Yellow Duck Umbrella and other Treats
Martha Treats is the name of my consulting business newsletter. Below are favorites over the years. To read more
Daring to think big and carry a Yellow Duck Umbrella
Lately, I have been inviting the unexpected to show up just to see what new turns my life might take. Today was no exception and a total delight.
I woke up this morning with grand plans for the day. What showed up was amazingly different. The best part about using the action management approach to life is you can change plans at any moment, especially if what shows up is more in alignment with your goals and/or your intuition. You can be that flexible because you are clear on everything you are not doing and can shift your focus in an instant.
A friend and I were talking about next steps, and I spontaneously suggested we go have coffee. I had two projects scheduled for the morning but decided being with my friend was a higher priority. It was a great executive decision in hindsight. As we brainstormed together, we quickly realized that her goals weren’t big enough and were not engaging her to move forward. We ended up with a list of truly inspiring goals that made her want to get up and get moving. I love collaborative, creative moments like this.
Toward the end of our conversation, a woman came in to sell these creative, delightful, sun umbrellas to the owner. This woman was so enthusiastic and engaging, she got our attention.
We started talking to her, and soon everyone having coffee was involved. We were laughing together as strangers —yet not. Everyone bought an umbrella. It’s the kind of thing you just had to have.
The one I choose is a bright Yellow Duck Umbrella with a real beak on it. It’s silly and very fun. I also bought one for my friend. As I paid the woman, we appreciated her and her catching enthusiasm. She told us her enthusiasm comes from her daughter for whom she is doing this. She wants her daughter to learn she can be financially independent, a very clear and big goal that keeps her engaged. And she has created a fun way to do it.
I insisted when we left that we open our umbrellas and walk down the street together as a statement of what we had just created – outrageous fun, and inspiring goals. We each had a new toy. It was clearly the perfect next action, for sure. My friend, feeling shy, hesitated. I insisted, thinking to myself that creating big goals and dreams requires daring action, with a friend by your side.
We left the Coffee Roasting Company, put up our umbrellas and proceeded to walk down Ojai Ave with our matching yellow duck umbrellas. It was quite a sight. We laughed and enjoyed every minute of it. And we hardly had a glance from anyone. Everyone was focused on their goals, having their own fun (or not)like us.
I dropped off my friend feeling uplifted and inspired to do my next actions. And I had a message from my afternoon appointment changing the time. How perfect. When we act on what is in alignment for us, everything else is handled in a perfect way.
My new motto borrowed from Teddy Roosevelt: “Dare to think big and carry a yellow duck umbrella.” And always make sure you create fun play dates with special friends.
The Uninterrupted Kiss
Last night at dusk I took a walk up on the Shelf Road trail in Ojai. I was treated to a walk under a full moon. I thought there was no one on the trail so it seemed the end to a perfect day of no interruptions. During the day my phone had not rung and I just moved from one thing to another, fully immersed in each doing not what I planned to do, but grateful to have it completed. The uninterrupted focus was quieting.
As I turned a corner on the trail I noticed a young couple in the distance who were stopped and looking up at the moon. As I got closer I saw that they were standing face-to-face and I knew it was too close for just talking. Yes, they were kissing. As I approached I heard them speaking softly but they stayed in the kiss and the sweetness that was all around them. I felt joy bubbling up inside me as I passed by. I was part of their moment yet did not disturb it.
I know that doing can be as sweet and absorbable as that kiss and when I am in that space, nothing interrupts or disturbs me on any level.
As I arrived at the bottom of the hill to return home, I noticed a car in the parking lot putting on their lights to leave and I knew it was the couple I had passed on the trail. I went over and knocked on their car window and asked if they were the couple I passed on the trail kissing in the moonlight. They giggled and said yes. I thanked them for not disturbing their moment for me and how it had inspired me. I told them about my work and the value of uninterrupted focus. I also mentioned I had thought they were teenagers (they were probably in their 40’s); they replied: we feel that young. The purity and sweetness of the kiss was still present as we said good night.
As I was driving home I felt blessed having been given a whole day of uninterrupted loving focus right to the end …sealed with a kiss.
1. Allow yourself to get into the sweetness of giving total focus to what you are doing.
2. Practice staying with yourself no matter what else is going on around you and luxuriate in it.
3. Care for others by allowing their focus to be undisturbed by you.
Millions and Mostly
A client recently asked me for evidence that what I was saying about incompletes was true. There are no studies that I have seen. I believe the evidence lives in the experience. In addition to others I know doing this work, I have my experience of watching more than a thousand clients talk about the relief they feel once they are practicing completing. I can see the relief in their physical bodies and watch them demonstrating enthusiasm as the clarity from completing emerges and their sense of overwhelm relaxes.
The tendency towards overwhelm and vague communication is something I am aware of with myself when I am not on top of what I am committed to do.
Two words that catch my attention with clients that I believe directly relate to the feelings of overwhelm and not finishing actions are: millions and mostly.
I receive the millions response when I ask people to write down any projects in their work/life that are incomplete. They will say out loud: “there are millions.” I smile and suggest writing them all down. What I notice in many cases is only a few projects actually make it to paper and, for some, 20-50 projects might get written down. But the feeling of those 50 or even those two (if they are challenging projects) psychologically feel like millions, especially when they are all in the head and not being tracked and worked with consciously.
As clients begin to record all the projects and start identifying the actions that need to be taken, the true and honest picture of what is on their plate comes into view. For many it is a surprise to see how manageable it begins to look compared to the feeling of overwhelm of what was imagined in the head. The clarity of seeing relaxes the focus and decreases any anxiety.
The word mostly shows up on the opposite end of the scale from exaggeration. During the weekly phone reviews I ask clients to gather what has not made it to the In-box during the week or was set aside and not yet dealt with. Unless we are using a webcam I don not actually see their desk. So after a minute I ask them if they have gathered it all and often I hear the word “mostly.” It is usually not accurate as when I pursue it further they say… yes, everything is in there and my desk is clear. The initial response of mostly seems like a habitual response that does not want to claim 100% just in case it’s not accurate, or, it could mean I am slightly distracted and not really looking with my full attention.
I find when I am either using exaggeration or not being quite accurate in my language I am usually distracted, slightly stressed and not 100% present. And in addition, if I am keeping things in my head, not writing them down, and not acting on them the cloudiness of vision makes it feel like millions and mostly is the state of being I feel like I am in on those days when I am at loose ends.
Let’s replace the millions and mostly words and reflect the accurate picture of what is in front of us.
1. Listen to what you are saying and determine if it is accurate.
2. Replace any hedging words with words that say exactly what you mean.
3. If you notice words of exaggeration creeping in to your language, ask yourself if you are writing down what is in your head and taking the needed action.