Character. It’s a complicated concept, one that we believe doesn’t get enough attention. It can be defined in several contexts, however character, in the definition we seek to bring to the forefront of business, political and social improvement is;
Moral excellence and firmness, earned through one’s actions.
Character, is a standard of excellence. An adherence to one’s values and principles, based on what you do each day. Every person has the opportunity to decide their values, but values leave a lot of room for interpretation. To live a life of character, your values must be attached to principles and those principles must be adhered to, in order to develop character.
Values – Your ideas about how things should be, and what matters to you.
Principles – The rules you follow to make sure you are living your values.
Character – The strength with which you adhere to your principles.
Unfortunately for people looking for a quick fix, due to the ‘doing’ nature of character development, one cannot develop it overnight. In fact, it is increasingly difficult to develop character if your values and principles are never tested. You can tell people your values, but you cannot tell people you have character, because you must live it to earn it.
Character is developed through being tested, especially in the face of adversity and difficulty. Simply going through a tough time, or being tested does not mean you develop character automatically, adherence to your principles when they tested is what defines character.
For example, being nice when everything is going well is easy. It is not so character building to be nice to strangers when you are in the middle of a wonderful day/week/year. If you are being nice when things aren’t going well, when it takes effort, you don’t feel like it and it’s harder to manage, that is when you develop character. Tough times develop character because they prove to you and to others that you can live your principles when it matters, when it is hard.
Focus on values, is focus on ideas. Ideas are malleable, they can change easily and quickly, you can tell people what they are. Ideas can be interpreted differently. Value-alignment, in practice, is largely useless for this very reason. It is easy to proclaim that you value something, without ever actually living any part of those values. We all know people that value health, but don’t look after theirs, businesses that say they value employees or customers, until it costs their time or money, people that value equality, but stay quiet as their bosses or colleagues practice bigotry.
Values are simply not as useful as principles and character. In the United States right now, we have a country that is virtually unanimous on the value that ‘Children should not get shot in school’, they Value the lives of children.
Beyond the agreement that children shouldn’t die in school (a value-alignment) the principles differ greatly. From arming teachers, to disarming a country, to metal detectors, security guards, bullet proof doors etc. The difference in principles is what causes the dissonance, not a difference in values. Principle-alignment, alignment of the rules you make to live your values, are more important than values alignment, which is simply agreeing on ideas.
If you claim that you value helping people, and that the follow-on principle for you is that you ‘will help someone when you see that they need a hand’, then you don’t have any character built around that principle until you actually encounter that scenario. If you see someone needing help, and you help, then you are building character. If you had to really go out of your way, and it was difficult for you to help that person, you are building stronger character, because it took even more commitment to live your principles. If you ignore the person who needs help and pretend you didn’t see it… that is a lack of character.
We see values without principles, principles without action and a scarcity of character everywhere we turn. We need to encourage and support character in our children, our schools, our workplaces and public institutions and hold them accountable to their actions, not simply the words they tout as values.
If you would like to become a character-led organisation, get in touch. We love to work with organisations and individuals that are looking for long term character development, building processes, principles and opportunities for character development that help the real-world application of values. Share, subscribe and let us know your ideas on character development, we'd love to hear them.
Keep assessing your principles, Keep building character and as always, Just Be Nice.
Today marks the 18th time this year that a shooting has occurred in a school in the United States. The shooting in Florida has resulted in at least 17 dead and many more injured at the time of writing. <Source CNN>
There are a number of cultural and historical objections to gun control in the United States, but there has not been an enemy on the doorstep of the worlds largest economy since the war for independence in 1773. In 1861 they endured a Civil War, that however, was not one involving invasion or international threat.
Unlike middle eastern states who have had war raging around them for decades, the threat of war on US soil has been virtually non-existent for over 150 years (Bay Of Pigs notwithstanding). At this point, logically, the argument for gun control is surely strong enough to warrant at least some action being taken to mitigate the risk of assault rifles and other high powered, high capacity weapons being easily available across the whole country to all and sundry.
This, however, isn’t an argument for gun control, or a ‘prayers for the victims’ post. It is simply posing a question.
There are myriad social problems, inequalities and difficulties faced by numerous communities in democracies across the globe. Why doesn’t the murder of innocents and children shift the needle for one solitary issue (The issue – What should we do about constant shootings)? How can we formulate plans to instigate change on far more complex, nuanced, subtle and less in-your-face issues?
How do we improve education standards across the board, across all ages, delivery methods, subjects and outcomes? How can we level the playing field of opportunity for minorities, women, people with disabilities and low Socio-economic groups? How can we address the growing wealth inequality, which is caused by dozens of factors, when a world leading economy can’t agree on how to mitigate a gun violence problem that is so glaring?
The issue here is not only gun violence. It is the lack of a coherent and sensible pathway to address and manage blatant problems in our societies today. How do we establish evidence and fact-based responses to problems, free from hyperbole and emotive over-reaction? How do we remove the bureaucratic dilution of efficacy, putting in place plans that are effective and simple, rather than ineffective and complicated?
How can Australians, and other democratic countries around the world lead the way on sensible decision making and character-led leadership?
The increasing partisanship and divisive, emotion driven politics of the day are driving us further away from environments in which positive, inclusive and long term-change are possible. While in Australia we very fortunately don’t have the problem with gun violence that our Allies in the US do, we can still lead by example by working on solutions rather than name calling. Working on bringing communities together, rather than wedging them apart for votes. We can work on being more inclusive and providing more opportunity, rather than jealously guarding our own privilege while demanding that others remain happy with their lesser lot.
It starts with electing leaders that genuinely have the best interest of people at heart. Not only big business, not re-election, not avoiding internal party factional disputes. Leaders that walk the walk and don’t just evasively talk, redirect and finger point.
Make no mistake, change is difficult. If murdered children can’t create change, what will?
At the Just Be Nice Project, we are committed to developing Character-Led individuals and leaders, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Have you ever considered how hard it is for someone who has everything that they say they want or need, but still feels unhappy and down for some reason?
Wondered how someone who seems so happy, so full of life, could ever get to a place where they could harm themselves or those they love?
Felt down and out, when logically and physically everything is actually going quite well and found it hard to find your happiness again?
Perhaps its because the binary nature of our discussion of happy and sad is a bit off the mark. The language we use to speak about these moods informs our opinions about them, informs the way we seek treatment and the advice we give to those we know regarding moods and emotions.
Rather than a dualistic relationship of happy/sad - instead; Neuroscientist Dr. Richard Davidson suggests we should consider that positive and negative feelings exist separate scales of their own.
Critical to feelings of well-being, the ability to achieve a positive state is important. Considering a standard Bell Curve distribution of attributes, we can see that it most probably looks as follows.
No doubt we all know some people that somehow maintain their effervescent levels of positivity with ease, while others have a very tough time remaining positive even for a minute at a time. In the middle of the bell curve reside the majority of the population, who either skew towards finding a bit easier or a bit tougher depending on a whole range of physiological, social and psychological factors.
The opposite of not being able to sustain a positive state is not necessarily constantly maintaining a negative one. Rather the second scale relates to our ability to rebound from a negative state.
Resilience is not necessarily about rebounding from a negative state to a positive one, it is more about rebounding from a negative state to the middle-ground. A functional place that doesn’t negatively impact your ability to live your life. It might not be a joyous, hands in the hair, dance in the street positivity, but it absolutely is not being stuck down in the doldrums.
Understanding people who occupy opposing ends of these scales simultaneously can be challenging. Those bubbly, vibrant individuals who are mostly full of positive energy, but find it nearly impossible to bounce back from a negative state. Otherwise happy people who suddenly find themselves unable to cope with the onset of a negative state.
Conversely, there are individuals who find it hard to maintain a positive state for any length of time, but always, without fail, bounce back from negative states and show incredible resilience.
Each of us has the two scales inside of us. Understanding where we sit on both allows us to better work on solutions for either resilience or positivity. If you are someone who struggles to maintain a positive state, there are many practices you can do to maximise your time there.
A healthy diet, exercise, a meaningful social life, meditation and positive reflection, gratitude, avoiding stress etc, can all help.
Likewise, if you find yourself struggling to rebound from a negative state, all the above can be of significant use, as can speaking to someone, taking positive actions to remedy a negative situation and perhaps even stoic philosopher Epictetus can offer a thought to mediate on, focusing on what is in your control;
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquillity and outer effectiveness become possible.” – Epictetus
Take note of where you and others might sit on these scales, and use them to better judge what areas need the most attention. If you need help bouncing back from a negative state, there is no shame in seeking it, if you are resilient individual who finds it hard to live a joyous life, there is no shame in that either. If you rarely feel positive and can’t bounce back from a negative state, then you know that there are two separate things that you can work on, rather than needing to be positive first, you can first rebound from negativity, then find a positive state (or vice-versa).
When we look at positive/negative as individual characteristics, rather than opposite sides of the same coin, we are provided with wonderful tools to better understand not only our own needs, but the needs of others.
Keep smiling, keep looking after each other, keep paying attention and of course, Just Be Nice.
Why start the Just Be Nice Project? What is it all about? Being nice seems like a great premise for a business, but what does it mean?
The answer is relatively simple, we started it because at the end of the day, the simplest way for people to start making positive change in the world is to Just Be Nice. Not only through grand gestures, when it suits them, but to everyone, as often as possible.
Being nice is step one. Just be nice each day, wave when you’re let into traffic, smile and say thank you when you get your coffee, help your friends when they need a hand. Just Be Nice.
If everyone was nice, all the time, the world would be a much better place to live. Consistency is more important than intensity. It should become habit, so if you remember the time that you were nice, you are probably not being that nice.
Doing good however, is a slightly different proposition. Everyone can achieve the same level of being nice, because it’s about what you do. However, the truth is; not everyone can do the same amount of good.
Doing good is about helping others. Doing good is less about what you do and more about what happens for the person getting help.
In medical terms, being nice is the bedside manner. It is important, and it helps, but all the bedside manner in the world won’t cure a disease.
Doing good is treating the illness, and moving people from sick, to well.
Bedside manner, caring about those who are sick, and being nice, can be done by people with good intentions. People who want to hold hands and emotionally support people during tough times.
Treatments however, require hundreds if not thousands of people contributing to research and development, billions in equipment, infrastructure, hospitals, research facilities, studies, medicines etc. Each time we treat or cure a disease, it’s because people have dedicated their lives and skills to the cause.
In addition, the people who administer the treatments spend years at school and university to be able to treat these patients. The Doctors, nurses and support staff, are able to do more good as a result of their effort, training and support infrastructure.
The Just Be Nice Project is about bringing the two together. Bringing together the best of the big hearts, the caring and emotional support that humans need so badly, as well as bringing together the best in infrastructure and expertise to deliver ‘cures’ and ‘treatments’ to the disadvantaged. To facilitate the necessary long-term research and results driven testing to find the best ways to deliver people an equality of opportunity.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t just matter how much someone cares, you cannot ‘care’ someone better if you do not have the skills or resources to treat them. It also doesn’t work if you simply give someone a treatment, and not consider the fact that humans need more than some logistical boxes ticked to help them move from disadvantage to an equality of opportunity.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “The good life is one inspired by love, and guided by knowledge”. We agree. Without love we lack the impetus to care enough to acquire the knowledge for the good of others, but without the knowledge we are just bundles of misguided, ineffective intention.
“The good life is one inspired by love, and guided by knowledge” B. Russell
If you want to be nice, it is simple. Show compassion, pay attention, be empathetic, be nice to everyone you can, including people doing it tough. If you want to do good, take the time working out the best way to do that. Starting by understanding what you really excel at, then speaking to us about what things you could possibly do that make sense for your skill set. At the JBNProject, each day we bring people and organisations together, using their skills to do good, not just be nice. It’s the long way, and it takes time, but all good solutions take time, infrastructure and support. Building long term sustainable programs, we determine best practice to comprehensively move people from a situation of disadvantage to an equality of opportunity.
Remember, it starts with being nice, as close to all the time as you can!
Share, subscribe, or to find out more, get in touch with us today.
An EAP (Employee Assistance Program) is a service that employers can offer to employees (and sometimes their immediate family) to provide mental health support for issues that may arise in or out of the workplace for employees. Depending on the organisation, it may include access to a counsellor in person or over the phone. Typically there is a hotline available for staff members to call to speak to someone about any issues they may be having. These conversations are confidential, while the employers will know that the service has been used, they will not know who used it, or for what issue.
EAP's were created in the late 1930's to deal with alcoholism and have the value to staff, employers, mental health and productivity inside workplaces was soon made obvious.
EAP's can be contacted to discuss issues inside and outside of the workplace. Things like
Problems at work:
Any or all of these things can have an adverse impact on how you are feeling, the EAP's are a great place to go if you are unsure of where to take the first step in chatting to someone about issues you may be facing.
For employers, EAP's are a great resource, team leader, managers or even work mates can refer each other to these services to talk with professionals about issues that might not be easily spoken about in the workplace. Happy and healthy staff always create a more functional and inspiring workplace, so the EAP's can be a part of a health and wellness framework that looks after the most important people in your business.
As an employee, if you have access to a service like this, check to see whether it is available to your immediate family as well. You may wish to speak to an EAP if you need an ear, you may want to give your spouse or kids a chance to speak to someone anonymously and from the comfort of their phone. The EAP will work to identify the issues, help put a plan in place to deal with them and potentially provide ongoing support (depending on the cover that your employer has).
Employee Assistance Programs are a great resource, and when we are upskilling workplaces on best practice for mental health outcomes, it is always fantastic to be able to refer people internally to their EAP while improving their inter-personal skills at the same time.
Keep talking, Keep looking out for each other and as always, Just Be Nice.
For more information or to have the JBNProject come and help your organisation to Just Be Nice, contact us HERE.
*Photo by Taylor Grote on Unsplash
The Just Be Nice Project would like to welcome Victoria Polytechnic to the team!
Education and educational institutions play such an integral role in leveling the playing field of opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn't have it. The TAFE system in Australia has been plagued by exploitation, unscrupulous operators and even sub-standard delivery. TAFE SA recently had to suspend 14 of 16 courses reviewed due to poor performance.
Working with lower socio-economic groups and individuals who need flexible blended delivery education, workplace experience and skills and have not finished year 12 of high school, TAFE has the potential to fill the gap between formal education, workplace readiness and employment.
With the relaunch of the amazing hospitality facility at Vic Polytechnic in Footscray, the Just Be Nice Project is bringing together the expectations of the hospitality industry for the skills required for employment, the flexibility offered by the team at Vic Polytechnic and the needs of individuals who are seeking gainful employment.
Led by Shawn and Danette, the Vic Polytechnic Hospitality team is working to provide the gold standard of pathways to individuals in need of employment and hospitality skills. Providing the Just Be Nice Project the flexibility to bring together the needs of employers and individuals to deliver the right kind of training, in the right order for maximum employability as early as possible. We are so appreciative of the opportunity to change curriculum in order to meet the needs across the board of every stakeholder and deliver the best results all around. Keeping everyone doing what they are good at, in order to have the most impact possible.
A great asset to the Just Be Nice Project team, Victoria Polytechnic has fantastic facilities, including three state-of-the-art commercial kitchens with:
The latest cooking equipment
Two demonstration kitchens
A training bar
A 150 seat training restaurant, VenU, which was awarded best training restaurant in Victoria at the Restaurant and Catering awards.
We look forward to keeping everyone up to date with our developments in Melbourne's West with our hospitality and training partners, working towards employed, housed and happy individuals.
If you or someone you know is looking to do some good, have an impact and Just Be Nice.... Share this around and get in touch!
The Just Be Nice Project headed to the Keep Melbourne Moving forum, organised by the 'Journey Reliability Policy Chapter' of Roads Australia and hosted by Aurecon at their wonderful offices in the Docklands.
Around 80 individuals from various public, private and governmental stakeholders in infrast'ructure development were brought together to hear from presenters and a panel of experts on the future of journey reliability in Melbourne and Australia.
The workshop then opened up to groups of attendees to discuss and formulate responses to the issues of;
Economic and Population Growth.
Major Infrastructure Projects.
Land Use Planning.
Cost of Transport (We sat on this discussion).
It is important for us at the Just Be Nice Project to be a part of these discussions.The future of infrastructure development, as well as the projects themselves, present a number of challenges and opportunities for individuals, families and communities that are vulnerable to the effects of these changes. Rising public transport costs, slower transport times, rising costs of shipping, housing costs, costs of living and accessibility all affect vulnerable parties.
It was eye opening to see the different perspectives of the various interests in the room, interests from organisations as diverse as Vicroads, PwC, Laing O'Rourke Australia, LeadWest, Monash University, National Transport Commission, Professionals Australia, Victorian Transport Association, Yarra Trams etc.
There are many conflicting opinions across the board about the future of public transport, disruptive technology, PPP infrastructure development and what the best use of infrastructure should be. We offer a perspective that covers the needs and concerns of the most exposed members of the community, the people who are greatly affected by these opportunities.
In an engaging presentation by Sameem Moslih, Director of Journey Services at Vicroads, the notion of ‘Movement & Place’ was explained. This concept is used as a means of effectively triaging project importance based on whether a given location is important as a Place- a destination, a place where we want to encourage people to stay, or Movement- primarily a thoroughfare, a means of getting from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The CBD for instance is a combination of both a destination and a thoroughfare, so it has a complex set of ratings across every street/intersection and mode of transport. The Monash Freeway however is 100% for movement, and as such, all interventions and upgrades should be made with that in mind.
It turns out that 42% of movement on all the Vicroads maintained roads is done on 7% of the paved network, so investing in improving the movement on this infrastructure can be a much more economical use of development, than investing in smaller, localised traffic issues. Of course, this is where individual council concerns about their constituencies can be at odds with outcomes that might be responsible for more ‘greater good’. This of course makes for interesting negotiations.
It was interesting to note, that of the Vicroads 6 objectives, 2 of them are social - (Socio-Economic inclusion and Economic Prosperity).
We see time and time again in the prospectus, values and objectives of organisations, various social outcomes noted, often without an accompanying relevant chain of custody to the actual people who need assistance with their socio-economic development and inclusion. This provides us with great hope for the future as we push the envelope with new and innovative ways to bring the public, private and non-profit sectors together to actually improve the equality of opportunity for those in need through projects such as these. Managing impact right into these communities while being conscious of top level profit and developmental objectives, the needs of industry and the environment.
While there was much discussion about how to weight the importance of things like roads vs public transport, land use vs population sprawl and whether to first invest in infrastructure and then develop a community or vice-versa, the one point that came up again and again was that the resources that exist right now need to be managed far more efficiently.
We most certainly agree with that sentiment.
We look forward to continuing to work and develop strategies and programs for the increased infrastructure developments in Victoria. It would be an outrageous shame to have all this investment deliver projects without maximising the potential for providing opportunities to the marginal communities that could most use them. Long term investment in the people and communities of Australia is as important, if not more important, than simply building more infrastructure. To be able to do the two things simultaneously provides a moment in time to stimulate the economies of all the states in way that directly positively impacts these at-risk populations.
Check out the Roads Australia News Updates HERE.
Jump on the Aurecon ‘Just Imagine’ blog HERE.
The AustRoads Congestion and Reliability Report is available HERE.
Today we are pleased to hear the latest Podcast from Purposeful featuring Just Be Nice Project founder Josh Reid Jones.
It was a pleasure to be interviewed by Mike and discuss impact, social responsibility and being nice!
Listen below or follow the iTunes link - apple.co/2lhU5st
Like, Listen and share it around!
Effort Equals Improvement.
Effort equals improvement. It is a lesson that I have long believed to be one of the most important fundamental building blocks of not only success, but achievement in any aspect of life.
Working with at-risk youth, or even adults that come from a disadvantaged background, it is a lesson that all too often has been left out of their development. Given the incomplete nature of the educational and character development of individuals that grow up lacking opportunity, this is not a big surprise. It is however, a shocking surprise to see how few post-disadvantage programs address this fundamental developmental issue.
Teaching the correlation between effort and improvement takes two things… Effort and improvement. You have to provide an interesting avenue to young people to engage them in an activity, any activity, that allows them to begin the process of improving through concentrated effort. It might be boxing, it might be dancing, basketball, reading, maths or cooking. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as it is interesting and can improve with concentrated, guided effort over time.
In all honesty, we have attracted young men to boxing programs because they come in looking for ways to be better at fighting. Sure, we aren’t really trying to equip disengaged youth with better skills to go out and fight each other, but they will not improve at anything unless they are interested in it.
Once they are interested in improving, they have to put in the work. Even in resource-rich environments, working on tasks, skills and activities that you are interested in is easier than working on projects that you struggle to relate to. Once you have been putting in the work for a while, you will start to notice improvement. We are not looking for the next Jeff Horn, Jeff Fenech or Jeff Harding, (or any boxing world champions in particular) we are looking to actively engage youth in a process of learning what they are capable of with support and effort.
A side-effect of having put in work into something you are interested in, is that you are now invested in the process. Once you are invested, then as educators, supporters and mentors, we are able to help these individuals see the value of investing in other opportunities. We can use their investment as a means to help show that there can be consequences for their actions in a way that is not simply punishing them, but supporting them with consequences.
A classic example is the young man that trains hard in the gym, his boxing improves, his discipline gets better, his temper from day-to-day cools and he is invested in the process of being coached and improving his boxing. He then makes a mistake. Fighting at school, missing training, not doing his school work etc. Now we don’t ban this young man from training, we don’t tell him that he is no-good and doesn’t deserve these opportunities. We take him to the side and tell him that for the next week, he will be relegated to watching others train, mopping the floor and helping the coach. He will be learning, he will add value, but he will miss out on improving on his own skills fully.
This is a tale that has saved countless young people across the world, young people who lacked the opportunity to care enough about something for long enough to understand that being your best at everything, is the only way to potentially be the best at anything.
Working with an individual that understands, believes and has experienced effort equals improvement, we are able to turn their effort to almost any task. Whether it be vocational, educational or in relationships, with guided effort you can improve to be the best you can be at any given thing at all.
In communities where the correlations between scholastic improvement and employment outcomes are not so easy to see, playground skills can be a great gateway to the interest of at-risk youth. Boxing, backflips, free-throws, rapping and breakdancing can be the interest hook that starts moulding these young people into understanding that to improve, they need to embrace guidance and hard work.
Note that it is not arbitrary hard work, it is guided. Teachers, coaches, parents, uncles, aunties, youth workers and anyone who has connections to these individuals can take up the mantle of helping to guide their effort in the right direction for maximum returns. This provides a two-fold benefit, firstly they learn the all-important lesson of effort = improvement, secondly they are exposed to the long-term support of someone being invested in them. Caring enough to help someone progress is one of the biggest triggers for change in people who lack opportunity.
These interventions need to be long-term. Short-term programs find it hard to change the attitudes of people that otherwise have defaulted to their basic human natures of finding the path of least resistance and focusing on self-preservation rather than self-improvement. Long-term programs that focus on individual improvement rather than arbitrary outcomes are the most effective way to ensure at-risk communities become functioning, active participants in school, workplaces and their communities.
While it’s not imperative that young people direct the outcomes of their learning, they can certainly direct their interests. Through effective long-term engagement via interesting projects and skill development, we can change the entire life-time potential for youth and young adults from marginalised communities.
Long-term effort for improvement applies to those attempting to change the fortunes of those less fortunate. Just Be There, Just Pay Attention and of course Just Be Nice.
Just Be Nice Project Founder - Josh Reid Jones
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.