In November 2015, I had the trip of a lifetime. No, it wasn’t trekking through the Amazon or climbing some insurmountable mountain. Instead, it was during a simple trip to Sydney for a conference I was helping a mentor with (although ironically enough, I think I got more out of it than he did). I made the decision that no longer did I want to be the shy kid. I wanted to experience life to the fullest. I wanted to say hello to people. No longer did I want to hide my enthusiasm for life and energy to start a conversation with people of all different walks of life any longer. Why should everyone else have the fun, while I sit around in a pity party of negative emotion?
Thing was, the only person I had to blame was myself. Sure I can sit here and tell you that everyone else was at fault. Everyone else had the problem. Everyone else was closed off, and that everyone else was broken, and that I was the only normal one…
But how dumb would that be?
Yet at the time, this is what was going through my mind.
Why wouldn’t people talk to me? Why wouldn’t they reach out? Why would I always have to go first?
Instead of waiting for things to change (which they never would with my attitude at the time) I knew it was time to do something about it.
I had booked a flight to Sydney for the conference and was surprised on the booking page that for an extra $10, I could sit at the front of the plane. Why not? Not only do you get the opportunity to get on first and the opportunity to get off first, you also never know who you might be lucky enough to meet at the front of the plane.
So as I sit there, excited for the journey ahead, I got out my journal as I listened to the pre-flight safety announcement. After they were finished I went to chuck my headphones in and listen to an audiobook and take notes. Yet what message would that send to the world? Would that be congruent with my wish to get out there more? To be open to conversations? Or would it continue to perpetuate my closed off persona?
I looked across the aisle and saw a young guy about my age reading on his Kindle. Given my love for books I decided to bite the bullet, make the effort to strike up a conversation. What’s the worse thing that could happen besides him not replying I thought. Don’t know why I’d always made such a big deal of it, but that’s just the way I was. I’d made mountains out of molehills. But enough was enough.
“What are you reading?” spilled out of my mouth. He responded politely and we started chatting. Before you know it we were onto the subject of careers. I explained I worked at a specific gym in Melbourne. “Do you know, Ed? He’s one of the members there I'm pretty sure” the young guy asked. “Are you kidding? We shot a video on him just last month. He is one of my good friends...and the guy is a beast” I replied with genuine surprise.
There I was, nearly 40,000 feet in the air, having a conversation with what was seemingly a random stranger before the flight commenced. And through some crazy coincidence, we just happen to share a very good mutual friend...yet was it a crazy coincidence? Who knows.
The entire trip followed along the same fashion. My attitude was open. Positive. Giving.
I spent the day at the conference using my skills with social media and adding value where I could.
I met an amazing lady at my Airbnb I stayed at that I am still in contact with today, where that night after the conference we chatted for nearly 3 hours on world subjects that expanded both of our minds. The stay was terrific. I attribute this 100% to the positive, nice, attitude I was carrying with me.
But it didn’t end there. In fact, it was just getting started.
On the way back to the airport, I grabbed an Uber. Two things happened in that vehicle that were to change my life and attitude forever.
Within 2 minutes of jumping in the Uber, my driver asked if I would like a bottle of water. Seemingly insignificant occurrence, right? Given it was my first time in an Uber, I asked the driver, “Does Uber supply you with water to give to your passengers?” “No, I just like the make sure they’re comfortable” he replied.
I was taken aback. Here this man was, driving me to the airport for a $20ish fare, which Uber takes their fees leaving the driver with around $16. Yet $1 needs to be factored in the for water. I know it seems so small, yet often the biggest impacts can stem from the smallest of interactions (as you will see). He didn't have to do it. I would most likely never see him again in my life. Yet he did. And it's the very reason you're reading these words.
Later on in the same trip, as we came to a point where two lanes were to merge into one, cars were fighting for their own position to sit in the exact same stream of traffic. The vehicle in front of us got cut off (slightly) by a car from the opposite side. The driver in front of us proceeded to scream, yell, toot and curse for the following minute or so. Soon it was our turn, to which my driver waved the car to his right to simply merge in. No yelling. No screaming.
Here we had one person bringing more love into the world, and another bringing more hate into the world. And for what? 15 seconds of lost time? Would he have reacted the same way if his shoelace was undone and he had to tie that? It’s the same 15 seconds, but a very different reaction. Makes you think.
Such small moments. Yet such powerful ones at the same time.
I told the story on my social media that night. The next day I created a very simple logo simply saying “be nice.” on my computer and decided to put it on a shirt.
Within a month or so I had built a simple blog website where I would share stories from the nice people I had interacted with over the past 27 years of my life. Pretty soon, family and friends would read the blog. A few months later, people from my high school and childhood noticed the stories. Soon after that, random people from all over the world were reading my blog featuring my ‘nice’ stories. While still small, the movement was beginning.
People would see the tee I had created and wanted to be a part of it. But it wasn’t just a t-shirt. It was (and is) so much more than just a name or a website. It’s a worldwide movement. Everyone has a story to tell. nobody rides for free. And I feel it's my duty to tell those stories. I consider myself what I call a 'story hunter'. Constantly on the lookout to share the nice stories of the everyday hero.
As a society we’ve become so focused on getting everywhere quicker and easier we often forget to stop and use the niceties that make humans so unique.
Saying please and thank-you, holding a door open for a stranger, sharing a table at a cafe or paying someone a random compliment is becoming more and more scarce.
The good news is, we can change it. being nice opens your mind to endless possibilities. Best of all, it’s free. Take the time out and listen to someone new today. Because the world needs more nice.
So I encourage you to get out there today and be nice. It has changed my life and I know if you adopt that same mindset that it can change your life too.