This quote brings to mind one of my favorite lines in a song lyric: “Sometimes you are blinded by the very thing you need to see.” It’s from a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, one of my favorite singer songwriters ever. What I like about it is how it continually teaches me to see things as clearly as possible, even those things so bright and shiny, so ‘perfect’ that they blind me. They might be the very thing I need to see.
And this quote is about the same thing. Am I aware of my blind spots in life? My attitudes, that are so ingrained as to be unseen? My behaviors that I have rationalized for so long that they are now completely legitimatized and seldom questioned?
In a car, the blind spots are those areas that are blocked by the car itself. The frame of the car holding up the roof, the hood bulging out in front, covering the engine. Visors, mirrors, seats, decals, and more also add to the visibility problem.
And how are we trained to compensate for those things? We are taught to be slow and deliberate, to be methodical. We are told to move our head and body to see around the obstructions.
This can be applied to our attitudes and behaviors as well. Stop and think. In my words am I perpetuating something I have not evaluated and considered in a long time?
The other way we do this is by seeing only the surface of something. We deem something as being without value in its current state and so we overlook it. How we see the elderly is a perfect example of that.
I remember way back when I lived in San Jose, California. The pastor of our church had been fired and we had an interim pastor. He was very old, retired as a full time pastor and now just filling in as an interim when needed. On one occasion he complimented me on my suit, which included a short waisted Eisenhower style jacket. He pointed it out and said he thought I looked sharp. After that I started to look at him more closely. He wore well tailored and stylish clothes that were appropriate for his age and position. He dressed better than 90% of the men in the congregation, that was for sure. That led me to imagine him as a younger man. I saw him romancing his wife on the dance floor, looking sharp in a military uniform, and any number of other activities he might have done back in the day, all done with panache and style and a twinkle in his eye, which he still had.
We became ‘shake hands at the steps’ friends, talking about the sermon, complimenting hats, jackets, vestments, etc. He turned out to be one cool dude.
What are you missing in your blind spots?
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by George Herbert, 1593-1633, English poet
This and many other of the napkins are for sale. Please inquire at email@example.com to find out more.
Purchase the original | purchase a print | matte and frame are available
A few years back I happened upon a post on Facebook. It had a request to help out a young woman in Africa named Mandy Stein. She was working at an orphanage and was hoping for some donations to help the kids get a new orphanage building.
Mandy in the middle of the construction
I followed Mandy on FB and paid attention to her. She was from Texas, was about the same age as my daughter Caitlin, and had gone to Tanzania on a volunteer program a few years before. She decided that instead of doing the tourist activities the volunteers were free to do in the afternoons she would continue to find ways to serve. One of the people suggested she spend the afternoon helping at the Tuleeni Orphanage.
It was her 20th birthday. It became the day that changed her life. You can read the full story here.
While she was in Tanzania a young boy gave her the Swahili name Neema (like Emma but with an N). It became her name and it became the name of the non-profit she set up to facilitate her efforts in helping the Tuleeni Orphanage and surrounding town.
She graduated from University of Texas and moved to Tanzania, where she is still. She lives and works full time at the Orphanage, helping the children in their schooling, leading efforts to build a community center and home, and teaching in a local school.
She is an incredible woman, profoundly dedicated to these children in every way you can imagine.
But all that is not what impresses me most about her. What impresses me most? Her happiness. She does all of this with an incredible joy, a joy that really does overflow through pictures, writing and video from over 10,000 miles away. I can only imagine how infectious and beautiful it is in person. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have down times, I mean come on, she left everything she ever knew in her whole life and moved to Africa, of course she has times she misses things and people and can feel sad. It’s not about if she ever feels that. It’s about her being happy in spite of those things.
Mandy and Mama Faraji, founder of Tuleeni Orphanage
And why is she so happy? I have a funny feeling she probably has always been a happy person, but maybe not, I don’t know. But I do know that her happiness (as I have seen it) stems from a deep and abiding love for her new world. For the kids, the workers, the town, the country. She loves doing what she does. She loves helping. She is happy doing these things. And as a result? She does them VERY WELL. No reluctance, no hesitation, no second guessing. She is an ‘All-In’ spirit that infuses everything and everyone around her.
The Power of Happiness
When she was a young child, only 5 years old, Mandy determined she would change the world. And she is. But what she didn’t know then, but does probably know now, is that it was going to be by following her love, joy and happiness that she would do it.
What I always try to remember, and what Mandy shows me in action, is that the pursuit and fulfillment of happiness isn’t a bad thing, it can actually be the best thing, for yourself and for others.
“My Life is Pretty Great” – Mandy
If you would like to help Mandy, I encourage you to donate and follow Neema International. Pay attention to their work and continue to offer support and encouragement as often as you can. Here are the links where you can make it happen.
A View From Above
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1821-1881, Russian Novelist
This is a repost of yesterday’s post. I had some problems yesterday at the site and had to revert back to an earlier database.
How Strong is Your Why?
We don’t like being uncomfortable. We don’t like denying ourselves. We don’t like struggling. And we usually avoid those things if at all possible. So, why do we allow those things in our life?
One reason is found in this question. Are you working towards a goal in life? If you are, you know the power it can have on your willingness to go through hell. The examples are plethoristic (I just made up that version of the word). In my case it is often my willingness to go through crazy cold or crazy heat while running. I do it because it is important to my goal of running my upcoming race the best I can.
With another person it might be raising your kids to have a better life than you had. Immigrants often say that is why they are willing to come to America. The Dr. from Bangladesh who is willing to take a menial job in the US just to guarantee his kids have a brighter future. Sometimes it may be a goal you find to be shallow. Maybe your friend has this driving desire to be famous. Or a family member is obsessed with being super wealthy. We certainly won’t agree with everyone’s reasons.
How Strong is Your How?
Whatever your goal, you still have to take action to make it happen. That is where you find out how bad you want something. Many people take the first step, even the second step. But somewhere along the arch of our lives we eventually reach a point where a particular goal doesn’t seem attainable, no matter how much one struggles for it. Often it’s because it’s not what you thought it was.
I just read the blog of an online friend the other day who said she was giving up on her goal of being a fitness competitor. It’s not that she didn’t want to look like a fitness competitor, it’s because she realized the trauma and deprivation she would have to go through to get in that ‘stage ready’ shape was just too much for her. It wasn’t worth it and it wasn’t what she expected. And that is ok. It’s good. We all have to be honest about what we want and what we are willing to do to get it. And that includes telling ourselves, “This is not for me.”
But the real tragedy is when we really DO want something but we just aren’t willing to put in the work to make it happen. That, to me, is the true sadness behind laziness in life – all the unreached goals.
So, what is your goal? Are you honest about it? Is it realistic? Is it something you are willing to work for? If it is then don’t make the mistake of choosing comfort and ease over effort. Don’t think of all the ways to get out of doing the work, focus on the ways to make the work count.
You can do it.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Gender variation on a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844 – 1900, German philosopher
Original quote – “He who has a why in life can bear almost any how.”
This, and all the napkin drawings, are for sale. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.
Have you ever felt lost? I have. Many times. By lost I don’t mean I didn’t know where I was. I mean I didn’t know where I was going or, in most cases, I knew where I wanted to go I just didn’t know how to get there. That’s probably been my main feeling of ‘lost’ over the years.
The Napkin Dad Daily
My Napkin Dad endeavor is a good example. I knew why I did it at the beginning, in 1998, obviously. I was drawing for my daughters. If you don’t know that story you can check it out at the ‘Napkin Beginnings‘ page. After they finished school I posted those drawings online for my friends and audience at Flickr.com starting in 2005 and on The Napkin Dad Daily starting in 2008.
And for 10 years now I have continued to do that. It became a way for me to express myself artistically and intellectually. I felt I had simply expanded my idea from giving these expressions to my daughters to giving them to the entire world. And the napkins have gone all around the world. I have friends in every corner of the globe as a result of the napkins. I even got a tw0-page spread in a big coffee table book about the history of napkins published in Norway!
Time for a Change
It also became a way for me to make money. I became friends and then professional partners with great people in Australia as a result of the napkins. I sold merchandise based on the napkins; t-shirts, cups, cards, a book and even the napkins themselves. I have also done many paid and unpaid speaking gigs based on me being ‘The Napkin Dad’.
But I don’t make very much money doing this. It’s been a labor of love that has been made possible by my wife, Linda, supporting us on her salary, for which I am very grateful. I contribute some, but not nearly as much as she does. Last year I decided that if I was going to continue doing the napkins I would need to focus on making it a viable business that made substantially more money than it had been.
So I enrolled in an entrepreneurial class at Tulsa Community College called ‘Launch’ in 2014. It was a 16 week program dedicated to teaching some of the essentials of owning a business and actually mentor the participants so they could actually launch their business by the end of the class. I had high hopes for the class and many of my hopes were realized. But some of my hopes were not realized and the reason for that was my inability to find and refine my purpose and direction.
But not being able to launch my new direction in 16 weeks didn’t mean I wasn’t working on it. I was and I am.
What’s In A Name?
While many ingredients go into a business, it really starts with an idea and a name. My moniker has always been ‘The Napkin Dad’ and that isn’t changing. The name of the blog has been ‘The Napkin Dad Daily’ and that is changing. It’s now simply, ‘The Napkin‘.
- My 4 daughters are all grown women now. Two of them have children of their own. I am not an active dad of young kids that the word ‘dad’ in a blog would hint at.
- I most often draw and I write about things not directly related to raising kids or being a parent. This has started to create a conflict in my own head, with the name no longer accurately reflecting what The Napkin is about. It’s no longer primarily about me as a dad, it’s about me as a man and an artist. My focus has changed over the years and I want the name of my endeavor to reflect that.
- I want to broaden the appeal and keeping ‘dad’ in the title immediately puts me in a genre I don’t really fit anymore. People come to blogs based on those sorts of genre titles and it’s appeal is limited because of the title.
The other element in a title is the ‘tag line’. It’s the descriptive phrase that succinctly says what the enterprise is all about. At the beginning the word ‘absorbent’ attached itself to the blog. As I worked through new ideas the word ‘absorbent’ stayed constant. I recently tried out ‘Absorbent Ideas for Head and Heart’ But it still lacked the definition I wanted. Last night I changed one word.
Now it reads, ‘Absorbent Art for Head and Heart‘.
That clarified and focused my thinking about the entire endeavor.
The Napkin is about:
- My art; the creating, sharing and selling of it.
- Sharing other artists and their art with you in conversations, studios, galleries, museums and online.
- Helping other artists via creativity coaching.
- Exploring the ideas, subjects and beliefs that drive the creation of art.
- Inspiring and motivating others as a speaker to bring out their creativity in positive ways.
- My passionate belief that the individual and the world can be changed for the better by art.
Call To Action
Yes, I would like you to do something for me. Maybe even a few things.
- Suggest improvements or new features on the website or if see a problem, let me know. The contact information
- Donate financially to the building of The Napkin. There are costs associated with trying to get this launch off the ground and any little bit helps. There is a ‘Donate’ button over on the right.
- Hire me as your Creativity Coach. If you need a jump start with your own creative endeavors I will work with you to get you back in the creative groove, no matter how long ago you put that groove on the shelf. Here is a post about it.
- Hire me as a speaker. I am available for corporate and group speaking engagements and can speak on a variety of topics having to do with creativity, art, social media, photography and more. Contact me if you or your company is interested. Take a look at the ‘speaking‘ page for more information.
- Subscribe to The Napkin if you haven’t already. It will come to your email whenever I post.
- Promote ‘The Napkin’ to your friends and social media followers.
- Comment on the blog. Even if you just say ‘Nice’ or something like that, it helps my traffic statistics.
- New merchandise will be coming soon. Buy something (maybe as a gift?) when the time comes.
So, there you have it. I love creating ‘The Napkin’ for you and hope to continue doing it even better well into the future!
Drawing by Marty Coleman
Quote by President John F. Kennedy, 1917 – 1963, 35th President of the United States (1961-1963)
Your Simple Purpose
I see myself helping my daughters grow up, so that must be my purpose. Or perhaps you see your work efforts as a social worker pay off so that must be your purpose. Those are simple definitions. Simplicity is there because we usually think our purpose is defined by what we can quantify, explain, organize and see. When we do that it’s not a stretch to feel our purpose pass us by. We get older, our kids grow up and don’t need us as much or we retire and our job is over. Then what? Then we can become depressed and lack enthusiasm for life if we aren’t careful.
Your Complex Purposes
But what if you believed that your purposes in life are MUCH more complex than that AND you gave up trying to figure them all out? Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to try to figure out and focus on some of them, of course. But there are dark periods of life when you are blinded by the pain and can see no purpose. There are also sublime moments in life when your purpose is SO OBVIOUS that you can miss the other, more subtle purposes. And then there are the purposes your life has that you will never, ever know.
A Further Test
Does a person in a coma have a purpose? If yes, then obviously it’s a purpose they are not in control of. If no, then you are categorically giving up having any doctor, nurse, staff, family or counselor learn and grow from treating, growing or learning from the person in the coma. But we know that is not true. We know the medical staff could possibly learn very important things in how to treat a coma patient. We know a family member could be deeply moved and transformed by seeing their loved one in a coma. And what is that if not part of the person’s purpose in life?
In other words, If you are alive, you have purposes. They may not all be ones you are aware of, but your life is greater than you realize and accepting that is a key to both happiness and hope.
Drawing and Commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote attributed to both Richard Bach and Lauren Bacall
“Here is a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you are alive, it isn’t. “