The Compassionate Achiever: How Helping Others Fuels Success
March 06, 2017
Christopher Kukk's new book teaches us how to build strength through kindness, unity of purpose through understanding. It is, in the end, about how helping others actually benefits ourselves.
Christoper Kukk first learned the power of compassion working in a field you'd imagine would be one of the most cutthroat—as a counterintelligence agent in the US Army. It was there he learned it was more effective to sow seeds of support, goodwill, and mutual interest rather than fear and intimidation in the communities he was operating in, to be more understanding and responsive to people's environment and needs rather than ruthless, more compassionate than callous.
Now, as a teacher and founding director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation at Western Connecticut University, he has been spreading the gospel of compassion into classrooms, boardrooms, and communities across America. In The Compassionate Achiever, he brings that message to the printed page. And although it is a personal development book, it begins by looking at the issue more broadly, from a perspective of humanity's development:
[C]ooperation has been more important than the idea of competition in humanity's evolutionary success. A cooperative perspective in more important than a competitive mindset in any group's success. Compassion is the reason for both the human race's survival and its ability to continue to thrive as a species.
Kukk lays out the physical and social science evidence of how we are hardwired for compassion, and how our evolutionary survival has depended upon it. In doing so, the idea of "survival of the fittest" (a phrase Darwin never wrote, by the way, and an idea his writings on the "sympathy hypothesis" contradict) gives way to a more nuanced reality of "survival of the kindest." Natural selection may be competitive, but it is those that are most cooperative, collaborative, and connected that win that competition. Which is all well and good, but what has compassion done for us lately, and what can it do for us today? Well, in the corporate world, Kukk tell us that:
When you examine many of the most successful organizations around the world, you find that they capitalize on fostering cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Companies such as General Mills, Aetna, Target, and Google have buried the competitive culture and resurrected compassion. They have woven compassion into their corporate structure to increase employee satisfaction, boost productivity, and raise the bottom line. Although many people believe that you need to be hard-nosed and ruthless to succeed in business, highly successful businesses not only know better, but also understand how to be better, and it's through compassion.
But that is the larger, evolutionary and organization level. I'm sure you'd like to know how it helps you achieve individual success, as well. Kukk explains how acting out of compassion is the underpinning of that, as well, how helping and strengthening your connections to others helps stand you up and make you stronger. And it is not an either/or, zero-sum proposition, but a both/and, symbiotic, and interdependent one:
When you help another, it also physically and psychologically strengthens you. The social interaction of helping another provides individual benefits to you. The price we pay by not taking action to help others is the diminishment of ourselves and the deterioration of communities.
It is also something that is learnable, that can be put into practice with an easily remembered acronym, LUCA:
listening to learn, understanding to know, connecting to capabilities, and acting to solve.
Kukk devotes most of the book to cultivating compassion through those four pillars, dedicating an entire section of the book to each. Each practice has many learnable skills and smaller daily practices within it, and each is painless if only we can remember to be conscious of others. That consciousness and compassion, in the end, will lead to our own success: "Compassionate achievers," Kukk proclaims, "challenge the notion that you have to look out for number one in order to be number one."
There is a trend of books emphasizing emotional intelligence over technical intelligence. As artificial intelligence and automation advance in taking over the more technical aspects and tasks within our organizations, the most valuable skills will be the most fundamentally human. The Compassionate Achiever will teach you how to build strength through kindness, unity of purpose through understanding. It is, in the end, about helping ourselves by helping others. So, if you're really selfish, you should begin to act more unselfishly. It is the best way to get ahead, and contribute to the creation of a community that is more healthy, resilient, and less violent. Christopher Kukk offers practical and practicable techniques for doing all of this on a personal, interpersonal, and daily level.
We have 20 copies available.