THE YEAR OF KINDNESS
In 2018 why not take the 30-day kindness challenge? Author John Magee has written the best-seller, ‘Kindness Matters,’ that has become a worldwide success
From an early age, John Magee was involved in drugs and, as a teen, he was a drug runner for dealers on the council estate in Blackburn where he lived.
But it was the generosity of spirit from others that helped him into a totally new life that has resulted in an international best-selling book and the global phenomenon that is ‘Kindness Matters’.
“When I was young I was into crime and drugs – I took my first drugs probably when I was 10 and carried on taking everything, apart from heroine, until I was in my late 20s,” recalls John.
“I was a cheeky chappy full of Irish charm, which got me through. I didn’t take life seriously at all. I was an experienced drug runner on the estate, I used to take the risks. When I look back, I was exploited, I was a kid and I was vulnerable.”
John admits his life at that time was spiralling out of control. He was facing three years in jail for robbery, when a Christian family and a youth worker took him under their wing.
“There was nothing wrong with the estate, it’s just that I wanted to get out. It wasn’t doing me any good being there. When these people were kind to me it just blew me away.”
With help, John left the estate and got a job in tele-sales, and enrolled on a course at college: “As much as I Ioved the tele-sales job, I used to watch the ad reps in their smart suits and cars and that’s what I aspired to. Within 18 months I told the boss. ‘I can do that,’ and she gave me the opportunity. Again, it was an act of kindness. I smashed all my targets and became the top salesman.”
Around the same time John was desperate to help a friend, whose sister was suffering from terminal cancer: “I asked if there was anything I could do to help,” he recalls.
“I had already done a parachute jump for charity, which really made me wake up and smell the coffee. I started fundraising on my old estate and it really harnessed something inside of me. It was better than any drug I had ever taken.”
John also organised a three-day event asking former Blackburn Rovers player David Dunn for help. He, in turn, got fellow players Gary Flitcroft and Matt Jansen to support the event, which went on to raise more than £5,000.
“It was a magical feeling. It was the kindness of others – I didn’t realise it at the time that there was a sleeping giant that had been woken within me. I never knew that 15 years later David Dunn’s act of kindness would go on to create a global movement called ‘Kindness Matters’. My mantra now is, ‘A greeting, gesture or a giggle. Leave other people feeling better than before they met you’.”
In 2005 John went on to set up his own business, but he hadn’t anticipated the 2008 recession and he plunged into bankruptcy. His marriage disintegrated and, as he recalls: “I was in a very dark place. All I wanted to do was be a role model for my kids and the community.”
Through a chance meeting at a business networking event, John discovered that plans were in the pipeline for a community centre on the old council estate where he had lived as a child.
“I was reluctant to say that I had grown up there and had been a known criminal there, but when I spilled the beans, I was told I would be the perfect role model to inspire youngsters on the estate. I was asked to go and talk to them about how I had turned my life around.”
“That was in 2009 – after I spoke to them word got around. The BBC contacted me and the phone never stopped ringing.”
During this time, John’s collaboration with David Dunn continued, and together they worked out a strategy as to how they could do something positive to help young people believe in themselves and have a positive outlook. The result was a mentoring plan that encouraged youngsters to take on ‘random acts of kindness’ (RAOK) over a 30-day period.
“Every action has consequences and I had learnt over the years that when people show kindness it benefits everyone, especially those who carry out the acts of kindness. It releases oxytocin in our brains – the feel good hormone. It makes us feel better about ourselves. It motivates, improve self-confidence and self-worth.”
“Just imagine, by doing acts of kindness, this great feeling is on tap.”
“We started to notice a pattern in the behaviour of the youngsters. Every child who took part in the programme became more proactive and they started to share stories about their RAOK and their families began adopting the 30-day challenge.”
Social media played a huge part in the Kindness Matters 30-day challenge and it wasn’t long before John secured a book deal with Amazon and ‘Kindness Matters’ became a global phenomenon.
Celebrities endorsed the challenge, which has led to John creating celebrity Kindness Matters Ambassadors – one of the first being World Superbike Champion and ‘Im a Celebrity’ winner Carl Fogarty, who lives in the Ribble Valley.
John’s vision now is to take the Kindness Matters into the workplace – creating a corporate Kindness Matters programme so workers are more focused and motivated.
Training 2000, WEC and Euro Garages have already signed up to bring the programme into their workplace with John giving a keynote speech sharing his personal story and how kindness has transformed his life.
“We spend so much time at work so I thought if staff took up the 30-day kindness challenge, it would make them feel better as well as others too. If they have a few kind words for the cleaner or caretaker – it motivates everyone, it makes them feel valued and when people feel valued they work better, it increases productivity, people take less sick days, it’s better for business,” explains John.
“From an HR point of view Kindness Matters should be embedded in the company. It’s not complicated, it’s not rocket science – it makes everyone feel better.”
John’s book, which has transformed the lives’ of thousands, promises to strengthen an individual’s self-belief, compassion and wellbeing by pledging each day to carry out an act of kindness.
“Sometimes, carrying out random acts of kindness takes people out of their comfort zone, but if it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you. Having said that an act of kindness can also be very simple – giving a compliment to someone or picking up litter – these are just as important,” adds John, whose vision is to have an official global ‘Kindness Month’.”
“How powerful would that be? We are talking a tsunami of kindness rippling across the globe,” he writes in his book.
“I truly believe collectively we can achieve this vision. Because the journey of a 1000 miles has to begin with the first step and we have already taken that first step.”