How to Let the Magic Happen

By Angela Noel

August 18, 2016

Getting from here to there could be a harrowing journey; drivers honked, tires squealed, and traffic lights were mere suggestions. Angela did’t like traveling in her city. But that wasn’t the only problem. In the 1990s, members of a drug cartel moved into her quiet, middle class neighborhood in Santiago de Cali, Colombia. Someone was assassinated across the lane from her house.

Angela, a teen then, wondered, Do people obey the law in the U.S.? 

Angela grew up feeling in-between. Her mother is white, her father, black. Her mother is an American, her father, Colombian. Angela never felt entirely comfortable among her classmates. She had a few close friends, but there was always something–she didn’t quite fit in.

Teenagers in Colombia drink and dance at clubs until dawn. Though Angela occasionally danced at the clubs, she mostly observed and wondered. Whether at school, at a party, or just hanging out, she studied the people. She followed the patterns of behavior, tracing the action to the impact. She studied herself. Why did she feel like she didn’t always belong? Why did she choose not to drink alcohol when everyone else did? Why did the annual Cali Festival and it’s traditional horse parade make her skin crawl?

Barbara and Americo Castillo hold their baby daughter Angela.
Barbara and Americo Castillo hold their baby daughter Angela.

When Angela arrived in Minnesota, after receiving her engineering degree from Universidad Autonoma, she applied for jobs in her field while working at a bank. But a problem arose. The most promising role required she design assembly lines for weapons manufacturing. When the offer came, Angela declined. “Solving the problem would have been interesting, but it was bigger than that. I didn’t want to think that what I was helping to create, would ultimately be used to destroy.”

The Castillo family, Angela, brother Alex, Barbara and Americo at home in Cali in 1997.
The Castillo family, Angela, brother Alex, Barbara and Americo at home in Cali in 1997.

Being in-between invited Angela to develop an empathetic and thoughtful approach to life and relationships. Her experiences with drug cartels and reckless drivers gave her an appreciation for method and precision. But rigidity stifles creativity, as Alicia Keys explained in a recent interview, “. . . I learned that you try to control things too much and you miss the magic.” Though Angela knew circumstances beyond her control would always invade the ordered world she craved, she didn’t want to miss the magic. The key, Angela found, was to know what she wanted and why she wanted it. The moment to act and the words she needed would come when both her heart and mind were listening.

Angela has offered me many gifts over the years, but the first was more than seven years ago when we both worked as managers for a local credit union. As the more senior of the two of us, I was the Branch Manager, and she the Assistant. (Our team often joked, “Did you ask the Angela’s?” when someone needed a manager’s advice.) One day, Angela and I met in my office. Along with branch business, we planned our next team meeting (a meeting I always enjoyed, mostly because I did a lot of the talking). But Angela had something more to offer. She placed her hand on my desk, leaning in. Her eyes met mine, her accent barely perceptible as she said, “You know, it’s not that you don’t listen, you do. It’s just that sometimes, you need to talk less.”

Angela and I, with some of our former team, at a Happy Hour to honor our friend and co-worker, Steve (in the hat).
Angela and I, with some of our former team, at a Happy Hour to honor our friend and co-worker, Steve (in the hat).

She was (and still is) right. Leaving space in the conversation, instead of filling the air with my words, changed how I lead and the quality of my relationships. The gentle way she gave me her thoughts spoke her sincerity in wanting to help me understand. She trusted herself, the moment, and me–she let the magic happen. 

If Angela can do it, so can I, so can you.

Be awesome in real life.


Are you letting the magic happen? What experiences in your life helped shape your life philosophy?

Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

15 thoughts on “How to Let the Magic Happen”

  1. I love the thought of letting go of control to let the “magic” happen! That is when I experience freedom.

    1. Ha! It was confusing for our team, too, when we worked together. What are the odds that two women both named Angela lead a team together?
      And of course, we’re now very close friends. So, it’s always fun to say “my friend Angela.” 🙂

  2. Great post and great message! Oh, and BTW – you must have been working hard at listening, because you are a great listener! I love when people can be honest, yet caring. Your friend, Angela, would probably make a great friend!

    1. Thank you! She is a great friend–the best.
      I also appreciate that you feel how much I genuinely want to hear you. I do!
      That’s been the biggest lesson as I continue to develop as a human being: I can learn nothing without opening my ears and heart.

      1. So very true. I’ll never forget bringing my son for his yearly physical last spring, and the tech did the annual hearing test. After she finished testing my son she said “Perfect hearing!” Jake and I looked at him and said “No more ‘I think I have a hearing problem.’ excuse when you really aren’t listening to us.” We were both chuckling. The tech smiled and quietly said to our son “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” I LOVED this response! Listening is such an important skill!

  3. I enjoyed reading this post. It made me think about my own life. I tend to want to control things but it’s important to let go. You take the chance of missing out.

    1. Thank you for reading! You are in very good company! We all need that reminder. Even on my best days I wonder if all the words I’m saying really need to be said. And if I’m really listening or just waiting for my next chance to talk. Progress, not perfection, right?

I love hearing from you! Please share your thoughts.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.