H i, I’m Jo Englesson, founder of TOFA and GRATITUDE TRAINING. It is important to all of us that each of you, who visit here or choose to join us on our journey of living in a state of Gratitude, have a picture of where we came from and how my experiences along with our collective experience may reflect similarities to your own.
It is an interesting conundrum that we all have a unique journey that causes us to frequently feel alone or separate, yet, in reality we are all on the same journey through life. Our circumstances may vary, the topography may differ but life gives each one of us the opportunity to choose how we react to our circumstances in every moment. It has been said many times in many ways:
"An obstacle is just an opportunity seen from a different perspective."
The history of TOFA and its foundation arose from my personal journey so I’ll begin there. Thank you for being here and reading our story. We hope this brief history may shift your perspective a few degrees or that the possibility of joining our joyful adventure may call to you.
I was raised in Sweden, in a prosperous family in a prosperous country at a time of material abundance. Like many of you, I grew up into the expectations my family held for me, at the same time rebelling against their concepts of who I SHOULD be and WHERE I should fit. Material success and professional accomplishment were expected. It was the expectation of family and others that drove me. Approval from people important in my life was my prime motivation. I had the education to support those expectations and had examples of success. On the material plane my life was fine, in fact excellent by many measures.
As an adult, I ran about as far away from Sweden and its cold winters and family expectations as I could get. I found myself on the beach in southern California, a Swedish blond in Los Angeles in the computer business. I embraced the crazy, frenetic California lifestyle that the world knows from movies and TV with all it implies, and I transferred my living to meet the expectations of a new group of friends. Not my family this time, not even the same expectations but nevertheless gaining my sense of self from the approval of others, not self-fulfillment or moving toward whom I longed to be.
My personal journey brought me to Southern Florida. If you see an underlying theme here, you are right. Anyone who has been to Stockholm in the winter will understand. Here I was in 2007, experienced in many ways; marketable skills, success, friends, personal relationships – continuing to fill expectations not my own. I enjoyed friends but always wondered what was next.
"There was nothing wrong: I experienced the usual daily human drama with people in my life, nothing serious, but there was an underlying gnawing sense that I wasn’t on my own path."
My success and professional experience had been great and educational but somehow not quite coming together in a way that supported ME. My love relationships were hot then cold. The melody was there but slightly off key. A close friend finally asked me to go to a transformational training in Ft. Lauderdale in 2007, she said “I needed it”. I went the first day - hopeful, not skeptical or cynical, but definitely with no expectations.
The class began. I have always been the kind of person to really “go for it” but had always seemed to never adequately complete whatever “it” was for me. We have all heard that “you only can get out what you’re willing to put in” to any sort of learning or teachable moment. After the first day I quite literally threw myself into every activity. I “got into it” as I heard a call to a possibility to live for my higher self. I saw the possibility to create something not only for myself but for other people.
I have to edit myself here. I don’t want to imply I changed instantaneously, like some sort of cartoon with a light bulb over my head. I was still me. Self absorbed, rushed, too much to do, frequently oblivious to those around me unless I was overly concerned about what they thought of me - but aware that I was becoming aware.
The autobiography of Jo Englesson up to this point has intended to set the stage for you to grasp the enormity of my personal reorientation. Everything up to this point in our history is prologue.
I was in the third part of a three part series of classes and was feeling a little raw and confused but still very much myself. I was rushing through a Florida airport in June 2007, intent on my mission, self absorbed, being me; the whole airport just a prop for my own personal psychodrama. BAM! An unexpected, unnoticed obstacle in the way of my, oh so important personal airport sprint: I had run headlong into an 80-year old man nearly bowling him over. Don Warms is a sweet, lovely gentleman who had recently lost his wife of many years, I later learned. I was oblivious, unconscious and could have done him real harm. He could have been angry, he could have been accusatory but instead he was pure LOVE. He was light and smiling. With a laugh he said I must have been in a real hurry and to be careful. He walked away with his VFW hat perched on his head, having expressed nothing but encouragement, love and support. It brought me up short. I wanted something to give him to say thank you. I had nothing. This unsung hero in a mundane incident was the interruption that broke the shell of the larval cocoon of my self-involvement. There was nothing I had to give to express my appreciation. That was the moment the idea of TOFA came to me. That was the moment I realized how many unsung, unacknowledged heroes exist in all our lives. They are there every day. We mostly don’t notice. Most of us have no “practice” of giving, no ready expression of heartfelt appreciation, no way to express our Gratitude for what I now call a “TOFA Moment”.
I have discovered that when I become aware, all the pieces I need to accomplish what I desire are already in place. I had the business and computer skills to create an online, trackable Token of Appreciation. Computers and the Internet would allow anyone to follow “their” TOFA as the ripples of appreciation would spread. I began immediately to design the tokens, found a mint where they could be produced and began the development of the website to track them. I was committed to a new path. For the first time in my life I was committed to follow through and complete. My path, my expectations, my future - all my own. One year to the day from our airport collision, I presented Don Warms with the first TOFA token - Number 1, expressing my gratitude to him for not only making a difference in my day but in my life.
A new group of friends who were similarly on a quest for their own personal fulfillment supported me during the next somewhat lunatic quest. I declared what I called “The Giving Year”. I committed to give a TOFA token every day to someone, to tangibly acknowledge the difference they had made in my life. Skills previously learned allowed me to film, edit and post each of these “Giving Moments” on YouTube. The filming, posting and commitment to doing this every day for a year began partly as a goal for myself and partly a personal challenge to follow through and complete something important. What I now realize is noticing these moments and learning to spontaneously celebrate appreciation and gratitude and express that joy by presenting a TOFA Token was PRACTICE. We all know that to become accomplished at anything takes practice. What I did not realize when the “Giving Year” began was how difficult that would be on some days. I did not understand how practicing each day to notice those moments and responding would further change my life.
By the end of 2008 I was engaged with TOFA as well as staffing personal development training classes in Florida and New York. I had become very good friends with one of the Icons of Transformational Training and for 6 months moved to Las Vegas to learn more from her.
Immersed in the computer world for so long I realized while there is an international groundswell in the idea of recognizing and having gratitude and the importance of “paying it forward” there was not a central clearing house for those looking to find ways, organizations, practitioners, trainers, etc. I conceived the Gratitude Directory as such a place. Again all the skills and contacts were already in place to launch www.GratitudeDirectory.com, an online resource to find gratitude businesses, products, articles and events.
Talking with new friends we conceived a celebration of Gratitude at the end of 2009. We held our first Festival in Fort Lauderdale on January 10th, 2010. Imagine a group gathered to celebrate Gratitude without knowing what to expect or even what that meant. We had a lineup of passionately committed entertainers, artists and life coaches all there to have fun and personally express Gratitude in their own way. The music, energy, enthusiasm and joy were infectious. People brought friends with no prior knowledge or expectation who left smiling, some with goofy grins, unexpectedly affected by the energy generated. In support of more Festivals and the community created, we have started www.GratitudeFestival.com and www.GratitudeProducts.com.
The basis for many of these activities is many of us doing some sort of what is euphemistically called “personal development work” or “transformational training”. We realized the ideas and concepts are ancient. Around 3500 BC the Mesopotamians began to record observations numerically. Seers, prophets and wise men have arisen throughout human history with strangely similar ideas regarding harmony, seizing each moment, noticing and honoring those around us. Yet we humans seem to be forgetful. Training is an essential reminder. Methods, perceptions and possibilities have been enhanced by the Internet and by social networks. People connect in new ways and configurations. We decided to mix modern technology, existing training practices and ancient wisdom to produce Gratitude Training, www.GratitudeTraining.com, a 9-day intensive workshop that will help us identify what holds us back in our life and then move us closer to our dreams and goals, similar to the training I took in 2007. As a follow up to Part 1 and 2 of the Gratitude Training we also offer a 90-day leadership program called Masterful Living. In this program the participants work together as a team to make a difference in their own lives and in the world as a whole. The computer, the Internet and social media allow connection and action in a way never before possible in human history. TOFA and the Gratitude Community will continue to use all these tools to stay connected and enlarge our circle of Gratitude and Giving. In an effort to reach the younger generations we have also created the Gratitude Camp, www.GratitudeCamp.com, that brings this learning to kids ages 5-14.
The wonder of what we now simly refer to as "Gratitude" is that all the people were here, ready and able to help in this endeavor. When a certain skill set was needed, it was already here. When we conceived ideas for supporting websites the names were available. Our Community is growing and expanding. The possibilities, events and connections have us all excited, enthusiastic, humbled and Grateful to connect with you.
Enjoy the site and check back here from time to time – our Story has just begun and we will keep our friends informed here and on the other Gratitude sites as well as on Facebook. Stay tuned!