Clint Murphy, Houston J Kraft
Houston J KraftClint Murphy 00:15
Welcome to the growth guide podcast. I’m your host, Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors to share the lessons that will help you and me be better, achieve more and become financially free.
Clint Murphy 00:37
Today, I had an amazing conversation with Houston Kraft, co founder of character strong, which provides research based curricula that transforms the way schools teach social emotional learning, character, education, and kindness. Houston is the author of Deep Kindness, A Revolutionary Guide For The Way We Think, Talk and Act in Kindness, which takes an honest look at the gap between our belief and kindness, and our ability to perform it well. And Houston shows us how to put intention into action. I really enjoyed this conversation. And I hope you do too. Houston, welcome to the Growth Guide Podcast. It’s great to have you here today. For our listeners who don’t know you, can you tell them a little bit about yourself? And then we’ll dive into your work.
Houston J Kraft 01:38
Yeah. Thanks, Clint, super excited to chat today. My name is Houston, I’ve spent over a decade of my life thinking about and talking about kindness. My aim in the world is to create a more loving world, a more compassionate world and more kind world. And I think that that starts with redefining what kindness looks like, how we think about it and perhaps most importantly, to me, in my world today is how we teach it.
Clint Murphy 02:04
Oh, it’s perfect and the book that we’re talking about is Deep Kindness, A Revolutionary Guide For The Way We Think, Talk and Act in Kindness. So with that, the first question that I have is you make a statement very early in the book, that kindness isn’t normal. When did you yourself have that realization? And what did it make you want to do?
Houston J Kraft 02:31
Yeah, I heard it from a woman sitting next to me on a plane and it struck as frustratingly true. And the story that I heard it inside of was, I was traveling myself, kind of exhausted, just wanted to take a nap. And this woman sits down next to me. And you can tell she wants to have a conversation, even though I’m obviously not interested. But she was persistent, and pulled the headphone out, introduced myself, learned that her name is Helga and Helga and I get to talk and at some point, discover that we both work in education. At the time I was a speaker in schools wandering around to high schools and middle schools talking about things like empathy and connection and kindness. And she gets all excited. She goes, I used to work in a school before. And so I started telling her about my senior year when I created a club at my high school called random acts of kindness, etc. And I was just going into detail about how we set up this club and how we wanted to get lots of people involved. And the whole premise of the club was to keep it simple. Every week, we would get together and try to meet someone new, and leave them better than we found them. That was the whole premise, not too complicated. And as I’m describing this process, and this organization to Helga, she’s, she’s getting emotional. And she starts to tell me about the last time she was on an airplane. It’s three years before her and I are sitting next to each other. And she explains that the only reason she was on the plane was because she’d gotten a phone call from her father’s doctor, something was going wrong. As soon as she could get to Arizona to see him, she should be on the next plane. That was the word that he gave her. She rushes to the airport gets on a plane. And as she’s about to take off, she learns that her dad has passed away. She’s en route to go and see him and she gets this news. And she’s detailing the story to me. And she goes Houston, I’m sitting next to strangers on this airplane. And I’m shocked, I’m, I’m overwhelmed. I don’t like I say a word that whole plane ride and she goes until I land in Arizona. When I walk off the plane and it hits me what’s happened and she goes, I just fall to the ground, back up against the wall crying harder than I’ve ever cried in my life. And she goes Houston, you want to know why what you’re talking about to me is so important. Why I get emotional just thinking about the idea of kindness. She goes I was sitting in the airport for two hours that day. As I’m sitting there crying on the worst day of my life. She’s like 3000 people are in that airport around me going to their planes, getting off their planes, Houston, two hours, 3000 people and not one, not a single person stopped. And I remember sitting next to Helga on this airplane, when she looks at me and she goes, you have no idea how much I could’ve use an act of kindness that day. She goes, I realized that kindness isn’t normal, that it’s not normal in our world to be kind. And I sit next to Helga on this airplane. And I heard her say that to me, and the like frustration, the heartbreak, the sense of purpose that I felt sort of all at once, like, sort of, the deeper the need, and the more you understand, the more passionate you feel about pursuing it. And that moment was very clarifying of like, okay, what does it look like? What would it look like to change that? What does it look like to make kindness normal in our culture? And that was about 10 years ago that I sat next to Helga. So in the time since I’ve been trying to backwards design from that problem. Okay, how do we fix that? How do we create a more compassionate culture
Clint Murphy 05:53
And your the third guest now that I’ve had on the show talking about kindness, and the second where one of the moments that really solidified it was in an airport. And so our first guest had a similar experience, just watching a young woman cry, and no one going over and doing anything. And so finally, he simply went over and gave her, wrote on the back of a business card a note to her, and just sort of gave it to her just to try to help brighten her day. And that started him on his journey. So I love it, and all three of you share a similar sentiment, that kindness isn’t being nice. It’s not being polite. Those are simple. The way you phrase it, deep kindness is so much more than that. It requires much more from us. Can you share with us what is your definition of deep kindness? And what does that look like relative to just holding a door open or saying please, and thank you?
Houston J Kraft 07:04
Yeah, Clint, I’ve always had a disposition towards words. Since I was a little kid. I loved spelling words, I loved learning new words. And the more that I’ve learned about words, the more you realize that words actually shape a lot, a huge percentage of the way that we experience the world. To have language for a thing gives us context and can shape the way we experience a thing. The way we think about things in our brain oftentimes shapes the way we act with them in the world. Different way to phrase it is like our beliefs drive our behaviors, right, the way that we understand a concept is going to be really connected to how we act in it. And my definition of deep kindness is, I would say more so an exercise in contrast, it’s more about thinking about what it isn’t, because I think there’s so much of how we think about kindness in the world. That is what I would describe as confetti kindness. It’s really the reason I started writing the book. You know, my work, as I alluded to was, was for many years, about seven years I spoke in schools, I was like your classic motivational speaker in the assembly halls and auditoriums and cafeterias and I spoke at 600 campuses over the course of seven years. So you get to see a lot of like, insights right into how schools operate, what kids are navigating, get to listen to a lot of kids. And I would tell you that 99% of schools that I ever got a chance to work with, have kindness as a part of their motto, or their mission statement, right? Their expectations. Just about every school I’ve ever spoken at has some kind of poster about kindness on their walls, and you start to see patterns. And that the poster I see most commonly in schools said throw kindness around like confetti. And I remember coming home from a speaking gig many years into my career, and sitting in my living room just like thinking about that premise, feeling frustrated about the state of the world and what feels like a lack of kindness or compassion in it. And I was like, That’s it, I need to write a book called Confetti, the challenge of kindness in a world that oversimplifies it. Because I think that’s what we unintentionally do. I think we unintentionally offered the narrative to young people. But I think also that all of us I think we all think about kindness is like a random act. I think for young people, it’s like throw kindness around like confetti, just be kind. And I think one of the more damaging narratives we can offer culturally about kindness is the idea that it’s simple. The idea that it’s easy, the idea that it’s as freely given as something like confetti. But that’s the narrative, right? That’s what’s in the cultural lexicon. That’s how we think about the idea of kindness and, and then the publisher was like, I was so excited about the title of the book, Confetti, and the publisher was like Houston, you shouldn’t call the book the thing that you don’t want people to do. It’s like, that’s a good point. So they offered that opportunity for contrast. So like, what’s the difference between confetti, kindness and deep kindness? And I think confetti kindness is niceness. It’s convenience. I’ll be generous to you if it’s convenient or also equally benefits me. Whereas deep kindness isn’t about convenience. It’s oftentimes about sacrifice. But genuinely being willing to give something of yourself, right, the idea that kindness doesn’t cost us something is simply not true. At the bare minimum, kindness costs us time. It costs us energy and effort to pay attention to people, to care for people. It costs us like discomfort to be willing to listen to people who need us or are different than us. It requires us to sacrifice a moment from our day to acknowledge someone suffering in the airport. And to think to myself, I can’t do maybe everything to help this person. But is there something that I could do to bring a moment of comfort or a moment of peace or a moment of joy to this person? That’s a sacrifice. Where confetti kindness is sort of cute, right? Like we see the narratives on news or in online and on blogs, like people like to pay it forward coffee line, that’s a lovely gesture. And I don’t want to diminish in any way, the value of something that’s like really sweet. But I think we both know that like those acts of kindness, they might make someone’s day, but they’re not shifting culture towards towards justice, or towards really deeply caring for one another in the ways that I think we can collectively look out and acknowledge, but we’re really not very good at seeing past differences, and supporting people beyond our own current realm of scarcity and anxiety and overwhelm. So deep kindness is not an action of convenience. It’s not an action of cuteness, it’s like an action of like conscientiousness, an understanding of what people need and a willingness to give it to him.
Clint Murphy 11:41
You said something in that last couple sentences, because one of the important things that I’m taking away from what you’re saying is, it requires something from us. And there should be a sense of we don’t expect anything back, which is more of an abundant mindset. We just give of ourselves with no expectation of anything in return. Whereas you mentioned scarcity, where sometimes we fear if we give of ourselves, and we’re not getting something back. There’s only so much in the world. So we have to save what we have. And only give it if we’re getting it. What does that look like as part of kindness?
Yeah, I mean, that’s the pursuit, right? Not to say that that’s how most of us operate, including myself, most of the time, we always have stories attached to, to generosity, we hope that we’re making a difference, we hope that they’re grateful for what we’re giving them. But when we attach generosity with an expectation of something in return, then a lot of times it’s serving us more than it’s serving the person across from us. The story that I share in the book that I stumbled upon, and writing the book that speaks to this most sort of frustratingly and powerfully is the story of the Sandy Hook shooting. This obviously global tragedy that people from around the world are responding to young people losing their lives. And here’s this like, moment in time where people have a need. And it’s this acute, traumatic day. And as a result, on the far side, people from all over the world start sending things like I want to be helpful I want to be kind. And so people send teddy bears, because young people have lost their lives. In fact, people from all around the world sent so many gifts like teddy bears, that the town of Newtown had to rent a massive warehouse just to house all the inbound gifts. And then reading this one article about the candlelight vigil they held, the thing that stood out to me was a line from one of the organizers. And he says, you know, a teddy bear is great. But a teddy bear doesn’t pay for a funeral. And a teddy bear doesn’t pay for counseling. And that story is that line from this man who’s obviously like inside of the bigger picture. It’s something I think about a lot when we talk about the idea of generosity, because people from all around the world are trying to do something kind. But when we offer kindness, and have the absence of empathy attached to it, what we’re really doing is we’re trying to give something that makes us feel good. But it gives us a moment of peace to send a teddy bear, but it’s actually not meeting a need. So there’s the empathy piece. And then there’s the attachment from needing something in return. And I my guess is anyone listening to this has received a gift from someone, probably family who say there’s no strings attached. But there actually are. They’re waiting for some sort of acknowledgment, even though you maybe even explicitly said, I don’t want this and I’m giving it to you anyways, because they want you to want this. And that’s like that’s the empathy piece. That’s what lives beneath it is understanding that what we’re to be truly deeply kind. What we are giving to others, is actually a byproduct of understanding what they need first. and being willing to offer that without the expectation that they’re going to celebrate or acknowledge or give something to you in return.
Clint Murphy 15:07
And the interesting part is, you would think with all the communication we have on it all the talking we have on it, that kindness would be increasing. But if you look at the last 20 years, it’s really even the last 15 years, the increased connectivity at our fingertips, the ability to watch everything happen on social media and be connected to the world. But the problem is that’s leading to increases in anxiety. You talk about the empathy gap, we end up having people being more lonely than they ever have been in history with increasing suicide rates for young people. Can you share with listeners what all of this looks like? And what the downhill impacts have been on society and unkindness in general?
Houston J Kraft 16:02
Yeah, it’s such a good frame claim. I mean, I think we could collectively acknowledge that the world needs more kindness. And when we see an absence of something, we try to fill it in on the surface level. But problem as you’re sort of alluding to, you know, it’s really possible for us to regularly treat the symptom and not that the costs, not the root cause. And the root cause to me lives beneath kindness quite a bit. The idea of empathy, as my friend Barbara Gruner, would say, empathy gives kindness. That’s why when I understand someone, I’m more compelled to want to help them or serve them. When I understand someone’s needs and how they’re different than mine. I can meet them in a space that is actually beneficial and helpful in a way that it might not be the same for me. But why is it that over the past 20 years, we have a downward trend of the skill of empathy, empathy has dropped in the average college age student 40% in the past 20 years, that’s substantial. So why is that? Well, one of my favorite authors and a friend of mine, Dr. Michele Borba, she says, you know, the biggest barriers to empathy are anxiety, narcissism and fear. To put it differently, when anxiety or narcissism or fear goes up in the collective or the individual, the byproduct is empathy goes down. Which makes sense, when you think about it, the more anxious we are, anxiety is a self oriented emotion. And it’s worrying about what’s going on in my world. And the more worried I am about what’s going on in my world, the harder time it is for me to extend myself into someone else’s world. So it’s not that we’re just sort of collectively getting grumpy or meaner, I think what’s happening at the root cause is we are collectively getting more anxious, more fearful, more self oriented. And that’s not necessarily a bunch of individual choices. It’s a narrative that our culture around us is generating. Like those feelings of overwhelm, and anxiety come from having more access to data than ever before. And having to parse which of this stuff is actually true, which of the stuff is actually meaningful, or something that I need here, which things don’t have any kind of control over it to help. So we’ve increased access to information, increased access to negative or bad news, increased conflict and feeling of distance or discrepancy between me and my neighbor. And now we feel isolated. And as a result of isolation, we start to feel loneliness that has all these sort of physiological effects on us. And now, the average young person today has as much anxiety as the average psychiatric patient from the 1950s. So when you look at that data, you just, you realize that it’s not that we like don’t want to be kind, it’s actually that we are so overwhelmed, and stressed and anxious, that we can’t think beyond ourselves to be kind in the first place.
Clint Murphy 18:47
So not only we have all the news, headlines designed to increase and amp up the fear. We have all these social media sharing apps where everyone only puts their best life forward, which creates a level of narcissism, if you will. And we have the dopamine dispensaries of the social media sites that increase our anxiety. Am I getting enough likes? Will people like me if I post this? And so everything that you listed that drops empathy is being hardwired, in our system? Not necessarily purposely. But as a byproduct of the way all of these tools are being marketed to us?
Houston J Kraft 19:36
Yeah, it’s a bunch of individual entities who are who are operating inside of a system that we designed where the number one commodity is our attention. And so with everyone’s trying to demand our attention, and there’s more ways to access our attention and to keep our attention, then we have this this sense of exhaustion collectively, because we’re being asked to pay attention into a whole lot of things every single day. And social media provides an illusion of connection without actually generating it. And the result of that is it is an anxiety that’s like we can’t quite place because we’re so close to experiencing connection, we’re being told we’re connecting. But we’re not actually experiencing the benefits of it. Of feeling known, right, that feeling authentic, of being vulnerable of the sort of messy, incredible gift that it is when you’re actually in spaces with people together, collaborating, creating, you know, moving past differences, seeing beyond the highlight reels. And I really believe that there’s a really pervasive, relentless sense of anxiety that we can’t put our finger on that, I believe is the result of feeling so close to being in the present without actually being there. And that’s what social media and news outlets do. Like we’re so close to the present moment. But everything we’re reading and experiencing is just second hand enough that we’re outside of being right here right now. And I think that friction between feeling like we’re supposed to be in the present, but not actually being there is the thing that just drives us collectively overwhelmed.
Clint Murphy 21:08
Yeah, I had a conversation with someone today, we missed an appointment yesterday. And he had forgotten that he started a digital Sabbath, on the weekends. And it’s such a great idea to just say, at least one day a week, I’m going to completely disconnect from all of these devices, electronics and, and be fully present for one day. Now, my wife did this on Christmas Day, and it was absolutely terrifying, and grounding, because there was that sense of existential what am I missing? Oh, I posted something yesterday, or I wrote something this morning. Is it resonating? Are people reading it? And so there was that fear of what I was missing out on. And at the end of the day, I felt wow, I’m much calmer today than I have been in quite some time, because I’ve been present throughout the day with my family. And so what you’re saying, fully resonates there. And someone’s gonna say to you, well, obviously, we want more deep kindness in the world. Everyone wants it, we talk about it, we should throw deep kindness around like confetti. So then the question is what gets in the way, and you in a wonderfully alliteration way raise three things that get in our way of deep kindness? Can you share what they are on a high level that we’ll dive into some of them and how we can overcome them?
Houston J Kraft 22:36
Yeah, I love me some good alliteration – helps me remember things better. And the starting letter of these three is actually relevant to the overall conversation. The three are incompetence, insecurity, and inconvenience. So be sort of the three categorical things that get in the way to me, of, of what it looks like to create a more kind of world, of why we know we want more deep kindness in the world. And there’s like, what, what is it that prevents that? Why is it that we can’t have this thing that we all sort of collectively understand is important and valuable, right? Sort of the fabric that keeps the whole thing together is this, is human kindness and generosity and love, right? But the great things that we know make life meaningful. It’s like, well, why don’t we get more of it? Well, one, we don’t know how to do it. Two, we’re scared to do it. And three, we got so many other competing demands, it’s hard to do it consistently over time. And that first letter, of course, across all three is attaches to one of my my favorite little mini stories of one of the great sort of writers and theologians was asked in this prompt in the newspaper hey, what do you think’s wrong with the world today? And GK Chesterton is his name. He wrote back he said, I am, sincerely GK Chesterton. Just a great line, what’s wrong with the world today? That’s me, that’s just me. And that sort of radical ownership of really, it just comes back to like, what do I need to learn? What fears do I need to overcome? And what detoxes or schedules are habits do I need to build to add more kindness into my life,
Clint Murphy 24:16
And it’s so powerful, that he’s recognizing, well, the only thing I can control is me. So if I tell you all these other things that are wrong, it’s irrelevant, because I can’t change those. I can just change how I behave, how I act, which is something we really like to promote on on the show. And when we start with that competent side, one of the things you talked about that I loved was this idea of pairing a vocabulary with thoughtfulness. And we might not have sometimes the vocabulary to compliment someone or say the right thing at the right time. But that’s often what will make the kindness stick. What do you mean by that vocabulary for complimenting people at the right time, and combining it with that thoughtful?
Houston J Kraft 25:11
Yeah, a frame I use is specificity drives significance. I was working, I spoke at a school event recently, a bunch of middle school educators in Florida. And I told this story, I talked about that frame of why specific compliments are stickier, right? They stay with us longer, they mean more to us. They’re obviously going to be more impactful than generic platitudes. And he came up to me after the talk, and he goes, you know, my least favorite compliment from my supervisors from my administrators in my school, is thanks for all you do. Because when you say thanks for all you do, it tells me that you don’t actually know what I do. Do you have any idea what I’m actually doing? Because all I do is pretty generic. It’s pretty broad. But when we can say something like, thank you, Clint for creating a space for authentic conversations, for taking time to actually dig into author’s works and unpack and extrapolate meaningful questions. Because you’ve done the work, you’ve reflected, you’ve taken notes, and you show up to a conversation like this, ready to engage with questions that are targeted instead of generic makes the conversation so much more rich, because you’re tapping into people’s passion. You’re tapping into people’s expertise that make me feel more excited than alive, right? Like that sort of like targeted compliment is way different than Clint. Thanks for a great podcast, man.
Clint Murphy 26:38
Oh, it was the best one I’ve had. I was teared up on that one. It was the best one I’ve had in years. So you definitely have this skill. So how do I improve that vocabulary and be in that specificity? Because the way you were able to do that, when we’ve only been talking for a short period of time, the level of thoughtfulness to that comment and how specific you were, was impressive. How can the listener develop that skill set?
Houston J Kraft 27:11
Yeah, I think the first 25% of kindness is just noticing just paying attention. Mother Teresa would say people crave attention and appreciation more than they crave bread. She kind of earned the right to say that right? She was working in some of the most disparate parts of the world where people are suffering and hungry. And she would show up into these spaces. And really all they wanted was someone to acknowledge them and pay attention to them. And that’s a skill when so many things are demanding our attention. The willingness, the presence, the exercise of just noticing is like the first chunk of the battle. And so I think that’s something you cultivate, it’s something that you’re looking for, when you’re looking to find good in people, they start to reveal it in really cool ways. It’s first of all, just a perspective, right, and a skill of awareness. The second part is just recognizing what specificity looks like. And it’s taking something like, instead of complementing at the generic things for all you do level, what does it look like just to zoom in. The strategy that I teach to is to work backwards, I love this model of to the person who and I just generate like a big list of ideas. To the person who first taught me about kindness, to the person who makes me laugh, when I’m on the phone with him, to the person who’s the best DJ in the car, to the person who smile makes my day feel a little better, to the person who actually is willing to help me move to the person who checks in with me randomly. I’m just listing random sort of categories. But my guess is for at least one of those, Clint someone comes to your mind, and you work backwards from that. They say okay, then how do I celebrate for this person who plays this role in my life? Hey, Blank, I just wanted to let you know that I had a conversation today with someone about kindness. And it made me realize that like you’re one of my role models and kindness, the way that you …, right show up for your mom in the world and what she’s needed over these past couple of years. And the way that I see you still carry yourself in other spaces so generously, even though I know you’re overwhelmed and some of your own personal stuff, like it’s just such an exemplar to me. And you just realize that as soon as you get specific with a superlative with someone in your life, the compliment you can give, as a reminder, literally whenever you want to people like that is that much more powerful. So you just use specificity in the response, the most common response when you send a random message like that, is you have no idea how much I needed this or the other response is Are you okay?
Clint Murphy 29:46
Houston J Kraft 29:49
Which is an indicator that kindness isn’t normal. It’s like, oh, yeah, no, I’m just celebrating you as a person in my life. Is that weird? And it’s like, yeah, that is weird. Unfortunately.
Clint Murphy 29:57
Both of those responses absolutely make sense because most of us, we go through life and we don’t have the deep conversations. You know, I went for a walk with a person who was put in touch by a mutual acquaintance. And I met this person probably 20 years ago, at least 20 plus years since we’d seen each other. And we got together and we started walking and we started talking. And pretty quickly, it just became a very deep conversation, Houston. And we ended up walking and talking together for over two and a half hours, and that level of deep meaningful conversation is so rare today. And it brings up something your friend said to you, which was, we’re all two “how are you’s” away from a breakdown? Can you share more on that one?
Houston J Kraft 30:58
Yeah, that’s my best friend Estevan. He’s the best. I think that’s a great premise. Another one of my favorite books is from a friend Dr. Mark Brackett, he wrote a book called Permission to Feel. He says one of the most common questions we get in the world is how are you? And it’s probably the one that we are least competent in answering. We don’t have the vocabulart. To go back to vocabulary and the importance of it. When someone asks, how are you, our default response is fine, good. Why? Well, as soon as you ask that second how are you? It’s a request to move beyond the basic the natural response. And I think we say fine or good, because whatever the narrative is, we don’t want to be a burden on people to share with them how we actually feel, or probably most commonly, we don’t actually take the time to even acknowledge how we’re feeling because we’re so in motion, all the time. Busyness is numbing, and it’s nice to be numb sometimes when you’re not ready or unwilling or don’t know how to navigate the things that are living beneath the surface of that to do list. And so I love that premise of two how are you’s away? Because if you ask that second, how are you really have to pause and say, okay, good question. If I’m not just fine, what am I? And most people have only been offered a very basic vocabulary on how to name that response. It’s the four basic human emotions mad, sad, glad and afrad. Afraid, but it’s nice to have that memory device. Right? Those four basic…
Clint Murphy 32:30
I like that. I was like, oh, it’s easier to memorize when he says it that way.
Houston J Kraft 32:36
But those are like categorically like, you know, I’m sad. Well, there’s a lot of different versions of sad, Are you lonely? Are you depressed? Are you anxious? Are you overwhelmed? Are you distant, you dissociated? There’s like the whole research would say there’s over 35,000 different ways to describe how we feel. Most of us only really know four, or maybe five. So expanding that vocabulary is a really big deal for lots of reasons. One of them is the better and more accurately, we can name how we’re feeling, the more capable we are regulating those emotions. If we can name how we’re feeling, we can better navigate those feelings. If we don’t, it feels distant and mysterious, and it just sort of operates in the background, it doesn’t mean we’re not feeling it, we just don’t know what to do with it. And that can be insidious in our life, right? Background, unpaid attention to, unmanaged anxiety or sadness over time, can lead to lots of different things, including mental illness in your future. So caring for those needs first starts with understanding what those needs are. The far side of that, of course, is if I can better name what I’m feeling or it also helps me understand that in other people, when I can identify the emotions I’m experiencing, I can better see into other people’s worlds. And when I can better understand other people’s worlds, I can better show up and be kind to them.
Clint Murphy 33:58
Well, part of what that you’ve mentioned it and we’ve talked about it a bit, but we haven’t dove into it a few times is empathy. And understanding where people are and having more names for their emotions and a better vocabulary helps us put ourselves in their shoes. So that’s one way we can increase empathy. What are other ways for someone who’s low in empathy? How do we help them increase their empathy muscle? Thanks for listening. If you enjoy what you’re hearing so far, and want me to be able to get your favorite guests on this show, please do me a quick favor. Subscribe to the show. And leave me a rating. The 30 seconds of your time will mean a ton to me.
Houston J Kraft 34:41
A great book, The War for Kindness in a similar vein to Deep Kindness, this guy, Dr. Jamil Zaki out of Stanford, and he says, empathy in many ways a lot like kindness is a misunderstood word. He says it’s an umbrella term, it’s actually not one skill at all. It’s an umbrella term that sort of encapsulates a few different skills that live beneath it. The way he breaks it apart that’s helpful for me is is sharing, thinking and caring. Three dimensions of empathy. In the literature, they might describe it as affective empathy, behavioral empathy, and cognitive empathy. So sharing is that like emotion sharing, it’s the mirror neurons, when we see someone in pain, we have very natural human response to respond to that pain to feel it a little bit ourselves. And one of the ways that we can improve at that is to grow our emotion vocabulary, so that that is like partially step one is self awareness. The more I can explore my emotional landscape and understand it and unpack it, the better I am able to show up and understand it and acknowledge it in others. So there’s the self work first, how am I feeling? Not just how are you? How am I? Maybe ask myself a couple of times, how am I?How am I actually? What does that mean? Why is that? And some people do that through journaling. Some people do that through therapy, some people do that through meditation. People do that through self development, books, workshops, seminars, or podcasts, there’s lots of ways to explore that inner landscape that help us develop a richer capacity to understand other people’s emotional experiences. That’s affective, that’s the sharing side, the cognitive side or the thinking side, as Dr. Zaki would put it is perspective taking, right, it’s recognizing that my lived experience is different than everyone else’s on this planet. And the way that I experience a given moment or event or situation is going to be different because of all the inputs that I’ve had over the course of my life. My family, my friends, the schools, I went to, the things I studied, the cultural contexts I live inside of, faith communities that I grew up in or didn’t grow up in, right, all of those different things play a role in how I experience any given situation or moment. The pandemic is a great example of like, we experienced the same thing, we did not experience it in the same way. And that’s because we all have really different contexts that we show up inside of. For some of us, it was a nearly impossible experience to navigate. For others, actually really enriching or growth generating. And isn’t it wild that the same thing can cause two really different things. And the task in front of us to develop your empathy muscle is to ask that question, why is it that Clint might have experienced this thing different than me? And I can play the mental game of that. But I can also exercise curiosity and just get better at those questions. Tell me, you know, Clint, like, what was it like growing up in Canada? And how do you think that was different than growing up for me in Washington, we were just a few miles away, actually, where we grew up. But I wonder what, like, what was different for you and your family context? Or what was it like for you in middle school? You know, what was like a transformative day for you in middle school? And how did that shape who you are today, those sorts of questions, give you data point, and you only get those by mining, by curiosity. So we talked about at character strong, the organization that I help run, we tried to shift the language away from perspective taking into perspective getting, because it’s not just something you go in and take, you actually have to like, acquire it, you have to work for it, if they get curious about it. So those are the two affective or emotional empathy and cognitive thinking empathy. And then the last one is behavioral, which is where we translate empathy into kindness. It’s moving from I understand why you’re sad. I feel sad with you to what can I do to alleviate that suffering, right? Compassionate action is a desire to alleviate suffering in others. And that’s, that comes from reps too, right? That awareness piece and the specificity piece and the sacrifice piece, all of those things are interrelated to growing your empathy muscle by actually getting in there, getting into the mess and being like, here’s a business card with something on it that might make your day brighter. And you might realize the next time that that like, there’s a different thing that you could do to be more effective. But you only do that by reps, right? You only grow in that capacity by messing up sometimes.
Houston J Kraft 36:17
And it almost seems like these are the steps you take. And when you look at that first one, it brings back the importance of that vocabulary. Because if I am and when I think of your three Is, because if you’re telling me something that’s hard that’s happening in your life, your emotion is out in the open, it’s raw. If my only word is sad, for that area of emotion that you’re in, and I’m afraid of being sad, and I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m going to, because I’m emotionally stunted, I’m going to shut down and I’m not going to take that step forward. So the more I can be emotionally developed, the more I can feel with you, put myself in your shoes and do some of that perspective getting and then offer that action. So you really need to get your reps in, in all three areas and work your way down the chain.
Houston J Kraft 40:09
Yeah, you know, I live in Venice, California, Clint. So one of the phrases that’s used commonly here is I’m going to hold space for you.
Clint Murphy 40:16
Yes, it was immediately in my mind was hold space.
Houston J Kraft 40:21
And I think it’s a good notion to unpack a little bit, whatever that brings to mind for you. You know, the phrase like square peg, round hole, you can imagine if someone shows up and is feeling despondent or morose, or dissociated, or whatever that like specific feeling that they’re navigating, they’re bringing that thing to you, square peg, and you don’t know that thing for yourself, you haven’t bothered to unpack it, or you don’t know how to unpack it, or you’re scared to unpack it, the whatever the narrative is, there, you are providing a round hole for something that they’re bringing to you. And that’s why sometimes people will like show up, even like a therapist relationship is a relationship that you have to explore. Not every therapist is going to be able to hold the space for the thing that you need specifically. And not every friend is going to be able to hold certain kinds of pain that you have in your life. And I think sometimes we walk away from people being like, oh, I don’t feel any better, actually. And partially, that can happen when you show up to someone carrying something that they don’t know how to receive, because the space that they’re holding isn’t the same shape as what you’re giving
Clint Murphy 41:29
And when you take a step back. So I spent in the last five years, I was in a men’s group for two years, a growth group. And it was weekly, that’s all it was was holding space, sharing, openness, vulnerability, holding space for the other men in the circle, and what’s happening in their lives. In the last two years, I’ve been doing my teacher certification for meditation and mindfulness. And there’s a lot of holding space there. For the listeners, who’ve, I would argue, is the majority of people may not even have ever heard of this concept of holding space. What does holding space look like, Houston and what are we doing, when we’re holding space for another human that’s with us?
Houston J Kraft 42:20
I think one of them are damaging narratives, a culture that focuses on productivity as your primary sense of worthiness in the world. I think one of the byproducts of that of the culture of, driven in large part by the structures that we have, capitalist narratives or worthiness is wrapped up in, you know, certain metrics of success is, I think that most people don’t feel valuable enough to take up space, that they aren’t worthy of other people’s time, because they don’t feel successful themselves in the definition that the world around them has given them. And so I think one of the great gifts that people probably oftentimes don’t even have the language for. When they sit across from someone who is giving their undivided attention, who is opening up their heart in ways that are vulnerable, to listen with full presence, and a capacity to receive someone else’s experience and hurt suffering, confusion, excitement, whatever that right it can be on all ends of the spectrum. To hold space is to simply say to someone else, you are worthy of my time and energy and love. And I’m going to give you the most precious thing I have in this life, which is my time and my undivided attention to receive you as another person. And you just realize that so many people get that so infrequently. So to hold space is to give the gift of attention.
Clint Murphy 43:56
The devices are away, the only thing we’re here for is whatever’s on your mind, whatever, whatever you’re bringing to me in you in this space. It could be multiple people in the space. But in the situation we’re talking about that undivided attention.
Houston J Kraft 44:11
You think about how the loneliness statistics, right, the isolation statistics are, I think are parallel to that, if there are very few people, if we don’t know how to hold space for others. And we very infrequently receive the gift of being held space for, it’s an isolating thing I don’t feel known in this world and to feel known is to feel cared for. And the absence of that. You’re just sort of isolated to the experience of yourself and that’s a really lonely space to be in.
Clint Murphy 44:41
And when you started that, it was beautiful that you didn’t start with holding the space. You started with the idea that most people don’t feel valuable enough to take space, which ties to the insecurities we have. And one of the things I love that you write about and talk about is that our insecurities are the fears we believe in. And that most of that fear is passive programming that dictates our choices of what’s possible, what’s not possible, what’s crazy. How do we overcome these insecurities? And where do they come from?
Houston J Kraft 45:25
Yeah, it goes back into the premise, we’re talking about of how much information we receive on any given day. And there’s just so much data coming at us. Our brains weren’t really designed to sift through that information fast enough, to name consciously the whatever this factor, or image or narrative that’s coming at me, there’s so much information coming, that it’s hard to sift through and decide which of this stuff is actually good for me, which of the stuff should I believe? So you picture from like the time you’re a really little kid, the number of stories that get pointed at you from the toys that you play with, from the way you see other kids dressed in the mall or the park, to the way your parents treat you or talk to you, to your first experiences, preschool and kindergarten, like all of those data inputs are stories that are being given to you. And there’s so many of them coming at us. And we aren’t trained or have many of the tools necessary to decipher, Okay, which of these things do I need, which of these things are beneficial to me? So someone might tell you in by saying, Hey, that hat is stupid or you’re not actually a soccer player, or whatever the story we get given at a young age, and for some reason, because we don’t have the tools, or the supports, or the people around us or the other counter narratives coming at us, we just start to believe it. Now, is that statement fundamentally true? No, it’s just a story someone is handing us. But those stories can come at us from a lot of spaces, and really fast, that if you don’t act this kind of way, then you’re not a man, if you don’t behave in this sort of way, then you’re not a lady. Like whatever those things are, right, there’s a billion of those coming at us all the time, that require examination, require reflection. And if we don’t have the time or tools to do it, then guess what, some of that stuff’s gonna stick. So we’ve been handed a story. And another way to say that is, in some situations is we’ve been handed a lie. And we haven’t had the ability to determine whether or not it is true for us. And as a result, we start living out narratives that other people have handed us, I’m going to behave this way and it’s going to feel really nice. Like, I’m going to be tough and macho, because that’s what the world’s given me. But I was just having this conversation this morning with someone who I live with, of, of like, a friend of ours who cried for the first time in years, and like actually cry. And she was really gentle in examining was like kind of that feeling. He was like, it feels incredible. This release that I’ve never been able to give and we were like, you know, there are some people, my dad’s generation who’ve gone 50 years without crying. They don’t cry, because they’ve been told a story that they’re not supposed to. And that’s just a lie, right? That’s just a fear thing that we’ve been handed that we don’t know how to disentangle for ourselves. And you realize that so many of the actions we take in the world are dictated by stories that we’ve never bothered to name, whether or not they are worthy of retelling.
Clint Murphy 48:30
The interesting thing you said about that generation is the amount of people I’ve talked to through COVID, whose dads are for the first time talking about mental health, not necessarily in a good way. They’re talking to their kids, and they’re saying, I’m being overwhelmed by anxiety, or I’m being overwhelmed by depression. And now, to your point, you can imagine 65 to 80. They’ve rarely shown you emotion, never talked about mental health. And all of a sudden, the loneliness, the isolation, the news, they’re saying, I’m anxious and depressed. Have you seen similar? Have you come across similar data?
Houston J Kraft 49:22
Yeah, I mean, from the older generation, down to the active generation schools, you know, my work every day is in young people. And the data that’s there presently, of the anxiety, depression, overwhelm suicidal ideation, that we see in young people is, it’s not isolated to them, but that’s the people that I spend most of my time with. And then you see, it’s a byproduct of in many ways, an older generation who doesn’t know how to talk about it. It’s language, it’s always language. I come into schools I’m part of what we train educators on is just talking about mental health. Because when you say mental health to an adult over the age of 50, there’s so many narratives, there’s so many stories that come shipped with that, that if you have mental health issues, there’s something wrong with you. If you need to see a therapist, there’s something wrong or bad or shameful about that. And guess what, those teachers are in our schools with a mental health crisis in our kids, and they don’t know how to name it. And it’s like, well, just you can’t name it doesn’t mean it’s not there, we need to know what it actually means. You know, mental health is different than mental illness. Mental health is something that we actually all have, just like our physical health. And it’s interrelated to mental illness. But sometimes like, you tell an educator, hey, we have to work on supporting kids mental health, they’re like, well, I’m not trained for that. And it’s like, no, actually you are. Mental health is something we can support collectively, mental illness, maybe you need some training, of course, to support people who are diagnosed with bipolar or depressive, or depression or anxiety, like those things are real and need training to support. But I think to the larger narrative that we’re talking about here, climate is just the older generation, who’s experiencing it maybe more robustly or intensely than ever before, but are too scared to name it because of the stories attached to it. Those are the same people who are in spaces with young people who are like, this is a problem, help. And that gap is going to, it’s the reason it’s going to take us decades, to support and undo the damage that’s been done over the past couple of years. We could heal it faster if we could bridge the language gap.
Clint Murphy 51:27
Even people who are similar age to me, it’s interesting. I think if you’ve never dealt with any mental health challenges, the way you approach it is completely different than someone who’s dealt with it. Whether it’s depression, whether it’s ADHD, whatever it might be, if you’ve experienced it, or are experiencing it, and you’re still living a good life, you’re still living a normal life, you’re able to look at it through that lens to say, Okay, people have mental health challenges, there are ways that we can support them and help them and talk to them and be there for them. Whereas the average person just sort of looks at it, throws up the heads and doesn’t want to talk about it.
Houston J Kraft 52:10
Yeah, I want to push in there just even for a moment, because the language there is is interesting. Yeah. TheWhat you shared was for people who’ve never had a mental health challenge. And my argument is, everyone on this planet has had a mental health challenge.
Clint Murphy 52:24
Yeah, that’s a fair point, they just may or may not have may not have understood it at the time, or had the language or the vocabulary to talk about it. And they may have been able to overcome it, or still dealing with it. They’re just not willing to talk about it.
Houston J Kraft 52:39
Right? Exactly. Yeah. But that’s like, I think that the normalization of you know all of us are navigating, you can’t go through COVID-19 and not have had some mental health experience in that process of a change of your habits, of a tinge of your relationships, of losing someone or knowing someone who lost something like those things, whether or not you acknowledge them or know how to speak about them, those things impact your mental health. We have collectively experienced that trauma and have a mental health narrative and it’s not just COVID-19, all of us just because we’re human beings, go through the very natural ups and downs of being a human. That is mental health is like thinking about when I’m sad, or when I’m overwhelmed when I’m stressed. Stress is mental health, right. And everyone’s been stressed at some point in their life. So being able to, like name that and normalize mental health as a conversation and disentangle it in the right ways for mental illness. Yeah, not all of us know what it actually feels like to live with depression. That’s true. But all of us know what it’s like to experience mental health because it is attached to us as our physical body.
Clint Murphy 53:42
And likely we all have been depressed. But being depressed is not the same as living with depression, that you’re going through the experience, you’re not in that state for an extended period of time. So if we pivot, someone’s listening to our show, they’re like, yeah, I’m gonna start getting out of this world, just giving deep kindness. You talk about the fact that, well wait, the other people may not be ready to receive your deep kindness. Because you haven’t set yourself up in a way for success. In the way you set yourself up for success. You have to have these three building blocks. Now we’ve talked about empathy. We also need authenticity and we need consistency. What are the authenticity and consistency means and why do we need all three building blocks for someone to be able to receive our deep kindness?
Houston J Kraft 54:37
Yeah, I think it’s a great transition, Clint. And I hope people who are listening are like, I’m gonna go do deep kindness. That would be a great byproduct of this chat. But that is the next question. Right? What does it look like to give it and perhaps you’ve had the experiences I have of trying to give kindness and not having it be received. And the natural inclination is to take that personally because we have expectations of like I’m doing something really generous, why wouldn’t you receive my love. And I think one of the more profound nuggets of wisdom I heard from a young person, he was articulate it something like this, it’s hard to receive something I don’t trust, we can’t receive things that we don’t trust. And you just realize that there are people in this world, lots of us, who someone has been kind to them at one point in their life, and then went on to be unkind to them. And if we have enough moments of that, across our life, or someone breaks our trust, or someone, you know, burns trust through acts of kindness, or generosity, and then they hurt us. Our brain, its whole function is to protect us from pain. And when we experience moments of pain, or trauma or heartbreak, our brain goes, let’s not do that, again. What unintentionally happens is we develop an association between kindness and hurt. And so slowly, we either stopped giving it because it’s risky, or we stopped receiving it, because we know on the far side of this beautiful moment is going to be a really painful or awful one. So sometimes you could do something really kind to someone and they might have no response or even reject your kindness. And it’s not because of you personally, it’s because they’re not ready to receive it because they don’t trust the dynamic yet. And I really believe that trust is developed through empathy, authenticity, and consistency, empathy. Do I know what you’re going through well enough. Am I actually meeting a need? Or am I projecting my own needs on you? Authenticity is, do I know myself well enough to give you something out of true generosity? Am I in alignment? Is there any ulterior motives here? Or is this truly something that I’m giving to you genuinely? Do I feel genuine in my giving? And the last one is consistency. That’s a big one, right? You can show up once. Great, but are you willing to do it again, when it’s tough? Are you willing to sit with me when I’m actually a mess? Is your offer to help really just convenient right now. But when things get really hard, are you still going to be there? Are you going to show up again, and again, and again, and again. And right, for some people, that’s just like, they need two or three reps. And they’re like, alright, I believe you. For other people who’ve been hurt more in their life, usually, it might take you 10 times, it might take you 10 years, to earn the trust of this person to really receive your generosity. And that’s their work as much as it is yours. But it’s the acknowledgement of a high level that we can give kindness and have a sensation that it’s not being received. And that’s not devaluing the kindness in and of itself, it is recognizing that in order to actually exchange it, trust needs to be inherent in that relationship in order to receive it fully.
Clint Murphy 57:42
And when do you is it visible when you normally see that shift in that person who’s not been able to receive it, to seeing them receive it.
Houston J Kraft 57:52
Sort a of beautiful question. Yeah, I think there’s visible in some sense of that word, I hope many of us have had the gift of a moment where we genuinely care about someone. And we’ve seen the moment where we’ve convinced them that our care is real, you know, a notion that I think about often is people don’t know what’s on your heart. And so you can genuinely care about someone and be really frustrated, because you’re trying to give them your your love and your attention and your time. And yeah, I think it’s a visible experience. When you show up for someone and they’ve, they soften, right? They soften into the experience, and they actually let themselves receive your love and that transaction feels really different than like the holding it a distance experience. And my guess is if we reflect on certain relationships in our life, we’ve all had that, probably in our most intimate experiences, right? Like, people who have been in relationship with years, we go through chapters where sometimes they’re open and available and sometimes more closed off. And the moments where you actually get in there and like, get a hold someone in their messiest moment, and they let themselves be held by you. Whether that’s physically or emotionally is there’s a difference between those right?
Clint Murphy 59:07
Yeah, and for us, whether it’s giving or receiving, something that can get in the way and I’d love to spend some time with you on it is is shame and some of the quotes that you wrote on it really hit home. When you pointed out that many of us run toward a never ending to do list that keeps us busy enough to arrive at exhaustion, and in exhaustion in that sweet state ofspendness. We have no more energy to hurt. The numbness of inaction is different than the numbness created by overexertion. But they both have the same outcome. We get to get out of feeling. It feels like to me that that exhaustion that’s born of never feeling enough is a coping mechanism similar to drugs, alcohol porn, and it’s that desire to feel validated, enough, loved. And I know I’m definitely guilty of it is just that never ending go, go go. And then it does lead to that exhaustion where it’s just sort of okay, I’m just gonna fall asleep and you’re asleep within a minute. And it’s almost like a drug you’re chasing? What does that look like? And how do the listeners, whether it’s to receive kindness or to give it? How do we let go of that shame?
Houston J Kraft 1:00:34
Did I write that? That was good. I find, you know, they say you teach the things that you need to learn. It’s funny, I wrote that in 2019. And here we are in 2023. And like, that narrative is so alive in me right now. Yeah, it’s, which is perhaps a little bit to the question of like, It’s a never ending process of just paying attention, of recognizing when you’re in chapters of distraction. And why that is, why am I distracted right now. And I’m distracted because when I slow down, when I sit still with myself, you have to deal with myself, when you have to deal with yourself, you have to give yourself the same love or attention and patience and care that you might give to someone else that you want to be in relationship with. And that work of being in relationship with others is just as hard as being in relationship with yourself. So we use all the things that culture is provided to us to take our attention away from knowing whether or not we’re like in love with ourselves. So yeah, that’s I mean, it’s been a goal of mine over the past few months, a person I was in partnership with for a few years, we changed the nature of that relationship. And so I’ve been just in relationship with me over the past few months, and you’re coming out on the far side of partnership, you’re like, oh, yeah, who am I again, outside the context of together, like, who am I alone, and there’s been days where I’ll go on long hikes, no music and and I’m just like, I’m wrestling with that. And then there’s long days where I don’t for a second, go inward, because I’m like, nuh uh not today, not now. But that’s the that is the work of paying attention of recognizing what are the symptoms of when you’re experiencing shame, and allowing yourself to like, you know, take the power out of that word, a little bit. Shame is normal. Shame comes in waves and chapters, and is associated with events and hardships and pain in your life. It makes sense, why we don’t want to pay attention to it. And it is one of the most important functions of being a loving human in this world is to understand your shame and work towards disentangling for yourself. Because when you’re free of that, by loving yourself, you set yourself free to give to others
Clint Murphy 1:03:02
And so much of that being one of my favorite quotes that we use regularly on the podcast, probably because I love using it is Carl Jung’s “until we make the subconscious conscious, you will forever be led by it and call it fate.” And so much of the shame, or so much of how we feel in these situations and these conversation we’ve been having today. So much of it’s hardwired, from our childhood in we just don’t know, what drives it. And so doing that deep work, the introspection diving and understanding, why do I feel like I feel. Some days you can do it. Some days, it’s to your point, you just want to walk in nothing about it, listen to a podcast and come home and relax. So one of the last questions on the book that I’d love to throw at you because I think it’s very powerful for the listener to think about and it jumped out at me is very interesting. Was that Brene Brown’s research indicated that the kindest people tend to be the people that say no, the most. So how does that work? And what does that give us permission to do in order to live the life we want and be kind?
Houston J Kraft 1:04:22
Yeah, Brene has got all the best. She’s the best of us. She knows I’ve named this stuff beautifully. And that’s one of my favorite simple line she shares is “clear is kind, unclear is unkind”. And what does that mean? It means first of all, that we have to get clear ourselves on what is okay what is not okay, what we want to do, what we don’t want to do. And when we’re able to get clear on that, we can give from a place that is authentic to go back to the word. The example that she uses, she goes when when you volunteer to make brownies for the PTA and you don’t actually have time and you don’t actually want to and now it’s midnight and you’re making brownies, not with love, but your primary ingredient is hate, overwhelm and like I can’t believe I agreed to make these stupid brownies. If that is where the kindness is coming from, your unboundaried and it’s actually not generosity, right? It’s martyrdom, which leads to resentment and frustration, not the byproducts of authentic kindness. So that’s not to say that we just say no to everything, right? That’s a self oriented life. But it is getting clear on what are the things, there’s plenty of things to care about. People will demand our attention in lots of different ways. And we get to decide, okay, where do I feel most passionate about helping? My therapist would say, you can’t be attentive at everything. All right. So where do I want to be attentive? You know, for me, I know that there’s a billion ways I could be kind in this world. I focused my work on education. And there’s like, there’s a discipline to that, to not branch out as much as possible, you know, in moments of exception, of course. But yeah, that idea of saying no, allows me to make my yes’s, genuine, rich, abundant, and honest.
Clint Murphy 1:06:06
So when we set those boundaries, and we say no more, we can give yes’s where we can truly be impactful, and add value and enjoy ourselves. And it goes to the point a lot of people say, hey, remember, every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. And so many of us don’t live with that half of the equation. Well, if I just said yes to making those brownies, what am I saying no to? It may simply be sleep. It may be oh, I can’t spend that evening with my child. I can’t spend that evening with my partner. I already don’t see them that much. So every time we say yes, what are we giving up? What are we throwing away? What are we able to do? So set clear boundaries with ourselves and with others.
Houston J Kraft 1:06:53
Yeah, well, said.
Clint Murphy 1:06:54
Love it. And do you have time for our segment – the final four rapid fire questions? All right, let’s do it. What’s one book that’s been really influential on your life, Houston.
Houston J Kraft 1:07:04
The natural answer, there is The Servant by James Hunter, great, simple sort of allegory about servant leadership and a different way to think about leading in the world. More recently. I love the School of Life as an organization, and they have a great book called On Being Nice that I really enjoyed short and gives great context on kindness.
Clint Murphy 1:07:24
And what’s on your bookshelf right now?
Houston J Kraft 1:07:25
I’m a big fantasy reader.
Clint Murphy 1:07:27
What are you reading? You are, all right. let’s digress. What are your top three fantasy series? You get it you always say series, because there’s almost no standalone fantasy books that you throw in there.
Houston J Kraft 1:07:40
Yeah, I’m reading one that I’ve read since literally Middle School. RA Salvatore. His latest book. And you will understand if you know that name, and that series that like, I read these, I can’t not read them to the lens of personal development, partially because that’s the world that I’m immersed in. But just like in between the chapters, those parts, his diary is like some of the most beautiful, existential.
Clint Murphy 1:08:10
Yeah, that’s right. How he starts every Yeah, Drizzt always gives you the, you know, here’s what’s happening for me life.
Houston J Kraft 1:08:17
The ponderings of the world, and they’re always beautiful, and about sacrifice and balance and relationships. And so…
Clint Murphy 1:08:25
Love and family.
Houston J Kraft 1:08:27
I love reading fantasy, because it’s both an escape and like another perspective on all the things that we’re wrestling with in the world. I’m in the middle of Wheel of Time for the first time, which is a journey. And, of course..
Clint Murphy 1:08:41
Yeah, it’s one of the greatest books, one of the greatest series you’ll ever read. Seven through 10 slows down. It’s scary when we say that right, seven through 10 slows down. And then when Brandon Sanderson gets involved in the project, it picks back up. And if there’s Wheel of Time fans out there. I’m sorry if you feel that way. But that’s my opinion after reading the series for gosh, darn it. 30 years.
Houston J Kraft 1:09:07
Yeah, I don’t think you’re the only one with that opinion. So and then of course, Brandon Sanderson. He’s a master right now. He’s probably best in the game today.
Clint Murphy 1:09:15
Yeah, if you haven’t read, Patrick Rothfuss Name of the Wind.
Houston J Kraft 1:09:20
Yeah, well, we’re just all waiting on bated breath for number three.
Clint Murphy 1:09:24
Yeah. He’s a poet, the way he writes. And you raised a good point because I’m, I write fantasy with my sister. So we finished our first book in our series, and we’re going to have a call tonight. We have to get back onto the project and start Book 2 and then be more committed to finding our agent. But so much of what I do now, when I have conversations like this, and I’ll have conversations on mental health, or meditation or mindfulness, all of that is going into the books. So like the kids as they grow up through the academy will deal with mental health and talk to the school counselor. I want it to be something where it’s a fantasy story and there’s the overarching story. And I want kids to be able to realize I’m not alone. Other kids deal with this. They have issues with anxiety or depression and so the children throughout the story will go through this. So as our kids read it, or adults, they can have these broader bigger life lessons, those existential crises of being a parent, not doing right, scarring your children, intergenerational trauma, like it’s all going in there. And it’s just such a fun experience, Houston, to write.
Houston J Kraft 1:10:46
That’s so fun, man. Makes sense. Yeah. You read some of the RL Salvatore is a great example of like those diaries or his diaries, you know what he has to be what he’s learning and repurposing through character.
Clint Murphy 1:10:59
Oh, that’s such a good point. I hadn’t even thought of it that way. I’m gonna go back and read the diaries and think on that. Love the digression. Fantasy has been my favorite thing since I was a child. I finally picked up another book yesterday, picked it back up, because of the podcast, I’m usually reading at least one nonfiction book a week. So it’s been very hard to get back into adding my fantasy regimen on top of it, but it’s a nice relaxation. So what’s one thing you’ve spent less than $1,000 on in the last 12 to 24 months that you’ve thought to yourself, wow, I wish I’d got that sooner.
Houston J Kraft 1:11:39
Well, my feet are on a desk treadmill right now, to be in motion while working in meeting has been a great gift that in just experiences, anything I do with friends and building something and community is a win.
Clint Murphy 1:11:53
And so I need to do the treadmill, because I’ve had two guests come on in the last three months and they both did the show well on a walking treadmill. I thought that was you know, you get your hour and a half walk in and you record a podcast. I thought, wow, if they’re doing that all day, they’re getting 20,000 plus steps a day, it was beautiful. So because the show is about growth, what’s one mindset shift, new habit or behavioral change you’ve undertaken in the last 12 months that’s had a material impact positively on your life?
Houston J Kraft 1:12:26
Oh, yeah. It’s been a good year of transformation. Clint so it’s a good question. You know, part of it, you’ve probably heard me use delicate language around close of the nature of my partnership. And I think that’s been a big, beautiful challenge this last year is we both sort of shared a narrative with friends and online about normalizing non forever significance. And like that it’s okay for people, relationships in your life to change and still have tremendous value and love. A friend of mine, Kevin Paris is a great musician. He just said something recently that I thought was beautiful, that idea that like, if you love someone, and that love is true, something that’s true can never really be false. And so even if you’re not in a partnership with someone, you still love that person. And it’s just changing the nature of your relationship. And what that love looks like in action. But that’s been a really sort of beautiful narrative to live inside this last year of that it’s okay to not be with someone, whether it’s a romantic person or a friendship forever and still have it be really beautiful. And just because something is ending doesn’t mean that the love ends. So that’s been something I’ve been wrestling with quite a bit this year, as well as, for me, the continuing like the modality of dance is a form of healing, and that I have a hard time being still. I ironically, find like the most stillness in my mind when I’m moving, dancing. So letting myself move through emotions. And when I’m moving when I’m dancing, I stopped thinking when I stopped thinking and feel more and less like some of those feelings come through. Yeah, some things I’m thinking about.
Clint Murphy 1:14:17
Beautiful and when you talked about the year of transformation. What really resonated with me is I don’t know if you remember when Gwyneth was going through a separation and she called it conscious uncoupling. And a lot of people online made, mocked that and made fun of that. But when you really think about what she’s saying, it ties to what you’re saying is, there was a love, it’s changed and we’re going to uncouple the relationship in a way where we still preserve that and we’re better we’re consciously trying to do that. It actually seems like a much more present and integrated way to approach it, then simply being we broke up.
Houston J Kraft 1:14:59
Yeah, that again. Language – breaking up implies something’s broken.
Clint Murphy 1:15:03
Instead of it just changed.
Houston J Kraft 1:15:05
Nothing’s broken. In fact, the relationship I have to my previous partner is more loving than it’s ever been.
Clint Murphy 1:15:12
So, Houston, we went wide, we went deep. Is there anything we missed that you want to leave the listener with?
Houston J Kraft 1:15:20
Read more fantasy?
Clint Murphy 1:15:24
Do you know what the interesting part is? I learned this later in life. And I get it now. Because you talked about perspective getting everyone looks at fantasy or at fiction and says, well, you’re not getting value out of that. And when you read fiction, and I would argue fantasy is a great way to do it. Your empathy increases exponentially. Because your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is much higher than the average person. So definitely read more fantasy if you want to increase your empathy. So with Houston on that one, where can our listeners find you, Houston.
Houston J Kraft 1:16:02
Lots of places it’s Houston Kraft, Houston, like the city, Kraft with a K like the cheese, so you can find and follow some of the work and musings in whatever online spaces are relevant to you. And then the organization I helped run as called Character Strong. And we work in in schools pre K to 12th grade helping to teach the skills that yield the behavior of kindness.
Clint Murphy 1:16:25
Love it, and we will get all of that in the show notes with all of your socials as well so people will be able to find you. Thank you for joining me today. It was a pleasurable conversation. Really enjoyed it.
Houston J Kraft 1:16:36
Likewise. Thanks. Cheers
Clint Murphy 1:16:44
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