B Kind

The Kindness Series - Part 2 (The Science and Power of Kindness)

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What does it really mean to be kind? How do we learn it and what force drives us to execute kindness? Our intern, Bailey O'Mara, wrote a research article about this and came up with some interesting facts. 

The average person is unaware of the effect they have on the lives of those around them, mainly because of the natural human tendency to become infatuated with sequentially focusing on our personal tasks and challenges throughout the day. If we look at life with a macroscopic lense we realize every action has a consequence, whether or not we intend to cause change to our environment, it will happen. While we usually focus on our own experiences and the events of our lives, it is equally important to think about how we affect others.

Considering this perspective on human interaction we could focus on the negative effects of our actions; for example, choosing not to throw out your gum but instead spitting it on the sidewalk, eventually causing someone to step in it, ruining their shoes. This is merely the initial effect of our choices, those people who were upset, delayed, or frustrated by our actions are likely to then continue this mentality, which will in turn have a butterfly effect making even more people unhappy.

On the other hand, the impact we have on the world around us can be utilized as a tool. If we choose to be considerate, responsible, and kind, the positive impact we have can be extensive. Learning these skills starts as a child, when the brain is developing our cognitive responses and habits.

The ability to process kindness can be derived from two major aspects of early brain development, a child’s home environment and the learning they do at school. A study at the University of Wisconsin has determined “The brain is constantly changing in response to environmental factors… we can actually enhance well-being by training that induces neuroplastic changes in the brain” (Tenenbaum D). Neuroplastic changes affect the function and interconnectedness of the cells in the brain.

The importance of the research conducted was a conclusion that specific teachable practices can “cultivate new connections in the brain and enhance the function of neural networks that support aspects of prosocial behavior, including empathy, altruism, and kindness” (Tenenbaum D). The practices can be as simple as observing empathy, giving gifts, and sharing, all of which are learned as a child.

Kindness is hardwired into the neural circuitry of our brain, meaning that instead of learning kindness we simply need to develop and foster its importance from a young age. According to a recent study in Science, people who spend more of their income on others instead of themselves are happier. Other neuroscience studies focusing on the areas of the brain that are activated by pleasure have discovered,‘charitable giving’ causes these areas to ‘light up’ especially when it is entirely voluntary. Researchers concluded that the brain is responsible for the natural warmth we feel from kindness. Interestingly, another study on charitable giving discovered a connection between moral processing and charity. Those who volunteered more had developed a stronger bond between the “moral” and “reward” areas of the brain, making “altruism” feel even better in the future (Simon-Thomas).

The circular nature of life is responsible for the spread of kindness, the shared observation from each of these studies is that the kindness we learn has a massive impact on our neural pathways, and as a result will determine whether or not we are kind and empathetic in the future.

The importance of kindness extends much further than we consider, and if everyone contributes to their community, their home, and the people in their lives by performing one act of kindness each day, the impact of their actions will create a better world for everyone around them.  

- Bailey O'Mara (B Kind intern)

Reference sources:

Simon-Thomas, E. R. (2008). Is kindness it’s own reward? UC Berkeley: Greater Good Science Center http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/

Tenenbaum, D. (2012). Changing brains for the better; article documents benefits of multiple practices. University of Wisconsin, Madison: News http://www.news.wisc.edu/20572

The Be Kind Club at Brien Mcmahon High School

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B Kind Club members from Brien Mcmahon High School

 

Our club members at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, CT, has been busy spreading kindness and doing good for their community. They have had a very busy school year! These girls went above and beyond. We applaud and thank them for their proactiveness and being so involved in their service to their community. Here are some of the highlights from the year:

 

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Writing and creating cards to send to the troops

Writing and creating cards to send to the troops

Making ornaments for a senior care facility in Norwalk

Making ornaments for a senior care facility in Norwalk

These are flowers from the school garden that they gathered to give out to the teachers

These are flowers from the school garden that they gathered to give out to the teachers

Cleaning up the local beach

Cleaning up the local beach

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Promoting their B Kind club at Club Day

Promoting their B Kind club at Club Day

Well done, Brien McMahon High School! You have done an incredible job this year and your community is better because of all your hard work. We can't wait to see what you have in store for next year!

Well done, Brien McMahon High School! You have done an incredible job this year and your community is better because of all your hard work. We can't wait to see what you have in store for next year!

The Legacy of William Patrick Mahoney (1957-2013)

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To call Bill Mahoney a kind man is an understatement.  He made friends and strangers smile and laugh with compliments and funny jokes. He was the life of the party and the after party. People would form a circle around him as he told his many stories and shared his life lessons. His generosity knew no bounds. He donated money to numerous charities, helped family and friends, and picked up too many dinner tabs. His influence would change the course of people's lives for the better. He was a great boss and a mentor to many. One of his mentees is my husband Chris who wrote this article about Bill. It is a genuinely sweet tribute to a man whose impact on his life was great, as was his loss deeply felt. This is who Bill Mahoney was all about. We hope to honor his legacy by continuing what he did every day of his life: being kind

Bill wrote this letter on his last day as an executive at Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund. It has been read and shared numerous times. If you have a few minutes to read it, I urge you to do so. In true Bill Mahoney form, it is inspiring as it is heartfelt. 

December 2006

Tips on a Fulfilling Work Life - Bill Mahoney

Friday was my last day of work at Bridgewater and maybe my last ever. Like most guys my age who grew up middle class in a small town I started working young with paper routes, shoveling driveways, mowing lawns, washing windows and such at age ten.  The prospect of calling it quits after thirty-nine years of the stuff is makes you reflect over it. My work experience by most standards would be considered varied. I had my hand at the following to either put a roof over my head or pretzels and beer in my gullet: tug boat tender, bartender, construction day laborer, investment banker, busboy, softball umpire, security guard, speech writer, roofer and most recently Director of Marketing for the world’s fastest growing money management firm. “All work is noble”, my father used to tell us as kids and I believe it today. All the jobs we have had in our life (or lack of) no matter how seemingly unrelated has prepared us to fail or succeed at our current one. With few exceptions, I have enjoyed all of my jobs and was grateful to have them at the time. Several themes on how to be fulfilled in a working life have made themselves apparent to me. I will share them with you.

Keep your job in perspective. Don’t tie your self-esteem up with your success at work. I don’t think that the most memorable line of any eulogy was “He was a very productive worker.” Be a good husband, father, neighbor, friend and person. You have control over that every day. There is too much outside of your control in the workplace to have it be a reliable barometer of your life’s worth. I have seen really talented great people fail at jobs and some bums inexplicably make good. Go figure.

Keep your income in perspective. Be thankful for the fortune you are making and don’t resent the one you are not. I remember at Bankers Trust in Australia handing a $750,000 bonus to someone who stormed out of the room threatening to quit and five minutes later having someone tear-up telling me that their $30,000 bonus would change their life. Fairfield County is the world’s breeding ground of compensation discontent for the overpaid. Read about what is going on in Darfur to put your life in perspective. Wake up every day and be grateful for being in the top 1%.

Give to Charity. Allocate a fixed percentage of your income for charity every year. Start with two percent and increase that over time if your income increases. This should be in addition to whatever you give to your place of worship if you have one as that money is really a form of dues to an organization you belong to. Work truly is noble if you give some of it back. Making a fixed percentage crystallizes that it is an essential component of your life. Don’t wait until you are “comfortable” to start this. Do it now.

Don’t be so grumpy. Smile a little bit more. Say “hello” or “good morning” as you pass by colleagues on your way to your desk in the morning. If you see the same person three times and you have not met them extend a handshake and introduce yourself. You would be surprised how much it can make someone’s day by saying that you like their new hairstyle. Treat people how you would like others to treat your brother or sister or parent or child. Lighten-up.

Know your market. You sell your time and talents to your employer. Keep abreast of what the going rate is. It is not disloyal to take a headhunter’s call or speak with another company. If you do and believe that you are being under paid or over worked talk with your manager about it. They want to know as much as you. You might never know that the grass you are walking on is the greenest in town until you look over the fence.

Do what you are good at. Most of the time people are unhappy at work because they are doing the wrong job. Pride, stubbornness or fear of failure keeps most people from shifting gears and taking the steps to work at what they are passionate about and thereby probably good at.  There is usually a big difference between what you want to be good at and what you are really good it. Resolve that conflict. Don’t just work for a paycheck. Your work life will drag on forever.  I think Giselle’s update a couple of weeks ago addressed this eloquently. It’s worth reading again.

Utilize the richness of your colleagues. Bridgewater has a fascinating mosaic of employees. Have lunch with someone from a different culture, country or religion. Invite their family to your home to meet your wife and children. Make an ethnic dinner together and listen to music from their land. You will learn a lot more by asking a Hindu what the difference is between Christianity and Hinduism than by reading a book or newspaper article. Some of my most cherished memories of Bridgewater are when my family was able to do these things.

Take a walk-about. This wisdom is imparted mostly to those without children. Although, never the poster boy of a model “company man”, I’ve done okay in business while having some fun along the way. After college, I made it a rule to work two and a half years then take six months off. I did this three times. The first time I bummed around Europe, the second time in the Caribbean and the third in Australia. While in Australia, I got engaged and the gig was up - good while it lasted. You are only young once. You will have plenty of time to make money. It’s a big world out there.

Prepare yourself to leap. A successful business career is seldom a gradual upward sloping line. It is erratic, punctuated with dismal failures and moments of brilliance. I have always tried to impart on people beginning their working life that long hours, missed flights and the general crap you put up with are all small deposits in your personal success bank. Don’t worry about getting your 2% raise plus inflation every year. Look for and create opportunities to make more and more deposits into your success bank. When the time is right make your withdrawal and go for it.

As you read this I am at Byron Bay beach five hundred miles north of Sydney, Australia swimming and surfing in azure blue waves with my beautiful wife, who broke my string of walk-abouts fourteen years ago, and my two awesome daughters who have truly given my life perspective since they arrived eleven and eight years ago. May all of you find what you want in work and life. Keep it simple.