How Soon is Too Late? – Kindness 101 #1

I have been commissioned to do a napkin drawing on the topic of kindness for a fellow Periscoper.  I decided to do an entire series on the topic. Here’s the first.




No Day But Today

It’s 5am on a weekday morning.  I see a woman getting gas right next to me. I notice she is on the phone being perky, positive and upbeat to whoever is on the other end.  I am feeling tired and not at all ready to go running this early. I am doing it grudgingly because I have an obligation to some friends to show up.  While I wait for my tank to fill up I listen to her side of the conversation. By the end her enthusiasm and joy has made me feel a lot better about my morning.  My outlook has completely changed in the course of 2 minutes.

Wow, who would have thought that overhearing some random person could be so uplifting? I think about saying something to her to let her know how her positive attitude has really changed my morning. I want to thank her. But then she will know I was eavesdropping. She might think I am a creep. She might get mad. I might scare her. She might think I am hitting on her. I should respect her space. I decide to not say anything.  She drives away, I drive away.  I sort of wish I had said something but it’s no big deal, just a random event at a gas station, not life changing after all.

I run with my friends and two of them tell me my positive attitude really helped them get in a better mood.  I tell them about the woman at the station and how I was going to say something but didn’t.  Most of them say they wouldn’t have said anything either. It would have been too awkward.  But one fellow runner says she wishes I had said something. She says, “You can’t do a kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

I say, “Maybe I will see her next week at the same station, then I will say something to her.”

My friend says, “That would be nice, do that.”

I go home and switch on the TV to watch the news while I change for work.  The news is filled with reports of a shooting in a neighboring town.  A reporter and her cameraman were shot and killed. What a tragedy. Then they flash the picture of the reporter on the screen.  It’s the woman from the gas station.

Fiction and Reality

This is not a true story about me and a woman at a gas station. But it might have been. There was a woman gunned down, Alison Parker, along with her co-worker, Adam Ward, this week in Virginia. Maybe she did get gas at 5am. Maybe she was on the phone, perky and awake. Maybe someone wanted to let her know she was a positive influence that day. I hope if they felt it, they said it. I hope someone gave the kindness they wanted to give to Adam as well. But I don’t know.

But I do know that we never know. And because we never know, we should always err on the side of expressing the kindness we feel when we feel it, instead of waiting for the perfect time or circumstance.




You can see the process of drawing this napkin and the ‘Guess the Quote’ game we played while I drew it.

Drawing, video and commentary © 2015 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Who You Are vs What You Say – Communications #1


If you feel I give good things to you via The Napkin, would you do me the favor of commenting on and voting for my workshop proposal for SXSW 2016?  You do have to register into the SXSW site but that is so they won’t be overwhelmed by spammers. It is not an obligation to do, attend or buy anything. Thank you very much, Marty



My increasing use of Periscope has made me think a lot about communication lately so I am starting a new series on it this week.


Who We Are

Have you ever listened to someone who is so grating, so annoying that you just can’t stand to listen to them?  It really doesn’t matter what they say, you pay no attention because all you can think of is wanting them to shut up. You can’t hear what they are saying.

Or perhaps you are up late at night watching a televangelist or a informercial and you hate it but still watch it. It’s like watching a car wreck. You want to turn away because it’s ugly and gruesome but you want to watch to see how bad it may get. But while doing that you aren’t actually listening to the message or the product qualities, you are only watching for the perverse entertainment value. You can’t hear what they are saying.

Preconceived Notions

Sometimes the person hasn’t said a word yet and you already have decided not to listen to him or her.  It could be because you are prejudice against them due to their race or gender. Maybe it’s because they are in a certain political party or on a certain TV or Radio station.  But whatever the case you aren’t open to hearing what they have to say.

Open Mind

I’ve listened to enough Fox News to know they are not my cup of tea.  When I heard they were going to put on the first Republican debate of the 2016 election cycle I did not have high expectations. When it became obvious Donald Trump was going to be front and center in that debate I didn’t have high expectations either. But what I did have was an open mind. I was willing to watch the debate and hear all of them, in spite of some reservations about both the news channel and the candidates. 

I would still not consider myself a fan of Fox News. But I am a fan of how the three people did their jobs as journalists asking questions. I thought they were tough and to the point. They exceeded my expectations, especially Megyn Kelly.

I was not a fan of Donald Trump before the debate and I am still not a fan. He lived up to my preexisting opinion of him, which is; take away the money and fame and you are looking at an insensitive, simplistic, bullying brute. Put him in overalls and give him a wad of tobacco instead of being in a bespoke suit and tie and he would be considered the worst cartoon stereotype of a backward, uneducated and mean-spirited hick you could find.

In both cases though I was open to having my opinion changed. I was not so set against something or someone that I was unwilling to consider what it is they actually said.  I heard what they said and I made my judgment.

Their Fault, My Fault

I do my best to hear what a person has to say but I am not always able to do that. Sometimes there is just too much of ‘who they are’ in the way.  But my effort, in spite of not always succeeding, is to take that out of the equation as best I can.

Of course, I want people to hear me clearly as well. I hate the idea that someone will not hear me because I have a bad reputation or because they have some negative memory of me.  That is my fault and I have to live with it. If that is something I can control going forward then I want to control it.

But if someone can’t hear me because I am a man, or an older man, or white, or middle class, or American, or not their version of Christian or something else that has to do with their prejudice more than who I am, then I have to let that go. I can be sensitive to not live up to certain stereotypes of course, but I am going to have the best outcome by being the best me I can be, not by fighting every possible prejudice there might be against me.

Your thoughts?

Drawing and commentary © 2015 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, American author



Where Do Our Best Thoughts Come From? – Humility Week #4

And I quote, “It’s day 4 of Humility Week at the NDD”

Where Do Ideas Come From?

I fancy myself a pretty good thinker. But considering almost all my napkin drawings start with a quote that I myself did not make up, it would be disingenuous of me to say I come up with nothing but original ideas. That, in turn, keeps me humble.  

However, I do like to think I am unique thinker.  A unique thinker isn’t someone who thinks up something out of the blue. Instead it is someone who takes these ideas from others and combines them, mixes them, bakes them into a uniquely stated idea.  Not necessarily a new idea, but an idea that has been thought through by one unique individual and come out the other side with something no one else can give it, the perspective and expression of that one person.

I think a lot of young people who are unformed in their own identity don’t understand what this means. I see it all the time on reality TV shows like American Idol. The judges say to the young person, ‘you have to just be yourself’ or ‘you have to put your own spin on it’ or ‘you just need to find your own voice’. And the least mature of the singers look blankly back at the judges, having no idea what it is they are talking about.  They don’t know yet how to take another idea, (another song in this case) and make it their own because there is no ‘own’ there yet. They are doing their best to imitate a great singer but they don’t know yet how to become a great singer themselves.

The originality of your ideas isn’t what you should have pride in. It is what should endow you with humility.  How you take what is given to you from the outside and transform it into something uniquely yours, THAT is what you can have true pride in.

Drawing by Marty Coleman, who reads in bed.

Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who also read in bed.



To Be Yourself In a World – updated 2017

I woke up early, around 5am (had to pee) and laid back in bed with thoughts of accomplishment in my head. I am not sure why but the question ‘what would you say is your greatest accomplishment’ came to mind. I envisioned it being asked by an interviewer as if I was on a morning talk show.

My first thought in response was this: My greatest accomplishment is continuing to be positive, confident and happy in spite of what life has thrown at me. Following right behind was the thought: My greatest accomplishment is continuing to be an artist most every day of my life.

Both revolve around knowing and being who I am, who I want to be. If I struggle with knowing and acting to be who I want, it is a struggle not to become someone else, but to adjust myself enough to fit in as I might need to fit in in certain circumstances. I am not always successful at that.

So, what about you? What is your greatest accomplishment? I am NOT talking about careers or how many kids you have or something like that. I am talking about your emotional, social and psychological accomplishments in life.

Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –  Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, American Philosopher and Essayist

The Sky Is The Daily Bread – updated 2017

A vintage napkin from 2002.

I love the sky, especially here in Oklahoma. When people ask me if I miss California I usually say the landscape is better there but the skyscape is much better here in Oklahoma.

It is easy to see the landscape; it is permanent for the most part, it will always be there, and so we feel like we can define ourselves in relationship to it. It is like a non-fiction story of history or science. We believe we are hearing a true story, something real.

But the sky is a different story. It is a novel. It is a poem. It is not telling us something we can rely on to be true because it disappears and may not come back. If it does it will be different. How can we rely on the sky? But isn’t it true, it is always changing yes, but it is always returning as well. It comes back and becomes something you knew before, the clouds aren’t exactly the same, but they remind. It is the reminder as in a novel, of your own life, your own history. It is a poem that gives hints, that gives bread crumbs reminding you of something else, a remembrance.

I love the sky. It feeds my eyes every day.

Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman

“The sky is the daily bread for the eyes.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, American Essayist, speaker and philosopher

The Love of Beauty – updated 2017

And so the week of beauty comes to an end. I feel more beautiful, do you?

A nice simple definition that rings true. I do think the love of beauty is about
taste. I also think it is about acquired tasted, in other words. There is
something to be said for being educated about something. All that means
to me is that you have had the patience and teachability to learn what
others know about something, understanding that there are subtleties to
appreciate in all areas of art, whether it be napkin drawings or opera.

It isn’t abandoning your taste to learn about the arts, it is building on it.

“The love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, American writer

Skating On Thin Ice – updated 2017

Hope you all are enjoying the summer. I am on vacation and am presenting
some of the original napkin drawings I created for my daughters from
1998-2004 until I get back.

Just get off it as soon as possible is the idea.

Those Who Know

The Person Who Knows

Those who know always resent those who why, unless they know how they got their whyledge
(just made that up and trademarked it!) and enroll in the School of Why to get some

I looked into it and the B.Y., M.Y. and Y.D. degrees takes between 1 milisecond and 110 years to
complete, depending on why (and how) the person is learning. There is no charge for classes,
you can take them anywhere, anytime.

Enroll soon and you too can know why!

The Test of a Religion

The Test of a Religion

I bet a lot of you do not agree with this. And I bet some of you do!
This is a survey. Comment in the blog, on flickr, or if you subscribe
via email or a reader, hit reply and tell me what you think. Agree? Disagree? Why.

“The test of a religion is the number of things it can explain.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Beauty Without Grace




I am not one who believes outer beauty doesn’t matter. I think if have an outside, then it matters. BUT it will NOT matter if the inside doesn’t match up or surpass the outside. For male or female, all the natural good looks, all the makeup and bronzer and days at the gym will not compensate for a lack of grace.

Grace to me is the one word explanation of inner character when relating to other people. It means you assume the best of people, you give them the benefit of the doubt, you have sincere interest in them and look for ways to help and care for them. You don’t take things too personally, even if it is meant that way. You can laugh at yourself and do that more than you laugh at others.

For beauty to be complete it needs to reside in both the inside and outside. I am not talking about a stereotyped outside beauty, I am talking about a unique and individual beauty, whether it is in the shape of a newborn or an wise elder. Neither am I talking about a cliche inner beauty. Inside there is even more room for uniqueness and individuality to bring forth beauty that no one else possesses.

That combination brings about the beauty that captivates.

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