The Self-Serving and Selfish Results of Great Acts of Kindness

Joel Litman

Acts of kindness help make people better...

A question I ask myself often is how do I, as a leader, build an organization that has the best chance to succeed for the long term? How do we make sure that our people, our entire global workforce, are motivated and want to work? How do we make sure that our shareholders and investors feel comfortable that they're getting a great return on their investment?

To do all these things, we need smarter, more motivated, and higher-achieving people.

One interesting way to achieve this is by supporting the health of our workforce. The healthier version of a person is smarter and a higher achiever than the non-healthy version of that same person.

And more than 75 years of research at Harvard proved to us that optimists do live longer, healthier lives than pessimists.

Furthermore, kindness in the office is proven to be an important driver of corporate performance, with a 10-year study by Navalent proving that relationship building and kindness are key to a successful business.

As investors, we should be on the lookout for kindness in an organization as much as cash flows. Furthermore, investing, like any pursuit, can be improved through an approach of kindness.

Whatever your intellectual or emotional pursuits, your achievement is higher when you're healthier.

And better health doesn't just come through purely physiological means, like better sleeping, eating, and exercise.

Research has shown that higher levels of health come directly from the heart. Experiencing kindness results in healthier individuals.

What's fascinating is how research shows that this healthiness is not just created by performing acts of kindness... Simply witnessing acts of kindness has a positive and healthy biological impact.

Acts of kindness produce higher levels of oxytocin internally, which lowers blood pressure, improves heart health, and increases self-esteem and optimism.

Even just seeing acts of kindness improves a person's mood. There is a biological shift internally toward a healthier state of mind and body. Some researchers say that seeing an act of kindness is contagious... You're more likely to "pay it forward."

This means that witnessing the act of a good Samaritan in a crowded marketplace can create a highly positive "contagion" for all who see it, improving the psychology – and biology – of everyone around.

It's interesting how self-serving it is to share some of our unique corporate social responsibility initiatives...

Back in 2008, I was in the Philippines performing site audits on the charities I had been funding. I found that several charities were doing a fantastic job, and we doubled down on supporting them. (I also cut funding of others that were not so efficient or upfront with their use of funds.)

At our firm, the charities we partner with support the entire life cycle of education for children in the Philippines.

We have a huge child-sponsorship program where we've sponsored well over 200 elementary-aged and high school-aged kids in underdeveloped communities over the years. We make sure they get basic health benefits and support to eliminate truancy, as just being in school can really make a difference in future outcomes.

We also communicate with each of those children monthly, sharing thought-provoking words of encouragement.

We have scholarship programs at various levels to help with their entry into college or technical vocational schools. Those are often paired with on-the-job training programs.

Finally, according to one of our charity partners, we are in the top 1% of firms and individuals providing microfinance programs for budding entrepreneurs.

One of the reasons I'm personally invested in making this a company effort is because we want our people to witness some of the great kindnesses that a company can perform for its communities.

When we write to our sponsored students and individuals, we also share stories of great acts of kindness.

Two weeks ago, we discussed Oskar Schindler, who saved over a thousand Jewish people from the Nazis. We've also talked about Mother Teresa, among many other great people who have performed great acts of kindness.

As science has told us, even just witnessing or hearing about acts of kindness can make people healthier...

We share these stories with our employees as well. Science would suggest that this alone creates psychological and biological benefits.

There's an amazing virtuous circle that develops here. As you're reading this, if you deem our internal efforts to be kind, then you, our reader, benefit as well!

I kindly wish you your highest achievement in your pursuits in work, investing, and all areas of your life.

Love, joy, and peace,

May 6, 2022