Put It In Writing

Anyone in my class at UC, or in the classes in which I guest-lecture, or who works on my sales team, or frankly, who spends more than five minutes in my presence, knows what a fan I am of handwritten notes. I talk to everyone about how important it is to send handwritten notes, whether for thank you’s, special occasions, holidays, Tuesdays, anything.

Today, I’m reminded why this is such an important thing for me.

About three weeks ago, I guest-lectured in a Strategic Selling class at UC. We discussed high-touch customer service, the concept of noble selling, and entrepreneurship. It’s a presentation I love giving, because it covers so much of what I’m passionate about, and the students usually respond really well. This morning, grumpy as hell, I came into the office to a giant envelope on my desk, full of handwritten notes from the students, thanking me for taking the time to come in and speak, and highlighting their favorite parts of my presentation. (I get an envelope like this every time I speak to this professor’s class, because she’s as much a fan of handwritten notes as I am.)

Each I get the thank you notes from this class, I start greedily. I open the first few cards in a rush, like a kid on Halloween, devouring fistfuls of candy on the way home, before your parents start rationing the sugar. Then, once I’ve read four or five, I slow down, and spend the rest of the day working, and occasionally opening one and reading it, whenever I need a mood boost. Some students are terse, writing out standard thank you note copy – “Thank you for taking the time to come speak to our class, we know how busy you are” – and others get a lot more verbose, and personal, saying how the presentation impacted them, or what points they are going to take to their jobs or lives after graduation. It doesn’t matter what the message is, honestly. I’m so honored and feel so gratified that any of them took the time to write out a note that each one is a gift.

Once I’m through the pile once, I go back through and re-read them again. The best ones, the most personal, the most touching, I keep. I have a box of notes in my office at home that I dip into whenever I’m having a rough day. If I’m feeling down, or like a failure, or that I’m not good enough to do all the things I’m trying to do, I’ll open that box, grab a few cards, and bask in the glow of reassurance that these notes bring me.

And when that happens, I’m reminded why I push so hard for people to send notes like this. I can’t be the only person in the world who is so touched by the effort and energy it takes to write out a card, a letter, a note on the margins of an article you think someone would like, etc. In this day of electronic communication, and everything coming across a screen in hard black letters on a white background, there is something visceral, something wonderful in holding a card in your hand that has someone else’s handwriting on it, their thoughts made real. Who wouldn’t want that experience, and who wouldn’t remember the person who gave them that moment of joy in an otherwise mundane day?

So I will continue to push the idea of handwritten communication. If me championing an old-fashioned tradition that requires pens, and paper, and envelopes, and stamps, and a post office, brings just one other person the joy I’ve felt this morning, I consider my campaign a success.

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