Editor’s note: Donald Thompson, a veteran entrepreneur and investor, writes an exclusive weekly column for WRAL TechWire about management skills, equality and challenges facing entrepreneurial companies. These columns appear on Wednesdays.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Before we all put on our sweatpants and slide into the holiday weekend, let’s take a moment to practice gratitude for the people and things that have kept us fueled throughout the chaotic course of this year. 2020 and 2021 have been years of unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety, and everyone I know is feeling their impact. As a society, we’re quitting our jobs, moving to new cities, investigating therapy and researching “signs of burnout” more than ever before. In short, we’re exhausted, and we need rest — or change. 

If that feels true for you, here’s a short exercise that may help you see the light on the horizon. Make a list of 10 things you’ve been grateful for this year. They don’t have to be the 10 most important things, and they don’t have to be sentimental or heavy. Go ahead and give yourself space to be silly. Why? 

Because practicing gratitude — even in a way that feels frivolous at first — helps train your mind to pay attention to the things that lift you up when you’re feeling down. That way, you know where to turn when you want help. When you’re lost for direction, practicing gratitude is also one way to find the next right step because it helps you see what you most enjoy and what brings you a sense of fulfillment. With that in mind, I want to share 10 things I’m grateful for this year. 

  1. My team. I am so proud to lead my team of all-stars at The Diversity Movement. The work we do is hard and can sometimes be emotional, but they do it with elegance, courage and flexibility. As a fast-growth organization, we hold each other to high standards, and I learn so much from them every day. 
  2. My advisors. I have spent so much of my professional life cultivating this diverse group of friends, mentors, coaches, and professional colleagues. They are my safe place to bounce good or bad ideas, and I trust them completely to let me know how I can improve and when I’m getting it wrong. I am thankful to have so many expert advisors in my personal network and that I am able to pay my privilege forward as a mentor to other emerging professionals. 
  3. My parents. I am grateful for the leadership lessons my parents taught me through their personal examples, patience, and compassion — that hard work is meant to be hard, that continuous learning is the only path to greatness, that my own excellence means little if my team isn’t winning and the point of leadership is to lift others up all along the way. 
  4. My wife, and my children. Thank you for making everything more fun. 
  5. Good bourbon. Same comment as above, and also thank you because my wife can’t make fun of my fruity martinis and umbrella drinks so often.
  6. My health, which is the foundation of all other things.
  7. Zoom for making work possible in ways I never could have imagined twenty years ago. I’m grateful for the speed and efficiency of communication that apps like Zoom, Slack, and Google Meet provide because they allow me to quickly and effectively connect with my team, my advisors, my fellow board members, and my family. We can make faster, better decisions and be more productive with our time.
  8. My selfie light because it makes me look good on Zoom calls.  
  9. My Aunt Cathy’s German Chocolate Cake because it is one of the only perfect things that exists in the world, and I will not share the last slice of it with anyone, even with my wife. 
  10. The reclining sectional in my bonus room, where hopefully, I will get to spend a good portion of this holiday weekend. Honestly, we don’t get very much time together, but when we do, it’s highly enjoyable. 

To those of you who read this weekly column, I am thankful for you and your attention as well. Have a happy holiday, friends, and as always, I hope you’ll let me know how I can be helpful as you push toward your goals. 

About the Author

Donald Thompson is an entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach. With two decades of experience growing and leading firms, he is a thought leader on goal achievement, influencing company culture, and driving exponential growth. He is also co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, a results-oriented, data-driven strategic partner for organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Donald serves as a board member for several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. Donald’s autobiography and leadership guidebook — Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success — will be released in 2022. Connect with him on LinkedIn and at donaldthompson.com