When Fish Fly
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Fort Frances Times Online

September 29, 2004

Dealing with stress key to success

By Duane Hicks
Staff writer

    According to Dr. Joseph Michelli, a renowned psychologist, consultant, author, and radio host, stress is “anything that threatens us and requires us to adapt.”

    It is a person’s inability to react to an inherited physiological “flight or fight” response that allows us to become stressed.

    But as the Colorado-based speaker told a crowd of some 130 people gathered at La Place Rendez-Vous last Thursday for the evening portion of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s annual general meeting, stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing—if you have the right attitude and perspective.

    “Stress is a good thing. The opposite of stress is death,” Dr. Michelli remarked. “But when you’re no longer performing well at work because of stress, that’s when there’s a problem.”

    But solutions do exist, as evident in Dr. Michelli’s newest book, “When Fish Fly,” which he co-wrote with John Yokoyama, owner of the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash.

    Dr. Michelli noted Yokoyama started his fish market ruling it with a “totalitarian iron fist” and soon went $50,000 into debt. It was only after he changed the way he treated staff, and his approach to business, that his success story began.

    Dr. Michelli said Yokoyama revamped how he managed the fish market and treated employees, ended up with a remarkably successful business that has been featured on CNN, and has taught the corporate world valuable lessons about personal accountability, respect, and how to make work both meaningful and fun.

    “A fish market is not a pleasant place to work. But sometimes, if you manage people to manage stress in their lives, they’ll do amazing things,” he explained.

    Dr. Michelli suggested there are three viable techniques for managing stress—you can cope, you can change, or you can avoid stress altogether. 

    Given a specific situation, any one of these techniques may be very effective.

    However, by injecting humor into these techniques, you can achieve better-than-expected results. Dr. Michelli suggested using the following techniques:

    •Learn the art of misdirection (change the anticipated response and change the outcome)

    For instance, at the fish market, crowds gathered to see the workers throw around fish. But the owner of the Italian market there complained they were crowding up the street, and hurting his business.

    So Yokoyama suggested that anytime someone asked for something at the fish market that they couldn’t sell them, they would pass out cards saying, “We don’t carry that. Try the Italian market.”

    The owner of the Italian market stopped complaining—and even started buying from the fish market he’d protested.

    •Learn to find the good news in a good news/bad news situation (when you start with, “And the good news is . . .,” you create a crack in negative thinking)

    For instance, when a fish is dropped at the fish market, it could be seen as a loss in profit. But instead, employees are told to look at it as a good thing as that fish is donated to soup kitchens.

    •Avoid Retired On Active Duty employees (ROAD), also known as those who spend more time worrying, and complaining, about everything that they don’t have any for their actual work.

    •Avoid CTD (circling the drain) thinking, where the fretful anticipation of the worst possible outcome leaves you paralyzed, seemingly without options.

    •Avoid TIP-ping (taking it personally). Separate the person from the problem, because it’s not always about you.

    •Know that things change. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five years?”

    •Learn to use exaggeration, as it lightens the perspective when used appropriately.

    •Be a “joyspotter” and learn to track joy. Keep a list of what brings you joy and resolve to update it every day. Share this with co-workers, friends, and family.

    •And remember the secret to happiness is “to want what you have.”

    Nancy Daley, educator/trainer with the CMHA here and organizer of the event, said she was very pleased with Dr. Michelli.

    “I enjoyed it a lot,” she said. “I thought it was quite enlightening and upbeat. I like the way he tied together humour and real life.”

    Daley noted the CMHA office here still has a few copies of “When Fish Fly” for sale. Those interested can drop by 612 Portage Ave. and buy one.

    While technically part of the CMHA’s annual general meeting, the evening program was attended by individuals from outside the CMHA, including those from area businesses and organizations, such as Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., Abitibi-Consolidated, the Rainy River District School Board, and Good Samaritan Home in International Falls.

     The dinner was preceded by the annual general meeting of the CMHA. This saw the introduction of its 2004-05 board of directors and the acknowledgment of outgoing members.

    The new board includes president Elaine Soucy, vice-president Tina Leimenstoll, Bev Kotnik, and Caron Cridland, and new members Trudy McCormick, Linda Rajala, and Fr. Wayne MacKintosh.

    Outgoing members honoured were Jane Tibbetts, who served 12 consecutive years on the board, and Pat Crewson, who served nine years.

    As well, a silent auction held at the annual general meeting raised $1,683 for the CMHA.