By Shay Hughes
Expressing gratitude is a simple yet powerful habit we should all practice more often. This year at Hughes Marino, we’ve made it a ritual to start each team meeting by passing out a Post-it note with these words at the top: “One thing I’m grateful for today.” We each take a minute to write down one thought and then share it with the team. Not only is it a great reminder to everyone who writes down their thoughts, but after hearing a room full of people share what they are grateful for, we can’t help but feel uplifted, inspired, and appreciative of all the good in our lives.
A few months ago we did this exercise in our Orange County office, and one person’s message had a profound impact on me. When it came time for Vice President Alex Musetti to share his thought of gratitude with the team, he held up his Post-it to show everyone and it simply said the word, “Sand.” He paused for a long moment, and then followed up by saying that it was a word he and his dad have shared over the years that reminds him he can get through anything. He said his dad always told him, “Alex, you’ve got sand.”
The way Alex said the simple word “sand” that day made me think there was something deeper to his story, so I asked him if he’d mind sharing it with me to explain what he meant. He emailed me the following response:
“It was my dad’s 60th birthday on Saturday, so we all went over to his place to celebrate and I took some time to talk to him about the meaning behind “sand.” We really enjoyed it, and it made for some great conversation. I still find it difficult to encompass everything that it means to me, but below are some of my general thoughts on it.
“What’s interesting is that my dad knew of a few outside times and places that the expression has been used including Huckleberry Finn, and he assured me that it was an older term that he didn’t make up, but that we so rarely use today. He and I think it comes from the word “grit” and in many ways they have a similar meaning.
“Ultimately, we believe that to “have sand” means you can see something through to its end, no matter how challenging. We talked about being able to take a hit (metaphorically) with a smile, because you know it’s not enough to stop you. One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill who said “I like a man who grins as he fights,” and I would say that man has sand. When you take a hit and choose to keep going, you do so with the knowledge that another hit is likely coming for you somewhere down the road, and even with this understanding you persist with a smile because you are so confident that your sand will carry you to the end. My dad also called it a “variable filter” and suggested that if you have sand then you will inevitably succeed in any contest against others who don’t have it, no matter what the challenge is.
“He said he knows I have sand because he has seen me take hits in my life that many people wouldn’t come back from. It was a touching thing to talk to him about, and the overall experience was one in which we bonded. I loved having the conversation with him, so thank you for putting it in my head, and hopefully this helps explain what it means to us.”
In honor of Father’s Day, I thought it would be the perfect time to share Alex’s story about his father’s sage and powerful advice. You never know how far your words of advice or gratitude will travel in this world, so we should all choose our words carefully. For all the wonderful dads out there including my own loving father, and my husband Jason, the incredible father of my three children, I wish you all a very happy Father’s Day!
Shay Hughes is president, COO, and owner of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Seattle. Shay writes about business leadership and company culture on her blog, Lead from Within. Contact Shay at 1-844-NO-CONFLICT or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.