The Importance of Gratitude

Jack Bogle has had an absolutely enormous impact on the world of investing. Earlier this year, Warren Buffett wrote about Jack in his annual letter to investors (see page 24): “If a statue is ever erected to honor the person who has done the most for American investors, the hands-down choice should be Jack Bogle.” Buffett went on to praise how Bogle helped “millions of investors realize far better returns on their savings than they otherwise would have earned.”

While undoubtedly true, there’s another side of Jack Bogle that merits attention—one that has personally affected me. He is a philanthropic man, who has helped lots of people in much more profound ways than merely enhancing their investment results. In fact, I owe many of the opportunities I’ve had in life to his generosity.

Jack Bogle funded my high school education at Blair Academy and, in so doing, provided me the foundations that led to my successes in college and graduate school. Without his help, I wouldn’t have gone to Blair. Without Blair, I’m not sure I would have ended up at Yale, or MIT, or Harvard.

It all began because Blair changed my life. It taught me the power of hard work, both in and out of the classroom. I learned to manage time, developing an ability to semi-successfully balance the competing obligations of academics, sports, family, extra-curricular activities and friendships. And most importantly, Blair gave me the personal confidence to take on intimidating challenges.

Last month, while visiting Blair for my 25th high school reunion, I had the opportunity to reconnect with Jack Bogle and again convey my gratitude. He was as genuinely interested in my activities today as he was 25-plus years ago! And while I believe my thankfulness was well received, it actually made me feel great to thank him.

The mere act of giving thanks and expressing gratitude actually had a positive impact on me.

Separately, June 30 was my last day on the Yale faculty. Since 2009, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching and learning from some of the most curious and engaging young minds on this planet. It’s been a privilege and an honor to teach at Yale, and like my time at Blair, one that would not have been possible without the help and support of many people. In fact, earlier today I sent off thank you emails to three individuals who were especially helpful during my time at Yale. Again, the mere act of giving thanks and expressing gratitude actually had a positive impact on me.

The opportunity to spend some time with Jack and reflect on my time at Yale led me to think about the many other people that have helped me along in life. From my parents to my ever-patient wife, from professors to supportive colleagues, from clients to employees, there have been hundreds of people who have been helpful over the years. In the weeks ahead, I’m going to make a point of trying to thank some of them.

My suspicion is that there are many people who have helped you along in your life or career. I want to encourage you to reach out to them and thank them. Sure, the traditional day of giving thanks in America is not until late November, but why wait? Fire off a note or two thanking people who helped you at some point over the next few days!

The power of gratitude is stunning, both in its ability to generate joy in its recipient, but also in the emotional impact on the thanks-giver. As the oft-quoted saying goes, “It is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.”

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