Have you seen Disney's 1967 cartoon version of "The Jungle Book?"
In the movie, Mowgli, a young human boy raised by wolves in the jungle, meets King Louie, "King of the Apes."
Even though King Louie has everything his orangutan heart could possibly desire, he still compares himself to humans and comes up short, so he tries to convince Mowgli to teach him to be like "man" by harnessing the power of fire.
The scenario makes for a fun, lighthearted "I Wanna Be Like You" song in the movie, but constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling not good enough isn't just a fictional storybook problem. It's a very real, common, human issue too.
Over the years I've learned the hard way that if I focus on being THE BEST in the world, I will be often disappointed. There will ALWAYS be someone:
But if I shift my focus to being MY BEST in the world, suddenly competitors become partners. Opponents become friends, and working together, we catapult each others' combined successes to even greater heights.
My job is to show up daily as a vital life force for positive change, and to serve as an example of how you can do the same.
There’s no better reminder of this important life lesson than getting creamed in pickleball 4 times before lunch by players 20+ years older than you! (I can't beat 'em yet, but I can make them laugh :p)
Be the best YOU you can be every day, because YOU can do amazing things when you stop comparing and start creating.
Here's another version of me showing up as my best self during our Summer Swing show June 9th at the Manship Theater Hartley/Vey Studio. Watch the 5-minute show recap video below!
After receiving some great artist pitching advice from a top music agent in New Orleans, I spent this morning updating my virtual Press Kit--an asset every musician (or artist/craftsperson/speaker/etc.) needs today to help them stand out in the busy digital world.
In a nutshell, a musician's Press Kit is social proof of what they provide and how their art (music) makes people feel/respond/react.
This exercise turned out to be more fun than I initially thought as it forced me to:
This exercise also had an added benefit--it reminded me to CELEBRATE and be PROUD of all the work I've put into planning, preparing for and producing all the performances and special events I've collected over the years!
If you are in a service-based industry, think about ways that you can cultivate social proof for your business and save links/videos/photos/reviews as you earn them. It makes the gathering process a lot easier.
Curious to know what's so im-PRESS-ive about what I've been up to lately? :p
Click here to view the updated Press Kit for yourself.
1. A plateau is whatever you decide it is.
How many times have you reached a plateau in a skill, sport or hobby that you're passionate about and thought, "Maybe this is just as good as I can get."
After years of voice lessons, school plays and choir, All-State choir, etc., I thought that about singing: "Maybe this is as good as I can get."
So I stopped moving forward, learning and growing.
It took me 10 years to figure out that all I really did was live into my limited perspective: that my voice had a hard "talent" ceiling and I had reached it. There was no point in going further.
2. Sometimes finding the right teacher, mentor, or coach is what you need to get through hurdles that seem insurmountable.
Once the ukulele came into my life and I realized I WASN'T done with music, everything changed. I was having fun again as a beginner in a very welcoming ukulele community of people who were playing just for fun. I was singing again for fun. I learned how to truly HAVE FUN with music.
That got me finally learning songs I'd wanted to sing all along--jazz. Because stepping into something new isn't so scary when there's no pressure and it's enjoyable.
But it didn't get me the whole way to where I needed to be.
I have allergies to thank for that.
Yes, allergies, which I had never experienced until a few years ago. When they decided to grace me full-force with their VERY annoying presence (most often showing up as a constant sore throat--a singer's worst nightmare), at first I was worried it was some other issue--maybe I was doing something wrong with my voice when I sang?
So I did two things: went to the doctor (who confirmed I now have allergies. bleh) AND I found a vocal coach.
But not just any vocal coach. One who would teach me how to navigate the parts of my voice that I still had not mastered--areas that had held me back and fed into my limited thinking 10 years before.
THAT is when everything changed.
I just had to get out of my own way and ask for help to reach it.
3. It's possible to operate with a growth mindset in many areas of life where you have no perceived "talent" (no inside or outside pressure to be good at these) WHILE ALSO operating with a scarcity mindset in areas where you're supposed to be "gifted." The fear of failure can keep you small if you link it to your personal identity.
I now know that developing mental fitness and a growth mindset in all areas of life is a continuous process.
You'll be amazed what you can accomplish when you identify these sneaky mental roadblocks for yourself! (Which is why I coach others through this as well).
AS A RESULT OF LEARNING THESE 3 LESSONS:
Last Friday was a major musical milestone for me--headlining my own concert at the New Orleans Jazz Museum (where everyone who's anyone in New Orleans plays at some point).
I got to work with top-notch jazz musicians and pull several sides of myself together for this French & Traditional Jazz-focused performance. Many thanks to the New Orleans Jazz Museum for the opportunity, to the musicians who made it seem effortless, and to everyone who came to enjoy the music with us.
If you missed the show, click here to catch the livestream replay!
A PERSONAL CHALLENGE FOR YOU:
I invite you to take a look at 1 to 3 major hurdles in your life that you have overcome. How did you do that? What mentality did you have in doing so?
Then look at 1 to 3 challenges you are facing right now, and ask yourself honestly, "Am I working through these with a positive/growth mindset? Am I focused on learning and moving forward bit by bit (even if it means making mistakes), or am I stuck in scarcity?"
The answer may surprise you.
And if you realized you could use a bit of help shifting that, don't be afraid to a teacher, mentor or coach to ask for it.
Click on the image below to watch the full livestream replay!
Different for all of us!
And it can also shift slightly throughout our lives depending on what is most important to us at the time.
Today for me, joy is:
What is joy for you right now? And how can you step more fully into feeling and enjoying it at least a little bit each day this week?
Behind the scenes at WWLTV last week after taping a segment for
Great Day Louisiana (to air Aug. 31st)
My sister got married last weekend, and our families were fortunate to be able to gather together from around the world (literally--I can't believe no one's flight was delayed) to celebrate!
There were many highlights of the event--this fun photo booth being one of them.
My husband, Adam, and I stepped up to take our turn in front of the "magic mirror," but he was not quite ready/still choosing a prop to hold when the photographer started the automatic countdown.
The end result meant that I was the only one in our "couples" photo (they did let us take another :p).
He wasn’t ready, but I was, so I made the best of it, and we both laughed at the result.
That simple scenario reminded me of some of the "lucky chances" I've gotten personally and professionally that weren't pure luck at all. I just happened to be ready to take them when they showed up.
Don't wait for your big chance to show up.
Get ready now.
Then stay ready (that's the hard part).
This way you'll be able to take more of your own shots in life (and probably enjoy more laughs, too)!
Last week I had the privilege of testing my ukulele teaching skills for the first time at a church summer music camp for kids in Katy, TX. In total there were ~100 campers (5-10 years old) who each learned basic skills on a variety of instruments, including ukulele, piano, percussion, voice, violin and more. That's A LOT of new things for a human to process in one week, let alone 5-year-olds.
What struck me the first day of camp was how foreign playing ukulele is for little kids (it's been 6+ years now since I first picked up a uke, so I can easily take some basic skills for granted). Strumming, picking, finding chords, and telling our pinkies to move in ways that are completely new is awkward! But no matter how "foreign" the skill at first, most of the kids were eager to give it a try.
The younger ones were especially excited and quick to jump in, but they could be equally discouraged when trying something that wasn't initially easy.
Thankfully, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to up the fun factor when needed, like equating certain parts of the fretboard to "lava" that they had to stay away from. As soon as their imaginations were engaged, the kids got excited again about playing this "game." The only thing I did was change their mental frame of reference.
As adults, we go through these same stages when learning something new (hopefully with a bit more ability to self-regulate our emotions, though not always!). But we have the added pressure of "needing to learn quickly" so we can look good in front of our family, our boss, or even just strangers around us.
If only we could remove that pressure!
Oh wait. We can...because it's mostly in our heads.
And let me tell you from personal experience, there is so much beauty in being joyfully BAD at something, knowing it, accepting and even laughing at it, and working on improving anyway.
The beginner mindset has so many benefits that we adults try to breeze through. But the next time you start learning something new, I invite you to sink into that beginner status for a while. Slow down the process and learn as if you were going to teach someone else those same skills the next day (extra points if you CAN teach someone what you learned--you will remember it a lot better if so!).
Find ways to insert your imagination into the process--find your "lava"--and turn learning into a game.
We may be older, taller, and more caffeinated than kids, but they carry their own wisdom that we ourselves once knew--how to connect to joy in the moment, no matter how out of our comfort zones they may be.
Here's to truly embracing the Beginner Mindset this week :)
I hope to see some of you tomorrow night at Bistro Byronz (Midcity location) - 5:30pm to 8:30pm!
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.