Operating from a Code of Ethics

Regardless of what your resolutions are for next year, let me toss out a proposition to you.

Operate from a personal code of ethics.

What flaky thing is this – this personal code of ethics?

Think about successful businesses. They operate from a clear vision and set of guiding principles or a set of values.

Churches, restaurants, online superstores all do it. We typically like to visit and buy from the ones who have clarity around what is important and stick vehemently to them.

Why shouldn’t individuals who want to do good work and create better stories for themselves and others do the same thing?

Todd Henry writes in his book Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day that one of the most important things we as creative individuals can do (we’re all creative on some level) is to operate from a core personal code of ethics.

This code of ethics describes how we want to engage our work, loosely defined as anything we do that brings value, encouragement, and life to others.

Other folks have written about focusing on one word for a year.

Another guy always chooses three words as guiding themes for a year.

Just Try It

Pick one word, two words, three words, or four words. Don’t pick any words.

Just have an idea of what is vitally important to you.

If you know that you are awesome at listening, listen like your life depended on it.

If you know that you’re ridiculously good at being organized, help the rest of us that suck at it.

If you know that you want to do more excellent work, spend a year learning how to dot i’s and cross t’s.

I think it’s a worthy exercise. Pick a word or four. Operate from them. Pick a couple words that describe your strengths and leverage them. Pick one or two that are weaknesses and improve (even though I think it’s much more important to get better at what you’re already good at than it is to improve on deficiencies, especially in the talent arena. If it’s a character defect, then perhaps you need to focus on that thing).

What do you want to characterize your engagement in 2014 and beyond? Write a few words down.

I’ve selected Courage, Generosity, Diligence, and Meticulousness.

I probably should toss in patience or fun because I’m a dad and my kids are 5 and 6. They need both patience and fun from their dad.

Regardless, as we head into the Starting Well Challenge on January 2, I encourage you to let this idea marinate in your noggin for a couple days. Even if plans and goals don’t shake out like you hope, having an anchor like a code of ethics (or one simple theme) should have a positive impact.

Take out an index card and write out a few words, perhaps a sentence or phrase to describe why you chose those words. You can change them later if you want to.


  • What words would you like to describe your upcoming year?
  • How would you like to engage your work? Your family? That one thing you know you’ve needed to focus on for a while but just haven’t been willing to?

If you want to join us for the 2014 Starting Well Challenge, drop your name and email below. it won’t blow your mind or rock your world, but it just might help get your year kicked off a bit more intentionally.

2014 Starting Well Challenge

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