[EconTalk] A.J. Jacobs on Thanks a Thousand

A.J. Jacobs on Thanks a Thousand

19/11/2018 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=58903332
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2018/Jacobsthanks.mp3

Journalist and author A. J. Jacobs talks about his book, Thanks a Thousand, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Jacobs thanked a thousand different people who contributed to his morning cup of coffee. In this conversation, Jacobs talks about the power of gratitude and different ways we can express gratitude in everyday life. He and Roberts also explore the unintended web of cooperation that underlies almost every product we encounter in a modern economy.

Listen Date: 2018-11-20


  • When I started listening (pretty much when I started driving), I went “Hmm, that name sounds familiar.” When I stopped for dosa breakfast and googled, I confirmed that A J Jacobs was the man who had written the very funny The Year of Living Biblically.
  • There was that old, old panel from Ultimate Spider-Man (when it had first launched, so about 2001 or 2002?) in which Nick Fury (black for the first time!) tells Peter “Optimism is a revolutionary act.” Based on this interview, so is gratitude.
  • Gratitude, once expressed, makes the recipient’s life better for free; and so if everybody practiced it, it would make life at large better off (assuming that a new equilibrium of taking gratitude for granted didn’t develop). Quite a co-ordination problem.
  • I wonder if it also benefits the thanker by making them more mindful. Which ties into the related EconTalk episodes on meditation and Buddhism.
  • The bits about thanking your parents (especially the poem The Lanyard) cut a little bit close to the bone. But on the other hand, if your life is miserable, does all the things your parents have done for you make up for their having made you? One of those unraveling questions about existence that I have to face.
  • The insight (with the warning that it was from a single study!) that we overestimate how awkward it will be to thank somebody or reach out to them; and underestimate how much they will enjoy it; seemed very poignant. And as Papa says while referencing Subroto Bagchi; the same may apply to asking for help.
  • I wonder how much of a virtous cycle there is between thinking on what you have to be grateful for, that causing mindfulness, which causes peace and happiness, which causes things to be grateful for.
  • Unusually for an EconTalk episode this left me more with ideas for behaviour change (eye contact when thanking people!) than with new information. I don’t mind at all.


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