Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Never The Old Year Ends, But Someone Thinks of Someone..

Who and what do you remember the most on New Year’s Eve?

New bike for Christmas-1981

 

Let's ride! Yippee!!

 

Oops!

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!

December 31st, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work | 7 comments

Back to Burma/Myanmar

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!

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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.

November 19th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work | 4 comments

Thomas Jefferson On Being United

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.

November 13th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work | 6 comments

Don’t Send Business Email After Working Hours

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.

October 21st, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 8 comments

You and Your Magic Doors

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!

October 14th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work | 7 comments

Nothing Lasts Forever!

September 19th, 2012 Posted by | Keeping On!, Life and Work | 9 comments

If You Are Doing MBWA, Find Good Things To Talk About

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”.
*Smile.
*Move on and let everyone get back to work. 

Thanks for the advice, Chief Seaton!

September 3rd, 2012 Posted by | Law Enforcement Related, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

The Eagle Has Landed Without Me

Last night I went outside and spent awhile looking at the moon. I do that often and call it my late-night vespers. Last night I thought about the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon–WALK ON THE MOON!!!!! How incredible that was! How newsworthy!  Exciting! Dramatic! Earth-changing! Sadly, I have almost no recollection of it.

Here is why I don’t remember the time Americans spent landing on the moon, walking on the moon and making it back from the moon: I was busy doing really important things:  My birthday was in two days and I was going to the L & M Steakhouse in Lakewood for dinner (Whoo-hoo! $6.00 for a great T-bone.) I was also busy getting ready to start my career the next month (August 15, 1969). Mostly I was busy living a small life in a small basement apartment at 2530 Krameria Street, in hippie-town Denver.  

My mug shot for the DPD. Summer 1969. "Teased" hair! Oh my!

Last night I thought about life then and the comparative importance of the moon and the L&M Steakhouse. Dag Hammerskjold, in his great, introspective book, Markings (which I had read many times by 1969, so you’d think I would have been less self-absorbed), wrote about the young man on one of Columbus’s ships who was only worried he wouldn’t make it back in time to inherit his father-in-law’s cobbler shop. Same thing.

For most people, their own life and concerns are all that matter. There is a tremendous lesson in that when we are trying to teach them or reach them or just trying to figure out how to deal with them. They can appreciate the moon, but the L&M Steakhouse is more immediate.  (I’m embarrassed to admit that was true then and often is true now.)

With many thanks to NASA and Neil Armstrong.

August 26th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 8 comments

The Psalm Of Life And Your March

My father, Ernest Lewis, often would recite his favorite portion of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Psalm of Life.  I heard it many times as a youngster, a teenager and a young adult. Sadly, I didn’t fully understood its significance to him or to anyone who has seen both life and death and who is aware that there is much less time ahead than the time behind. I wish I had talked to him about it–one of those many regrets I have (and with which you may be familiar). One thing is certain: Now I understand.

I’ve especially thought about Dad’s favorite lines since the tragic events last week in Aurora, Colorado, where I live. 

FROM THE PSALM OF LIFE

…Art is long and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
       Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
       Seeing, shall take heart again

Let us, then, be up and doing,
       With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.

There are many things about life and death that we can’t choose. However, we can choose whether our march is purposeful and cheerful or indecisive and sluggish–and whether we are still achieving and pursuing right up to the end of our journey in this earthly life or still dragging our feet and complaining. What tempo is the beat of your muffled drum?

July 24th, 2012 Posted by | Keeping On!, Life and Work | 3 comments

Say What Needs To Be Said, Why Don’t You?

Try Straight Talk

Many of the  problems at work and elsewhere could be reduced dramatically if people would tell the truth in appropriate ways. Instead, problem solving is stalled by those who hint, pretend to joke, talk in round-about ways or try to avoid having conflict. 

What’s worse is that often it is done in the name of not wanting to start an argument, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, not wanting to sound like a complainer, etc. etc.  But, while others are silent the situation gets worse.

If something is weighing on your mind,
If you want to say something about a problem,
If you wonder what someone meant,
If you are confused about instructions or directions,
If you have an appropriate thought or feeling you want to express,
If someone has a habit or a way of communicating with you that makes you grind your teeth in frustration…..

….Communicate directly in a courteous way.  You will also save a lot of time and you will get to the core of problems, rather than dancing all around them.

If the person you need to talk to is higher than you in the organization, you may be limited in what you can say–but you still can seek to clarify an issue or express a feeling.  If the person is a peer, friend or family  member, you should be courteous and appropriately caring. However, if something needs to be said, say it. You’ll feel better about it and you can get a subject cleared up and out of the way much more quickly.

If you don’t really care enough to deal with a problem or it happens so infrequently that it really isn’t an issue, maybe you can leave it alone.  If you complain about it repeatedly to others, either give them a break and stop complaining or do something effective to bring the frustrating situation to a halt. 

You’ll dread it but once you start talking you’ll feel better. You’ll probably  find that straight talk would have been the best response all along.

July 7th, 2012 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 4 comments

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