J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 56.
O: You never know what somebody's going through that you might bump into, how a small act of kindness can create a ripple.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Hey there, everyone, welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women; I'm so glad you're here. This episode is brought to you by audible.com, your source for amazing audio books, including ‘Anne of Green Gables’, which I've been enjoying with my daughter, Lorelai. I have a unique coupon code that you can use to get a free audio download and a free 30-day trial; just go to vibranthappybook.com. On our last episode, I spoke with Megan Tenney all about how she learned to forgive and get over the hurt from some past relationship issues. And today, I'll be talking with Orly Wahba who is the creator of ‘Life Vest Inside’ and created the viral video called The Kindness Boomerang, which I know you've seen. I've created a link for that on the show notes page at jenriday.com/56. That video went around and it totally did go viral and affected millions of people; and Orly is the creator of that video and creator of the movement to spread kindness. This is a fantastic episode, super uplifting, and Orly is really just a ball of energy; I loved speaking with her and I left the interview just feeling amazing. So you're going to love this one and let's go ahead and dive in.
Hey there ,welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, I'm talking with Orly Wahba today and she's an author, speaker, educator, entrepreneur, and community activist who began her career in Brooklyn, New York where she taught middle school children to embrace unity, build self-esteem, and be an influence for good; awesome. She's the founder of Life Vest Inside, a nonprofit with a mission to empower people of all backgrounds to lead a life of kindness. Life Vest Inside, LVI, shot to national attention when her film, Kindness Boomerang, went viral, landing her spot-on TEDTalks. In her spare time, Orly loves sports, music, movies, figure skating, and above all, spending time with her family. Welcome to the show, Orly.
O: Thank you so much for having me, Jen.
J: I'm so excited. And Orly and I were talking before I turned on the microphone. I love her accent, she's from Brooklyn, and I asked her if she could hear my Wisconsin accent and she couldn't; so I'm so happy to share that with you all.
J: So, Orly, we always just start out the show with a quote, what quote are you going to share with us today?
O: So a quote that I have always loved is by Margaret Mead and it's, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
O: This was a quote that I shared with my students during my years teaching, it's a quote that guides me tremendously through the work I do with organization and showing that each and every person makes a difference in matters in a huge way; everybody has something that they can contribute.
J: Well, I love what you're doing and I… you know, when I read that bio, wow, so much. So I want to go to your low point, but first, just give us a little more history. You know, you're a teacher and then you found this organization, how did that all come about?
O: Oh my goodness. So my years teaching I was a teacher in middle school for 7 amazing years, they were the most transformative years of my life; my students were truly like my best friends and the concepts of kindness, compassion, empathy, these were concepts that were implemented into the classroom on a daily basis. It was all about helping kids see beyond the labels, to help them break that down and see the fact that each and every person truly makes a difference; recognizing their own self value. Because when a person understands their value, they can then understand the value within each and every person. It was amazing what I saw come about, especially during those years, those middle school years, it's such an important time because it's the time where you can go one way or the other and where self-doubt is very much at its high. And so my students were a big part of starting the organization and really giving me the encouragement that I needed to sort of get out there and share this message with the world. So about 6 years ago, I left my job teaching. It was not easy, it was definitely not easy to start Life Vest Inside. And basically I said to myself, “If I believe in this enough…” because this has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid, that dreamed of changing the whole world.
O: So I said, “If I believe in this enough, then I got to go all in. I got to put every ounce into this and see what happens. I mean, who knows what's going to take place; if it's going to fail or not fail? But I know that I have to go for this full-on.” The year prior to me starting the organization and leaving my job, that's when I shot Kindness Boomerang. It was the summer and I had a background in film production and I wanted to show people the ability that kindness has to go from one person for the next; to really inspire. And so I sat down I said, “You know, why don't I film this? Why not create a film?” And I started writing down different moments in my life, kindness moments that left an impact and left an imprint. They were these small things; they weren't these, you know, huge tremendous gestures of kindness, but simple things that make a big difference and the script came about. And I shot that film during my summer off, showing how one act leads from one person to the next to the next and then boomerangs back to the person who set it into motion, and was all done in one shot. Right, when I filmed that, I knew. I didn't know how it was going to reach people, but I knew that this was going to be something tremendous. And I went back into school, told the school I'd be taking the following year off to pursue this. I didn't show anyone the film for 1 year; literally did not show for a year. Over the course of that last year of teaching, I was sort of putting all of the pieces in place to begin the nonprofit, and that following year in October, I finally released the film online on YouTube. I didn't know how it was going to reach people, I knew nothing about social media at all.
O: I had to like YouTube a video, ‘how to upload a video to YouTube’.
O: And seriously, it was ridiculous, and I posted it online, “I have no idea who it's going to reach or what, but you know what? I’ve got to get it out there.” And the film went crazy viral within the first couple of months. All I was doing… because I didn't even have a website at the time, all I was doing, and I tell you the honest truth here, 21 to 22 hours of the day was just responding to comments on YouTube.
O: That's how many comments were coming in from people literally all over the world speaking all different languages and just communicating with people and building a relationship. And the common thread that was going through everything was the words of kindness; it didn't make a difference where you were from or what you believed, what you didn't believe, what race, religion or ethnicity or culture background, kindness was at the core. And so the idea was, “If we create dialogue with one another, we have the ability to truly change this world in a tremendous way.” And the core mission behind the organization, like you said, you know, it's to inspire and educate people from all over to leave a life of kindness. But really, if I were to use one word to describe the organization more than the word ‘kindness’, it would be the word ‘empowerment’; to empower people to understand their value, that they matter, that they're significant, and that even though they might be one in 7 billion people, the number of the matters the most is that they're 1.
O: So often people don't understand their value. And if you think about it, you know, if you don't understand your value, there's no way you can understand the value in others.
J: Yeah. Well, gosh, I have 2 questions I have to ask, but first, tell me if you had to recap that video for those who might not have seen it or don't remember having seen it, what happens in the boomerang video?
O: So the first thing that happens in Kindness Boomerang, when it when it opens up, there's a young boy in a skateboard that falls down and there's a construction worker and he's heading to work.
J: I knew it, I knew because that's stuck in my mind.
J: I didn't refresh myself, I remember that video. Okay, keep going, keep going.
O: Yeah, helps pick him up, and then he goes ahead and he helps an older woman cross the street by taking her bags. She gives a quarter to someone that's looking for… you know, in their bag for a quarter for the meter. That girl helps, you know, pick somebody's wallet up from the floor and so on and so on and so on, until the very end, where a waitress that was just given a large tip after having a pretty bad day, takes a cup of water and gives it to the construction worker who's super hot outside for him to drink; and it comes back to that same construction worker that started it. And the idea behind this is that, every single second of our day, we're faced with a choice. Every single second, we have a choice whether to act or to allow things to pass us by. Each and every one of the people in the film made a choice to stop. They might have been in a rush, they have a whole back story. There's actually a page long backstory in each character, even though they only appear on the screen for maybe 10 seconds.
O: You never know what somebody's going through that you might bump into; how a small act of kindness can create a ripple with no logical end. And very often, that kindness ends up boomeranging back, it can come back to you. Not always do we have the opportunity to, like in this film, to see how it does come back to us; sometimes we do and most often, we don't. But we have to know that, when we put something out there positive into the world, the impact effects are tremendous, that who we are makes a difference. It doesn't matter what our job title is, but just who we are; that when you walk into a room you impact people, you affect people.
O: You touch people's lives just by being you.
O: And that's so important to remember.
J: Well, my second question kind of goes with that. So you worked with middle schoolers, I have a couple of middle schoolers right now.
J: They can be total punks. So how did you about…? (Laughs)
O: It’s so funny, I’ve got to tell you. Every time I tell people I worked in middle school, they're like, “How do you do it?” and I said, “They are the most awesome kids you don't understand.” The middle school kids, I'm not kidding when I tell you this. First of all, there's not a day that's gone by since I stopped teaching I don't talk about my students; not one day that went by. But my students and I, we really best friends. The amount of love and respect that came back through the class was really amazing. And, for me, it's all about respecting. So I came into class, they knew that they had my trust 1000%, even though I just met them, they knew that. And that was something important to them. And it was about treating them… I treated them like adults. I treated them like they were on my level, and that's something that people do appreciate, students appreciate, and they feel that. And they feel when a teacher really cares about you and they're willing to go to bat for you and doesn't see you buy a grade that you got on a paper because that doesn't matter. I believe that any child can learn, any child can succeed, it's just about being able to get through them, empowering them enough to believe in themselves when they fail. Because the kids that’s going to do well is going to do well, with or without that great teacher.
O: But how about the kids that don't do so well? How do you help them tap into their potential? How do you help them see past those obstacles and those… those hardships that face them? How do you help them tap into that? That, to me, is how I measured my success.
O: And it was amazing what took place within the classroom. Seeing kids that, in the beginning, you know, there's a lot of class distinction in that age group where it's like, “Oh, this is a popular kid. This is like the nerd. This is the loner.” For me, my goal was helping to completely tear down those walls and show kids that each any person, regardless of the labels that we place on them, everybody has insecurities; the teacher as well. Every person in this world has insecurities, and if they tell you otherwise, they're just lying to you. And if we begin to understand that, we all have insecurities, even that kid that you think is living the life, suddenly you start seeing and understanding that there's areas to connect on and that we all give… bring something unique to the table. Maybe we don't all have the same talents, but we're all like pieces of a puzzle, different shapes, different colors, but every single piece, the same size; every person being just as important as the next. And the minute you get kids to see beyond the labels, suddenly opportunities for connection arise and that's where the real growth comes into play.
O: So that was amazing for me to see; I loved, loved, loved it.
J: Oh my gosh, you sound like the dream teacher; I want you from my teacher and I'm an adult, but…
J: … but really like, okay, did you ever lose your cool ever, you know?
O: Did I ever, ever lose my cool in a class?
O: To… like to scream? Of course.
O: That’s okay; but that's okay. I never said I didn’t (unclear) [11:57] just telling you. But I never like screamed that students in terms of like having to discipline kids. It was more the kids would discipline each other for me, which I know sounds really weird, but the kids loved coming into my classroom, and I loved when they came into my classroom. Were there tough days? Of course there's going to be tough days.
O: That's called life. But they wanted to learn there because it wasn't just about the subject matter, it was connecting the subject matter to their life. So they were learning life lessons and so the subject matter became relevant to them. You know, we had something; every Friday we had something. I taught Hebrew studies so, in Hebrew, it’s called sikhá, which means ‘a conversation’. We would… I would call it Sikhá Donut Day.
O: What we would do is, if throughout the week, they… you know, we got through all the material and they learn the material, Fridays would be assigned to just have a conversation, to really talk about life. But it was still talking about the subject matter because it was connecting it to their life, and they loved it. I don't think there was ever a Friday that I had to miss, and we would just have these really amazing deep conversations in terms of character and values and improving ourselves and, you know, the situation's that they're going through. It was just amazing, the connectivity was amazing; and it wasn't just within the classroom. We organized… like every Monday, I would take a group of kids we would go do food packaging and delivering to people that didn't have food. Every Friday, we would go visit the old-age home and we would talk to senior citizens and give them… and deliver bread and have meaningful conversation. It wasn't just about the time the classroom, it was after school, I was also directing the plays in the school; so it was the connections happening there. And I can't explain it; it was just… really it was absolutely fantastic. But, to me, when a kid… if let's say for example, a student was out of line… I tell you a small story. I've told this story many, many times, but the truth is it really embodies so many different stories that are liked it.
O: There was one boy, he was in 8th grade at the time and he was super tough; I mean, every teacher would call him a bully. He was like the kid that, when teachers found out they had him, “Oh, you have this kid.”
O: I never like to hang out in the teachers’ room because I never liked… I was always sitting on the kids table, you know? Everyone always called me, okay, I'm like the 9-year-old kid, I'm going to stay like it forever 8th grader. But, you know… so this boy was a bit of a troublemaker, again, according to all these teachers. And he wouldn't do necessarily well, in class and he would cause trouble with other students and so on and so forth. And I wouldn't…. I wouldn't scream at him, I would just stop and I would talk to him after class. And he would get annoyed at how much I actually cared; it would get him annoyed and he would continue to try and push me to limits.
O: So one day as I was in the in my classroom, I hear screaming going on in the hallway.
O: And it was a teacher reprimanding him and screaming at him. And principal came out and I went up and I stood up for him and basically got him out of being expelled.
O: And he came to me after, he was crying, he was crying, he had tears in his eyes, he said, “I don't understand, why do you care?”
O: “Why do you care so much?” he said, “I'm so mean to you. I don't understand!” And I looked at him and I said… I said, “Because I know you don't see it,” but I said, “One day, I hope that you'll see yourself through my eyes.”
O: “And I know that you're going to try and push me away,” but I said, “I'm one person you're never going to push away.” And he's like, “I don't understand why; why?” and I shared with him my own backstory. School was not always easy for me; it wasn't. It was actually really tough, so much so that in my… my third grade year, I was taken out of my classroom, I was put in a resource room with kids that had to learn at a much slower pace, and it was a much smaller classroom setting, and I used to get made fun of for it and it made me feel really uncomfortable. And one day a teacher, the teacher of the resource room, came in and she gave me a poem, and she told us to decorate the poem. So I was in… you know, I was in 3rd grade, it’s okay to put on a piece of pink construction paper and put some sprinkle or sparkle on it and stuff. But I read it and I read it many, many times, and the words of it stick with me till this very day. And the poem goes as follows, “If you think you can't do it, you can't. If you think you dare not, you don't. If you'd like to win, but think you can't, it's almost a since you won't. If you think you'll lose, your loss. For, out in this world, we find success begins with the fellows will, it's all in a state of mind. Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man, for sooner or later the man who wins is the one who thinks he can.”
O: This poem really spoke to me in a tremendous way and helped me get through a lot of hardships. And I shared with him this story and share with him another hardship that I went through in my own life, a really low point, a super low point of my own life. And I said to him… I said to him, “I know what it's like to feel like you're not seen. And I'm one person that, no matter what you're going to do, you’re not going to push me away.”
O:This boy made a complete turnaround. When I tell you ‘complete turnaround’, his grades went up, his attitude went up, so much so, I'm close with him until this very day.
J: Oh, wow.
O: He's way older now and he… I remember after… after high school, he came to… we happened to bump into each other in the street. When he was graduating 8th grade, I wrote him a letter, like a personal letter, and he came to me, he said to me, “I want you to know something, that letter you wrote me it's ripping it at… you know, at the edges because of how many times I had to open that letter throughout my high school years and read it to remind me that somebody was betting on me.”
J: Oh! Oh my gosh; I love this.
O: And what was he doing? He's telling me he's… now, he was mentoring at-risk kids. I said, “Look at how the kind of boomerang comes back into play.” Again, we don't always see it but, you know, for me, kindness is about seeing the beauty in people and helping them see it in themselves.
O: Everyone is awesome in their own way; everyone. I say, “I'm in the job of falling in love with people more and more each day,” that is my job, falling in love with people more and more each day. Our job is to see that within people, but here is the key. You cannot see the beauty in others if you don't stop and first see the beauty in yourself; you just can't, kindness has to begin with you. If you don't love you, if you don't truly believe that you matter, that you make a difference, that you are not your job or you're not how much you make or you're not how many followers you have, if you don’t even look at yourself in those ways, if you don't truly love you outside of those things, then how are you going to love other people? How?
O: So what do you recommend people do to learn to love themselves? Because not everyone has that amazing 8th grade…
O: … teacher like you. (Laughs)
J: No, no, no, they don't. And guess what? Guess what? It's not like I always have that. Loving yourself and building that confidence is not like a video game; it's not like you finish all the levels and then you won, it's a constant battle. There are days where I feel really low in myself and that's okay, and that's normal. It's not about always being positive. No one can always be positive; it's just… it's not real then. You're allowed to feel down, you have to take ownership of those feelings, but you have to be able to be able to pick yourself back up afterwards. It's not always easy, but for me, it starts with how we begin our day. And when you wake up in the morning… (I just want you to think about this for a second) wake up in the morning, take a deep breath in and you feel your heart beating, you feel that pulse, you know what that's a sign of? That means that, you see, they're… like… like I said, you know, I always… I asked my students when they coming into class, I said to them, “I always loved making puzzles,” and I… I did a project with my students one day and I came and I had a puzzle, I didn't tell them what it made up. And I said to them, “How many people here make puzzles?” and a bunch of hands went up. And I said, “Alright. Well, imagine you had a 1000-piece puzzle and you were missing 1 piece, would you hang it up on your wall?” and they said, “No.” I said, “Well, why? You have 999 other pieces.”
“This is because there's one piece missing.” I said, “Exactly. Because each and every person matters and without you, the puzzle is just not complete,” and that's the same concept. When you wake up and you have air in your lungs, that means that there's something that you're meant to bring into the world today that nobody else can. Jen, no matter what I do, I'm never going to be able to accomplish what you are meant to do or anybody listening to this podcast is meant to do. If you're here, it means there's a reason. There's no just superfluous people, there's something that we're each meant to bring into this world. When you have air in your lungs every morning, that means that, you know, that purpose still exists. Yes, you might make mistakes, but regardless of mistakes we make yesterday and the day before, the fact that you have air in your lungs is proof enough to believe that there's somebody way bigger than us betting on us.
O: That there's something we're going to be bringing into this world that’s super positive. It's very easy to compare ourselves with others, especially in today's world of digital media. I love social media, I think it's great, but everything that's great also could be used for not-so-great. And when people measure themselves and measure their value based on numbers, how many followers, how many likes, how many friends, how many… those things make no difference; it's a façade, it's so fake. What does it mean really? It's so fake, so much so that people, you know, call up people, “Could you like my post?” People buy likes, it's the most ridiculous thing; it's a façade. It might, for the moment, make us feel good, but the only person that could really make you feel good about you is you. Happiness comes from you; it comes from inside. If your happiness is going to depend on a person or on a thing, then it's going to be something that will never become attainable because it's going to be something you're constantly chasing. But if happiness is based on something that's within you, it's based on inside of you, then it's a choice that you make every single day. It's not easy, but nothing that's worthwhile is necessarily going to be easy.
J: Right. Well, so I was thinking, you obviously shared this kind of thing in your classroom which is super inspiring. So you said your kids in the class helped you found Life Vest Inside, how did that all come together and then lead to what you're doing today?
O: Yeah. So basically the name of the organization, Life Vest Inside, and I can tell you that backstory. The backstory came about during my years teaching and it was just an inspirational story I told. And, you know, the concept of Life Vest Inside is that our life vests, our ability to stay afloat in a world that sometimes seems to be pulling is downward is inside of us. It's through the kindness that we give to others and through the kindness that others give to us that we keep each other afloat in this world, because we can't prevent the obstacles and the mishaps and the curveballs from coming our way; they're going to come. But what we can do, what we have the power to do, what's in our ability to do is to throw somebody a life vest, a lifeline of kindness. That even though they're still surrounded by those troubles, they're still surrounded by those waters, that life vest is the difference between life and death. It gives them the hope to know that it's going to be okay. So the story the name behind Life Vest happened on a plane; took place while I was on a plane. It was during my years teaching back in 2007, and it was just an inspirational story I told. The concepts of kindness were things I was implementing into my classroom throughout, until finally that, you know, little kid that was a dreamer, that dreamed of changing the world started dreaming even bigger. And that's when I created the film and I said, “If I believe in this, I’ve got to go all in.” And I took the year off and I basically put all my savings, invested all my savings into the organization. It started with the film, like I mentioned, but it's developed into something so much larger. We look to spread the message whether it be through the media or whether it be through on-the-ground events. We have a worldwide event every year called Dance for Kindness; it's a worldwide flash mob that took place this past year in over 50 countries, 120 cities, to kick-off world kindness week showing that, regardless of our differences, kindness is the common thread that unites us all. Or through technology or through, you know, whether it be our kindness Ambassador Program, which is like an online supportive network of individuals. Whether it be through Project Hope Exchange, which is a platform that allows people to record and listen to 30 second anonymous audio messages of hope from people that are going through similar adversities that they're facing.
O: Or whether it's be through education. We developed an educational kindness curriculum that embeds concepts of kindness, compassion, empathy directly into the ready-made curriculum, showing how we… it's not just about the subject matter, it's about doing a little bit of a shift in perspective to infuse that subject-matter with meaning and value. So there are many ways in which we look to spread the message. And it's been amazing to see the organization grow, but it's geared towards helping a person go from inspiration to action. It's easy to get inspired, the question is, “What I'm going to do now that you've been inspired?”
O: “Are you going to take that to the next level?”
J: Boomeranging it.
O: And that's the entire methodology of the organization; helping a person, not only become inspired, but being able to engage in their own way, allowing themselves to become educated to understand their value, and then empowering them to go out there and become a leader so they can inspire a whole other slew of people to take that same exact path, which is super exciting. And just recently, I just launched a book of mine called ‘Kindness Boomerang’; it's a-lesson-a-day book. It's named after the film, Kindness Boomerang. and it's a-lesson-a-day book in kindness. It gives people, you know, simple things to incorporate into their day to truly make a difference, not only in their life, but in the life of others. So there are 12 categories of kindness that repeat throughout the course of the book. Whether it be kindness in the home, in the workplace, on the go, in the school, you know, with strangers, in relationships. And every day of the year has an act of kindness, a quote, and a short reflection based on that; short reflection on the power of paying it forward. And so every day based on that specific category is another act; a short little nugget, something simple that we all can, you know, apply into our lives. Because it's not these huge gestures, it's the simple things that make a difference. And what we find often is that, when we give of ourselves, we actually receive so much more. In a sense, it's like blowing air into our own life vests to keep us strong. When we give, that's the air that we blow into our life vests, making our life vests bigger and stronger so we can then help others. Because giving… when a person is engaged in active giving or an act of kindness, the reason we feel so good… and there's scientific evidence and proof behind this) I mean, we release endorphins. You know, kinder and compassionate people are less stressed, they live a longer life; you know, there are so many health benefits to actually engaging in kindness. But the reason we feel so good when we engage in kindness is because, in that moment of giving, we're actually catching a glimpse of our own potential, of our own value, and we're being validated for the right reasons.
O: Not for the reasons that society tells us should validate us, it's not just based on, you know, how much money we have or how popular we are how many magazine covers were on.
O: It’s how many lives we've touched.
O: That determines our true value in this world.
J: Well, I have ‘Kindness Boomerang’, your book, and I love it. And…
O: Oh, that's great.
J: And everyone needs to get it because I'm loving this, I'm feeling this. We need to be a part of this movement to, you know, increase that positivity because the world sometimes feels a little, you know, depressing or dark, especially politically and stuff with all the division. But, yeah, I love what you're doing, Orly, this is amazing. But..
O: Thank you so much.
J: … I'm wondering where did this… like this drive come from? There had to be an…
J: … impetus, a low point or something that made you…?
O: There… there was.
O: There definitely was. So I was telling you earlier, you know, school was difficult for me as a kid, but on top that, I was a very shy… I was super shy, super, and super reserved. I became even more reserved after… you know, in my 7th grade year, my friends had totally turned on me and it sort of just made me feel… I had that lack of valley within myself and I really sort of came into myself. But I was a super shy kid; a lot of dreams, but I didn't have the ability to express them in words. In my 10th grade year, I went through a bit of a hardship. The low… probably the lowest point in my life and probably this is the everything of who I am today, the beginning of my 10th grade year, we had a fire in my house.
O: And we lost everything. Thank God everybody was okay physically. I mean, you know, I'm one of 5 siblings so we were all okay, but it does something to you when you lose your home and you lose certain memories that can't be replaced. But it wasn't just the fire, it was one of those years; and I'm sure you know what I'm talking about I'm sure a lot of listeners know what I'm talking about. It was one of those years where everything that could go wrong went wrong.
O: And when you thought it couldn't get worse, it got worse. My dad had lost his business and one thing after the next after the next. And I didn't even realize how tough it was until years later when my mom was sharing with me. She's like, “There were weeks, Orly, where we didn't know how we're going to put food on the table,” like things were really, really tough. It was 6 years that we didn't move back into our house together as family. We were all over the place, we were all like separated all over the place. But that year, right when the fire happened, I was always a very positive person, always had a strong faith base, believing everything happens for a reason, but when you see your parents break down and cry, it does something to you that I really don't know how to explain in words.
O: And I sort of just went into myself. I couldn't speak to my family, I didn't want to be an extra burden. I couldn't talk to my friends because they didn't know what to say to me; I mean, they were 15 years old, going throw all sorts of hardships.
O: And I sort of kept everything in, but as you know, you can't really keep things in for very long. And one day, I went to sleep and I just didn't wake up the next morning; I was in a state of sleep.
O: I fell into a very dark depression. I was out of school for a couple months. I didn't want to go to school (unclear) [28:12] to school together, but I was literally sleeping for majority today. When I was up, I was crying.
O: I was angry. I was angry at the world, angry at myself, angry God, angry at my family. I just felt like my world was collapsing and I had no one to talk to.
O: But the thing that hurt the most… so I told you I was shy, but I always loved people; I always loved people. So if somebody was absent from school, whether I knew them or didn't know them, you know, I would take notes, I would copy notes for them and bring it to them. When I was home from school for 2 months, not one person came to visit.
O: Not one person called, not one person called to see if I was okay. And it just sort of felt like, “If I wasn't here tomorrow, would anybody be the wiser? Would anybody even care?”
O: I fell into a dark place; and when I say dark, I'm talking suicidal thoughts dark. I just didn't want to continue.
O: I was forced to go back to school, but I was definitely not the same kid. I was that kid, you know, dressed all in black, sitting in the corner, you know, writing morbid poetry; that was me, I was that kid.
O: So that was me; I was that kid. And honestly, I just… I wanted to give up on everything.
O: Until one day… I'll never forget. One day, one morning, I woke up, no particularly special morning, and I was in the bathroom and I was washing up and I was looking at myself in the mirror. I was like really looking at myself in the mirror and I didn't see that 4-year-old kid that dreamed of changing the world looking back at me; that kid that had all those hopes and dreams of bringing people together in this world. Because this dream was not a dream that just came about when I was a teacher, this dream is something that I've had in my heart ever since I can remember my dad tucking me into bed and me feeling like there's something major I’m meant to do in my life, something, a contribution that I’m supposed to bring into this world to bring people together in a way like never before. To see beyond all of the boundaries, to see who we are as a people.
O: And when I looked in the mirror, I didn't see that kid, and that scared me more than anything. And I said to myself, “I can't let this be my end. I have no clue how I'm going to get… be able to pick myself back up, but this can't be my end.” And I made a promise to myself, and it's a promise that I keep until this very day; it's a promise to be there for people the way I wish somebody would have been there for me.
O: To see people the way I wish somebody would have seen me; and it’s a promise that’s guided me through every step of my life. Those couple of next years going through high school were…. I was pretty much walking alone, which is not an easy thing. But then in my senior year of high school, we were on a seminar with, you know, my peers and we're sitting in a circle and the teacher was talking about obstacles. And I did something I never did before; I raised my hands.
O: And I had something to contribute. And the craziest thing is that my own peers, kids that I used to be intimidated from, were listening to me; and crazier than that, coming to me afterwards and asking me for advice. And what I found was that, the more I gave, the more I healed.
O: The more I gave, the more I healed, and I became obsessed and in love with this concept this idea of giving. And it was from that moment, I literally made a 1800 turn. I came out of my shell in ways that I don't even know how to describe. I remember my mom was like, “What happened to my daughter?”
O: Like, I… speaking in front of hundreds of people. I started working with at-risk kids. I started running seminars and directing plays and like… well, doing everything, involved in every community service project you could possibly think of. It was when I came into my own, it was like all of those thoughts and those dreams and those ideas that I had, you know, trapped in my heart ever since I was a kid, finally the voice, my voice finally came out.
J: Mm-hmm, found it.
O: It was… it was amazing.
J: So that is crazy. You… you sound like you were an introvert, and definitely talking to you now, you sound like an extrovert.
J: Did you change personalities? What happened?
O: It's crazy. It's like I change personalities; it was really nuts. But the truth is, it was always inside of me ever since I was… it was always inside of me; I just didn't have the confidence. The thing was, you see, during that couple of years of walking alone through high school, I got the opportunity to do something we don't ever get to do, that we very rarely get to do; I found the opportunity to fall in love with me for me.
O: And the minute that we do that, the minute that we understand our inherent value, suddenly we tap into a piece of ourselves, to a potential that we never knew there existed. So it wasn't any longer about that sense of, “I'm afraid to say this. I'm afraid to do that. I don't know what people are going to think,” it was not caring, it was about being me…
O: .. and owning that.
O: And being okay with who I am, even with my flaws.
J: Right, right. Well, do you think that that's part of the reason you were depressed is because you hadn't, you know… that that real you was knocking and you weren't quite listening yet and…?
O: Oh, I mean, definitely. I definitely (Laughs)…. definitely a very big part of it.
O: I was also super closed. I didn't… it was very hard for me to trust people; to trust that people really cared.
O: So I would test people all the time…
O: … and then prove to myself that they didn't really care. It was hard; it was really hard.
J: Yeah. But then you kind of essentially realized you didn't need that because you… every time you were kind, you were healing yourself, like you said.
O: I was, I was. And I realized that those labels that we think are so important in our adolescent years (and it's, unfortunately, people still think they're important they're in their adult years), they really don't make a difference; they don't matter. Everyone has something unique to contribute.
O: And the more I fell in love with me, the more I fell in love with people.
O: And that's really the key and it's the truth.
J: Huh, this is awesome.
O: People say, you know, “Treat your neighbor as you want to be treated,” people always focus on the neighbor. It's easy to be kind to others, it's hard… the kind to yourself is the hard part. The minute you love you… loving others is easy; it is, it really is. And what I mean, loving it doesn't mean arrogance because arrogance and confidence are 2 opposite things that oftentimes can look alike, but they're very different. Confidence comes from a place of strength. A person of confidence will make you feel like you matter; they'll make you feel included.
O: They'll make you feel important. Arrogance comes from weakness. A person of arrogance will make you feel fearful or make you feel like you're not good enough; will make you feel intimidated. That's the true test. But remember that, a person that is arrogant just doesn't have an understanding of their own value, and so they reflect those attitudes; they come upon other people in this in this negative way. Because if they don't love them, they're not going to love you.
O: And in order to make them feel good, they'll have to make you feel down, but that still doesn't make them feel good.
J: Mm-hmm. So, for you, you just looked in the mirror that day and said, “Hey, what happened to the real Orly; the one that…?”
O: “What happened to that kid that dreamed of changing the world?”
O: And I made a promise, but it wasn't like overnight that I shifted; it was a couple of years.
J: Oh, you had to kind of learn to love yourself first.
O: I had to learn to be okay with being alone and still loving myself; not loving myself based on being in a specific group or being thought of as cool or doing this trying to impress that person, it was me being okay in my own skin.
J: Yeah. I think I've hit the exact same thing. That was kind of similar to my low point. I had to decide, “Yeah, I'm going to be happy on my own and I don't need anyone else,” and I think that was the same thing; learning to love myself enough to be happy without validation…
J: … and all of that. Hmm.
O: And it's not easy and it…. it is a constant battle, I have to say that; it is. Because we're all going to always have moments where we doubt ourselves….
O: …. where we question our value.
O: “Did I really make a difference? Am I really making a difference in the world?” I ask myself that question.
O: You know, even though… and people are like, “Don't you see all the thing?” but it's okay. I mean, it's a normal feeling to have, but we have to be able to pick ourselves back up. It's something that we have to constantly work on.
J: Yeah. And I'm hearing in your voice, it sounds to me like the more you live your purpose, the happier you become. And, I mean, listen to your energy, it's amazing.
O: Thank you.
J: You found the secret. (Laughs)
O: It's…. it's truly amazing. Everybody finds it in their own way.
O: And it's okay if it takes some of us longer, and sometimes it works differently for ourselves. But we have to remember to stop comparing ourselves with the stories of others.
O: Or stop comparing our successes with the successes of others. Because, first of all, you never know what's really going on behind closed doors. You never know what's going… really going on in someone's life, but you have to you have to love you, flaws and all, you know, and not be as hard on ourselves. Sometimes we look at the gap of where we are where we want to be and that gap crushes us.
O: Instead, look behind you and how far you've come. Use positive energy to propel you forward. Negativity will only lead you down a road of negativity.
O: I know people talk about, “Oh, there’s so much negative in the world,” I’ve got to tell you, I see so much positive in the world. You might think I'm crazy, but I have to tell you, the more you start looking for good, the more good you're going to see.
O: I see so much good happening in the world; so much, so much. Just because the negative gets more attention…
O: … or is the trending thing, that doesn't mean that it's the only thing.
J: Right, right.
O: We have to exercise our eye muscle to see the good. And I promise you, the amount of good that comes back and is reflected back to us is extraordinary.
J: Yeah. You know, you need to have… you mentioned those 30 second phone calls, but I think you need to give…
J: You need to give the 30 second phone calls; I would call you every morning for a pep talk.
O: Oh my gosh, you’re so funny.
J: (Laughs). Well… well, let's dive into a few of your favorite things; this is awesome. And then at the end, I want you to give our listeners a challenge; so we'll come back to this. So what's a favorite habit that has contributed to your success?
O: A favorite habit. I have to say that prayer is a very big thing for me.
O: And, again, whether a person believes in what they… a God or not a God, prayer’s still something anybody can do. For me, I believe… you know, I call it God, but it could be whatever it is for others. I have to say that through everything, that has kept me the most grounded. It's my guiding star honestly through all the hardships. For me, the reason that is is because the way I believe is that God see me and my good times and in my absolute worst times, see me at my low point, and still is betting on me; so how could I not bet on myself.
J: Ah, yeah.
O: So, for me, you know, every morning when I wake up, there is like prayers that I say. It all starts with gratitude, it starts with gratitude; being grateful to be here and knowing that I'm here for a reason. Being grateful for my eyes, being grateful for my ability to walk, being grateful for my ability to speak things, like that. So there are certain like set prayers and I read them in the morning.
O: And it starts my day in a really positive way. Because, if you start your day with gratitude, the likelihood is that your day is going to continue in that way. Not to say that there aren't tough days, there's always going to be tough days, but that's something that, you know, a ritual for me that I feel has led… is a very big part of my success…
O: … tremendously. And then my ability to take… well, every once a week I have a ‘no tech’ time.
O: From Friday evenings through Saturday night. I mean, it's part of a religious ritual, but… but, to me, it's my life source. If I didn't have it, I don't think I'd be able to… to continue. So Friday night comes, (unclear) [38:31] comes, doesn't make a difference what's going on, I don't care somebody's going to call me with a… to give me, you know, thousands of valid contribution, I'm not answering the phone; from Friday night to Saturday night, no phone, no television, no computer, no talking about work, no… any sort of electric things. It's just being with my family, being with myself, connecting to… you know, reflecting on the previous week as so what's happened, how I've grown. It's a great time of connectivity and just, yeah, it's spent just hanging out with family and playing board games and stuff.
J: Yeah. (Laughs)
O: It's really amazing. And that's… that, to me, is something that definitely I think is the greatest source to my success.
J: Ooh, both of those are so powerful, but that second one, that's excellent.
O: I know it’s a tough one, but it's something I've done my whole life so it doesn't feel tough for me, but…
O: I know it can be very tough for people to have a tech free day, you know?
J: Mm-hmm. But it's so important to unwire your brain a little bit.
O: So important.
J: Yeah. Well, what's a favorite easy meal, Orly?
O: For me, I know that this is something that I know that I want to work on myself in terms of eating healthy, because it's not… I have to be honest, it's not something that I do and it's something that I'm trying to do and incorporate into my life right now, you know, to eat healthier. Because I'm like pizza, cereal a kind of girl.
O: And that's not exactly the best food to be eating.
O: So I'm trying to… I've been trying right now and meeting… I'm going to start… I'm actually starting to meet with a friend of mine once a week to sort of hold me accountable to incorporating a healthy lifestyle in terms of food into my diet, into my habit.
J: Mm-hmm. So going to come back on the show in a year and have a healthy meal to tell us about. (Laughs)
O: I really do, I hope so; I definitely do. I mean, fish, to me, I love fish. That's like one of my favorite meals is…
O: … you know, fish and beans; I love that. It's definitely healthy and it keeps me full.
O: But I'm working towards building a much healthier lifestyle because…
O: …. what you eat is really also… has a very big impact on how you feel and the energy that you're able to give out into the world.
J: Right, right. Do you have a favorite kitchen gadget?
O: A favorite kitchen gadget, oh, wow.
O: A favorite kitchen gadget, I would say that my favorite kitchen gadget would be…
J: (Laughs). You’re trying. (Laughs)
O: No, no, no, no, it's going to be, I would say… and it's a tough one for me.
O: I do have… I did get gifted a, you know, like one of those magic bullets.
J: Oh yeah!
O: And I love… I love certain fruits; like I love bananas.
O: And a friend of mine also happens to be connected to the organization. He gifted this with me because he knows that I'm trying to get… lead a healthier lifestyle. And so I've been using that and creating like shakes for myself, like fruit shakes.
O: I love it. It’s…
O: … awesome.
J: There you go; see, you were so healthy, well done.
J: And a favorite book.
O: A favorite book, I have so many; I really do have so many. I would say my favorite book and one that I've come to read over and over again, it's called ‘The Garden of Emuna’; Emuna means ‘belief’. And I think I've read this book… I can't even tell you how many times, and it's all about the understanding that everything happens for a reason and seeing life in the positive way. So that's definitely one of my favorite book for me. The other would be, I would say, ‘The Secret’ which I have on as an audiobook and I listen to it; every couple of years, I listen to the whole book over and over again. It's such an amazing, amazing book, ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, it's… it's fantastic. It's how I lead my life and, you know, like attracts like and we're able to draw things into our life that we think about.
J: Wow. And the best advice you've ever received.
O: The best advice I've ever received, I would have to say, is to believe in myself; to believe in myself and to keep pushing forward and to know that everything happens for a reason. And that's come from my dad.
J: Yeah, oh, he’s good.
O: My dad is a very, very big believer that everything happens for a reason. He's gone through so many hardships in his life as we have as a family and his… he's always said, “Everything happens for a reason. God is big, he has a plan; we don't always know what it is, but he has a plan.” And that's been a motto that I believed my life by and it's what's helped me get through moments where I thought I wouldn't be able to.
J: Ah, that’s… your dad's a good guy. You mentioned when he tucked you into bed at night. I wonder if he planted those seeds in your mind that you had something great to do.
O: Oh, he definitely planted those seeds he's. My dad's a big dreamer like me.
O: He doesn't think small, he thinks big. And sometimes dreamers get made fun of like, “Oh, you’re a dreamer,” you know?
J: (Laughs). Yeah.
O: But we took it in the positive way. It's really good to be a dreamer because Walt Disney says, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
O: So it's very important to believe in our dreams and to… and to actually go ahead and pursue them because you never know what will be possible.
J: Yeah. Well, is he proud of what you're doing? Obviously.
O: Yeah, he definitely is. Not to say that I don't get some discouragement from my family, not in the fact that they don't like what I'm doing, but they get worried for me; I mean, you know, of course, their family. “What are you doing? You left your job? You’re not making any money.”
O: I haven’t… I haven’t pulled a salary in 6 years; they think I'm nuts, “What are you, crazy? What are you doing?
J: (Laughs). What are you living on? Are you… you know, you’re just getting by?
O: I live with my parents, honestly.
J: Oh, gotcha.
O: If I wasn't living with my parents, I would not be able to do this. I know that the money is going to come; I know that. This is my purpose, it's been hard, it's not easy; it's been super hard. I've invested literally every dollar of my savings into this organization. I believe in it with all my heart, I know that that's why I'm here. But definitely, my father has been… he's definitely been a huge support for me and I'm very happy that he is. Because he understands that concept and idea of dreaming it about something so big that others, you know, can potentially make fun of you for it.
O: But generally, when others don't believe in your dreams, it's just an indication that they don't believe enough in their own dreams, so how can they believe in yours?
J: Right, right. Well, so I know someone listening might want to donate or share, you know, something to help your organization, what could they do to help?
O: Oh my goodness. So I appreciate any and all help, they can contribute on our website, lifevestinside.com; there's a donate button there. You can contribute either as a 1-time, you can contribute as a monthly, every amount really makes a difference. And in addition to contributing and donating, there are also ways to sponsor various things. I was mentioning, I'm going on a cross-country book tour May through June, so their sponsorship opportunities available through various types of events, whether it be through the book tour or through our Dance for Kindness event. And then of course, we also have a store on our website where you can purchase. And all the money from the… from the purchases go directly to the organization. We have Acts of Kindness cards, decks that have 26 different Acts of Kindness within each deck, and you perform the act and then you pass it on. We have Catching Kindness cards that you give to people when you see them doing an act of kindness.
J: Oh, love it.
O: We have our, you know, T-shirts and sweatshirts and all different sorts of merchandise on our website. And of course purchasing the book, you can purchase ‘Kindness Boomerang’; whether it be from the Life Vest Inside website, lifevestinside.com, or from kindnessboomerang.com, the website for the book. And there are so many ways to contribute and to get involved as well on our website.
J: I'm going on there for the kindness cards, for sure.
O: Oh yeah. You’ll definitely…
J: Yes, yes.
O: You will love, love those.
J: I need them for my 6 kids. (Laughs)
O: Oh, you’ll love them. We also have a newsletter, a daily newsletter called The Daily Kind. It's like a 30-second read to kick start your day with kindness. It has an act of kindness and a positive affirmation.
J: Ooh, how do we sign up for that?
O: Oh, you just go on to lifevestinside.com/dailykind or if you're on lifevestinside.com, you'll see a sign-up button right in the top right corner; there's a pop-up that comes up at the bottom, there's a subscribe. And if you sign up, you can receive The Daily Kind; it goes out Monday through Friday.
O: It has like a kindness media in there every day as well, like a video of good things that are happening in the world.
O: And once a month, we send out a kindness flash newsletter that has stories from our fans from… from people, you know, just like, you know, anyone about the stories of kindness.
O: Every month has its own theme. So next month's theme is going to be friendship.
O: The month of April. And, yeah, it's a really great newsletter that goes out monthly.
J: Oh, this is such a great thing you're doing. Well, I'm going to let our listeners know that they can find links all of the stuff; I'm going to compile it all. Orly, send me an email with the good links so we're going to put them all there for all of the stuff we've been talking about; and that'll be at jenriday.com/56. And now, as we head towards the end of the show and that challenge you have our listeners, let's first talk about your happiness formula; 3 to 5 part formula of things that maximize your happiness, what would that include?
O: For me, that would include, number 1, recognizing you matter; that self-value component, that self-love. Number 2 would be pursuing your passion, and number 3 is opening yourself up to ways that you can offer a lending hand to others; giving kindness, engaging in kindness. So your self-love, pursuing your passion, and lending a hand, that, to me, is a formula for happiness.
J: I 1000% agree; you've hit them all right there on the head, I love that. And then, finally, a challenge for our listeners.
O: So I'm going to give you guys a challenge. You know, I was talking about these cards called Catching Kindness cards, but you don't need a card in order to do it. And the purpose of these Catching Kindness cards, when you see somebody doing it, an act of kindness for someone else, not for you (it's easy to see somebody do something kinds for you), you give somebody a card and it says on it, “Tag, you're it. You've just been caught in the act now, it's your turn to catch someone else in the act.” Now, you may not have these cards, and of course, you can get them. But my challenge to each of you is to open… is to exercise your eye muscle, to get out there and spot kindness that's happening around you, not that's happening to you. It's easy to see kindness happening to you, but the more you start becoming aware of kindness that's happening, good things that are happening in the world, I can guarantee you that a lot more goodness is going to be reflected back to you.
O: So my challenge is to get out there, to open your eyes and start catching kindness. Have at least 1 positive thing a day that you catch people doing for others and it will totally change your perception of the world in such a powerfully positive way.
J: Excellent advice. I am so glad you've been on the show, Orly.
O: Thank you so much for having me.
J: Hey, didn't I tell you Orly is amazing? And I love this interview, she is really so uplifting and inspiring and energetic; I love that about her! If you want to watch that viral video we talked about or help in any way with this kindness movement that Orly has started, I have tons of links for you on our show notes page at jenriday.com/56. I'll be back on Thursday with a happy bit, and be sure to join me next week for my interview with Lisa-Jo Baker; she talks all about the art of friendship and being a good friend and having friendships that last. Make it a great week, and I'll see you next time. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.