RANCHO SANTA FE — Walter Green believes everyone has a teacher, neighbor or favorite uncle who had a positive impact on their life. Chances are there are at least six people in yours.
Today he’s on a mission to encourage you to take the time to tell these “life changers” about their affect on you — not only for their sake, but for yours.
Green spent the last year traveling on what he calls a “voyage of gratitude” to meet with 44 friends he has identified as making a constructive difference in his own life.
His trek is chronicled in the new book, “This Is the Moment!: How One Man’s Yearlong Journey Captured the Power of Extraordinary Gratitude” published by Hay House.
Green rose from humble beginnings to enjoy success as a businessman, husband and father. In 1998, at the age of 57, he was able to retire in Rancho Santa Fe with his wife, Lola, and devote his life to philanthropy and volunteerism as a business coach and mentor. His pet project is the Elementary Institute of Science, an afterschool enrichment program in San Diego.
He bristles when he’s referred to as a self-made man.
“I have become what I am because of the people in my life,” he explains.
Green said his voyage of gratitude was fueled by two life-changing forces.
“My mother had cancer when I was 9 nine and my father had a heart attack when I was 10,” he said. “So the health of a parent taught me that life is short and unpredictable.”
The second was becoming aware of what people do when they realize their life is coming to an end. He cites books including Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” and Eugene O’Kelly’s “Chasing Daylight.”
“They want to be authentic and reconnect with relations,” he said. “If it’s so important, why not do it now?”
Green’s process begins by writing down the name of each person who’s been a positive influence on his life. He follows that with bulleted points that answer the question, “What difference did this person make?”
“This is a body of work,” he said, adding that it ranges from two to eight pages for each person. “My wife got eight pages.”
Green then contacts the person to schedule a time, and follows up with an e-mail listing the bases he’s going to discuss. He usually meets people in their home or a hotel, office or club. He always asks for permission to tape the conversation.
After returning home, he prepares two mementos. First is the audio-taped conversation. The second is a plaque with a photo of Green and his life-changer on the left and on a right a handwritten letter distilling their conversation. It ends, “Thanks for sharing my victory lap with me.”
“By doing this, it relieves personal regrets,” he said. “This gives you a sense of completion. You have the thrill of giving a gift. People love to be acknowledged.”
Green adds that even if the recipient doesn’t listen to the tape, his family will appreciate it after he’s gone.
Green’s own life-changers are men and women between the ages of 28 to 87. They include his older brother, a friend from youth who convinced him to go to the University of Michigan, business mentors and medical advisors.
It was never his intention to write a book.
In September 2009, Lola Green had lunch with Jill Kramer, an acquaintance who was editorial director at Hay House in Carlsbad. She mentioned her husband’s gratitude trips. When Green joined them later, Kramer set into motion a book, which took just a year to produce.
“This book is for me,” Green said. “It is an effort to see if I can move the needle in society.”
He says the ideal outcome is to awaken people to the power of extraordinary gratitude.
“The more you exercise that external gratitude muscle by telling others how you feel about them, the more benefits you and they get,” he said. “You are setting the table to allow the other person to piggy back and have the same experience. When they do they are blessed.”
“This is the Moment!” is available on amazon.com.