PDT 2020 — Closing Plenary Session W115: The Kindness Diaries

By Mary Margaret Yodzis 

AGA’s Virtual PDT 2020 last July ended with an uplifting plenary session featuring Leon Logothetis, author of The Kindness Diaries and creator of the Netflix show of the same name. Through tales of his adventure out of the corporate world into a life of giving and receiving unexpected kindnesses, Logothetis encouraged attendees to recognize their own potential as they give back to others.

“Kindness is about the power to effect change in our culture and our society. When you turn on the news, you have people shouting at each other, whether it's on the left or the right. I’m thinking: how do we change them? How do we change this system in which being kind and showing compassion or empathy is in some bizarre way frowned upon?” he said.

The greatest gift each person possesses, Logothetis added, is the ability to change the world. “Maybe you're thinking, ‘Goodness me, another cliché.’ But it’s not. I believe we have the power to change the world by touching one life and being kind. The truth is that kindness is simply helping someone feel less alone.”

The author tested his theory during a global adventure by motorcycle. “Most of us live in our heads; we intellectualize everything, always thinking, thinking, thinking. And that often gets us into trouble. While watching a movie, ‘The Motorcycle Diaries,’ about a man travelling about who relies on the kindness of strangers, I realized that there is another way, and that is to live from the heart. It was such a profound moment of realization,” he said.

Logothetis quit his job as a London broker and moved to the U.S., where he traveled cross-country from New York to Los Angeles — and stayed. Necessity led him back into the corporate world for another eight years in L.A. until one day he encountered “a chap” on Hollywood Boulevard with a sign that read, “Kindness is the best medicine.” He said, “It was another epiphany. I learned that we all feel the same. We all are the same. It doesn't matter what religion or color you are, how much or how little money you have, we’re the same. And I love that.”

The experience led the adventurer to fashion his own “motorcycle diaries” by circumnavigating the world on a vintage yellow motorbike, “relying entirely on kindnesses. I decided I'd have no money, food, gas, no place to stay — nothing. And I couldn't accept money. All I could accept was an exchange of love. When I was supposed to leave, I thought, ‘What on earth am I doing? This is total insanity!’ But I ended up doing it,” he explained.

After a road trip from Alaska to Argentina, he crossed the Atlantic in a container ship and headed to India. “I met gurus and stayed by the Ganges, but one moment in an Indian slum changed everything,” he said. “I remember seeing this lady kiss her two kids before school, and I realized that her love for her kids is exactly the same as your love for your family. There is no difference. I know that we live in a world where bad things happen, and all these negative things become bigger and bigger and bigger. But what if we looked at the good things in life, and we made them bigger and bigger and bigger? Life would change.”

Logothetis said making kindness an active part of everyday life will change us as we change the lives of others. “Kindness is a win-win,” he noted. "If I'm going to do something kind, you're going to win. You're going to feel less alone. But what I am going to get out of it is that I’m going to feel better. Most probably, I’ll live longer. True wealth is not in our wallets. It's in our hearts; it’s how we treat other people. It’s a truth I’ve learned on this journey.”

The author issued a challenge to bring kindness to the workplace as well. “Realize the power of making someone feel like they matter,” he said, “For five days, treat someone with so much compassion, so much empathy, and so much love that they feel like they have value. After those five days, it will be like dealing with another human being. And it is all based on the power of being seen.”

Logothetis encouraged anyone who accepts the five-day “love challenge” to email him about the results at leon@gobekind.org. “You tell me what you’ve done, and I’ll send you a free book.”

Finally, he said, remember “to be gentle to yourself. How many times have we treated ourselves in a way that we would never let anyone treat us in a billion, trillion years? But we do it every day. Kindness is part of who you are.”