Last week I was invited to speak to a local women’s organization about joy and overcoming self-doubt. Before the event even began, numerous ladies who had read my bio asked me this question:
“What’s a joyologist? I think I need that in my life.”
Well, I'm so glad you asked!
To me, a joyologist is someone who seeks out joy and creates it daily, who studies its effects on our lives and explains how we can connect with it more deeply in our own way. These days I share joy through music, coaching and speaking.
While I’ve only been using the label “joyologist” for a couple years (a colleague described me this way once and the term stuck), I’ve been studying joy my whole life.
You see, as a kid I was a delightfully happy (yet shy) bundle of energy. But the older I got, the more self-doubt took control of the thoughts in my head and encouraged me to hide from the world. As a result, I stifled my curiosity, my voice, and even on many occasions, my smile.
It wasn’t until I observed several incredible examples of joy in those around me as a teen that I started learning how to reconnect to this important part of living a healthy, emotionally rich life.
We learn by the example and stories of others.
That's one reason why I'm thrilled to be able to share my own story once again as a contestant in the Toastmasters District 68 International Speech Competition April 29 in Baton Rouge!
This contest represents all of Louisiana (and Beaumont), and the winner continues on to the next round of the competition (which culminates in 1 international winner). The District contest is open to the public, so if you're curious to hear these inspiring speakers compete April 29, let me know and I'll get you the details!
My husband and I have been back in Louisiana for 8 months now, and while most things have gone even better than I’d expected, one thing I’ve been struggling with a lot is allergies.
They started a few years ago in Texas (I had no idea you could develop significant allergies as an adult!), so I found an allergist who helped me get my symptoms under control.
Since December, however, they seem to have gotten worse.
After visiting a doctor here and switching things up a bit, I’m feeling better but not yet 100%.
This can be very frustrating—especially when it affects my singing—and it sometimes gets me down.
Until I remember this phrase:
“Sh** happens, but suffering is optional.” (or "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.")
I choose JOY while I keep looking for solutions.
I invite you to take a look at your own recent frustrations.
What emotion(s) did you experience when dealing with them?
For the times when you felt extensive misery/suffering, could there be an opportunity next time to experience the inevitable pain and choose joy instead?
Never in a million years did I imagine I would one day say the following statement:
"Performed at a fancy fundraiser gala with a group of ukulele players (wearing creatively styled trash bags) and environmental nonprofit leaders (wearing bright yellow ponchos) in a "celebrity karaoke" performance to raise money for a Louisiana opera nonprofit."
And yet, every single word in that sentence is TRUE :P
When the Louisiana Stormwater Coalition approached the St. Alban's Ukulele Orchestra about the idea of accompanying them for a "celebrity karaoke performance," no one immediately jumped on the idea but me. I wasn't even quite sure what we were stepping into, but I I like adventure (and bringing others along)! Thankfully, a handful of other players also stepped up eventually. In the end, the performance turned out to be so much fun! The audience loved our "full-out" costumes, and it was all for a worthwhile cause (in addition to putting on performances in the community, Opera Louisiana brings musical programs into schools to involve kids at a young age).
A couple of the biggest surprises of the night:
None of this would have happened without a lot of "letting go" by various groups: Opera Louisiana for welcoming a celebrity karaoke competition specifically for non-vocalists; by the local "celebrities" who are not vocalists or performers; by our uke group for being willing to try something different and get creative with garbage bags. The list goes on and on.
If you're reading this and realize you want some of this brand of fun for yourself, start finding little ways you can let go too! You never know what could happen...
Here in south Louisiana we're coming off of a huge cultural high--Mardi Gras. Whether you're religious or not, everyone gets involved in this celebration in some way, from eating king cake to attending the Super Krewe parades of New Orleans, enjoying live music or even running in a Courir de Mardi Gras in Cajun Country.
The day AFTER Mardi Gras is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. This is traditionally a day when the all excess stops and we reflect/cut back/give up something for 40 days to remind us where we came from/where we'll all return one day (dust).
This year I'm going nontraditional, and I invite you to join me. For the next 40 days, I'm giving up ARGUING FOR MY LIMITATIONS.
I do it.
You do it.
We all do it.
And as a result, we don’t live up to our full potential.
If the cigar box below had argued for its limitations, it never could have:
What is arguing for YOUR limitations costing YOU?
I challenge you to challenge yourself for the next 40 days. Every time you notice yourself arguing for your LIMITATIONS, pause and reframe your thoughts to start arguing for POSSIBILITIES, no matter how small.
After 40 days, let's see where we end up!
“Don’t be the best in the world. Be the best for the world.” - Dewitt Jones
This quote has been circulating around social media for the past few weeks.
It rang particularly true for me today as I sang for the funeral of a man who—from the small glimpse into his life I gathered through the eulogy and homily—took this concept to heart.
He didn’t set out to “be the best” at everything he did, though he achieved many things in his lifetime.
Instead, he approached life with joy and curiosity. He went out of his way to help others, and he cared not just ABOUT but FOR his community of family and friends in his own special, actionable way.
The love they felt for him was palpable.
THAT is a true achievement—the mark of a life well-lived.
In the end, what truly matters is not our career highlights, or the challenges we’ve overcome, or our personal claims to fame.
But did we show up every day—even when we’re in the weeds—and work toward being our best self FOR the world.
It’s not an easy task, AND it’s so worth striving for.
As I get myself ready en français today to sing in a few hours for the LSU Friends of French Annual Gala, the topic of "asking for help" is top of mind. This concept is so simple, important, and yet tricky for many people, including me.
I used to view asking for help or making requests of others as a bad/scary thing. I thought it showed weakness or would make people feel burdened. Not to mention how much I dreaded the possibility of the worst response of all: "No!" :)
But over the years, and thanks to conversations with many people much wiser than myself, I eventually came to realize that making requests of others doesn't have to be negative. It can actually be an EMPOWERING action because it REVEALS what you need and GIVES others a chance to participate (sometimes in a small way, sometimes in a big way) in your world/journey/mission. It is an INVITATION to contribute their knowledge, gifts or talents as well. You'll still likely hear plenty of "no's" along the way, and even those can be turned into gifts of knowledge, power and/or inspiration if you look for them.
Considering this, I have an important question/request for you today:
Where would you like to hear me play in 2023?
Discovering Louisiana from a musician's perspective over the last few months has been a lot of fun, AND there are a lot of places/events/opportunities that I still don't know about or haven't connected with yet!
Many of my favorite gigs and performances over the years have come from word of mouth or an introduction from a friend of a friend, so please let me know who I could be reaching out to, OR let them know about me.
AshleyOrlando.com is one easy way to share my story and music.
I look forward to your suggestions and truly appreciate your encouragement/support!
Over the holidays, my family came into town from the far corners of the globe. My siblings and I hadn't all been together in one place in 5 years, so we had a lot of catching up to do.
One night we went to our local bowling alley/entertainment center and grabbed a quick dinner at the fast-casual restaurant. Except our trip was anything but quick. Our food took so long to arrive that management apologized by giving us each 30-minutes of unlimited arcade games to thank us for our patience.
With a "free play" card in hand, I headed straight for the Skee-Ball machines I always loved as a kid and started rolling the wooden balls down the thin alley toward the point buckets.
1000 points. 2000 points. Occasionally 3000 points. I'd always been pretty good at always getting the lower levels of points. Even though I hadn't played in years, it was easy and fun--my safe zone.
Every now and then I'd glance at the higher levels--4000 points, 5000 points, 10,000 points.
"I wonder how you hit those," I thought. "They're beyond my reach."
But then another fleeting thought popped into my mind: "WHY are they beyond my reach? What if the reason I had never hit those buckets was because I've never actually AIMED for them?"
I immediately realized this was true. I usually had a limited number of tokens to play with and focused on earning as many tickets as I could with those tokens. That scarcity mindset of "I'll eventually run out so I'd better make the most of what I have" had encouraged me to always play it safe and focus on points I could definitely achieve.
But this time was different.
I had free, unlimited play for 30 minutes. AND, the free play cards didn't even allow us to earn tickets, so there was no physical prize to shoot for.
"What if, for the remainder of that time, I focus ONLY on the big buckets--5,000 points, or even the tiny 10,000 point buckets in the top corners?"
I had nothing to lose.
I started putting more power behind my rolls and aiming much higher on the board. The next few throws were wild and all duds. But then a ball hit the 5,000 bucket once, twice, three times in a row!
That quick improvement prompted me to shift my sights even higher to the 10,000 buckets. I kept rolling and rolling, tweaking my technique each time. By the end of 3 games, I had hit those "elusive" buckets 7 times simply because I raised my sights higher, aimed for that new goal, and experimented with my strategy until I reached it.
Scoring big on a few games of Skee-Ball don't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of life. But this principle does. My initial thought was true--the biggest points were out of my reach at first--until I changed my mindset and started AIMING for them. Until I stopped worrying about missing and shot for what was POSSIBLE instead of what was PROBABLE.
Does this story remind you of an area of your life where you're playing it safe? What big dream are you not committing to 100% in your thoughts and actions. And what is one step you can take regularly to aim higher, shoot farther, and improve by 1% every day?
Have you ever wrestled with your inner critic when it tried to keep you safe but small?
I have. And more times than I could ever count, I’ve let my inner critic win.
But over the years, I’ve learned that staying safe protects me from failure, AND it also keeps me from joy, deep connection and new collaborations.
Step out. Be courageous. Embrace failure.
The journey means so much more when you stop shooting for what you already KNOW you can do and start learning what you are TRULY capable of.
This is the message I delivered mid-December that won 1st place during the GSU Toastmaster's Club's International Speech Contest! I now move on to compete in the Area Contest Jan. 21 at the Bluebonnet Library in Baton Rouge.
If leveling up your speaking or leadership skills is on your 2023 goals list, Toastmasters is a wonderful way to practice regularly in a supportive learning environment. It's never too late to join a club near you and start practicing. I'm proof of that :D
This year has definitely been one for the books, and in reflecting on all that has happened, I'm having trouble picking a favorite moment. But the good thing is that I don't really have to--each experience (whether good or bad) has been a chance to grow, learn, step out of my comfort zone and have fun along the way. I hope you feel the same, especially about things that may not have turned out how you hoped in 2022. For challenging situations you find yourself in right now, I invite you to keep an open mind in 2023. With time, you may find a gift where you least expect it.
One recent opportunity I'm particularly thankful for is getting to talk to fellow coach and host Kristen Henry about life, music, coaching and my big mission on her latest episode of The Widening Your Aperture Podcast. If you're curious about my backstory or how I help people find their voice today, click the image below to listen in to our conversation.
I'll be taking a much-needed break for the next few weeks to celebrate the holidays with family, but I look forward to seeing y'all and continuing to find our voices together in the New Year!
My husband, Adam, is adamant (haha. Didn't even mean to make that joke!) to wait until after Thanksgiving for anything Christmas-related to enter his world.
But as a musician, I know that behind-the-scenes preparation for the Christmas/holiday season starts MUCH earlier--often around September--so that we can be ready in time for Dec. 1.
That includes working on this latest ukulele tutorial for RockClass101.com in the heat of the Louisiana summer!
So this year, as you enjoy all the gatherings, events, music and cuisine, take a moment (especially when things don't go perfectly or as you expected) to remember that people have created them with love, hard work, and consideration to make your holidays a little bit brighter :)
Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist/ukulele artist and coach who helps growth-focused leaders find their voice, grow their presence & amplify their impact.