Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

Thankful Thoughts from the VitalSmarts Authors: This Year, We're Thankful For . . .

Kerry Patterson

Kerry Patterson is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


Thankful Thoughts from Kerry Patterson

This year my thoughts and thanks turn to Mr. Howard, my junior high school principal who, one semester in the eighth grade, taught our English class (filled to the rafters with hooligans and juvenile delinquents) the ins and outs of Shakespeare. He so loved the topic and shared it with such extraordinary passion that I saw for the first time what it’s like when learning isn’t a means to an end, but a delightful journey. Mr. Howard would pause and reread an expression as if sampling again from a fine recipe—reveling in the twist of a phrase, marveling at the wonder behind an idea, and embracing the written word as if it were a long-lost friend.

The very next year Mr. Marcarian, our science teacher, encouraged us to work hard and fast in exploring science subjects so that we could end early and then be rewarded with the most magnificent of gifts. He would read aloud to us from Edgar Allan Poe where we discovered pits containing precarious pendulums, and floors hiding tattling hearts, but most of all we saw that learning itself was its own reward.

I thank all of those who entered my life at key times and through their example taught me that you never become truly learned, but if you’re lucky you acquire a passion for learning. And today, I thank my partners who continually inspire me with new thoughts, new readings, new studies, new hypotheses, and most of all, with the undying belief that the cure to all that ails us lies in the next idea.


Al Switzler

Al Switzler is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


Thankful Thoughts from Al Switzler

It’s a wonderful opportunity to be asked to consider what I’m thankful for. As I sit contemplating and typing, I look out the window at Mount Timpanogos (also called Timp) which overshadows our corporate headquarters. It is a spectacular mountain, with a peak that rises to 11,749 feet, more than 7,000 feet above the valley floor. I have viewed this mountain frequently, so much so that it caused me to wax semi-poetic some few years ago. In this poem is a theme of gratitude.

See This Mountain Rising
See this mountain rising
For eons it has risen
Once fish swam in its shallows
And crabs as bright as cinnamon
Clicked across its sands

See this mountain risen
Its summit still ascending
With mass and might, it’s looming
More present than the fullest moon
It too moves the tides

With its pushing and its pulling
The peaks control the seasons
Winter’s bone-white freezing
Spring’s new green and growing
Summer’s snowmelt seeping
Autumn’s gold and glowing
Spilling to the valley floor

And this mountain moves these tides
No more than it moves me
In the power of its presence
Like the highest hawk I soar
Circling and ascending
I see and see again
Then carefully unfolding, my heart opens
And I sing

In this ebbing and this flowing
In this soaring and ascending
I see creation’s making
I feel the maker’s markings
Cleansed by this mountain’s breathings
I shed my wounds and worries
And I am filled to overflowing with
Gratitude and awe

In that same spirit, I am so grateful to be engaged in a work that makes a positive difference in people’s lives. I’m thankful to be working with colleagues here and all over the world whom I love—colleagues who have hearts as big as Mt. Timp. I am full to overflowing for people who reach out to make the world a better and safer place.

And to my wife and family, who make my world a place of love and meaning. For all of these, much gratitude.


David Maxfield

David Maxfield is coauthor of two New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything and Influencer.


Thankful Thoughts from David Maxfield

I have so much to be thankful for, much of it very personal: my wife, Kathy, my mom, my sisters and brother, and my wonderful in-laws—especially my mother-in-law, Maureen. But this note should relate to our purpose here—working with individuals and organizations to create change for good. So, I’ll focus on three groups I’d like to thank.

First, thanks to all of you who speak up when you see problems, instead of saying “It’s not my job,” or “What can I do?” Thanks for speaking up frankly and honestly and with respect when others are sitting on their hands or holding their breath. When you speak up, you make it safe for others to speak up as well.

Second, thanks to those of you who use our skills—Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Influencer, or Change Anything—to create change for good. We are just a small company in the intermountain west, but thanks to you, we feel we are making a difference across the world. We witness you saving lives by improving workplace safety and patient safety; changing lives through effective teaching, case management, and healthcare; and improving lives by making your organizations more effective and humane. Thanks!

Finally, I want to thank all of you who help me stay on track. Your candid feedback, accountability discussions, and crucial conversations are often inconvenient, distracting, and a pain in the neck—but they are also absolutely essential. I appreciate them all—sooner or later.

Thanks y’all!


Joseph Grenny

Joseph Grenny is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


Thankful Thoughts from Joseph Grenny

My heart is very full as I look back on 2012. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for intimacy, inspiration, meaning, and community.

I’m grateful for the profound intimacy we share at VitalSmarts. I experienced it this year as we rallied around a young colleague who was struck with a chronic disease. His willingness to include us in his experience has deepened our relationships with each other. I experienced it when another colleague who struggled with infertility for many years finally gave birth in a miraculous way that drew us all together. I have felt waves of joy so many times as I think about the shared journey many of us have had with her.

I’m thankful for the inspiration that comes when we dedicate ourselves to worthy purposes and embrace important human problems. This past year, my colleagues and I have worked on an experiment in applying Change Anything and Influencer principles to help some in desperate poverty profoundly change their economic prospects. I sat in the shell of a building with Raul who was destitute and surviving by selling cast-off items in Oaxaca, Mexico. Last week, I wept when I learned he has purchased an oven and begun a bakery business as a result of the work we are doing. As we’ve put our minds to this important effort, we’ve felt inspired with ideas beyond our abilities. I humbly acknowledge the Source of that inspiration.

I’m grateful for meaningful work. As I write this, I’m in the U.K. where I heard a half dozen talented leaders describe how they’re using Influencer to improve their workplaces, save lives, be better stewards with tax dollars, and much more. Being a part of a work that literally touches every part of the globe fills me with a sense of purpose that makes me feel overwhelmingly blessed.

And finally, I’m grateful for each of you reading this. You are part of the community that I cherish. I feel so uplifted when I meet so many of you in my travels around the world. Please know that the brevity of our occasional contact is accompanied by an enduring sense of love and appreciation for you and the good you do in the world.


Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Change Anything, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer.


Thankful Thoughts from Ron McMillan

At this season of giving thanks, I am indeed frustrated by our newsletter editors limiting me to three hundred words. Three hundred words! I need at least three hundred pages to fully express my thanks. But they’re the bosses, so whadaya gointado?

I’m thankful for life and the marvelous experience of loving and learning and feeling sad and glad. I’m thankful for my family: my wife’s unconditional love, my children’s magically unique lives and contributions, my grandchildren’s wet kisses and simple needs. I’m thankful that I live in this country where we’re free to become who we choose and vote to choose our leaders, free to argue, disagree, share, learn together, listen, not listen, create, dance, sing, make mistakes, forgive, and be forgiven. I’m thankful for the love of God.

I’m thankful that I can make a living by loving and giving to others: I get to study and write, and teach and watch, and listen and learn, and travel and serve, and edify and be edified. And oh the amazing people I’ve met!

I’m thankful for our readers and clients and their eagerness to improve and make things better. I’m thankful for the VitalSmarts community who studies the sciences of human behavior and joins with us to train others and in doing so blesses so many lives.

I’m thankful for our partners around the world who have translated our work into their languages and cultures and taught thousands upon thousands, making the world smaller and better.

I’m forever thankful for the VitalSmarts Team. They are a unique collection of genius and talent, and love and commitment, and humor and integrity. I’m inspired by their excellent work and humbled by their goodness.

I’m thankful, so very thankful.

Post a comment below to share with us what you’re thankful for this holiday season.

You can learn more insights and skills like this in Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

10 thoughts on “Thankful Thoughts from the VitalSmarts Authors: This Year, We're Thankful For . . .”

  1. Therese

    Mr. Patterson, I wonder how your classmates feel about being categorized as mostly “hooligans and juvenile delinquents.

  2. Julianne Minnie

    Thank you so much for sharing your thankfulness – your articles really touched my heart. I love reading your newsletters – the examples you give really help with life application. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

  3. Jennifer Kieffer

    This season I am gateful for my family, friends and coworkers. All are a part of my life and I strive to be a better person because of them.

  4. John Pillard

    You folks are so great. I read my Vital smarts religiously to see what I can learn and take home. There are so many times that day to day opportunities exist to take a moment before a reply or action to check your story, see what you really want, check your timing and build the sense of safety that is so important with family. Thanks. So many corporate help groups, though good at what they do, are not heard from again and certainly do not allow themselves to come into our lives like you do. Thanks for that personal touch from each of you. And Kerry, I hope it is ok that I have printed and bound your stories for my family. Thanks to all of you and have a great 2012 Holiday season.

  5. Linda Patterson

    I am thankful to have a new community of women to share my life with, to share, laugh, and support each other through issues only we can understand. I am thankful for the support of my family through the travels of my life and recent medical journey. They have been my rock. I am thankful for the many nurses I meet daily in my travels as I teach and reach out to them and share with them the true nature of caring and tending to the sick and injured. Most of all I am thankful to our country and military for making this a safe and wonderful country to be free to express ourselves and provide more opportunities for women to grow to their full potential. I am so thankful to have been born in this country as compared to the life I would have been able to live as a women in some other countries.

  6. melissa

    Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. Theodore Roosevelt

    Thank you Vitalsmart Team, for sharing. We each have the power within to make the world a better place by our own conduct. 🙂

  7. Nancy Rygwelski

    Your newsletter is brief but always insightful and entertaining no matter the subject or author, and I often pass it on to friends and family.

  8. Jan Reinert

    VitalSmarts, thank you for your newsletter. I always enjoy it yet this week’s is special and personal. You make a difference and you’ve helped me make a difference to the people in my life. Thank you!

  9. Rob Gardner

    Your inspiring thoughts remind me of a universal & compelling teaching from Stephen R. Covey. LIVE, LOVE, LEARN & LEAVE a LEGACY. Gratitude for all of our blessings is foundational to our happiness & success. Thanks & Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. David Sessions

    I’m thankful that Vital Smarts has changed my life. Without the skills you teach I would still be stumbling along going from silence to violence. I’m also inspired by the ideas in Influencer and Change Anything. Your team is certainly changing the world for the better.

Leave a Reply