Marty, The Richest Man in Town

My friend Karen mentioned an inspirational book a while ago which is one of her favourite books. Not feeling well the other day, I grabbed the book as an easy read. My! It was an easy read, but am I glad I had a big box of Kleenex near by!

“The Richest Man in Town” is the story of Marty, a man in his seventies, who worked at Wal-Mart in a small town in South Dakota. What made Marty so remarkable that the author V.J.Smith decided to write about him?

Marty Martinson

Marty wasn’t like other cashiers. He loved people. He greeted every customer and really connected with them through listening, asking them interested questions or saying something nice to them, always coming from a truly authentic place. At the end, when the customers handed him money, he counted out the change, he “placed the change in his left hand, walked around the counter to the customer, and extended his right hand in an act of friendship. As their hands met, the old cashier looked the customer in the eyes. “I sure want to thank you for shopping here today, he told them. ‘You have a great day. Bye-bye.’”

His line up was always the longest. He made everybody feel special. People didn’t mind waiting for a friendly word, a handshake, or even a hug if they wanted one and a true connection from one caring human to another human. Marty spent about two minutes with each customer but he made those two minutes count. For those two minutes, the respective person—whether old or young, whether a cute little girl or a tough biker covered in tattoos—was the only person in Marty’s Universe. He treated everybody with respect and dignity.

Marty handshake

Marty was born in 1926, grew up during the great depression, served in World War II, and never had a lot of money throughout his entire life. He had a wife, who he still at 76 felt was the prettiest girl he had ever met, and four children. He was humble, kind and compassionate. He lived in a trailer, yet was one of the happiest people. He had understood some simple truths:

  1. Try to do a little more.
  2. Only you can make you happy.
  3. Relationships matter most in life.

If we just assume for a moment that this simple man had the simple knowledge to live a happy fulfilling life independent from his outer circumstances, we really have to ask ourselves honestly, “Am I giving other people or outer circumstances the responsibility for how I feel? Or am I taking full responsibility for my own happiness?” and “If relationships matter most in life, do I put enough time and love into my relationships?”

Marty - Goethe quote

Personally, I find that I have to re-adjust my priorities every so often. It is so easy to get caught up in working, networking or superficial social contacts. All this is important but when I am on my death bed what will truly matter? The moments of real connections, the ways in which I have touched somebody else in their heart, the times in which somebody else felt seen, heard and accepted.

The entire town seemed to know Marty because he had a friendly word for everybody who came through his line at Wal-Mart. And Marty was human and liked that people remembered him for his kindness and friendliness. However, it seems Marty also cared in the same way about his own family. Sometimes we care so much how strangers see us that we forget that the people closest to us are the ones who matter most. Did I take that extra moment to be truly present with my child as he or she was talking? Did I connect with my spouse today? Did I hold that loving space of just listening for my mother when she called? Have I given somebody the gift today to be the only person in my Universe for a few moments?

Being compassionate and caring is not necessarily about fixing problems for others. First and foremost it is about listening, acknowledging the other person and their feelings and showing them that they matter. Even if they choose to feel less than positive, can we hold that space without fixing? Holding the space does not mean commiserating with them and confirming for them that they are a victim of a situation. Holding the space means trusting that they are whole, complete and resourceful. It means knowing for them that they can and will change their experience and how they feel—in their own time and in their own way.

marty - Make every moment count

Choosing to do what matters most, to be fully present with every person you encounter, creates happiness for them and for yourself. Make each moment count. The happiness you give comes back to you. That’s why Marty, a simple man without money or college education, was the richest man in town.


Relationship Coaching


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Vacation Away From My Planner Self

I had planned that my first blog back from vacation was going to be about the differences in parenting styles in different countries. Then my friend Grace Attard planted a different seed in my mind with a Facebook post I read at 4:00 a.m. this morning—because unlike planned, I had trouble sleeping. And after reading that post, all my planning went out the window.

Yes, you guessed right. I am a planner. I like to think ahead and plan. And, of course, I have family members who mirror for me the opposite energy that I am not always in touch with, the spontaneous energy. When I am challenged with their approach to life, I like to say they are incapable of planning or unwilling to plan even a day in advance! I get infuriated how they can feel okay about “flying by the seed of their pants” without worrying about any consequences. But I do know very well that they just have a different view of life in general and specifically regarding the merits of planning.

There is a voice in me that feels there is such a thing as “wasting time”. That same voice also says that you can ensure everybody is happy by planning ahead and ensuring that no obligations are forgotten. It says planning is an effective use of the limited time we are given. It also says that people who plan are bound to be more successful, make less mistakes, be financially better off, be happier, and so on. While that might sometimes be right, it isn’t necessarily always the case. Sometimes spontaneous last-minute gut-decisions turn out better than long-term planning.

When it comes to vacations, I have learned that the best moments, the ones that stay in your memory forever, the ones that we still reminisce about years later, are the ones that were not planned. When we were in Amsterdam and we suddenly found ourselves maneuvering through a sea of bicycles just after we arrived by train. Or when we were in Paris and we stumbled upon the perfect little art exhibition, much better than lining up to get into the Louvre. Or when we were in Barcelona and we happened to come across the perfect charm for my mother’s charm bracelet, in the city she loved so much. Or when we stood in the centre of an ancient stone circle in England and the energy was incredibly strong. Or when in Brussels, the waiter photo-bombed our picture and made us laugh. And the list goes on.

Vacation from my planner self - rock circle

And then there was the summer when I took a trip to Quebec City with my closest girlfriend and our daughters. I got so sick with a sinus infection on the plane that she had to take care of me and the kids for the first three days. Even an unplanned negative event like that, I deeply cherish because the experience was filled with love. It was filled with acceptance and going with the flow.

My favourite childhood memories are also those of spontaneous little moments. I have that memory of my conservative, self-controlled father showing us kids how to do a cartwheel in the backyard of a little cottage in England where we were vacationing. For just a short moment in time he let us see a completely different energy from him: the energy of spontaneity, non-sense and joy, prompted by the fact that we were on vacation.


Ironically, the woman sitting next to me on the plane last night was reading the book “Wait. The Useful Art of Procrastination”, which shows that I ended up in the seat next to her after switching with another passenger not by coincidence but by synchronicity. As I am reading over her shoulder “…if you don’t know how to manage time, time can rule you like a tyrant”, I wonder what an appropriate way of managing time might be. The author Frank Partnoy also writes, “Time is a slippery concept, and we are often wrong about it…”

Wait - bookcover

I have been ruled by the feeling of not having enough time or of not having used time efficiently. That is a slippery concept because it is a completely subjective experience. As I am sitting on the plane, the question arises if I should be using my time efficiently and should be working on my computer—like I had planned—or if I should be reading for work (also planned), or if I can give myself permission to watch a second movie. I could have forced myself to stick with the original plan but the vacation feeling was still lingering in me, so the movie won over the other two options. Having made that decision, I then had the choice to feel like I am wasting time or, in other words, like I am procrastinating doing my work. Or I could really enjoy the time I had on the plane. I believe in the first case I would have allowed time to rule me like a tyrant.

At the end of a wonderful vacation, the lady next to me and her book gave me another reminder to not always ask whether something is a “waste of time” and to see the value of not always operating according to plan.

Vacation from my planner self - CLOCK

A vacation for me is a vacation away from home, from work, from obligations, but most of all it is a vacation away from my planner self. A perfect invitation to live in the moment, to “wing it”, to allow wonderful surprises to unfold. It is an opportunity to just live in the day, to see what we come across as we embark on a little adventure.

When have you last taken a vacation away from your planner self, or your perfectionist self, or your pleaser self? When have you last enjoyed the moment without asking “What is on the agenda next?” “Is this situation perfect?” or “Am I making everybody else happy?”

And by that I don’t even mean a literal vacation. Let’s all give ourselves a vacation day or at least a few vacation hours each week when we are able to shed our planner self and completely live in the wonderful magical moment of everything that is possible.

Angelika Baum

Life and Belief Change Coaching


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Does Earthing Help With Jetlag?

Have you noticed how good it feels when you take your shoes off and walk on the beach? Or when you wander barefoot in the grass?

In the summer months, I start my morning barefoot in the backyard. I consciously walk on the earth and ground myself. I then sit down on the ground or on a chair with my bare feet on the grass for a short morning meditation. Unlike all other grounding methods I learned, the connection with the earth seems to work automatically, easily, and effortlessly.

Earthing 2

There is an emerging science documenting how direct contact with the earth, which is also known as earthing or grounding, is highly beneficial to our health. How does earthing work?

Our body needs electrons to function well. It is known that the Earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. When you are in direct contact with the ground, you are walking, sitting, or laying down on dirt, grass, sand or concrete, the earth’s electrons are conducted through your body, bringing it to the same electrical potential as the earth. This connection seems to be enhanced when the ground is moist or wet.

Research indicates that electrons from the earth can help your body heal inflammation and also have other health benefits. Effects on our immune system, blood, heart rate, cortisol levels, sleep, autonomic nervous system and reduced stress have been documented. This practice also helps people with anxiety and pain issues.

Earthing 3

Our ancestors had continuous contact with the earth. Even until the fifties, we used to wear leather soles, which were conductors for electrons. Only when plastic or rubber soles were introduced did we lose that direct contact with Mother Earth.

For a while now I have been curious to experience how earthing helps to recover from jetlag and I am excited to report on our recent experiment.

We all live in a circadian rhythm, which is a built-in body cycle. This cycle receives external clues from our environment: light, temperature, etc. Rapid long-distance travelling across east-west or west-east transmeridians disrupts our inner circadian rhythm. The condition of jetlag can last several days until one is fully adjusted to the new time zone.

Earthing 7

Yesterday, we landed in England after a seven hour night flight from Toronto, a trip that involved lots of delays and unpredictability, which comes with flying stand-by. We crossed through five time zones. Local time is five hours ahead and we naturally felt the usual effects of jetlag upon arrival.

In the past, it has usually taken us at least three days to fully adjust to European time. By spending half an hour to connect with the earth, we were hoping to readjust quicker. The first piece of grass we found was just at a rest-stop off the motorway. Not the best spot to ground, but a first opportunity to take off our shoes.

Two hours later, upon arrival in Badsey, a tiny town with a population of 2657 people, deep in the British countryside, we had no trouble finding a connection with Mother Earth. We were greeted by romantic little pathways, an old country church and an adjacent cemetery with big old trees overgrown with ivy.

Earthing 5

Walking barefoot in these peaceful calm surroundings, nothing but sounds of nature embraced us: a couple of sheep “bah”ing on a nearby field, the clacking sound of horse shoes on the road as somebody rode by the church, hammering in the distance, a dog barking, a huge wood pigeon landing on the roof of a shed and tap dancing on top of it, and—most soothing of all—the deep, full sound of the church bells striking every hour. It immediately felt grounding and calming, and had a wonderful effect of slowing everything down: our breathing, our thinking. This truly is a place where the soul can “dangle” for a bit.

Instead of just spending half an hour in the grass, I could have spent hours feeling the energy of the old trees and the wind. The earth and the grass feel different in these parts; they remind me of my childhood growing up in Europe. Perhaps we are more connected with the earth close to where we are born?

Earthing 6

Today, we were up bright and early, feeling awake and refreshed, almost completely adjusted to local time. No jet lag headaches, no dizziness and very little tiredness. I am looking forward to starting every day close to nature.

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