.
Michael Kurland (08:51):
Totally agree. I love that we’re going on this. Similarly, I was doing the list like I said and I got away from it. I actually haven’t journaled in it since November 13th. That was the day that my Dad passed away. I just haven’t been able to write it down. I haven’t been able to. I have this block, but I keep telling myself just do it, just do it because I know it’s going to flow. I think maybe I’m a little fearful of the rawness that’ll probably come off the pen, but the grace of what is going to get there. That’s building up so that I can get back to it.
Darin Hollingsworth (09:44):
I’m going to send you a quote. I’m going to paraphrase it now, but I’ll send you a quote and maybe you can put it in your show notes or just an annotation to it is that and it comes from a writer that I’ve got acquainted with through gratefulness.org that I mentioned earlier. There was a quote that came up in one of my memories from like 2015 today on social media. It talks about the parallel between grief and gratitude, because with gratitude, there is an acceptance. When you are grateful for something, it means you’ve accepted something from someone else or something beautiful in your life. Grief is the same way. I’ve gone through a lot of grief in my life. So I’ve used this as a tool. My Dad died when I was 19. So accepting grief, processing grief. We’re not thankful for tragic and horrible events. When we get to the point and get through the stages of grief, that we can find our memories, we can be grateful for the memories we can. That’s why I love the quote. I’ll have to get you that quote, because I’m not saying it as eloquently as she did, but it’s grief and gratitude are parallel experiences.
Michael Kurland (11:02):
Again, I totally agree. The journaling aside, the one thing that the grief did bring me as you know, me and my father had an up and down relationship. There was a lot of I don’t want to say animosity, that’s not the right word, but there was a lot of hard feelings from just certain things that happened over the course of our life together, that I’m sure a lot, most fathers and sons have. He’s from Brooklyn, New York and he’s got this great group of friends that he went to high school with that he’s still friends with that he was still friends with to this day. They all went to high school and they are like 75 now.
Michael Kurland (11:44):
So all these guys reached out to me and they started telling me stories. Towards the end of my Dad’s life, I was trying to get him into an assisted living home because he was getting up there and he wasn’t moving as well. He would tell me, yeah, I’m going to go, I’m going to go, I’m going to go. Then his buddy called me and told me, I know you are doing the right thing for your Dad. You were trying to get him to that assisted living home. He called me and told me there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to that thing. So if my Dad were alive, I would have been so angry. But because of the grief and the gratitude of that story, I was able to laugh and realize I was grateful for that story. I was grateful for my father and who he was.
Darin Hollingsworth (12:26):
Isn’t that a great shifter to take such a raw emotion? Thanks for sharing. That was such a raw emotion and be able to shift it even a little bit? That’s the key. We both talked about this. It’s not the big, well-written diatribes of research. You know me, I’m a research geek about gratitude because I needed it coming kind of swinging the pendulum from that very spiritual perspective. But I needed to know that there was science behind the way gratitude changes your mind and there is, but it doesn’t have to be all that. It’s when you can be grateful for that phone call from that friend that helped you completely react differently than you than you would have at a different time.
Michael Kurland (13:18):
It’s also a shift in mindset too. I just went for a run right before we started recording this. I was getting down on the pier and I had a buddy I was thinking about him the other day. I haven’t talked to him in probably six months and I’ve just ran into on the pier. Normally I’d feel ashamed that I hadn’t talked to him in six months, but today I was like, Hey man, I’m so happy to see you. I was just grateful I ran into him. So just little things like that. But let’s get to the second question here. This is great stuff. I want to keep it moving. We’ve discussed all this already, but I really want to get to your core of why is it important to show gratitude? We’ve got all these ancillary great stories, but why Darin, do you believe that it’s important to show gratitude?
Darin Hollingsworth (14:09):
That’s a great way to bring us back to the substance in the conversation. I alluded to it. I started a gratitude practice probably back in 2008 and just through reading and teaching that I was encountering from various perspectives. It still felt like I needed that research that I alluded to a few minutes ago. Then I found the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University of California, Berkeley. They were already initiating it. Bob Emmons is the leading scholar and it let me marry my heart and my mind in gratitude. That’s what I have worked to do and why my podcast and my work at ODonata Coaching and Consulting is about bringing gratitude to the workplace because I was taught to write thank you notes as a kid. So it’s been a part of my psyche forever. We got a $2 bill for Christmas in an envelope on the Christmas tree from an uncle. We wrote a thank you note and I’m glad.
Michael Kurland (15:18):
You remember those $2 bills too?
Darin Hollingsworth (15:22):
Because I mean, I’m 52, so I’m the early fifties and that was a big deal when the $2 bills were reissued and it was just fun for a little kid. But we wrote a thank you note. I have been told time and time again in my career that because I wrote the thank you note, I got the second interview and I may not have gotten the job, but I wrote a handwritten thank you note for an interview. Then as a major gifts fundraiser, which is another part of my career, I know that my donors, some of my donors to this day that I stay in touch with, they still have notes that I wrote them thanking them for their support of childhood cancer or of a university. So thankfulness and gratitude has been a part of my life and my journey.
Darin Hollingsworth (16:09):
When I started to see it and its application in the workplace, that’s when I knew that there was an alignment for me, beyond just a personal value that had been instilled in me. I knew that there was a way and a place to continue the conversation. It’s let me encounter people like you, who are entrepreneurs, leaders in their field and we get to have these discussions, that bridge personal and professional. The Academy, the researchers are finding that CEOs and everyone are absolutely embracing that and to go along with it. I know we’ve talked about this a little bit. Kindness and compassion in the workplace are my next level, where I want to go with my work.
Michael Kurland (17:06):
Great answers. Lots to think about there. I can tell you we’re coming up on our seven year anniversary and after year one is when I really needed to start focusing on the gratitude because I was just running this business that was making money, but I just wasn’t happy and I needed to give something back. I find that to be grateful for my success as a company, I was able to, to pay it forward and to start utilizing the company to help some of these nonprofits out.
Darin Hollingsworth (17:45):
Your core values in that way. Michael that’s what attracted me I did the cold call, so to speak on LinkedIn, when I was seeing in my feed things about the way you do your work, I don’t even know what kind of business you were doing, but I could tell it was aligned with this mindset. I’m thrilled 7th anniversary in a business, particularly when a year and a half of that has been in a pandemic. You’re doing all right. I’m grateful for you.
Michael Kurland (18:15):
Well, thank you. I am also grateful. I’m grateful we’re about to hit that seven year anniversary, especially during the pandemic. We can go on about the stories of how gratitude has helped, at least me and I hope for the listeners out there, if they’re not practicing gratitude, they’re going to start seriously considering getting that into at least their weekly routine. From what you’re saying, why it’s important, I totally agree. I mean we’re nothing if we don’t show gratitude. It’s like yin and yang, right? How can you even be happy if you can’t be grateful? So if you can’t show gratitude for where you are, where you’ve come from, how you’ve gotten there, or even if your situation isn’t as great, to be alive, things of that nature, then how can you ever find happiness in anything that you’re doing? That’s how I really look at it.
Darin Hollingsworth (19:12):
I totally agree with you. We’re like-minded in that way, because I think grateful people are happy people, and that sounds kind of cliché or sort of like a Hallmark card, but it’s a truth that you and I have found in our lives, right? Happy and for someone who’s gone through some major mental health, depression, anxiety, PTSD. I’m not always outwardly happy, but the emotions evoked by gratitude helped me offset those mental health struggles.
Michael Kurland (19:48):
Totally. I’ve definitely had my bouts and ups and downs. I’ve never actually had depression, but I’ve had times of being depressed for certain actions that have happened and gratitude has definitely allowed me to put things back into perspective. We’ve already talked about this next question so I want to throw it out there and then we can keep rolling with it, but we’re talking about gratitude. You’ve mentioned it before. How has being grateful helped you to overcome your obstacles? You just mentioned some mental health bouts. I talked about my father. I mean, I think any obstacle in your life that you’ve probably ever overcame, gratitude’s got to be linked in there somewhere, right?
Darin Hollingsworth (20:34):
That’s a good point to look at. If you can’t find it immediately, what’s going on in your life right now is really hard. Look back and say, okay, how can I be grateful for something that happened before? You know that maybe you had neglected to be grateful for? This happens a lot, I think for people and because my work has been focused on gratitude in the workplace, people will reflect on thanking a mentor for getting them through a difficult time at work. One of my questions has always been what is a difficult time that you got through in your career that you can now be thankful for because you learned something from it, or it got you out of a negative situation and how you can be grateful. I’ve got the stories for myself and for so many other people that when you flip it, look at the other side of that coin of what the challenge was, then there is truly, always something to be grateful for in life and in work. You and I, and several other of our gratitude colleagues and champions are on a mission to help people see that.
Michael Kurland (21:54):
I totally agree. I can tell you whenever I’ve had some sort of major challenge in my life, it’s usually when I start recognizing the gratitude that that challenge either becomes less arduous or difficult. I finally realized it’s because I’m grateful now that I’ve learned my lesson. I learned a few lessons from it. I’m going to take those lessons forward and now I’m moving past it. So I’m putting it in my rear-view and I’m grateful to put that in my rear view because I’ll take the lessons I learned from it so we’re in a better position going forward.
Darin Hollingsworth (23:09):
Isn’t it a great springboard? You have to confront anger and I’ve been accused in my social and professional circles at times of having a toxic positivity or a reckless optimism because of this emphasis on my go-to coping mechanism of gratitude. Anger is anger. It happens. When you get in that kind of situation, where people are attacking you or your business, or people that work for you, and you care about them, you get it, we get into fight or flight mode. That’s how we’re created. What gratitude does for us is because we’re higher level beings, we can stop and notice that anger. That I have a choice right now. I can use that anger in a different way. Let it pass like a cloud in the sky or a train on the train tracks, and then look for where the gratitude is.
Michael Kurland (24:11):
Totally. I have this little side story I have to share with you. You said that you’ve been accused of being overly gracious and whatnot. So I had engaged in a therapist and he gave me this personality test and I’d never taken it before. He was a cognitive therapist, fix yourself by doing the work yourself, which I was all about. I never want to take a pill if I don’t have to. He said let’s take this personality test and I take it. He said the test is valid and he said your biggest personality trait is that you’re histrionic, which I had never heard that before, but it means the same thing. It’s a great thing.
Michael Kurland (24:57):
Because you’re always looking on the bright side and you’re always expressing gratitude. He said, here’s how it’s a bad thing. You know, your friend tells you they have like cancer and you’re like we’re going to beat this. We’re going to beat this and your friend probably just wants to hear, I’m sorry that you have cancer or it’s bad. Really sucks. So I can relate totally to what you’re saying here. So let’s jump to the last question. I think this is a good one for the audience to listen to what best practices can you share about how to develop a social impact strategy and how do you engage your team?
Darin Hollingsworth (25:35):
I love this question because again, we’re both very aligned that once you find this lifestyle of gratefulness, it’s not all about saying thank you or writing a thank you note. It is about making an impact where you are. I have coached small businesses and entrepreneurs. Then in the non-profit environment, I see a lot of this is people make money and they want to give back and the key is starting. It’s usually with service because for example, younger professionals who may still be accumulating their wealth. They just want to get involved. They want to make, that’s a great word. I’m glad you worded that question that way. They want to make an impact. Sometimes they can’t write a check and don’t want to, they want to get involved with an organization.
Darin Hollingsworth (26:27):
It’s harder. It’s been harder during a pandemic, but there are still ways to make phone calls. We’ve just come off a political season and I’m not talking about political phone calls. I’m talking about now that that assisted living facilities can’t have guests. Maybe they can work out to have people make phone calls to people who don’t have anyone else calling them. Anything from that continuum to really engaging with skill sets. This is where I work with a lot of people, who, if you’ve got a skill set, either management, leadership, finance, or some other creative skill, take that away from your workplace and see where it fits into the community for a mission that aligns with your values.
Michael Kurland (27:21):
I think that’s great, great information. You’re already good at it. Let’s take it out of a work and put it into where some other people can benefit from your skillset. I love it. It’s how we ended up with Habitat. It’s what you said to a T. That was one of our first partners. It was because we’re in the facility management, construction management space. So swinging hammers is nothing new to us. We were able to go do the work ourselves. I didn’t want to write a check because everyone I wanted to get involved with. Oh yeah, you can donate five grand and I’m like, I don’t have five grand to donate and B) that’s not what I’m looking to do here. I don’t feel good about writing a check. I want to get my sleeves rolled up and get in there.
Darin Hollingsworth (28:07):
People wherever they are. You’ve told me this. Your people can do that in their community. Right? You can lead that as a corporate value, but you’ve made it accessible. It’s collaborative in that way that even if two different teams in two different geographies are, but they know what it feels like to work as a team on a project outside work. That feels great.
Michael Kurland (28:31):
We’ve actually done nationwide build days where our New York team and our California team have done a Habitat build day on the same day. Those have been real fun. We haven’t done those in a while just with pandemic and there’s nowhere to do it, but I will say I got the itch the other day. We’re doing some service work next week where there’s a food pantry where they do packed meals for seniors. I’m going to go pack some meals. Like, what else, what else? Like, why not? I need to get out there. So, just giving back. I’ve got this last question I ask everybody. What do you consider yourself to be an expert at? What advice do you have for the audience to become an expert at said thing? There’s no wrong answer.
Darin Hollingsworth (29:19):
I’ve been reflecting on this a lot in the past week in some writing I’m doing in the direction of maybe a book in the future. Does that sound tentative? So expert writer, I am not. Easier sometimes to say what we’re not. But I really do think and that’s why I’ve created eight years ago my title for my organization. I’m good at gratitude and I’m good at accountability. So along with that goes encouragement and that’s what makes a good coach or good consultant bringing skill sets about fundraising and nonprofit management. Those then transfer not only from my desk, if you will, my professional life, but to my personal life and they make me proud.
Michael Kurland (30:06):
Well, that’s good advice. I like hearing it. One thing you said in your title that we didn’t really touch on was accountability. I think we can do an entire season on that. So we’ll have to have you back when we get to the accountability season. Darin, it’s been great having you on. If the audience wants to get ahold of you, how can they reach you?
Darin Hollingsworth (30:29):
Linkedin, Darin Hollingsworth, and then my website is working gratitude.com. I haven’t published new episodes in a little while, but the archive is there and that will lead your listeners to other places about other parts of my work.
Michael Kurland (30:44):
Darin, thank you so much for being on. Audience. If you want to get ahold of Darin, you heard how to get there. Until next time.
I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better. Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.