Earlier this week I had a very interesting meeting with a cultural development professional in New Orleans about jazz and French and heritage--topics I LOVE to talk about.
It was clear from the get-go that we had a surprising number of things in common, but what made the conversation exciting was something else that I realized within the first 10 minutes: both of us cultivate a habit of thinking in POSSIBILITIES rather than CONSTRAINTS.
We were purely brainstorming in this meeting, but thinking in possibilities brought a special energy and curiosity to the conversation. It expanded the realm of how we could potentially work together more than if we had the blinders of constraint narrowing our focus.
Do you make a habit of thinking in possibilities rather than constraints?
One way to practice this is with a game that comes from the improv comedy world--the "Yes, and..." Game.
When someone contributes an idea:
I do this regularly (not perfectly, but often), and as a result, magic/coincidences/unexpected opportunities show up for me daily.
The clencher is that I also SHOW UP for the opportunities that come my way: I step out of my comfort zone. I connect. I get curious. I explore—even when it means going somewhere by myself.
If you want more of this in your life, practice focusing on possibilities and showing up for yourself for 90 days. Who knows what opportunities you could start creating in YOUR life!
P.S. Next week I'll be heading to Houston to teach ukulele to a bunch of 5-10 year olds for the first time. Wish me luck! :P
HOUSTON FRIENDS: Save the date for this upcoming show Friday, Oct. 27, at 8pm at the Dosey Doe Breakfast, BBQ & Whiskey Bar in The Woodlands, TX! Want reminders? Click here for the Facebook event.
I was dressed in my coolest “sticky weather” attire—a teal, cotton sundress—to play the farmer’s market, knowing it would be hot even in the shade.
No amount of shampoo was gonna keep away the sweat I’d likely endure, so I wore a big, floppy hat to cover my greasy locks.
At one point midway through the gig, I was feeling grateful to be there, though a bit sluggish due to the heavy humidity. As I took an ice break and walked toward the restroom, a little girl about 6 years old showed up out of the blue. She was dressed in a cute, rainbow-patterned jumpsuit and holding her mom’s hand. She glanced at me as they passed and said in a clear, self-assured voice:
“I just want to say you look beautiful.”
I looked at her surprised, partly because I definitely didn’t feel beautiful at that moment and partly because I wasn’t expecting such an eloquent, confident phrase to come from a kid her size. No one else was around. She was indeed talking to me.
“Thank you!” I smiled back at her, and we continued walking in opposite directions—she and her mom back to the market and I stepped into the restroom.
Once inside, I looked into the mirror. Even though nothing physically had changed in that 5-second interaction—I was surprised by my reflection. That little girl’s simple compliment had worked its magic. I actually FELT a little less sweaty, a little more colorful, a little less gross. She had verbally “highlighted” something she liked in the world, and had given it as a tiny gift to me. And it ever-so-slightly shifted the momentum of my day in a positive direction.
Are YOU a highlighter?
Do you regularly find ways to bring to light things you like about people (even strangers) around you?
You can brighten someone’s day with the simplest of kind words—a thank you for something they've done, an acknowledgment of them or something they care about, a compliment about something they're wearing, etc. And like a wheel rolling down a hill, by starting a positive cycle, you’d be amazed how that ball can keep rolling and rolling and rolling.
Be a highlighter every day, and I guarantee your world will become a brighter place.
You may want to keep some sunglasses handy as a result :p
On a more musical note...
We had a fabulous time singing, playing and dancing up a storm Sunday night with the Big Swing Big Band at the Covington Country Club!
It's always a pleasure and privilege to sing with this rockin' band made up of some of the best musical talent around.
This time was a special treat because I also unexpectedly got to swing dance with some old friends from college who I haven't seen in years.
AND...while standing outside with my phone to my ear to warm up, I accidentally met Patrick Hennessey, a retired musicology professor and professional trombonist who taught for many years at the University of Hawaii (so he knows all the jazz ukulele greats like Lyle Ritz--considered to be one of the founders of ukulele jazz--because he used to have them come talk to his classes!), and he now lives near me. haha
I can't even make this stuff up, y'all!
The world is a small place. Put yourself in interesting places so you can connect (and reconnect) with interesting people. You never know who you might meet.
I hope to see you soon at an upcoming gig!
What an incredible trip to Nashville I had last week learning from one of the most talented (and probably THE most famous) ukulele players alive, Jake Shimabukuro, along with his best friends, who happen to also be amazing ukulele performers and teachers!
The whole week was full of connecting, learning, and reminding myself that the "craftsman mindset"--which focuses on daily practice, appreciating small wins, enjoying the journey (not just striving for the destination) and consistently challenging yourself while also having fun--is the path to be on in the long run if you want to achieve things that seem difficult or maybe even impossible right now.
All the attendees were amazed at not only how phenomenal of a performer Jake is, but also how humble and personable he is even though he has recorded, performed and toured with some of the biggest artists around, including Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Bette Midler and more.
He answered all our questions, cheered us on during open mics, and even could be found picking up plates for those who happened to eat dinner near him in the dining hall!
One of the biggest highlights for me during this retreat was getting to perform for the first time with one of my mentors and teachers, Bryan Tolentino. He has a magic touch on the ukulele, which is why many people refer to his style of playing as "fairy dusting." He certainly brought that beautiful technique to our performance of Andy Cumming's classic song "Waikiki" during the final night of the retreat.
I'm so grateful to have had the pleasure of being a part of this innovative event and truly welcoming community. Here's to many more experiences to take chances and grow.
And here's a video of Bryan and I performing "Waikiki" at the beautiful Wightman Chapel on the Scarritt-Bennett Campus in Nashville, TN.
Listening to the washing machine's rhythmic whooshing down the hall is soothing as I pack for "grown-up summer camp" :D
This particular event happens to be a week-long ukulele retreat in Nashville led by the most famous ukulele player alive today--Jake Shimabukuro--and a bunch of his talented ukulele pro friends from Hawaii (several of whom I have fortunately called my teachers for the last few years).
Thank goodness for technology, which has made it possible for me to study with them from afar, but I can't express how excited I am to finally meet everyone in person! If the pandemic taught me anything, it was that these are not only great players but also great people. They truly showed up for the ukulele community, innovated over and over and over again as situations changed, and supported us all in learning how to connect deeply in new ways.
Like hidden gems in plain sight! I will always be grateful for their example.
And as of tomorrow, I look forward to learning from them, jamming with them and sharing our mutual love for this joyful instrument and community in person!
Also, in recent weeks I've had the pleasure of giving back to my local ukulele community in a small way--by organizing a fun, 1-song recording session at the Baton Rouge library. Many of the uke group's members had never been in a recording studio before and didn't even realize this branch of the library had one (plus training classes) open to the public.
I love sharing publicly accessible hidden local gems with people, so this community project has been fun for all of us. Can't wait to hear the final song once we finish the edits!
You might want to check out your own local library to see what special programs, activities, and equipment (like 3D printing) it may offer.
See y'all in July!
Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist/ukulele artist and coach who helps growth-focused leaders find their voice, grow their presence & amplify their impact.