The Time Hack

13 Notes

Day 47: Write a thank you letter to a former teacher

I thanked a man driving a Cadillac yesterday for not hitting me with his car.

I had been crossing a busy intersection in downtown Washington DC when the driver, making an abrupt turn around a corner, thomped on his breaks a meter away from my quivering kneecaps. 

"Oh, phew, thanks," I said, hopping out of the way. The driver peered at me from behind a cloudy windshield for a few moments before slamming on the gas once again. Back on the sidewalk, I realized how odd my reaction must have seemed.

But my unusual thank you’s don’t stop there. I thank cashiers in the middle of transactions for accepting my cash, I thank police for writing me speeding tickets and I even thank the promoter outside the vomitous gentlemen’s club near my office. “A $10 lunch break special? Oh, no. Not me. Thank you though, sir. Have a good day.”

It’s an uncontrollable and uncomfortable habit, and I blame my parents for this insensible gratitude. But I digress.

Studies have suggested that being grateful can have a positive impact on your well-being, phsyical health, produce positive emotional states and help individuals cope with stress.

Researchers Adam Grant and Francesco Gino published the results of a 2010 study, which investigated the effect gratitude had on individuals.

For their research, 69 participants were asked to provide feedback to a fictitious student named Eric on a cover letter for a job opening.

Eric replied back to all of them after receiving their messages asking for additional help, but he only thanked half of them in his response.

Grant and Gino found that only 32% of the participants who were not thanked agreed to continue to help Eric with his cover letter. But that number jumped to 66% when Eric expressed any form of gratitude for their previous advice - a whopping 100% increase. 

The most intriguing part about this study is that the researchers also found it wasn’t necessarily the courtesy of being thanked that persuaded the participants to help Eric with his second letter; rather the act of thanking them made the individuals feel valued and needed. It reassured them of their worth, pushing the them to help others through more good deeds.

The research suggests that being thanked puts social capital in your bank, builds your confidence and prompts you to go on the hunt for more thank you’s.

On day 47 of The Time Hack, I wrote a letter to my former high school English teacher, thanking him for the “wonderful lessons” I received a decade ago.

According to Grant and Gino’s study, this may in fact prompt him to continue to inspire future writers for years to come.

But as for the driver of the Cadillac, I fear I may have inspired him to run down future pedestrians with his car in the hope of building social capital.

Thanks for reading.


  1. The letter I wrote to my former teacher was four paragraphs long.
  2. I explained my reason for writing the letter in the first paragraph, thanked him for his lessons in the second, commented on our lessons on Beowulf in the third and wished him good luck in the fourth.
  3. I used a black Bic pen to write the letter.
  4. I paused between the third paragraph and the fourth to consider how I wanted to end the piece
  5. I used my full name when signing the letter.


What actually happened on day 47? Find out here.


  • I estimate it took 6 minutes and 35 seconds to write the letter.


How long did it take? Find out here

Why don’t videos or recorded times appear on this site?