One of the little things that I do each year to make the world spin better is send close friends a copy of a favorite book. It’s quite the production. I spend hours reflecting over the past year. Then I choose one-hundred people that have inspired, blessed or touched my heart that year. I send these one-hundred people a copy of my favorite book that I’ve read that year. Been doing this for over a decade. What makes this gift even more special is that I always enclose a short note that I personally sign. And at the bottom of each note I always take the time to write a couple handwritten sentences to personalize each letter.

Of course, I don’t do this gesture each year to get a response…but the responses have been overwhelming. Phone calls of appreciation. Text messages of gratitude. E-mails of thanks. And handwritten letters of love. All saying… “Fearless is the best book I’ve ever read!”, “Same Kind of Different as Me changed my life!”, “Purpose Driven Life made me live and love differently!” I don’t count or do the math, but I think close to eighty percent of the people that I send books and a personal note to respond graciously.

Except three years ago when I mailed a hundred friends a copy of my good friend John O’Leary’s new book, On Fire.

I’m blessed with a wonderful staff. I travel personally and professionally to about 200 cities around the world each year. Work with hundreds of people – from high school students to senior corporate executives. Been doing this for nearly two decades. And my wonderful team never misses a beat. Except three years ago when we mailed my pal John’s book to my hundred friends.

Not sure what my team was thinking or smoking…but instead of printing all one-hundred letters and having me personally sign the letters with my two personal sentences…they used our TOMMY “auto-signature” on all one-hundred letters. No personal signature. No handwritten note at the bottom of the letter. Freaking auto signature!!!!

I don’t lose my cool with my team very often. I try to live the things I write about. But this error put me over the top. Took me months to get over. The most personal gift I send each year was ruined, in my opinion, with the most impersonal touch…. auto-signature!

And I have the data to prove it.

Do you know how many people sent me a note, a text message, an e-mail or a phone call thanking me for John’s new book? Not eighty people! Not eight people! I think about three or four folks.

And this poor response is not because of John’s book. On-Fire is one of the most special books I’ve ever read. And the author, a burn victim who lives life victimless, is even more special than his book. The poor response, I am certain, was because of the impersonal auto-signature.

Lesson: Auto-Signatures Suck!

People crave a personal touch. People are hungry for the little things that matter most. And people appreciate our efforts trying to accomplish these two things.

Risking offending many of my friends and family that are kind enough to send my family and I a Christmas card each year…I share this. I have a weird Christmas card ritual. I put all our Christmas cards in two piles and I don’t open them until Christmas day. Been doing this for years. I put the Christmas cards in two piles for a reason…to separate those that are personally hand addressed with those that use impersonal address labels. And I ALWAYS read the personal hand addressed cards first. ALWAYS!

Why? Because, like me, we are all wanting the personal touch, the extra mile, the little things that matter most and the holy grail…your hand-written signature, personal note or self-addressed envelope.

Just think about when we get our mail each day. What is the first thing we all do? We dig for gold. We look for the hand-written notes, the self-addressed envelopes and the personal letters.

The one thing we are ALL starving for and deprived of is time. Time is currency. Time is our most valued possession. And when we use our time to send auto signed letters… it is not worth the paper it is printed on. But when we do the little things in life…with a handwritten touch…that is worth all the gold in the world!