Zibby Owens: Adrienne Bankert is the author of Your Hidden Superpower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone. She is also an Emmy Award-winning journalist and currently serves as a New York-based national correspondent for ABC News. Following a successful two-year run as the pop news anchor on the weekend edition of Good Morning America, Adrienne has expanded her roles and covers some of the biggest stories in entertainment on ABC News including reporting breaking news of the day. Her compelling interviews can be seen on all of ABC News’s platforms including Good Morning America, World News Tonight, Nightline, and ABC News Live. Alumnus of the University of Southern California, Adrienne calls herself a tour guide providing coaching and mentoring and is a sought-after and engaging speaker across the US and is very involved in philanthropy. In her spare time she enjoys golf for charitable causes and striking up conversations with strangers.

Welcome, Adrienne. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Adrienne Bankert: Thank you for having me on. I have to say, I’m sure you hear this all the time, but I love your name.

Zibby: Thank you. I don’t hear it all the time. It’s always nice to hear it.

Adrienne: That’s such a cool name. I’m like, Zibby, I want to know the whole story behind your name.

Zibby: It’s short for Elizabeth, so it’s not that exciting. When I was in playgroup, a girlfriend couldn’t pronounce Elizabeth. She called me Zibbith. My parents shortened it to Zibby. There you go.

Adrienne: I love your name. That is a cool story. Names mean something, so it’s important.

Zibby: Aw, thank you. It’s sort of been a pain most of my life having to spell it. Everybody gets it wrong all the time, but whatever. I’ll take it.

Adrienne: I love it.

Zibby: Congratulations on your book, so exciting, Your Hidden Superpower. If you’re not nice to me now in this interview, this totally refutes the main premise of your book.

Adrienne: I actually differentiate nice and kind. I have a whole thing on that. If I was nice to you, you might be like, wait a minute, I thought you wanted to be kind here.

Zibby: That’s true. Actually, I found that chapter really interesting, the difference between nice and kind, because I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about the difference and which one was more important. Like you, I really do value kindness. I try very hard on a day-to-day basis to be kind and nice. What’s the main difference between kind and nice just to clear that up from the outset?

Adrienne: My personal definition is that nice is a hello in the hallway and kind is a warm embrace. Even if you don’t physically hug somebody, you are embracing that person’s presence. You’re conscious of where they might be. I like to read faces. I like to examine where people are. I don’t just want to make eye contact. I want to be fully aware of people so that, say, somebody’s walking down the hallway and they look like they’re having a down moment, that I am conscious enough that I would say something to try to lift their spirits rather than just treat everybody with this default politeness, I call it. If you look up the word nice, it means polite. I think that it’s good to be nice. I just think we need to graduate from niceties to kindness in order to have more fulfillment in our relationships in our life.

Zibby: Nice is the gateway drug to kindness.

Adrienne: I like that. I’m going to borrow that and I’m going give you all the credit. Zibby says…

Zibby: You don’t have to give me credit. Take it.

Adrienne: It’s going to go all the way around the world. I love that. I don’t want people to think that nice is phony or nice is bad. It’s just that I think of nice and how I was when I first got into my career and how most twentysomething-year-olds are when they first get in their career. They are so nice. They’re so sweet. They smile. They don’t want to ripple any waves. They don’t want to make any mistakes. They want everybody to like them. I know there are some twenty-year-olds who don’t really care if somebody likes them or not. They’re just going to do them. I figured as I was growing up, as I was becoming a grownup, that there had to be a point in my life where I was not so concerned about what other people thought of me. I was going to be me and be fully confident in that, and that was going to attract the relationships and the life and the people that I needed and wanted. That’s the difference.

Zibby: In your book, you talk a lot about just being yourself and how important that it. When I used to go to sixth-grade dances, my mother would say, “Just be yourself.” I was like, who is that? I can’t even think of a word to say. I’m so insecure right now. How do you know how to be yourself? Don’t you feel like you have to get to a stage in life? Now of course, I know who I am, but I’m in my forties. Don’t you feel like you have to first reach a certain self-awareness and accept it and then you can act on being you? Or do you think that some people, they know who they are, but they’re afraid to show it?

Adrienne: I think that, my whole life, like you, I’ve heard that. I wish, looking back, I could tell my twelve-year-old self what mom really meant or what dad really meant. You know what I’m saying?

Zibby: Yes.

Adrienne: Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell our kids what “just be yourself” really means so we could bottle it up and they wouldn’t have to figure it out like we did through the hard knocks of life or trial and error? When I saw kindness and I studied kindness and used my desire for research as a journalist to delve deeper into it, I realized that kindness was more than a random act or politeness. It was our identity. When I looked up the word kind — I’m like, kind… I’m looking it up in the dictionary. I’m like, yes, it means thoughtfulness, but then it also means nature and natural propensity and determination. I said, oh, my goodness, we all are the humankind for a reason. In our DNA, that’s who we are. If I’m kind, then that means I’m just being myself. It was just like a big old lightbulb flipped on my head. In this quest for success or contentment or satisfaction, I was not satisfied considering myself who I was or “just be yourself” based on what I did. I didn’t want it to be my career made me feel like myself or my friends made me feel like myself. I was like, what is the essence of identity anyway? How can I bottle this up? How can I make it super practical where anybody on the planet could understand it, and it was kindness?

Zibby: There you go. It’s right there in front of you all along.

Adrienne: Very simple. The thing is, it’s universal. We have conversations about inclusivity and diversity and wanting to raise good children. I was noticing articles, like if you ask Kim Kardashian what she wants her kids to be like, one of the top three things is going to be kind. If you ask Gary V what he thinks are strengths, one of the top three things is going to be kindness. Looking at successful people, looking at famous people, and people who even run companies, I just was like, you know what, in work, we need kindness as much as we need talent, as much as we need people who have great education. It was the universal language that we could all employ to shift the paradigm around what it means to be ourselves.

Zibby: In your book, you talk about how using kindness allowed you to reach people like Hugh Jackman on much more of a fundamental level and how his mom had tried to instill kindness in him. You were giving his mom kind of props by saying, yay.

Adrienne: Yes. Nathan Fillion and Hugh Jackman both said the same thing, that their mamas told them to lead with kindness, to be kind, and that that stuck with them as grownups. I just was talking to a friend or hearing her story. She has a son who’s I think nine years old now. He got told by his school that he couldn’t come back because he had been having a problem with his temper. I think about the children that we’re raising now and how the concern of moms is, I want my kid to be a good person. We are surrounded by people who are still dealing with the same things that they dealt with when they were nine or twelve years old. To know that kindness makes such an impact on somebody like Hugh Jackman, to me, is a little bit of an encouragement. Moms, you are getting through to your kids by telling them to be kind. I wanted to make it something where a kid could read this book, a grownup could read this book, a CEO could read this book, a child could read this book, and still get the same thing, that kindness is the smartest thing you can do to be satisfied and be successful.

Zibby: I like how in the book you address — some people, I think, feel, I’ll be taken advantage of if I’m too nice, or I’m going to be a pushover, that whole — gets a bad rap sometimes, being nice, or being kind rather, sorry, being kind.

Adrienne: Changing the whole language.

Zibby: Changing my language. You got to toss out the words. How do make sure that people’s kindness, that it doesn’t lend them to get taken advantage of? How do they make sure that other people don’t misinterpret and misuse it? I guess you can’t really do anything.

Adrienne: You can’t. What I think is, when I thought about what I would say to a child or what I would say to somebody who was just starting their career, I have had to learn over time and through mentoring that I’ve got to be me and be able to stand alone in that if necessary. I can’t allow circumstances to change me. Whatever’s going on around me, stress, anxiety, fighting, if I stay kind, if I remain anchored in kindness, then I am going to just be myself even when the whole world shuts down, even when people are mad, even when it’s really tense at work, and even when people might try to take advantage of me. One of the biggest lessons I learned was actually from a woman who’s still in my life. She’s one of my best friends. She mentored me for so many years. She’d be like, “Adrienne, know your players.” I talk about that in one of the chapters of the book. If you know your friends and you know your colleagues better, then you know what to do. Kindness is not this blanket, just let everybody walk all over you and just do everything for them and just serve and everything’s going to be right with the world. It’s not that. Kindness is sometimes keeping your mouth shut because what you say could be used against you in a negative way by somebody who says they’re your friend. By keeping quiet, not only do you prevent conflict, but you also protect yourself. That’s what I want people to know. It’s not this blanket, do-gooder book. It’s be aware, be conscious of the people around you, even those who may have ulterior motives.

Zibby: As I said, I think it’s important to be kind. I think most people would agree you philosophically. Yet I didn’t dedicate however long it took you to write this book to writing a book about kindness. What was it about this concept that made you think, okay, this is my book, this is what I want to work on, this is it?

Adrienne: It wasn’t my idea. My mentor told me to write it. I wanted to write a book for years. I’d said, I’m going to write a book, I’m going to write a book. I put it on my goal list, “writing a book this year.” It never happened. Then the year that I wrote “I am a published author” is the year it actually happened, that I got the publishing deal. I’m a really big believer in writing things down and being specific with your goals. At the time when I was on this quest of, how can I grow up to be the woman that I always wanted to be? I was really thinking about, what is the key to fulfillment? My mentor had called me and said, “I know what you should write a book on. You should write a book on kindness.” I listened to him. Because I listened to him when I would not have written a book on kindness, that’s why we have the book. It ended up helping me get to the answers about fulfillment and identity and authenticity and connection, which I’m hugely, hugely invested in. He’s the one that told me I should write a book on kindness because he knew that I had been so intentional in the workplace specifically about being kind.

Zibby: Maybe you could just hook me up with him and he could tell me what to write a book about.

Adrienne: I will do it. We can holler at Bill. Bill, Zibby wants to know. He’ll tell you. I’m serious. I will make that happen.

Zibby: I bet. Is he the one who wrote the forward to the book?

Adrienne: Yes.

Zibby: That was great.

Adrienne: He could tell you. He’s in Sacramento. Actually, right now he’s in Texas. I will connect you.

Zibby: That’s okay. So how long did it take for you to write the book? What was the process like after all this intentional saying you were going to do it? Sitting down to do it, what was it like? Better? Worse? The same?

Adrienne: Easy. It was actually the easiest thing in the world to write the book. It took about eight months. I wrote different chapters down. My process was to write the names of the chapters that I wanted in the book. Those changed. Overall, they were the same skeleton. Then in my travels — I’d be in Tokyo, and I’d be writing about what was happening with me. It ended up lending itself to what was in the book. I was in Prague, I was writing. I was on planes between the United States and I don’t know where I was going. Was it Hong Kong? I would just write down different things, and they would spark the chapters and develop from there. A lot of writing on planes.

Zibby: I think that’s the best place to write. It’s the best place to do anything. Nobody bothers you. It’s like the only protected space in the world, is up in the air.

Adrienne: You’re above the fray, I like to say. You’re above the things that keep us too busy to sit down and write. It’s very therapeutic. Once you get it out, once you realize what’s inside of you, it’s like, oh, yeah, this is exactly what’s going on, and you just put it on paper. The hardest process for me was the editing process. What else needs to go in? What else needs to take out? That was challenging. That took forever.

Zibby: Is there an example of a time where you felt like the kindness worked against you at work ever? What did you do about that?

Adrienne: I don’t think that there was a time that kindness worked against me. I’m trying to think. I write about in the book where there was this one moment where I was in Florida for a story. I had to rush to the airport to leave. I found out my friend’s husband was actually flying out at the same time. I said, “Lets connect.” I sat down. I talked to him. I had made time to drop off a friend’s birthday gift at the FedEx before I left. I was endeavoring to really take care of people while I was on this mission to get out of town. I left my coat at the TSA, but I didn’t know that until I was on the plane and realized I didn’t have my coat. It was one of my favorite coats. I was just like, no! I hate losing things. I thought to myself, did trying to be everybody’s kind partner of intentional relationship screw me over because I was too busy to notice that I left my coat? I’m sitting there questioning everything I did. Then I said, shut your mouth. Just be quiet. Chill out. You lost your coat. You’re going to get your coat. We got to figure this out. I think that sometimes in life we second-guess ourselves because we really are endeavoring to be good humans. We think it’s coming back to us in a negative way or we’re being penalized for being good people, but don’t listen. That’s a voice of self-doubt. Keep doing you. Keep being just yourself, as your mama said.

Zibby: Shout out to my mom.

Adrienne: She was a wise woman.

Zibby: For other people who are trying to write books, what advice would you have for them?

Adrienne: Just be yourself. I really was about to say that.

Zibby: You have to use something else.

Adrienne: I know. It’s funny because the biggest challenge for me — because this is my first book, it was super easy to just put it all out there. Then when you get other people involved and you’re publishing, you sometimes question yourself. Am I doing this right? I should listen to you because you are an expert. There are things that you need to listen to a publishing team and copyeditors and marketing people, all of that. I get that. At the heart of your storytelling, you have to maintain that you know better than anybody what your story is. Don’t be inflexible. Don’t be difficult. Goodness gracious, I caused myself so much more grief because I was questioning my own story at certain times in the editing process. You have to have the resolve. You have to follow peace. I say that. If you get all anxious-ridden and so tight and stressed out about something, know that you’re not necessarily going in the direction. You want to pause and just say, time out. I know I have a deadline, but I’ve got to be true to my voice. Because I was true to my voice, when we got this book done, I was like, I can stand behind everything that’s in it. Yes.

Zibby: What do you attribute to your success professionally? You’re an Emmy award-winning, guru author, broadcaster, journalist. What do you think it was? Was it something just in your DNA? You always knew you would achieve this? Is it something with your family? I know obviously kindness plays a huge role, but there are a million people who don’t achieve what you did. What do you think it was?

Adrienne: I think it’s that I didn’t quit. For me, when I was about twenty-three, twenty-four, I expected all of this that’s happening now to have already been happening. I really was always thinking I was delayed and that I was late. I thought, why is it taking me so long to get to this point or that goal or whatever? Everybody’s journey is so different. You have to embrace the fact that life is not fair. I’m glad that I learned at a young age that disappointment causes more people to quit than anything. Life didn’t turn out the way they thought it was going to be at twenty-five, at thirty, at thirty-five, at forty, fifty. There are these individual goals and landmarks that we decide, this has to happen or I’m no longer a success. Once I realized that that was the trick that life tries to play with you, I decided I was going to overcome that way of thinking and determine to keep going. I don’t care how long it takes. I don’t care what I have to do. This is what’s in my heart. I’m going to keep going for it. The other thing that really helps me to be successful is I say that mentor are tour guides. I have a great mentor in my life. I also mentor other people. I have for over a decade. Being somebody else’s tour guide is a teaching for you. It helps reveal different things that you need to work on in your life. Removing those blind spots help us to find the treasure map that’s specific to us so that we can stay on orbit, so that we can stay on our path. Those are a few things.

Zibby: I love that. I love that treasure map analogy of life. We’re all just trying to get somewhere.

Adrienne: We’re all looking for our pot of gold, whatever that means. It may not actually be gold. It may be something else, but we’re all looking for it. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that for me personally, when you hide who you are, when you hide your gifts, you’re doing a disservice to everybody else. I think sometimes we try to be either too nice or we try to fit into this mold or we try to do the right thing. When we’re just ourselves and stop hiding behind what we think should be, we are a lot more satisfied and fulfilled. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, any industry, for the love of god, everybody stop hiding. That would be the mantra for this year. Stop hiding. Get out there. Show people what you’re working with.

Zibby: Yet we’re all at home forced into this hibernation of sorts.

Adrienne: Creativity. We’re forced into creativity. We’re forced into innovation. I was feeling that same way myself, like, god, what am I going to do? I’m such a social butterfly. I’m sure you are as well.

Zibby: Yes.

Adrienne: I decided that if I could do anything, kindness can’t be beat by anything. What would I do that was kind that would get me out of my own head? That’s when the innovation came back. That’s why they call it a breath of fresh air, because it clears the air and it gives you clarity. It’s like, oh, I just got a fresh idea because I’m thinking of other people instead of my own isolation.

Zibby: What were your ideas? What did you do? How did you get through it so far?

Adrienne: Oh, we’re going to keep it going? Okay.

Zibby: Sorry, I have to know now. Then I’ll let you go. I promise.

Adrienne: No, it’s all good. I’m happy to keep chatting. For example, I’m from a big family. I’m from seven kids. Being isolated where you can’t go out, you can’t see people, was more devasting than I realized it would be. At my heart, it was like, I felt it here. This is terrible. I thought, Adrienne, read your own book. I literally read my own book to get to this answer. I said, who do you want to help right now? Who does your heart break for? Who do you care about? I care about people who are living by themselves who don’t know what to do, who feel disconnected. Okay, so what would you tell them? What would you say to them? I had to take myself out of the equation. Kindness is about giving other people their answer, answering their ask, I call it. I was like, okay, so their ask is, how do I get out of this? I said, then you have to create the light at the end of the tunnel for yourself. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then create your own life.

I said, I would tell them to write a letter to themselves. I said, Adrienne, you need to write a letter to yourself. I wrote a letter. I recorded that. I actually told Good Morning America, can we do this and tell people to write their letter? As you know because you love authors and books so much, writing is just one of the most powerful things you can do. I really felt like it was important to share our stories surrounding this. That was my first idea. Write your future self a letter to tell yourself how strong you are because you were strong enough to make it through. Then after that, I said, what else can you do? I miss people’s faces. I started sending video texts instead of regular text messages. When you would say, I hope you’re safe or stay strong, the things that we’ve been saying to each other, instead I would make a video and say, “You’re amazing. I can’t wait to see your face. I just wanted to tell you,” and make it a ten-second selfie video. People were really lifted by that. They’d smile because it was like, oh, my gosh, a face. I haven’t seen one in a while.

Then the third is GMA asked me, what are five things that you do for your own mental health? Thinking about kindness, thinking about ways that I’ve reached out was one way. Also, I do talk about this in the book, you do need to be kind to yourself. Deep breathing; journaling, again, writing; taking walks just to clear your head, stop overthinking; and then relying on that inner circle that you do have, not thinking that you have to do this alone. Even if we’re alone in our house, we’re not really alone from the people who love us and care about us, our friendships. There’s somebody who cares. Then the other thing is one of my colleagues, actually one of my cameramen, had accidentally called me during this whole thing. I said, “Hey.” “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I called you on accident.” I said, “No, I’m so glad you called me,” because I know he lives alone. I said, “How are you?” He’s like, “I’m not doing so hot.” I said, “Okay. I’m calling you every once in a while. I’ll adopt you. I’m like your daughter. I’m just going to check in.” I really, really believe that this needs to continue no matter what we’re going through. It’s not normal to be disconnected. It’s not normal to not check in with people. Call your friends, call people you care about, call your colleagues, call your clients, just because. Those are the things that snapped me out of it because it really, really hit me hard like a ton of bricks.

Zibby: Those are great suggestions. I love that little video clip. I feel like people might be like, enough, stop, from me. I love it. That’s a great idea. I would love to receive that from friends. Those are all great ideas.

Adrienne: That’s the thing. Do what you would want done for you. Everybody’s different, but you would want to see somebody’s face. That would make you happy.

Zibby: That’s why I do this all day long.

Adrienne: Hasn’t this helped you as you’re doing this?

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, so much. It’s amazing. Every day, I’m talking to one to five new people and getting to know them. It’s amazing. It’s so fulfilling to me. Then I can go back into the rest of my house and deal with the kids and the housework and all the rest of it. It fills my bucket, to use that cheesy phrase, but it really does.

Adrienne: That’s the thing. We have so much tension or whatever. That can lend itself to other emotional rawness where you might have an outburst. It’s up to us to keep ourselves centered in who we are, our kind selves, our highest self, so that we are prepared for that tense moment. The pressure’s not going away, but our response to it is our responsibility. If we center it in kindness, we’re a lot more in control than we know. We’re a lot stronger.

Zibby: I’m hoping the current stress goes down a little bit. That would be nice.

Adrienne: From your lips. If somebody’s listening…

Zibby: I would love to take back my old bucket of stresses that I thought were a big deal. That would be like a walk in the park.

Adrienne: No matter what the stress is, I don’t think it’s ever going away. I also think that kindness is never going away. It’s never going out of style. I hate to say it, but a lot of us as women, we think about the shelf life of what we’re doing a lot of times. How long am I going to be able to get to do this? With parents, one day they’re going to move out. It’s going to be an empty nest. My friend’s thinking about that because her daughter’s sixteen. She’s like, she’s leaving soon. Take all the things in your life that have a shelf life out of the picture. What are you left with? There are only a few things that are timeless. Kindness makes you timeless. It was Diane von Fürstenberg’s book where she was quoted as saying, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my twenties, but I knew what kind of woman I wanted to be. That makes us so timeless. We will be classics. That’s what I wanted. I was like, what can I do in this world that will be never be told to me, nope, you’re too late, that’s passed, that was a trend? It was kindness.

Zibby: Kindness and perhaps a Diane von Fürstenberg dress.

Adrienne: You know what I’m saying. Who doesn’t want those gifts in life?

Zibby: I’ll take it. Thank you. Sorry for extending this, but I’m so glad I did because those were great pieces of advice. I loved hearing how you are getting through this time because everybody needs someone else’s perspective every so often to pick them up and get them past this finish line. Thank you for all that. Thanks again for all your time.

Adrienne: Oh, my gosh, thank you. It was a pleasure. Thank you.