Friday, November 17, 2006

Learning from a Champion

For the last few months I have been volunteering as the Communications Chair for one of St. Catharines' mayoral candidates, Marilyn Bodogh ( You might recognize the name - she is a two time Olympic curling champion and respected broadcaster for curling competitions. Marilyn has an indomitable spirit, and mounds of energy, which she called upon in spades for this mayoral race. With 8 candidates running, Marilyn started out in front, announcing her intent to run, opening her campaign office, assembling a terrific team, and knocking on over 15,000 doors.

A woman that is that motivated and driven is hard to keep up with, especially when she gets off to a running start. Although she did not ultimately win this race, she certainly woke up our city, and made it think twice about what it really wanted in terms of leadership. On election night, as we celebrated a race well-run, Marilyn remained the image of grace and strength as she hugged and thanked supporters, danced with gusto, and graciously expressed her gratitude to her campaign team.

What I've learned from Marilyn:
  1. When I first met Marilyn she shared a quote with me that she learned from Lara Sabian - "Well-behaved women never made history." Was she saying that you've gotta be BAD if you want to make an impact on history? No - she was saying, push the limits - never accept defeat - set your sights on your goal, then never look back.
  2. Once Marilyn decided to run for mayor, that is exactly what she did. I learned that although the tortoise may win the race (with a bit of luck) - sticking to the plan and going full steam ahead with the support of a knowledgeable team will get you to your goals much sooner.
  3. Speaking of team - Marilyn amassed a spectacular team of highly skilled individuals with their own particular gift. This left her free to do what she does best - to market her message and to get out there where the people are. So - again, I have learned that rather than trying to do everything yourself, pull together a team of experts that you can trust, and rely on them to do what they do best, so you can do what you do best.
  4. Last of all (for this blog anyway), I've learned that defeat is a matter of perspective, and it is never the end.

I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with such a terrific group of people, and for all that I have learned through the experience. In my next blog, I have more learning experiences to share - this time from one of my clients who recently completed a 24 hour extreme hiking expedition. Talk about inspiration! Stay tuned!

Julie Christiansen

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Anniversary and birthday thoughts...

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. On Thursday of this week, I will have another birthday (not 40 yet!)... Because I have been in a bit of a funk for the last while, my hubby arranged a surprise party for me on Friday night. My brother in law and his wife came to visit for the weekend, and we had planned a family get together for Friday evening. I never suspected a thing. My husband called me while I was out and asked me to take my daughter to Welland to pick up some stuff from the mall - I figured no way was I driving out there during rush hour. My twin boys tried desperately to get me to help them deliver their papers because it was raining - I said no way - I have a job of my own, and delivering papers is their job. I relented somewhat and drove them down the street so they wouldn't have to walk with all those papers, but then I came back home. Then my daughter tries to get me to take her to the bank - I said we would do that when we went to Welland... I was honestly starting to get annoyed that everyone wanted me to be their little chauffeur - but thought nothing more of it. Then, my brother in law wouldn't let me come into my own kitchen! That is par for the course - he always cooks when he comes to visit and never lets me in there. So I started to suspect that perhaps they were planning an anniversary surprise, since that is today and the birthday is next week... anyhow, what's my point? The point is that sometimes we get frustrated at the situations that are happening in life and they are happening for a darn good reason. But we get so caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves, that we can't see the forest for the trees. Needless to say, I was very surprised and we had a great time. Once I was on the other side of things, and everyone explained why they were trying to get me out of the house, I felt a lot better, and was truly appreciative of the effort that everyone went through.

Bottom line: everything happens for a reason. Unfortunately, life doesn't always get together to explain in detail why frustrations came your way, but eventually you'll get to the point where you understand and even appreciate the frustration in your life. So - while frustration is a bummer, sometimes - almost all the time, there is a really good reason for it.

Frustration is a Bummer

Have you ever had times in your life when nothing seems to be going right? I mean - nothing. Your stress goes through the roof because everywhere you go and everything you do seems to just backfire, or even worse - it just falls flat. That is how things have been for me for about 2 months - everyone has their dry seasons, but it still stinks! I have noticed that as my frustration builds I tend to withdraw from social situations, I am more irritable and my temper becomes very short, and everything becomes a chore. Frustration really is a bummer.

One of the things I have made a conscious effort to do throughout this process is to observe my reactions and responses to things, and to make note of what I don't like about how I am coping, and how I want to change. It embarrasses me to say it, but I find that when I am very frustrated, and feeling overwhelmed that I don't like to take ownership of my circumstances. I think this is a fairly universal human trait - that we would prefer if someone else were to blame for our situations. But one of the things I've realized as I go through this particularly dry season in my life, is that if others are to blame for my circumstances, then others will be the ones who get me out of this situation! That means that I have no control over my own destiny. That really doesn't sit right. So - I am working on taking ownership of my current circumstances, and rather than trying to lay blame, I am identifying the things I did and the choices I made that brought me to this place. And on the flip side, I am looking at what choices I can make now, that could take me to a better place in the future. There is a saying that when you change the way you look at things, things change. I'm holding on to that one with both hands. If there's one thing you can count on - things are going to change. Sometimes they change for the worse, and sometimes they change for the better.

Have you looked at This is a great weblog that has been turned into a book. It has gotten me thinking - the human experience is fairly common across cultures and creeds - I would love to hear what frustrates you and what makes you angry. I only have one request - please don't use profanity - that adds to my frustration level. While I may not be able to respond to your comments individually, I will most certainly comment through the blog. If ever you can't access this blog because the site is down for maintenance or whatever, please visit my website, and you can leave your comments there. Ciao for now!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What's breakfast got to do with anger?

Apparently, a whole lot. My breakfast meeting with WHY Club was interesting. WHY stands for "We Help You" - it is a networking group that meets once per week for breakfast and to exchange ideas for generating business in the form of leads. Each week they have a speaker, and I was honored to be invited to address the group. The weather was horrible (thunder, lightning, torrential downpours), but there was a fairly good turnout nonetheless. I talked about my business, BODA reLEAF consulting, and our focus on team development, anger and stress management and communication.

Right away, someone said - "you should talk to the fire department" - the St. Catharines fire department is in a bitter dispute with its fire chief. Others said, "you should be really busy!" I agree - I should be really busy. Not because people are SO messed up, but because anger is a part of everyday life, and one that we tend to ignore because of the negative stigma attached to it.

I think half the battle of getting business to realize just how important a topic like anger could be to their bottom line is awareness. By doing presentations like the one I did for WHY, I am slowly getting the word out to businesses of all sizes that anger, stress, poor communication, and low performing teams will have a detrimental effect on the bottom line profits of any business. And this doesn't just apply to business... What's the number one thing couples argue about? MONEY. What is the number one reason couples actually end up in divorce? LACK OF COMMUNICATION. It's funny how we know this, but still don't see the need for learning more effective communication skills.

Did you know that Canada is the fourth most dangerous country to work in because of workplace violence? Betcha you didn't... Anger and stress can lead to people behaving in ways they never thought possible; still employers hesitate to admit they could have a problem with workplace violence. The reason again, is that they don't want to have negative stigma attached to their organization. However, just as it is in personal rehab, admission that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Businesses need to be proactive if they are to reduce their risk for workplace violence, and to ensure that their human resources are functioning at peak performance levels.

My new e-book, Crazy Busy, talks all about this challenge and how progressive businesses can begin to turn the tide. If you would like a copy, please email me at, or of course, you can just post a comment to this blog site. Have a good one! I'll be back with more ramblings about anger and other stuff.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Everyday Anger is Normal

Although not new to blogging, I am new to blogspot - my other host seems to have a lot of technical difficulties and it was making me angry... just kidding. I am a counselor/coach with too many years experience counselling and more recently coaching "angry" people and showing them how to make their anger work for them instead of against them. It seems to me that people like to look at this subject from a distance, as long as it doesn't relate directly to them. In fact, I have observed when people see my book cover, some of them take two steps back because its as though the anger is contagious. The truth is that anger is part of every day life. When that jerk cuts you off on the highway - you feel angry! Face it - cause it ain't going anywhere.

Think of it this way - when you squeeze an apple, apple juice comes out. When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out. When circumstances squeeze you - certain emotions come out (happiness, joy, anger, fear, sadness, whatever). That's because they were inside of you already, just waiting for an opportunity to be used! I think it's time to drop the stigma associated with anger and realize that anger is part of the human existence; we just need to learn how to express it appropriately. Tomorrow I'll be speaking to a women's business group about how anger shows up at work, and how it can negatively impact human productivity. Once it's over, I'll be back to share my thoughts on the experience.