How karma works

I recently heard from a friend back home in Washington that Marge, our neighborhood “Candy Lady”, passed away. Marge was an elderly lady with bright red hair that loved kids; she’d purchase big bags of candy from Costco to give them out for free after school ended. She was cherished in our community and she also had a reputation for her kindness; she would charm neighborhood passerbys with advice, good wishes, and candy!

Marge ended up passing away peacefully in 2009 and her funeral had an enormous showing. A lot of the kids who went to her house many years ago, and had grown up, were present. There were also a lot of younger children present with their parents. Marge’s children were championing donations to the American Cancer Society and a memorial bench in her name. From what I’ve heard, the donation amounts were tremendous. Everyone felt Marge’s love and wanted to give back.

Being kind matters. A lot. Being kind isn’t just pleasant to others, but it has a gradual self-reinforcing power. See this Quora Q/A answer from Charlie Cheever:

It’s not one big thing but a bunch of little things that add up … if you treat people well your whole life, you’ll find yourself with a whole bunch of friends later on in life and it will be a lot easier for you to be successful, whereas if you rip people off or are just unkind, it won’t matter much in the short term but years later, its likely to add up to being lonely and without allies.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” isn’t a novel concept but I think the idea of scaling it, continually doing what’s right and creating a snowball effect of allies and goodwill, is pretty cool and inspiring. Perhaps this is now karma actually works - and we’ve been interpreting it all wrong. Karma doesn’t take place from one-off incidents: cheat on your wife and get hit by a car? Nope, what are the odds. But how about twenty years of being an asshole to your family, coworkers, and peers? I’d bet on the negative karma.

I’ve never made a conscious choice towards being perpetually kind to everyone. Not out of maliciousness, but laziness. This changes now, being kind isn’t just worth it because it’s helpful and pleasant for the world, but it may counter-intuitively be in your best interest.

We all have examples of how we can help others in our lives: teachers in high-school can go out of their way to write long and considerate letters to get their students into the best schools. For me personally, being further along in my career, I get a lot of resumes from college or grad school kids looking for jobs at various tech firms. Taking five minutes out of my life to forward a resume can be literally life-changing to an eager student.

Lucas Ou-Yang Hey, thanks for reading! I'm Lucas Ou-Yang, I live in Los Angeles and work fulltime at Snapchat Inc. My main interests are in content ranking and user-experience, I have a good amount of industry experience at both Snapchat and Facebook with ranking & product work. I also authored the most popular python news scraping library on Github: Newspaper, check it out! Feel free to send me an email with any comments, concerns, or requests!

Want to get to know me more? Read my bio and resume.

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"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo