When my brother got home that day, his entire mood was different. He was warmer, uplifted. The energy between us changed, and that single action made us both more considerate of one another. When you perform a random act of kindness, you can’t do it expecting to get something back. But so often, you get it anyway. People naturally want to reciprocate.
I began looking for opportunities to do something nice on a daily basis. They were small, simple, and immediately actionable. I stopped myself from honking my horn at an obnoxious driver. I let someone who looked like they were rushed ahead of me in the grocery line. I took a spider outside instead of killing it. I threw a tiny beached fish back into the ocean. I began to feel more like the person I always wanted to be rather than the person I just said I wanted to be. These tiny acts of kindness made me live my values. They were strangely intoxicating, a natural high spawning an addictiveness that couldn’t be measured by any traditional means.
In order to stay motivated, I thought about logging my daily acts of kindness in a simple journal. Or how about a blog? I could post photos of the deeds in real time. And then I began to think…what if there were a technology out there, exclusively dedicated to this cause, allowing people to perform and share acts of kindness? It could become a movement, changing the world for the better in tiny increments. A good deed a day times enough people equates to…a different world.
Then a few months later, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job. I was only somewhat disappointed. I loved the creative aspect of digital marketing, but I didn’t have control over the projects I took on. My main client had been a television network whose flagship franchise was a popular reality series that promoted vile behavior and the silicone-laced downfall of society. Working late one night, I realized that by doing my job well, I was actually helping make the world a more depraved place.
As I searched for my next job, I vowed to find something meaningful. I also began thinking about how I could take a platform for random acts of kindness from an idealistic dream to a real successful business. I formulated a business plan, and had just pitched to my first potential investor when I landed two job offers in the same week. One of them was from Mozilla, a non-profit that had captured my heart long before the interviews began. The slogan on their career site read: Don’t work for the man. Work for mankind. Their mission: keeping the internet open, accessible, and safe for everyone. I didn’t even think about saying no.
Everything at Mozilla was about advocating for the user. I was quickly swept up with the thrilling chaos of my new job. I was traveling and working long hours and along the way, my own acts of kindness became more infrequent. I thought about my “kindness platform” often enough, but I couldn’t justify the risk when I already loved what I was doing. Still, I wondered if I’d have kept up my own good deeds had the platform existed.
Then a series of events shoved the idea back to the front of my mind. As numerous new social platforms gained popularity, so did the negativity associated with them. These technologies bred bullying, narcissism and artificiality, yet our society—younger generations in particular—grew addicted to them. Startup founders and venture capitalists were finding ways to exploit this. The industry was driven by money. Sky-high valuations were published at the same time as clinical research linking social media to decreased happiness and feelings of social isolation. And suddenly we were in a tech bubble…with no one advocating for the emotionally manipulated user. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned at Mozilla, it’s putting the user first.
I witnessed these events and realized I had an idea that might actually help these people, but fear was keeping me from trying. Eventually this idea transformed from dream to calling to moral obligation. In between the human craving for online sharing and recognition, the social platforms that currently exist, and the pervasive negativity that accompanies them, there is a real opportunity. An opportunity to create something that helps people do good…and feel good.
I’m not the first to have this idea – in fact, my original inspiration was already well documented in a book. The random acts of kindness concept is centuries old, and many well-intentioned people have tried to leverage technology to spawn a modern movement. But to date, none have successfully presided into the mainstream. It could be that the concept itself isn’t powerful enough, or the target audience isn’t big enough. Or, it might simply be a matter of nailing the execution.
The Else app will take a stab at the latter. I know the app economy. Which means I understand just how miniscule my chances for success are. But I have the support and partnership of some very smart people, and we believe we can create something huge.