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  • Shirley Owens

Get What You Want by Being Kind with Houston Kraft

Updated: Oct 19




“We are human becomings and not human beings. There is a process there where you could be genuinely doing something kind.” -Houston Kraft

Is kindness becoming rare? With all the crime, cruelty, and violence happening today, it’s unthinkable how humans could one day live without kindness. Stresses, fear of being taken advantage of, and daily hustles also contribute to a less kind environment. But there is hope! Today, Shirley and Kindness Advocate Houston Kraft, talk about what kindness is and what we can do to practice kindness on a daily basis. Houston shares what prevents us from showing kindness, 3 steps to follow to make sure we’re being genuinely kind, and how to expand our impact and affect more people with kindness. He also explains the difference between being nice and being kind and how to help teenagers deal with the hypocrisies in the world so they may become kinder individuals. What will kindness look like for you today? Tune in and find out!


Highlights:


02:48 Where Kindness Originates

07:22 Are You Nice or Kind?

12:57 Empathy and Kindness

22:13 Helping Teenagers Be Kind

28:00 Expand Your Impact

36:57 Kindness in 10 Minutes


Resources:

Book


Join the launch! https://deepkindness.com/


Tweets:

Are you being nice or kind? Join in as SfbaldwinOwens and @houstonkraft discuss what kindness is and 3 steps to follow in showing kindness.

#getwhatyouwant #podcast #kindness #empathy #10minutekindness

Quotes:

  • 04:02 “The way we think about a thing, oftentimes shapes the way we act with that thing.” -Houston Kraft

  • 05:26 “Kindness is the action piece of service.” -Houston Kraft

  • 08:13 “Our habits define our being. But it really has to be a persistent, consistent, ongoing practice.” -Houston Kraft

  • 09:38 “Kindness is different. If nice is reactive, kindness is proactive. Kindness requires a ton of work.” -Houston Kraft

  • 12:09 “One of the biggest things in a relationship is serving. The more we serve people, the more we feel loved.” -Shirley Owens

  • 16:17 “Just because we feel someone's pain doesn't mean we understand it.” -Houston Kraft

  • 17:33 “Caring is where sharing and thinking becomes action oriented. Understanding why a person needs help, becomes a compassionate action.” -Houston Kraft

  • 34:51 “We are human becomings and not human beings. There is a process there where you could be genuinely doing something kind.” -Houston Kraft

Connect With Houston:


Houston Kraft is a Speaker, Author, and Curriculum Designer. His job is to practice kindness. In high school, he started an organization called RAKE (Random Acts of Kindness Etc) to create a more connected & compassionate campus. In college, he created Our Kindness with a focus on service, community building, and reducing anxiety through intentional acts of care. Over the next eight years, Houston has spoken over 600 schools, organizations and events globally to over a half a million people. He has spoken in over 30 States, Mexico, Canada and Uganda. In 2016, Houston co-created Character Strong, which provides curriculum and training for safer and Kinder schools, and has already worked with 2000 schools internationally, serving over 1 million students with their message daily. Houston was featured by Lay’s for their spreading smiles campaign. His new book, Deep Kindness: A Revolutionary Guide for the Way We Think, Talk, and Act in Kindness, takes an honest look at the gap between our belief in kindness and our ability to practice it well.



Watch it Live!


Transcriptions

Shirley Owens: My guest today is Houston Kraft. Houston's job is to practice kindness. In high school, he started an organization called RAKE (Random Acts of Kindness, Etc.) to create a more connected, compassionate campus. In college, he created OurKindness with a focus on service, community building, and reducing anxiety through intentional acts of care. Over the next eight years, Houston spoke at over 600 schools, organizations and events globally to over a half a million people. He has spoken in over 30 States, Mexico, Canada and Uganda. In 2016, Houston co-created CharacterStrong which provides curriculum and training for safer and kinder schools and has already worked with 2000 schools internationally serving over 1 million students with their message daily. Houston was featured by Lay’s for their Spreading Smiles campaign. His new book, Deep Kindness, a revolutionary guide for the way we think, talk, act and kindness takes an honest look at the gap between our belief in kindness and our ability to practice it well. So welcome Houston.


Houston Kraft: Thanks to the shining introduction, that's always fun.


Shirley Owens: I love it. I'm so excited to have you today because kindness is my thing. It's my jam. It's the thing that I live by. And it's kind of funny that you're my guest today, because this morning I was taking my son to school, he's 17 and he's a very kind soul. Somebody pulled in front of us and it was just kind of like one of those things where you could tell the person wasn't being very kind and he asked me, mom, why is kindness not normal? Like why is kindness not the common thing? And so then I got to tell him, well, guess what? I am interviewing this guy this morning and here are my answers, but I want to talk to this guy because it sounds like you've taught kindness for a long time.


Houston Kraft: That's a great question by your son. We'll have to chat more with him.


Shirley Owens: Yeah. Yeah. He's awesome. So tell me about what even had you start this. Obviously, you were probably raised to be kind, or did something happen, or where did this start? Because it started in high school.


Houston Kraft: I loved that. What happened to you to make you kind.


Shirley Owens: Isn't that sad?


Houston Kraft: It is an indictment of our culture as it currently stands that something has to have something profound must have happened if you've made it through this thing, kind so far.


Shirley Owens: Yeah.


Houston Kraft: And yeah, definitely there's a piece of it that involves how we're brought up. And I was super lucky to have two parents who are incredibly supportive, and generous, and role models for kindness. I blame a lot of my compassionate sort of disposition on education. I just had so many educators in my life who were champions for me and an incredible role model as well. And so many of us are a byproduct of those people that we grew up alongside, or with and around.


Shirley Owens: For sure.



Houston Kraft: I'm lucky in that context, and I think I was given a lot of gifts in terms of just the way that I think about kindness. One of the things that the book tries to unpack is, there's actually a whole chapter on like how important words are. The power of words and how they shape our life. And I think we started to take it for granted sometimes. How big a deal words play in creating our reality, right? Because the way we think about a thing, oftentimes shapes the way we act with that thing.

“The way we think about a thing, oftentimes shapes the way we act with that thing.” -Houston Kraft

Shirley Owens: For sure.


Houston Kraft: And kindness is one of those. Kindness for me, it was high school when I had this paradigm shift around what kindness could be. I was at a leadership camp, I've been elected student body president of my high school, mainly because I knew what the word liaison meant. My people that I was running against didn't, like public debate. People were like, we should have this guy. He knows what his job description actually means, which I wished that's how politics works. Just like you're actually supposed to do, that's a different podcast. But for me, I got elected into this position and I got to go to this camp. And at this camp, I was introduced to this paradigm shift around what it meant to be even a leader. Leadership, as it was defined to me, had nothing to do with the position, or title and everything to do with my willingness to serve, my willingness to show up and take care of people, and love people. I realized that in my own personal history, I had so many times along the way where I felt like I didn't fit in, didn't belong, and was actively hurt in one way or another. And coming out of this camp I was like, that's what I want my quote unquote job to be. I want to go back to my school and I want to make sure every person there felt belonging, cared for and loved. And I recognized that kindness was this vehicle, the action, right? Kindness is the action piece of service where I could show up and make people feel a sense of safety in school, which is a huge deal. I realized really quickly that oftentimes when I didn't feel like being kind to someone when someone was not like me, or didn't think like me, or didn't agree with me, or most cruel to me, that was when I had the most opportunities for growth and kindness. So that's where my paradigm shifts started, and it changed the way that I literally interacted with every human being. And coming out of high school and into college, and out of college, and in my career, I thought that this is what I care about. I want to give people that paradigm shift that has so defined my life, and I want to see if it helps them.

“Kindness is the action piece of service.” -Houston Kraft

Shirley Owens: I love that. I feel that I've always been a kind person and I feel pretty comfortable saying that anybody that knows me knows that. So in my mind, I think I was just like my son, like all of my kids are kind of people. I feel like I always raised them to be kind and that that's just who we are. We're being in the world, and then you get out into the world. So many times, all my kids, like my older kids through high school would be like, mom, these girls are just so mean, or people are just not kind. And I think that the word kind, like I taught them the word kind, but then I also taught them the action. Speak a little bit about that because I think that everyone hears kind and you see all these like, in a world you can be anything, be kind. And you hear about all this kindness, but why is it so like, it's such a word that's used all the time, but actually meeting people that are genuinely kind is very few and far between for me. Talk about that a little bit. Why do we talk about kindness so much? Are we just missing the boat or what?

“We are human becomings and not human beings. There is a process there where you could be genuinely doing something kind.” -Houston Kraft

Houston Kraft: Yeah. One of the words I stumbled upon in writing the book that I love, I love words in general, but typically the English language is a little bit clumsy and I love the Greeks. The Greeks have so many good words, among them is this word akrasia. Akrasia translates roughly to, as weakness of will,.which is to say that there are things that we know are good, or important, or worthwhile and yet we consistently repeatedly don't do the things that we know are good for us. We know not to fall asleep looking at our phone. We know that waking up and practicing gratitude is going to make us healthier happier people and yet we persistently reprioritize other things. So I love this paradigm shift I heard early, actually from this camp friend of mine, Dexter Davis, he said, we're not human beings or human becomings. We can go back to this concept of, we are what we repeatedly do. Our habits define our being. And to your point, Shirley, the more I act in kindness, the more I start to become this thing, but it really has to be a persistent, consistent, ongoing practice. And for so many people, it only happens when it's convenient or comfortable. In fact, perhaps the most profound but simple distinction that I've made, thanks to the work I've done, a student who I met at a school in Texas, I tell this story in the book but the short version is this kid came up to me after an assembly. He's a senior in high school so it sounds like one of your kids, 17 years old, assembly just wrapped up. And sometimes the high school kids can be a little bit more cynical. But I think they're also quietly creating real authentic conversations. They're wondering, like your kids, like why isn't this world a more kind place? And this kid walked up to me and he goes, you know, Houston, I want to thank you for talking about that. I realized while listening to you that I'm a really nice person. I was like, cool. I guess that was the point, the good. And he goes, no, you don't understand. I realized that I'm nice, but I don't think I'm very kind or interesting. I said, what's the difference? Yeah, I had the same reaction, interesting. What do you mean by that? He goes, I think most of the kids in my school would say they're kind, but they're actually nice.

“Our habits define our being. But it really has to be a persistent, consistent, ongoing practice.” -Houston Kraft

Shirley Owens: Yeah.


Houston Kraft: So what do you mean? Nice as just reactive. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice back to you. If I like you, I'll be nice to you. If I agree with you, I'll be nice to you. If something urgently bad happens, totally conditional. He goes, kindness is different. If nice is reactive, kindness is proactive. He goes, I realized that kindness actually requires a ton of work in a moment of vulnerability. I don't think he meant to get this vulnerable, he starts to cry, he goes, why do we always wait for bad stuff to happen until we practice making people feel good? But I don't have to like people in order to showcase that I love them. And he goes, I realized kindness requires a lot of work, and I think I have a lot of work to do. And I was like, yeah, man, me too.

“Kindness is different. If nice is reactive, kindness is proactive. Kindness requires a ton of work.” -Houston Kraft

Shirley Owens: You are going to be an amazing human being when you get older, because having that this young is incredible.


Houston Kraft: Yeah. I was like, come with me on the road. We're in a traveling show now, you and I. But it's true. It's like the nice versus kind is a critical distinction I think for our world, which is to say a lot of people and would say that they're nice because they think they've already arrived. Or they would say that they're kind when they're actually nice. They're conditional with their giving. They only practice it when it's comfortable or convenient to them. And so much of the book tries to unpack, how do we escape from that conditionality? How do we prioritize this thing that isn't always comfortable or convenient? How do we make it a part of our daily life, our daily practice. That's what it means to go to your point earlier, confetti kindness or just be kind into this practice of deep kindness, which the book uses the kind of the world actually needs right now.



Shirley Owens: I would say for sure. I think about phone calls, I think about driving, like something that doesn't go your way in a restaurant, and I'm always feeling like, Oh, I don't want to be that person that has to reorder my food so I try to be as kind as possible because I don't want to put people out, or I don't know. It's just so foreign to me, although it's kind of common sense isn't really common. I think kindness, like you say, it's nice if people are being really nice but they can also see another side. I feel like for me, it's always been like, how do I treat my, I don't really have enemies, but do I treat someone that I don't like, or don't do well with, or in a place that it's not convenient. Am I still kind in that place as I am in a place where I'm getting whatever I want. I feel like I don't understand what, like you say, it's work. I don't understand why it's so much work for people. I'm excited about this book. I work with a lot of couples, and my whole business is relationship coaching. I think one of the biggest things in a relationship is serving. And one of the things that I did recently, a few months ago, we were having a conversation with my kids and we were talking about service, and I have a whole chapter in my book about service. I feel like we think that serving someone else is us showing them that we love them. What I found is that the more we serve people, just the more that we love them. Like we feel the love. It's not necessarily for them, we feel loved. So the more that I serve someone, the more I love them, or the more I care about them. I guess I feel like empathy is a huge part of kindness. Can you talk about empathy and kindness together?

“One of the biggest things in a relationship is serving. The more we serve people, the more we feel loved.” -Shirley Owens

Houston Kraft: Oh, please, yes. The book is broken down a bit into the earlier question of like, what gets in the way? What prevents us from living a kind of life because I would argue, everyone wants it. It's just like, why is it that there's this gap? Obviously, in our culture between what we say is worthwhile in what we actually do. The three main parts of the book are incompetence, insecurity and inconvenience, which is to say, what prevents me from a practice of kindness? Well, part one would be, if I don't know how to do a thing, I will avoid that thing. Or two, if I'm scared of a thing, I'll avoid that thing. And part three would be, if I don't feel like doing it, I won't do it. So empathy falls into a couple of those categories, but one of the big ones I think is incompetence. Empathy is like this skill, but if I don't really understand fully, or if I haven't practiced it a lot, or if I'm uncomfortable with it, then kindness gets harder. One of the more profound examples, maybe my favorite example from the whole book of what makes deep kindness important, relevant right now comes from the Sandy Hook shooting. Here's this tragedy that happened in our world, which naturally we respond to tragedies as a culture like, Oh, now I need to do something kind.


Shirley Owens: Right.


Houston Kraft: People from all over the world send gifts to Newtown. Connecticut. People sent teddy bears and stuffed animals because these were kids that were shot and killed. So many stuffed animals in fact that the town, Newtown had to rent a 20,000 square foot warehouse just to hold all the stuffed animals. So now it's costing the community, which is already in despair. It's costing them time, and logistics, and money, and space and organization to field all these inbound stuffed animals. And one of the guys that ran the candle at vigils said that there were more teddy bears present than there were people. And in a really profound quote, he goes, don't get me wrong, a teddy bear is great, but the teddy bear doesn't pay for counseling. And the Teddy bear doesn't pay for a funeral. And to me, the story on tax, a really important dimension of how empathy and kindness connect, which is to say, if I haven't bothered to understand what people actually need, then I might give kindness thinking it's what you want without knowing it. And guess who benefits most from that action?


Shirley Owens: You.


Houston Kraft: The person giving it. Kindness without empathy serves me more than it does the person on the far side of my action. So how do we relate that back to relationships? Well, I think we have to understand what empathy actually is. And Dr. Ozaki out of Stanford has a really beautiful breakdown. He says, empathy is actually not a skill itself. It's an umbrella term that encapsulates a lot of other skills that live beneath it. Empathy involves three parts, which is sharing, thinking and caring. So sharing is the first most natural piece of empathy, which is to say, when I see that you're hurting, suffering, or struggling, or even excited, happy, joyful, the natural mirror neuron philosophy is like, we smile at a baby, the baby smiles back. It's something we're pretty born with. We respond physiologically to seeing people hurt. Now, can we improve at our ability to diagnose what people are actually feeling? Absolutely. That has to do with emotional vocabulary, and self-awareness, listening.


Shirley Owens: What a concept.


Houston Kraft: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, a whole practice unto itself. But just because we feel someone's pain doesn't mean we understand it, right? So that's that second part, which is thinking. Thinking is perspective taking. What is it about this person's life, their experiences, their history, their context, their religion, where they grew up, their gender, their race, that informs how they might experience this, especially how they might experience this thing different than I would. That's a big deal. That's something that we start to develop when we're young, five, six, seven, but we can improve that skill over the course of our life. Oftentimes by asking more meaningful questions, learning about the history of the different things that make people people. All sorts of categorical things that we fall into. But the last part, really an important part is that caring piece. And this is a really humbling perspective that I recently was introduced to.

“Just because we feel someone's pain doesn't mean we understand it.” -Houston Kraft

It's sort of like, a Oh, dumb moment. But also a really big deal because my company CharacterStrong, I co founded with one of my best friends, we try to teach kindness. We want to create more kindness in the world. One of the things we were humbled by is this idea that you can teach empathy. But in just teaching empathy, it does not guarantee kind action. We can feel bad for a person and not do anything to help them, that's where caring comes in. Caring is where sharing and thinking becomes action-oriented. It's where that whole idea, like you were mentioning earlier, like believing in the thing, understanding why a person needs help becomes compassionate action. And that becomes a practice. What does it look like to take those feelings and actually mobilize them? Which is a whole skill unto itself. And with a partner, first of all, what are you feeling? Second of all, thinking and perspective taking, and then saying, how do I meet what I have come to understand is your actual needs, not just what I think you want.

“Caring is where sharing and thinking becomes action oriented. Understanding why a person needs help, becomes a compassionate action.” -Houston Kraft

Shirley Owens: Oh, my gosh. I love this so much. So on the back of my book it says, when you change your perspective, you change the reality. I'm big into this too. What does it take for us to see someone else's perspective to walk a day in their shoes, or a moment, or to just think about everything. All of us have a different perspective, and everything that has been given us in our life is what creates our perspective. And I am really interested in knowing, I'm going to have to read your book all the way through now, because I would love to be able to teach empathy to people and kindness. Because I feel like there's this, like, I don't know. I didn't know that it's something you could actually teach. I kind of think, you either have empathy or you don't have empathy. How can you not have, so my husband is an anesthesiologist and he works on OB shifts. And every once in a while, he'll tell me, there's a woman who just lost her baby or something. And I'm like spending an hour crying for someone that I don't even know. I think people think that I'm crazy because I just, I go through this whole experience as if I was that person and my heart just breaks, it just breaks for other people. And I think, well, isn't that what everybody does? Doesn't everybody go through this emotion when they hear something like that? I'm a mom, how could I not feel that for someone else? So I love the idea that there's even a possibility that we can instill that in somebody to actually teach that part. I like what you say about the thinking and caring part, that action of what you do after that. Like the person that I'm crying for doesn't know that I'm praying for them. They don't know, I'm just feeling it.


But then to be able to take an action to actually do something, think about what it is that they need. And yeah, it's hard because we don't always know exactly. We can't know exactly what someone else might be going through, but we can maybe try to understand a little bit, or not even care about what it is that they're going through to the extent of, it doesn't matter exactly what their perspective is. All that matters is that they are going through this, and somehow we can help them and care for them going through it. I know that's kind of a little tangent, but I think about, like when is the best age you were going to high schools? You go and speak all over, and you told me that you've even been in my little town to speak at our high school. What a great age to be able to, they're getting ready to go into the world, that they have no clue what it is. Because I think kids are kind of cruel and they don't really know that they're being cruel. You talk about that one teenager that came up to you and had some insight into himself, is that normal? I feel like that's not normal. I've had a lot of teenagers and I don't feel like that's. I think my kids have been a little bit more because they're living this life in our home where we're always diving in deep. But tell me, what is it about high schools that had you decide that this is where I was going to start, the teaching app.



Houston Kraft: Yeah, I think I resonated with the level of conversation at high schools to unpack a little bit more, some more complicated ideas. I felt suspended for a bunch of my career in middle schools. Now, CharacterStrong actually operates pre K through 12th grade. So we have a curriculum for school starting when they're three years old, all the way up until they're 18, because every touch point along the way matters. I think I'd like high school in particular because I think society begins to give them a bad rep, whether it's teenagers today or teenagers 30 years ago. There's this always sort of cynical view of how they're going to operate in the world. I think most of them are desperate for hope. Most of them are desperate for a new perspective or the tools to live the kind of life that I think they dreamed of. But by the time they get to high school, I think they start to see a lot of the hypocrisy that exists in our culture. I think they get to see a lot of the cynicism and negativity that the people above them express, and they start to get frustrated. It's the first time I think they start to reckon with what they imagine the world to be, what they see it, it may actually look like. So I like showing up there and offering, A, perspective of hope, but B also just giving them tools to, I think begin to live the kind of life that they 've always sort of imagined, a worthwhile life in community and on this planet together. One of my favorite simple quotes that I heard from my friend, Annie, she was referencing this child psychologist kind of Dr. Green. And the quote is really simple in his book he says, kids do well when they can.


Again, might seem obvious. But I think for so many of us, we have this inclination to immediately assign an intention to kids, that maybe isn't even well-intended. Kids are trying to be manipulative, or kids are cruel, or kids are being a jerk, they're trying to, whatever that thing is. But all of the child psychology research and the whole industry is predicated on this idea that kids actually just want to impress the adults around them. That is an inborn thing. So Dr. Green would argue that the only reason a kid wouldn't be something kind is for two reasons. He says, number one, because it is lagging skills. And number two, unsolved problems. Lagging skills meaning, I don't actually have the right tools in my toolbox to show up in the way that you are, or the world is asking me to. You tell me all the time to be kind, but kindness is actually more complicated than the world has pitched me. So there are moments where I'm like, I'm feeling overwhelmed, I'm feeling frustrated, I'm feeling hurt, and kindness is going to require me to forgive. That's complicated, how do I properly forgive someone who's hurt me like this. Or kindness requires me to choose to be kind to somebody, even when we wildly disagree. Although do I have the tools of conflict resolution of civil discourse, have you taught me emotional regulation to show up in that conversation with patients, and thoughtfulness, and grace? No, the world has not equipped me with these things yet so I'm only going to do what I'm capable of. And the second one is an unsolved problem, there are things going on in my life that are painful, that are hurt things that are going on behind the scenes that are affecting the foreground.


And my argument in the book is to translate Dr. Green's quote to say, maybe it's not just kids do well when they can, but people do well when they can. To me, it's such an empathetic perspective to look at the world through which everyone has lagging skills and unsolved problems. So when someone is treating us with cruelty, it is never their fault. People need to have ownership over their behavior, but if we can hold that higher level empathetic lens of what's going on in your life, or what tools weren't you taught based on the context where you grew up based on the family situation you went, based on the schooling you had, based on your access to personal development, that might prevent you from behaving in the way that I'm hoping you behave right now. And I think that lens towards humanity is an important one, particularly with high schoolers, I think that's such a lens of grace to hold towards that. Like 13 to 18 year olds who are just recognizing the world cynicism, they want to show up with kindness, but the world hasn't equipped them to do it. The way that we tell them is important, partially because we're not very good role models in the first place.


Shirley Owens: It's almost like it's not cool to be kind. I know that in my life that I was taken advantage of so many times for my kindness, and my kids have gone through things like that, where they're like, I'm trying mom, I'm really trying to just be nice to everybody, it's just so hard because they don't want to be nice back. And to be able to teach them that if someone, like you say, like, if someone really is being a bully or something's going on in their life, I would try to teach my kids like something's going on in their life that they're not dealing well with so this is a place where they can have control. And control doesn't look like kindness. We talk about that, but I think that when you talk about being a leader, not being a position, but being but being an example, right? So do you notice that when you go to the school and you talk to these kids, when they're learning about what kindness is, that they start to hold each other accountable for their kindness, does it seem like the leaders of the school, the kids who are the influencers are the ones who are taking this on and taking this like accountability and responsibility for being the ones that are spreading it.


Houston Kraft: Hmm. Yeah, not to nerd out on implementation science for schools on your podcast, but just to take the moment when we talk about making an impact on school culture, which you can extrapolate this to family culture, you can extrapolate this to organizational culture, but you have to think about, what are the things that we can control? We break that down into four categories. We say there's school wide implementation integration, which is like, what are we doing to not just have this be a one lane thing? Some organizations will be like, well, these are our values and that's the only place that they exist is in some sort of handbook, or in some sort of motto, or in an email tagline. So where else are we reminding people of how important this is? We talk about Tier 1 instruction, Tier in schools just means all. What are we doing to teach those skills so that those aren't lagging skills? How are we equipping people with the toolbox to succeed? Organization might be like, what are you doing to offer personal and professional development for the people that you serve? We talk about adult relational practices, what are we doing to role model effectively for young people what this looks like? And then the last one is leadership, which is to say, what are we doing to create that peer to peer influence? What are we doing to provide extra support to those influential young people in schools so that they are that peer to peer role model? Because what we know is that there is a huge power around norming. When people think that it's quote unquote cool not to care, guess what? People born more so won't care, even if they want to.


Shirley Owens: Oh, for sure.


Houston Kraft: Which one of the fun interventions that Dr. Zaki did in schools was they had students take these little measurements indicating that they thought that it was cool to be empathetic, it was cool to be kind. And when they saw the anonymous data of their peers saying that they actually believe that kindness was good, all of a sudden you saw acts of kindness increase. Simply because there was the awareness that like, for so long, I thought kind of it wasn't cool, but you're saying that behind closed doors, people actually think it's cool. The power of norming is a big deal. And I suppose to speak to just that concept itself, because I'm passionate about this one. I think that there is this narrative that it's cool not to care, it's cool not to be kind, and I fight back against that. I think that the people who have tried to care and have been hurt in the process, they've created this marketing campaign that it's cool not to care when in reality, they're just too scared to care again.


Shirley Owens: Yeah.


Houston Kraft: Because it's one of the most vulnerable things that we can do is show up and care, because the more we care about something, the more likely we're going to get rejected or the more painful that rejection is. The worst the failure is, the more deeply we care about it. And so there's a really frustrating relationship there between caring and fear that the higher the stakes, the, the greater the fall. The same thing holds true with kindness. The more we believe in kindness, the more we expose ourselves to people hurting us. And that's what makes it hard.


Shirley Owens: That's really huge. I teach this a lot and talk about it in my book too. We have this struggle where we're worried about how everyone's going to react to us, and when really our only job is right here. It's like the way we're being in everything, and I believe I have a, almost a whole chapter on just being kind. When we act kindly, yes, it does open us up for sure. There's so much out there that isn't kind, but when we continue to be kind, it's amazing what starts to be created around us. It's amazing how we can change anything. You walk up to a counter, for instance, car rentals, this happens all the time. Car rental agencies, for some reason, people at the counter just seem stressed and they're just like hurrying people through and I'm always like, how are you? How's your day going? Tell me a little bit about you. I'm genuinely interested in who they are and why they're there. I always get a car upgrade and people say to me like, Oh, that's just magic. Yeah, well, it's just you. And I'm just like, it's not, it's just being kind. If you're just kind to everybody, your net reaction is going to be kindness. You may have a lot of rejection, everything in there, but in the end, we can only control ourselves. So as long as we're always doing our part, that we're going to get the best of somebody and it may be like a really, their best may not be what we're expecting but I think that's where unconditional kindness comes in. If we can just unconditionally become something, become someone who's kind, it makes a huge difference in everything that we do. We also take the rejections and the reactions that we don't want way softer. I know I do. When I'm crying, I'm just like, Oh, they must just be having a bad day or something. In my mind, it doesn't trigger me, it’s like nothing here inside of me when someone else reacts poorly to my kindness.


Houston Kraft: Hmm. That's a cultivated experience because so many of us will give kindness with the, even unintentional expectation that it's going to work out. How frustrated to want to do something good and receive something that feels bad in return. Because one of the things that I think over time bakes us out of our willingness to be kind, because it's like, I've tried to give so many times and you responded with X, Y, or Z. So the fear part of my brain, the self preservational part of my brain is every time I experienced a moment of pain like that, my brain says, don't do that again. Why would I choose my way into something that's painful.


Shirley Owens: Yeah.


Houston Kraft: But that's where it's important to navigate that balance between what we care about, what we're fighting for and what we're going to feel on the far side of it.


Shirley Owens: Don't you think that if you are kind, you have that reaction that it was because you were being nice, maybe I'm not kind. I feel like kindness, I remember when I was a kid, my mom and dad would fight a lot and I would say, mom, what would it take for you to just be nice to him? And she's like, I tried that for three days and it didn't work. I remember being like, but what if you're just nice all the time. I think when people are pulling back, I don't know if they're truly being kind to begin with because it really is something that you are on your inside, right? Or am I missing the boat?


Houston Kraft: No. Yeah. I think that's a great assessment. I would say that because we are human becomings and non human beings, there is a process here where you could be genuinely doing something kind. Our hearts are, especially when we're thinking through this lens, if our hearts are soft and it makes sense that we would respond with hurt, if someone rejects our kindness or our offer for generosity, I think it only becomes nice to experience that sadness doesn't make it nice. But to experience that sadness and then be resentful of the person, or to experience that sadness and not try to show up again, that's where it becomes niceness, then it becomes reactionary, it becomes conditional, which makes sense. A lot of people have experienced enough rejection over their life that cynicism would, anyone would say it's warranted, but that doesn't mean that we have to give up.


Shirley Owens: No, for sure. So I feel like we could talk the whole day actually about kindness, I love it. The other thing that keeps coming to my mind is just being aware, aware of how you're acting, aware of what reactions you're getting and how you could possibly. I always like to say be more less human and more being. As we're being kind, that we can be aware of someone is responding to me in a certain way, who am I being that is eliciting that? I always like to bring awareness into my shows because I think it's like my favorite word, I think that it's important and I think as you're out teaching these kids, they're being more aware of what kindness is and how they can be leaders in that. And I think that's such an amazing thing that you do. What is one word of advice, or a paragraph, or a whole lesson, whatever of advice that you would give to anyone right now if they just said, Houston, I'm like very much struggling being a kind person, how can I start today to just start being kind? How do you teach that? What is the first thing that you would have to start with right now.


Houston Kraft: Yeah, I think to your point, Shirley, how do we be a thing? And we all, I would say in some capacity want to be kind, or at least live in a kind world. So the challenge is always, how do we take an abstract idea, like kindness and make it action oriented? One of my favorite practices from the book, I say, what if we were to take our daily to do list, which we're naturally drawn to in a culture that values productivity. Many of us have had the experience of writing down something we've already done, just for the satisfaction of checking it off. We like that feeling. This culture has told us that productivity equals our value. But we also know there's things that we want to be alongside the things that we want to do in our life. So what if above your to do list that this is a practice, that we have organizationally, that I've offered that I do often, which is above it to do list, you put your to be list. So today, if I want to be kind, what is the 5 to 10 minute actual action that will mobilize me into doing this thing that I want to become? So today, kindness might look like, who do I want to be kind? It would be the first question I would ask. And maybe today, it's my mom. My mom actually just messaged me about my book, which is coming out and she said, she just got her first hardcover copy and she's crying. So one action to be kind today would be to make time, even though it's a busy thing leading up to the book launch and everything. I'm gonna make time to FaceTime my mom, check in with her and celebrate and thank her because she's a big part of the book and big part of the reason why I wrote the book. So that might be something I might list today. And it's something that I can still check off. I called my mom, we had a great conversation. I can still check it off, but if I don't prioritize these things that are sort of abstract and make them tangible in the way that my culture told me, makes sense, then I will continue to say it's important without making time to actually make it important.


Shirley Owens: Yeah. I love that. That's so great, I'm all about being so I think that there's a time for doing, and there's a time for being. I know that a lot of times in life I have taught being more than doing, and I know that there's a place for both. I love that above your to do list, to put to the list. I wanted to show everybody your book, I have it right here, I'm super excited. I've started it but I love it already. There's just so much good stuff in here. So tell us how we can get this, is it not out yet?


Houston Kraft: It is Tuesday, September 29th. So I don't know when you're listening to this, but it should be out by the time you hear it. And you can find out more about the book at deepkindness.com, that's where all the magic is happening.


Shirley Owens: Awesome. Well, I felt honored that I have my copy already so thank you so much for being here. You're amazing. I can't wait to see what you do with all of the stuff that you're doing. So deepkindness.com, that's how we reach you and your book. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for being here and I'm sure that everybody that's listening today is going to have a more kind day and be aware of how they're being today. So thank you Houston.


Houston Kraft: Thanks Shirley.


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