Tag Archives: Change the World

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.

Multi-tasking My Feminism

We used to brag about our ability to multitask. Employers would be excited to hear about our ability to keep track of multiple activities at the same time. It used to illustrate a sharp brain that could process information quickly and efficiently.

And then “they” did a study. I don’t remember who, and I don’t remember when, but I remember hearing about it, and taking note. According to the study, multi-tasking was not as efficient as we all believed it was. Simply put, the brain had to disengage from one activity before it could begin another activity. (Regardless of how quickly our brain could disengage and re-engage?  I’m not sure if that was ever looked into.) This process took 30 seconds, but that is 30 seconds that we couldn’t get back. That was a waste of 30 seconds, and therefore not as efficient as finishing one task before starting another one.

I had a manager once who gave morning meetings. It was a womens-only business, and for the most part, I had a lot of time for thinking while there. I was the morning receptionist, so I wasn’t always there for the meeting that the rest of the team really needed to hear. One morning, though, I caught the end of her daily pep talk. I cannot remember what she was referring to, but she made the point about something that all of the women really resonated with:

“It’s like when you’re cleaning the house. You don’t just finish one room at a time and move on. You start the dishes, pick up the papers, take the laundry to the bedroom, etc.”

I think it resonated with me so well because I had never thought about what I was doing in that way. Growing up, we had a list of cleaning chores that we ticked off throughout the weekend as they were done, so I always did think of it as accomplishing one task at a time. My favourite chore, though, was laundry, and that is something that necessitates ‘multi-tasking’ while you do it. Unless you take your laundry to a laundromat (something that I have always fantasized about but never had the pleasure to get to do), you put some dirty clothes, and go onto something else for the next 20-30 minutes while your machine is cleaning it. I think this may actually be why laundry is my favourite task around the house. When I’m doing laundry, I get it in the machine, and then I am motivated to do something else around the house while I am waiting for the next part of that task. It’s somewhat rewarding to have the tasks around the house broken down into small tasks that I can engage and disengage my mind from.

Last summer, I read an article about how women’s work around the home is still not valued for the amount of effort put into it. Simply put, women are still informally put into the position of house manager, needing to remember events, chores (“honey-do” lists are just one way of delegating), and holding the family unit to the standard required for that family.  This idea has led to many conversations with my feminist ally husband… and even a few arguments. (Our relationship thrives on the constant growth of understanding our world from our slightly different viewpoints.) I am still ruminating on this idea, and probably always will be ruminating on it.

(The article is on the drain that this mental workload places on women. I highly suggest you read the article and have conversations about this with your friends and family. Check it out here: The Mental Workload of a Mother)

Recently, it has dawned on me that – just as women’s role as ‘house manager’ is not valued – women’s ability to multitask is being devalued with this “new study.”  Of course, nobody in the study or the media reporting on the study would ever say that women’s ability to do this is actually detrimental. That’s not the power structure of patriarchy works at this point in time (nor for the majority of its recorded history). Power structures are often more nuanced than to blatantly state something like that. Instead, the strengths of the lower segment of society are inadvertently de-valued to keep their power and confidence at bay so that those in power can stay there with the value of the strengths that got them there still intact.

This brings me to my leading philosophy on the kind of feminist that I am. There are several forms of feminism – from those who think women should be treated (and as such act) just like men to those who push for the acceptance of gender fluidity and a rejection of the binary.  I sit somewhere in the middle of those groups (I just like seeing the whole spectrum so much).

I recognize that there is a cultural construction of each gender. Within those constructs, there are characteristics that we apply to either genders. For example, men are assumed to be better at spatial reasoning and therefore excel in mathematics. Women, in this example, are assumed to be better at emotional intelligence and therefore excel in roles as caregivers. I know that culture is not static, but a web that we are constantly creating and navigating throughout. In this web, men are told that they are better at math and so they are more interested in it and spend more time understanding it. Women are told that they are better at understanding emotions and are encouraged to learn more about other people’s feeling, opinions, and the social repercussions that this has. Our web is still constructed with patriarchal tendencies, and those dictate that mathematics is more valuable than people’s feelings. Building a bridge is seen as a greater accomplishment than building a team of people with diverse opinions.

My call to feminist arms is to change the characteristics that we as a society value.  All of us have amazing strengths, and it is time that society values those strengths for their uniqueness rather than valuing only those that have always been in power.

When it comes to multi-tasking, I can see it from a non-feminist viewpoint, too. In this the information age, we are bombarded with so much information, tasks, and something new and shiny, that it can be overwhelming for many people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that some people thrive more in this environment than others. This doesn’t mean that multi-tasking is bad for all of us. What should be focused on instead is how much multi-tasking is still efficient for one person before they can no longer hold it.

For me, I need that break after 20-30 minutes. I also need to feel like I am accomplishing something in order to be motivated to get something else done. As I get into any new role, I use this knowledge about myself to make my work that much more efficient. My multi-tasking load is not going to be the same as yours, and that’s OK.  As someone with an adequate emotional intelligence, I will accept your knowledge of yourself and your strengths and help you excel for who you are.  And, in a slightly different life, I might even have been able to build you a bridge, too. 😉


And Then It Hit Me

I agonized. I thought it all out. I spent nights, lying awake, thinking about it. Yet, I wasn’t doing anything about it.

One night, I got out of bed and decided to do something. My health-focused (read “hypochondriac”) brain had been telling me to just think about something else and drift off to sleep. If I fell asleep now, I could get 6 hours of sleep before the baby was up for the day. OK, now 5 1/2 hours. Somewhere between 5 1/2 and 5 hours of sleep before the inevitable waking up to baby stirrings, I realized that it no longer mattered. How many hours of sleep had I already lost to this? How many more was I going to lose?

I could figure out this problem. I could find the solution on my own. My recent thoughts of asking “expert” friends wasn’t getting done. I needed to just do it myself. Even if it was two hours past the time I really “should have” been sleeping.

An hour later, I had no solution, but I had more information. The journey towards a resolution was under way. It wasn’t the route I thought I was going to take, but my life rarely follows its plan.

And then it hit me.

No, my life does not follow my plans. But my life does follow my intention: to change the world. Whether through some seismic masterpiece or the tiny little decisions that I make at 3 hours past the time I should be sleeping – my life is changing the world. Why should I lose any more sleep worrying about that seismic masterpiece when those little things make just as much of an impact?

And so here I type – two hours before I should go to sleep. Just 25 minutes, I said. That’s all I need to make a difference to me today. That’s all I need to let my voice come out, just a little bit. There is so much more I would like to say, but there really isn’t more time in my day. And maybe there won’t be for the next 20 years. But why should I wait for that perfect moment or that seismic masterpiece if I can make as big of an impact with those tiny little moments every day?

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!

Easier to Pull than to Push

How do we make things happen? What does it take to create real change in this world? Who gets to leave a legacy behind? These are the questions that I have pondered through many of my Quarter Life Crises. (You can check out more at: Writing of a Quarter Life Crisis.)  And I couldn’t quite explain this for myself until the phrase – “it’s easier to lead with a pull than a push” – was mentioned to me earlier this year.

I’ve been an “activist” for a long time. When you read that word, what do you think? Often, it conjures up images of rallies, and large signs; sounds of people yelling from soap boxes and angry chants from mobs taking over the streets. For me, though, it means that I have studied the status quo, compared it to my personal ethics, and realized that I have to do something to make the world more into the ethical place I want to live in.  I actively challenge the status quo through my individual behaviour.

There are several ways to change the world; and I’ve been a part of quite a few. I have a confession to make, though: I have never been to a rally. I heard about a lot of them in university, and my interest was peaked a few times, but I was never convinced that it was the right way for me to change the world.  I know several activists who regularly attend, participate in, and even organize rallies for change – and I commend them for the hard work they are doing. But, this is not how I am changing the world   Mostly this comes from my realization early on that, well, you see…I hate conflict!

This idea – to pull rather than push – resonated with me deeply when I first heard it.  It came in response to my question to a group, “What qualities make for a great leader?” The responder pulled it from a quote that “it is easier to lead by pulling rather than pushing others to follow you.” Yes!

I want you to think of a leader that was appointed to their position of supervisor, manager, or something else along the lines.  Perhaps there was no other qualified person around, or they had the potential but lacked the training of how to lead. Do they encourage, motivate or pull their employees or followers to get the work done? Or, instead, do they demand, instruct, or push their employees to do what they say? I know which type of leader I would much rather follow. I follow the leaders that lead by example, encourage me when I’m not quite sure what to do, or motivate me to pull myself up to their level. I prefer leaders who pull me rather than push me.

When I apply this thought to my own life, and my biggest commitment to a cause, I think of my fiancé and my vegan lifestyle.  My fiancé and I were friends for years before we started dating.  A few months into the new relationship, a mutual friend of ours commented to me that she never imagined us together because I was a very opinionated vegan and my fiancé – at that time – loved eating meat. I love remembering this impression of our lives, and it serves as a benchmark for how much we have influenced one another. I have never even asked my fiancé to stop eating meat or consuming animal products; instead, I cooked many of our early meals and shared a cookbook with him that teaches him easy substitutes and – as he remarks – inspires him to be more creative. When he first asked if he could bring a non-vegan treat into our home, I was a bit taken aback – because it was his house, too – and so much more flattered that he cared that much about my values to ask permission.  Soon enough, he had reduced his consumption of animal products even outside of our house to the point where he is now a pescatarian, but not for the same reasons I am. How did this happen? Well, I calmly shared my reasons for making this change to my lifestyle, and he was inspired by some of the minor reasons I provided.  My fiancé is also a very compassionate, respectful, and open-minded individual. Those were three of the values that led me to choosing a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle. Through his acceptance and respect of my choices, I have become even more compassionate towards people that don’t always agree with my choices, and he has illustrated how you don’t have to be extremely passionate about something (such as the end of factory farming) to contribute to its success.

What about your activism? What inspired you to be a part a movement you care about, such as veganism, the end of poverty or feminism? How do you show up as an activist leader? Do you pull people into your cause, or push them? Are you getting frustrated with the level of engagement? If so, I would love to talk! Contact me below to set up a free Activist-Engagement Session.