Within one year of being really intentional about kindness and really seeing it in my life so that I could write about it, I had totally quit drinking, I quit smoking, I lost 30 pounds, and I’d really fallen in love with my husband, who is indeed a great guy. It’s like the whole atmosphere of our home changed. Maybe the kids were little enough to continue to throw tantrums, but I no longer threw tantrums in my home and that can really change the dynamics of a house.
Nicole Phillips’ message is one of joy and hope. Her mission to share the importance of kindness and treating yourself with value comes after an unconventional life and not knowing where she belonged.
I first heard of Nicole and her story because her husband Saul was the head men’s basketball coach at Ohio University, here in the small Appalachian town of Athens, Ohio, where I have lived since 2007. I’m not sure if it is like this in small towns everywhere, but in Athens, you know the “good” people in town, and from 2014-2019, it was the Phillips family.
“Your family was just so great for this town and we miss having you here.”
“We miss our Athens. My youngest son Ben, who is in fifth grade, was like, “When do we get to go back to Larry’s Dawg house? When does that happen, Mom?” and I said, “It will happen, but it’s gonna have to happen after COVID season, right?”
Yeah, we’ll have to have a big meet-up at Larry’s Dawg House once this is over... Being a nanny in town for over six years now, I was made aware of the “The Kindness Ninjas“, an idea that was formed after the local elementary school read parts of Nicole’s book where she talks about R.A.K. or “Random Acts of Kindness”. This idea helped kids recognize the importance of kindness, and how one small act can truly impact someone’s day.
“I was just so fortunate to have this sort of a free rein in my kid’s school, Morrison-Gordon Elementary. I could volunteer in the library, in the kindergarten classroom, first-grade classroom, second-grade classroom… I kind of followed my children around the school a little bit. I know that this is a difficult time for so many parents and teachers, for sure, because they can’t be in the classroom sharing the way that they’d like to. I felt so fortunate to be able to get to know the kids and the teachers and just the climate of the school.”
Kindness is your message; it’s your journey. Can you tell us some of your background story?
Well, you know, it’s funny, because everyone has a story and I think so many times we take the more bitter parts of our story into our adulthood, and they kind of form the way we see the world. They form the way that we interact with people and so I certainly felt that in my own life. My mom is a brilliant woman, she’s just so academically gifted, that skipped my generation, but it went on to my children’s generation. So thank you, mom, for that, because my kids do well in school, and I’m giving the credit for that to my mother. She ended up getting a really well-paying job about 45 minutes from our small town in Wisconsin, where we lived. My mom taught GED courses to inmates in a men’s prison and she, when I was in third grade, fell in love with a prison inmate. So my childhood was perhaps a little disrupted from that, if you will, and I started going back and forth with my mom. She had custody certain days, and my dad had custody certain days, and on the days when I was with my mom, if it happened to fall on a Saturday, then I got to go with her into this men’s prison. I say, “get to” because as a 10-year-old, this was super cool. I got to do something none of my friends got to do.
It wasn’t until I got into seventh and eighth grade and then in high school that I really felt some shame from that. I felt that I was just different from a lot of other kids. We take some of that, I think, into our adulthood. Then I got married, I had three kids, owned a nice house, and I was on the edge of what anyone would call an alcoholic. This is not ancient history, this is just ten years ago. My kids are 17, 15, and 10, so I mean, they were around for a lot of this, or for my transformation, at least. Ten years ago I was a drinker, a smoker, and an overeater. I was angry, really angry, at my husband all the time and I just felt passionless, pointless, and that life was mundane. It was one more load of laundry and one more dish to put in the dishwasher, you know? It was silly because I had everything I could ever want and yet I didn’t see it that way. I just held on to everything as if I were the victim. It was really kindness that taught me that I could have a shift in my perspective where I wasn’t the victim walking around on this earth. I wasn’t the victim, I was the victor when I was the one who could give victory to other people, and in doing that, it was like, okay, I just fell in love with this idea of doing a little act of kindness for someone. Whether that was through my words, or in a smile and a facial expression, just forming that connection with another person even briefly, I felt what that feels like and I wanted more of that.
Honestly, we think that kindness is all about the person receiving it when in reality, it’s about the giver, right? It comes back tenfold. So I, 10 years ago, had a really small interaction of kindness with a young mom and I just felt this high unlike anything I had experienced from any of the bad decisions in my life and I wanted to chase that. Well, the universe being as amazing as it is, I had gotten a call from the publisher of our newspaper where we were living in Fargo, North Dakota at the time. The publisher of the paper said, “I am starting a new section for women written by women, and I am hoping that you will write for us.” I used to be a TV anchor, so I guess he thought I’d be the perfect candidate to write about politics and I was like, No way I am writing about politics. Then he wanted me to write about cooking and I admitted that I had made lasagna twice and both times I forgot to put in the lasagna noodles. Yeah, I might have been drunk… So I really couldn’t think of anything I wanted to write about and he basically threw his hands in the air and said, “When you figure out what you want to write about, you call me.” Then I had this act of kindness experience with the young mom and I’m like, Oh, this is what I want to write about. I want to know if other people have experienced this feeling. I want people to send in their stories of kindness. The kind things they’ve done for others and how it made them feel, or times when kindness showed up at just the right moment, just when they needed it. I want to share those stories. So I called the publisher and I told him about it… We called it “Kindness is Contagious”, and that was 10 years ago and I still write that column every week. The really cool thing that I had no idea about was that within one year of being really intentional about kindness, really seeing it in my life so that I could write about it; I had totally quit drinking, I had quit smoking, I lost 30 pounds, and I’d really fallen in love with my husband, who is indeed a great guy. It’s like the whole atmosphere of our home changed. Maybe the kids were little enough to continue to throw tantrums, but I no longer threw tantrums in my home, and that can really change the dynamics of a house.
I started thinking, I wonder if other people had access to these stories, if they’re in their hands, and it wasn’t just once a week in a newspaper, I wonder if people would see the same transformation in their life that I saw. I wondered if they were having a bad day, if they could pick up a story, read it and then reroute their day. I took 100 of the the best stories from the “Kindnesses is Contagious” column, and I put them in a book and we called it Kindness is Contagious: 100 stories to Remind You God is Good and So are Most People. It worked. People were like, “this helps me when I’m having a bad day. This is this helps me to get myself on the right page before I leave the door, leave the house every morning”, so then we took another 100 stories and put them in a second book. We called that one Kindness is Courageous: 100 Stories to Remind You That People are Brave and Kind.
More recently I had a girlfriend ask, “Can you write a how-to book for the rest of us?”, and I thought she was kidding. She said, “You see situations now after your journey of kindness differently than other people do.” This girlfriend, I talked about her in the book, but she’s been around forever with me. She’s seen, you know, alcoholic me. She’s seen mean-girl me. And she’s seen that (kindness) transformation in me… So I sat down and figured it out and came up with steps of encouragement for people to live by in this life of being intentionally kind. We called that book The Negativity Remedy: Unlocking More Joy, Less Stress, and Better Relationships Through Kindness. That book was released in September of 2020.
Are your books available in audio version?
So yeah, this is really cool. I didn’t even know it was coming out on Audible. It’s by Baker Publishing and I just gave them the book and they were in charge of making anything happen with it. It was picked up for an Audible and a Kindle version, so whatever format people wanted it, they have it. The Audible version, though, was really special to me because I live in Aberdeen, South Dakota now and we have a really, really special school here called South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I had the chance to speak at that school and was able to say to them, “You can listen to this book. You can read this book.” Yeah, that really felt good to me. At first, I was thinking oh, it’s on Audible, great! People can listen to it in their cars. Then it was like, oh, no, it’s more important than that. It’s deeper than that. Yeah. That was pretty special.
In five years I want to reach back out to all the people that I’ve talked to in my first year of doing this magazine to check up and see how far they have come and if they have surpassed their dreams. What’s your five-year plan?
As a writer, as a speaker, as a person who posts once in a while on Facebook, I will sometimes feel like I’m just noise and I’m not saying anything that somebody hasn’t said before, you know? I’m not coming up with these brilliant ideas that no one’s ever thought of before, I’m just sharing them from my perspective. That’s what makes my voice important, and that’s what makes your voice important. You’re always going to see things a little bit differently than someone else.
My five-year plan? I started a new book in January of 2021. I anticipate that this book will take a little bit longer to write than some of the other ones because it’s very personal. The purpose of the book is to help people look back on their life experiences and find the thread that they learned from each experience that is helping them to step into their purpose now. I always believe our purpose has something to do with kindness and with helping another person. Our lives are so beautifully aligned that if we take the time to take off the glasses of negativity and the glasses of hurt and we instead look at each experience as what did I learn from that, there was something good in there, and what was it in the middle of that hurt that I learned, and sometimes it’s just that you felt that pain so that you can help another person who’s currently feeling that pain. So that’s the first thing and then the second thing is that I desire to have a “Kindness Cabin”. What that would be is a large wonderful place that people can come to just get spoiled rotten and recharge their kindness levels. So ideally it would mean that people would nominate someone in their lives who is kind, whether this is a teacher who just went above and beyond, or maybe it’s the librarian who let the sad, lonely child sit in there during the lunch hour, or whatever it is. I want to then take those people who are nominated and bring them together and give them a long weekend, everything’s free, and I’m going to lavish them with gifts. There would be some training in there, some motivational speaking, and some tools that they can take back into their lives. If we can really pour into those people that have a heart for just loving the person in front of them, if we can keep those people motivated, keep them going, that’s going to ripple out and ripple out and ripple out and they’re going to, even unintentionally, create new kindness warriors. So that’s my five-year plan; to get somebody on board who has a really great lake cabin.
Can I give everybody one tip to take with them? Think about what you’re thinking about. Our thoughts are the first step into our actions and if we can start being kind in our thoughts to ourselves and the people around us and to situations we are in, then we are more likely to act on those thoughts in ways that are kind. Put an alarm in your phone that says “Every Thursday at 3:00 pm, think about what you’re thinking about.” Just stop for a moment and think is this thought serving me well? Is this where I want to park my brain? If it’s not, reject it. Replace it. Find something else to think about at that moment. Just thinking about what you’re thinking about can really change your day, your week, and eventually your life.
We wish Nicole nothing but continued happiness and joy for her and her family.
Nicole’s website is www.NicoleJPhillips.com and her show The Kindness Podcast can be found everywhere podcasts are available. Nicole’s latest book is called The Negativity Remedy, which can be found on Amazon and at most major book retailers.