Go Forth and Make Awesomeness

We’ve all dreamed of being a superhero: maybe that’s why we’ve ended up on the web—a place where we can do good deeds and celebrate them on a daily basis.

Wear your dreams

At age four, I wore my Wonder Woman Underoos around my house, my grandparents’ house, our neighbor’s house, and even around the yard. I wanted to be a superhero when I grew up. I was crushed to learn that there is no school for superheroes—no place to earn a degree in how to save the world from looming evil. Instead, I—like everyone else—was destined to go to ordinary school to focus on ABCs and 123s. Even still, I want to save the world.

Intend your goodness

Random acts of kindness make a difference. Books, films, and advertising campaigns tout random acts of kindness and the positive influence they can have on the world. But why do acts of kindness have to be so random? Why can’t we intend to be kind? A true superhero wakes each morning intending to perform selfless acts for the community. Why can’t we do the same thing?

As a child, my mother taught me to plan to do at least three good deeds each day. And even now, years later, I put on my invisible cape looking for ways to do good.

Here are some examples:

  • slowing down to allow another driver in before me from the highway on-ramp
  • bringing a co-worker their favorite kind of coffee or tea
  • sharing my umbrella on a rainy day
  • holding a door open for someone with full hands
  • listening intently when someone shares a story
  • complimenting someone on a job well done
  • thanking someone for a job well done
  • leaving a constructive, or even supportive comment on someone’s blog

As you can see, these acts are simple. Doing good and being kind is partially about being aware—aware of the words we speak and the actions we take. Like superheroes, we create our own code of conduct to live by. Hopefully, we choose to put the community before ourselves (within reason) and to do our best not to damage it as we move through our lives.

Take a bite out of the Apple

With some thought, we can weave this type of thinking and action into our business choices. We can take the simple acts of kindness concept and amplify it a bit. With this amplification, we can be a new kind of superhero.

In 1997, during a presentation, Steve Jobs stated Apple’s core value in a simple, yet powerful, sentence:

We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.

Apple fan or not, those are powerful words.

Define your core

Every organization must define its core values. Core values help us to frame, recognize, and understand the principles our organization embodies and practices. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a new organization or you want to define values within an existing organization. Even if you’re a freelancer, defining core values will help guide your decisions and actions.

If you can, work as a team to define core values. Gather the people who are your support system—your business partners, your colleagues, and maybe even a trusted client—this is now your core value creation team. Have a brainstorming session with your team. Let ideas flow. Give equal weight to the things people say. You may not hear everything you thought you might hear—that’s OK. You want the session to be free-flowing and honest. Ask yourself and your team questions like:

  • What do you think my/our/your core values are?
  • What do you think my/our/your priorities are?
  • What do you think my/our/your core values should be?
  • What do you think my/our/your priorities should be?
  • How do you think I/we should treat customers, clients, and each other?
  • How do we want others to treat us?
  • What are my/our/your success stories?
  • What has defined these experiences as successful?

From this brainstorming session, you will craft your superhero code of conduct. You will decide what you will and will not do. You will determine how you will and will not act. You’re setting the standards that you will live and work by—so don’t take this exercise lightly. Take your time. Use the exercise as a way to open a discussion about values. Find out what you and your team believe in. Set these values and keep them in place. Write them down and share these with your team and with the world. By sharing your core values, you hold yourself more accountable to them. You also send a strong message to the rest of the world about what type of organization you are and what you believe in. Other organizations and people may decide to align or not to align themselves with you because of your core values. This is good. Chances are, you’ll be happier and more profitable if you work with other organizations and people who share similar core values.

Awesomeness Photo: Laura Winn

During your brainstorming session, list keywords. Don’t edit. Allow things to take their course. Some examples of keywords might be:

Ability · Achievement · Adventure · Ambition · Altruism · Awareness · Balance · Caring · Charity · Citizenship · Collaboration · Commitment · Community · Compassion · Consideration · Cooperation · Courage · Courtesy · Creativity · Democracy · Dignity · Diplomacy · Discipline · Diversity · Education · Efficiency · Energy · Equality · Excellence · Excitement · Fairness · Family · Freedom · Fun · Goodness · Gratefulness · Growth · Happiness · Harmony · Helping · Honor · Hope · Humility · Humor · Imagination · Individuality · Innovation · Integrity · Intelligence · Joy · Justice · Kindness · Knowledge · Leadership · Learning · Loyalty · Meaning · Mindfulness · Moderation · Modesty · Nurture · Openness · Organization · Passion · Patience · Peace · Planning · Principles · Productivity · Purpose · Quality · Reliability · Respectfulness · Responsibility · Security · Sensitivity · Service · Sharing · Simplicity · Stability · Tolerance · Transparency · Trust · Truthfulness · Understanding · Unity · Variety · Vision · Wisdom

After you have a list of keywords, create your core values statement using the themes from your brainstorming session. There are no rules: while above, Steve Jobs summed up Apple’s core values in one sentence, Zappos has ten core values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

To see how Zappos’ employees embrace these core values, watch the video they created and posted on their website.

Dog food is yummy

Although I find merit in every keyword listed, I’ve distilled my core values to their simplest form:

Make awesomeness. Do good.

How do you make awesomeness and do good? You need ambition, balance, collaboration, commitment, fun, and you need every keyword listed to support these actions. Again, there are no rules: your core values can be one sentence or a bulleted list. What matters is being true to yourself and creating core values that others can understand. Before I start any project I ask myself: is there a way to make awesomeness and to do good? If the answer is “yes,” I embrace the endeavor because it aligns with my core values. If the answer is “no,” I move on to a project that supports my core values.

Unleash your powers

Although every organization will craft different core values, I imagine that you want to be a superhero and that you will define “doing good” (or something similar) as one of your core values. Whether you work by yourself or with a team, you can use the web as a tool to help do good. It can be as simple as giving a free hug, or something a little more complex to help others and help your organization meet the bottom line. Some interesting initiatives that use the web to do good are:

Go forth and make awesomeness

Knowing your underlying desire to return to your Underoos-and-cape-sporting childhood and knowing that you don’t always have the opportunity to develop an entire initiative to “do good,” remember that as writers, designers, and developers, we can perform superhero acts on a daily basis by making content, design, and development accessible to the greatest number of people. By considering other people’s needs, we are intentionally performing acts of kindness—we’re doing good. There are many ways to write, design, and develop websites—many of which will be discussed in other 24ways.org articles. As we make content, design, and development decisions—as we develop campaigns and initiatives—we need to keep our core values in mind. It’s easy to make a positive difference in the world. Just be the superhero you’ve always wanted to be. Go forth and make awesomeness.

If you would like to do good today, support The United Nations Children’s Fund, an organization that works for children’s rights, their survival, development and protection, by purchasing this year’s 24 ways Annual 2010 created by Five Simple Steps. All proceeds go to UNICEF.

About the author

Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman is co-founder of Centre Centre, a school creating industry-ready user experience designers. Leslie combines her 19 years of design practice and eight years of instructional background to make Center Centre an extraordinary learning environment.

Leslie creative directed and co-authored the book, InterACT with Web Standards: A holistic approach to web design. She writes articles for publications such as A List Apart, The Pastry Box, Ladies in Tech, and .net Magazine. She speaks at and keynotes conferences including Build, Converge, and SXSW. You can reach Leslie at jenseninman.com and on Twitter @jenseninman.

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