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I’ve decided that the end of this year is going to be more about self-improvement and less about self-destruction. Less time spent organising drinks and more time spent going to places I’ve never been to and learning about things I don’t understand.

First item on the list is “Compassion.” Sounds a bit random, but stay with me. I’ve read a few articles about this virtue this year and how it’s encouragement can have a huge impact not only on an individual, but also on the performance of a business if embraced and promoted correctly within the company.

I managed to find a talk on compassion run by a whacky organisation called Theschooloflife.com. Thinking I would be one of very few people who would be interested in such an event, I didn’t book a ticket and presumed I’d swan up on the night and all would be well. When the day came, the talk was sold out and the waiting list extensive. This was encouraging as the venue had a capacity of about 500 so I was clearly not the only one interested in this fairly leftfield topic.

It turns out that the lady who was giving the talk was called Karen Armstrong and had won the TED.com prize for her Charter for Compassion. (If you’ve never been to this website, open up a new tab right now and go to it.) The speech she gave to win the prize appeals for leading figures from Judaism, Christianity and Islam to use compassion as common ground as a source of peace. The speech is on TED, give it a watch, it’s thought provoking and thoroughly deserving of such a weighty award.

When Karen had finished, TED suggested that I watch a talk by Chade-Meng Tan who is the “Head of Personal Development” at Google. Now this dude gives a good speech and this is where compassion’s relationship to business comes into play. Google believe that the best leaders possess both (i) humility and (ii) ambition for the greater good, not just for their own personal success. Being compassionate enhances both of these traits. It reduces the self-obsession that lives within us all, fostering the conditions for humility and it provides the motivation for the greater good.

Having business leaders promote the greater good creates a culture where their subordinates will do the same. Doing what’s best for the greater good is inspiring, therefore employees inspire each other. So you’ve got an inspirational workforce working towards the greater good. Makes sense.

The talk goes on to discuss how embracing compassion leads to the creation of life enhancing new mental habits. We’re asked to imagine that when we meet someone, our first thought is “I want you to be happy.” The logic being that this good will is picked up by your new friend/business associate and is then returned in kind. If you’re sceptical, I was too, but I’ve tried it and I think it works.

So there we are, add a little compassion to your life and you’ll solve world peace, be a much more effective, inspirational leader and make more friends. Easy.

by Nick Birkett

I thought it would be an idea for anyone who blogs on this site to recommend a tune at the end of their piece. Everyone loves decent music. 

Mine is by Ben Howard and is called Keep Your Head Up (or, if you are one of those wonderful weirdos that likes melancholy music, go for Black Flies).   

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