life isn't punctuated


life isn’t punctuated and broken neatly up into sentences it just flows along challenging each of us to make sense of it and occasionally someone comes along who puts a comma in here, or there, and pulls out a phrase and gives meaning as life rushes by




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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins


A Green Fly... Success and Higher Consciousness Day-to-Day

By Susan Ford Collins

Every morning for five years now on walks with my dogs, Mica and Mango, I pass a certain house about a block away and a certain very tall pine tree knowing that, at about eye level, a glistening green fly will be fluttering steadily mid air. And each day he is or she is or their progeny are... predictably. It’s something I’ve come to know and expect and I veer a little to the right or to the left to pass him or her, honoring.

But, as John and I walk today and we approach that exact spot, he begins complaining about that green fly always being there, even buzzing in his ear a day or so before, and I reply: That green fly is holding that exact spot in the universe steadily and if he were knocked off, if he no longer held it, then perhaps the whole universe would implode, caving in and causing everything else around it to cave in too, changing everything and everyone in world order.

You too are like that green fly holding a space so essential that the universe can’t do without you. And so instead of swatting at yourself and your dreams and the space you take up and inhabit, you must begin honoring and savoring yourself knowing that, in truth, the universe could never be full and whole without you being exactly who you are, without you doing exactly what you do, without you buzzing and filling your own exact spiritual space... thank God.

Susan Ford Collins

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins

The Little Boy in the Bathroom Story

By Susan Ford Collins

While I was doing a Technology of Success seminar for customer service supervisors at Florida Power & Light, a participant asked me about a problem he and his wife were having with their six-year-old son. They were concerned that he might have a learning problem. He just couldn't follow instructions. Tom felt the information I was teaching might be relevant. And it was.

"What exactly does your son do?” I asked.

"Well, every night he takes a shower and he does the same dumb things over and over. He leaves the shower curtain hanging outside the tub so water pours all over the floor. Then he leaves the towels in a pile sopping wet on the floor, and the soap floating in the tub till it melts into a thick, sticky goo. We go through a bar of soap every couple of days. And my wife hates scrubbing that soapy goo off the sides of the tub."

"And what exactly do you do when your son does all that?” I asked.

"Pretty much the same thing every time. I get mad and I yell: “I’ve told you a million times not to leave the shower curtain hanging out, not to leave the wet towels in a pile on the floor, not to leave the soap floating till it melts into a thick, sticky goo. Son, I can't believe you're so stupid. You must be slow. Then our son starts to cry and we send him to bed. What do you think, Susan?"

"Well, I have good news and bad news," I replied with a chuckle. "The good news is, based on what you just said, I see no reason to think your son has a learning problem. The bad news is... you and your wife are responsible for creating this problem!

Think about the instructions you're giving your son. He’s done exactly what you told him to do, if you take the not out of every sentence!” We all laughed and started talking honestly about where and when we were doing the same thing. I asked the group what they thought this father could do to turn the situation around. and developed a plan for what he could do that evening. The next morning we were eager to hear how it had gone.

"It was amazing," he said with a smile. "I told my son that I wanted to show him how to take care of the bathroom. I was sorry that I’d forgotten to teach him how to do it right in the first place, but I'd be happy to correct that now… if he'd let me. I know you’ll be able to do the job perfectly from now on. And hesitantly, he said yes.

First I showed him how a shower curtain works. Turning on the water, I pushed the curtain in the tub and aimed the shower head in that direction. The water ran down the curtain into the drain. Did you see that? ‘Yes, Dad, I did.’

Next I pulled the shower curtain out of the tub and turned on the water. As the water headed down the curtain toward the floor, he quickly pushed it back in the tub. Good son, you've got it. You're a very quick learner! He was smiling and proud, happy to know he’d finally done something right!

Next I told my son he could choose between two ways of folding the towel. First, there's the one-fold method. I laid the towel on the floor, folded it down the middle lengthwise, picked it up carefully, hung it over the towel bar, and straightened out the edges. My son nodded OK. Then he laid the towel on the floor, folded it down the middle lengthwise, picked it up carefully, hung it over the towel bar and straightened out the edges perfectly. His confidence was growing.

Now how about the two-fold method. I laid the towel on the floor again. This time I folded it lengthwise twice, one third and one third. He followed my example and liked this way even better.

OK, son, there's just one more thing—the soap. Could you figure out a way to make a bar last a week if I promise to take you for ice cream? "I sure could! Dad, let’s go buy a soap holder with points on the top and points on the bottom. I'll use it to keep the soap high and dry. And, if it lasts two weeks, would you get me two cones?”

You bet, as long as you still manage to get yourself clean! Son, you're no only smart but you're one heck of a salesman!

Then my son started to cry. Oh no, what's wrong? "Dad, I thought you didn't love me. You always said I was stupid. I couldn't do anything right. I'm a good boy, aren't I Dad?"

Yes, son, you’re a good boy.

"I love you, Dad."

I love you, too. Not only are you a good boy but a very smart boy as well! We hugged each other hard. OK, let's go get your soap holder!"

We were touched by this Dad's story and spent hours talking about how supervisors and managers could use these same understandings. He said this experience would help him at work too “because I’ve been making the same mistakes with my employees as well!”

What is the real message you’re sending yourself and others? Take the not out of the sentence and you’ll immediately know.

Not creates stress and uncertainty. And, it also signals opportunity… the opportunity to make a more thoroughly considered choice. A healthier, more loving choice. Starting today, let’s resolve to think and communicate what we do want. And when we catch ourselves not-ing ourselves or not-ing others, let’s resolve to take that extra life-saving, love-saving step by simply asking, What do I want instead?

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

* For more on The Positive Command Brain, read Skill 3: The Science of Dreaming in The Joy of Success. And Skill 3: Hologramming in Our Children Are Watching

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

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Don't Play with Matches... a Life-Threatening Instruction!

By Susan Ford Collins

A sales manager at Kimberly-Clark told me a story that tragically reinforces the danger of giving not instructions, especially to kids. Three months before my seminar, Kevin and his wife Barbara had left their son Bobby with a babysitter. As they pulled on their coats, Kevin heard Barbara say, “Don’t play with matches while we’re out. Promise me that you won't.” Kevin thought it was strange because Bobby was afraid of striking matches but they were late so he didn't say anything then.

In the car, Barbara told Kevin she'd seen a show on TV that afternoon about children setting fires while they were staying with sitters. Those scenes of badly-burned, heavily-bandaged kids kept playing over and over in her mind so she felt she had to say something to protect their son. Kevin said he understood.

They enjoyed dinner and headed home. When they turned into their street, they saw fire trucks on their lawn. Their son had followed her not instruction. He had played with matches and set fire to the drapes! The sitter called 911 and Bobby had been rushed to the hospital where he was being treated for life-threatening burns.

Why did this tragedy occur? Let's take a closer look!

Understanding not instructions or negative commands requires two essential steps.

First, our brain automatically and unconsciously disregards the not and experiences what the message looks, sounds, feels, smells and tastes like. This is because we have a Positive Command Brain. Yes, bottom line... in our brains ALL instructions are positive. Think about the power of that information for a minute! Think about the laws, rules and corrections we're given. So understanding that immediately leads us to the second crucial step.

Second, we must quickly think... and say... what you do want instead? We must create a Positive Command that we want to go into action!

So for example, if this mother did not want her son to play with matches, what did she want him to do instead? She could have created a specific action plan… choosing games, TV shows or movies, or invited over a friend… and thoroughly discussed that plan with her sitter, son and his friend. Plus... remembering to put the matches out of reach, of course! But when we speak to kids or there's imminent danger, we frequently fail to take that life-changing, life-saving second step!

Years ago I was a consultant to a government agency that was struggling to create a now-familiar sign. They considered two possibilities: In case of fire do not take the elevator, leaving people frightened and undirected.  Or taking the switching step and providing a specific life-saving action plan? In case of fire, use the stairs… and post clear directions to all nearby stairwells. After numerous tests, it was clear which choice worked to calmly and safely move people out of the building and away from danger. Which one do you think worked better?

When you give negative instructions, what is the real message you are sending to your brain, and others' brains? Take the not out of the instruction and you’ll immediately know. Whether we realize it or not, don't play with matches = play with matches... to the brain. Don't use the elevator = use the elevator... to the brain. Unfortunately not statements create stress and uncertainty at the very times when ease and certainty are needed.

Fortunately, not instructions also signal opportunity… the opportunity to deliver a more thoroughly considered plan. The opportunity to make a healthier, more loving choice.

Starting today, let’s resolve to think, and communicate, what we do want. And whenever we catch ourselves saying or hearing not, let’s commit to take that life-saving, love-saving extra step by asking ourselves, What do I want instead? Or, by asking others, what do you want instead? And taking a few seconds to answer those questions clearly... before it automatically goes into action.

Don't play with matches. Play these games or watch these shows or movies with your friend.

In case of fire, don't use the elevator. Use the stairs and here's a map for exactly how to get there.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email

* For more on The Positive Command Brain, read Skill 3: The Science of Dreaming in The Joy of Success. And Skill 3: Hologramming in Our Children Are Watching. And Skill 9, Switching in both books.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful… the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins




Moving past loss: The Little Orange Kitty Story

By Susan Ford Collins

Little did I know that one of the great teachers of my life would come to me in the form of a little orange kitty. As I sat writing at my computer, my phone rang and I heard my friend Sharon saying she had an urgent problem and needed my help. I stopped and listened carefully to her story.

A couple of days before, someone dumped a large cardboard box in Sharon’s yard. As she left for work mornings since then, she grumbled about someone discarding that box on her lawn but she was busy with a project and hadn’t had time to drag it to the trash pile until this morning.

When Sharon walked toward it and peeked inside, she was stunned. The box wasn’t empty! It contained four tiny kittens, a couple of weeks old! Two were dead already and crawling with maggots. The other two were screaming loudly for help. Sharon immediately called her vet and was told she would get a callback in fifteen minutes, but after a half hour, she decided she’d better go ahead with Plan B.

Packing “her survivors” into a much smaller, sturdier towel-lined box, she carefully placed them in the car and rushed to a nearby pet store to get help: what should she feed them, how much and how often? The sales team looked at the kitties tenderly and quickly walked Sharon and her box of kitties down the correct aisle to a tiny nursing bottle and a six-pack of mother-kitty-replacement milk. The label said to feed them every couple of hours 24/7. The team wished Sharon well and also warned that, despite her most loving and diligent efforts, the kitties might already be too weak to suck and survive.

Once home, Sharon went into action, opening the can, making sure the milk was baby-bath-water warm, carefully pouring it into the nursing bottle and snapping on the nipple. Sharon decided to feed the smaller kitty first and she picked it up gently. It snuggled in her warm hand and when she offered the tiny nipple, it eagerly accepted, sucking in tiny gulps until milk bubbled out of the corners of its mouth. Relieved, Sharon tucked that contented kitty back into the towel and picked up the other one which started strongly sucking too.  After an hour’s nap, they were awake again and happily filled up and contentedly fell back to sleep. So far so good! But now a new problem was surfacing and that’s where I came in.

It was Saturday so Sharon would be able to care for the kitties today and tomorrow but Monday she would have to go back to work. For years Sharon had joked about my home being “the home of castaways and strays”… unwanted rabbits and guinea pigs, hummingbirds with broken wings and armor-covered wounded iguanas. So I was a likely candidate for taking over her-kitty-mothering responsibilities.

At this point in our conversation Sharon mentioned a word she knew I would respond to… “calico.” Several months before, a calico kitty of mine had been hit by a car. She had dragged her broken body almost up to my front door and died in the bushes, unnoticed. I was still grieving, wishing I had known about her plight and I had been able to do something to help her. But I didn’t, and I couldn't. So, based on the fact that one of these kitties was a calico, I immediately told Sharon that I would take her.

But Sharon quickly responded, “No, they’ve had enough loss already. They only come as a pair. I’ll have to find someone else then.” So, a little begrudgingly, I said I would take them both. Sharon quickly brought them to my house in their new blanket-lined basket, and, sure enough, the calico was exactly like the one I had lost. My heart felt warm and full toward her. I was generous to the orange one of course, but I felt no special connection. I fed him. I cared for him but only as a second. A "me too."  I loved watching them chase bugs, lizards and their own tails, reawakening “the kitten in me” as I giggled at their antics.

Early one morning months later there was a violent thunder storm and my nervous cats and dogs piled onto my bed. Finally the lightning and thunder passed and we slept a little. Around six, I made breakfast but only one of the kitties came running when I called them as usual. I had a sick feeling as I headed for my bedroom to search, and there on the floor at the foot of my bed was the calico kitty writhing and convulsing. I drove frantically to the vet but, with only one block to go, she went limp.

As I walked into the vet with that dead kitty in my arms, the attendant looked in my eyes knowingly. Finally accepting my reality, I turned around to leave, saying I would take my kitty home to bury her. And out near the pond under my tallest bananas trees, I laid another calico to rest. And with my shovel still in my arms, I wept.

As the day drew on, the little orange kitty was getting mad, furious in fact, and directing his full fury at me, biting me and scratching me as if I had intentionally taken his sister from him. I felt the way a distraught mother must feel when she recognizes that she isn't able to fully love her surviving child. Why are you here and not my little calico? And I judged myself harshly, hating my feelings and wishing them away. But they were there and they were real and the little orange kitty had probably sensed them all along. So I apologized, and tears streamed down my burning face, sore from so many tears already.

We seemed to make peace with each other in that moment. We had both suffered great loss and so we made a pact… he and I… that we would try to become better friends; that I wanted to get to know him; that I needed his tender, purring support. And I gave him an extra blue-delft dish full of food, letting him know that he was very special to me.

Day in and day out, we learned to know each other. Each day as I sat for six to eight hours at my computer, he slid in behind the keyboard that was resting on my lap. Sometimes he did it so skillfully that I didn't even know he was there. The rest of the day the little orange kitty seemed to assume he was one of the dogs—Mica the elegant Rhodesian, and Mango the gentle Labrador. Wherever they curled up in the afternoon to nap and dream noisily, moaning and twitching, he nestled in the C that their curled-up bodies created.

Early one morning there was another violent thunderstorm. I felt panic rise up in me but it wasn't from the storm. It was my old loss memories flooding in—the earlier, similar morning with the calico kitty dying on the way to the vet, and the afternoon I found my first calico dead by my front door. Then, awakening from those painful memories of loss, I started laughing. I dried tears that had poured out already and reached down to caress my new friend.

Little orange kitty, you've done it! You've made me fall in love with you, with your gentle sensitive ways, and your quiet attentive tenderness. I considered calling him "book" or "success," but those names didn't suit him. The little orange kitty had become "The Little Man."

The Little Man had taught me something most precious. Relationships are built on mutual caring and understanding, on getting into each others' rhythms and nourishing each others' dreams. The little man and I "feed and water" each other daily, honest with how we're feeling, completing the same dreams—six am breakfast, out to feed the fish, settling on my lap while I write all morning, purring in the kitchen during our lunch. And he's settled in his favorite spot now, writing this all down with me, putting in paw marks every once in a while.

                                              xxxxxx          ttttttttt           nnnnnn

I've shared this tender story with you to underline a precious fact I rediscovered with the little orange kitty’s help. Life fills in whatever spaces it creates. If we trust that our needs will be met, if we accept the wisdom of what's being given or taken away, then we can steadily feel life's perfection instead of getting pulled down by our momentary focus on doubt and disappointment, on its imperfection.

In moments of loss we need to stay open to possibilities, even if those possibilities come in the form of a dilapidated cardboard box dumped on our lawn, or a tiny kitten we didn’t really want, holding on to our faith in the goodness of life.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. Contact me for permission to use it.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins