101 ways to be a better person

If you are interested in becoming a better person, check out the Personal Excellence Blog by Celes and her post “How to be a better person: 101 ways.”  

Celes is also starting a new  “Be a Better Me in 30 Days” (30BBM) August 2011 Challenge.

Personal development is a life long pursuit. We should never stop working on ourselves, instead we should commit ourselves to working on getting better every day.

The magic of face to face conversation

Nowadays email has become such a popular communications tool in the office, we talk less and less with our coworkers face to face.

More and more of our working time is spent on emails. We constantly write emails and respond to emails. We even email people who sit right next to us and can easily talk to. We can sit all day in front of the computer taking care of business via emails.

At the same time, our office phones are getting very quiet. When we call someone, there is often no response. The person we try to reach can be either out of office or busy and doesn’t want to answer the phone right now. Sometimes we can even get a response quicker when we communicate via email than via phone.        

Today I had to take care of some business at work that involves people in different offices. I needed quick response and quick action.

Normally I would use emails to communicate, but I didn’t want to email back and forth and wait for responses. When my calling didn’t get answered, I simply walked to a different floor and talked to the person face to face. We were able to get things clarified, questions answered, apointment scheduled and actions taken right on the spot within a few minutes. It was quick and efficient.

Afterwards I had a sudden revelation that face-to-face talk is still the most effective and efficient communications tool. How sad that we don’t do that more and instead let email become the dominant communications tool.

I am not against email. It is really effective in some situations, such as communicating with more than one person at the same time. All I want to point out is  don’t overuse email and don’t forget face-to-face conversation.

There is magic in the direct human contact.

Raising sons

In the same book I talked about yesterday, “Selected Studies from Proverbs” by Charles Swindoll of the Insight for Living Ministry, there is also chapter on “You and Your Son.”

Charles Swindoll describes 5 areas of teaching that are essential if our sons are to grow up to be honorable men of God.

Here is a summary of the chapter.

1. Teach him to stand alone

  • Teach him the importance of having biblical conviction and being willing to stand up for them – even when that means standing alone.  
  • Teach him what a good friend really is.
  • Teach him the consequences of wrong.

2. Teach him to be open to God’s counsel

  • Teach him to respond to our counsel. If he treasures our counsel as a child, then treasuring God’s counsel in his adulthood will be an easy transition.
  • Help him see the value of other people’s correction. If he learns to respect the correction of his teachers, coaches, grandparents and friends, it won’t be so difficult to respond to God’s discipline later in his life.
  • Share the experiences of our life with him.
  • Spend sufficient time counseling him. Our presence and availability will shape his personality and his future.

3. Teach him how to deal with temptation

  • Sexual temptation. 
  • Temptation to overindulging in food and alcohol.

4. Teach him how to handle money and the 4 basic areas of financial responsibility 

  • Giving – to God and to the poor. 
  • Earning – Learn a skill and make a living.
  • Spending – Spend and invest wisely.
  • Saving – Learn the importance of delayed gratification. 

5. Teach him the value of hard work

  • It’s a mistake to give to a child without allowing him to experience the value and reward of hard, diligent work.
  • Give him specific jobs to do around the home.
  • Help him find ways of earning money and sharing in the expenses of his education.
  • Help prepare him for living on his own.

I think most of these ideas also apply to raising girls.

Two additional ingredients mentioned in the chapter are constant delight and constant discipline. Our kids need to know that their parents care and delight in them so they won’t be discouraged by constant discipline.

Today I was listening to Dr. David Jeremiah‘s Turning Point Radio Broadcast from July 23, 2011 titled Children Need Cheerleaders from the series The Joy of Encouragement, he talked about 4 ways how parents can be better cheerleaders of their children, get off their back and get on their team.

  • Encourage them with focused attention.
  • Encourage them with individual affirmation.
  • Encourage them with genuine appreciation. 
  • Encourage them with physical affection. 


Raising daughters

Raising kids is hard work.

Some parents say it’s easier to raise boys than girls, or vice verse.

For me, my daughter was easier when she was little. Unlike my son who cried a lot as a baby and always wanted to be held, my daughter was happy and content. She didn’t cry when she was put to sleep or woke up like my son did. What a relief for me.

But as Andy and Amy got older, both are teenagers now, I found my girl is harder to raise than my boy.

Andy is more mellow in his personality. When I ask him to do something, he often says: “Yes, Mom.” It’s easier to talk him into doing something.

Amy, on the other hand, is very strong-willed. When I ask her to do something, she often says: “Wait!” or “Later!” which can take hours, or worse, nothing will be done. She has been butting heads with me more which is frustrating for me.

Yesterday I asked Amy to clean up her room and put stuff away before she left for a trip. She refused to do it and was upset because I didn’t give her iPad back for recharging as she wanted. She cried and cried, and then cried herself to sleep before lunch time.

After lunch, she did pick up her stuff, but did so with an attitude, an attitude she often displays when I ask her to do something.

“Why do I have to do it?”

“Why, I have already done it.”  

If obeying your parents means do it right away, do it completely and do it with a good attitude, it means my kids have a long way to go to become obedient and I have a lot to learn as a parent to teach them obedience.   

If it takes a village to raise a child, I am one of the many who influence her life.

I so want my daughter to grow into a godly woman.

Today I was reading the book “Selected Studies from Proverbs” by Charles Swindoll of the Insight for Living Ministry. The book is also available on CD.

In the chapter on “You and Your Daughter,” Charles Swindoll describes what a godly woman is using comparison and contrast from Proverbs –

The wise woman vs. the foolish woman

The wise woman is constructive instead of being destructive.  

The gracious woman vs. the contentious woman

The gracious woman is accepting, appreciative, thoughtful, considerate, kind, compassionate, and loving.

The  virtuous woman vs. the sensual woman

The  virtuous woman has character and integrity, is trustworthy, diligent, committed, prudent, generous, strong, capable, excellent, and efficient.

The godly woman vs. the indiscreet woman

The godly woman fears the Lord, cultivates an inner beauty that’s eternal and not external, and has a gentle spirit.  

As a parents, I need to help my daughter realize the value of being wise, develop in her a caring spirit, cultivate the skills of her hand, teach her how to handle money and open her eyes to the blessings of hard work.

As a parent, I often feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities in raising my kids and inadequate in my abilities to do the parenting job. I do have a lot to learn and grow.

In my next post, I will talk about raising boys and share the tips from the same book by Swindoll.

System glitch causes display problems

Dear Readers,

Lately due to a system glitch, this blog has experienced problems with correctly displaying the contents. I have notified Forum Communications – the company who owns the website Areavoices.com. Hopefully the problems will be fixed soon.

Thanks for your patience.

First day back to work at MnDOT

After 20 days of the Minnesota government shutdown, I was contacted by my supervisor yesterday afternoon (July 20) to go back to work today.

The shutdown was over. The waiting was over. The anxiety was over. So was my homecation. I was happy to go back to work today. I got up early and left for work a few minutes early.

At the entrance of the Transportation building, I was, like every other employee walking in, warmly greeted by our MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel and his management team with a cheerful “Welcome back!” and a handshake or a hug. They had been waiting at different entrances shortly before 7 am when employees started to come in.

Coffee and donuts were available which added some bitter-sweet touch to the event.

Reporters from media were on site to report the event and interview people. Check out this MinnPost article MnDOT workers get a warm ‘Welcome back!’

Our office managers also handed out a hand written note from Commissioner Sorel to every employee. In the note, Sorel extended a personal welcome back and thank-you. He ended the note with “We are MnDOT!!” – a slogan and an initiative his management team created in the last couple of years.

“We are MnDOT”expresses the pride of being a MnDOT employee. “We are MnDOT” videos share stories about who we are, what we do, and what makes MnDOT great.

Later in the morning we had an office meeting to go through the checklist that the management team had worked on in the last couple of days to help employees ease back to work. Our office managers also expressed their personal welcome back and thank you.

Around 8 am, Governor Dayton stopped by at the Transportation Building to greet returning employees. At noon, he sent a thank-you note via email to all state employees.

In the afternoon at 2 pm, Commissioner Sorel and Deputy Commissioner Bernie Arseneau conducted a web cast for all employees. The web cast started with a “We are MnDOT” video. Then both leaders again welcomed everyone back to work. They shared what happened during the shutdown, talked about return to work checklists and resources, and how to resume business.

It sure felt good to be welcomed back at work and to be valued.

Thanks to Commissioner Sorel and his management team, I feel proud to be working for MnDOT and being a part of “We are MnDOT.”

A time of rest and renewal

It’s the 19th day of the Minnesota government shutdown. Without doubt, the shutdownis a bummer to my pocketbook. It hurts financially. But to be fair, the forced time off is good for the body, mind and spirit. In our over worked, overwhelmed, and over-committed society, having the time of rest is a blessing. Instead of alarm clock, driving and traffic, staring at the computer all day long, to do list, deadline,stress, pressure, I can get up late,go with the flow, work in the garden, eat whenever I want, read, relax and take it easy. However, by the end of the day, I do feel a little bit guilty. The day goes by so fast,it feels likeI haven’t get anything done. Yesterday (07/18/2011) I heard Chip Ingram from Living on the Edge talking aboutGod’s Boundaries for Abundant Living. In his daily broadcast, he talked about silence, solitude and sabbath and why having Sabbath, a time of rest is good for us – so we can be spiritually refreshed, physically renewed, emotionally charged. A time of rest can protect our body from wearing out, give us time to slow down, to think and reflect, to recharge and recreate. It looks like today might be the last day of the shutdown. Gov. Dayton has called the Legislature into a special session at 3 p.m. today. Once the bills are approved and signed by Gov. Dayton,state employees will be called back to work. There will be some mixed feelings on the first day of back to work.

A true leader shines in times of crisis

One fortunate result of the very tragic event of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007 was the leadership change at MnDOT.

Tom Sorel became the new MnDOT Commissioner in April 2008, replacing Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau who was removed from her position as Transportation Commissioner by the State Senate in February 2008.

A true leader is often born in times of crisis. A true leader always shines in times of crisis.

Tom Sorel became the new leader at MnDOT during the crisis of the I-35W bridge collapse. Now he shines again during the current government shutdown crisis.

MnDOT has had three commissioners since I started working there in 2000 – Elwyn Tinklenberg, Carol Molnau, and Tom Sorel. I have nothing to say about the first two commissioners, because I rarely saw them and hardly knew them. I was never impressed by anything they said or did.

But the current Commissioner Sorel stood out in times of peace, and especially in times of crisis.

I have been impressed by a lot of things he did within the agency in the last 3 years. He is a servant leader who has humility and character.

The first thing Sorel did as the MnDOT Commissioner that impressed me was to change the org chart. In all the previous MnDOT org charts, Commissioner was at the top of the chart. But he added Minnesota citizens and then the Governor above his name as the Commissioner.

He is a leader who genuinely cares about employees. I was surprised, as everyone else at MnDOT, to receive a personal Happy Birthday message from Commissioner Sorel. Yes,the note was computer generated and he really didn’t write every single note to every employee. Nevertheless, his idea and thought touched people.

Last Friday Commissioner Sorel sent an email to all employees and encouraged all to write letters to him to express their thoughts about the shutdown and recovery to begin the healing process.

He is a leader who treats employees with respect. He always says that all MnDOT employees are leaders and ambassadors for the agency. And he truly encourage employees to be leaders.

He is a leader who connects and communicates well with employees. He joins employees in the annual Twins baseball game. He participates in meetings and events and makes himself visible and approachable. Before the shutdown, he made an effort to do webcasts or send emails regularly to give updates on the contingency planning.

He is a leader who inspires employees to be their best. He is not a micromanager. He trusts people and gives people confidence to do their jobs.

Servant leadership is Commissioner Sorel’s leadership philosophy and style. He has walked the talk and really set an example as a true servant leader.

Even though we are still in the shutdown crisis and there is a lot of personal and organizational challenges and work ahead, I am confident, we will recover quickly as an agency under Commissioner Sorel’s wise leadership.

MnDOT is better because we have a true leader who can lead not only in times of peace, but also in times of crisis.

Shutdown frustration

The Minnesota state government shutdown is ending its second week tomorrow with no resolution in sight. It’s getting increasingly frustrating for everyone effected, especially the state employees. We didn’t expect the shutdown would last longer than two weeks. I started worrying about the financial consequences of the layoff. In the next few months I need to pay back money borrowed from a relative to buy the current house 10 years ago because she is in the process of buying a house herself. My van is over 10 years old. I just spent $300 for repairlast week and I need to save morefor a replacement in the next year or so. I have a coworker whose spouse also works for the state. Now they are both laid off. They are worried about mortgage, child support, etc. I even worry about the plants I left in the office. They will surely die if not watered after two weeks. I had them for years. They are part of my life. I don’t want to lose them. Adding to the frustration is the process of applying for the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance. The UI website is not a user friendly site, to say the least. Everyone of my coworkers reported problems and expressed frustration with the application process. We are information professionals and we used to help people find information. Now we need help to complete our UI application. I started my online application in June before I left for a trip, to get a head start. I even talked to a UI representative and was ok’ed to do so. Last week I was told that it was wrong and I had to changeit. But I couldn’tmake the simple change myself, they had to do it for me. A coworker checked a wrong box in his application, he couldn’t go back to uncheck it. The UI staff had to deletehis account and start fresh for him. This morning I logged in to my accountto request benefit payment. I had trouble completing it. I couldn’t even find my employer -State of Minnesotaon the employer list. When I called the UI for help, I got hung up 5 times with the message: “You needa touch tone phone to use the system” even though I do have a touch tone phone and I just used it last week to call.Finally I tried my cell phone andI got talk to a live person after two attempts. Since I applied for UI in June, I got close to 10noticesfrom the UI. I was told that they were system generated and I should just ignore and discard most of them. This was just a small example of the waste and the loss of resources as the result of the government shutdown. Think about the local restaurantsand other type of small businesses in St Paul or other locations that lost a lot of customers who are state employees. I read the other day in the paper that the Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul lost a great deal of business due to the shutdown. Think about the contractors and vendors who depend on state businesses. In this shutdown game, everyone loses and no one wins. Our elected officials need to work together, stop being childish and silly, give up some of their own agendas in order to reach the compromise and gain the result forthe common good. The news about our government shutdown was reported in the local newspaper in my hometown in China. A few days ago when I called and talked with my brother, he laughed with unbelief about what’s happening here in the US. He couldn’t imagine that any government in China would shut down like this.

A bullying experience

During the school year, the topic of bullying comes up quite often in emails from schools or school district, or in projects my kids do for class. I never paid much attention to it. Because in my mind, it’s not something I need to worry about. Whenever I ask my kids whether they are bullied by others at school, they always say no. My kids are good students. They have never caused any trouble at schools. Their teachers always comment that they are great students to have in class. So I never thought they would bully others. But on Monday I witnessed something that made me pause and think about bullying from a new perspective. On Monday my kids started a middle school camp provided by our school district. There is bus pick up and drop off at Middleton Elementary School. Because of the state government shutdown, I am out of work and am able to drive my kids to and from school for the camp every day. I also provide rides to two other friends’ kids. On the first day as we were leaving the school parking lot for home, the boys noticed that one of the campers they knew from previous class was riding home on his bike. They called his name from the van and started laughing at him. That made me uncomfortable. Suddenly I realized that it was a kind of bullying, even though they didn’t do or say any nasty things. But what they did could make the boy feel uncomfortable. “Stop it, boys!” I told the laughing boys immediately, “This is bullying. You are making him uncomfortable. Instead of laughing at him, you need to respect him more for what he is doing. He takes care of himself and is more independent and courageous than you are.” And they stopped their laughing right away. Honestly I respect the boy more for his independence and courage to take care of himself without relying on his parents providing transportation. It doesn’t matter whether he chose to bike willingly or had to bike because his parents couldn’t drive him. Learning to be independent and responsible at an earlier age help build character and develop resilience. Back at home, I reminded my son again that it was wrong to laugh at the boy. He said he didn’t start it, but it didn’t matter. Even if he didn’t start it, it was still wrong to be a willing participant or a spectator who did nothing to stop bullying. I realized through this experience that bullying among kids are more common than I thought. I should pay attention to not only whether my kids are victims of bullying but also whether they bully others. Yes, I knew my two kids fight with each other and bully each other often at home, but I didn’t realize that they could be bullies at school as well. It’s a wake up call.

Unwarranted complaint

The other dayI felt very embarrassed by making an unwarranted assumption and complaint. I receive quite a few emails every day, including several e-newsletters and blog posts.Usually I don’t have time to read them all. Based on the subject headings, I open and read some of the messages and ignore the rest and leave them unopened. While I was on vacation in San Diego, I received an email notice from WAA regarding the WAA basketball registration for the 2011-2012 season dated June 28. I didn’t give it much thought and attention at that time. Last week as I went through some of my old emails, I reread the WAA message. To my dismay, I noticed that”Fees increase on July 1, 2011.” Because I didn’t receive any previous notice regarding the basketball registration date and fee increase, and the June 28 notice didn’t indicate that this was the 2nd or 3rd or final reminder, I assumed that it was the only notice sent out by WAA. I was not too happy about the short notice. I wish I could have more than two days of advance notice to register. As someone who is not shy of making comments and giving feedback, I sent a quick reply email to WAA without much thought: “You didn’t give us much time to register before the fee increase.Basically only two days of advance notice. Sorry I was out of town and missed it.” After I hit the send key, I felt uneasy. I wish I had not sent it or at least said it in a nicer way, not so accusatory. The next day I got the response from WAA: “There were six weeks to register, that email was the third notice sent.” Now I felt really embarrassed for making assumptions and unwarranted complaint. Just because I didn’t receive the previous notices didn’t mean that they didn’t exist. I shouldn’t have made the assumption and judgment so quickly. I had to apologize with a follow-up email. I wish this email exchange never happened. ButI learned a valuable lesson. Before I criticize or complain about anyone or anything, I need to check the facts, and not make assumptions based on my own observation and limited knowledge. Otherwise I will make a fool of myself.

Motivated by competition

In summer 2005, my 7 year old son Andy started selling golf balls inour backyard facing the Eagle Valley Golf Course. He did that in the following summers as well. At the beginning, Andy was excited of selling golf balls and making some money. He could make a few hundreds a summer. But every year, he gets less motivated. Last year, he only did it a few times thatI could count on one hand. I always ask Andy to divide the money he earned and save part of it for college, put some in the savings account, leave some for giving, and have the rest for spending. He said because I didn’t let him buy whatever he wanted, he was not interested in selling any more. That could be part of the reason. But in my opinion,that’s not the main reason. I think he gets bored of doing it as he gets older. This year, half of the summer is over and he hadn’t shown any interest in his old business until yesterday when he saw three neighbor boys had a golf ball stand in our backyard and were playing and selling golf balls. This morning Andy went to the basement and got his golf balls organized. Afterward he resumed his business. I think my son is certainly motivated by competition. I was reminded of an incident a few summers ago. Andy hadn’t been interested in doing business for a while. Then one day when we got home and he saw a neighbor girl was selling golf balls in her backyard facing ours, he got excited. He run to the basement and set his golf ball stand out on the opposite side of the girl’s stand. He thought it was fun. To his surprise, our neighbor family was not amused and happy by his action.They moved her stand a few steps ahead of his. Later in the evening, the girl and her mom knocked on our door. We didn’t have contact as neighbors, so I was surprised to see mother and daughter at our front door. The mother complained about my son’s action.She told me that it was not fair that my son took his stand out when her daughter was already out there with her stand. He shouldn’t have competed with her daughter. I wasn’t sure what to say. I apologized. Later that evening, I wrote a long letter to the mother. First I apologized for what happened. I promised her that we would honor her request and my son would not sell golf balls again whenever her daughter is out there selling her golf balls. But I also pointed out that she needed to face the reality of competition. Competition is part of life. It is motivational for some people. In the letter I also pointed out that she really had no right to tell us what we could do or not doin our backyard. My son could sell golf balls whenever he wanted on our property, regardless of who else was also doing it. I welcomed her daughter joining my son selling golf balls at the same time if she wanted to. I didn’t think that parents should get involved in the business of their kids. They are doing it for some fun and making some money. It’s fun to have company and some competition. It’s motivational. Why should parents get involved and make it so seriously? My son hasn’t been very interested in his golf balls business again. As promised, he never takes his stand out whenever the neighbor girl is out there. That was an interesting experience. Today on his first day of business this summer,Andy made over$20. He was promised that he can spend his money in China when he goes on the trip in a couple of weeks.

Societal evolution

I have been reading a book on leadership titled “A new breed of leader: 8 leadership qualities that matter most in the real world” by Sheila Murray Bethel. In a section about wisdon from the past, the author talks about John Alexander Tyler who wrote about democratic societies’ evolution in the mid-1800s. I found the following description on societal evolution very interesting. SOCIETAL EVOLUTION The average longevity of formerly great civilizations was about 200 years… and each of them passed through the following evolution: From bondage to spiritual faith, From spiritual faith to great courage, From courage to liberty, From liberty to abundance, From abundance to selfishness From selfishness to complacency, From complacency to apathy, From apathy to dependency, From dependency right back to the bondage where it all started. How far along this cycle have we moved? Are we somewhere in the abundance-selfishness-complacency-apathy phase? What do you think?

My trip to San Diego and Las Vegas

I have been living in the US for 20 years and traveled to both east and west coast states, but never been to San Diego and Las Vegas. So it was nice that my family got an opportunity to travel and spend 10 days in both places. To summary the trip – I really like San Diego, but not Las Vegas. If I have to rate both cities as the best/worst place for living,on a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best), I would give San Diego a “9” and Las Vegas a “2.” San Diego is a beautiful city with perfect weather. Every day it started cool in the morning and ended cool in the evening, but the sun always shined brightly during the day. It didn’t feel hot, but surprisingly my kids got sunburns. In San Diego, we visited Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, USS Midway Museum, Coronado Island and the famous Del Hotel, Balboa Park (my favorite), Zoo, andSea World. Balboa Park is a must-see San Diego attraction.The Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. It’s home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. The gardens in Balboa Park are my favorites.I visited about 10 gardens – Alcazar Garden Botanical Building Cactus Garden Casa del Rey Moro Garden Desert Garden Marston House Garden Palm Canyon Rose Garden San Diego Zoo Botanical Collection Zoro Garden The Spanish Village Art Centeris also very unique and beautiful.Over 30 artists have their studios in one location. You can talk to the artists and see their works. I talked tothe Chinese painter Lucy Wang (Studio 4) and sand artist Mary Renner (Studio 16A). Watching artists at work was eye opening. From San Diegowe drove to LA to visit a friend and stayed overnight. The next morning we drove to Las Vegas. I found Las Vegas kind of boring and soulless. However, the hotels and casinos were interesting to visit. They are big and unique. To get discount show tickets, we went toa time share presentation.It was interesting to see how sales people trying to sell time share and to learn a few new things, such asRCI -the world’s largest timeshare vacation exchange network. I posted some photos from the trip on my Facebook.

Generosity begets generosity

I just came home from a 10-day vacation to San Diego with a side road trip to Los Angles and Las Vegas. On my flight home from San Diego on the 4th of July, I had a really brief and insignificant conversation with a Delta flight attendant. But somehow it taught me a lesson and stuck in my mind. So I would like to share. On my Delta flight to San Diego 10 days ago,guests were asked and given the choice of either having a tiny pack of peanuts (weight 0.42 oz.) or a pack of Biscoff (two small cookies). But on my flight back, I noticed that the flight attendant didn’t ask anyone for his/her choice. He automatically passed out three items to everyone – peanuts, Biscoff and mini pretzels. I was impressed by this male flight attendant’s generosity, or Delta’s generosity on this 4th of July holiday. So when he came to my seat, I had to make a compliment. I said: “Thank you for being so generous today!” He was surprised by my compliment. So I explained why I said so. He told me that on their morning flight, they give out less because they have to save for the afternoon return flight. Now he had a lot left. “Heck, why shouldn’t I give out more? I hate it when someone asks to have both peanuts and cookies and a flight attendant says no.” I said “Thank you” again. Before he turned away from me to serve the next customer, he asked me:”Would you like to keep this can of tomato juice?” Nowadays whenflight attendants serve drinks, they usually pour you a small cup, but not give you a whole can. I guess my compliment of his being generous prompted him to be more generous. Isn’t thata simple example of what it means”Generosity begets generosity?” When you do something for another person who expresses appreciation in return, you will want to domore for him.

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