All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Online, In the Air, and Underground: Connect to Disconnect

The thinking for this post was generated by a recent conference I attended that was jointly hosted between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Canton Police Department.  While the topic was broad in scope (Strategies to Counter Violent Extremism at the High School Level) I found that when coupled with some recent literature, there was a very actionable message.  Responsible use of social media is a huge topic with multiple online resources, so please understand that I aim to only address a sliver here.

The Premise
Our students have almost unlimited access to the internet.  This isn’t 50 years ago when parents could shield their kids from certain sights, behaviors, or activities.  Even more recent it was a matter of kids being able to find (and do) anything they wanted if they had the desire.  Almost a “where there’s a will” type of thing.  Present day is even trickier.  Students will be exposed or introduced to many more things than we think appropriate or thought possible; whether they want to be or not. That is not a comforting thought even though there is a very effective method for combatting this issue.  We have just drifted from it.  I placed it into the title.  There is nothing wrong with connecting to the world of social media; as long as we never disconnect from our friends and family. Our kids cannot be shielded from the experiences the world will give them.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to teach them how to make proper decisions based on good character, integrity, and the ability to recognize both good and bad consequences.

So What?
There are three major pieces adults must keep in mind when attempting to control a student’s online activity.  They are all based around the idea that struggling for control is like squeezing a piece of ice; the harder you grip, the less likely you are to hold on.  In the end, keeping students safe depends on trust that is only built through fluid and ongoing communication and expectations.

o   The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in September that highlighted a direct link between families eating dinner together and a decrease in a multitude of negative behaviors in children such as depression, drug use, cyberbullying, and fighting just to name a few.  You may have seen some of the advertising campaign on television.  It is due to the uninterrupted conversation that goes on during dinner.
o   Be patient, positive, and supportive.  We all remember when we thought every viewpoint and decision of an adult was completely ridiculous and stifling of our important social life.  Take the time to listen and fully explore, model, and explain the pros and cons of various issues that students will encounter.  Your student’s perspective may shock or surprise you.  It is important to not overreact, but seek to understand where their belief comes from and then be firm in your response.

o   Create a contract with clear boundaries and consequences for violating those rules.  Students like structure no matter how much they tend to complain about it.  There is a feeling of safety in knowing what is “ok” or not “ok” when it comes to behavior.  A clear set of guidelines helps make difficult decisions easier for individuals not prepared to handle certain situations. 
o   Remember that we are not our students’ friends.  We are the adults and while students need to be given plenty of room for mistakes if they are to grow, they also need to be kept “in bounds” so that they do not get into serious trouble while experiencing life.  In short, it’s not that we know better, but we do.

o   You will never be effective in protecting your student if there is not a strong sense of trust between you.  This does not mean blindly believing everything your student reports (or doesn’t) to you.  It is akin to Ronald Reagan’s statement; “Trust, but verify.” 
o   If your student begins to trust you with the small things, they will eventually trust you with everything.  Make sure you give them that opportunity by believing in them and their inherent ability to fall down, be scared, and worry about not living up to your expectations.  Personally, I tell my kids two things.  Only act in a way that they wouldn’t care if I heard about and that I will always love them unconditionally; no matter what they do.  So far, they feel safe enough to tell me everything.  I haven’t had to deal with the lying even though I have handed out plenty of consequences.  They know they can tell me anything because while I may not like the act; I will always be there for them.

Now What?
o   Schedule dinners or long car rides with your kids.
o   Always, without fail, listen to them because it’s important.
o   Continuously tell kids three things: I love you, I’m proud of you, and I trust you.
o   Communicate openly and honestly with integrity and hold an expectation of the same in return.

Ultimately it’s about helping your student create a mindset that allows them to make responsible decisions.  This doesn’t come from fear or you being the boss, rather from time taken to build a better relationship based on communication, trust, and understanding.  Remember that we can pretty much handle any problem we know about.  It’s the ones we don’t (or ignore) that are responsible for long term, often times irreversible damage to ourselves and others.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Communicate Like A Tiger

I wanted to write this post after Tom Bresnahan tweeted out a photo that really got me thinking about how we communicate, Tiger Cub Scouts, and an incident that occurred with my youngest son in a shopping market parking lot.  The overall message is model how to value individuals by listening to them.

Listen to Understand (The Goal)

The message is obvious, but how often is it that we are so geared up to talk that we never even listen in the first place.  There is a major difference between hearing and listening.  Listen to understand rather than waiting to speak and you just may learn something important.  Throughout history, there are accounts of multiple Native American tribes practicing the art of waiting approximately five seconds after a person spoke before they began.  This ensured that the person was heard and understood thereby causing more productive conversation.  Today this proves to be difficult.  We are naturally uncomfortable with prolonged silence.  However, every time I have practiced this, I have received greater amounts and a deeper understanding of information.

Tiger Cub Scouts (Steps to Take)
This is in the fashion of the “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten” list.  Except it’s taken from a lesson I taught about being respectful and listening to a den of Tiger Cub Scouts.  To paint the picture, these boys are 6 years old. I often stop to think about how relevant these skills are for all adults as well.  The main point is to listen with your eyes, ears, and mind.  This can only be accomplished when you ignore all the other distractions.

1.      Eyes on speaker: Focus on the person you are speaking with.  You convey that they are important when you look at them.  It also shows that you are engaged in what they have to say.

2.      Ears are listening: Listen to understand instead of hearing to talk.  How often do you think you could repeat what someone had said to you five minutes after your conversation had ended?  The age old trick here is to repeat, rephrase and check.

3.      Mouth is quiet: Interrupting is one of the most rude and damaging behaviors in communication.  It sends a clear signal to whoever is speaking that what they are saying has no value.  It is not a long jump to the idea that you do not value them a person.  Simply put, wait your turn.

4.      Brain is thinking: Make sure you are making sense of what a person is saying.  Think of clarifying questions that help the conversation move forward. Asking questions shows you value the person and increases the flow of information due to a larger amount of trust.  Try to understand the motives for what they are telling you.  Doing so will lend insight.

5.      Body is stillNon-verbal communication is much more important than verbal.  People have conversations and then walk away with that “it just didn’t feel right” taste in their mouth.  That is due to a breakdown in non-verbal communication.  Without getting too deep; be sure to have an open stance (or seated position), not roll your eyes, and either nod, shake your head, or give a slight umhmm to signify you are listening.

Keep Waving (The Whole Package)

Not everyone you encounter will communicate well.  The only response you have is to keep trying.  You do this through modeling.  There is no better way to teach somebody about proper, respectful communication techniques than modeling for them.  I was at the store with my son the other day when we had to stop and wait to cross the street on our way to the parking lot.  A car finally stopped to let us cross and my son stopped as he arrived at the front of the car, turned to the person driving, and yelled thank as he waved.  Unfortunately, the person did not acknowledge him.  Undaunted, my son tried a little louder and decided to wave with both hands the second time.  There was still no response from the driver of the car who had been nice enough to stop, but appeared to have no interest in waving back at a five year old.  My son remained stalwart.  He took half of a step toward the car; put both hands in the air, and wildly waved his hands (and arms by default) as he stared at the driver.  Finally, the driver smiled and waved back.  My son’s response was a big “thumbs-up” to the driver and a return to dad’s hand as we continued our walk into the parking lot.  My point you ask? Do not lower your standards or expectations because others do not match rather reach out and bring them up to yours no matter how many times or how much modeling it takes.

When communication fails:
·         Ideas die,
·         Innovation stops,
·         Leaders fail to succeed,
·         Teachers become frustrated,
·         Parents don’t get involved, and most importantly…

Kids don’t learn.

Work at it (Be Purposeful), make it better (Act with Integrity), and keep trying to bring others up (Build Your Character).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Awareness is Action’s First Step

This post is not an original idea nor the first time I have touched on its topic, but unfortunately the issue of bullying is still enough of an issue to require repeated calls for attention.  My previous entries are:

In an attempt to continue getting the word out and raising awareness, I wrote a short piece for our electronic newsletter that goes to parents each week.  Typically I would not necessarily place a newsletter piece on my blog, but I have had a few suggestions to do so with this one.  So, without much more explanation it is presented below.

Please take the time to think about some of the awful behaviors that are being perpetrated on our children by their peers and in some cases adults.  The only way to stop this cycle is through purposeful education concerning how to act with integrity.  Doing so takes character, but that is only built through the act of making the right, courageous choices.  We have to make that first, scary step on the promise that it will get easier.
The piece was as follows:

Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
October is the national Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.  Please take the time to discuss this serious issue with your student at home.  While we hope to curb all bullying at Seekonk High School it is understood that this behavior is pervasive and by definition, operates in secrecy.  I have included a links to two short YouTube videos.  Please take the time, watch them with your students, and have a discussion.  Notice the behaviors, the bystanders, the helpers, and most importantly the victims.  Imagine they are you or your students and better understand the problems that face thousands of students nationwide on a daily basis. 

I have also included various resources for you to peruse when time permits.  They contain valuable tips for victims, parents, educators, bystanders, and even bullies.

·         Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/nbpm/
·         Stop Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/


The victimization of any human being is a behavior that must be stopped.  Bullying affects all those involved in some form.  It affects the most vulnerable of our population; children.  Think of the following:

·         Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you need to interact with them.
·         Bullies act out of a frustration with themselves and their lack of self-esteem.  It is about gaining control and power over their victim.
·         Do not be a bystander!  Seek help from the appropriate people if you do not want to intervene.
·         Adults cannot stop bullying by themselves.  It is up to the bully’s peers to put an end to this awful, behavior.
·         If you are being bullied let someone know and push forward.  You are special and can be incredibly successful one day because of who you are and what your experiences have made you.

Finally, a message to give to bullies. Those who you victimize will continue to be special in spite of your best efforts to drag them down to the level at which you exist.  Others will realize this, turn their backs on you, and in time, you will still be alone and have feelings of inadequacy.  Get help for what ails you in a productive way rather than being destructive.

No one likes to hear this, but I am sure this behavior exists at some level in Seekonk as well.  The question is what are all of us going to do together to stop these acts.  Simply ignoring or accepting it is not an option.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Here and Now vs. Yesterday and Tomorrow

While recently contemplating the influence of the society of which my current students are a part of, I noticed a connection between my doctoral research on historical understanding and student behavior.  Those of you who regularly read my posts will not be surprised to find that I am looking at this connection through the lens of being purposeful, acting with integrity, and building character.

I am fortunate enough to deal with all types of students who, at the time of our meeting, are usually not in their best light.  With very few exceptions, I notice that there is always an absence in our conversation concerning some type of behavior.  Previously believing this to be an offshoot of the survival skill known as self-preservation, I have now come to think somewhat differently.  What follows could and possibly should be a larger discussion, but not here.  I will attempt to keep it brief and possibly revisit later.

Students today, for many reasons live in a constant state of the present.  This is why the concept of character is so hard for many to not just grasp, but meaningfully implement in their lives.

Whether you call it the existence of:
·         instant gratification,
·         everyone gets a trophy,
·         140 character conversations,
·         reality based on TV shows, or
·         the world instantly at their fingertips in the form of a screen.

Whatever the combination of factors, students are left with a stimulating, instant, very current world with little explanation or understanding of how prior actions have affected their current state and how the present has future consequences.  That is where the problem (yes it is a problem) occurs.

It may not necessarily be a refusal to accept responsibility as much as a lack of understanding concerning that very thing.  In fact, more and more research is bearing out the delayed development in the region of the brain (otherwise known as the frontal lobe) that controls individual’s ability to recognize and fully understand the relationship between cause and effect as it pertains to them personally.  Before you protest and say that I am making excuses because “of course students know what they are doing” you must understand that is not what I am saying.  The success I have had in working with students to change their behaviors stems from my belief that they need to be made aware of their actions and their impact contextually.  After all, it is my job to teach.  Not to mention, who wants to complain about the ills of the society instead of moving in a direction that fixes them?  Even if it is one student at a time…

That is why appropriate consequences for action are needed more now than ever before.  Surrounded by a world that has disconnected, negotiated, or even nonexistent effects for actions, students must be taught the exact opposite if they are to achieve real success.  The question is how we accomplish that.  I use a method that follows three steps.

When I follow this framework I have noticed:

·         a lower rate of recidivism of negative behavior,
·         stronger relationships, and
·         students developing more character.

Be Purposeful
We all know that students deal with concrete explanations the best.  Tell them the behavior that is wrong and why.  Then take the time and walk them back (verbally) to the causes and then forward to the effect.  Be sure to continually tie everything you talk about to the action.  Create that connection for them until it becomes natural.  Much like sledding, you need to go down the hill first if they are to go where you want them.

Act with Integrity
Be “above board” with the students.  Let them know exactly what you are doing and why.  The goal is to get them to realize the larger context of their actions.  How many of us would accept a class in which the objectives were either absent or unclear?  Model the behavior you are looking for.  Do this by telling them what effect you are trying to get by your actions of speaking with them before the consequence.  This talk should be about much more than just a “due process” requirement.

Build Character
As mentioned before, this is not about the lack of consequences rather the presence of useful ones.  Students will repeat the behavior if they are not aware of the connection to the consequence.  This is where the responsibility portion begins.  Character is not about acting gracious when you are getting what you want.  It is about handling what you don’t like with a determined, yet open mind.  Every consequence is an opportunity to build a student’s capacity to have a stronger character.  We need to use it as such by teaching them that they need to accept whatever decision they made and the resulting actions.  Not because someone is doing something to them, but because they did something to themselves.

Finally, if students live in the present where actions and memories are quickly discarded how they can really understand the consequences (both past and future) of their actions.  The best part of this is that the frontal lobe doesn’t fully develop until later.  Therefore, even though high school may serve as the last chance in many regards, we still have the opportunity to help students develop this ability that much of society has, at best left alone while at worst reinforced the negative.  We need to stop reacting and instead respond with strategies and interventions that serve a longer term goal.  Take the time, acknowledge the context, and address the future possibility.

As always, your thoughts, discussion, and comments are welcome.

I will close with a poem someone passed me about a week ago…

 “If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to swim, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to drive, we teach.
If a child doesn’t know how to behave, we…punish?” 

-John Herner, Counterpoint (1998, p.2)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Required Student Behaviors

As I was involved in various discussions over the summer, the recurring theme was centered on how to help students achieve both academic and social success while in high school.  There is plenty of theory, but what I thirsted for was a concrete way to help students by teaching them to help themselves.  Couple this issue with my strong belief in societies need to stress character, ethics, and responsibility and I have decided to start small by introducing what I view as vital behaviors if we are going to graduate students who will thrive once they leave the safe walls of school.

I briefly introduced these behaviors at our full class meeting this week.  Each class council will be picking up ways to visually represent their class’s acceptance and application of these behaviors around the school.  I will also use the Positive Behavioral Support Committee, ideas from William Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness, and Ed Gerety’s book “Combinations: Opening the Door to Student Leadership”.

A brief outline of the behaviors I hope to instill and why:

·         This year is a year of transition.  Students need to not just realize, but also understand that they no longer have most of the answers concerning the school.  This should lead them to ask questions and look for answers.  Students also need to begin their high school career properly by putting the hard work in early.  This creates a strong base from which they can achieve higher levels of success.

Sophomores: Discipline/Perseverance
·         This is a year that students should be “rolling up their sleeves” and setting habits of mind that will help them push through those difficult times they are bound to experience.  They have to have the discipline to set routines and work consistently.  Once they do this and begin to build momentum, it will be easier to persevere.  They must begin to see the bigger picture and goal of high school and use it to motivate themselves to work hard no matter the challenge.

Juniors: Commitment/Initiative
·         After two years of high school, juniors need to recommit themselves to the idea of working hard for another two years with increased responsibility.  They now need to take more control over how their future plays out.  This is the year they really begin to look closer at colleges or trade schools and be sure they are completing any requirements necessary.  They also need to be aware that they will be the leaders of the school next year.  That level of maturity takes commitment, time, and experience to develop.

·         Students at this year need to take the role of school leaders.  That is a serious position because it requires them to be aware of the bigger picture.  They have been given rules and asked to follow procedures without always understanding the whole context.  This is also the year that students are over scheduled with sports, academics, work, and their social lives. They need to strike a balance so that they can enjoy what becomes a very fast year. This is where their awareness must be developed so they understand that their actions affect others. Ideally this will lead to them wanting to leave the school a better place than when they entered. In other words, how will they be remembered and what did they do that really mattered?

Whenever I am asked a question concerning my attempt to support students, I always counter (mentally at least) with the idea that we often do too much to help and therefore, create a state of learned helplessness.  Yes, students need assistance, but they also need to fail if they are to learn and grow.  Education and improvement are constant.  We never fully reach our potential without sustained effort through many failures and successes.  Students will not succeed for very long if all their “wins” are given to them.  Many schools are so concerned with how their students perform on the MCAS (possibly soon to be PARCC), SAT exams, AP tests, and college acceptance percentages that they begin to lose sight of the bigger picture.  I am concerned with those to an extent as well, but more with college success (graduation) rates, students’ ability to land and keep a job, or students’ ability to contribute to society in a positive fashion.

They will only be able to accomplish these things if they have character, ethics, responsibility and mental toughness.  School shouldn’t be about a narrow set of facts that must be learned, but instead the creation a framework on which students’ may build a successful future.  It is our responsibility to help students build it, not build it for them.

What are you doing to guide rather than give?

As always, feedback is more than welcome…

Monday, September 8, 2014

Teachers Needed Today

I had to take a minute to write this entry as a type of “shout out” to not just the teachers at Seekonk High School, but all teachers everywhere who continue to let their passion for subjects and students show.  Ok, so maybe it really is slanted towards teachers at SHS, but who can blame me?  In all seriousness, I have been thinking about teachers quite a lot recently for a number of personal reasons and it is clear…they all make a difference one way or the other.  That is why it is important to recruit good teachers, keep them, and be around as they become great!  Watch the two videos that follow…they get my point across.

This first video is by someone who is far more capable than me of delivering a very important, complex message in a simple way…

Now ask yourself…what am I teaching?  Kids learn whatever we teach whether it is good or bad.  Are we showing kids that education is a drag that has no real world connection or are they solving relevant problems and asking sophisticated questions that instill a sense of wonder and discovery?  The teachers that Kid President is talking about sure are doing the latter.  Teaching is hard, but the most important job anyone ever does.  There are many people who condemn teachers as not working full years, being overpaid, and having it easy.  I wonder how many of those people have ever taught.  How many of those people are the first to dance when summer is over?  How many are tired after one week’s vacation?

Take a look at this Ted talk by Rita Pierson.  It is seven minutes long and titled: Every Kid Needs a Champion.  Think about it.  Are you a champion to a student?

Teachers are needed:

·         Students learn best when they build a relationship first.
o   School isn’t about just the subjects; rather it is about opening doors of opportunity for a future that is yet unknown. 
·         Because not every student is easy.
o   Teachers must teach students who fight back at every turn.
·         Because there are many kids who just need somebody.
o   Teachers must teach students living in unimaginable circumstances.

So teachers:

·         Build that relationship
·         Seek to understand circumstances
·         Discover the root of opposition
·         Above all teach as if a life depended on it...sometimes it does.

I didn’t write this as a lesson for teachers as much as a thank you to those who work in an age of increased negativity, demand, paperwork, and accountability.

You continue to teach:
·         even when it gets hard to see the point
·         even though there are times you feel unappreciated

You continue to teach because who will these students look up to and how will they learn if you don’t? 

As far as Seekonk High School…I walk by rooms and hear teachers talking about how to get better.  I see students engaged with lessons about life and how to be better.  I see students solving problems, asking questions, and learning.  Most importantly I see teachers working with students as if what they are doing is the most important thing at that moment…and…it is.

Take some time today and thank a teacher!

Thank you to all teachers and welcome back!  May you have a fantastic year!

Here is one last (short I promise) video to make you laugh (hopefully) for the rest  of the day!  You all deserve it!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Orientation Should Focus on Mindset

The genesis for this post was a statement I made last year after attempting to deliver my normal freshman orientation parent workshop titled; Getting to Know the Handbook.  Just before speaking to parents, I had a moment of reflection concerning the concept of being “oriented” and thought about what I would want to know that would help me help my student be successful.  As you may guess, it didn’t take long for me to realize I was going about it wrong.  What ensued was a largely unplanned discussion about character centered on the simple message; your student will only be as successful as their character warrants.  Therefore, I thought and believe even stronger today that orientation needs to be about learning a place, but that learning must go far beyond the physical structure or static rules that guide decisions.  It must focus on learning the behavioral expectations that, if adopted, will help students build a stronger character and succeed beyond the four years spent in high school.

As such, my “speech” looked more like this:

Parents were given a brochure with some of the “nitty gritty” rules in print for their “reading enjoyment” after we discussed the more important things.  It also contained rights and responsibilities of all those involved in the education of the child.  I discussed the need to work as a team and communicate.

 Such a plan raises the expectations on parents, but also stresses the fact that the school needs to make a great effort as well.  The issue is that with all of today’s distractions and influences, students not only need, but thrive with accountability.  Led to the mindset students need to have as they enter high school.

There are two traits students must learn, adopt, and practice as freshmen.  They are humility and effort.  This is not easy for a group of students who used to be the most knowledgeable amongst their peers and even though they are too scared to admit or show it, are nervous about this new environment.  The road to these traits lies through three essential behaviors that are indispensable to success no matter the age.

1.      Character:
·         Hard work beats talent every single time.  As we get older we realize that the days of coasting and still successfully reaching the finish line on talent alone are gone
2.      Perseverance:
·         Consistency wins…always, because of momentum.  We must create good habits and work towards goals if we are to succeed at anything.
3.      Respect:
·         We must respect ourselves for who we are, both good and bad. It’s the only way to become who we want to be - do the same for others and help them grow.

You may have noticed that the language changed from “students” to “we” in those three bullet points.  That is because I believe that we are all able to (at best) improve ourselves in these areas and (at worst) keep from sliding backwards.

Parents then received a homework assignment from me.  Using the framework (and language) offered by Dr. Troy P. Roddy (Thrivapy Blog), I had them go home and discuss their student’s W.I.S.H. list (pictured below) in an effort to focus on what happens when circumstances are not ideal.

Finally, I let parents have a graphic that I put together for behaviors both they and their students will need to exhibit as they pass through their freshman year.  The top half represents the notion that parents must communicate, be involved, and be aware with both their students and the school.  The bottom half illustrates the steps needed for improvement.  The question mark?

Well, the only way to learn is to question…

To conclude…

In the end we all need to:

Be Purposeful
  • Make decisions for your future
  • Be present, be on time, study, set goals
Act with Integrity
  • Do what is right, the right way
  • Help others, be gracious, walk the talk
Build our Character
  • Continue to succeed through failure
  • Thrive in the face of hardship

What are you doing to orient students and parents to the culture you desire?  

Please share ideas and thoughts…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We Need Character

I decided to write this post as I review data, prepare materials, and consider programs for another school year.  Those of you who know me understand my stance on ethics and character and therefore the main thrust here.  Those of you who don’t…well, I hope you enjoy.

I am confronted on a regular basis with bullying and behavioral issues that ultimately stem from two issues:

1.      Individuals’ inability to take responsibility for the consequences (both good and bad) of their actions.
2.      A basic misunderstanding of the premise stating if you want to be better; do it by making yourself better and not dragging someone else down to just feel better.  Don’t just look good, be good.

Many people ask:
Why do we have so much bullying?
Why do we have an increasing amount of behavioral issues?

In my opinion the answer is easy…as a society, we are not teaching character in a clear, non-negotiable manner.  Instead we are focusing on moral relativism and overprotecting our youth from their shortcomings.  How are we expected to grow from our mistakes, learn right from wrong, and lead successful lives if we experience no hardship and lack the ability to find our moral center?

We have problems because we have not learned how to properly deal with them.

To be successful in this character (or lack thereof) issue, we must all admit to the problem, acknowledge its existence, and address it rather than placing blame at the feet of parents, media, school, or politicians.

We arrived in this situation by slow, deliberate, small steps that eroded the character we knew through the generations.  This didn’t jump up on us, rather; it was a gradual process in which small transgressions led to larger ones.  Creating grey areas out of ethics, morals, and character is like dancing with the devil:  You don’t change him.  He changes you.

The only way to rectify this situation is through the same way we got here; one step at a time.  Only these steps are more difficult because they are neither easy nor comfortable and require, at times, some personal suffering.  That is why we must practice and model what I call; being purposeful, acting with integrity, and building your character.

Being purposeful:
No goal was ever attained without purposeful movement towards it.  Make decisions based on where you want to be; not where you are or have been.  This is only possible by being present in everyday decisions.  You must weigh how each action fits into your larger plan.  Holding this knowledge close will help you respond instead of react to any situation.

Acting with integrity:
Do what is right, the right way, simply because it is right.  You are part of a larger organism called the human race.  Help others when needed, be gracious and walk the talk.  You never know the struggles the other person is going through.  Ignore groupthink and perceptions that are not borne of your own experience.  Create your personal set of values and ethics and always make decisions and act according to them.  In the end, all you have control over is your values.

Building character
Continue to succeed through the failures you will surely encounter.  Thrive in the face of hardship because that is the only thing standing between you and success. Accept yourself as you are.  Determine who you want to be.  Realize that goal no matter the hardship.  Sometimes you will be alone…everyone needs support to make the road easier, but there will be times you must walk alone to get what you want.  If building and maintaining a strong character were easy, we would not have many of the problems we do today.

My message about purposefully building character rooted in strong ethics and integrity…
Remember that we are unique individuals who are solely responsible for increasing our own value.  We must not be afraid to improve when others around us do not. All fear is based on stress created by indecision and uncertainty.  We must…be certain…be determined…be purposeful.

Our goal, our personal greatness lies on the other side of all our doubts and fears…ignore personal gratification and settle only for personal growth.  Not matter the outcome; continue to push forward.  I failed is 100 times better than I might have…

Be tough, be proud, and stand out. 

How do we fix these issues?

By building character through the reinforcement and modeling of integrity, accepting responsibility, rejecting moral relativism, and being better rather than just looking better.

We do this one person at a time…starting with ourselves rather than excuses.