The Strength of Kindness

Be Respectful

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Key Point: It is so easy be mean spirited. It requires little or no emotional muscle and therefore it is so handy for the weak to serve it up. And bullies master meanness. I’ve seen hate-filled behavior in every part of my life. When it becomes the norm in a culture, the experience is toxic and deeply damaging. Kindness, on the other hand, takes intentionality and emotional strength. It also involves generosity of spirit. When it becomes resident in a culture, the members thrive and even fly. 

I was inspired to write this after attending a funeral. It was for the matriarch of a family in a wonderful farm community. I’m in the small town bar, post funeral, having a beer and reflecting as I write this. The town’s community hall was filled to the brim in celebration, as this 99-year-old woman’s life received appropriate tribute. This marvelous person was an exceptional mother, wife, grandmother, great-grandmother, seamstress, baker, community leader, and more, but the overarching theme of her life was kindness. She gave so much of it to caregivers in her nursing home during the last four years of life that the staff needed a quiet room to cry together upon her passing. The eulogies on her behalf inspired me to remind myself (and hopefully you) that one of our very reasons for living is to freely and generously offer kindness. Of course, to be genuinely kind, one has to have the strength to deeply care for others.

Five million people have read RJ Palacio’s book “Wonder.” It’s written for adolescents and (if you haven’t already), I encourage you to read it regardless of your age. August “Auggie” Pullman is a 10-year-old living in the fictional neighborhood of North River Heights in upper Manhattan. He has a rare facial deformity, which he refers to as “mandibulofacial dysostosis,” more commonly known as Treacher Collins syndrome and a cleft palate… As Auggie exclaims: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Due to numerous surgeries, Auggie had been home-schooled by his mother, and his parents decide to enroll him at Beecher Prep, a private school. As Auggie works at navigating school, his biggest nemesis is a character who barely conceals his disgust at Auggie’s appearance. He bullies Auggie and hates him for the way he looks. As Auggie struggles through the meanness and bullying, he sometimes wishes every day could be Halloween… “We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” How many people around us at work and in other parts of our lives feel this way? What do you and I do to make a difference?

Character Moves:

  1. At your eulogy, will one of the adjectives describing your life include kindness? (Not just the time you worked at United Way, or gave at the food bank). I’m talking about the everyday stuff from the moment you roll out of bed until you fall asleep. Every day has hundreds of moments inviting acts of kindness. 
  1. When given the choice between being right, or being kind, do you choose kindness? Personally, I have work to do here. I do not need to “win” all the time even though my ego says I should. 
  1. In the closing chapters of “Wonder,” the middle school principal addresses the student body at the end of school year’s awards ceremony. He introduces the challenge of “being kinder than necessary,” and concludes the event with a powerful quote by the 19th century abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher: “He/she is the greatest whose strength carries the most hearts by the attraction of his/her own.” How about getting emotionally buff through the strength of “more than necessary kindness?”

Kind strength in the Triangle,

PS… The following includes a link with great books about kindness. Reading them to children will be a little strength work for us too. 

Lorne 

One Millennial View: I often discuss how nice and kind I find people in Los Angeles to be. This is surprising to some, because L.A. is stereotyped as a stuck up, shallow city. But people mostly  smile here, they’re friendly and cheerful, and while some believe that’s just a fake front, it’s important to recognize that they’re choosing a positive demeanor over a negative one. I think this is because it’s easier to be kind. I’d argue that it takes more effort to be mean… Meanness also shows insecurity, and sends unappealing vibes… It’s just “not a good look.” As you also may have heard, in Los Angeles, a “look” is something people certainly do care about.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Humbled On the Street

Be Respectful

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Key Point: The “street” has a good way of giving us (well, at least me) a good kick in the behind from time to time. It helps keep our ego in check and also reminds us that we are one human in the system, no more or less than anyone else.

The other day I was walking home from work on Edmonton’s main downtown avenue. As you’d expect, Edmonton (like any good size city), has its colorful characters on the streets. I was waiting at a crosswalk, and saw a guy struggling to make it across the oncoming intersection. He looked like he might need a hand, or at least assistance keeping an eye out for traffic, as his walk light turned red. Intending to be “Mr. Compassionate,” I asked him, “you need any help sir?” He fiercely stared at me, as I stood before him all decked out in my suit, Italian made briefcase on my side. He then sneered, and matter-of-factly stated, “Who the hell do you think you are? Donald Trump?” Alright, then. Clearly, what was intended as a kind gesture, felt like a condescending put down from his point of view…Hmm… Lesson one learned.

Apparently needing more “street lessons,” the next morning, my wife and I were frantically trying to find a place to park in this crazy, crowded shopping center, so I could run in and get my daily Starbucks Americano. Of course, there was no place to legitimately stop, so I asked Kathleen if she would mind pulling into a loading zone while I ran to get a coffee to-go. As I get out of our car, a woman in a small, black, beat-up older vehicle honks at me. So, with an indignant smirk, I ignore her. She then rolls down her window saying, “sir, that’s a loading zone and you can’t stop there.” Smiling sarcastically, I respond to the interfering, self-righteous busy body… “Are you a cop or something?” To her delight, and my well-deserved surprise, she flashes me her City of Edmonton Police badge and sardonically serves up the following: “As a matter of fact, I am. Would you like to see the lights?” Red faced, I humbly reply, “No ma’am, and we’re moving that car right now.” The detective kindly accepted a coffee from me as we met inside the Starbucks line. We both laughed. Thank goodness she didn’t give me the ticket she would have had every right to serve up… ($300, she noted). Instead, she gifted me a nice dose of humble pie (the whole pie).

Character Moves (For me… If they work for you too, that’s a bonus):

  1. Lorne… Please remind yourself that you are just one; never more or less than any other human on Earth and that the “rules” apply to you, just like everyone else.
  1. Lorne… Be thankful that your street lessons were only mild reminders to be humble, and that a dose of humility is a gift to appreciate. Reflect upon them as a guide to see how long you can go, keeping your ego in check, before you stumble into another, and perhaps sharper “street correction.” Geez, wonderfully embarrassing, (sort of).

Humbled in The Triangle

Lorne

One Millennial View: If we’re all honest with ourselves, we’re probably guilty of these more often than we’d care to admit. I’d like to come to your defense for the first lesson though. Clearly that guy may have had his own issues. But, we certainly have to be aware of our surroundings and make smart, humble, self-aware choices. Confidence is great, but there’s a fine line between that and looking like a d-bag.

P.S. There’s a reason Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind” just won Video of the Year at the 2016 CMT Music Awards. It resonates. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Kindness is an Identity Detector!

Be Respectful

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Key Point: I recently had a chance to listen to employees’ stories that defined a memorable connection with customers and/or other co-workers. What made the stories worth remembering? In every case there was something much deeper than “service,” “responsiveness,” “quality” or other surface explanations. The underlying basis for a meaningful bridge built between two people was based on empathy, understanding, and ultimately a remarkable act of KINDNESS. This caused me to dig a little for a more complete explanation. Please note some research that may help us better appreciate the power of virtue, especially kindness, pertaining to advancing relationships:

“Moral features are the chief dimension by which we judge, sort and choose social partners. For men and women alike, the single most sought-after trait in a long-term romantic partner is kindness – beating out beauty, wealth, health, shared interests, even intelligence.”

“And while we often think of our friends as the people who are uniquely matched to our shared personality, moral character plays the largest role in determining whether you like someone or not (what social psychologists call impression formation), and predicts the success and longevity of these bonds. Virtues are mentioned with more frequency in obituaries than achievements, abilities or talents. This is even the case for obituaries of notable luminaries, people who are being written about because of their accomplishments, not their moral fiber.”

“‘Know thyself’ is a flimsy bargain-basement platitude, endlessly recycled but maddeningly empty. It skates the very existential question it pretends to address, the question that obsesses us: What is it to know oneself? The lesson of the identity detector is this: when we dig deep, beneath our memory traces and career ambitions and favorite authors and small talk, we find a constellation of moral capacities. This is what we should cultivate and burnish, if we want people to know who we really are.”

I would add… Consistently acting on who we are, is really knowing ourselves. 

And of course that’s why I believe so strongly in the Character Triangle’s three elements (they’re not perfection but the sincere pursuit of it). They are virtues so vital to our identity and relationships.  My short form and most accessible description of The Character Triangle is: Do it now, Be Kind, Give More.

Character Moves: 

  1. Are you consistently kind? I realize, especially after receiving some candid feedback regarding my kindness identity this weekend, I can do much better on this virtue. Kindness is NOT soft and it is an extension of really showing we care; not just saying we do. I see it is a key sub element of RESPECT and we are unlikely capable of being fully progressed on the respect scale without being unconsciously and consistently kind. 
  2. I lived on the beachside strand in Hermosa Beach, LA. It was an incredible spot. I walked by it for nostalgic reasons recently and noticed the well worn, imbedded sign, quoting the great John Wooden, at the corner of the wall that surrounds the home. I walked by the sign every day for more than a year, and probably even read it a few times. Now some 20 plus years later I’m more capable and committed to honoring the message that was waiting there for me all this time.

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Consistent kindness in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: One of my favorite podcast hosts routinely gives advice to the degree of, “It’s just so much easier to be nice than not.” I agree with this. And frankly, it boils down to acknowledging that it’s a lot of B.S. busy work to be rude. Think of the effort needed to be “mean” versus just, “nice.” Yeah, yeah, everyone and their mom hears, “nice guys finish last,” (except your mom tells you to be nice anyways). Fine. But really… I view “nice/kind” as a maze; it’s how you play it. Lay those “nice/kind” cards down right, and it truly translates to confidence, awareness, attentiveness, and values that certainly cross the finish line first. Know when/how to bend backwards, and you’ll earn the support to get pushed back up.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Change Agents in the Spirit of Mandela

Be Respectful

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“I believe that in the end it is kindness and generous accommodation that are the catalysts for real change” – Nelson Mandela at the launch of The Elders on July 18, 2007.

Key Point: Though Mandela’s health was failing for the past few years, his recent death was still met with an emotional response throughout the world. Tata, or “Father” as Mandela was also known, will be remembered as a true leader and human of incredible greatness and justice. “We have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us—he belongs to the ages,” said President Barack Obama in a speech following Mandela’s passing.

Over the last few days I have read and listened to what people who knew Mandela have been saying in tribute. So many adjectives apply, but the one word that seems to be at or near the top of every list is KINDNESS. It was unconditional love that allowed him to save and transform South Africa after it easily could have burned to the ground during the dangerous transition from apartheid.

Mandela teaches us that the truest freedoms and the greatest liberation are deeply connected to an endless love for humanity. In his own words, as seen in the above quote, “in the end it is kindness.”

There are so many examples of how Mandela lived kindness and how he lit up a room with it. The following story exemplifies this value in a very basic way:

Eddie Daniels was a close friend of Mandela, and he served a 15-year prison sentence on Robben Island while Mandela was incarcerated there. Shortly after Daniels arrived at the prison, he was assigned a duty to empty the chamber pots, or “buckets” of other prisoners. Daniels, a man who was skilled at disabling electrical power grids and thus was considered a dangerous terrorist by the apartheid government, could not bring himself to accept toilet duty. Daniels was desperately struggling with his situation. That’s when Mandela, who did not know Daniels at the time, walked over to the newly arrived prisoner, put an arm around him and told him that he would help him perform the duty. Daniels said he could only marvel and stand in awe at the gesture. Mandela understood his angst and anger. But he also understood the valuable role that Daniels had played in the fight for freedom for black and colored South Africans. Mandela came to his rescue and in this basic act revealed KINDNESS, compassion – and love.” As Mandela notes, this is perhaps the most powerful form of LEADERSHIP.

Character Moves:

  1. How about you and I just work a little more at acting with intentional kindness on a daily basis? We can get so caught up self-judging whether we are really getting the results of a life worth living, etc… We can forget that every day provides so much opportunity for our KIND behavior to contribute. As Marshall McLuhan so aptly said, “the medium is the message.”
  2. Rather than limit ourselves to thinking about acting kindly as a “cute and cuddly” discretionary approach for those attracted to mush headed soft skills, or for people who like websites and YouTube videos involving kittens, how about applying KIND behavior as a catalyst for REAL CHANGE? Kind does NOT mean weak or soft. It is a constructive weapon for change agents.
  3. Do you and I light up a room because people know that we are naturally kind and well intentioned? Do we behave with kindness because that is part of our life’s purpose rather than thinking about it as an “event?” Hey, our individual chances of impacting the world like Mandela are unlikely, but if we collectively breathe in his spirit? Well that is how sustainable change happens.

Mandela is The Triangle (and more),

Lorne

P.S. On the notion of kindness and Respect, Mandela was affectionately known as Madiba by family, close friends, and dedicated South African supporters.

 

Why Should You Pay It Forward?

Abundance Be Abundant Generosity Kindness

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Key Point: Be generous because the action makes you feel good, not because it will create a positive chain reaction of goodwill. But is “paying it forward” the right thing to do? Research published here by the American Psychological Association notes that “paying it forward,” a popular expression for extending generosity to others after someone has been generous to you, may not always work. Unfortunately it is more common to repay greed with greed. In five experiments involving money or work, participants who received an act of generosity didn’t pay generosity forward any more than those who had been treated equally. But participants who had been the victims of greed were more likely to be greedy to a future recipient, creating a negative chain reaction.

The published article states, “We all like to think that being generous will influence others to treat someone nicely, but it doesn’t automatically create a chain of goodwill. The researchers conclude that to create chains of positive behavior, people should focus less on performing random acts of generosity and more on treating others equally — while refraining from random acts of greed.”

On the other hand, researchers at UC San Diego and Harvard University published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which provides laboratory evidence that those who benefit from kindness tend to find it contagious, and “pay it forward” by helping others.

Recently our daughter took our 5-year-old grandson on an extended “pay it forward” journey. It involved many random acts of kindness and an opportunity to focus on positive, caring behavior without expecting reciprocity. My daughter describes how our grandson literally jumped and skipped with joy through the process. Her heart did the same thing. The researchers in the first study above would likely discourage this because their data suggests that no big “pay it forward” chain would occur. The other study reinforces that we need to further examine the outcomes of “pay it forward” activity.

Even if the APA research is more “true,” it is NOT the reason to discourage random acts of kindness. Frankly, we need a lot more of it. We shouldn’t do it because it’ll lead to something from someone else in return, we should be generous because it is a great way to treat others and good for our own hearts and souls. Giving because you expect anything in return is not the true spirit of generosity.

Character Move:

  1. Every season is a good season to offer random acts of kindness. But if you want to create a sense of contribution and personal value this holiday season, just go out and give without expecting anything in return. There is a 100 percent guarantee of generating a sense of personal well-being. Just give!
  2. Never pass greed forward. The most important reminder from the APA study is we can get sucked into feeling compelled or justified in passing bad behavior forward. “I got screwed, so I am going to screw over the next guy…” Wow… Stopping “screwing you forward” would perhaps be as meaningful as “paying it forward.” We can consciously stop the negative behavior cycle.
  3. Just give and become aware of how you feel about it. Do your own personal research. My guess is that random and/or non-random acts of generosity will put a little “five-year-old” skip of joy in your heart. That’s the reward you should be looking for.

Acts of kindness in The Triangle,

Lorne