Life is Like This
I recently—finally—finished the second edition of A Preparation Guide for the Assessment Center Method, Charles C. Thomas Publishers. (Assessment Centers are processes often used in public safety promotional testing and there is far more to being prepared for them than many people realize.) Michael Thomas, Editor-In-Chief, had been gently encouraging me to finish the second edition since, oh, about 2006. By 2012 I felt quite guilty and in February, 2013, I essentially rewrote the whole thing.
A 38 MB document with 3 MB of text. In the process of rewriting the book I changed headings, styles, chapters, table of contents, bold to italics, italics to bold, lists to text, text to lists and rewrote some chapters several times. As I worked, my Word program became slower and slower and froze up repeatedly. I blamed my old computer. Finally, the document looked perfect! I felt elated as I saved the last tweaked page. Then, I noticed that my document was 38 MB! That couldn’t be right!
I cut and pasted each chapter into another document. The sum of all the chapters was 3 MB. When I looked at the Properties of the remaining blank document I saw that it was 0 pages, 0 paragraphs and 0 characters, but those 0 items totaled 35 MB.
What went wrong: At some point, “Track Changes” had been checked on that document. In addition, in the process of making changes but not closing the document correctly on a few occasions, the file had become corrupted. The result was that the page on the screen was blank and the Properties information showed no text, but underneath it all, behind the scenes in that document, there was 35 Megabytes of stuff and things. It was errors I thought I had eliminated and poorly written text that I certainly did not want to be part of my perfect document. I still have that blank bunch of junk in a file folder, as a reminder about myself and those with whom I communicate every day.
The junk and corruption behind the pages of your life. Benjamin Franklin once said he would live his life from beginning to end in the same general way. Then, he added, “All I would ask should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain errors of the first.”
Many of us spend our time trying to rewrite, edit, improve and correct our lives. We swear to clean up our act and move forward in a better way—and often we do. But, we can’t un-check the “Track Changes” button in our bodies and brains. It’s all there, behind the scenes, often slowing us down and freezing us up and we don’t even know why. Even when we correct mistakes, something is left behind.
We’re all big messes. The same thing is true in the lives of those with whom we interact. We see one thing but underneath is something quite different. We can’t know what is underneath, but it is at least good to remind ourselves regularly that it is there. My friend, Jeff Adams, pastor of Graceway Church in Kansas City, Missouri, often says, “We’re all pretty much big messes and it’s a wonder God loves any of us.”
We are millions or billions of Megabytes of errors, corrections, junk and corrupted material, hidden by tidy margins, nice headings and carefully edited text.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote to his daughter, after she told him how a mistake from her past was still haunting her:
Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; but get rid of them and forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, and you should never encumber its potentialities and invitations with the dread of the past. You should not waste a moment of today on the rottenness of yesterday.
I agree with that sentiment, for the most part. But, Mr. Emerson never used Word.
Type the story of your life carefully–this isn’t a draft version.
Joe Tichio has created Greatest Inspirational Quotes: 365 Days to more Happiness, Success and Motivation. It would make a wonderful and very inexpensive ($2.99) gift for yourself and others who have a Kindle or a Kindle reader on their computers. I have free Kindle readers on my laptop and desk computers, so I can read electronically without buying another electronic item.
Here is the Amazon link: http://amzn.com/B00ARPYS6K. The author’s website is http://www.greatest-inspirational-quotes.com, and that is a wonderful resource as well. He seems to have insights, knowledge and skills in a wide range of things related to self-improvement, motivation and inspiration, and this collection is an outgrowth of that.
I have had a few calendars with daily quotes, which would give me 365 of them right on my desk. Unfortunately, I always forget to flip the pages on calendars and I don’t like to sit and read through each day all at once. So, at the end of the year, they’ve gone unread. Mr. Tichio took care of that, by giving them to me in an easy-to-read e-book, which I like and have read several times already, marking some good ones to use in my own writing and presenting at some time.
One of my favorites is #250, from the late, Stephen Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
Until a person can say deeply and honestly, “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,” that person cannot say, “I choose otherwise”.
Quote collectors like me tend to be very
hypercritical conscientious about correct attribution. Sadly, the use of the Internet has spread incorrectly attributed quotations like shredded cheese on top of an extra-large pizza. (That’s my Mickey Spillane impersonation.) It really is no wonder we’ve lost track of who said what, especially after someone more modern and famous has said it in an ever-so-slightly-different way or a zillion quotation sites have taken the easy way out and just attributed everything to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison or Confucius.
You may remember, a few months ago I wrote about Mary Jean Irion’s famous lines, nearly always mistakenly attributed to Mary Jean Iron,who does not exist. If possible, I try to find the original text so I can read it in context, as I did with Ms. Irion’s book.
I’ve written to Mr. Tichio to tell him I liked the collection a lot—there are at least 300 unique ones, so this isn’t just a rehash, as many quotation books tend to be—and I told him I believe I could offer alternatives to a few attributions. (I’m open to counter-arguments!) After reading all of the quotations you will probably feel so positive, uplifted and inspired, you won’t want to be as picky as I notoriously am!
Greatest Inspirational Quotes: 365 Days to more Happiness, Success and Motivation, will be an excellent addition to any library and especially useful for pastors, teachers, leaders and all of us who have similar great thoughts but simply cannot put them into the best words. This book will give you the words.
Greatest Inspirational Quotes, by Joe Tichio: http://amzn.com/B00ARPYS6K.
Three Ways to Be More Safe and Secure In Any Situation
Whether you’re concerned about potential violence in a workplace, school or church, or harmful situations of any kind, anywhere, there are three bits of advice that can help you detect potential harm and react to it more effectively:
1.) Live defensively
2.) Observe with purpose.
3.) Treat everything that looks or sounds threatening or harmful, as real.
1. Live defensively. You are able to drive defensively without feeling terrified and without making your passengers feel afraid because of your excessiveness. However, if you stop thinking about dangers and hazards and drive heedlessly, you are more likely to cause accidents or be part of a crash. The same concept can apply to the way you live and the way you encourage your children to live. It’s not about unnecessary fright and dread, it’s about realistic planning, necessary awareness and reasonable precautions.
Make it a personal habit to think: Assessment, Prevention, Detection, Protection, Response.
2. Observe with purpose. Yogi Berra was correct when he said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Observation with purpose focuses on who or what is around you, who or what is approaching you, who or what may have an effect on you, and who or what might unexpectedly appear, including hazards of all kinds. Be aware of unsafe conditions, even if you are the only one who seems to be noticing. Don’t assume that someone else would have surely done something by now if there was danger.
When you’re looking at people, do a total look for appearance, unusual movement or unusually standing still, a look at the face to detect attention or emotion and a look at the hands to see contact with clothing, items being held or readiness to use the hands.
3. Treat everything that looks or sounds threatening or harmful as real. If an activity or situation seems to be dangerous or potentially harmful, stop it if you can and ask for an immediate investigation or inspection. Appropriately warn others who may not be aware of the danger. When you sense a harmful situation, trust your instincts and protect yourself and those in your care.
If someone does or says anything that indicates a reasonable potential for harm, assume there will be harm and take appropriate action immediately–usually calling 911 or yelling for help, followed by flight, fight or taking cover, according to the circumstances or threat.
If you were correct, help is on the way no matter what else happens. If you were incorrect, you may stop a repeat of the falsely threatening situation or an actual future incident. At least you will show that you were observing with purpose and ready to take action.
There are many other things that can add to your safety and security and the safety of those for whom you are responsible. These three can provide a good foundation for everything else you do.
Who and what do you remember the most on New Year’s Eve?
New bike for Christmas-1981
Let's ride! Yippee!!
What's the matter with this bike??
One of my favorite Christmas cards has always been the one that says, with a bit of a smile and a lot of melancholy…
Never a Christmas morning,
Never an old year ends,
But someone thinks of someone,
Old days, old times, old friends.
I often avoid thinking of old days, old times, old friends, to keep from missing them too much and dimming some of the fun of the holiday season. However, it seems that on New Year’s Eve, no matter how busy I am, those memories knock on the door and insist upon coming in for a visit.
For the last few years I’ve made us a cup of tea and at least tried to welcome them. I find that it helps if I invite some fun-loving memories too–like the photos above of my daughter, Shannon, on the Christmas she got her first bicycle.
Perhaps the best thing we can do each year is to realize that on the next Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, there will be new memories joining the old ones. I hope in 2013 your life and work–and mine–will be so exceptional in every good way that the memories will be welcome additions to the party. Best wishes!
I posted an article about the Burma Road in May of 2008. This week President Obama became the first U.S. President to visit Myanmar–an outreach trip that has gotten positive and negative comments on all sides, but is certainly historic and significant. After I received several emails this weekend, reminding me of the concepts I expressed in this article, I decided to revisit Burma myself!
Several years ago I spoke at a meeting of Veterans of the China-Burma-India Campaign from World War II. Some of them had been engineers involved in the building of the Ledo Road, later called the Stilwell Road which improved and connected to the Chinese portion of the Burma Road. Now you see why it has been described as one of the greatest engineering feats of WWII–and perhaps in any war.
The Ledo road portion of the Stilwell road ran about 1,100 miles in every kind of environmental condition from jungle to mountain top, and was built by 15,000 American soldiers and engineers (60% who were African-Americans) and 35,000 local workers.
In brief, here is the story: It was built to move supplies from India to China, through Burma. It was a vital supply line for our friends the Chinese, through the nation of our other friends, the Burmese, who we wanted to liberate from our bitter enemies, the Japanese, as we fought with our Allied friends Great Britain and Russia against the Axis powers, including our other bitter enemies, the Germans. (Great Britain had “annexed” Burma after a war in the late 1800s, and exiled the rulers to India.)
I’m not being flippant when I say this: Doesn’t it seem, throughout history and up until today, that we could save a lot of lives, property, money and heartache, if, every time there is a conflict, we could pretend that it is 50 years in the future and we’re allies? (Update note: The visit by President Obama may signal another change in relationships with this area.)
The Veterans group I spoke to years ago were a wonderful group of men and a few women, and they were patriotic and enthused about life. They laughed and sang and had a great time. One of them was talking to me about the 1,100 people, both soldiers and locals, who died while building the road. (Terrible construction accidents were a daily event, as were malaria outbreaks and strafing by Japanese planes.) He said, “It was Hell most of the time, now that I think about it. But in a strange way it was fun. We all had a job to do and we did it faster and better than anyone thought we could.”
Shortly after Buma was liberated and after they gained independence from the British Colonial system, the road stopped being used and the jungle reclaimed large portions of it. Many said the lives lost were even more tragic when one considered how little time the road was used and what became of our relations with China and Myanmar (as Burma is now called by the military government). Nevertheless, it was extremely valuable at the time. It was also a monument to brave men and women, doing the best they could in an incredibly challenging situation.
Since May 3rd, 2008, when Cyclone Nargis destroyed large portions of coastal regions, you have likely read a great deal about Myanmar. You know now, if you did not before, how repressive (one might even say, murderous) the military government is. Myanmar is also a country of tremendous religious intolerance, and non-Buddhists (entire communities are involved in some cases) are not only persecuted, they are exterminated when possible–statements to the contrary by government leaders notwithstanding! (Buddhist monks who are opposed to the current military regime are also being persecuted and executed.)
(Update note: This is evidence that even a faith that is viewed by most as peaceful, loving and accepting can be used by hateful and violent people. A chilling warning for people of all faiths.)
Ironically, because the nation is so undeveloped, from the viewpoint of industrialization, utilities, transportation and other aspects of a supportive infrastructure, it also is a natural preserve for many animals and birds that are no longer found elsewhere.
You can read about Burma/Myanmar on many websites, and I encourage you to do so–I will refrain from picking and choosing the links for you, because views vary and not everything can be substantiated. Perhaps this recent tragedy will finally bring the conditions of Mayanmar to the attention of the world and every respectable country will become involved in finding solutions. (Update note: I’m glad America is opening a door.)
While you are reading, read about the Ledo Road. It is a fascinating part of history. But read it with respectful remembrance as well, especially as we continue to honor those who serve in the military. As you look at the 24 switchbacks of the Ledo Road, think of the grit and determination involved in building it. Say thank you–about 45 times for every torturous curve in the road.
Thomas Jefferson, like all Presidents–and the rest of us–expressed many opinions that could be isolated and used to support almost anything. So, I’m not suggesting that this one quotation is a summation of all he believed. However, since he said it in the second paragraph of his first Inaugural Address it undoubtedly was a priority for him.
The sentiments could be applied after most elections, at any governmental level and in any organization, and are worthy of our sincere consideration.
Let us then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.
And let us reflect, that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little, if we countenance a political intolerance, as despotic, as wicked, and as capable of bitter persecutions.
Be Courteous About When You Send Emails and Text Messages.
This is a simple request on behalf of employees everywhere who have their evenings and weekends disturbed by emails and texts from bosses and sometimes from coworkers or colleagues: Please don’t do that, unless it’s an emergency. Wait until working hours and let people enjoy their time away from work. While you’re at it, put your non-emergency work away and enjoy your life, too.
I’ve had to learn that lesson myself. I do a lot of emailing in the evening, which wasn’t a problem when email only was accessed from computers at work. But several years ago I realized I was getting responses at all hours from people who heard the little email or text chime on their phone, were interrupted or awakened anyway and decided to answer right then. They weren’t obligated to respond, but the fact was that my message was an intrusion.
Worse is when an employee is home and the text or email is of the variety that starts with, “See me about this!” Or, “Why is this being done this way??” After one or two of those in a weekend, the fun is over.
The bottom line: Unless the situation is such an emergency that the employee must be awakened, stopped from having dinner, or interrupted while relaxing, write the message and save it in drafts to send the moment their working hours start.
Yes, yes, I know there are exceptions and time differences and problems with remembering drafts and all of that, but you understand the idea: Show some respect for those to whom you’re sending an email or text. If it’s after their working hours, it’s the wrong time to send it. They’ll appreciate you when they hear everyone else complaining and they realize the people they work with are much more courteous than that.
I remember when I approached this opening at the Denver Botanic Gardens. There was a mystical feeling in the air along with the heavy, humid fragrance of flowers and moss. The reality lived up to the promise. It was the orchid room at sunset, while they were misting the air for the night. I could almost see faeries dancing!
At the time, I was reminded of the thought by John Pearson in a wonderful book of photography and prose, in the late 1970s: “Of magic doors there is this: You do not see them, even as you are passing through.” Nine years later, the photo brings back the same thoughts and I can recall several fateful doors through which I’ve passed.
Take a few moments now and then to consider how many “magic” doors you have passed through, often at a rapid pace, sometimes more thoughtfully. Those are the doors that have taken you from one part of your life or work to the next. They are also like the door you may be approaching today or this week. Pay attention and see if you can feel or see the transition. Is that the direction you really want to go? Is this a moment you should savor?
No decision is a throw-away. No change at work is free of lingering results. You may hear the echoes of today’s judgments years from now–probably decades from now. If you have principles to guide you and a keen eye fixed on your ultimate goals, you will be much more likely to find yourself on the other side of an unseen door, looking at something even better in your life and work. That’s my wish for you and me both!
Early in my career with the Denver Police Department (in the early 1970′s), I worked for a short time in an assignment that reported to Chief of Police George Seaton. He had a meeting with all of us and told us that for a few months he wanted us to be out and about during each shift, observing officers and their work and letting him know of any glaring problems related to procedures.
Among his directions were: We should be obvious, not giving the appearance of sneaking around; we should assist with arrests and reports when we could; we should never appear to approve of something that we knew to be a violation of a rule or policy. Above all, he wanted us to write commendatory notes every time we could justify it.
He said, “I learned that when I was a sergeant”, (which would have been in about the early 1950′s) “You have to give people a reason to want you observing them. If you always correct something they’ll dread seeing you. If they know you’ll usually say ‘well done’, they’ll look forward to having you come by and before long they’ll connect the idea of you observing them with them doing good work.”
Someone in the group said, “But Chief, no matter what we do or say they’ll think we’re spying on them and trying to get them in trouble. What can we do about that?”
Chief Seaton said (probably using a lot of profanity, since that was something he was noted for), “Not a damned thing! But, some of them will understand and the others will at least know the truth, even if they don’t say it.”
All of Chief Seaton’s advice, then and at other times, has been useful many times in my professional life. I have mentioned his advice from that day in many classes for supervisors and managers. It still holds true: If you are going to do MBWA, management by walking around, to use a Tom Peters term, make those you visit look forward to seeing you.
*Make it separate from times you are required to go to an employee’s work area to ask about something. Be purposeful about what you’re doing.
*Don’t waste your time or their time with unnecessary small talk.
*See how things are going and ask a sincere question or two, if appropriate.
*Ask the reason behind something that seems to be wrong.
*Ask for correction of anything serious enough that to continue it would be harmful in some way.
*Make a mental note to consider small-scale concerns later.
*Say or do something that means, “well done”.
*Move on and let everyone get back to work.
Thanks for the advice, Chief Seaton!