Category Archives: Community-building

The Right Kind of Politician

I am a passionate, dedicated person who has always been interested in making an impact on the world. For this reason, as well as probably many others, I have been told often that I should run for political office. I would be lying if I said that I had never thought about it.

In contemplating it, I realize that it would not be a good fit for me. The biggest factor in that decision is that I would not like to be the kind of politician that I think is the right kind of politician.  Let me tell you about the first time I realized this to illustrate it.

I was working at an event that was not as busy as we had all hoped it would be when I found myself listening to another vendor. For simplicity, I will call her Rachel. Since I was working, I found myself being more polite than if I were at a social gathering. Rachel had spent the better part of three hours talking to the other vendors more than talking to the attendees – it was a slow market. Her voice carried well, and I could tell she had some strong opinions – Rachel was a passionate individual. She spent much more time sharing her passion with the other people than she spent listening to them or reading their reactions. I was intrigued, and had spent a lot of time watching her interactions with the other people there.

At some point, this vendor had set up her metaphorical soap box between my table and the table of another young woman. I will call the young woman Emily. Emily was younger than I, and we had been chatting for some time, so I knew that she was working for her employer at the time, and was new to being at markets. Emily was very polite and kind, and I enjoyed her as a market neighbour. I noticed Emily being polite in her responses to Rachel. Since I was working, I focused more on the attendees of the market, and had lost the interest of Rachel. (Truth bomb: I was being “silent polite” in hopes to be left alone.)

In the course of Rachel talking to Emily, the topic came around politics.  As it turns out, Rachel had run for office in the last election. Rachel was very interested in politics, and had been working for the party she was running under for what seemed like a few years.  She told this story about how she had created this bill that another party wanted to use, and it got to be too much for me. Rachel was upset because the other party was not going to credit her party with the bill. I, too, am a passionate person, and I couldn’t listen to this idea of politics for any longer.  So, in true Socratic style, I started to ask her questions.

“Is it important to you that this bill get passed? Or more important that you get recognized for it?”

“Well, it’s not giving us any credit for it.”

“So, you need to have credit for something in order for it to be the right thing for the country?”

“Well, it’s the principle of it…” she trailed into some more of a rant about copyrights to the bill or some sort of thing.  My apologies as I wasn’t doing my best at listening by this point, having tried to politely listen to this proselytizer for so long.

“Is it what your constituents would want, though?  I’ve watched you for the better part of this market, go around to all of these people – these potential voters – and tell them your opinion. But what do the people actually want.”

“Well, I asked them during the last election. I knocked on so many doors…”

Aha! There’s the rub. “But that’s not the only time that a politician is supposed to be listening and representing what the people want.”

It was in this moment that I truly understood that myself. People no longer trust politicians and this might be part of the reason why. We elect the politicians to represent us and what we want for our country, province, and our community. To make this decision, we listen to their platforms prior to an election. At that time, we get to know them – as if we were interviewing them for the position that we get to grant them. But what happens after the election? If they have (or have not, in this case) been chosen as our representative, how do we know that they are still representing our best interests?

Many people don’t realize it or perhaps don’t think about it very often, but elected officials are always (supposed to be) working for us. If they aren’t, we need to hold them accountable – and not just during an election. Every politician is required to hold constituency hours, and are there to have discussions with the people they are representing. Just like you would tell an employee or be told as an employee, this is a great opportunity to not only tell the elected official that they’re doing a good job but to also have your voice heard.  Frankly, I want the politicians I elect to be better at this part of the job than at the election part.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. Somewhere along the way, we got caught up in the glamour of the election more than the day-to-day duties of our elected officials. We yell at politicians for not holding up their promise only when they are running for re-election rather than talking to them in the moment.  An election might be years apart, whereas employee reviews are recommended every 3 months.

So, yes, I might make a great elected official…one day. I’m passionate, and I care about my community, my country, and most of all the world. Does my community share that same passion with me, though?  Would I be the best representative for them?  Personally, I think my passions are too important for me to be in full service to the issues that are important to the people who would elect me. However, if I wrote a bill that was going to be passed through, I would be rejoicing in having made such a mark on the law. It is not the glory that attracts me to politics so much as it is the impact one can have on our society.

We Get To…Create the Change

The most inspiring phrases can hit us from such a myriad of places. Sometimes, they appear on a Page-A-Day calendar we bought just for that reason. Other times, we search the internet for quotes on “happiness,” “success,” “motivation,” etc. Perhaps you’ve found your guiding light or mantra in a book you read once, twice, or a dozen times. (I’m guessing you re-read it because of the genius in that mantra.)  Wherever you find them, inspiring phrases tend to show up exactly when you need them.

I’m not sure why, but I’m still surprised when an inspiring phrase seems to appear out of thin air. Or not such thin air as the latest example will illustrate. Depending on your view of life, you could believe that life throws you inspiration exactly when you need it. I hope you can believe that.

I was in a visioning exercise at work when I heard the best thing so far in 2016: “we get to create the change.”  Now, for all of those out there who like to always be right, I will impress you all with the fact that this was said in response – and against – my suggestion “to adapt to changes.”  Despite my ego’s desire to always have the best idea in the group, I swooned over this perspective.  As it turns out, synergy really does improve our lives.

Now, like I allowed myself, soak those words in: we get to create change.  Yes, it’s important to react to the changes happening around us, and be flexible. And, yes, it’s also important to hold our ground and stand for the things that are really important to us. But, what if we could do both of those things? What if we could constantly be observing the world around us and recognizing trends, while at the same time working towards that world we want to be a part of?  That is what those words meant to me.

So, what change do I want to create in this world? When I look back on my life, what do I want to see behind me? In front of me? Around me?  Well, for almost a decade, it has been one strong theme: the end of factory farms. But what all does that entail? How are we going to create that change? What is my role in creating that change? What are all the possibilities that might work with me and against me through that lifelong goal?  And, most importantly, what is the one thing I need to do right now to start making things happen?

I’m still working on my answers to all of those things, and more.  Don’t worry, you’ll be updated on them as things progress.  For now, I want to leave you with your own questions:

  1. What is the change you want to create in the world?
  2. Why would you choose just that one thing to change?
  3. Who are you going to impact with that change?
  4. How will you know when you’re making progress?
  5. What is one thing you can do today to start making things happen?

Share what you want to in the comments below, or email me your response to jodi(at)koachkarlssen.com

Until Next Time – Be The Mountain!

Celebrating Our Successes

Celebration Time! exploding in a rainbow of colours
Time to Celebrate!

There is one summer – above all other times in my life – that I go back to with frequency.  That summer, I learned so much about my strengths. That summer, I learned so much about my resiliency. That summer, I learned so much about how to change the world…

It was four years ago, and I was driven to make a difference. Like everything I’d ever done before, I was inspired to create something I wished someone had created for me: a festival celebrating the uniqueness of a hidden community in my city.  I had recently joined this community, and I wanted more people like me – the lost individuals trying to find someone who understood – to know that it existed. Plus, I wanted us to be proud of who we were, rather than having us focus on coping mechanisms for being “different” and a “burden” to the people around us. For the first time in a long time, my community was the place where I felt truly accepted, respected, and listened to. We needed to share those feelings with everybody!

And I did!  Without any experience in project management, event-planning, or volunteer coordination, I created a festival for the vegan and vegetarian community of Edmonton. And I gained a ton of tools for my tool box in the process!

With my packed tool box, an amazing sea change occurred in my life. I was offered a leadership position in a burgeoning vegetarian-friendly corporation, I made some amazing friends and met many more influential people in my community, and I began my first speaking engagements, introducing the festival to many more new community members.

The festival lasted a month. A lot of that month went by in such a blur that I have trouble recalling everything that we achieved. What I do know is that it was a success. It brought a lot of attention to our little non-profit group, and everybody involved learned something more about event-planning, volunteer orientation, and community-building.  What a success!

team_celebration_pc_1600_clrWe never celebrated that success. Our wrap-up party was weeks later, and combined with a regular monthly event. We should have had a separate event.  Even a small group meeting where we discussed what we had learned and what had been the most successful part would have been a major asset to the festival and our developing skill sets. Instead, our month of celebration just fizzled out…

Through The Art & Science of Coaching training, I learned about the four stages of any life project. There is Inspiration, Implementation, Value Integration, and Celebration.  Each aspect is important in personal growth and development; however, often times we only assign value to the first two stages: inspiration and implementation. Did you realize a solution? Did you follow through on your solution? Great, next project.  That was definitely what I did with organizing my first festival.

When we move into the last two stages, though, transformation occurs. What value did this project add to your life? For my project, I gained more confidence, determination, resiliency, a new skill set, and a passion for creating community. I didn’t recognize those things at the time, but each time I think back to “that summer,” these new values scream out at me as to why “that summer” was so powerful.

What about the fourth stage: Celebration?

Marilyn Atkinson, the founder of Erickson International, where I took my coach training, defines this stage as “Completion and Satisfaction.”  In her book, Inner Dynamics of Coaching, Atkinson writes that “(w)hen you redefine the word completion to mean ‘having learned something of value,’ you easily allow yourself to acknowledge what you have done.” She continues, “(w)hen you have learned what you needed or wanted to learn, your energy becomes joyful and inspires you to play the game again, perhaps in a bigger, bolder way.”

Did I do any of that with my festival? No. Not until I started being coached. In my coaching sessions, I started realizing how much that summer strengthened me.  I worked through the value of going through it, and acknowledged everything that I had learned during the process:

“Woohoo! I did it. The festival was a success! I learned how to get the license to show documentaries. I used social media to create a celebratory movement of Edmonton’s vegetarians and vegans. I promoted the solutions that exist in our city, rather than getting stuck in what needed to change – and now Edmonton continues to explode with vegan-preneurs! I use this new skill set in each new project I undertake: from empowering staff to launching my own company. I have a deeper understanding of what is needed to get people out to events, and my future projects will be even better!”

8i6oyeyKTNow, it’s your turn. What project have you completed that needs celebrating?  What have you learned during the project? Now that you have done this, how can you make it even bigger and better next time? Share below.