We all receive emails, tweets, and Facebook posts demanding we watch some crazy awesome TEDtalk. We watch them, have our minds blown, feel guilty for not accomplishing anything as cool as what we just saw, and move on with our lives.
Three college students listened to a TEDtalk and decided to do something with that new knowledge.
Enter brothers Danisch and Faiq Malik and their friend Intisar “Thar” Tariq.
Danisch and Thar, a fourth year and third year respectively, attend the University of Virginia (UVA). Faiq, a senior, attends American University and visited his brother and friend during finals week at UVA. They previously listened to Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk “The Happy Secret to Better Work”, which has over 5.5 million views. At the end of the talk, Shawn lists out action items to do daily to make happiness a precursor to your success (spoiler alert): meditate, exercise, write in a journal, be thankful for three things that day, and do random acts of kindness.
Danisch said, “We created a text thread to remind each other about these 5 things and kind of do a friendly competition with each other.”
On the night of December 11, the group did their first random act of kindness. Thar, a transfer student majoring in psychology, felt stressed in the library. Students were everywhere in the library’s McGregor room, affectionately known as the Harry Potter Room. He thought, “I could use a couple cookies.” Minutes later, Danisch contacted him to come over so they could hand out cookies to everybody in the Harry Potter Room. Thar thought, “Get out of my brain.”
There must have been some legilimency going on.
They ordered the cookies from a popular spot, Campus Cookie. As students, they worried about costs as the cookies are about a dollar a piece and there were about 50 people on their library floor. Like most college students, these three were pledging the Broke Phi Broke fraternity. They decided to go ahead with it, thinking the sacrifice would make it that much better. They told Campus Cookie their plan, to which the shop provided a generous discount to help them with their effort.
The friends ended up buying 100 cookies. When asked to comment, Scott Davidson of Campus Cookie said, “We often support charities and fundraising events, including spreading happiness, and give out over 5,000 cookies per semester between our 3 stores. We do end up maxing out on our donation budget by the end of the semester, but if someone is looking to do a wellness event we sell them at a reduced price. ” Scott said that cookies are a popular gift and are baked fresh right before they are delivered.
Faiq said that the cookies were still warm when they handed them out, to which Danisch added, “And who doesn’t love a warm cookie?” Danisch admits, “We were worried that people would be skeptical but everybody responded positively.”
Faiq said, “We were caught up in the moment and didn’t really get to process the reactions. When we sat down to watch the video, seeing the smiles on people’s faces gave us a smile. It was a heartwarming experience.” Faiq explained, “If you’re happier, everything rises. It’s because of dopamine.” Shawn Achor explains in his TEDtalk, “Dopamine serves two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all the learning centers in your brain.” Faiq said, “Now that you’re happier, as Thar told everybody in the library, you can ‘Go get that A’.”
Thar has a final left and he doesn’t think he’ll do too well on it. Before handing the cookies out, he was stressed. But now, he said, “I’m not worried. I’m like Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows when he’s walking to Voldemort. He’s like ‘I’m gonna die, I don’t care.’”
Brothers Faiq and Danisch both want to become investment bankers, but in different specialties. They acknowledge there’s a negative stereotype associated with that field. Faiq said, “Investment bankers invest in people and that’s what we’re trying to do here. We invest in other people’s happiness. At the start and end of the day, we’re working for the people.” Danisch adds, “I’d like to change the image people have of investment bankers and corporate financiers. Helping others is a part of who I am. Doing these acts of kindness now instead of starting later won’t make people think I have some hidden agenda.”
The group said that they won’t try to outdo their previous acts or even record them. Danisch said, “It’s about going outside of our comfort zones and making a difference.” So far, so good.