The Karma of Kindness

I was once asked which was more important to me — kindness or success. It struck me as an odd question, but hustle culture encourages this binary cutthroat attitude. It dawned on me that kindness and success can look like they’re mutually exclusive traits sometimes.

But kindness is the PRECURSOR to success by my definition. And that’s an important note — my definition of success might not be yours. To me…success is doing work I love, being surrounded by people I love, and having experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life.

To me, kindness is crucial in building a network that not only helps you achieve your goals but also brings fulfillment to your life. And you feel good for making someone else’s life a little better. You can’t beat that.

The Importance of Kindness

Kindness is often overlooked in the business world and the tattooing world. Hell, you hear stories from older tattoo artists about bricks through windows, crowbars to the knuckles, and the relationship between MCs and tattooers through the 80’s to now.

But the idea of a cutthroat industry is completely counter to one of my core instructions in life — don’t be a dick.

Like it or not, your demeanor becomes your reputation. If you start dumpster fires on social media to get attention, that will become your reputation.

I’d much rather be the guy that lets people have a turn in traffic, who takes the shopping cart to the corral for the grandma trying to tame her grandchildren. Or the guy who quietly does other nice things without expecting anything in return.

Keanu Reeves is a great example of this kind of human. He doesn’t brag about his kindness on social media. He just…does nice things. And people notice.

To me, extreme kindness is actually selfish. Because I feel pretty damned good doing it. I’m pretty sure Keanu feels pretty good, too.

Tom Hanks is another celebrity known for being kind. He once returned a college student’s lost ID card, then took a photo with her. Another time, he helped a couple take their wedding photos in Central Park. He’s known for being very supportive and kind to his colleagues on set. Leonardo DiCaprio has even called Tom Hanks a role model.

Yes, a role model. Just being a nice guy has turned Tom Hanks into a role model to some of the biggest actors in Hollywood.

If you believe in that sort of thing, kindness supposedly gives you some good karma, too. I don’t know if Keanu and Tom used some of that karma to rise to the top, but I KNOW that being nice didn’t hurt.

Networking with Kindness

If you give it even a second of thought, I’m confident that you made friends with…all of your friends…probably by doing something nice for them and having common interests.

You courted your spouse or significant other by being nice.

And, guess what? Being NICE is exactly how you should build your network, too.

I will give you two quick tips that took me forever to figure out when it comes to networking…

First – be genuinely kind to other people. Because it’s obviously fake if you’re doing something nice and you have a different motive.

Here’s the life hack to that tip – be curious about the other person. That’s it. Ask questions and listen. Be INTERESTED instead of INTERESTING.

I still catch myself talking about…me…all the time. When I manage to notice, I mentally smack myself in the back of the head and ask my conversation partner a question like: “So…random question…what’s the funniest story you have about your day job?” Or, “What’s the toughest day of work you ever had?”

Curiosity is the ultimate switch — when you show interest in another person’s life, they sincerely appreciate it, and you get to learn. It’s really a win-win situation. Learn to be interested instead of interesting and you’ll be one of the best conversation partners in the room, even if you never SAY anything.

What’s wild about this tip is that it works for almost everyone. I’ve reached out to several of my “heroes” over the past couple of years and just asked them questions about THEIR lives. I didn’t ask FOR anything, I just asked ABOUT them. And I’ve received more responses than I ever would have expected. Food for thought…

Alright, tip #2 – find charitable organizations or causes to align yourself with.

We do regular fundraising events at my tattoo studio for each person on the team. We each take turns supporting a local non-profit or charity every quarter.

I picked the local animal shelter last time. We’ve also raised funds for Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, to help pay the bills of a beautiful soul who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and a couple of other events over the 2.5 years that we’ve been open.

Aligning yourself with an altruistic cause attracts other people who are passionate about helping in the same way you are. And those are good people to have around.

The Fulfillment Factor

Remember how I mentioned earlier that I have my own definition of success? It wasn’t always this definition. I wanted to be a millionaire in my early 20’s – like most 20-somethings. That was the dream. As I struggled through a divorce and found myself on the tail-end of a crumbling business, I started to re-evaluate my life.

I wasn’t unfaithful or abusive, but I was codependent and we were both reponsible for the marriage crumbling. My personal problems crushed my business. I ended up moving back in with my grandfather in Kentucky after living in a nice, gated community in Austin, TX.

This experience…was painful, to say the least, but I did my best to learn from my past. I approached all of my relationships differently — because being alone is painful.

Being surrounded by people I love was a new requirement for my “success.” So I had to start finding those people. And I had to be nice if I wanted to keep them around. I eventually met my NOW wife, and things started to turn around for me. I avoided codependent behaviour, I did my best to GIVE her love without expectation, and I worked on being the best version of myself.

By finding my tribes (mostly online) and growing my family, I feel like I’ve hit that point of “success” for me. I can honestly say that trying to GIVE VALUE to the people I love is one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve ever done or continue to do.

And that circle of people I love continues to grow.

Which brings two major things to the front of my mind — we’ll start with the events that we run at Affinity. These altruistic events have brought in some of my favorite clients to date. They come to support a cause, we make a connection, then I have a new client for life that I genuinely enjoy being around.

These events commonly attract people from two surrounding states (Ohio and West Virginia) — and those clients have a tendency to keep coming back. This all happens from us trying to make a positive dent in the universe.

The next major “thing” that pops up is my YouTube channel. I’ve removed a lot of my older videos because they don’t really align with what I want to accomplish today. Some of them are still up, and many of them are embarrassing to share…but when I released The Power of Play…it struck a nerve. I wasn’t trying to “get” anything or “build” anything when I did that video.

And I think it was relatable. I made something that I would enjoy watching, and I shared more than I thought I should. As Neil Gaiman put it — when you feel like you’re walking down the street naked, you might be starting to get it right.

Well, that’s how these videos feel to me.

Who is going to care about me wanting to be nice? Does anyone want to watch me make a shitty drawing or painting? Who is going to care that I want to make the world a better place? Who gives a fuck if I share how I almost destroyed my family’s future by taking on too much risk? Does anyone care that I still have a mountain of student loans?

I don’t know…but sharing something vulnerable about myself seems to be one of the most kind and relatable things that I can do…

It starts conversations, I get to help people see ideas through a new lens, and I get to build connections.

And if this video starts a domino effect of kindness, then I’ve found a way to amplify this idea, which will make me feel beyond amazing. It’s my greedy fulfillment of altruism.

On that note…thank you for watching. I hope you can go out and be a light for someone else today. Do it without expectation. Do it because it’s a good thing to do. Do it to provide value to someone else, not try to capture it. Do it because you NEED to be kind BEFORE you can be successful — by my definition, anyway.

So have a wonderful day or night, and I look forward to our next conversation.

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