“My Own Heart,” Gerard Manley Hopkins

My Own Heart

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in all a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather—as skies
Betweenpie mountains—lights a lovely mile.

We were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth.

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”

– Marcus Aurelius

10 Kindness Imperatives for a New Era

Note: I wrote far too long of an introduction to this, and then moved it to its own post. Read the introduction here.

  1. Do what you can when you can. Every kind act towards another being makes the world a better place.
  2. Treat all life with caring respect. All living beings merit kindness and compassion.
  3. Set your intentions for kind actions each day. Kindness should be as much of a factor in your to-do list as importance and priority.
  4. Spend time each day wishing the best to people you pass. By adapting this time-tested meditative practice, called metta in Buddhism, you increase the well-being around you.
  5. Bring joy to each encounter. If you see a friend unexpectedly, or see a baby, or an animal, you likely feel a jolt of spontaneous joy, and you can channel the essence of that joy every time you interact with others.
  6. Ascribe only the best intentions to others. Even when you are in conflict with someone else, you can defuse “me or you” oppositions by not treating the other party as the bad guy.
  7. Dare to be inspired. It takes an attitude of open kindness to see models for the good in what you see, hear, and read.
  8. Value yourself. You need self-compassion, focus, and energy to be an effective kindness practitioner in the world.
  9. Give. Really, right now, find a cause you care about, and give them even a small donation. Do it.
  10. Never forget that you are the steward of your own world. The duty of your stewardship is kindness.

Random Acts of Kindness (Guest Post)

I’m lucky to come across some wonderful people in my work on kindness. Recently, one of these kindness practitioners, Jennifer Wilhoit, reached out to me with a post she had written on how to offer spontaneous kindness to the people around us. She kindly agreed to let me repost it here.

RAOK: Random Acts of Kindness … Or, A Mini Primer on Kindness

Original Post

Kindness matters. It matters a lot. Being kind is not optional, frivolous, extraneous, or insubstantial.

A random act of kindness is: “a non-premeditated, inconsistent” action designed to offer kindness to the world.

Kindness has emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual benefits for the giver as well as the receiver.

I would add…

A RAOK shies away from recognition.

A RAOK is not imbued with an expectation of a particular outcome.

A RAOK is not always received when it is offered. It is in the offering of something, whether received or not, that kindness is added to the world.

A RAOK can alleviate stress, anxiety for a good long healthy moment.

A RAOK stretches a minute into an eternity, but does not demand any future engagement.

A RAOK does not concern itself – at all – with the many ways in which we separate ourselves from others (i.e. judgments, race, class, party, nationality, status, religion, gender…) for it is inherently unbiased and connective.

A RAOK joins hearts; thus, divisiveness is impossible.

A RAOK might never be remembered beyond the moment in which it is received, but this does not diminish its impact.

A RAOK is sometimes never, ever noticed or known by anyone other than the kindness-doer; it is still a kindness to and for the world.

A RAOK has a ripple effect.

A RAOK is soft and friendly. 

A RAOK has limitless manifestations.

A RAOK focuses a person outward – on others – giving their inner life a chance to heal, replenish, clarify, bloom anew.

A few possible verbal responses to a RAOK:

What are you celebrating?

Thank you.

Why are you doing this?

You’ve made my day!

Do I know you?

For me? Really?!

Or, the unfolding of a story about why this person needed this particular kindness on this particular day.

Or, the deeper unfolding of a much larger life story…

A few possible physical reactions to a RAOK:

A smile.

Giggling.

A Shrug.

Tears.

A deep sigh.

A hug.

The reaching for a hand.

Closed eyes.

A stunned expression.

November 13th is World Kindness Day: a global 24-hour celebration dedicated to paying-it-forward and focusing on the good.

February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day.

I can personally attest to the power of RAOK! Just ask me…

Editor’s Note: You can find the full blog here. I’d especially like to note two other recent posts:

Workplace Kindness Audit

How kind is your workplace? The questions in the 3-minute Workplace Kindness Audit that follows can help focus your thinking. The questions come from the kindness work of Kindness Communication. I’m sharing them as a gift with the Kindness community to help everyone become more aware of kindness in the workplace and to learn concrete ways to increase it.

Just a few thoughts before you begin.

  • In answering the questions, react to each statement on a scale of how strongly you disagree or agree.
  • Your answers are completely anonymous. In fact, the quiz does not even request your name. Just answer openly and freely.
  • Each statement describes a trait of a kind workplace. They haven’t been designed to force you to vary between positive and negative.
  • In answering, the best approach is to go with your gut. How does it seem to you?
  • At the end of the assessment, you will see a score, and see how it compares to the average. While the score is not scientific, it will give you a sense of your workplace’s kindness profile.

Thank you!

Workplace Kindness Audit

How kind is your workplace? The questions that follow can help focus your thinking. They are based on the kindness work of Kindness Communication. Just a few thoughts before you begin.

  • In answering the questions, react to each statement on a scale of how strongly you disagree or agree.
  • Your answers are completely anonymous. In fact, the quiz does not even request your name. Just answer openly and freely.
  • The questions have been written so that each statement describes a trait of a kind workplace. They haven’t been designed to force you to vary between positive and negative.
  • In answering, the best approach is to go with your gut. How does it seem to you?
  • At the end of the assessment, you will see a score, and see how it compares to the average. While the score is not scientific, it will give you a sense of your workplace’s kindness profile.

Thank you!

Kind Initiatives, Kind Results: OutLift

Can a sport culture focused on aggressive personal goals and high-intensity workouts also provide a seedbed for kindness? If you’re among the few people who haven’t heard of it, CrossFit is an intensive conditioning program that has taken the fitness world by storm with its rigorous workout approaches and philosophy of personal engagement and commitment. Here in Los Angeles, a group of LGBTQ CrossFit practitioners has formed OutLift to create a welcoming community for LGBTQ athletes and allies, and do some heavy lifting for visibility and tolerance in the process.

I interviewed the five founders to hear more of the OutLift story and learn about how these athletes champion the cause of kindness. On Saturday, June 18, they are conducting a daily workout dedicated to the victims of the recent horrific tragedy in Orlando. Click here to learn more about their event and how to support them no matter where you live.

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1. What inspired you to create OutLift? What aspects of CrossFit culture did you want to address? 

“CrossFit has been an evolving brand since it first started with military, firemen, police officers, etc.,” says Samantha Kinne, originally from the backwoods of Maine, who heads up outreach for the group. “There is still this stigma that it is only for a certain demographic. My biggest goal has been about making it accessible and inviting for everyone, especially LGBTQ people.”

Kevin Wu, who does programming and coaches workouts for OutLift, adds “I was looking for a social group of like-minded people to do one of my favorite activities. The consistency of CrossFit movements and terminology lends itself to having people from all over work out together, but because affiliates operate independently, you don’t see much interaction between individual boxes [i.e., gyms for CrossFit participants].”

Christian Port, an LA native, longtime nonprofit professional, and social justice advocate, reflects on what gave him the initial idea to form OutLift: “CrossFit has completely transformed my life and empowered the work that I do in ways that I never thought imaginable, and I’ve seen it have that effect on my peers as well. I saw the connection between CrossFit, social justice, and empowerment, and immediately recognized that it had the potential to be a conduit for social change, a disruption to the sense of disenfranchisement I felt during my youth.”

2. What kinds of things do you do within the group and the broader CrossFit community to make it a kinder, more welcoming environment?

Justin Sevakis heads up OutLift’s internal operations and finance. He describes himself as “a grumpy, closeted, pudgy nerd, and within a year became a fit, out and slightly less grumpy fitness enthusiast.”

Justin clarifies that he doesn’t know of any gym owners or coaches who are overtly homophobic. “But certain classically ‘bro’ attitudes can easily creep in from time to time. Having a visible presence for the LGBTQ community within CrossFit reminds the rest of the CrossFit world that we make up a valuable part of the scene. It’s a subtle way of making participating gyms a more welcoming place.”

Samantha believes the nature of the workouts creates kind camaraderie as she does outreach to other boxes. “Doing something new is always scary but in the end, usually worth it. There is something about doing a grueling workout together that builds relationships.” Kevin stresses stress that all athletes and allies are welcome, regardless of ability.

Chris Swanson, a Bay Area native, incorporates this approach into the branding and marketing communications that he spearheads for OutLift. He focuses on getting the word out there “to break down the perceived stereotypes about the sport and help create a brand that is approachable, authentic, and inclusive.” That approach dovetails with his personal experience beginning CrossFit. Although he has participated in a wide range of sports from soccer to gymnastics since childhood, “I was terrified,” he explains, “but by working through fear I found family.”

3. In your ideal world, where will OutLift be in three to five years? How would you like to expand your organization and its impact?

All five founding members see OutLift as a way to create more community among CrossFit gyms across Southern California. They want to break down some of the natural barriers that rise when each box has its own members and culture. Chris describes it as a way to “build stronger communities, providing strength, hope, safety and health.” They also want to help channel CrossFit’s typical high level of engagement to greater good in the world at large. “We’re hoping to work with local charities and do some good works, and also just allow friendships and connections to happen organically, that might not have happened otherwise,” says Justin. Kevin and Samantha both agree with that idea.

When thinking about broader impact, Christian further points out “we have so much work to do to challenge homophobia, transphobia, and stereotypes in athletics at the national level in a meaningful way. We need more honest and direct exposure with CrossFit HQ, and we need more out and proud LGBTQ athletes competing in the CrossFit games. There is a lot of work that we hope to do, such as working with LGBTQ youth and providing them with a safe and welcoming athletic environment that you don’t find in public schools. We hope to be doing big, bold things in the next few years!”

I didn’t go into my conversation with the OutLift founders thinking that a fitness technique would translate into commitments to creating a kinder world. But they reinforced one of the core beliefs I’ve come to in my Kindness Communication work. They turned out to offer a great example of an organization where kind attitudes yield kind results. Energy and commitment, when focused on kind principles such as welcoming and helping others, can translate into much more impact than what it might seem on the surface. If you’d like to stay in the loop with OutLift’s events and mission, I encourage you to like their Facebook page.

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Kind Business, Kind Results: Story2

In Kindness Communication’s latest Kind Business, Kind Results discussion, I spoke with Carol Barash, Founder and CEO of Story2. Story2 works with students to help them tell their most authentic story as a way to achieve college admission success. Unlike most other college admission support services, Story2 focuses on helping students be their own best advocate. The company offers a mix of online tools and coaching to help students explore their own stories and transform them into authentic writing for college, work, and life. It promotes the idea that telling stories unlocks a bigger, bolder life, beyond getting into college. I deeply appreciate the way they introduce this level of empathy and kindness to the highly fraught, stressful world of students aspiring to get accepted at colleges of their choice.

Here is a transcript of the discussion:

College admissions place so much stress on students and parents. The process can seem cold, even cruel, to aspiring students. How does Story2 work to make it kinder, truer to student needs, and better in outcomes?

​The college admissions process has become very commodified and transactional. Students struggle to get top grades and test scores, as if these are ends if themselves—and in the process, they often lose sight of their own purpose and possibilities in the world. Story2 encourages students to start with who they are, what they bring to college, and what they want to achieve and contribute once they get there. When you reflect on the experiences that shaped who you are today, and imagine what type of world you want to create with your unique gifts and talents, the process becomes much more positive and there is tremendous potential for student learning and growth. Students who use Story2 storytelling tools to write their college admission and scholarship essays consistently outperform students with similar grades and test scores. When you reveal your honest and authentic character—in college admissions, job search, or any part of life—people respond and want to help you.

What do you do with communities of educators and admissions professionals to promote more kindness in the process?

​First of all we help students and counselors to organize all parts of the admissions process—and especially all the different essays—so they can spend their precious time on the parts that really matter. Students can write better essays; teachers can provide one-on-one feedback; and counselors can spend time with students who most need their help. We encourage students to approach college admissions as a team sport, and to help everyone get to the shared goal of college completion with minimal debt.

How do the values that you’ve described affect the working culture at Story2, how people work together, and how you lead the business?

​We try to make Story2 a “judgement free zone.” If something goes wrong—and of course it will; that’s life—we try to look at the situation without shame or blame and see what we can learn and do differently next time. We created an instrument for team reflection that I’m ​quite proud of. It’s call an AOLP, short for Achievements Obstacles, Learning and Priorities. We created the AOLP at first to help students look at their work, day by day, with an eye to what was working and what they were learning—and what they wanted to work on next. When we applied it to our own work, we realized how much we actually do each day, and how much we could learn and grow if we pulled out even on thing we wanted to work on—our priority—for the next day.

To learn more about Story2, visit their website at www.story2.com. You can experiment with their EssayBuilder to learn more about their step-by-step, kindness-based process for completing powerful college essays, or help out high school students and parents you know by sharing the link with them.

Kind Business, Kind Results is a monthly series of posts in which Kindness Communication interviews business leaders who strongly exemplify kindness values and practices. If you’d like to participate, please reach out.