My Birthday Initiative

5 min readJun 8, 2019


On August 6, I will turn 35.

Aging seems to get a bad rap in some circles, but I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger, wiser, more patient, more grounded, and overall more confident person.

Leading up to my birthday, my goal is to complete 35 acts of kindness. I will make them public in hopes of inspiring a few of my friends to look for ways to spread kindness and love in their own communities and friend circles.

Kindness should be the norm, not the exception.

I think we can all do our part to make neighborhoods around the world more accepting, more tolerant, and more loving. That would be the best birthday gift, really.

H/T Kristina Kuzmic’s 40 for 40.

Here’s my list:

  1. Reconnect with a family member or friend. Send an email, a facebook message, make a call.
  2. Give something useful. I gave a friend a tub of Whey Protein. Daily use.
  3. Surprise someone with a “local” present. I chose to support a local entrepreneur who makes small batches of peanut butter.
  4. Send flowers. A simple way to say thank you and express appreciation.
  5. Gift a plant. Succulents make wonderful anniversary presents.
  6. Post-it notes. Stick notes of inspiration at your office, gym, or home.
  7. Leave nice comments on Facebook for an old friend to see. Sometimes less is more: Short, sweet, from the heart.
  8. Recharge 5 people’s phone. (This is a thing in Nepal, but I’m sure there are international equivalents; pay someone’s phone bill?)
  9. Pass a book. I love Steal Like An Artist.
  10. Gift a gratitude/dream journal. Inspire someone’s writing habit! Plus, handmade journals are beautiful.
  11. Baked goods. Bring brownies to the office. Or make something for a neighbor.
  12. Celebrate something. Throw a party for a friend.
  13. Food. Bring a snack for someone who is working.
  14. Write a thank you card. A real deal handwritten note.
  15. Bring a cake to someone. Maybe it’s their birthday, maybe it isn’t. Any day is a good day to celebrate.
  16. Compliment someone. Recognize talent, skills, or hard work. Say it to their face.
  17. Sweet treats. Bring cupcakes (or fruit) for students.
  18. Schedule a massage FOR YOURSELF. When your cup is full, you can better give to others.
  19. Encourage someone’s career or education. Help them sign up for an online class or just give a warm hug if they’re feeling down.
  20. Support. Send five encouraging text messages.
  21. Motivate. Encourage a friend to plan a vacation.
  22. Talk to a neighbor. Really, take time to have a conversation with people who live nearby.
  23. Send 5 encouraging texts.
  24. Bones for a furry friend.
  25. Give a kid a ball — soccer ball, basketball, whatever.
  26. Send someone a song (youtube) in the morning to brighten their day.
  27. One Simple Wish
  28. Surprise a friend who is stuck at work with chocolate, snacks.
  29. Coffee coupons. Make “vouchers” to give to friends for coffee dates.
  30. Send a birthday cake to a friend in a different city.
  31. Buy movie tickets for friends.
  32. Volunteer at a local school (bring school supplies while you’re at it).
  33. Be kind to yourself. Join a gym, eat well.
  34. Support a friend’s business.
  35. Throw an epic theme party and invite your closest friends.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret.

This isn’t easy.

Before I posted notes all over my gym, I was anxious as all get out. Is this silly, is this Too Over The Top, am I being childish?

We have to get comfortable with stress. In fact, we have to work to create it.

Not many people know this about me: I’m a Pretty Freaking Anxious Person. I worry. A lot. I get nervous. But with time and practice, I have learned to manage.

(My mom deserves some cred here for encouraging me to join various musicals and stage performances when I was a kid. Years as a street performer forced me to tackle anxiety head on.)

What do I tell my students? Fake it ’til you make it. I tell them this because this advice has gotten me through more situations than I can count: Entering a prison to interview a convict, switching careers and landing a job at a Manhattan ad agency, organizing my first 500+ person seminar, cold-calling famous people to invite them to events, starting crowdfunding campaigns to build something from scratch.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to better manage my anxiety. I’ve also learned that when I don’t feel stress, I get bored and restless and am probably not pushing myself in ways that I should be.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -Marianne Williamson

True evolution and meaningful growth come from those places you want to run and hide from: Tension and Discomfort. It is a worthy challenge to learn to settle into these moments. Instead of running away, ground down. Pause. Sit in silence.

And then go.


Here’s to 35.

BONUS, if you’re still with me:

  • Tell me about a surprise you’ve received OR given. How did it feel?
  • Last, and certainly not least, how do you manage discomfort and anxiety?

Reply here or tweet me @redheadlefthand. I’d love to hear from you.




After co-founding Learning House, an education center in Nepal, I coach and create. You may see my writing on the internet.