Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Some Days You Are The Bird And Some Days You Are The Moth

A Casey McCorison photograph: Costa Rica 2009
A Casey McCorison photograph: Costa Rica 2009

Have you ever been buzzing around at work, taking care of business (you thought), figuring things were going OK and that you were on track with your professional relationships, your career and your reputation, when—zap!–you were hit by criticism, an attack you never expected or a negative event of crisis proportions in your life or career?

Have you ever been responsible for giving an employee bad news about work, administering a disciplinary action or intervening about behavior or performance that must be corrected immediately?  Have you ever investigated something and realized the end result was going to be negative for an employee? Have you ever inadvertently or purposely snapped back at someone unexpectedly or used your influence or authority to thwart them in something they were trying to do that you didn’t like or didn’t think was right?

Many of us have experienced going to work and thinking things seemed fine–but by the end of the day everything had changed for the worse. It can be a frightening, upsetting and life shaking experience.  Sometimes, like the photo above, we are seen as the one who is responsible for the turn of events and sometimes we are the one who gets stopped in our tracks. Either way it can have a long-term negative effect on how we feel about ourselves, others and work.  

The situation may be so bad we can’t do anything but wait it out and hold on to the reality that something else will overshadow it eventually. However, we always can improve things to some degree if we focus on our work, our personal and professional missions and keeping lines of communication open. Never build a wall around yourself thinking that will keep the discomfort out–it only traps it inside.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) had some good advice about that. He was an Irish philosopher, statesman and political theorist who served in the House of Commons in Great Britain and contributed to many key political decisions.  He has been quoted and admired by both conservatives and liberals, but found himself alternately applauded and reviled during his lifetime. He said,

Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.             

That advice may seem excessively simplistic when you find yourself under attack, trying to recover from a painful experience or trying to get your team, section, department or office back on track. However, it is the one bit of advice that will ensure you move through the situation and come out of it stronger and better.

Work on–and do your best work. Work on–and support others who are behaving and performing effectively. Work on–and reach out to those who are going through the same thing.  Acknowledge your errors and apologize if it is appropriate; commit to improving your performance or behavior if that is needed; talk positively about the future. Work on with confidence the situation will pass and the good work you are doing will help it happen sooner.       

In the world of birds and moths many things are deadly and permanent. In your world and mine, surprises, changes, jolts and shocks may happen regularly. The negative results can be lessened if you don’t despair.  However, even if you do, keep your focus on how you want to be seen, what you want to achieve and what you can contribute.                        

July 31st, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 8 comments


  1. SO true!!!!! You know what I went through a few years back. Some of it was my fault and some of it wasn’t, but the best thing I did was to keep going. Thanks to you and some others, I came out of it better than before. I also looked better when it was all over, because I got in better shape as a way to take control of my own life! Also, I love the photos you use!! D.

    Comment by denisek | August 1, 2010

  2. We need a cartoon where the moth pulls an AR-15 out from under his wing and blasts the bird. Sorry, that’s just my thought. LOL

    Comment by TexMex | August 1, 2010

  3. Tina says: Yes, Denise, I do remember that time and you handled everything very well. You looked great and still do!

    TexMex,I laughed at the image you described! But, I don’t think the birdie is bad….he’s just fulfilling his mission. Thank you for reading and commenting! T.

    Comment by TLR | August 1, 2010

  4. Excellent advice and a wonderful photo to go with it! The most successful people I have known have kept working as though everything was going fine, even when the rest of us knew it was not. In every case they were respected more than ever before. The least successful people ran around telling everyone how bad they had been treated. I’m working with someone of that habit right now and am sending them this link. Thanks!

    Comment by Careerist | August 2, 2010

  5. This could not have come at a better time for me. Thanks to you, as always, for the words of wisdom.

    Comment by Jennifer | August 8, 2010

  6. Patricia Neal, who passed away yesterday, knew despair more than most, but continued achieving. In her autobiography she said some of the same things you’ve mentioned here. You would like her book because she and you seem to share almost exactly the same philosophies. I have a copy and will bring it to the next CCIM meeting.

    Comment by Arie | August 9, 2010

  7. I’m glad you mentioned the role of the “bird.” Employees act as though I enjoy giving them bad news, correcting them, submitting sanction reports, etc. I may not feel it the same way they do, but I lose sleep and dread doing it. I know it’s my job, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do something you know is going to ruin someone’s day.

    Comment by V.H. | August 9, 2010

  8. Tina, this was excellent for me to read. I agree with the compliments about the photo, too. You have a great site!

    Comment by P.K. | January 10, 2011

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