Blant and honest

Today while walking with my mom in the neighborhood during our shopping trip, we had to stop a few times when my mom met people she knows and had a little chat about me and my home visit. I didn’t know and remember those people.

Two times, someone told my mom in front of me the same thing: "She looks old/aged."

I had an initial shock.

"Am I really old?"

In the US, everyone told me that I look young for my age. Now suddenly I become like an old woman in China.

Honestly, it was not a good feeling.

But I quickly recovered and got over with it.

I am back home. This is a different place with different culture and customs. People talk openly about things that are taboo in the US. They are not shy to comment on your age and weight, with no negative intention.

"Oh, you look fat (or slim)." "How old are you?"

People don’t get offended by such comments/questions.

In my case, the comments were simply a fact. If they haven’t seen me for 20 or 30 years, I certainly have got older and aged. To say that I am still like 20 or 30 years ago as they remembered would be a lie.


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My daughter asked for a pair of flip flops before our trip. I told her to wait and buy a pair in China. You get more choices for a less price.

Today I took her to the street market near my parents’ home to buy flip flops. At the second shoe stand, she found one pair she wanted. I paid 20 Yuan for it, about $3. The owner said: “No discount, they are very popular.”

Then two stands down the street, we saw the exact same pair for 15 Yuan. My mom reminded me that I needed to do more comparison shopping and hard bargaining before buying anything on the market.   

My kids do not speak the local dialect. Merchants can easily tell and play hard with you.

A few comparisons

Traveling offers the opportunity to broaden one’s viewpoint and to see things from a different perspective, to make some conparisons. Here are a few observations I gained from my China trip on the first couple of days. 

My first part of the flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo was with Delta Airlines (DA) and the second part of the flight from Tokyo to Shanghai was with Japan Airlines (JA).  

Everything from service to food, JA was better than DA. The DA flight attendents were middle aged or above and not so warm and friendly, while all JA flight attendents were very young and more friendly. When the customers unboard the plane, the DA flight attendents were not even at the door to say thank-you and good-bye. I was surprised by their unprofessionalism and poor customer services.

Overweight people are everywhere in the US, but in Japan and China, I haven’t seen a single one yet. I have to blame this on the SAD (Standard American Diet), I can’t think of anything else.

The continental breakfast in the US hotels are mostly very sweet stuff, donuts, muffins, cereals, etc. In Japan and China, most breakfast items are not sweet.

When we had the continental breakfast in the hotel near Narita Airport (provided complimentary by DA for messing up the flight schedule and causing most customers missing their connections) , my daughter said it was the best breakfast she had, even thought it was just so so comparing to some nice hotels I know in China. But eating the Asian style breakfast did make me feel more at home. It was good.


Greetings from China

Greetings from Suzhou, my hometown in China.

My trip from Minnesota to China was a safe one, but definitely not smooth. I had to wait in the airplane at the St Paul-Minneapolis International Airport for 4 hours while a mechanical problem on the Boeing 747 was being fixed.

Most of the people on the plane needed to transfer in Japan for their final destinations to other Asian countries. We all missed the connections. We had to stay in hotels near the Narita Airport in Tokyo. It took us more than two hours to get out of the Narita Airport. We had to fill out the immigration and custom forms. 

The original flight should take 17 1/2 hours. It took us almost twice the amount of time. I left Twin Cities on Thursday, May 27 and arrived at the Shanghai Airport on Saturday, May 29. From the time the plane landed to the time I arrived at my parents’ home, it took three hours.

My flight ended in Shanghai, but there were some who had to continue their flight within China. They were on their own if they lost their connections in China. I felt sorry for them. Delta didn’t provide compensations for messing up the schedules. Delta did provide free hotel and a three minute free phone call for us in Tokyo. That was not enough in my opinion for having caused so much trouble and problems for people. 

It was a long trip.

However, I was thankful that the mechanical problem was found and fixed before the plane took off. It could be much worse than spending extra time if something happened during the flight.

Spending one night in Japan wasn’t so bad either.

Now at least I could say that I have been to Japan and tasted some authentic Japanese food :-)

Photos are posted on my Facebook page.

Creating Magic – book interview

This week I interviewed Rebecca Fabunmi, Mn/DOT Special Assistant to Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner. We talked about the fourth book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series, Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney by Lee Cockerell.

Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Rebecca: Even though I am an engineer by training, I am also very creative. I like to create things, such as hand-made cards and other gifts. I used to dance and play music instrument. I like to write poems and stories. So this title “Creating Magic” was very appealing to me.

Tang: What did you like about the book?

Rebecca: I like the author’s style of writing. He shares his life journey, where he comes from. He uses examples from his own life, both his achievements and mistakes, to illustrate his points.

I like the author’s honesty in sharing his failures and mistakes. I found that I learn the most in my mistakes.

Tang: In the book Cockerell talks about 10 common sense leadership strategies: remember everyone is important, break the mold, make your people your brand, create magic through training, eliminate hassles, learn the truth, burn the free fuel, stay ahead of the pack, be careful what you say and do, develop character. Which strategy do you think is mostly needed at Mn/DOT?

Rebecca: The 10 strategies are all important. I would say the first one, everyone is important, tops my list.

We need to foster a caring, respectful, people-oriented culture within Mn/DOT. As Cockerell says, when you take care of your people, they will take care of your business, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Cockerell uses the acronym RAVE for Respect, Appreciate, and Value Everyone. No matter what job each one of us does at Mn/DOT, we are all special and important.

Being a leader means you have to get to know everyone on your team, reach out to everyone, respect and appreciate everyone, connect with and care about people, make yourself accessible and available, listen to understand, be a good communicator, and don’t micromanage. It’s good to involve people in the decision-making process, and give them responsibilities and authorities to make certain decisions.

Tang: What other strategies would you like to highlight here?

Rebecca: Make your people your brand and create magic through training.

People are the most important assets in any organization. Cockerell says you can’t achieve true excellence unless you attract, develop and keep great people.

We need people who have competencies in technical, management, technological and leadership areas. We should look for people in unlikely places.

We need to give people resources and tools they need to excel by developing effective training processes and learning opportunities.

As a leader, being a teacher, coach, counselor and mentor is far more effective than just being a boss.

Tang: What challenges do you see in implementing some of the 10 strategies at Mn/DOT?

Rebecca: As a state agency funded by tax dollars, we have to deal with the public misconception of misuse or abuse of tax money. This can at times lead to creating a fear based mentality. There are a lot of things we can’t do that the private sectors do well, such as have social and special events to get people together, and to celebrate achievements.

Tang: What can we do about it?

Rebecca: We should encourage people to do things that can create a community and a culture of belonging. It’s good to invest in people, in their development and well being as a whole person.

Mn/DOT should do more for employee recognition and appreciation. When we give out achievement awards, we can make it a bigger deal instead of keeping it like a secret. Share the success stories in Newsline so people know why someone gets an achievement award and so they can get inspired.

Tang: What other suggestions do you have?

Rebecca: We have a common purpose and vision at MnDOT. I believe manager’s ability to be more accessible to employees, getting employees involved in the decision making process and be more transparent always make an incredible difference that is reflected in productivity and one’s desire to come to work. Also having more one-on-one conversations to connect and get feedback on a regular basis, not just when there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Tang: Cockerell talks about giving people a purpose, not just jobs. I know you worked on the Mn/DOT strategic vision with a group of Seeds workers in 2008. How important is the vision?

Rebecca: Communicating our vision and mission to the frontline employees is very important. I agree with Cockerell. If we can connect our daily work with our organizational vision, our mission, see our own work in the bigger picture, and have a purpose in what we do, then our work becomes more meaningful. We work collectively to make Mn/DOT a better place, and to provide a safe and effective transportation infrastructure to the citizens.

Tang: Disney has a culture of inclusion and diversity. I know you have a diverse background yourself. What is your experience at Mn/DOT and how are we doing in this aspect?

Rebecca: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria to a British Mother and a Nigerian Father. We came to the U.S. when I was three years old. I have lived in Massachusetts and Hawaii. Diversity is a natural part of my life.

I am a product of the Seeds Program at Mn/DOT. I came to Mn/DOT as a Seeds student and stayed on after graduation. Mn/DOT is a great place to work. I believe Mn/DOT is hard at being inclusive. However, we can always do better.

Tang: Please share a quote from the book that you like.

Rebecca: (p.81) “…excellent structure has built-in adaptability. If you have created a culture of change, in which everyone from the top to the bottom is empowered to find creative ways to improve the organization, you’ll be better able to adjust to unexpected events and emergencies.”

Tang: Tell us a little bit about your reading habits.

Rebecca: Both of my parents were educated in the U.S. They valued education. My mother was an avid reader. When I grew up, I always got books as presents from my parents. My life has always been around books and reading.

I like to read self-development books. I also like to read fiction with good stories. I plan to write a book some day. But I am not saying more about it at this time.

I wish I would read more history and classics.

Tang: You just graduated from the Executive MBA program at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis. Congratulations!

Rebecca: Thank you. For two years I worked full time and went to school full time. Now I feel relieved that I have only one full-time job. I am also excited to put my new learned knowledge to work at Mn/DOT.



The most interesting part of my job as a librarian at Mn/DOT is writing articles for Mn/DOT’s employee newsletter Newsline and for the Library’s newsletter New Library Materials.

Recently I attended an online conference on innovation and wrote the following summary for NLM.


Innovation is a buzzword at Mn/DOT. There is a lot of talking about innovation. It is one of the six shared competencies (i.e. Be a person of good character, Be an innovator, Be a leader, Be responsible, Be a team player, and Be a technical expert) from our current B Campaign.

So what is innovation and what do you need to become innovative?

According to Wikipedia, innovation is a new way of doing something or new stuff that is made useful. It may refer to incremental and emergent or radical and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations.

Innovation is curiosity. It is about asking questions, challenging the world and creating something new out of old.

Last week Alliance Library System and Learning Times sponsored an online conference about Innovation for Libraries in the 21st Century.

In her presentation “Innovation starts with ‘I’,” Helene Blowers talked about three levels of innovation:

  1. Efficiency innovation – improve on what already exits
  2. Evolutionary innovation – Create something distinctly new and better
  3. Revolutionary innovation – Radically changes business and culture

Blowers mentioned the four components of innovation:

  1. Creativity -Be an idea generator
  2. Strategy – Be the change agent, have clear mission and vision
  3. Implementation – Have resources, timeline and scope, provide time for exploration and a safety net, make failure an expectation
  4. Profitability – Outcomes and outputs

Kitty Pope said in her presentation "Building a Culture of Innovation," innovation requires trust, talent, an inquisitive mind, passion, organizational will, team support, discipline and tenacity, willingness to hear “no” and a great sense of humor.

In an organization, innovation requires forward looking leadership. At Mn/DOT, we are fortunate to have leaders who value and encourage innovation.

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” –William Pollard


Decluttering for a good cause

Spirit of Life Bible Church will have a garage sale on June 4th and 5th for the benefit of missions and sound/video equipment.

Spirit of Life is located near Sam’s Club at 690 Commerce Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125.

In the last few days I have been decluttering my house to find some items to donate to the sale.

My family has lived in the current house for 10 years. We have accumulated a lot of stuff during the 10 years, especially kids’ stuff.

I collected several bags of stuff animals, boxes of games, clothes. I gave some to friends. Today when I went to church, my van was loaded with junk (or maybe treasure for others).

It feels good that I can see more floor space in my basement now instead of having to maneuver my way around boxes and bags.

I have barely scratched the surface in my house. There is much more work to do.

Decluttering for a good cause benefits not only the church, but also my own well being.

I just realized that I wrote a column in Woodbury Bulletin about decluttering my life back in June 2007. 

Oh my, it took me three years to get started with decluttering in a serious manner.

It would be nice to declutter my life

Reduce clutter: use Feng shui


The joy of gardening

What’s so special about this bowl of salad?

Nothing, except it’s from my own vegetable garden and it is the first salad of the growing season I got to taste for lunch today.

I love gardening and eating fresh vegetables directly from the garden. 

The following two articles are from my Woodbury Bulletin columns.

The joy of gardening  

Lessons, garden style 


Local auto repair shop recommended

When it comes to vehicles and driving, I am not only directionally challenged, but also mechanically challenged. I don’t know much about cars and how they work.

I found it is not uncommon that some repair shops take advantage of female customers by overcharging us for repair and maintenance work.

In fact I had a couple of bad experiences in the past.

Many years ago a shop in Madison overcharged me for some work they did on my car. When I found that out, I went back to ask for a refund.

The owner not only didn’t apologize for what they did, he acted like I did something wrong. He put $40 in overcharge on the table and said to me in an angry tone: “I don’t want to see you again.”

Why would I want to go back and see him again? I couldn’t believe they run business like that.

Another bad experience happened in Woodbury several years ago with a business that does oil change and some other services. They did something to my car that was not necessary. When I went back and talked to the manager, she admitted it was wrong and refunded $20 to me.

Needless to say, I never went back to that business again either.

As the result of the bad experiences, I don’t feel comfortable working with auto repair businesses.

But that’s not the case with Crossroads Collision Center. This is a business I feel I can trust.

A couple of years ago I picked Crossroads Collision Center for a minor repair work after a friend did some comparison shopping and recommended this business as offering the best deal. I was satisfied with the result.

Last week I had a fender bender incident. My van needed to be fixed. I drove it to Crossroads Collision Center for estimation and repair. I didn’t do any comparison shopping because I trust that they would offer the best price and quality service.

I liked Crossroads Collision Center so much I even asked Tim Brown, the guy in the office, if they would do all repair and maintenance work for me. I wish they could.

If anyone has the unfortunate need for an auto body shop, Crossroads Collision Center is the one I highly recommend.

Crossroads Collision Center is a local family owned business for 26 years. They offer free loaner cars which is very convenient for customers. You can drop off your vehicle for repair and use one of theirs as long as it takes to repair your vehicle.

The business is located at 8910 Hudson Blvd. in Lake Elmo. Since it is right on the other side of I-94, separated from Woodbury only by the highway and conveniently connected to Woodbury by the bridge on Woodbury Drive or Radio Drive, it feels like part of Woodbury to me.

If you know any other auto shops in the area that you highly recommend, please leave a comment and let me know.


Minnesota Emerging Leaders Institute

Tonight I am working on my application for the 2010-2011 State of Minnesota Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI). ELI is a leadership development program for a select group of thirty emerging leaders from across state government designed to help them become successful and effective in tomorrow’s workplaces.

This will be the fifth year the Management Analysis & Development (MAD) group within the Minnesota Management & Budget offers the program.

Last year my supervisor has approved my request to apply and has already budgeted money for me to do so this year. Now I need to get the application in.

My application along with others from the same agency will have to go through a review process conducted by Mn/DOT. Then the selected ones will be forwarded to MAD for further review and approval.

I am confident that my application will be selected and I am looking forward to a great learning and networking opportunity.

Technologies made driving easier

Like many women, I am quite directionally challenged. I don’t have a good sense of direction.

In addition, I learned to drive after I came to the U.S., more than 10 years later than the average people learn to drive here.

These two factors contributed to the fact that I don’t like to drive. I feel nervous when I have to drive to a place I don’t know, because it’s not easy for me to multi-tasking on the road, driving and reading signs. I don’t know how people can texting while driving.

Even though I live in Twin Cities (reside in Woodbury and work in St. Paul), I rarely cross the River to go to Minneapolis, the other part of Twin Cities.

Today I had to go to Minneapolis to drop off a relative at a downtown hotel. Thanks to Google Maps and GPS, I had little trouble finding my way.

By typing the address in Google Maps, I could easily find out the direction to the hotel. When I added the term parking to the address, I got a map marked with parking ramps around the hotel. By adding the term restaurant to the hotel address, I got a map marked with restaurants around the hotel. You can even specify what kind of restaurants you want. By adding Chinese restaurant to the hotel address, I can get a map marked with Chinese restaurants.

GPS is even better for people like me. It tells me where to go. If I miss a turn, it recalculates and shows me the way. Cool.

For people like me, GPS is a great tool to have.

French fries caused controversy

Judy Spooner’s article in this week’s Woodbury Bulletin – What does future hold for French fries in school cafeteria? – has brought quite a few comments from readers on the Bulletin’s website.

The comments fall in two groups. One group favors healthy choices. The other group favors freedom of choice. They think people should mind their own business instead of trying to tell everyone else how to live their lives.

So far the result of the online poll (Do you think District 833 should drop French fries from all its school cafeterias?”) indicates that the majority of people think that parents and teachers shouldn’t be so uptight about school lunch.

Knowing how hard it is to get my two kids eat healthy food at home, I am in favor of limiting unhealthy choices in school cafeterias.

Families who like French fries have plenty of choices on their own. There are so many fast food restaurants in this country that are more than happy to satisfy their desire for French fries any day and anytime.

In an ideal world where everyone is responsible and makes good choices, we wouldn’t need any laws, rules and limits.

If we can’t make good choices, then setting limits is a good thing in my mind.

Actually I appreciate the few parents who care enough about their own kids and other kids to request soda vending machines to be removed from schools and unhealthy foods to be limited and removed.

I didn’t know that French fries could cause such a heated discussion. It just shows that Americans love French fries and freedom. Taking these two away, it’s guaranteed to get rejection and protest.

Let your voices be heard. Share your opinions by leaving a comment or doing the poll on the Bulletin’s website.

A poet in the making

My daughter Amy prefers writing poems than doing the dishes or playing piano.

Today when I asked her to wash the dishes after dinner, she asked: "Can I write five poems instead of washing the dishes?"

She hadn’t written any poems lately. I would like to see her doing that again. So I said OK.

Later when she was playing piano, she asked: "Can I write 15 poems instead of playing piano?"

Again I said OK.

So she wrote over 10 poems today.

I am always amazed by how fast she can think of a poem. She definitely has a natural talent in writing poems.

Here are two of them: 


                                  Adventurous, fun

                           Intersting, exciting, inspiring

                         Words, pages, pencils, erasers

                          Drafting, editing, publishing

                                    Fun, awesome


I heard a ring

It was the phone

But I didn’t answer

Because I was home alone.

Some of her poems that won the 2009 Minnesota State Fair are available here.

Overabundance on display

After I picked up my son from a special school event, we stopped at a few houses in our neighborhood on the way home.

Today is the beginning of the annual Lions Club Garage Sale in Woodbury.

It’s interesting to see what people have for sale.

At one of the houses, the garage was full of kids’ stuff, clothes, shoes and toys. There was a little 3-year oldish girl playing in the garage.

I said to the mom: "Looks like you have quite a few little girls."

"No, we have only this one. I know she is very spoiled."

It was mind boggling for me. How could one little child use so much stuff? That’s more than enough for a class of kids.

You never know, even going garage sale can open your mind and let you see things differently.

The magic of ARE

Today, out of blue, a certificate of appreciation showed up in my mail box.

It says: “Certificate of Appreciation is hereby granted to Qin Tang for your leadership and dedication as an agency wellness champion.” Underneath are the following two quotes:

"The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness." – Dalai Lama

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." – William Arthur Ward

The certificate was signed by Linda Feltes, Project Manager for State of Minnesota Worksite Wellness.

Yes, I know Linda who is from a different state agency. I am on the Mn/DOT Health & Wellness Committee and have met Linda from attending H&W related meetings and presentations. I have helped plan and organize some brown bag presentations for state employees.

But I really haven’t done anything so significant that deserves such a certificate.

I was totally surprised by Linda’s kind words. I really appreciate Linda’s appreciation for the little things I did. And I also like the two quotes she put on the certificate.

The interesting thing is I am just reading Lee Cockerell’s book “Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney.” Lee Cockerell was the Executive Vice President, Operations, for Walt Disney World for over ten years.

In Strategy #7, Burn the free fuel, Lee Cockerell focuses on the importance of appreciation, recognition and encouragement (ARE). He says ARE are free fuel that builds self-confidence and self-esteem, boosts individual and team performance. Great leaders look for opportunities to give out the free fuel of ARE in an authentic, specific and timely manner.

Recognizing employees, saying thank-you, catching them doing something right, doing the little things, being visible, participating at events, giving positive feedback, celebrating achievements are some of the ways leaders can dispense ARE every day.

When I saw the certificate of appreciation today, it did feel like something magic happened.

Linda , Thank you for showing me the magic through your giving of ARE. You certainly created magic for me by allowing me to experience the power of ARE.

Little things can mean a lot to people.

BTW, this was exactly the same words I sent to Suzanne Beecher after I read her 5/12/2010 blog post on life’s little "nothings."


Bad day

Today was not a good day for me.

First I was upset about a family issue. Then something happened to my van as I was about to leave for home. Police had to be called.

After three phone calls and more than an hour of waiting, a St. Paul police officer finally showed up.

The experience reminded me of the excellent service we have in Woodbury. I know if anything happens in Woodbury, the police will arrive in less than five minutes.

I remember one day several years ago I misdialed a phone number at home. Once I realized that I made an error and my call went to 911 an operator, I quickly hung up the phone without saying anything. That was another mistake.

Soon afterwards, my door bell rang. I was surprised to see a police officer at the door. He came to check if everything was OK because of the 911 call.

I was embarrassed, and also very impressed by the Woodbury police.

Now I think about it, I feel thankful, because nothing serious happened to me today. Good or bad, it’s all relative and about perspective. And I am thankful to live in Woodbury with better police service.

Lincoln on Leadership – book interview

I recently interviewed Serge Phillips, Mn/DOT federal relations manager. We talked about the third book in the Commissioner’s Reading Corner Book of the Month series, Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald T. Phillips.


Tang: Why did you pick this book?

Phillips: I like to read about historical subjects and biographies.
Lincoln is considered by many as the greatest president and leader in our country. A lot has been written about him. He has become such a heroic and mythical persona that his actual persona can be overshadowed. I wanted to find out what really made him such a great president and leader.

Tang: So what did you learn from the book?

Phillips: Lincoln became a president at a critical time in this country. By the time Lincoln took office, seven states had seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. Ten days before he took the oath of office, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy. President Buchanan had given up hope of holding the country together.

Under Lincoln’s extraordinary leadership, he was able to overcome the nightmare he inherited. He held the divided nation together and abolished slavery.

The characters and qualities that Lincoln possessed – honesty, integrity, vision and decisiveness, empathy for the common man, devotion to the rights of individuals, commitment to the Constitution and liberty and equality – are the foundations of his extraordinary leadership abilities that contributed to his remarkable accomplishments.

Tang: What did you like about the book?

Phillips: The book is good at emphasizing Lincoln’s leadership principles. It provides examples of his principles in four categories: people, character, endeavor and communication.

Tang: What new things did you learn from reading this book?

Phillips: Lincoln was the only U.S. president to hold a patent (for a method to make grounded boats more buoyant). You can read about it at this website.

Lincoln was also a very humorous president. He wrote his own speeches and over a thousand of letters.

Lincoln was a man of paradoxes. He was consistent yet flexible. He valued security yet dared to take risks. He controlled his emotions so they remained private. He wrote out harsh letters but did not send them out.

Tang: What part of this book inspired you most?

Phillips: When Lincoln took the oath as the nation’s 16th president, he was relatively unknown. He was the first Republican president, a Washington outsider, and viewed as completely ill-equipped and unable to handle the presidency. He had little respect in Washington except for his most loyal supporters. Even his cabinet members considered him a figurehead whom they could control.

Yet Lincoln demonstrated that he possessed the leadership qualities and abilities necessary to turn the situation around and to save the nation.

As a great leader, Lincoln is an inspiration for many people, including our current president Obama.

Tang: What are some ideas that you can use in your work or daily life?

Phillips: Lincoln had an open door policy and was very approachable. It was relatively easy to visit him at the White House. He enjoyed talking to people, and telling anecdotes. He often used humor to solve difficult situations.

Lincoln was good at building strong alliances on both personal and professional levels. He gained trust, respect, loyalty and commitment by taking the time to talking and listen to people, mentoring and empowering people and showing compassion. He treated his subordinates as equals.

Lincoln was a good leader, because he persuaded rather than coerced people to get results. He made requests or suggestions rather than issuing orders. He discouraged litigation and encouraged compromise.

Lincoln encouraged innovation by making allowances for failure.

Lincoln knew how to solve problems by bringing all feuding parties together to the table and let them work things out, until peace is made.

A good leader is someone who gives credit where credit is due and accepts responsibility when things go wrong.

Tang: Please share a quote from the book that you like.

Phillips: “I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing.”

Tang: Has reading this book changed you in any way?

Phillips: It rekindled my interest in reading more biographies of famous people. You can learn so much from other people. It also reminded me of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. Parallel Lives is a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged in pairs to illuminate their moral virtues and vices.

Tang: Tell us a little bit about your reading habits.

Phillips: I like to read newspapers. I read local papers as well as some national papers such as Washington Post and New York Times.

In addition to read history and biographies, I also like to read fiction and English translations of works from all over the world.

Tang: Any other thoughts regarding the book, Commissioner’s Reading Corner or reading in general?

Phillips: Reading helps me learn and gain better understanding of certain subjects. It also helps me relax.

I like the Commissioner’s Reading Corner idea. Through reading the books Commissioner recommended, we get some understanding of what his leadership style is based on.

Related posts:

Getting Past No (3/26/2010)
Letters from Leaders (2/24/2010)

Visiting Sioux Falls

Over the weekend my family had a short visit to Sioux Falls, the largest city in South Dakota, with a population of 155,000, about half of the size of population in St. Paul, the second largest city in Minnesota.

We visited Falls Park, Sanford Children’s Hospital, Sertoma Butterfly House, Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, downtown, etc. I was most impressed by the newly completed Sanford Children’s Hospital, made possible by a donation of $16 million from Denny Sanford.

Mr. Sanford is CEO of United National Corporation, First Premier Bank, and Premier Bankcard. He is considered one of the most generous philanthropists in the United States.

Sanford was born in St. Paul. He graduated from St. Paul Central High School and University of Minnesota. He lives in Sioux Falls.

Here are some pictures from the trip. 

Falls Park

Hospital outside

Hospital inside

Butterfly House

Clubhouse Hotel

Living in a distracted world

We are living in a distracted world. In our every day life we face many distractions.

For some people, the distraction is TV or video games, for some it is Internet and web surfing, and for some it is shopping and consumption, etc. The list can go on and on.

As for myself, the biggest distraction is definitely Internet and web surfing.

Often times I have good intention and plan to finish reading a book or get something done before going to bed. Then something happens that distracts me in a totally different direction.

For example, an email message shows up with a request to be friend on Facebook. I could easily spend an hour or more poking around on Facebook checking people’s profiles and who their friends are. When I get email updates from blogs I follow, I could easily spend an hour or more reading blogs and write some comments.

Pretty soon, the whole evening is gone, and midnight is past, I didn’t even finish a page of the book I intended to read or start on the project I wanted to do.

“Oh, my, time to go to bed now. Where has the time gone? What did I do tonight?”
I don’t like it when this happens.

I love Internet. It has really enriched my life in many ways. It’s great for learning, research, information, networking, etc. The benefits are so many. But I think if I don’t pay attention and exercise a little self-control, even good can turn into bad.

Balance, moderation, self-control are the keys for staying on track and not being distracted too much.


Fashion Feng Shui – dressing with intention

Today I attended a brown bag presentation on dressing with intention. This was part 2 on Feng Shui presented by certified Feng Shui practitioners Caroline Lehman, Karen Hollingsworth, Mary Conley and Carol Seiler.

Fashion Feng Shui is dressing with intention the Feng Shui way – using the five Feng Shui elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.

Evana Maggiore created the concept of Fashion Feng Shui by connecting the five elements of Feng Shui to fashion and personal style. It teaches you how to dress with mindfulness and intention so that your clothes express your authenticity and attract your deepest desires.

It was a very interesting topic and presentation.

For more information about Fashion Feng Shui, visit Fashion Feng Shui International’s website.

Contact the presenters for information on classes and presentations.

Eight-Hands Collaborative
Caroline Lehman
Mary Conley
Karen Hollingsworth 

Related post:
Feng Shui and intentional living


Men and women differences

Will Manley is a retired librarian and city administrator, and author of several books. I have enjoyed reading his monthly column Will’s World in American Libraries for several years. I love his humorous commentary on library and life in general.

Four months ago he entered the blogosphere with Will Unwound. Today he posted an interesting topic on his blog: “Women and Men – Is there Really a Difference?

He shared his own observations and asked several questions for readers to comment on.

He asked: Are women more verbal than men? If so why? Can you think of any anthropological or sociological reasons for this? What are women always talking about? Is there really that much in life to talk about so continuously and quickly? …

I found some of his responses to readers’ comments interesting:

“Not sure guys are as obsessed with happiness as women. Or maybe our definition of happiness is so much simpler than yours. What makes women happy…companionship, communication, validation, self esteem, cuddling, unconditional love. What makes men happy…tickets to the Super Bowl.”

“I grew up a huge sports fan, played all sports in high school and college, and then followed sports pretty closely. Then I stopped getting television service when I retired two and a half years ago, and now the only sport I care about is golf, which I play everyday. When I look back at my life one of the things I regret most is wasting so much time following sports. what good has it done me now? I would have been much better off reading through the Great Books starting with Homer and ending with Finnegans Wake. Who really gives a flip who won the ’93 Super Bowl?”

Understanding the difference between men and women has always been a very interesting topic for me.

Generally speaking, women are more verbal than men. But I know a guy in my circle of friends who is incredibly verbal, talkative, and knowledgeable. He can talk non-stop and talk about all kinds of things: sports, politics, history, current events, famous people, etc. What I couldn’t understand was why guys like my friend always talk about such topics that are so remote and have nothing to do with their own lives. How can you get to know your friends on a deeper level without talking and sharing about yourselves?

We women like to talk about things related to our own daily lives, through heart to heart conversations about our experiences, challenges, happenings, good or bad, we establish deeper friendship and relationship with each other.

I got a better understanding about the men-women differences after I read Deborah Tannen’s book “That’s Not What I Meant: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Your Relations with Others.”

According to Tannen, men tend to communicate at the information level, and women at the relationship level. Men tend to focus on the message (information conveyed by the meaning of words) and women on the metamessage (what is communicated about relationships). It’s not what you said but the way that you said it.

Communication is motivated by our universal human needs – the conflicting needs to be connected to others and to be left alone/separated, to be involved and to be independent, to have safety and to have freedom, to show solidarity and to show power.

Communication is always a matter of balancing these conflicting needs. Communication will never be perfect, because whatever we do to serve one need necessarily violates the other need. In addition, we have different conversational styles.

Women have a relatively greater need for involvement, and men a relatively greater need for independence.

Women are more attuned to metamessage because they are more focused on involvement, on relationships among people. It is through metamessages that relationships are established and maintained.

Differences between male and female can be observed in girls and boys. Girls play in small groups or pairs. Their social life centers around a best friend. Friendships are made, maintained and broken by talking.

Boys tend to play in larger groups, often outdoor. They spend more time doing things than talking.

To women, the relationship is working as long as they can talk things out. To men, the relationship isn’t working out if they have to keep working it over.

The assumptions about what’s interesting are different.

Women like to tell/hear details of her daily life or the lives of other people, not because the details are important in themselves, but because the telling of them proves involvement – that you care about each other, that you have a best friend.

Men tell facts about such topics as sports and politics or how things work.

When man and woman talk about relationships, he feels out of his element.

In conversations, women pay attention to what is said and how, men pay attention to scientific explanations and facts.

Men and women have different expectations.

Men think like this: After all this time, we should be able to tell each other what we want. Women think like this: After all this time, you should be able to know what I want without my telling you.

Problems arise when we assume and expect the opposite sex should think, feel or act the way we do.

We must realize that men and women are different. We can not change others to suit our needs. Instead we need to adjust our behavior and make compromises to meet each other’s needs. 

Acknowledging, understanding and accepting our differences are the first step in improving communication and relationships.

Why you should stop watching TV

Reading Celestine Chua’s blog post Top 10 Reasons You Should Stop Watching TV reinforced my own belief that watching TV is more than a waste of time.

As I mentioned in a Woodbury Bulletin column TV Fasting August, I have not watched TV since my son was born in 1998.

By not watching TV, we have more time to live our own lives the way we want and create our own experiences instead of living through the lives and experiences of someone else.

The best memories come from life’s experiences. We can only build memories with experiences, our own experiences.

Life is too short to spend it by watching others living their lives.


Slow consumption

Utne Reader, a magazine started in Minnesota more than 20 years ago, is a digest of independent ideas and alternative culture, drawn from alternative and independent press.

In the March /April issue of Utne, I read an article titled Slow Consumption: Heirloom Design.  

It says: “we need to start making stuff that lasts … make those products not only durable, but also repairable and upgradable.”

I agree wholeheartedly. And I think slow consumption requires more than making products that are durable, repairable and upgradable, it requires a cultural change and mind shift.

In our modern throwaway society where it’s often easier, cheaper and more convenient to buy something new than getting something repaired, there is not much incentive for slow consumption.

The mass production of cheap goods and the material abundance have created new generations that are hand challenged.

In our parent’s generation, most people were handymen or handywomen, out of necessity of life. They could do with less, could make so much from scratch, and repair household items.

My parents in China did a lot of things themselves. My mother made all my clothes while I was growing up, from underwear to winter jackets, from hats to shoes. My father made a lot of things, from big ticket items of all our furniture that could last more than a life time to small items such as keys. He did/repaired/fixed everything from electricity and plumbing to bicycles, pots, shoes, etc. My parents didn’t buy much, not only because they didn’t have a lot of money, but also because they could make and repair stuff themselves.

Even if you were not as handy as my parents, you could easily find someone in the neighborhood to fix things for you.

Now it’s a different story with my generation. I am not nearly as handy as my parents. It’s so much easier and cheap to buy a sweater than to knit one myself, and I don’t have time and skill to make and fix things. Without necessity of life, without incentives, over time we have lost the mental and physical ability to be handy. So people throw away stuff at the first sign of malfunction.

Then there are people who throw away stuff that is perfectly fine, just because they want something newer, better, bigger, fancier. So we are still not going to totally solve the problem of fast consumption by making stuff last longer, because some people get rid of stuff long before it breaks.

We have to change our thinking before we change our behaviors. We have to care enough about the effects of our lifestyle on the environment and future generations before we change our lifestyle.