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What I'm reading #10: Whatever you are, be kind

By Sam Instone - March 10, 2022

It was Valentine's Day in 1990.

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft was speeding out of the solar system.

Scientist Carl Sagan requests the camera to be switched off to conserve power.

However seconds before doing so, the mission managers commanded the Voyager to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of Earth.

A photograph was taken from a distance of 6 billion km (3.7 billion miles). 

In it, against the vastness of space and among bands of sunlight scattered by the camera's optics, Earth appears pixel-sized, like a pale blue dot.’

Four years later, Sagan presented the photograph at a lecture and shared his reflections on the deeper meaning behind it.

"If you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it...every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives…think of the rivers of blood spilt by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot...our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity - in all this vastness - there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us...to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known." 

Kindness is the path to love

When we study successful people, we always talk about their work ethic, creativity and leadership.

Those things are essential, and I believe we can learn a lot from them.

But one thing that gets less attention is whether they were kind to others in their journey.

Consider Warren Buffett, one of the most successful people in the world.

Once while giving a lecture to college students, he was asked his definition of success, and this is what he replied,

“When you get to my age, you will really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you…that is the ultimate test of how you have lived your life." 

Buffett continued,

"The trouble with love is that you cannot buy it…the only way to get love is to be lovable...the more you give love away, the more you get."

So there you have it.

The world's most successful investor and self-made multi-billionaire, says that the amount you are loved - not your wealth or accomplishments - is the ultimate measure of success in life.

Perhaps kindness is the path to it.

After all, it is fundamental to human existence?

We're thrust into the world as newborns and enriched with the kindness of our parents nurturing for our formative months and years.

Kindness is not something that demands hard work.

It's the easiest thing in the world to execute.

Take random acts of kindness.

With very little time and effort, we can transform someone else's day, week, or even life.

The return on investment is off the scale.

Best of all, every act of kindness creates a ripple effect that spreads from person to person.

It's contagious.

Perhaps kindness is simply doing no harm to others...

Empathising with someone struggling...

Or when you treat others the way they want to be treated (the platinum rule), appreciate their work...

Or even when you forgive others for their mistakes.

As the world looked on in alarm as events unfolded in Ukraine last week, I am reminded of Carl Sagan's advice.

Deal more kindly and compassionately with others.

As I say to my children (which I see as THE fundamental duty of a parent), 'if you can be anything, be kind.'

It's our only hope of living happily and leaving this world - our pale blue dot - a better place than we found it. 


"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us."

- Carl Sagan 

"Three things in human life are important; the first is to be kind, the second is to be kind, and the third is to be kind."

- Henry James

Further reading

What I'm reading #3: Understanding setbacks and life transitions

What I'm reading #4: A powerful force shaping your behaviour

What I'm reading #6: Learn to walk away from bad decisions

What I'm reading #8: Never ignore opportunity costs