the short, 3rd person version:
Houston Kraft is a professional speaker, leadership consultant, and kindness advocate who speaks at schools, conferences, and events internationally. He has spoken to nearly a half a million people at 500 engagements and counting. He is the co-founder of CharacterStrong - trainings and curriculums that create more compassionate cultures in schools and communities. He has been featured on the Huffington Post and highlighted by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. His messages about character, leadership, compassion, and kindness resonate with audiences age 5-95.
And here is the longer, more Houston-y, first person version:
Hi! My name is Houston and I was born in Maine and lived there until we moved across the country to Washington State when I was 4 years old. I had one of those life-was-pretty-great-except-when-it-wasnt kind of upbringings. You know, the one that most of us have. The kind where, in general, life is wonderful until it’s painful or awkward or challenging. I bet the details of your story are a lot different than mine (whoever you are), but my guess is that, fundamentally, they really aren’t that different. That’s kind of what I believe in - that there is a lot of power in recognizing all the things that make both of us human. Like, I don’t know, our desire to feel like we fit in somewhere. Or maybe our mutual need for attention, compassion, understanding, and love. Or, even more honestly, the fact that we both have probably felt scared or insignificant or hurt at some point. Or, dare I say, that we both occasionally embarrass ourselves by not realizing there is a large piece of lettuce between our teeth or a rather noticeable (except for some reason to us) booger near the edge of our nostril. Man, life is weird sometimes isn’t it? For both of us, I mean.
I really have had a pretty average life. I grew up with some rad parents, had a few cats, a couple of dogs, and fish that died way too young (RIP Mac the Beta Fish). I have had some amazing friends - some of whom have changed in ways that made us grow apart and some of whom are still my best friends and biggest supporters in my life. I was a shorter-than-normal elementary school and middle school dude. I had my first kiss in 7th grade and it was exactly as bad as you can imagine it to be. I accidentally brought an airsoft gun to school that year, too, and got expelled (I’ll tell you more about it when we meet). I went to Snohomish High School and got involved in theater when I couldn’t play soccer anymore because of a broken ankle. I learned that I loved the stage and that I loved how being onstage meant telling stories - I learned that stories are such a cool, powerful way to communicate the complicated, challenging questions and lessons of life. And I learned that I loved being in front of a group of people with the pressure on and the lights shining and getting out there and performing.
My sophomore year, I got invited to join student leadership by a thoughtful, patient, and observant teacher who saw my leadership potential (actually, he needed a tech coordinator and I was really good at making videos and colorful powerpoints). Perhaps he saw more than just that - either way I love him and thank him for changing the course of my life with that simple invitation. I ended up becoming Student Body President in high school and then Class President at Bowdoin College in Maine. I really love leadership - not only because you get to create and plan engaging, meaningful events - but because you get to dive into the challenge of helping people and serving your community. To challenge yourself to become a better version of you. To fill your life and the lives of other people with kindness, encouragement, inclusion, and love. What a cool job, right?
So, right after I left Bowdoin College, I started getting on that stage that I loved so much. I started telling stories that were meaningful or powerful to me - stories from my own life or stories from people I had talked to or learned from. I started thinking about all the ways that I wanted to be a better human and how I could include other people in that conversation - that really important conversation that we don’t have enough about how to make ourselves more awesome, kind, compassionate, loving people.
Anyhow, it's been 7 years now and I am still doing my best to change the world through love. I've worked with over 500 schools or events and, since 2016, have been building CharacterStrong with my friends Kelby, John, and Lindsay. It's been quite a journey. And I would sure love for you to be a part of it...