Friends and family form the first line of this debt. We can show gratitude to them by returning their love, by showing up, by being there when they need us, and by striving to make their lives simpler.
But people who I have never met, and maybe never will, pose a different problem. I find myself asking, what is the best way to repay what they have done for me? How can I best show my gratitude?
The first is to say thank you. This requires a means of contacting them directly. The second is the biggest compliment and display of gratitude that you can ever make towards them. It is to embrace their work and allow it to change your life.
After all, why does anyone do what they do?
Often, it starts out as a purely selfish activity. You find fulfilment, enjoyment and happiness in it’s performance. But if your work spreads to a wider audience and starts to penetrate deeper into a community, it becomes less personal. It becomes less about you and how much you love doing it. It becomes a chance to add value to the world, to make someone’s day better, to solve someone’s problem. It evolves into a mutually beneficial relationship. You find fulfilment in the work you do and the people who see or use your work get to benefit from it’s existence.
“Show, don’t tell” is a fundamental principle of storytelling. But it reaches further than the art of story: Don’t tell me how good a person you are, show me. Don’t tell me how to be a success, demonstrate it with your own life. Don’t tell me how to conquer adversity, show me by example.
And when it comes to gratitude for the people whose work has inspired and influenced you? The biggest compliment you can give them is to show your thanks. How? By taking their work and using it to transform your life.