[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Science of Success with your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:12.4] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success. I’m your host, Matt Bodnar. I’m an entrepreneur and investor in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m obsessed with the mindset of success and the psychology of performance. I’ve read hundreds of books, conducted countless hours of research and study, and I am going to take you on a journey into the human mind and what makes peak performers tick, with the focus on always having our discussion rooted in psychological research and scientific fact, not opinion.
In this episode, we discuss the incredible power of kindness, show how kindness triggers the helpers high and causes dopamine and oxytocin to flow through your brain, look at study data from 136 countries showing the science behind why kindness is so powerful. We walk through several concrete examples you can use right now to take action to be kind to someone today, and much more, with John Wang.
The Science of Success continues to grow, with more than 685,000 downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries, hitting number one New and Noteworthy, and more. A lot of our listeners are curious about how to organize and remember all the information that we talk about on this show. I get tons of listener emails asking me, “Matt, how do you keep track of all of this incredible knowledge that you get from reading hundreds of books, interviewing amazing experts, listening to podcasts and more?”
Because of that, I’ve created an awesome resource for you. It’s called, “How to organize and remember everything.” You can get it completely for free, all you have to do is text the word “smarter” to the number, 44222. It’s a guide, again, we created called, “How to organize and remember everything.” Listeners love it, I get emails all the time from people telling me how great it is, and how it’s helped them organize all the incredible information they get from this show, and all the other things in their lives they used to improve themselves. Again, you can get it completely for free. All you have to do is to text the word “smarter” to the number 44222, or go to scienceofsuccess.co and put in your email.
In our previous episode, we discussed the errors people make in their reasoning and how to correct them. We explained a number of statistical principles to help sharpen your thinking and make you a better decision maker. We looked at why every $1 spent on a Scared Straight program creates $400 in additional cost to the criminal justice system. We talked about the illusion of objectivity, why you should not rely on your intuition, and much more, with Dr. Richard Nisbett. If you want to make better decisions and build a tool kit to do that, listen to that episode.
[0:02:30.2] MB: Today, we have another exciting guest on the show, John Wang. John has spent the past several years researching the scientifically proven benefits that being kind to others has in our own lives, making us not only happier, but healthier and even more attractive. He’s also the founder of the One Kindness Challenge, which transformed a personal experience into a mission to spread the healing power of kindness. We’re going to dig more into that, but John, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:02:53.1] JW: Thanks Matt, I appreciate that.
[0:02:55.0] MB: Well, we’re super excited to have you on here. For listeners who may not be familiar with you or the One Kindness Challenge, tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us your story.
[0:03:02.3] JW: Well man, every single year I try to take on a little personal challenge for myself. So like, one year, I did radical honesty, which is you have to go and tell only the truth. You can’t lie, not even lies of omission, and ever since that one year, I got addicted to seeing how I could push my personal experience in life, which gave a new perspective on how I view the world.
One other year following that is that I started taking people I was meeting on the street, especially homeless people, out for lunch. So every single day, if I see somebody who’s homeless, I would just say, “Hey buddy, can I take you out to lunch and then chat with you about your story?” And then we’d chat over lunch, and they were telling me what their life journey has been, and it was mind blowing. A lot of these people have such rich stories and histories.
So this year, I was kind of without a story, and I realized that I didn’t really have missions myself. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I reached a point in my life where I was pretty happy and comfortable with what I wanted, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to take on, what the next challenge was. Now I travel a lot, so I’ve been to over 40 different countries. Travelling around the world, I saw a lot of different cultures, but earlier this year, I was in Nepal.
I don’t know if everyone is aware, but Nepal has just gone through one of the worst natural disasters of an earthquake over the last year and it has done some really tremendous damage to the country. But when I was there and I was seeing that even though there was a lot of changes that these people have had suffered through, infrastructure, some of the stuff wasn’t working, they were having electric shortages, they were having shortages of gasoline and stuff like that, I found that the people there were probably some of the most giving and warm people I have ever met.
I mean, people were going out of their way to try to add to our lives and help us in any way. At one point, I was coming back from this little hike, and we’re stranded on the street, and I had three different cars stop and ask if they could give us a ride. I was blown away. I was like, “You guys have gasoline shortages, so why are you trying to give this random stranger rides?” and they were just saying, “Well, because it’s just a thing that you do and it adds to your life.”
So that philosophy really stuck around with me. So I came back to North America, and I was just going about my day, and I was just realizing that it was the winter time and I was having low days, and I was just low on energy and stuff like that. One day I was driving up out of an event, and I was with a friend, and on the street I saw this guy that I’ve known. I wasn’t very close with him, but I have met him at a couple of events, I met him at a couple of parties.
I pulled over and I said, “Hey buddy, where are you going? Do you need to go somewhere? Let me give you a ride,” and he said, “Well yeah, I need to get groceries. I could walk.” I was like, “No, hop in. I’m going to drive you to get groceries,” and so he hopped in, and it was at 1 AM, so we had to drive all around downtown Vancouver looking for a grocery store that’s open 24 hours, but we found a place, and we hopped in to the grocery store.
We walked around, and we chatted and we laughed, we got to bond a little bit, and at the end of it, he was so thankful. He was like, “Look man, I really appreciate this. I was going to just take a walk over, and that would have added another hour to my evening. So I just want to say I really appreciate what you’ve done,” and I was like, “No worries,” because at that moment I felt so incredibly happy. It was this random bizarre thing, I was having a low day. I was having this tired day and I was like, “Man I feel really great!” I feel like stoked, I feel excited. I was enthusiastic.
So I came back home and I was like, “Is there a reason for this?” Because I was always a little bit of a psychology and science nerd, so I’m like, “There’s got to be studies about this.” So I [unintelligible] and did a Google on kindness and how it makes us feel, like, where is that coming from. As it turns out, there’s been tons of studies done, but we just have been terrible at talking about it. As it turns out, kindness isn’t just a thing that you do for other people. It is directly tied into how it makes us feel, and we’re going to talk about this later on, but there’s an evolutionary purpose to why it is that kindness is one of the strongest driving forces in making us happier and I just thought that was really cool.
So after the event, I was like, “Well dude, I’ve got to get this out there. I’ve got to get other people doing this, and feeling like this all the time, because if just this one little act could make me feel so much happier, and so much more energized, and so much more passionate, what will happen to the world if we get thousands of people doing this?” So anyway, that’s how the One Kindness movement started, and we went and started doing research on how we could best remind people, because I mean, honestly, I think most people want to be kind.
I think it’s not really a surprise to say kindness makes us feel good. Everybody knows that, but we just didn’t know why. We just didn’t know how it made us feel, exactly what the process was, what exact chemicals are going through our brain, what is that trigger that makes you feel the hit of dopamine and see that rise in your oxytocin levels? The biggest reason why we don’t do it often is usually because we don’t get reminded of it enough.
And that was the second part of it. Well okay, we need something to create a psychological anchor, and in the past, I did a little bit of research into NLP and how anchors work, and I was like, “Wow, well why don’t we merge that together? Why don’t we create something that can create a physical reminder that, whenever we looked at, it would remind us of how we felt, and it will remind us of why we do this, and even more powerfully, it will remind other people of why we do this.
So the band, basically, if you want to take a look at it, and you can check out designs of the band, it’s on our website, which is onekindness.org. It’s just a simple wristlet, like a bracelet, and then there’s a little part where you can flip it over, and once you flip it over, you could see our logo. So every single morning, you start by wearing the bracelet on one side, which says One Kindness, which just reminds you go out there and do one kindness, one act of kindness.
Because really, it is a daily consistent act that build ups, and after you do your one act of kindness you flip the band around, and then you see the logo, and it just reminds you that you have done it. Other people see it, and they’re like, “You’ve done it!” They remind you of that, and you get to inspire the people around you to do more of that. Isn’t that cool?
[0:09:11.5] MB: That’s awesome. I mean, that’s some fascinating challenges that you’ve put yourself through. I mean, everything from radical honestly to taking homeless people out to lunch for a year, that must have been really, really insightful, and I can see how that inspired the journey towards the One Kindness Challenge.
[0:09:26.9] JW: Yeah, radical honesty was a fun experience, I will say. It was a difficult experience. I mean, not to say that I’m not an honest person most of the time. I am, and I try to be, but you’d be surprised at how often we tell these nice little pleasant lies that kind of, it’s a way just to make our day a little bit easier. If somebody asks you, “Hey, how are you doing?” and we go, “Great,” even if you’re having a crappy day, and we think well, what’s wrong with that?
We don’t want other people to get involved, we don’t want to start a huge conversation. That makes a lot of sense, but as it turns out, a lot of dishonesty actually creates a sense of disconnection from people. So if you ever get a chance to check out the book Radical Honesty. It’s by a brilliant psychologist. His name is Robert Blanton, and he started a movement about radical honesty, but we’ll get into that some other day, because I think today we’ll just talk about kindness.
[0:10:22.0] MB: Definitely. So you touched on and talked a little bit about the band. Just to reiterate, what is the One Kindness Challenge itself?
[0:10:28.9] JW: It’s actually a really simple thing. Now at the end of the day, like I said, we all want to do kind things. We all realize the power behind kindness, but it’s easy to forget, even right here with us right now. You could think of a time where you’ve done an act of kindness, it could be recently, or it could be from a little while back ago, and I want you to picture that. Picture what it is that you’ve done, or picture what it is that you’ve been seeing somebody else do, and how that made you feel, how that experience felt.
Like, just take a moment, just really immerse yourself in that memory and how did that make you feel? What are the feelings that you’re going through? What are the experiences that you’re going through in your body? And in that moment, even just now when you are remembering it, when you are picturing yourself there now, what you’re experiencing could be one of a few things. Maybe you are experiencing some level of warmth. Like warmth that is starting up at your chest area, and it could be feeling like this calmness, this serenity and happiness.
So what is happening there is that your kindness is actually triggered by this thing called the vagus nerve, which is right at base of our brainstem, and the vagus nerve basically controls things like your digestive track and your body functions, but more importantly, it controls your heart and your heartrate. So this has been linked in a lot of ways, the Vegas Nerve to empathy, and feelings of sympathy and empathy, which is why a lot of times when we see somebody doing act of kindness, you get that same feeling as if when you were doing it yourself.
If you have ever watched those videos, you can go into these great series of videos that are made by a Thai insurance company, and one of the videos has this guy just going around doing these daily simple acts of kindness, and he’s just going around helping people do things like water plants, and helping old ladies cross the street, helping street vendors, giving some money away to somebody who’s perhaps living on the street and not as fortunate as he is, and he’s not a rich man or anything like that. He’s no Bill Gates, he’s no Elon Musk, or some great philanthropist, he’s just some guy trying to make people’s lives better. Every time I watch that video, I get that same feeling. I want to tear up. I just feel like this amazing sense of joy and everything like that.
So what I’m experiencing, what you’re experiencing in that moment when you’re watching that and feeling that, and remembering that, is that you’re getting a hit of dopamine. You’re getting this hit of oxytocin in your body, where that level is going up, and you’re feeling what scientist have now called “The Helper’s High”. It actually is kind of a high, because you really do get this thrill from it. So our goal with the movement is very, very simple.
We’re trying to get as many people doing a daily act of kindness, and like I said, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing a massive act like, “Oh, I’m going to go out and help build a shelter, build a hospital down in Peru,” or if you are doing something extremely simple, which is just like, “I am going to open a door for somebody, I’m going to help that lady in the parking lot with her groceries. I’m going to go up at someone and say, ‘Hey listen, I just want to say I really appreciate you and what you’ve done.’”
Or you might write a note of thank you to my old high school teacher, or my old friend who once helped me and I never got to really express that. All of those count as acts of kindness, and the funny thing about that is that, as it turns out in these studies, there’s not a massive difference between the size of the work that we do, but there is a massive difference in the consistency.
Which is to say, if you do one act, like let’s say you do one massive act in one day, and then you don’t do anything again for six months, the effect of that is not anywhere near as powerful as if you were to do, let’s say, 21 days of these smaller acts, which is why we tell the people who are part of our movement, we say, “Look, you could participate in this, we hope you participate in it forever, just what an amazing thing you’ll be doing in the world, but at the very least, try it for 21 days. Do it once a day for 21 days, and see how it makes you feel.”
I can guarantee you, it will change your life. It would change the way you see the world. It would change the way people look at you, which is another thing that we talked about, which is actually kindness makes you look more attractive to the opposite sex, and to other people, which is great, but it would change your lifestyle. It would change how you feel. So our goal is to try to get a million acts of kindness out there, because it’s very clear that right now, we need to more kindness in this world more than ever.
Whatever your politics is, whatever your background or culture or history is, I think it’s pretty clear that right now the world is going through some changes that, let’s just say, there may be more to this, right? People are becoming a little bit more disconnected. People are becoming a little bit more distant from each other. So we need to build that back into our societies. So that’s what the movement is about, We’re trying to get people to go out there and do 21 acts of kindness at the very minimum, and just watch their lives change.
[0:15:24.7] MB: You know the insurance company commercial that you mentioned, which we’ll include in the show notes, is amazing. The first time I watched it, there’s a moment where some of the seeds that he planted, I don’t want to spoil it, but it starts to show, to bear fruit, I guess, and I literary broke down bawling and crying. It was such a powerful video, so I definitely recommend everybody listening to check that video out. It takes three minutes, and you’ll definitely get a huge emotional reaction and a hit of oxytocin, dopamine, etcetera, but I think you made a really good point.
[0:15:56.6] JW: I think it was you who told me about the video, Matt. I actually think it was. We were on a call before, and you were going and were like, “Oh, you’ve got to go check out this video,” and you’re absolutely right. I started to bawl. I am not a person who gets emotional very easily. I’m not a person who cries very easily, but man, when I saw the video I definitely started tearing up.
[0:16:16.5] MB: Yeah, it’s super powerful, but for listeners who want to check it out, it will be in the show notes and you can find it there and watch it. I think you made another really good point as well, which is that regardless of the current political climate and everything else, even with just the advent of the internet and the way that people consume information today, we’re so much more solo and cut off from other people in many ways.
You know, being a millennial myself, when I want to order food, I would rather interact with a phone than go interact with a person, you know what I mean? And so finding a way to reach out and connect with people, I think, is really, really powerful.
[0:16:49.5] JW: I completely agree with you, and I am exactly like that. I’ve got all of these ordering apps, and if you take a look at what made Uber very popular in a lot of ways, it’s not just the fact that it’s a convenient way to get a taxi. It’s also the fact that now there’s a way that we can just enter the address, and we could pretty much just hop in the car, never say a word, and then arrive, and then hop out of the car and just be like, “Yeah, thanks.”
[0:17:12.6] MB: Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you, I was going to say the funny thing about Uber is it’s funny, because it definitely taps into that dynamic. I’ve had so many interesting experiences with Uber drivers, where if you just engage them, you can peer into their lives and have some really fascinating moments of connection in a 10-minute car ride. So you can flip the script a little bit, and if you want to, it’s a really cool opportunity to meet people that are totally outside of your sphere of influence, or the way that you normally live your life.
[0:17:39.7] JW: I absolutely agree with you. It’s one of those things that’s easy for you to make a connection with somebody, and note that that’s what I always really emphasize. That it’s not just about saying hi. It’s not about the word, it’s about making a connection, and we’re really lacking at that right now in society, because we have Snapchat, we have Facebook. I have, I think, over a dozen different messaging apps on my phone. I don’t even know why I have so many.
I’m like, “I have this one.” I’m pretty sure that at a certain point, I’m going to start having more connectivity services than I have real friends that I hang out with, and there’s something not right about that, but we’ve replaced real connection with this kind of false image of connection. We replaced going up to somebody and saying like, “Wow, I saw the picture of your trip. That was amazing! Tell me about what the trip was like,” with Facebook likes and Instagram hearts. We’ve turned into this O-connection society, which is a tragedy, because there’s so much to be had in making that human connection, that we never know how much power that is. We’re becoming more and more disbanded. We’re becoming more and more lonely, but there is so much power in reconnecting.
You know, in the 1970’s, there was once a man who walked onto the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and then he crawled over the ledge where there is a railing, and he sits there and he thought for a moment, and he jumped. He plummeted 220 feet or so, hit the water, and didn’t make it.
His psychologist, who with the help of the medical team afterwards, basically went to his apartment to try to find out what had happened. His psychologist’s name is Dr. Motto, and they went into the guy’s house, and they went up to his desk and his bureau, and on his bureau was this note, and all it said on there was, “I’m going to the Golden Bridge today. If one person smiles at me along the way, I will not jump.” And it was such a harrowing moment.
The psychologist, later on, had an interview with the New Yorker, was recounting this experience as it’s something that’s so small, that was all he was looking for. I’m not saying that that’s the only thing that that person needed, and I am not saying that all the people who are going through depression or difficulties, that’s all it takes to get them out of it. Certainly, I don’t want to diminish the experiences and the difficulties that they’re going through.
But day to day life, from what most of us are looking for, is not a massive thing. We don’t necessarily want to have 15,000 best friends, but on a day to day basis, we just want that human connection. That’s what we are. We are humans, we’re social creatures. We started off as social creatures, and we still are social creatures, and technology has started to replace real connection with messages, and Instagram likes, and all these things that aren’t real human-to-human emotions.
And that affects our physiology, that affects our psychology at a very deep level, because that is what we are, evolutionarily speaking, accustomed to, and we’ve had that taken away from us, right? Which is a tragedy in this day and age. I was recently at a conference called Socialite, which is a gathering of all these people who are talking about various things that make the world a better place, and talking about things like entrepreneurship and businesses that have these social elements built in.
For example, Tom Shoes is a great example of this. They have this thing that they do where if you buy a pair of shoes, they would give away a pair of shoes to somebody who is needy, and I was very fortunate to have been invited to be the opening speaker there, and we talked about the One Kindness movement, and the project, and how were going to get a million acts of kindness out there in the world, and get all these people, hundreds of thousands of people to do daily acts of kindness, and seeing what the effect would be.
The crowd was absolutely phenomenal, that they were excited about the idea, and what was really cool with that, after I gave the talk, people are coming up to me and they were telling me about all their stories, and they’re telling me about all their experiences, and how they felt after they heard it, and I was like, “You know what? Do me a favor. Go out there, go do your acts of kindness, and after you’ve done them, send me a message if you experienced something of a change.”
And you would not believe the messages I got back. You would not believe people’s stories. There’s one story of somebody who went to a nearby café, bought a cup of coffee and she started this thing where you start a coffee chain. Basically, buy a coffee for someone else. She was going in there, she’s like, “I’m going to start a coffee chain. I’m going to buy a cup of coffee for the person behind me,” and you can do that. Almost all cafés will let you do this. “I’m going to buy a cup of coffee, and I want to buy a cookie for the person behind me, for the next person who comes in.” They’re usually really happy to do this, because it’s a fun cool way — I remember, I think, recently there was one big one that lasted for days. It was like — people, like hundreds of people, are coming in buying something, and then buying something else for the person behind them.
It just like, a part of the movement like that. This woman was like, she walked to the barista and she said, “Hey listen, I want to start this thing,” and they’re you know, really happy to oblige when she said, “I also just want to say, you know, I really appreciate the work that you do. You might not have heard this enough, but I really appreciate that you’re here, and you’re making my life better, and you’re making the lives of other people better.”
The barista apparently just started to tear up, like, “I haven’t heard something like that in a long time, so thank you.” Just like that, they have this amazing human connection, right? The science behind it is fascinating though. The science behind kindness is really fascinating. For example, I’ll talk about one publication over at Harvard, you can go and check it out, I’ll ask Mat here to give you guys a link here.
Harvard published a study done by three different scholars, Elizabeth Dunn, Lara Achnen, hoping I’m pronouncing them correctly, and Michael Norgen. They went on and did a study, basically, about trying to see how spending, what they call “pro-social spending,” which is spending on, not just yourself, but other people, have an impact on you the giver, right? We all know that giving it to somebody else, the person who receives it loves it, but what is the difference in how it makes us feel?
What they did was pretty interesting. They approached a bunch of people, and then they broke up in two groups. For the first group, they were given $20, and they were told, go and spend this $20 on yourself. Go buy yourself something you want. They measured their happiness levels before and after. For the second group, they gave them the same amount of money, here’s 20 bucks, go out there and spend it on somebody else. The only thing is it can’t be somebody who can reciprocate. You can’t just give it to your friend to like, “Yo, I’m going to buy you a meal today, but tomorrow you go buy a meal back,” right? You have to give it to somebody else who you think you’re going to make their life better.
A lot of these people, all the participants are university students, they’re not very well off. The 20 bucks is, I mean, the time I was in the university, it’s a few beers, right? It’s something that can make a difference. They went out there, and they were expecting, because one of the professors or one of the researchers was part of Harvard business school, of course, they kind of have this hypothesis that personal spending will bring back greater joy.
When they came back, they found that not only was it not true that that personal spending, when you spend money on yourself, will give you more joy, the group that came back with having spent money on other people found a massive increase of happiness. They were coming back reporting significant increases to their happiness. They’re like okay, apparently spending money on other people can be an effective root at creating your own happiness, at hitting those particular chemicals.
That’s pretty interesting, but then they thought about and they said, “Well, what if we’re doing this, and just the fact that $20 is not a big deal? What if people aren’t feeling the essence of loss,” because we talk about things like loss of virtue, we talk about things like fear of loss all the time, what if $20 is just not that big of a deal? They said, “What if we up that amount to something significant like a thousand dollars?” They went back to the university and they said, you know, “Can we have like, a million dollars to give away to people?” and the university is like, “No.” What they did was, well, you know, okay, what if we take a look at countries in which $20 have the same spending powers?
That’s what they did. They went out and they examined the correlations between charitable giving and happiness in over 136 countries, which is ridiculous. In particular, they would go to these third world countries in, you know, Asia and Africa, and they would go and talk to the people there, and they would bring in participants and they will be like, well here’s, which over there had about the spending power of, I think they did the calculation, something around $800, which is massive, basically.
It has the spending power of basically buying food for them for almost several weeks, if not a whole month. A lot of these people didn’t have enough food to cover their own basic needs. This should be significant now, we should see a decrease in the amount of happiness, because they’re giving away food that they actually need to survive, right? What was interesting was that, in this one, for the group that were tasked to give away this amount of money, and I think that they also have them like, buy treats, or like, give away little bags of food, and snacks, and other things that could really make a difference in their own lives.
That group came back reporting massive, absolutely off the charts changes in their happiness levels. They were fascinated. They were blown away. Why is this change so massive? I mean, shouldn’t you be feeling that same thing that we talked about? We talked about things like you know, level. We talk about things like gain theory.
We talked about things that were — people don’t like watching other people have more stuff in general. Why are they feeling this? As it turns out, there were talks of participants and the participants would say things like, you know, “Look, it’s been years since I’ve ever been able to make somebody’s life like that better. To get that opportunity was huge for me,” and they loved it. They loved that feeling of helping, and they loved wanting to feel that helper’s high that we were just talking about.
It’s really incredible, and there’s been studies done that show the same thing across different age groups. I have a study where scientists have brought in children, and they were tasked — and we’re talking, like really young little kids, really adorable little kids, five to seven years old. They were told that you’re going to come in, and we’re going to have a photographer take some pictures of you, but when they came in they’re like, “The photographer’s not here yet, so why don’t you sit here and have a little snack.” They will be given two different places, and plates had this whole thing covering it. In front of the two kids, they would raise the two covers at the same time, and one of the kid’s plate, there will be food, there will be a sandwich.
Then in the other kid’s plate, there will be nothing. They wanted to see what the kids would do, because we know kids, and I’ve been around kids a bunch of times, and I have like nieces and nephews and stuff like that. Kids can sometimes be kind of jerks, right? There’s nothing wrong with that, but kids can be kind of selfish sometimes, right? They were kind of surprised to see that idea that we’ve had, like kids can be kind of selfish sometimes, is really not something that we see at ages of three to five years old, or even two to four years old.
It’s something that we kind of learn later on, and it’s an interesting phenomenon. Because with the younger kids, they found, there’s a higher rate where the kids would just pick up the food that they have, tear the sandwich in half, and then put one half on the other kid’s plate. Again, this is without any instruction, this is without any kind of prompting or anything like that. They just naturally wanted to give. I think that tells us a lot about the way our instincts are. They even did studies where they would examine what the actions and instincts of toddlers, literally one to two years old, that can barely walk the age that they were measuring, one year old.
They will find that even at that age, kids are natural — their natural instinct is to help other people. It’s an interesting phenomenon that it’s something that we almost forget the older we get. It’s something that we almost get taught to let go of the older we get.
[0:29:30.0] MB: It’s so fascinating that you know, at the same — obviously the research behind this is really compelling, and it’s science-based, but at the same time, its’ such a simple thing that one kind of almost minuscule act of kindness can create a ripple where, like the coffee chain you're talking about, where you don’t even understand, really, the full impact that you might have just by smiling at somebody, or just by saying thank you, or holding the door for them. Something that to you almost seems insignificant, it can create a wave of kindness that goes beyond what you can even potentially imagine.
[0:30:03.6] JW: Yeah, absolutely. In ourselves and in others. Because we don’t know what it is that the other person is going through, right? We don’t know what the other person is experiencing. Something as simple as just smiling at somebody, you know? Walking down the street. I had a friend who once was having a bad day, and decided to just sort of take him on — this was back when we were in a university, and he was just like, you know, I wonder how many people are going through what I’m going through?
He started walking around campus and he just — it was exam season, when everybody was stressed out. He started walking around campus and he would go up to random people, just walking, having their day, and he would go up to them and ask, “Hey, are you okay? You look like you’re about to cry.”
The first person he talked to and asked that question started to cry. He was like, “My god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to trigger that.” The other person was like, “No, thank you. I really appreciate that. I am really stressed out and I really appreciate you asking that.” He was like, “Well, is this just the students?” This is not really that scientific, he wasn’t doing this as a part of a study, nothing like the studies that we’re just talking about.
This is a little bit anecdotal, but then he started to do this on a regular basis where he would start going up to people and asking, “Are you okay? You look like you’re having a tough day.” We would think that would be a kind of rude thing to say to somebody, but you know, he wanted to take that chance to see if he can make somebody else’s say better, and he was just constantly coming back and telling us how you encounter somebody who was actually going through something really tough, and we always put on this brave face, and we try to take it on ourselves. We try to take it on independently, because we’re taught to do that.
But you know, a simple thing like a smile, just “Hey, listen, I appreciate what you're doing here,” and like, “Hey, I really like your scarf. I just want to tell you that your eyes light up the room for me.” These little things that we’ve become so afraid to break that social gap to say, social wall to say, can have a tremendous difference in other people’s lives, right?
[0:31:54.7] MB: That kind of segues in to what are some of the — we’ve talked about a couple of really simple examples. What are some of the other things that somebody listening right now who says, “Okay, I’m fired up, I want to be kind. I want to kind of do a random act of kindness. or find a stranger and do something.” What are some kind of really simple ideas or actions that they can take in terms of ways to jump start that are things they can specifically do?
[0:32:17.0] JW: That’s a great question. You know, we actually, if you go to our website, which is again onekindness.org, or onekindnesschallenge.com, it goes the same page. We actually have a list of that, of things that you can do. Small acts of kindness, medium acts of kindness, major acts of kindness, and the reason for that is because a lot of times we tested the number one question we get that which is, what is this something that I can do?
I’ll give you a few examples here, but if somebody was listening, if you’re interested, you can go check out the website, and there’s a place where you could put in your email and all we do is we send you one thing you can do that day. There’s no spam, I promise we’re not selling anything, so if we just get a little idea of this is one kindness idea for the day. These are things that you can do. For example, leave a note thanking someone who you appreciate. This is something that takes no time. Literally no time. Just sit down, it takes you maybe 30 seconds, just grab a piece of paper and write down one person who you can thank. I’ll bet you can think of someone right now.
Just say, “Listen, hey, I just want to thank you very much,” and you could either give it to them as a note, because we don’t do paper anymore, we’re so used to this text messages, but they don’t have the same impact. But write a little note for them, put it in an envelope, and just give it to them. Or if you don’t want to do that, you feel that person is too far away and you don’t want to mail them something, take a picture of that note with your phone and send that picture to them. This is huge, there’s some kind of thing, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something that’s really nice about seeing that somebody has taken the time to go through the old school and archaic methods of pen and paper to write a note, and they will see that and it becomes fulfilled.
Another thing you can do is just, let’s say if you’re at work or you’re at school, whatever it is. Bring over — like, Halloween just passed not too long ago, but you know, go and get some Halloween-sized candy, right? You can get it at any Costco, or any shopping center, really. Just pass it on, “Here, have this candy,” or when you're walking by a parking meter and you see someone’s parking meter, and you see someone’s parking meter has run out or something like that, or something needs change, give them some change.
This is probably the biggest one. A lot of people say, “I give change to people every day. I don’t feel better. I’m usually putting that out,” but yeah, there’s a difference, because you’re not making a connection with that person. If you're going to give homeless people some change, usually I recommend buying them a sandwich or something like that. They’re hungry, but especially because sometimes you know, there’s people who are struggling with it alcoholism, for example.
Aside from giving them help, aside from giving them food, or money, or whatever it is, have a conversation with them. Just ask, “Hey, how are you doing? How has it been going, what has your day been like?” and just connect with them. That on its own has sometimes massive impact. I would love to tell a story about that, we have time for that, Matt?
[0:34:55.1] MB: Absolutely, I’d love to hear the story.
[0:34:57.2] JW: Okay, a few weeks ago, I went out with girlfriends, and we just — it was getting cold over here in Vancouver, and we decided that we’re just going to just give out some socks and gloves to some homeless people. In this area in Vancouver called the Downtown East Side, which is basically Vancouver’s sort of area of, let’s say, like tent city, basically. There’s a lot of homeless people there. There’s a lot of people who are going through issues, substance abuse, and drug use, and like that.
We just thought, you know, it’s getting cold, right? Winter is coming. We wanted to give away some socks to warm them up a little bit. We’re having a great time, we’re giving away these things, and there was this — in our group, there was just something like seven or eight of us, and there’s three kids who would come along. They’re about, you know, ages between about let’s say, 10 to 13, and it was somebody, a part of our group, one of our friends had brought her nieces and nephews, because she thought it would be a nice teachable moment.
We came across this particular woman and she was very clearly cold. She was shivering while she was walking up to us, right? She was wearing this thin cardigan, she didn’t have any socks on, and then she was carrying this little bag of candy. It was — I sort of remember it was this mangled Sour Patch kids candy, and she was eating them. I assumed that she was eating them because she wanted the sugar, because sugar kind of boosts your serotonin levels as well.
She was walking up to us and I said, “Hey, listen, would you like some socks? Looks like you’re a little cold,” and she’s like, “Sure!” She thanked us and we gave her some socks, a hat, and some gloves. She was appreciative, but she was kind of like, “Yeah, thanks.” Then she just turned to the kids who were there with us, and she reached out her hand which was carrying this bag of candy, and she takes the kids and she said, “Hey kids, would you like some candy?”
The kids, without a moment of hesitation, reached out, grabbed the candy, each popped in their mouth, at which point all of the adults in the group were just going like, we had this moment of panic. We’re on the downtown side, there was a lot of diseases and drug use, and we’re just concerned that something may — food God, like whatever could happen, right?
You don’t take candy from a stranger like that. You know, in our moment of judgment and panic, the woman who just gave away candy kind of looked at the three kids and said, “You know, for the past two months, every day I eat this candy, and I’ve been trying to give it to people, but nobody would ever take a piece. Thank you for taking a piece of my candy today, you guys have made my night.”
She had this massive smile on her face. It was this — she looked like a different person. She wasn’t nearly as happy when she was taking the gloves that we were giving her, she was just so happy that she got to give, right? Think about that. All she did was she offered a piece of candy, but in that moment, that changed in her happiness massively. This is what I’m saying, is that if you’re going to give out some change to homeless people or something like that, don’t just drop some change and walk away.
Take a moment, ask, “Hey, how are you doing?” Connect with them, they’re human beings, right? Connect to them as human beings. So many people we’re meeting were telling me like, you know, back when I was doing these challenges of taking out homeless people to lunch, one of the biggest things I was constantly hearing was it’s incredible how you can go through an entire day without a single person acknowledging you as a human being.
Without a single person stopping to make eye contact even, without a single person who isn’t trying to pretend that you don’t exist, right? Even something like that is an act of kindness. That’s a small act, right? Buy coffee, or offer to make a coffee run. If you’re going up, if you’re going to go grab a cup of coffee somewhere and there’s somebody around you, you should be asking them, “Hey buddy, can I get you some?”
Especially if they’re a friend, right? “Hey, listen, I’m going down to grab a coffee, you want something?” Right? Or, “I’m going to the vending machine, you want anything,” right? If you want to go a little bit further, take a look around your home. Do you have books that you don’t need? Take them to a local library. Even better, take them — you have toys at home or something like that? Take them to a local children’s hospital.
They need those things, right? If you have a chance to drive for somebody, you have a car, offer to pick someone up or drop someone off. Yeah, it’s going to add another 10 minutes to your commute, but isn’t 10 minutes worth your happiness? Isn’t it worth like, your health? That’s the other thing, when you get a chance to talk a lot about this, there’s so many studies. If you get a chance, go pick up a book, it’s called — it’s not my book or anything like that, I don’t get anything from it, it’s just a really cool book. It’s called Why Kindness is Good for You. It’s written by Dr. David Hamilton, and in it is just massive lists of study after study, talking about how kindness literally makes you live longer.
They did a study with seniors, and they found that seniors who volunteered or did daily acts of kindness had a 40% chance of surviving longer than the exact, their peers who weren’t doing something like that. Studies have showed that a lesser depression, gives cortisol, which is your stress hormone, and it improves your heart rate, it lowers your blood pressure.
It’s a list that goes on and on and on. There is just endless studies that show how much physical benefit there is to kindness. The science behind it is just absolutely astounding, to a point where I’m constantly asking why are we not doing this all the time? Why are you not doing this all the time, right? As a society so obsessed with selfishness when, honestly, kindness is the most selfish thing you could really do, right?
[0:40:12.4] MB: It’s pretty amazing, and it’s so compelling. I mean, the stories themselves are inspiring, but the data is so resounding in favor of being kind to people, and we’ll definitely include that book in the show notes as well. I’m curious, for somebody who is listening right now, and I know we’ve given a lot of different examples and resources for them to check out. What is kind of one starting place, one piece of homework that you would give them?
[0:40:33.2] JW: Well, the one thing I will say is, I mean, we have these bands, we have these bracelets, and I will say, if you want a bracelet, we are going to start having them available. We’ve just been in the early stages right now, so we’ve been usually working with organizations to give their organization tools to these things. If you’re part of an organization with your school, and you want to contact us, and you want to get a bunch of these bracelets, and you want to bring One Kindness as a movement to your organization, please do.
We’ll also start having the ability to sort of order them independently sometime soon. Hopefully in the next couple of months, but really, the one big things is, honestly, right now, if you don’t have reminder bracelets, and the reminder bracelet is key, because you want to be able to anchor that feeling into your life, into your habits, right?
If you don’t have something like that right now, honestly, anything, a rubber band, or simply do this thing where like you wear a rubber band on your left wrist, and then at some point go do an act of kindness, then slip the rubber band to the right. Right? If you want to get those kindness ideas in your inbox, go sign up for the inbox thing. Like I said, we’re not selling this out, there’s not going to be anything that’s not just kindness ideas, and then challenge somebody to do it, because there’s such a social element to it.
You know, start just telling your friend, “Okay, listen, I’m starting a kindness challenge. For the next 21 days, I’m going to be doing a kind act every single day. I want you to join me on this.” Tag them on social media, right? Send them a message on social media. The more people that are going to join you, the stronger what you get out of it actually becomes, because now you’ve got a tribe of people around you all doing the same thing.
Again, if you want, you know, the actual bracelets, they’re nice looking ones, send us a message and we’ll see if we can get some to you.
[0:42:01.3] MB: Well John, this has been amazing. I love your mission, I love what you guys are doing, and I’m really excited about this. I hope that listeners will take this seriously and check it out, you know, sort of perform an act of kindness and see what it means to you and what it feels like. I know that I’m definitely going to do a kindness challenge, and I’m going to challenge everybody at the Science of Success to do one as well. I just wanted to say thank you again, this has been an amazing conversation.
[0:42:23.7] JW: It’s absolutely my pleasure, and thank you for having me on, Matt. This has been such great time, and I really loved chatting about this.
[0:42:30.1] MB: Thank you so much for listening to the Science of Success. Listeners like you are why we do this podcast. The emails and stories we receive from listeners around the globe bring us joy and fuel our mission to unleash human potential. I love to hearing from listeners. If you want to reach out, share your story, or just say “hi”, shoot me an email. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you and I read and respond to every single listener email.
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