By Rita Robinson| Special to the NB Indy
It won’t be in the tiny, yellow VW convertible that barely escaped the gale-force winds of passing 18-wheelers in an Alaskan snowstorm, as temperatures dropped to minus 38 degrees and no heater in sight, but Leon Logothetis will arrive — on more suitable wheels — in Newport Beach next week.
Logothetis is a global adventurer, motivational speaker, philanthropist, TV producer, author, and the driving force behind the hit Netflix series “The Kindness Diaries.”
He will share the inside story behind his “Go Be Kind” travels with a new book of the same name at a meeting of The Inside Edge Foundation for Education. The talk begins at 8 a.m., Wednesday at The Pacific Club, 4110 MacArthur Blvd.
Logothetis will talk about his “crazy” kindness-seeking travels that not only took him from the Alaskan Yukon to Argentina, but thousands of miles all over the globe.
“It sounds crazy, I know,” Logothetis said. “Maybe it was a little crazy. But amid that insanity, I found a world that is much saner than I expected and I found myself much more centered because I was concentrating on connections with people, not accumulation of things.”
Although he doesn’t consider himself a free spirit who needed to find a creative outlet.
“Not really. My spirit was squashed by bullying in school in London,” he said. “I was more of a sensitive kid and that made me a target. I shut down.”
Logothetis was bullied from 13 to 16 years old. “I didn’t tell anyone,” he said, which, in retrospect, was a big mistake, because it led to feeling despondent most of his early adult life.
He found himself feeling bullied again in the ruthless, high-stakes and hyper-tense world of brokering in the stock exchange. He was miserable, he recalled. He knew he was reliving the emotions of his childhood trauma, feelings that were buried deeply behind the armor clamping his heart.
Logothetis started his bare-bones around-the-world mission in 2013 to prove that, even in a perceived unfriendly world, people would be genuinely kind to a complete and penniless stranger. He had to prove it to himself.
He found that his travels reshaped his conditioning.
“There are two worlds,” he said, “the world of the mind and the world of the heart. Most live in the mind, which is not loving. Without the mind, we wouldn’t be going to the moon. But when you live in the heart, that’s where the magic is.”
Along his travels, he did find a creative outlet: Hugging.
“I don’t know why, I just started hugging people,” he said.
And they hugged back.
“Kindness has a bad rap,” he said. “It’s not very cool. It’s not very hip. But we’re wearing a mask. We tell the world we’re fine, but we’re not. For many, many years, that’s what I did.”
Logothetis found that the coolest people were also the most loving.
“The coolest thing we can do is to show up with love in our hearts,” he said. “The way to take someone out of their pain is simply to be kind. It’s a universal lesson.”
“The Kindness Diaries” is how Logothetis forced himself out of his despondency and hopelessness for humanity.
“I wanted to learn how to connect with people,” he said. “Forcing yourself out of shutting down and into feeling compassionate, empathetic, kinder made me see kinder people.”
Now 42, Logothetis started his heart-opening journey at 28, about 40,000 miles ago. He has gone on to become world-famous with his wildly popular Netflix series, “The Kindness Diaries,” inspired when he saw the movie, “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
Logothetis traveled without money, gas, food, or shelter. When he met a stranger with a particularly moving story and remarkably humane desires, he came out of the closet as a deep-pocketed philanthropist to grant them their kindest wishes.
“It’s inspiring people to take little small baby steps towards living from the heart,” Logothetis said. “The best way to do that is simply to be kind.”
Making a clear and concerted effort to be kind instead of reactive opens your heart until that’s where you’re living every day, he said. That’s what he teaches in his new book, “Go Be Kind.”
His first trip was also made in a yellow vehicle, this time a vintage 1978 Chang Jiang motorcycle with a matching sidecar and BMW engine. That took him 28,000 miles from where he was working in TV in Los Angeles, across the U.S. and the Atlantic to the slums of India and the peaceful majesty of Bhutan in the Himalayas. It was a “monster undertaking,” he said.
“I would go up to people and explain what I was doing. I would tell them I needed a place to stay or some gas or a meal,” he explained. “Some people were not interested in helping and sometimes the rejection was hard to take. But then I would encounter that person who was willing to reach out his hand and help me.”
Having a cameraman with him, he said, helped some people feel more secure.
The trip from the Alaskan Yukon to Argentina was Logothetis’ third trip. In his first, he was fresh from across the pond and drove a London taxi from Times Square to the Hollywood sign. He gave people free rides and raised money for local charities and the St. Joseph school in Venice.
Logothetis says he feels people’s kindness viscerally.
“All my cells are activated,” he said. “It’s a full feeling.”
Tickets to Wednesday’s event at The Pacific Club cost $45 for returning guests and $35 for first-time guests. Price includes a full breakfast. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m.
For more information, visit insideedge.org.