The Work Ethic

When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ then get busy and find out how to do it.

~ Theodore Roosevelt

A solid work ethic is built by stepping outside of one’s self, while simultaneously digging deep down into their personal resources for the work, to invest their skills, to leave the mark of quality on a task. Whether it’s cleaning your own home or building a monumental bridge, stamp it with visible integrity and pride. A strong ethic is about more than fulfilling your job description and satisfying the minimum.

The current “State of the Work Ethic” is somewhat of a dichotomy; on one hand, there are people working several jobs solely to meet basic expenses, and on the other, there is an apathetic, yet entitled culture interspersed to create an extremely multilayered workforce. This situation begs the question then: Where does it come from, and who contributes to its growth? Does it play into the Nature v. Nurture argument? These are extremely subjective questions, as are most virtue questions, but in my opinion, as both a parent and an educator, I believe that it starts at home with parents. Period. It is determined at birth by the expectations, attitudes, role modeling, and opportunities provided (i.e. chores, jobs, homework, community service, etc.).

We can live and function in a demanding society, but once we step foot through our front door, the examples and good habits of the day can melt away if the home environment does not support the workplace/school setting. In essence, our true work ethic is revealed at home, where we feel safe and accepted, because it’s where we were given the initial guidelines and limits, by our caregivers. It’s like the old saying, “Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.” It essentially defines your core beliefs.

Understandably, many parents want, and try, to give their children an easier and better childhood than they might have had. But are we really doing them a service by skipping this discipline-building, life skill step? Children then go off to school, and later, work, without this internal framework. We can teach a child about work ethics all day long, but we must also reinforce it, by working in concert, across every line in their life. The development of responsible citizens, and our future society’s health and welfare depend on it.

Some helpful suggestions:

The Seven A’s of a Good Work Ethic:

  • Appreciation – demonstrating your gratitude towards others
  • Attitude – staying positive in every situation
  • Attendance – showing you’re reliable in every phase of your life
  • Appearance – being professional both in the way you act, and the way you look
  • Ambition – taking initiative and adding value
  • Accountability – living honestly and having integrity with every decision you make
  • Acceptance – having respect and following direction

Fortunately, a simple work ethic benefits literally every area of your life: how much you invest in relationships, commitment to education and careers, parenting styles, and overall outlook on life (abundance attitude). It is a virtue that touches every other in profound ways, improving lives and ensuring a sustainable future. Let’s all live with a renewed awareness of the degree to which we live and work with good ethics.

In Peace,

Debra Tiffany








“The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”

Honor has a deeply meaningful place in our lives, whether it’s pledging allegiance to our country’s flag, attending the same schools as our family, how we celebrate holidays, living the Golden Rule, or simply living by the set of values handed down through the generations. Whether we grow up with them, or become adults and create them anew, Honor is the manner through which we exhibit our integrity. It has been said that Honor encompasses, and is the foundation of, every single virtue ~ it is the cornerstone from which all virtues extend. We have only to focus on this one pivotal value, and the rest naturally flow. To be Honorable is, above all, the strongest trait we pass to our children.

If we ask ourselves the following questions, we get a clear picture of where honor stands in our life: What and Whom do we honor? Where do we show Honor? When do we demonstrate Honor? Why do we Honor that person or thing? And most importantly, How do we show the Honor we feel inside? A revealing exercise for the Gratitude Journal, yes?!

Inspiration to live by:

Live With Honor

If you want to be known, then live with Passion.

If you want to be liked, live then with Enthusiasm.

If you want to be respected, then live with Integrity.

If you want to be admired, then live with Class.

If you want to be thought well of, then live with Sincerity.

If you want to be spoken well of, then live with Kindness.

If you want to be trusted, then live with Honesty.

If you want to be loved, then live with Humility.

If you want to be influential, then live with Strength.

If you want to be inspiring, then live with Courage.

If you want to be significant, then live with Intention.

If you want to be successful, then live with Purpose.

If you want to be happy, then live with Gratitude.

If you want to be fulfilled, then live with Excellence.

If you want to be revered, then live with Grace.

If you want to be remembered, then live with Honor.



The Lakota tribe was known as some of the greatest warriors of all time. They were feared in battle. Every young man was raised to be a warrior for the tribe. Within the tribe of warriors was a small group of men called the Red Shirt Warriors. The color red in Lakota culture stood for honor. They were the best of the best, a prestigious club that every young warrior wanted to strive to be a part of. Every four years, the Red Shirt Warriors extended an invitation to a select few of the young warriors to test themselves in order to be admitted to the group. The physical tests were difficult and not all those invited were able to pass. The first tests were ones that allowed the young warriors to demonstrate the skills of battle – marksmanship, horsemanship etc. But the last test to earn membership to the elite group was a difficult test of endurance. The test had a time limit of four days and was done during the hottest part of the year. Each young warrior was sent out by themselves, without food or water and only a knife for protection and told to follow a well-known path to a high shale cliff. They were instructed to climb the high cliff and recover a red sash that had been tied to a stone at the top of the mountain. Their goal was to recover the sash from the top of the cliff and return to camp with it within the four day time period. Little did they know that the tribal elders had actually placed two red sashes on the mountain. One rolled up tied red sash that when unfurled was about 6 feet long had been placed at the top of the mountain on the high cliff (which is the one they were instructed to return with), and one rolled up tied red sash that when unfurled was only about 3 feet long which had been placed at the bottom of the mountain just off the side of the trail and easily gotten. Because of the difficulty and distance, the young warriors would usually get back by sunset of the fourth day, exhausted, thirsty and hungry. Upon arriving back to the tribe and before they were given any food or water, they were escorted into the lodge of the Red Shirt Warriors and asked to present the sash they had recovered. According to their stories, no one being tested ever returned without a red sash. The sash was to be held tightly in their hands. The young man was asked to hold one end of the sash at head height and let it unfurl toward the ground. If it extended all the way to the ground, the man had gained membership and was considered a Red Shirt Warrior. If it did not reach the ground, he was denied membership, and never allowed another opportunity to join the elite group. No explanation was given to the ones denied and no explanation was ever needed, because it wasn’t just a test of endurance, but more importantly, a test of honor.


When all is said and done, we have only our Honor to stand on, for it speaks for itself, with acts of kindness, the courage to live with conviction, and the teachings for future generations, our future. Ingrain it in your mind, and capture its essence with fire in your heart!

In Peace,

Debra Tiffany


“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

– C.S. Lewis

Humility ~ a character trait, a demeanor essentially, so gingerly referred to, feeling cautious and fragile, is actually one of great strength. It is highly subjective, leaving one to decide upon and manifest its beauty on an extremely personal level.

I believe that we need to examine how we would like our children to grow up, and if we are honest, we would probably say “As a reflection of, if not better than, ourselves.” This calls up introspection, a confrontation with our own level of humility, and how we treat others. Do our young see it in our behavior and attitude? Could we put some, if not all, of our pride in check for the sake of strengthening our example? Being down to earth, with a touch modesty, is in my opinion, the tender innocence we strive to see our children possess. It is not just an attribute, but a way of life, an expression of our souls.  Supporting our children means living it forwards and backwards, without question or qualification.

Here are several simply ways to teach, practice, and embrace it:

  • Swallow your pride
  • Don’t allow circumstances to lead to you to losing your grace
  • Stop talking and allow the other person to be in the limelight
  • Practice these three magic words: You are right
  • Q: Is your correction of others a reflection of your own needs?
  • Seek others’ input on how you are coming across. Ask: “How am I doing?” It takes humility to ask such a question. And even more humility to consider the answer.
  • Encourage the practice of humility…through your own example


When you are sincerely invested in helping others, being humble is part of your make-up, for they naturally go hand in hand. So let’s help each other by giving our future generations the gift of kindness through the tenderness of humility.

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

~ Thomas Merton

In Peace,

Debra Tiffany


Empathy & Compassion


“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  Dalai Lama


Concern for others lies at the heart of these two precious virtues. Our words and actions towards each other demonstrate who we are as human beings and affect how we communicate. They are the ultimate mark of great leaders and outstanding citizens.

Although closely intertwined, empathy is the ability to relate to another’s suffering or situation, while compassion is what we do with that understanding. You might see someone in a difficult, or painful, situation, and think to yourself, “Boy, do I remember how tough that was,” empathizing with heartfelt sympathy, the proverbial ‘walking in another’s shoes’, or actually feeling sympathy pains. You don’t have to actually experience it firsthand to imagine it though. The act of doing something to alleviate that person’s struggle, however, is the compassion that follows.

There are infinite examples all around us, such as a sick neighbor. We can all relate, but do we take the initiate to bring them chicken soup, offer to run to the store or pharmacy for them, watch their children, walk their dog, etc.???  We have only to look no further than your own homes sometimes, neighborhood, community, state, country, and world to find immediate suffering. The daily news floods us with the trying circumstances of many.

Fortunately, we are capable of assisting, and of growing and benefiting in the process:

. You learn from other people’s experiences, as well as your own.
• Build better rapport, with more natural interest in other people.
• Strengthen your trust of others and their trust for you.
• Easier to make new friends, have better relationships.
• People are more forthcoming and open with you.
• Creates better collaboration and teamwork when solving problems.
• More natural respect for everyone.
• Every social interaction becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.
• Greater spiritual growth and a more fulfilling life.
• Deeper perspective into other people’s points of view.
• More understanding of yourself and others.
• Strengthen emotional intelligence.
• Boost overall happiness.
• More personal and professional success.


Joan Halifax exquisitely outlines the nature of compassion & empathy on TED:

We can all become stronger in these critical emotional areas by practicing altruism (the selfless process of focusing on others), acts of kindness, and meditation. We know that to function without an agenda is to sincerely serve, and acknowledging the struggles of others (empathy), and reaching out to help resolve it (compassion), is what we must aim for. Like Joan said in her TED talk, “Why are we not teaching our children these indispensable virtues?” Humanity depends on it…

With much care,

Debra Tiffany









Patience, My Dear

“Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention.”
― Paulo Coelho


Patiently, this beautiful virtue lies wrapped in our bustling world, like a cache, waiting for exercise and appreciation. It improves our decision making, builds empathy and compassion for others, strengthens self-control and perseverance, and greatly enhances the relationships in our lives.

The ability to wait, however, seems to be slipping out of our hurried grasp. Almost gone are the days of anxiously waiting for an endearing letter, saving for something special, or simply taking a deep breath and giving thought to a response. For there is now instant/impersonal communication (which can be a double-edged sword), off-the-chart credit spending, and a disregard for common courtesy and respect in conversation. This is in large part due to instant gratification, the ugly cousin of patience. To demand, or need, immediate satisfaction is to forfeit oh-so-rewarding anticipation, and integrity.

Patience can be a personality trait, or gained through self-disciplined daily practice. Below is a helpful list of Patience Building Exercises:

Tips on How to Develop Patience

  • Take an entire day where you make patience your goal
  • Be present
  • Slow down
  • Breathe
  • Practice delaying gratification…and ask yourself if it’s a want or a need
  • Practice thinking before you speak
  • Learn how to fish
  • Get a slow pet
  • Garden…plant a seed and care for it until it bares fruit
  • Play an old fashioned board game
  • Eat a 12 ounce chocolate bar in a month
  • Put together a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle
  • Set dates for craves

The Marshmallow Test (watch immediately, a sure classic!)

How then do we silence this obnoxious relative called instant gratification? Will they melt away with water, like the dark wicked witch? Are we to patiently tolerate this noisy beast? Modeling alone is sadly insufficient, so serious intrinsic & extrinsic incentives are needed, “the” payoff, if you will.

They come in the forms of: stronger character, increased trust from others, reduced stress, le$$ debt, a sense of accomplishment when you’ve arrived at your goal, the treat you were saving for, anticipation, greater fortitude and restraint, and kindly giving yourself the gift of calm and peacefulness.

The patience we exercise in ourselves and with others, essentially displays the level at which we live life with virtue, and is worth every ounce we give it.

In Peace,

Debra Tiffany


In Service

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t need to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Living and working in the service of others is, among countless things, an extremely effective method of teaching the virtues. It provides opportunity for modeling, practical application, and the deep internalization of meaning and purpose. When we serve, we not only contribute to and improve the conditions of others, but we inevitably invite them into our hearts and lives…we share ourselves with another human being and we are both touched as a result. In Peace Corps, they tell you right out of the gate that you will gain unimaginably more than you’ll be able to give. No truer words were ever spoken, for we came away from our humbling experiences with immeasurable personal growth and a greater understanding of universal human need.

We are fortunate to have so many organizations that provide such education and opportunity in this country: Peace Corps, Scouting, Americorp, Mercy Corps, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs, the YMCA, schools, libraries, environmental groups, shelters, soup kitchens, and many more. It can also be as simple as helping a sick neighbor, volunteering at the local senior center or hospital, or working in a community garden.

Another unique opportunity is Global Youth Service Day, Friday, April 15, 2016. With the current US population at 323 million, there would be 3,230,000 people helping our communities at the same time if 1% of the Americans volunteered on Global Youth Service Day, or any other…imagine!

Personal Benefits of Serving

  • Allows those participating to reflect on the difference they are making in society
  • Gain a greater understanding of their role in the community
  • Impact of their contributions towards those in need of service
  • Exposure to many different kinds of people, environments, and situations
  • Skills and knowledge obtained while working with the community may be applied in future areas of work
  • May increase a participant’s social connectivity…and help volunteers network and connect with others towards a common goal
  • A more well-rounded worldview
  • Greater understanding and appreciation for diversity, other cultures and breaking down stereotypes is important to becoming a responsible citizen and better person
  • Empathy for others


The beauty of service is that the vast range of virtues is employed in a single act, much like an act of kindness. It potentially encompasses: acceptance, empathy, compassion, caring, consideration, friendliness, generosity, helpfulness, humility, integrity, kindness, love, modesty, patience, sincerity, purposefulness, respect, trustworthiness, understanding, and unity. The list is inspiring in and of itself, much less attainable from one service!

In closing, your assignment this week is to find and complete one community service, revel in the joy of helping others, document it in your Gratitude Journal, and then plan your next service. Let’s never forget that ‘We are our neighbor’.

In Service,


21st Century Skills & Virtues

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

~ Albert Einstein


What does it mean to be 21st century ready? It refers to a general skill set that clearly applies to every human being, regardless of age or technological ability (trust me, I know!). It’s a modern balance of both the soft skills (behavior/virtue), and the hard skills (technical). It also falls under the Fundamentals umbrella, as it encompasses, and requires, a vast range of virtues: open-mindedness, perseverance, acceptance, tolerance, collaboration, respect, and patience, to name but a few.

It’s a lifestyle shift from the dogmatic/algorithmic mindset to a more pragmatic and creative/innovative way of operating day-to-day, of letting go, thinking outside the proverbial box, being wildly imaginative, daydreaming uninhibitedly, painting with every color, and reflecting. It’s contemporary, state-of-the-art critical thinking.

Given the new millennial school-to-work/adult environment, do we keep the existing virtues, or follow with more progressive virtues, adapt the classics, or create a whole new array of expectations? We now have email etiquette, so do we recategorize them into technology-based and in-person interaction virtues? And who determines what they are, or should be? How does the Golden Rule survive in this new setting?


21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits, and character traits that are believed—by educators, school reformers, college professors, employers, and others—to be critically important to success in today’s world:

  • Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information
  • Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning
  • Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression
  • Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative
  • Oral and written communication, public speaking and presenting, listening
  • Leadership, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, facility in using virtual workspaces
  • Information and communication technology (ITC) literacy, media and internet literacy, data interpretation and analysis, computer programming
  • Civic, ethical, and social-justice literacy
  • Economic and financial literacy, entrepreneurialism
  • Global awareness, multicultural literacy, humanitarianism
  • Scientific literacy and reasoning, the scientific method
  • Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding
  • Health and wellness literacy, including nutrition, diet, exercise, and public health and safety


Howard Gardner, a Harvard Developmental Psychologist and Professor of Education, has just written Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Education for the Virtues in the 21st Century, which correlates with today’s topic seamlessly. He discusses the evolving nature and relevance of all three pivotal virtues, and how they relate to our digital world. He has also critically revisited his own work of many years, and consequently recognized and modified his perspective to meet the more contemporary definitions and demands.

The classics are classics for a reason, but just as importantly, progress deserves a seat at the table as well. We must address the changing landscape and the virtues we operate with in it. We are heading for some exciting discoveries in medicine, global communication, travel, technology, education, you name it, but it warrants new parameters of thought and behavior, and if that means retaining the foundational virtues (which I believe it does), or reinventing and updating them, so be it, but it is currently on our plate. We see changes in our young, and they need guidance now.

Reflection then, offers direction and support, and with that, new goals. Let’s embrace this challenge with vigor and enthusiasm.

In Hope,

Debra Tiffany



What is love, if not the single most fulfilling emotion we experience? Whether it’s with our significant other, our children, pets, neighbors, or friends, we naturally thrive when we are immersed in it. When we give and receive it, our lives are enrichened beyond wonder. We have only to look into the eyes of a baby or an animal to see and feel the depths of this phenomenal part of our being.

Love is what poems, stories, movies, and music are written about, what we search for a home in, and what art is created for…we simply live for it.

Love doesn’t just encompass the virtues, it securely stands on its own, in glorious splendor. It is expressed in infinite ways, all the way from a smile to a lifetime spent together. My grandparents were married for 50 and 63 years respectively, and love was what built their histories of romance, family, challenge, and joy.

In Colombia, Love & Friendship Day is celebrated on September 17th, much like our Valentine’s Day. Cards, candy and flowers are exchanged with all whom have a place in your heart, making it an opportunity to share feelings of love and devotion with everyone. It was wonderful to be there and celebrate both holidays with our dear friends, and to show them how we treasure our special day here.

Lovely quotes…

“Where there is love there is life.”  Mahatma Gandhi

“To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” David Viscott

“Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

And in true Peace Corps fashion:

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” Frederick Buechner


When we love each other, we bring the gift of meaning and purpose to ours and the lives of many, and complete ourselves. Thank you all for your loving friendship…it fills me every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!



RESPECT ~ the Ultimate Virtue

Aretha Franklin knew it, we learned it, so why doesn’t the younger generation know it???

RESPECT is defined as: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. A way of treating or thinking about yourself and others.

We’re left then to wonder why today’s youth does not find it, or seek it, in or outside of themselves. We know that it begins with self-RESPECT, yet a climate of indifference and apathy lingers today, one that urgently demands address …hence today’s post.

There is great value in teaching independence, self-sufficiency, discovering and living as your own person, and the like. However, RESPECT is on the adult menu! We need to have it when we arrive, meaning that we need to learn this indispensable virtue from day one.

Fortunately, RESPECT is taught by the entire family, school system, and community around us, so the resources are infinite. Unfortunately, even with all of these nurturing sources, this current virtue deficit has reached a point of requiring ‘us’ to Train the Trainer, referring to the formal and informal training of educators and parents to effectively teach RESPECT. Many children are coming to school lacking even the basic awareness of what RESPECT is, much less demonstrating the appropriate behavior.

Child and teen development expert, Dr. Robyn Silverman outlines the basic steps:

10 Parenting Tips for Teaching Respect and Curbing Disrespect:

Model it

Expect it

Teach it

Praise it

Discuss it

Correct it

Acknowledge it

Understand it

Reinforce it

Reward it




It looks easy on paper, but ultimately the task lies on each of our shoulders, beginning in our own mirror. Reflection goes hand in hand with this powerful virtue. It’s something we should do every day, and continually when teaching it. If only the young could observe ALL adults living by the Golden Rule…

RESPECT gives us inner strength and peace, quality relationships, and a more interesting life. It’s what trust is built upon.  And with so much diversity today, we would do well to expand our thinking, embrace and show acceptance of what and who we do not know, and it all starts from a foundation of RESPECT.

Let’s go into the new week with a renewed sense of RESPECT, and of how we’re sharing it with others…especially our children.


“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” ~Laurence Sterne


Debra Tiffany

Accountability 101

Who doesn’t appreciate a nice sincere “Owning Up???” I’ve told my students countless times, “No one ever got hurt taking responsibility and admitting to a mistake.” On the contrary, it well serves to build trust, respect, reliability, friendship, and loyalty, among many other virtues. It is from where we experience great personal growth, and in turn, become effective mentors.

In teaching this monumental virtue, modeling alone falls far short, and simply telling a child/youth that being accountable demonstrates integrity doesn’t always cut it. So, the $60 million question: how do we promote value in the act of being accountable? We discuss and create a heightened awareness by spotlighting the humble person who confesses, who is human enough to expose themselves with the truth, can laugh at their own mistakes, who brings to light and corrects a mistake or flaw, and who shines brightly with integrity.

Accountability, stated so eloquently by others:

“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” Mahatma Ghandi

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” Abigail Van Buren

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” Moliere

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.”         Michael Armstrong

In keeping with the Fundamental theme then, we should feel compelled to live and exemplify this foundational virtue, and impart it not just to our young, but to anyone who had minimal reinforcement growing up. For if we all demonstrated this one virtue, the rest would happily fall into place.

Much Peace,