OBSERVATION: Hard Times Test Our (My) Principles and Character

Life continually tests our principles and character with unanticipated twists and turns. Right now my convictions about positivity and gratitude are severely tested by economic pressures causing the nonprofit Josephson Institute to sharply reduce staff (from 32 to 16) and re-think how we can continue to pursue our mission in a world where schools have no funds for our program (even though they want it) and donations have dwindled.

I’ll need a week or so to recover from the trauma of having to inform 16 really dedicated colleagues and friends we could no longer afford them. And we have to re-access which of our services (including this one) we can afford to continue.

Do we have to be reminded that being good and doing good provides no shield from misfortune nor does it exempt one from the laws of physics or economics. Good people contract cancer as often as those of lesser morality. And it is so with organizations as well.

To survive in this world it is not enough to have good intentions. In the case of organizations, both for profit and not-for-profit, good intentions can be realized only if the organization is structured in a way to be sustainable through both bull and bear economies. In other words, good intentions must be supported by good management. Thus, Idealists like me who want to think only of strengthening the moral fiber of our children and adults, cannot afford the luxury of ignoring the most basic accounting principle of all — revenues must exceed expenses.

I beg your indulgence for a brief detour to the kind of “woe-is-me” whining I know is useless. (It doesn’t advance the philosophical dimension of this comment but it does highlight the emotional dimension).

It is so frustrating. It seems unfair!

We’ve never been better at achieving our mission nor done worse financially.

Building on an enormously successful model we built and refined for Puerto Rico (with the best results we have ever seen in terms of reducing bullying, violence and increasing academic achievement and engagement- truly transformatory — we made enhancements to the program that takes school improvement strategies to a whole new level (We incorporated into our strategy essential elements of Common Core, 21st Century Skills and Positive Behavior into a fully integrated values based academic, social/emotional and character development system (we call it CHARACTER COUNTS 4.0 and created Model Standards identifying knowledge, skill and behavioral educational outcomes). My point is that everyone who has seen the new approach agrees that it is far and away the best strategy they have ever seen — yet we can’t get a pilot of 50 or more schools to show we can replicate the Puerto Rico results.

Okay – too much detail and I sound like a victim. I hate that!.

I will allow myself to grieve and lament for a few more days, but I expect to come back strong and optimistic and with a new plan. I’m certainly not ready to wave the white flag. I hope to be a model of resilience, positivity and optimism.

In the meantime if any of you have any miracle solutions, I’d love to hear them. – MJ

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