What NOT to Do During the Holidays

Statistically, the most likely time for an American man to die is just before Christmas. For an American woman, doomsday comes just after New Years. My theory about why this is so is that people let themselves off the hook when they finally get a chance for a well-earned rest. Men exhaust themselves in the period leading up to the holidays and then let go; for women, the holidays themselves represent a brutal overload of work. This year, I say we stage a revolution. Let’s turn this holiday into an actual holiday! 

Every now and then, I am asked to write recommendations about what we should allow ourselves not to do. For most people, this is more challenging — but more productive — than a “to-do” list. I’ve never done such a list specifically for the holidays, until now. So, if you’re onboard with our holiday life-saving strategies, read on!

  • Don’t cook. I mean this; you will receive approximately 45,000 calories of holiday goodies this year. Desperate people who have no gift-selecting ability are praying that you will actually want the cheese log or the moose munch that they picked up for you. It will only make these people sad if they find you elbow deep in cookie dough or fruitcake. For goodness sake, have some compassion.
  • Don’t send cards. Every hour, human beings chop down an area of primordial forest the size of a football field. Why contribute to this carnage just so people can glance at a holiday greeting and immediately consign it to landfills? Christmas cards are evil. Do not send them.
  • Do not buy gifts for people you do not like. Honestly, why send the wrong message? The body is a natural lie detector and it loathes hypocrisy. Do you honestly want to grow weak and sick purchasing a foot massager for a boss whom everyone knows is going to hell? Stop the madness!
  • Don’t go to horrible parties. By the time we’ve passed Thanksgiving, you’re almost certain to feel deeply stressed about fitting into your little black dress or cummerbund. This is the time to lie down quietly and reflect on ways to eliminate excess calories so that January does not find you deeply mired in self-loathing. You know perfectly well that you react to social anxiety by eating like a grisly bear preparing to hibernate. Going to bad parties is simply putting your body in harm’s way. That’s not, in my opinion, what Baby Jesus would do.
  • Don’t be virtuous. If you’re virtuous all the time, go ahead and sustain it during the holidays. But if December is a time you go into a frenzy of Scrooge-after-the-ghost generosity, you will disrupt your psychological homeostasis, and potentially, as we have seen, cause your own death. This is no holiday gift to give your children! This year, vow to be as nasty and selfish as your truly are.

I know some of you may be shocked and indignant after reading my recommendations — so please be cautious. Your blood pressure may already be at dangerous levels. Seriously, the holidays are about renewal, kindness, and joy. Judgment and oppression are the enemy of these sentiments. Just see how much more genuine holiday spirit you’ll generate when you follow your own bliss, rather than someone else’s holiday traditions.

Dysfunctional Family Bingo

Hello Blog Readers!

Martha Beck staffers Jessica and Bridgette here. We snuck onto the blog while Martha is ensconced finishing her book because we didn’t want you to miss out on playing Dysfunctional Family Bingo this holiday season. We whipped this post up for you.

Dysfunctional Family Bingo is the game where your relatives’ cringeworthy antics become your winning bingo card. Here’s how to play: You and your friends each print the blank card here:

Each of you then fill in the squares with your unique family holiday dysfunctions. Aunt Sue makes an inappropriate comment about cousin Bertie’s weight and Grandma has too many hot toddies and passes out at dinner are a couple squares from our own staff players. Bring your card to your family gathering and as your family acts up, surreptitiously text or email your friends. First one to get bingo gets a free lunch at your post-holiday debrief gathering.

If you’d like more information on how to save your sanity this holiday season (and who doesn’t really?), be sure to check out Martha’s original article where she introduces us all to Dysfunctional Family Bingo. 


Creativity Tips from Martha

One thing’s for sure… If any one of us unleashes our creativity, our world will split open. We’ll find unprecedented ways of solving problems and expressing our souls, and our lives will be forever changed. 

But perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of creative expression is that it depends on resistance to the opinions and interference of others. For the many of us worried about doing something “wrong,” in the eyes of others, Martha has two sure-fire exercises that will help us develop that resistance muscle and keep it strengthening.

Exercise 1: Get a piece of paper and write down the words “I’m so ashamed that _________________.” Finish the sentence with whatever pops into your mind. Feel the shame. Observe it. Notice that it does not motivate any positive action — only paralysis, fear, and self-hatred.

Now, stand up to your shame and the people who have shamed you. Question them (on paper, not in person). Start by writing phrases like “What makes you think you can shame me for making mistakes? What makes you think you can stop me from moving forward, learning, and growing? What makes you think I should be ashamed of the person I was created to be and the things I am meant to create?” You get the idea… and notice now how you’re moving from a place of shame to a place of empowerment.

Exercise 2: Find a private spot to sit down. Now take your notepad and write: “If I didn’t give a damn what anyone thought, I would _____________.” Finish the sentence any way you want, as long as it’s true.

If the action you’ve listed is ethical, legal, and wise, promise yourself to do it when you’re ready. If not, pat yourself on the back and promise yourself a treat (a mocha Frappuccino instead of ordinary coffee, and a half-hour alone in the park) for being honest. Keep your promises!





Those of you who follow me on Facebook of Twitter may have noticed posts written by my alter ego, the Airport Hobo. Today I thought I’d explain who that is, so that 1) you’ll know what I’m talking about, and 2) perhaps you too can develop an Airport Hobo alter ego, should the need ever arise.

When I set out to become a writer, my objective was to earn a living without ever physically moving. But after publishing some books and articles I realized, to my horror, that we lowlier writers not only have to move about the house, but travel. A lot.

Now, I love many places that are far away from each other, but I do not consider getting there to be half the fun, or even .00000003 percent of the fun. So averse to travel am I that one day, as I packed for my seventeenth airplane trip in a month, I found myself…not myself. I had morphed into a creature designed specifically for airport travel: the Airport Hobo.

Since that day, whenever I’m called upon to fly, I find myself disappearing like Clark Kent, and Airport Hobo appearing like Superman, except that instead of being handsome and devoted to doing good, my alter ego is incredibly wrinkled (in clothing and body) and obsessed with tiny packets of snack mix.

As the name suggests, Airport Hobos are life forms specifically adapted to survive in airports and passenger jets, although small planes and ground transportation (such as taxis) are also suitable territory. You can recognize them because an Airport Hobo…

• …always carries enough travel-survival items on person to thrive even if all luggage is lost, stolen, or eaten by bears. See “kit and kaboodle,” below.


• …appears extremely patient and stoical: when plane is delayed, will lower metabolism and go into a light coma similar to hibernation.
• …can become aggressive when fighting to claim overhead luggage space.
• …has a morbid fear of babies.
• …gets through airport security lines at maximum possible speed (1 kilometer per week), despite carrying a full array of liquids and electronic equipment.
• …has a special, intimate relationship with all caffeinated beverages; may be observed pleading for them or whispering to them.
• …obsessively forages for electricity; will crouch for hours near any wall with a “hot” outlet, hoarding power in various appliances.
• … actively discourages conversation with other travelers; may feign language deficit or death to avoid chatting on planes.
• …walks with a forward-leaning stance, as if climbing a steep hill (and adaptation that developed to roll luggage).
• …speaks Airplane fluently (for example, the standard Airport Hobo phrase for making sexual overtures is, “Please be careful when opening overhead bins, as items may have shifted during takeoff and landing”).

Like Batman’s magical belt and Wonder Woman’s awesome pushup bustier. Airport Hobo’s outfit confers superpowers uniquely adapted to airport life. The basic outfit (kit) is pictured above. It includes:

• Cash. The lifeblood of travel. Most Airport Hobos, as shown here, try to carry at least thirty billion dollars in local currency at all times.

• Boots. For kicking off and slipping on. While another traveler unlaces and reties one pair of sneakers, Airport Hobo can take off and put on boots 12 to 15 times, and often does, to the amazement of other passengers and security personnel.

• Cheap sunglasses. These disguise Airport Hobo’s true identity, can be replaced at low cost when lost, broken, stolen, or offered as peacekeeping token to Airport Hobo’s most feared natural enemy: Babies.

• Scarf. The scarf is crucial equipment, as it can be loosened in a stuffy airplane parked at a gate, or used as a blanket once the plane is in flight through cold air. Airport Hobo can also drape it over his/her own face to discourage conversation or hide from babies.

• Passport holder. This is the Airport Hobo power source, as crucial as life itself. If an Airport Hobo loses this item, the next step is to jump out of a plane during flight. Holds cash and credit cards, as well as spare dental floss and a few gumdrops for bribing babies.


• Dried instant coffee. Can be used according to label, or offered as a sacramental tribute to Earl, the God Of Turbulence, Runway Traffic, and Unhappy Babies, or Jolene, the Goddess Of Those Tiny Lights In The Cockpit That Always Blink On at the Last Minute Before Takeoff And Prevent On-Time Departure. Dried coffee can also be eaten in jet-lag emergencies.

• Vest. This is actually a piece of luggage in disguise. Multiple pockets can carry enough supplies (kaboodle, see below) to keep Airport Hobo comfortable should flight attendants confiscate roll-aboard luggage, run out of coffee, or mutiny.

• Raincoat. Again, wearable luggage. Except for brief “dry” episodes at security stations, pockets hold bottles of water. An Airport Hobo with fully water-laden raincoat is able to travel tens of thousands of miles without stopping to hydrate, many times further than your average, non-flying camel.

In addition to the basic kit, Airport Hobos carry optional items (kaboodle) which may include:

• Electrical adaptors from around the globe, including mechanisms that plug directly into lightning bolts.

• Extra spoons.

• Oven mitt. This is of no known use to Airport Hobo, but this specific Hobo received it as a gift in a swag bag at an Oprah Magazine event, and kept it because of the basic philosophical position of all Airport Hobos, which is: You Never Know.

So the next time you travel, keep an eye out for Airport Hobos! Have no fear, they are usually non-aggressive (except near overhead luggage space, see above). On the other hand, use common sense: remember that Airport Hobos are antisocial, and will run into restroom stalls if pursued by a conversationalists or babies. Now, if you’ll forgive me…

Airport Hobo pack now. Go fly in plane. Please Earl make all babies go sleep.


Social Media for Technophobic Coaches

Yo, tribespeople, this is Martha! I hate computers, view the Internet with profound mistrust, never surf the Web, and am terrified of my own email. Yet I have a successful on-line business. How is this possible? Because I use a few small tricks to help me create an on-line presence despite my technophobia.

Because I don’t want this to be a yucky sales pitch, I’ll tell you my favorite things right now, in the video below. Then, if you want, please head over to Coach Spot and sign up to join me for my “Social Networking Media for Technophobic Martha Beck Coaches” seminar. It’s live on Thursday, at 5:00 PM Pacific Coast time, 8:00 PM East Coast Time.

In the seminar, my networking coach David Scott Jones will help me teach you the basics of creating an on-line presence using easy, simple, time-saving tricks. He’s also going to teach me to do on-line live broadcasts simply and easily. There will be a question-and-answer period using new video technology that you’ll learn as we go.

This is the next step for all of us who want to gather our Tribes using the new “magical” technologies. Come one, come all, it’s going to be a (very valuable) blast!

Live Like a Lion, Love!


As I return home from almost 30 straight days on the road, having visited three continents, five countries, and three US states, I’m adding a new mascot to the bevy of beasts that have taught me how to live. The great things about being human is that, though we can’t quite equal the strengths of any other animal, we can do at least a half-assed imitation of any. (Yesterday on the History Channel I saw a blind man who echolocates like a bat, clicking his tongue and “reading” the sound echoes that bounce back to him from various objects.)

My current role model is Felix Leonis, the African lion, but not for the usual reasons. People have been identifying with lions forever because they’re big, strong, and have great hair. Me, I’m into their actual habits, which aren’t nearly as dignified and industrious as most people think.

First of all, lions sleep 20 hours a day. EXCELLENT! In Africa I met a wonderful Team member named Georgina Hamilton (now nicknamed Geo) who told me about a seminar she attended to learn lucid dreaming. For 10 days, the participants got up, ate breakfast, heard some instructions, and went back to sleep. Lunch, lecture, more sleep, dinner, much more sleep. What a concept! Listening to Geo I resolved to get serious about sleep—as aggressive as a challenged lioness, if need be.

Other than snoozing, lions have two major occupations. First, they hang out with their loved ones. I’ll never forget watching two leonine brothers—massive animals with manes like rock stars—wrap their front legs around one another and set to purring like tractor engines. Imagine two NFL nose guards with the social inclinations of Teletubbies. This I intend to imitate with anyone I love, and frequently.

The final lion occupation I intend to adopt is being silly. On the Masai Mara a few weeks ago, I flip-cammed these two youngsters playing with their food. Notice that they don’t actually eat the poor dead thing (at the height of the wildebeest migration, these lions were surpassingly well-fed) but use it for goofy hunting practice. You can practically hear them saying, “I will kill you some more! And more! Like this! You’re dead! Now you’re dead again! You are soooo dead this time!”

If you find this ghoulish, I understand. It takes some time to get used to the circle of life on the African savannah. But like a lion, I’m going to let you process that on your own. I’m feeling a little drowsy.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I’m BAAAA-aaaack! Like a fungus between your toes, just when you think you’ve gotten rid of me, here I am again. I’ll post a few videos over the next few days to tempt y’all into coming back to Africa with me. One of my favorite things was fostering orphaned baby elephants in Kenya.

These little guys lost their mothers to poachers, or fell into wells, or were attacked and injured by humans. Now they have the most loving human “dads,” guys who live with them 24/7, even sleeping next to them. They live in a national forest, but come “home” twice a day to get their bottles. This event is open to the public, but thanks to the fabulous J’Lein Liese, our group got to have a private session, where we gave them bottles (mine nearly pushed me over, just being affectionate) and the keepers told us to rub their heads, especially behind the ears, which is what their moms would do if they were alive.

If you want to foster one of these baby elephants, click over to http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/fostering.asp and spend $50. You get on-line updates of the ellie you choose. Then you can come to Kenya with me next time and give yours a bottle!

The Team Is Everywhere!

This guy could be more like you than your own relatives.

As you may know, I’m convinced that there are a bunch of us on earth at this point in history who are here to save the world. Of course, every generation has saved the world in its own way, but here in the 21st century there are so darn many humans that we literally have to change unless we want cockroaches to outlive us all.

Fortunately, all over the world there are people–ordinary people, people without fame or wealth–who feel this same mission. They’re starting a transformation in the way humans live and think. They’re doing it person by person, Team member by Team member. And it’s time we all began working together.

Tonight in Nairobi I met two Team members who have the same passions and aspirations as a middle-aged female life coach from suburban America. One is a Ugandan genius who creates home-made solar panels to bring sustainable, eco-friendly energy to impoverished people; the other is a thirty-something Maasai “elder.” He wants to start a small eco-tourism business to help his people earn a living by protecting wildlife, such as the elephants who compete for drinking water with the women of his village.

The video quality of the clip below is awful–you can barely see these wonderful guys–but it’s enough to show that the Team is not just idealistic middle-class Americans. It’s brave people all over the world, doing small things with great love (to quote Ma Teresa). These guys are just like any other Team members. We just happen to’ve been born in different places.

Straight From the Elephant’s Mouth

So it’s like this: The human quarters at Londolozi game reserve are cordoned off by a thin electric wire, which doesn’t do much to discourage antelopes and monkeys—or for that matter, lions and leopards—but which does keep elephants from wandering in.

At least, that’s the idea.

More than a year ago, one bull elephant figured out how to pull down the wire and get into the camp, where he binges on the lovingly tended flower and vegetable gardens. He became such a regular visitor that the Londolozi residents took to calling him “Night Shift.”

Months ago, in an attempt to keep the elephant at bay, the staff added additional wires to the fence. Night Shift learned to uproot fence poles. Gaps in the fence, where cars drive through, are protected by metal grills on which most animals won’t walk; Night Shift has recently been seen daintily tiptoeing—all six tons of him—across the grills. Night Shift has caused tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, and though he’s never harmed anyone, an African bull elephant looming up in the dark at close range could seriously freak someone out.

On Monday I was discussing this problem with Bronwyn, Boyd, and Shan Varty, three-fourths of the family who run Londolozi. Not far away, workers were reinstating several fence poles that Night Shift had merrily flicked aside the night before. At their wits’ end, the Vartys were wondering whether they should have the elephant relocated to some other part of Africa.

This is one reason I love the Vartys so much: when I suggested that we call a highly intuitive friend, who has been known to give accurate readings and predictions, they went for it. Within minutes, we’d made the call and Night Shift was coming in loud and clear. Here is part of the conversation that followed, verbatim (except for the gales of laughter that followed every message Night Shift supposedly sent).

Friend: “He wants his own camp.”

Us: “Could you please tell him that’s not feasible?”

Friend: “He understands.”

Us: “Will he please stop breaking in at night?”

Friend: “No. He loves people. Londolozi is his special project.”

Us: “Ooooh-kaaaay. Can we come to some sort of compromise?”

Friend: “He wants a sweet spot.”

Us: “A ‘sweet spot’? What the hell does that mean?”

Friend: “Oranges.”

Us: “He wants oranges?”

Friend: “He LOVES oranges. Also people.”orange

At this point, the other one-fourth of the Varty clan, patriarch Dave, walked onto the veranda. “Did you know Night Shift is in the front garden?” he said casually.

Without a word of consultation, everyone dashed into the kitchen, grabbed some oranges, and rushed out to the front garden. Sure enough, there was Night Shift, eating bushes.

Boyd began bowling oranges toward the elephant, applying plenty of elbow grease to get them through the tall grass. Don’t try this at home. Generally, you should expect wild elephants to react with alarm, if not aggression, should you start hurling objects toward them. Not Night Shift. He pounced on the oranges like a kid grabbing candy from a broken piñata, popping them into his mouth and scrunching joyfully, the way you might eat a Tic-Tac.

When we ran out of oranges, Night Shift wandered away (and I grabbed a camera to shoot the picture above). Our intuitive friend contacted us to communicate one more message: “Thanks!”

The next morning, Night Shift had uprooted no fewer than eight new fence posts. But as I lefft Londolozi, instead of stocking up on snub-nosed bullets or tranquilizer darts, the Vartys were assembling a big mesh bag filled with oranges. They’re trying to decide where to place them so that monkeys and baboons won’t get them and Night Shift will recognize them as fair trade for his leaving fences and gardens where they are. I’m sure they’ll figure it out in the end, because this is Londolozi, a term that in Zulu means “protector of all living things.”

For the camp’s sake, I hope Night Shift moves on quickly, or at least modifies his “special project” to make it less expensive for his beloved humans. But for my own sake, I’m thrilled he was here, busting in, making trouble, and requesting oranges from people just zany enough to grant his wish. As always, this is one spot where magic is not suppressed, and that makes me believe my own wishes can be magically granted as well.