In a society in which we’re constantly bombarded with stories of crime, poverty, and war, kindness appears to be a dying personality trait. That simply isn’t true. Acts of kindness seldom make the evening news, but that doesn’t make them any less prevalent, or the people who perform them any less outstanding. Though they rarely get the credit they deserve, caring people deserve to be celebrated for many reasons.
1. They give us hope.
When we hear a story of a family over-tipping their waitress or donating their Christmas presents to a homeless shelter, our first reaction is usually “Faith in humanity: restored.” As I said, we’re so inundated with negative stories on the news and on our Facebook feeds that hearing of such positivity and kindness helps remind us that not everyone out there is awful. These people are the ones who keep the rest of us going, even on our toughest days.
2. They lift others up.
Kind people lift others up in two ways. For one, they help people who have fallen on hard times, or have found themselves in bad situations. They also lift up those around them who are inspired by their efforts. Their actions reach much farther than the instant in which they are performed.
3. They are selfless.
Kind people rarely think of themselves. They are rewarded not by tangible objects, but by seeing joy in other people’s lives. In a world in which so many of us tend to focus on money or some other usable prize, kindhearted people are content knowing that their actions have made a profound impact on the life of someone in need.
4. They don’t look for praise.
Not only do kind people not look for prizes, but they also rarely take credit for their actions. While those they have affected constantly dote out compliments and thank-yous, they usually respond with “It’s no big deal.” They’re simply kind by nature, and doing the right thing has always been innate to their behavior.
5. They provide for their loved ones.
Kind people will bend over backward for their family and friends. They might have to go out of their way and put some extra effort into a task, but they do it, knowing it will benefit their loved ones. They are the fathers who work late nights, or the mothers who are there to pick up their children every day from school. They all have other things they could be doing, but they put their own lives on the back burner so their families can thrive.
6. They are productive.
Kind people are never sedentary. They keep going, no matter how tired they may be. We’ve talked about how kind people put others before themselves, and this includes when it’s inconvenient for them. Simply put, kind people feel a duty to their fellow man, and stop at nothing until they complete a task.
7. They aren’t takers.
Along with being productive, kind people are rarely consumers. They give and give, and usually don’t take anything back. These are the people who help humanity progress; rather than taking what others have created and using it up, they are always creating opportunities for themselves and others.
8. They don’t judge others.
Kind people see everyone as equals, regardless of their circumstances. People who hold biases miss out on so many possible connections when they shut others out. Kind people don’t do this; they accept everyone who comes into their lives, in search of a common thread that may lead to a long-lasting friendship.
9. They’re role models.
Kind people are the ones we all look up to. There are definitely times that even the kindest of people feel down, but they’ll never let you know it. They sometimes seem like superheros, since they’re always “on” no matter how tough their current circumstances may be. They inspire us to be the person we know we can be if we put our all into every aspect of our lives.
10. Their acts are contagious.
Being kind sets off a chain reaction. A young boy helps a man pick up his papers that flew all over the sidewalk; the man stops and fixes a woman’s flat tire for her; the woman later sees a homeless man begging for change and brings him a sub sandwich and cup of coffee; the homeless man brings it to his family for their first fulfilling meal in a week. One tiny act of kindness can cause a ripple effect that could be felt throughout the world. All it takes is one person to set the ball in motion.
The most valuable thing an experienced person has is their experience. People make mistakes, learn from them, and adapt their life around them to become better people. Those people would then tell tales to others to help teach those lessons so that others would not have to make the same mistakes.
People still tell these stories today but in a slightly different format — they use speeches to express their experiences. Here are some valuable life lessons you can learn from some of the greatest inspirational speeches:
1. JK Rowling teaches us to not fear failure no matter how bad things become
It is a well-known fact that JK Rowling’s now-famous Harry Potter series was turned down by several publishers before it was finally picked up. Those publishers are likely kicking themselves in the pants right now. However, before that, JK Rowling was in a fairly dire situation and was on the brink of failure. Despite being turned down time and time again, she kept trying. Her efforts paid off. Harry Potter is now a ubiquitous character in today’s world culture. Despite failing over and over again, Rowling kept trying and fulfilled her dreams. You can watch her deliver some valuable life lessons in her Harvard commencement speech video above.
2. Steve Jobs teaches us to never settle
Steve Jobs had a fairly tumultuous life. He co-founded Apple, was kicked out of the company, came back, and then re-defined the mobile phone space with the iPhone. Even if iPhones aren’t the rage they once were, its iconic value is forever written in stone. One thing Jobs never did was settle. He lived life on his own terms and was rewarded for it by being dubbed one of the most revolutionary voices in technology of our time. In the Stanford commencement speech above, Jobs explains how you should never settle for what someone else wants out of your life. It’s your life and you should do what you want with it.
3. Admiral William H McRaven teaches us to make our beds every day
Anyone who has gone through the basic training of a military service will tell you it’s pretty difficult. However, every seemingly obnoxious step is actually a life lesson in disguise. This even applies to flawlessly making one’s bed every single morning. As Admiral William H McRaven teaches us, recruits are taught to make their beds every morning to remind them that even the little things in life matter. After all, how can you be expected to handle the biggest obstacles in your life if you can’t even handle the small and the mundane like making your bed every day? You can watch the entire speech in the video above.
4. Author David Foster Wallace teaches us that we’re a part of a greater existence
David Foster Wallace found fame in 1987 with his book The Broom of the System. Nearly 20 years later in 2005 he game a commencement speech at Kenyon College that is worth listening to at least once. In his speech, he reminds us that was are but a part of a huge, dynamic, ever changing interaction of life forms. In order to truly experience life, we need to leave our personal bubbles and interact with others even if it’s in an unpleasant way. Wallace states, “It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” You can watch the whole speech above.
5. Stephen Colbert teaches us that life isn’t something you can plan
If there is anyone who knows about improvisation, it’s comedian Stephen Colbert. In his commencement speech at Northwestern University in 2011, Colbert reminded students that you cannot plan life. Life throws too many curve balls. There are too many unpredictable things that can happen. The most successful and happy people are not those who have a plan, but those who can roll with the punches and overcome the obstacles. He goes on to site his time as an improv comic and how all of the actors working together to create a scene out of literally nothing are all working for one another. He states that like improv comedy, you don’t know what happens next in life. You just make it up as you go along. You can watch the whole speech above.
6. Kurt Vonnegut teaches us to not sweat the small stuff
Some of our younger readers may not know Kurt Vonnegut. He is a famous author that found of of his success during the middle of last century. In 1999, Kurt Vonnegut was at Agnes Scott College giving a commencement speech. During the speech, he mentioned that in order to live a more complete life, people needed to let stuff go. He argued that you cannot reasonably expect others to forgive you for your mistakes if you cannot forgive others and that you cannot live life fostering a personal vendetta against others.
7. Neil Gaiman teaches us that success can be distracting.
Neil Gaiman is most known for his work in a number of literary mediums including journalism, comic books, and novels. In 2012, Gaiman gave a speech at the University of the Arts where he talked about success. He stated that when you become successful, you may be unintentionally swayed from performing the actions that made you successful. Gaiman recalled his early success and how he felt pressured to answer emails all day long and it actually prevented him from writing as much as he wanted. So he reminds us to keep doing what makes us successful and to not let others get in the way.
8. Barack Obama’s life lessons teaches us that you really can beat the odds
We know that not everyone likes Barack Obama but that doesn’t mean the man can’t deliver an amazing speech. In this 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convenction, Obama reminds that it is possible to beat the odds and become something great. He cites his own upbringing as an example and how he was never expected to make it as far as he did. It shows that when you’re passionate about something and when you try hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything. It’s important to note that Obama talks about this in 2004 and would become the President of the United States just four years later.
9. Robin Roberts reminds us that we each have the courage to overcome challenges
Robin Roberts knows a thing or two about courage. She is a breast cancer survivor and has done battle with a rare blood disease called myelodysplastic syndrome. Her sister once had to donate bone marrow just so Robin could remain alive. She was also ESPN’s first African American broadcaster in the early 1990’s. She’s a woman who works in an industry predominately populated by men. So when Robin Roberts takes the stage at the ESPYs and delivers a short lecture on having courage, we would do well to listen!
10. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us that some things are more important than success
We all know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. So much so that we have a day of the year to celebrate him as a national holiday here in the United States. Most of us have listening to segments of his famous speech where he told the world about a dream he had. The main message of his famous speech is that racial inequalities needed to end and he was absolutely right. However, he also reminds us that there are things that are more important than success such as equal rights and treating each other with respect and kindness. If you somehow made it through school without watching the famous speech, we’ve got it linked above.
11. Jim Carrey reminds us that even if you keep it safe, you can still fail so you might as well go big
Jim Carrey delivered a commencement speech at Maharishi University recently that went absolutely viral. You may know it as the one minute video that will change your life. They weren’t lying but they weren’t telling the whole truth because the speech was actually 28 minutes long. During the speech, Carrey talks about his father who wanted to be a comedian but decided to take the safe route and become an accountant. As it turns out, his father was laid off and his family ended up poor anyway. With that, Carrey tells us that you can still end up failing even if you play it safe so you might as well swing for the fences and do what you want to do.
12. Bill Murray teaches us that it’s the hard times that determine if someone really loves you
You may have heard the story about Bill Murray crashing someone’s bachelor party and delivering a speech. It turns out the speech was both short and fairly epic. During the speech, Bill Murray challenged the bachelors to travel around the world with the women they love and go to places that are difficult to go to and deal with. He says if you can get back to the United States and you still love each other, then you should get married right then and there. It’s a great message. It’s easy to love one another when times are good but do you still love each other when the times are bad? If so, that’s true love according to Bill Murray.
Inspiration comes from everywhere and from anyone. There are a countless number of speeches and stories that can teach us an incalculable number of life lessons.
All these speeches almost share the same message: Don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying.
If you also want to live your best life like the above successful people, this is what you should start doing: