I’ve been thinking about it a lot. A character trait that is often overlooked. One we take for granted. Kindness.
Ask most people and they’ll tell you they value honesty and loyalty in someone but how often is kindness at the top of the list? How many people rank being kind as one of the most important qualities a person can have?
Since the #RestoringKindness campaign was conceptualized at A&J, the meaning and importance of kindness has been running circles in my head. I see the need for it more than every before. It’s like the contrast on my kindness lens has been cranked way up. I vividly see the dark shadows that are left behind where kindness is absent and the bright light that shines where kindness lives.
As defined by Merriam-Webster online, it means “wanting or liking to do good and to bring happiness to others. Considerate. Showing or growing out of gentleness or goodness of heart.”
Gentleness. Putting others first. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I entered the competitive broadcast news industry as a reporter and producer. Multiple mentors I had along the way told me I had to look out for number one. I had to fight for the lead stories. Push my interview subjects for the answers I was looking for. Make decisions about my career not based on my news team or even the station I was working for but for what would benefit me the most.
It’s a mindset that reaches far beyond the news industry. In fact, I would argue it is an underlying tone in our culture’s workforce. That we must look out for number one. We must claw our way to the top at anyone’s expense. After all, no one’s looking out for me, why should I look out for someone else?
I think that’s what makes kind people shine so bright. While some may interpret gentleness as weakness, my experience has been just the opposite. When I think of the kind individuals in my life, all share a common, quiet and gentle strength. They’re the type of people you can’t help but respect. By putting others first, by being kind, they are in fact more successful, more admired and more accomplished than those taking the ‘at whatever cost’ approach.
Bear Grylls, a leader in outdoor and survival adventure, names kindness as one of the top qualities he looks for in someone he is going to put on his survival team.
In his book, “Mud, Sweat, and Tears: A Survival Guide for Life,” Bear says it is extremely important to surround yourself with kind people when facing the tough tasks in life. He says, “Kindness inspires us, it motivates us, and creates a strong, tight team: honest, supporting, empowering.”
As the end of the chapter nears, he offers this compelling point. “So don’t underestimate the power you have to change lives and encourage others to be better. It doesn’t take much but it requires us to value kindness as a quality to aspire to above almost everything else.”
So here’s my challenge to you. Value kindness as a quality to aspire to above almost everything else. Go after it. Check yourself often. Look for opportunities to practice. It is my experience that the kind ones are the ones who truly succeed in their career, personally and in life.
“The thing about kindness is that it costs the giver very little but can mean the world to the receiver.” -Bear Grylls, “Mud, Sweat, and Tears: A Survival Guide for Life.”