Donald Giannatti via Unsplash

Rock-Solid Advice from a Leader Who Walks His Talk

One of my Off the Rak guests told me a great story about rocks in his pockets. Except these rocks weren’t anything like a rock in your shoe. Instead, they provided a warm, positive feeling for him and the people with whom he shared them. And like rocks thrown in a pond, they had incredible ripple effects.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s give you a little context. I recently invited Chester Elton to join me on Off the Rak so we could enjoy a deeper exploration about his favorite subject: gratitude. Chester and his coauthor Adrian Gostick have twelve books to their names.

Often called the Gurus of Gratitude and the Apostles of Appreciation, Chester let me in on one of the ways he loves to walk his talk. I asked him:

Chester, how do you apply gratitude in your own life? You’re in the consulting business, right? So you’re not managing throngs of people anymore. So how do you incorporate gratitude in your everyday life as a person, husband, father, and grandfather?”

“I literally carry rocks in my pockets,” said Chester. “You have to take your own advice, right? What’s the expression? ‘You have to eat your own dog food.’ So I’m a huge fan of tokens and rituals … I have a really fun ritual I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, and I’ll share with you why I do that.”

Chester explained that he’d found a company that specializes in creating gratitude stones. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and the company simply etches gratitude on them. So every day, he puts a few in his pocket, and when he sees somebody who’s doing a great job, he walks up and thanks them with one of his rocks.

For instance, he might say to a crossing guard on his morning walk, “Listen, thank you so much for keeping our kids safe. I appreciate it. I have a small gift for you. It’s a little gratitude stone and just a reminder to let you know how much we’re grateful for what it is that you do.”

“I love that the token of gratitude is a stone,” says Chester. “Every stone is a little different, and it’s a little flawed just like we are. And yet when you toss a stone into a pond, it causes the water to ripple. And that’s the power of gratitude. So I like to say, ‘I hope this stone brings you good luck. And that every time you see it, you’ll be reminded of how much we appreciate the work you do.’”

Chester laughs a bit when he tells this story because he still can’t believe the big impact this small gesture has. “It takes what? A minute to say that? [Judging by their reaction,] you’d think that I had given that crossing guard a Fabergé egg, right? … My wife can’t believe how people react to it. ‘It’s a rock,’ she says. ‘You’re giving them a rock!’”

Never miss a post about leadership, transparency, and trust by signing up for my weekly mailing list, delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

I love Chester’s practice. I can just imagine that if you’re walking around, you can feel the rocks in your pocket, which is a great reminder that you’ve got to find someone you want to recognize or thank. Chester agreed and emphasized how much people appreciate this simple token—so much that he’s even had a TSA agent want to keep his gratitude rock despite knowing the rules that prevent him from accepting gifts!

Chester’s ritual of giving gratitude verbally and materially so that people remember the moment is genius. Why? Because it’s so simple to say the words, so easy to give this token, and so impactful on its recipients.

What might be a ritual you begin in your own life? It could be something like Chester’s rocks, or it could even be an unexpected kind word of thanks to someone. Let’s model what we know to be true and beneficial, thanks to leaders like Chester and Adrian who’ve made it their life’s work to understand the importance of gratitude. Or, in Chester’s words, “Let’s eat our own dog food.”


  1. Joe Johns

    Love this Walt. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to get a box of gratitude rocks that I can give out. Thank you!

    Reply to Joe Johns

  2. J. André Teixeira

    Dear Walt, this is a wonderful metaphor and it carries with it the other G word we should always have in our pockets: Generosity. The stones also remind us that gratitude and generosity go hand in hand, and they should be practiced towards others, but also towards ourselves. By being grateful and generous to others, we become better as individuals. The virtuous circle then ensues. Thanks for sharing. Warmest regards, Andre

    Reply to J. André Teixeira

Leave a Comment on This Post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *