An Evening With Generosity Guru, Mike Dickson, In

Posted by Liam Chai on Dec 30, 2015
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[At Trishna’s Awakin’ Circle we had a chance to listen to Mike Dickson speak about his journey in generosity and his new book, Our Generous Gene. Below is the transcription of part of the audio recording]

Trishna Shah: Thank you all for sharing your presence this evening and thank you Mike for joining us to share your journey.

The seeds for this gathering were planted rather serendipitously during Nipun’s last visit in October. The day before he was flying back to California, Nipun was in Guernsey giving some talks before flying back for his last night in London.  And Nipun being Nipun, he had the energy to keep serving till the last minute so we thought about spontaneously hosting a circle that evening at our home.  After a few email exchanges, Nipun says to me, “Yeah let's do a circle! Let's just email a few people and we'll see what happens.” And so literally at lunchtime we decided to do this. And the person who Nipun was with is actually a friend of Mike's and his name is Marc. And I was so amused by the email that Marc sent to Mike. He said, "Nipun is having ice cream with some folks at Trishna's house tonight. Go see him." And that's it! He didn't send a bunch of links about who Nipun was, or Service Space or this or that or Awakin' - or anything. That literally was the entire text of the email. Then of course Mike replies, he's like moving around some plans because you guys were meant to be going out for dinner or something and sure enough Mike comes along that evening! And I was like wow if I got a two line email from someone I don't know if I would re-organise my life to show up, but then I was speaking to Mike and he said that's the kind of friends we are. When we meet someone that we think the other person ought to meet we just drop them a line and say, 'Go meet them!'

So we were all very fortunate that Mike came along that evening, because as a few people eluded to, it was wonderful to hear from him for those few minutes and we all walked away thinking we want to learn a bit more about this man. and his journey and what brought him to do the work he has done. So thank you for agreeing to come back and share with us!

Mike Dickson: No pressure then!
(Laughter)

TS: None at all! You've walked the talk so I'm sure it'll all be quite natural for you. I thought we could open the conversation with generosity, which has been a recurring theme in your life, and I thought if you opened by sharing a bit about the early seeds that were planted in your life that cultivated that generosity in your own heart.

MD: About this time of the year, Christmas time. About 26 years ago I was at a drink's party and I was challenged to run the London Marathon. And because I had too many glasses of wine I accepted the challenge. In those days the sponsors had tickets, you couldn't run for every charity. I accepted the challenge and I went home and thought about it and Christmas came, and New Year came and then on January the 18th - a date embedded in my brain forever. I got a fax through (shows you how long ago it was!) and this fax was from the Athletics Correspondent of the Sunday Times and it said roughly there were twelve weeks to the London marathon and here is a training schedule.

So I rang a friend of mine and bought some running shoes and we set off to run. About two weeks before the date of the London marathon I was beginning to get slightly frightened by the whole prospect of doing it. I realised I'd been found out. I owned a shop in Covent Garden at the time and I'd seen a young girl come into the shop on a powered wheelchair. The front bit was like a forklift truck and the back bit was like a bumper car. She pressed a button, the seat went up, then she bought something from the shop, pressed the button and then she whizzed off round Covent Garden.

I rang up the people who made these things and I said to the guy I was going to run the marathon with, if we're going to go 26 miles and try and get around we should try and do it for a purpose. We should try and give mobility for a child who can't move so that she can move. So we were going to do something mildly heroic - to say nothing of ridiculous. To help a child who couldn't move. And as I said, I got a bit frightened of it. So I rang up the people who made it and said to them, "How much are these powered wheelchairs?" And he said they were £3,500. And I said in a very offish business sort of way that we need a disabled child now. We've got a job to do. And they said we've got a young girl who's got cerebral palsy and she's just been let down. She was promised a wheelchair but she's not going to get it now. And I said that's alright - OK.

And as much to give me courage, I got on a train and I went to Lincoln to meet this girl who had cerebral palsy. Her grandmother met me with her in a sort of high chair on wheels at Lincoln station. They brought me back to their house and they were terribly poor and they gave me tea. This girl couldn't move and had a very big speech impediment. She was in the seat, and in order for her to move she had to be picked up and put in a chair and wheeled around. I was profoundly moved. Number one I had never met a disabled child in my life and number two I had never met someone with cerebral palsy. I was just very stunned. So I asked her for a picture of herself and I came back to London. I rang up Ricky, the guy who I had conned into running the marathon with me. And I said, "I've got it. We're going to go and do this and provide mobility for a child who can't move."

By the time we got to the start line of the London marathon we'd both run a maximum of six miles. (Laughter). It was just tragic. We went down to start the London marathon and we hugged each other. And we exclaimed, literally, "All for one and one for all!" And we set off into the distance with no idea of what we were doing at all.
Before we got there we'd sent a letter out to all of our friends with a picture of this girl. We'd raised £9,500, which you know 26 years ago was a lot of money. And some people had even sponsored us just to cross the starting line! (Laughter). Unbelievable! So off we went and Ricky wasn't even supposed to be running - he had a medical condition but he's a fruitcake. He got in in 5 hours and I finished in 6 hours! Completely knackered and utterly wrecked, but we'd done it.

So we went and bought this powered wheelchair for this girl and we got her down to the factory in Cambridge and took pictures, and we sent pictures of this little girl - 12 years old she was then, getting this wheelchair. And you know, she had no mobility, she couldn't move at all. And suddenly she could move around. She could go around her school. Around the shops. Out and around the house - everything. So her life was transformed. And we sent a picture out of her in this wheelchair with a copy of the bill and roughly speaking, everybody was saying, "So what are you going to do next? What are you going to do with the money you got left?"

And to cut this part of the story short, one year later, Shuna, myself and Ricky founded Whizz Kidz, which is a charity that helps disabled children. This year it is 25 years old and it's taken over a £100 million and has helped over 20,000 disabled children who can't move, to move. Which I always say, if an unfit 40 year old can do something like that - anybody can do anything! And so that was the beginning of my journey really.

TS: So while you were on your journey of developing Whizz Kidz, what are some of the things that kept you ticking? What are some of the sparks within you that motivated you to keep doing the work you were doing and growing the work? From what I read you obviously took it in all kinds of different directions and expanded it and evolved it.

MD: Neither Shuna, myself or Ricky knew anything at all about charity. I think that was probably a tremendous advantage. We had a blank sheet of paper. I was supposed to the business man. Shuna was marketing. Ricky, serendipitously enough was a doctor. So we kind of knew roughly what we were going to do. I think what really helped was the thought that we would challenge people to go and run marathons, bike rides and so on for a particular child. So very often the person who would fundraise for the charity met the child who they were fundraising for. That turned out to be hugely powerful. We got lots of staff of companies who would do it. And very often people would say to me over the course of the year, that actually in amongst their year, which was probably full of the most appalling grief generally, that actually being able to help a young person who couldn't move, to move, was the most rewarding thing they'd ever done.

It was then that I began to notice, that the people who gave, get as much out of giving as the people who actually receive. In other words it is a deeply rewarding thing. And it is also a privilege to be able to go and help other people. That was when it first dawned on me, I thought, A-ha, you're not just running around doing good for people. You're actually becoming mildly useful yourself and developing a sense of purpose.

So that was really Whizz Kidz, and it grew and it grew and it grew. After about 10 years we did succession planning, which is grown-up behaviour. Handed it on to a woman, who even now, is the chief executive. When I resigned and said I wanted a year out and do something else. We had 480 applicants for my job. About 30-odd of them were interviewed, then down to 6. The woman who got the job in the end is the current chief executive, and rather gloriously, and it shows you that life does bring serendipity. She'd been in business and now she'd come out of business, but she was born with polio so she was in a wheelchair. Now I had created a charity that had helped children in wheelchairs and I'd created children boards and business boards and so on, and handed it over to a woman who had been brought up in a wheelchair, who had business sense.
At the 25th anniversary of the charity this year they gave out eight awards, seven to disabled children who had done amazing things. And one to me, for being a good person. (Laughter). I got a plaque for being a good egg, which I did actually say to everyone that actually Shuna and Ricky deserve this. I did say to them all, that there can't be much wrong with an organisation where it's only had two chief executives in 25 years.

It was also such a contrast because I'm pretty gregarious and this woman Ruth is in a wheelchair and she really means it. Since I left, she's doubled the size of the organisation because she represents exactly what the kids need. You couldn't make it up really, she's nothing like me at all. She's not Mike. She's not full of charm and bullshit like I am. (Laughter). She's like a proper person! And a wonderful thing to be able to give a charity over that you created for disabled children to a disabled woman who then makes it even bigger!

TS: Along the way, were there any personal challenges that you encountered?

MD: Trying to build anything or achieve anything - building an organisation like Whizz Kidz or the Rainmaker Foundation. Trying to achieve anything in life is just really hard. Everybody thinks it's all very wonderful but it's actually very hard. There are lots of challenges, lots of fears, lots of worries, lots of anxieties, and I don't think it really matters whether you are trying to be a nurse or trying to start an Italian restaurant or whether you are starting a charity. Everybody sees the success of everything but actually it's deeply worrying. It's a nightmare raising money every year, running the thing properly. It's particularly true of Rainmaker.

I think anybody who sets out to get anything done - and I mean anything, finds it bloody hard. We don't walk on water and do things fabulously. We make mistakes. I make several mistakes every week. Regularly. I'm reminded by people who work with me. And my fantastic wife. (Laughter). I think it's just not possible to create an organisation without difficulty. But providing it's centered properly, and the DNA is correct. In our case, we had a kids' board and all these things. Providing the building blocks are in place, and providing it's evolution not revolution. That everybody stops you from doing the latest daft idea. Then you just build things slowly, and they get built on rock, a sort of biblical explanation, and therefore they survive. And people become hugely enthusiastic and attached to an organisation. So that was that really. It was difficult, but wonderfully rewarding. And it was rewarding because the children were at the center of the organisation, and still are. There was a children's board, so we couldn't all disappear and think we were wonderful because the children lent enthusiasm, life, and ideas to the DNA of the thing. That's the thing that's most important, in anything really, the DNA of it.

TS: You mentioned Rainmaker Foundation. So from Whizz Kidz, you moved on and that was from what I understand your next major part of your journey. Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind starting Rainmaker?

MD: I left Whizz Kidz and wrote another book, as you do. And it was the first book I'd ever written about generosity. It was launched at TED and given to everybody who went to TEDGlobal - whether they wanted it or not. And it became quite quickly, what they called a thought leadership book. It was the forerunner to my latest book, which I'll talk more about in a bit. It was published in 2010, after the financial crash. A book written about the fact that we should all go out of our way to help each other, that you'd be happier if you were generous and we should all get a grip on being more generous. It was actually rocket science in those days, it was really quite an achievement. So it went down really well at TED and it gave birth, one year later, to the Rainmaker Foundation.
.
The Rainmaker Foundation is to encourage generosity, and to create a world where what matters most is what we do for others. And once you've gotten over the soundbites the actual issue is we're creating a community of people called Rainmakers, who invite to become Rainmakers, and they have to have a life outside their day job. They have to have some sort of commitment to helping other people. Otherwise they can't become a Rainmaker. And so this community is now building quite quickly. Ram over here just became a Rainmaker. And these people meet regularly for socials and they also meet the leaders of wonderful charities. The other side of it is we have a database of 200 wonderful charities all over the world that we support. All run by heroes that we know really well and we introduce the Rainmakers to the charities. So it's not much more than matchmaking, except it's done with inspiration as opposed to the fact you should go and do it. We gather little groups together. So we help human rights charities, we help charities who are working with women, FGM, trafficking, anything like that, charities helping the homeless. We help charities helping the environment. We help charities working with the poorest sections of societies in this country.

Basically I wander around persuading people who have got what we call enough to get a grip and go and help people who have got less. And I really do do, and we call it the difference between success and significance. So we say to people who are very successful and very fortunate, "Well that's wonderful, well done, but is there any point to you at all? Is there a reason for you being here?" I actually had a conversation at my first meeting today with a guy who made 50-60 million quid and he actually does want to be useful but he has no idea how to do it. So we're introducing him to various charities that do.

We've just started what we call an accelerator program, we've chosen 10 wonderful, very small charities, to adopt for next year 2016, and we're going to introduce them to the Rainmaker community so that the end of the year they're in a much stronger position to grow.

So you can imagine this is actually quite enjoyable work. We've got all sorts of interesting people involved in it and I manage to persuade Desmond Tutu to become a patron. I wrote a letter, "Dear Desmond, please will you become the patron of the Rainmaker Foundation?" And he wrote back saying, "Dear Mike, I don't usually do this but I will."

The good thing was he was told and asked and persuaded by members of his family to do it. We didn't each other, so I just wrote the letter saying about world domination to try and make the world better, please help. And he wrote back saying oh okay I will. He's been over and he's given talks to our Rainmakers. Desmond, he's a lovely man - a great friend of the Dalai Lama. And they giggled together and so on. It's great for us because he gave a talk to about a hundred people last year and they're all very dynamic and egg-punchy but you could've heard a pin drop. Twenty five minutes he spoke to people about the importance of goodness, about the importance of having a faith. In the book we write that the common thing in all faiths is this commitment to the golden rule: you must treat other people as you would like to be treated. In fact, you're supposed to, in all the faiths, to look after people who are less fortunate than yourself. It's not rocket science. You're actually supposed to do this. So when somebody like Desmond or the Dalai Lama gets up and says we want you to help other people, it's a very common thing, whether you're a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Hindu. That's it. That's what you're supposed to do - help people less fortunate than yourself.

So Rainmakers growing and growing and growing. And truthfully it's a very good idea, it's going to be huge, it's very successful. But it's the most unmitigated aggravation running it as you can imagine because behind all the glory and cloud of it all there is the detail. Who should become a Rainmaker? The first few months we did have people flogging pensions. They said I'll just pay to become a Rainmaker. But you can't do that sort of thing. And down the other end you have to make absolutely sure that the charities you choose to recommend people to are fabulous. They don't have to be well run, that's a common fallacy. But they do have to be run by very special people who are committed to making a difference. They don't have to know how to do cash flows or business plans or all that rubbish, you can get all that from anybody. But they have to be very special and determined. And therefore you have to find these people and you're basically introducing them to the donors. So it's actually proper work. It's not just one sort of glorious jolly.

TS: I was wondering if you could reflect more on your personal life and share with us any practices of giving or anything that you do in your own life that help you to cultivate that heart of generosity regularly. Because I think it's one of those muscles that can easily weaken if it's not used, and I'm wondering what you do outside of your professional work that you could share with us to give people ideas.

MD: There are a couple of aspects. The first thing is that like everybody I have a diary, which is a Google calendar, which in my case is full of little blue hours. Do this, following hour and so on. And fortunately someone helps me get through each day, my wonderful wife. Every now and then I get fed up with it and I clear the entire diary for a month and I refuse to see anybody but people who are going to be useful and become Rainmakers or donors, and/or people who are seriously having a hard time. It could be anybody here or a friend of anybody here. I feel really strongly, and always have done that it is my duty to go out of our way on a practical level to help people. We've got lots of people we help regularly, where we tend to drop everything and go and look after them. A couple recently suffered from depression, you know those sort of things - broken marriages. I think we try to make a fuss of people when they are having a hard time.

I'm a Christian so I've been a member of the church for about 25 years. At one stage I became a churchwarden, which was actually quite fun because it can be a job from hell. Our local vicar is going off to California to become a rector of a church, which has been in disarray for 20 years. The last vicar left the church and wrote a book about it, and the title of the book was, "When She Bites Back.' We all know that people of different faiths, whether Christian or Buddhist, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are stable in any way at all. But it does at least give you comfort. As I'd written in the book, there are seven billion people in the world, and roughly six billion of them belong to a faith - Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian or some sort of spiritual background. And here today as well, it's absolutely essential to get through the trials and tribulations of life.

TS: Alright we have a few minutes left and I wanted to open it up to a few questions if anybody has any for Mike.

Question: Can I ask about the generosity gene, is this something you felt is in-built that deep in the human species?

MD: Years ago Dawkins wrote this book, 'The Selfish Gene,' where he, using Darwin as well, put forward the proposal that we are all fundamentally selfish and self-motivated. Survival of the fittest and so on. But he couldn't work out, and neither could Darwin for that matter, and there's a quote in the book about it, why if that was the case, in concentration camps people gave up their lives for each other, or why people dived into a river to save a child. In other words they couldn't explain why people did generous and altruistic things. They came to the conclusion it was because man (and woman) were the only animal who could override the selfish gene. They could think their way out of it. And therefore they couldn't explain it, but that was their explanation as far as it went. They couldn't explain why people were generous, why people gave up their lives and so forth and so on.

So that set us all thinking in a way and in the good old days, years ago, most societies existed in a reciprocal way. They all got out in a certain way, part of the society they shared and so on and that's how life used to be. Before we all got derailed by the desire to become independent. We all needed to become independent. And then we all needed to acquire as much as we possibly could. We became a very acquisitive group in societies, and we are still. It's recently dawned on people that that doesn't make you happy. So there's a chapter in the book about the links between happiness and generosity. There's lots of research out now about the key factors for how to be happy. One of them is your relationship with your friends and family and the other one is having a sense of purpose. Generosity in general makes you a happier person. The contrast is also true, if you are very graspy and you are completely concerned with yourself and you are driven to acquire stuff, you become more miserable. Alain de Botton said at one of his TED talks, "If you ever see a person driving around a bright red Ferrari, don't think gosh what a lucky man he is. Think poor sod he is really miserable!"
That's one thing and the other thing is the most popular chapter in the book is about enough. How much do you really need to live a happy and fruitful life? There isn't actually an answer to this because what a monk needs to live in the course of his life is very little, or what an African family in a village needs to live is very little. What we need to live on is an awful lot, but even so getting a grip on what is enough for you is a very good sign of maturity. If you work out what is enough for you, then it really does change your life because you don't have to continue working for hours and hours buying all sorts of stuff that you don't really want or you don't really need and you'll never really use! And of course we've all been got at. We've all been chased by the latest iPhone and so on and on.

I went to India a couple of years ago to see some charities. I went to a charity, Ashkaya Patra, in Bangalore that was started by a financial director and the head of the Hare Krishna's and they started this charity that feeds 1.5 million children every day with a hot meal, in eight states in India. So they make this food all night, put it in a pot, then put the pot in a heated van and they take the van to the school and they give the children a hot meal so that the children get to go to school. They're fed, they grow, and they learn. Anyway to feed one child with a hot meal, every day, for a year, costs £7.50

I'd given this talk to 300 investment bankers in the Dorchester after lunch and after I'd done the talk, and I'd done in a more flowery way then what I'd just done here. They all came up to me after and said, "You know that was absolutely inspirational. What a story! What a charity!" Two weeks later I did the same thing to the staff of Google, who you probably gather are about several hundred years younger. Average age 26. Does anybody here work at Google? I did this talk at Google and I did exactly the same talk. At the end of it all they all came up to me and said, "That was inspirational! You are an utter genius. What can we do? Where can we donate money? How can we find a school to support?" Complete contrast!

The reason why I'm telling this story is a) it's an unbelievable story. As I say, £7.50 is the price of two lattes. Just think about it, a hot meal for one child every day for a year. You could hardly make it up. So that plus many other things in the book are examples of how people can be generous. There's no point about waffling on about generosity - that generosity is such a good thing and we'll all be happy and patty. The second half of the book is full of things to go and do. Starting with being generous to your own family and friends. Starting with things like forgiveness, encouraging each other and taking time out to spend with other people, like we try to do on a regular basis. Generosity is not related to money, it's related to what you do with your hand and your heart. Most importantly, the way you think. To actually challenge the way you think. In the second half of the book there's a chapter about helping your family and friends, helping with the poverty in this country, which is absolutely frightful, and getting worst. A chapter on global poverty and a chapter finally on the planet. One of the reasons we're changing our behaviour is that we have to. Not least because we all know we've only got one planet. We all know we're buying all this stuff. We actually have to change our behaviour and live in a more generous way otherwise we're all gonna be stuffed. Of course I wouldn't say that in a proper interview, because that would be bad and wrong. But it is the thing. We are not going to get any further living in the way that we've all lived up to now - rushing around,acquiring things and being miserable to each other/ We're only going to get anyway by being generous to each other and by looking after each other.

Shuna DIckson: Do you want to say a bit about meditation?

MD: I could do, but it's the first time I've ever done it as well!

SD: One of the things is that being calm and meditating actually makes you feel better about yourself and builds confidence. Meditation being a very positive impact on people. Making them calm and giving themselves confidence. Because obviously we all know, apart from non-sustainability if you have increased levels of mental illness around the world, which is also happening. So to change track one of the things people are doing is increasingly meditating. [...]

MD: I've got a lovely little poem here in the front of the book. I brought 10 books in case anyone wanted to have one. The poem is called, The More You Give the More You Get, written by an American called Helen Steiner Rice. It goes as follows:
"The more you give the more you get
The more you laugh the less you fret
The more you do unselfishly
The more you live abundantly
The more of everything you share
The more you’ll always have to spare
The more you love the more you’ll find
That life is good and friends are kind…
For only what we give away,
Enriches us from day to day"

Isn't it lovely? Proper stuff. Proper behaviour. I've got other ones here, I could go on but I won't. Presumably everybody's heard the story of the fisherman and the banker? Well this would be the one if you want to bring it to an end because it's quite funny. It'd make you all laugh. So I'll read this as a sort of ending piece.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
(Laughter)

It's a good story though isn't it? I have literally read it out at lunches with private bankers and you know, they're not the brightest people. (Laughter). Bless them. And then they all say it's utterly inspirational.

Question: I was going to ask you a question but really that story has just answered my question. The question was around children. How do we relay that message of giving and enough, how do we plant that seed in children? And to shift away from materialism.

MD: There are three stories, but I'm going to say two and Shuna can share one because she loves the story. But very simply I have a colleague who is a Rainmaker and every Christmas day, when all the kids open their presents. He makes them choose one or two or three of the toys they've already got that they don't want and the following day, on Boxing Day they all go down to the local hospital and give them away.

On a different note, one of the wealthiest man I know when he wasn't wealthy, he lived in Manchester with his wife. They decided that every time their children at school would raise money for a charity they would match what their children raised. It didn't matter what the charity was, it could be save the dolphin or whatever it was, if they raised £58.60 from their fundraising the parents would double it. But they had to come to see the parents and say why they were going to support the dolphin charity or the breast cancer charity. They were going to get the money anyway, but they had to come and say, "We're going to do this." Anyway this went on and on, even when the whole family were really poor. Now he's one of the richest men in England and his children are forty now and they're doing it with their children. In other words it was built into the DNA of both those cases. The issue of giving away the Christmas presents to other children and also to the guy who subsequently went on to become a very rich person, he's a household name, you'd know him but he put it into his children right at the beginning. The expectation of it and matched it. And Shuna has got a lovely story which we must share.

SD: It's really a story about a primary school teacher. He was a PSHE teacher, he was told to take a lead on the Anti-Bullying week, so it's not about giving money. The big problem with self-esteem in kids is when they are seven or eight and they suddenly realise beyond them and their families and whoever they know there's this great big scary world, and how are they going to cope. So he changed the titled of Anti-Bullying week to It's Cool to be Kind week. And Cool to be Kind is now taking off, but what it is is he got all the kids to do stuff. Every class in the school had to do a kind deed and they had to write up how it made them feel and how it made the other people feel. The following year they thought they'd take it out, so the top two classes year 6 and 7, wrote nice little notes and they distributed copies of the Metro with nice little notes like, "Have a nice day!" or "Be a great parent!" and that sort of thing. As a result of that people started emailing the school and saying that it was really nice. I'm on my commute and I get the copy of a metro and it's got a nice note. So they put up all over the school the nice notes that they got back. Instead of it's cool to be kind week, it went on for the whole term.

Then the teachers started doing it and now they have different values in the school. And I think what that demonstrated for me is a nice example that you need to change the whole culture - about valuing other people, and thinking about other people. And when you do and you get that thank you back, that builds your own self-esteem. They've now got a kindness curriculum and lots of different things but kids do better at school because they're more confident and they're happier. And so their academic grades go up. So it's actually starting from a different place from where you might think.

TS: Any closing remarks Mike?

MD: If each one of you was to concentrate on living more generous lives. Not buying so much rubbish and so on, and setting an example to your friends. It's simple stuff, it's literally paying attention to your family and friends. It's about forgiveness, it's about encouragement. It's about helping out in your own communities. Helping people who haven't got any food living abroad, it's about protecting your own environment. It's about basically setting an example. And there are all these wonderful quotes of, "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito." But it is true, we all have a responsibility, genuinely, to make time for each other and for other people and to live in a more generous way. It's not about giving away a fortunate if you happen to have a fortune. It's just about an attitude to live your life with an open hand and an open heart and an open mind. And just doing it.
I remember at Google, before I went in, one of the things was that people would go to Big Issue sellers and they do or they don't buy a copy. And they do or they don't take money and all that. But actually if you go out of your way to talk to them, to talk to people. They just love it! It's a proper thing, it's beyond the transaction. So you know, adopt your local Big Issue seller and actually talking to them is a very simple thing to do. One of these people from Google went down and did it because they knew I was coming, and they could hardly contain themselves. "You'll never guess what happened to me today, I talked to a homeless person! It was wonderful!" I mean it's simple behaviour, but it means a lot to the person. and it wakes us up. Wakes us up out of our ridiculously selfish little world. And so on and so on and so on...

TS: Thank you so much Mike, it was really lovely to hear from you. And I think a lot of us resonated with this concept of doing things that become a part of our DNA and that's the way to carry it forward and obviously in this circle we come together for meditation and reflection, I feel like a lot of things you do - whatever you make a regular part of your life, you can make a part of your DNA. And send those ripples out. So thank you for reminding us of that.

MD: Tell everybody about the book, and if you want some we've got some here.

TS: The book is officially out, January?

MD: Yes in January, but we've got some here and it's going to inevitably to the press and all that. This is actually the first time I've ever talked about it. So literally in January, bless you all, you won't be able to get away from me. (Laughter. Applause). 

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Comments (1)

  • Trishna Shah wrote ...

    Thank you Liam for doing this, it's lovely to be able to share that evening with others in the ecosystem through your efforts :)