The Transformative Power of Kindness

Kind Snacks CEO Daniel Lubetzky and GOOD Co-CEO Ben Goldhirsh have a candid conversation about the role of kindness in bridging divides in today's world. #KINDPeople

Amidst all the noise in the media today—the constant demonization and dehumanization of each “other” in American society, fake news spreading like wildfire on the Internet, etc.—there are pockets of kindness sprinkled across the country.

But in what can only be described as today’s post-election trauma, there is something missing in people’s interactions, or lack thereof, with one another: an understanding and embracing of different perspectives. Muffling this noise takes tremendous acts of courage, awareness, introspection, and ultimately, kindness, as KIND Snacks CEO and President of the KIND Foundation Daniel Lubetzky described in a conversation with Ben Goldhirsh, co-CEO and co-founder of GOOD.

This month, The KIND Foundation, a 501c3 established by the healthy snack company, is announcing seven winners of its philanthropic program, KIND People. Nearly 5,000 KIND People stories from across the country were submitted, with seven ultimately rising to the top. Those seven individuals are slated to receive a total of $1.1MM from the Foundation to further their good work, and GOOD will profile four of them. These profiles are part of a larger storytelling effort from KIND, which launches today and aims to reveal the transformative power of kindness. To kick off GOOD’s profiles, the two CEOs had a candid conversation about America’s current state, the difference between being kind and being nice and the power of empathy.

Ben Goldhirsh, CEO and co-founder, GOOD: It’s interesting times in the world. How are you feeling about the climate of America post the election?

Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and CEO of KIND Snacks and President of the KIND Foundation: I’m concerned, but not just about America, about the world. I don’t think that what’s going on is particular to America. I’ve been observing a pattern over the last couple of years. There is more alienation, more division, and more tendency towards extremism. I’ve noticed a lack of focus on listening, empathizing, and attempting to understand one another. It can be challenging to understand the motivations of those who approach things differently from us, which is why we must all work at developing the empathy muscle. We must find a way to recognize our shared humanity and to develop empathy towards one another, which is rooted in kindness. An ideology of kindness will help us start creating the building blocks of human respect and building bridges with one another. To me, this is what kindness and empathy are fundamentally about: discovering what we have in common with those who are different from us.

BG: It’s fascinating to watch the momentum of the ideology of fear or of the “other,” or of hate. It enjoys a lot of properties that facilitate momentum, but so does kindness.

DL: There are two problems. Kindness, for far too long, has been equated with weakness and has been confused as being synonymous with nice. If you look at the dictionary definition of nice, the word kind is a synonym and that could not be further from the truth. Nice is being polite, kind is being honest. Being nice is not picking fights, being kind requires having the courage to stop those fights. Being nice is not bullying somebody, being kind requires strength to stop the bullying. Nice is a passive player, kind is an active protagonist. People don’t realize that kindness requires enormous amounts of strength. In our moments of weakness—when we’re grieving, feel threatened or confused—that is when it takes courage to reach out and understand the other side, to choose being kind over being nice.

BG: It’s amazing the amount of false things that you see now. The founder of Visa, Dee Hock, wrote this book, One From Many, about the reality that 100 years ago, a human knew a lot about very little. But now humans know a little about a lot. Problems are escalating faster because of the innovation curve. But there’s this category of entrepreneurs and companies that have really out-performed non-value based peers. Why are we starting to see kindness as an asset to victory in the business world, and yet in a variety of other areas it hasn’t manifested that way?

DL: The antidote to that is not business entrepreneurs, it’s all of us as human beings—understanding how we’re being manipulated and not letting it happen anymore. It’s all of us educating ourselves about what is happening and then seeking knowledge. Instead of trying to seek affirmation, we should seek information, because nowadays human beings absorb identical data points and rationalize them to serve their views of the world.

I find a lot of encouragement in the promise of social enterprise. Today business permeates our lives more than ever before. I find enormous hope and opportunity in being able to harness market forces and channel them for social good. The power of market forces is that they’re scalable and sustainable. The real magic happens when you devise models where business and social objectives are in harmony, and they can reinforce and strengthen one another. At KIND we call this the “AND” philosophy: our model balances social impact AND economic sustainability.

Most people only know KIND for our delicious and nutritious products. Our products are kind to your body because they have nutritionally-rich ingredients. Our products are kind to your taste buds because they’re delicious and don’t sacrifice health for taste. Kind to your world is the third pillar of our brand. This pillar speaks to our social mission, and it was inspired by my father. My dad was a Holocaust survivor—he was in a concentration camp. He never pulled any punches on what he went through as a kid and often reminded us of the horrors that he saw. When I was 9 years old and I started hearing these horrors, my mom stopped my dad and said, “Roman, why are you telling Daniel this stuff? He’s 9 years old,” and my dad looked back and he said, “He's 9 years old and he needs to hear it. I was 9 years old and I had to live it.” We also always heard about the kind moments and the kind individuals whose courage helped my dad and others survive the war. These moments and these people reveal the transformative power of kindness.

The common thread in everything I do is building bridges between people. It’s about finding creative mechanisms to try and connect people and help prevent what happened to my father from happening again to others. The KIND People Program is bringing this to life by celebrating extraordinary individuals who exemplify empathy in their communities. Through their work, these KIND People are breaking down barriers and fostering human connection. They show us how to take steps toward understanding those who seem different, but deep down share our humanity. We’re excited to share their stories. They inspire me, and I hope they’ll inspire others to choose kindness.

Check out the seven KIND People who have united their communities through selflessness and service.

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

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