“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
When I was 11 years old, I began to use a secret power, setting events in motion that have taken me to places I’ve only dreamed of and beyond. It is a phenomenon that has continued to manifest positive outcomes to this day.
It is the power of enthusiasm
It all began when my father built a “dream machine” for my younger brother and me in our backyard. If you had seen it, you would have said it was a tree-house, but for me, it was truly a dream machine. I can remember climbing up, usually at dusk, as the stars began to twinkle across the big Texas sky, and dream of all that I believed was possible, leaving behind the reality of my life.
Looking back, I realised that even my parents used this power to visualise their dream for their sons: the education they could never afford.
To save for that goal, my dad moved us into the back of his tiny barber shop which was located in a small strip centre on the Eastside of San Antonio, Texas. I shined shoes and watched as he treated every customer as if they were the first patron of the day.
He wasn’t selling haircuts. He was selling an experience, spiced with enthusiasm.
After every haircut, for which my dad charged a dollar, I would run to the corner drug store and change the bill into quarters. My dad kept several empty cigar boxes inside a cabinet in the barber shop. Each one represented a fund. One was for rent, one for groceries, one for our education and so on. I can still see him placing each coin in the box and hearing the tiny clink it made. When I think of that now, I realise what he did to provide for his family, one quarter at a time. It was a sound and a lesson I will never forget. The sound of enthusiasm.
Fasten your seatbelt. I am about to tell you how I believe enthusiasm works, why it works and, most importantly, how it can work for you.
What is enthusiasm?
The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word, enthousiasmos. En means in and theos means God or spirit. So, to be enthusiastic literally means, “to have the spirit within”.
It was that spirit that launched my vision of the future as I sat quietly in my “dream machine”, imagining all that I believed was possible. I’d like to humbly share three personal dreams that illustrate how the use of enthusiasm not only manifests abundance, but can also accelerate the positive outcome you desire.
Dream number one: Radio
For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with the wonder of radio. I would listen to the “man in the speaker” and just know that someday I would be that man. When my head hit the pillow every night, under it was a transistor radio with the volume barely turned up so only I could hear the music, the banter, the magic.
I decided to create my own radio shows, using my small tape recorder and portable record player. While talking into the microphone in one hand, I played and changed the records with the other, producing my five minute “shows”. I would play these “pretend programmes” for my friends, one at a time, on the phone. That’s how badly I wanted to be the “man in the speaker”.
While attending the University of Texas at El Paso, I landed my first radio job, making a whopping $1.25 an hour. [I thought I had died and gone to heaven!] Was it possible to get paid for having this much fun?
Within six short years from the time I left home, my career had taken me to the airwaves of one of the top stations in the nation: KMPC Radio in Los Angeles. My unbridled enthusiasm and love of radio had brought me to where I knew I would someday arrive. The moment I dreamed it, I already had. While my microphone had changed from that small tape recorder in the back of my father’s barber shop to a 50,000 watt signal in one of the largest radio markets in the world, my reason for doing it had not: to share my joy.
“Everything you can imagine is real.”
Dream number two: Cartoons
At an early age I discovered an almost uncanny ability to mimic voices and sounds I heard. One afternoon, after school, I was watching my favourite cartoon show, Yogi Bear, and a little duck named Yakky Doodle kept following Yogi, saying, “Mr Bear, would you be my momma?”
I turned off the set and decided that I could mimic that voice and, one day, I would do voices for cartoons. Keep in mind that I’m sitting there, watching a black and white Philco TV [Google it!] with a coat hanger for an antenna, not realising that cartoon voice artists are professionals, live in Hollywood and have years of experience.
It took a few weeks, after practising day after day, to finally re-create the little duck’s voice. It was exactly as I had heard it. I was only a kid, but I had been able to do it because I didn’t know that I couldn’t.
Fast-forward to my radio show in Los Angeles. An agent calls me and says something like, “I’ve heard all your voices on radio and was wondering, have you ever thought about doing cartoons?” Was he kidding?! I’d dreamed about it! Within days, I had my first job providing voices for new episodes of The Jetsons cartoon series, working at the Hanna-Barbera Studios: the home of Yogi Bear and that little duck!
Once again, what my enthusiastic boyhood imaginings had set into motion had come to be true. By the way, it was during those sessions that I met and worked with the legendary Mel Blanc. He provided the voice of “Mr Spacely” who was “George Jetson’s” boss on the popular series.
Mr Blanc was a legend and perhaps, the greatest cartoon voice artist of all-time, giving life to countless characters, including Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester the Cat and Tweedy, Foghorn Leghorn and more, many more.
He became a mentor, teaching me many of these famous voices. In doing so he also taught me that the “ladder of life” is one hand extended to someone who pulls you up to where they are, while you extend your other hand to pull someone where you are.
Dream number three: Disney
As a child, one of my secret dreams was to be a part of the magic Walt Disney had created. I didn’t know how or when, I just knew I wanted to join in the fun. After all, I was already a card-carrying member of the Mickey Mouse Club!
That door “magically” opened in 1981, when I got wind that Disney was planning its own presence on worldwide cable and satellite TV: The Disney Channel. The idea of hosting a Disney programme was over the moon and the sun! I went to work writing a treatment for a weekly show I titled, “Saturday in the Park”. Somehow, my agent was able to get me in front of the Disney “suits”—the decision-makers. My heart was beating out of my chest as I drove onto Disney’s Buena Vista Studios in Burbank.
With great enthusiasm, I presented my idea of leading a small army of children in parks across America, explaining how our guest stars would suddenly appear in various settings and perform for our audience, both at home, and at the park. Staring back at me were three men and a lady who would occasionally turn to the others and raise her brow.
“They’re not buying it,” I thought to myself, but I refused to let my guard down. I truly believed in the concept. I believed in Disney.
As I finished, they spoke softly among themselves, then said something that I will remember for the rest of my life. “Sonny, that’s a nice idea, but it’s not what we’re looking for. However, we think you’d be perfect for another show we’re producing, called, You and Me, Kid!”
Sometimes opportunity knocks. Sometimes it taps gently on your window. And, sometimes it drives by and you must run out to the street and flag it down with great enthusiasm!
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
These three dreams and their outcome serve to illustrate the influence of enthusiasm on well-intentioned ambitions. I referred to it as a “secret power” because I am convinced that the real secret lies in the mantra: Never stop thinking like a child. You are not just the age you are; you are every age you ever were. Let the kid inside you come out and play!
The elements of successful enthusiasm
I’ve found that there are distinct elements that enhance the full force of enthusiasm. They are: Vision, Commitment, Action, Belief, Gratitude and Servitude.
Much has been written about the importance of “the feeling” one has when one is filled with enthusiasm. It is my experience that it comes from why we set out to accomplish, rather than what it is we visualise. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt. Everest, said, “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
Consider the story of American swimmer, Florence May Chadwick, who, at age 31, became the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways in 1950 – 51. And, while many consider this to be her crowning glory, Ms Chadwick had another dream to accomplish: Become the first person to swim the 26 mile channel between Catalina Island and the California Coast.
On a foggy morning in 1952, she attempted to swim the distance. There was a thick fog, the waters were choppy and men on row boats, at times, fired shotguns to scare off occasional circling sharks. Florence began to doubt her own ability and told her mother she wasn’t sure she could make it, swimming for another hour before asking to be pulled out of the water. Around that time, the fog began to lift and she saw the shore only a mile away.
Two months later, with the vision of the shoreline emblazoned in her mind, under the same exact conditions, she reached her goal in less time than her previously failed attempt. Florence later told a reporter that it was the vision of her destination that kept her going.
Legendary Hall of Fame football coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, “Most fail, not because of lack of desire, but because of lack of commitment.”
Let’s face it: everyone has dreams and desires of things they’ll accomplish one day. But it’s the commitment to making it happen that shows true character. In his book, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, Steve Maraboli begs us to “Set the standard! Stop expecting others to show you love, acceptance, commitment and respect when you don’t even show that to yourself.”
While commitment is the contract, action is the work. It is the seeds you plant daily that bring you the fruit of your labour.
While living in Los Angeles, I was having lunch with an actor friend one afternoon. He was lamenting that after two years of giving audition after audition, he hadn’t landed a single job.
I asked, “What are you doing to grow your craft?”
He said, “What do you mean?”
“What are you doing to grow your craft?” I repeated.
“Going to auditions!” he replied.
I explained that, perhaps, the reason he wasn’t progressing in his career was because he wasn’t doing his part to prepare for success. Then, I came up with a simple formula: Every day, before you play, do three things that will bring your closer to your goal.
In his case, it could be attending an acting workshop, writing a letter to a producer, working on creating a one-man show. I asked him to imagine these actions as three seeds he was planting in his garden of realisation. If you do the math, three seeds a day, five days a week [taking weekends off] equals to 15 seeds a week and 60 seeds a month equals to 720 seeds planted in the next 12 months. [How much better would you become, applying this formula to your craft or goal?]
A year later, I ran into my friend who told me that he had been cast in a new sitcom. The seeds-of-action he had planted had taken root and when the opportunity came, he was prepared!
This is the foundation and the strongest element of success through the use of enthusiasm. When you truly believe in what you see, your vision begins to take on a life of its own. People, resources and circumstances will begin to appear.
Coincidences are just that, co-incidences or two related incidences that seem to have happened by chance. That chance is created by belief. As Einstein puts it, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
The vision of your dream, no matter your level of enthusiasm, can be a lonely experience. Even those closest to you—your mate, best friend or family—cannot see what you see. Some may discourage you by questioning your efforts. Know that, while they may mean well, it’s not their fault. After all, they want what’s best for you.
Don’t give up.
A college professor wanted to teach his students the concept of gratitude. During his first class of the day, at 8 am, he asked everyone to draw a line down the centre of a sheet of paper. “On the left side,” he instructed, “I want you to list all the things you dislike about your life. Then, on the right side, list everything you are happy about.”
After several minutes, most of the students had a much longer list on the left side of their papers. As they slowly finished, he said, “Count the number of items on the left and remember that number.”
Next to his desk was a large box of potatoes, next to a pile of burlap sacks. He told them to come forward and place the number of potatoes in a sack that represented the number of their displeasures in life. Finally, he asked them to carry the load from class to class and when someone asked, to tell them what the potatoes represented.
By noon, there were abandoned sacks of potatoes throughout the campus.
These students were tired of lugging around their “baggage of the past”, and thus, realised a new found perspective of gratitude.
Robert A Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, spent years studying gratitude and found that “people who practised gratitude daily [for example: writing in a journal] reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy than those who didn’t.”
When you drive to a radio station at 4am to do a morning radio show, there aren’t a lot of choices when it comes to grabbing breakfast at a fast food drive-through along the way. The same can be said for the level of service at that time of the day.
But one morning everything changed as I pulled up to the speaker of a local restaurant to order a couple of breakfast tacos and a cup of coffee. [In case you’re not familiar with them, breakfast tacos are made of scrambled eggs and usually a couple of strips of bacon, served on freshly made tortillas. Delicious!]
Instead of hearing the normal monotone voice asking for my order, I heard: “Welcome to Taco Cabana. How may I serve you?” The voice was as pleasant as the words. Music to my ears at 4am.
When I pulled up to the window I found a lovely lady named Ruby who introduced herself and told me that if I would wait “just a second” she’d see that the bacon was “nice and fresh”. She said all this while putting the cream and sweetener I had asked for into the cup. After stirring the coffee, she carefully placed the plastic cover and even pulled back the little flap that always seems to break off. I watched in disbelief and could hardly wait to share the experience with my radio audience.
Every morning, afterward, I would pull up and receive the same service Ruby cheerfully provided to all her now loyal customers. Through our brief conversations, I found out that she was a single mom and was saving to send her teenage son to college. How easy it would have been for this lady to lament her circumstances and wonder what happened to her life as she tried to make ends meet, while working for minimum wage in the middle of the night.
She had plans for herself and her enthusiastic attitude was going to get her to where she was going. Then, one morning she did something that I share with audiences every time I speak.
Let me back up and say that because I enjoyed giving prizes on my radio show, it was not unusual for someone to stop me on the street and ask if I have any movie passes, CD’s, etc.
Well, that’s what I thought was happening when Ruby casually asked one morning, “Sonny, you wouldn’t by any chance have any tickets for tonight’s Spurs basketball game, would you?”
“No Ruby, I’m afraid I don’t.”
[I thought to myself that if anyone deserves to ask, it was Ruby.]
Ruby, then, reached into her pocket and said, “Well, I would like you to have mine. You see I was chosen Employee of the Month and they gave me these tickets. Since I can’t go I thought I would give them to my best customer.”
My eyes welled up because of the lesson I had just learned from this beautiful human being. I graciously accepted her kind offer and thanked her for her generosity. I gladly report that today, Ruby is office manager for a city department and no longer works graveyard hours.
Her attitude determined her altitude. Moreover, she has given many of us the true meaning of the phrase, “How may I serve you?”
Enthusiasm is infectious and serves to inspire those around you. Would you rather be around someone who is filled with optimism or someone who exudes negativity?
Three common myths about enthusiasm
Myth: Enthusiasm is a personality trait. You are either born with it or you are not.
Truth: This is like saying, you are either born knowing how to swim or you are not. Enthusiasm begins with what you want and how badly you want it. Where there is enthusiasm, there is a way!
Myth: You have to feel enthusiastic. You can’t just act that way.
Truth: Dale Carnegie used to say, “If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic!” You can put the cart before the horse. That is, you can become the enthusiastic individual you want to be by acting the part. Sooner or later, you will no longer be acting.
Myth: People who are enthusiastic are a turn-off to others.
Truth: Enthusiasm is infectious and serves to inspire those around you. Would you rather be around someone who is filled with optimism or someone who exudes negativity?
Inspiring your team with enthusiasm!
So, you’re on board. You believe that enthusiasm can and will work for you. How do you convince and inspire your team at work to feel the same way?
Use the word team as an acronym, [Trust, Energy, Attitude and Mission], you share with your winning T.E.A.M.
Let your team know that you’ve got their back and can trust you to give them your full support.
Urge each team-mate to consistently bring their full energy every day, just as a pro-athlete rises to the occasion.
Stress to your team that there can be no positive result with a negative attitude.
Clearly state the goal of your project and create a method of measuring progress.
How to use enthusiasm in your everyday life
- Start your day with the idea that nothing will deter your inner spirit. For instance, if traffic is especially heavy on your way to work, use the time to focus on ideas rather than manufacture unnecessary anxiety.
- Be aware of words you use to describe yourself. Phrases like, “Well, with my luck…,” “Story of my life!” or “At this rate, I’m never going to…” become affirmations and are counter-productive.
- Imagine you are a human laser with the ability to zap anyone you see with positive energy. Silently, wish the best for them, then, blast your positive beam toward them. [This may sound silly, but what you are doing is sending a message to the universe about what you want for yourself.]
- Encourage others. One of my favourite quotes of all-time was written by a philosopher who lived in the first century named Philo of Alexandria. He said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Centuries later, these words were never truer. Your kind word, or just a smile, may be the best thing that happens to someone all day. Make it a habit to practise deliberate acts of kindness.
- Show enthusiasm by the clothes you wear, the way you walk and through your body language. Exude your joy.
- Wrap enthusiasm around the moments of your life. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, urges us to “Realise deeply that all we ever have is the present moment.”
Enthusiasm involves suspending disbelief and “meeting your dreams halfway”.
Imagine you’re sitting in a comedy club, watching a talented comic impressionist. You don’t fold your arms and say, “That’s not who you are!” You know that they are not the person being impersonated, but your mind delights in “meeting them halfway”, resulting in the gift of laughter.
So it is with enthusiasm. You are trusting that you truly can succeed. It is that trust that results in the gift of purpose-filled accomplishment.
One final thought
Remember that the power of enthusiasm works best when you are coming from a place of what you can do for someone else. Rather than saying, “What’s in it for me?” Ask yourself, “What’s within me for others?”
Our life’s true measure lies in how we treat those who can do nothing for us. That’s when you’ll know its happening.
That’s your spirit within.
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