Be Kind to Others, and Yourself

February 25, 2021

Spotify CEO and self-made billionaire Daniel Ek describes himself as an average guy with “zero natural charisma.” The Swede claims he’s not great at anything, despite having built Spotify into a $50 billion public company. It’s the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service, with 320 million users, including 144 million subscribers, across 92 markets.

His Twitter handle is @eldsjal, a Swedish word that means “fiery soul.” According to Ek, he sees himself as someone who is intensely passionate about something and perseveres during the good and bad times. Ek recently was interviewed on the business podcast The Tim Ferriss Show.

Ferriss, a best-selling author most known for his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” asked Ek, “If you had a billboard, metaphorically speaking, to get a message, a quote, a question, an image, anything out to billions of people, noncommercial, what might you put on that billboard?” Ek offered a rather simple eight-word response: “Be kind; everyone is on their own journey.”

During this pandemic, Ek went on to say, it’s important to remember that everyone is dealing with something—even successful people who may be hiding complications and pain. “I constantly face people who I always find are smarter than me, deeper than me on various subjects, and all of that stuff. But I think we’re all on journeys and we all have our own insecurities. We have all our own stuff that’s happening in our lives,” he said.

The persona we create for ourselves on social media isn’t really who we are. Virtually everyone faces issues we don’t share with others, and Ek says that should enhance our feelings for one another. “Just being mindful that we’re all going through things has created a lot of empathy for me and created a lot of understanding for me as I meet co-workers, as I meet people out in society as well,” Ek says. Acknowledging our personal messiness fuels empathy and builds connection. If you want to improve your emotional intelligence, remember Ek’s simple billboard message that everyone is on their own journey.

In the meantime, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. According to Gallup’s latest Health and Healthcare survey, Americans’ latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades. Just 76 percent of U.S. adults rate their mental health positively, representing a nine-point decline from 2019.

Each year since 2001, Gallup has asked Americans to say whether their own mental or emotional well-being is excellent, good, only fair or poor. The average for those rating their mental health as excellent or good ranged from 81 to 89 percent until this year’s results.

The latest weakening in positive ratings is undoubtedly influenced by the pandemic, which continues to profoundly disrupt people’s lives, but may also reflect views of the election and the state of race relations, both of which were on Americans’ minds this year, Gallup reported.

So, as we continue this journey, let’s all be fiery souls—intensely passionate and willing to persevere. Let’s also be kind, including to ourselves.

Jeremy Yohe is ALTA's vice president of communications. He can be reached at [email protected].

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or [email protected].