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!
What an incredible night we had Friday:
SOLD OUT crowd, top notch venue & sound/staff, and a dream band of musicians helping me create magic for "Summer Swing with Ashley Orlando: the Great American Songbook & Beyond."
The evening was everything I imagined it could be and more.
All I can say is THANK YOU!
P.S. In case you didn't catch the article about the show, band and my backstory last week in The Advocate, click here to read it!
Leadership comes in many forms. One of the biggest lessons I've learned over the years in my own leadership journey is the importance of asking for what you want (easier said than done).
Let me preface this by saying that as a kid, I was so afraid of asking people for things (i.e. so afraid of hearing the word "no") that I made my mom call my friends to ask if they wanted to come over to play. Most of the time even now, I still find myself dragging my feet at least a little when I want to ask for something important.
But one key insight that has helped me tremendously as I ask for bigger and more important (to me) things in life is the following reframe: "What if the ASK is a GIFT?"
Case in point: I got a call last weekend from a friend who told me that my ask (that he come to the "Summer Swing" show this Friday) actually inspired him to go out of his own comfort zone and invite a new friend to join him (rather than his usual mode of going alone). My ASK turned out to be an OPPORTUNITY for him to make his own ASK and CONNECT with someone else.
You never know when your ASK could become a GIFT/NUDGE/OPPORTUNITY for others.
Now it's your turn:
See y'all Friday in the Hartley/Vey Studio!
I recently had the pleasure of sharing part of my music story with the digital magazine Canvas Rebel. Their questions brought up some fun memories I haven't visited in a while, like the very first time I was paid to sing for an event and the mistake I later learned I had been making for more than a decade! Read the article here.
Preparations are full "swing" ahead for the "Summer Swing with Ashley Orlando" show next week (Friday, June 9th) at the Hartley/Vey Studio in the Manship Theater. Get your tickets here! Can't wait to see y'all there :)
Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist/ukulele artist and coach who helps growth-focused leaders find their voice, grow their presence & amplify their impact.