(Don’t) Curb Your Enthusiasm

Buy streamers and go nuts: it could help your career.

Power-of-Enthusiasm-Man-Repeller-flying-green-dino

Growing up, my parents used to advise me, “If you’re passionate about what you do, people will be attracted to you.”

I took this gentle seedling of wise advice and hammered it into the ground. I became passionate about passion. I held up encouraging road-side signs, handed out bottles of electrolyte-fueled water, made up coordinated dance routines to the beat of mildly-rhyming cheers — all in the name of unbridled enthusiasm.

Then reality hit. I found myself working in an industry where enthusiasm denoted something much less desirable: foolish, naive, innocent, ignorant —all words used to describe those who express “too much” excitement. AKA: me.

Nice may indeed be fashionable again — but eagerness? Still lame.

Composure is hard (impossible) for me to maintain. I’m constantly in awe, easily enthralled and chastised for such “childlike” reactions to no avail. Despite my parents’ prediction, it seems no one finds this attractive.

“It will get old,” stoic industry veterans instruct. “It’s not all sunshine & rainbows,” as if my reaction to an awesome opportunity is the result of its newness (and not its awesomeness) or an inability to see the industry’s less flattering features.

Which is probably a bit true. I just know there’s more to it.

Cynicism is safe; getting hurt while hoping for the best is far more painful than when you were already expecting the worst. But being cynical also prevents the rewarding (and revolutionary) long-term power of its opposite mindset.

Would we consider Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and the like to be cynics? Did they adopt apathy to eschew ridicule or rejection? Or because all of the cool kids were doing it? Would we label their enthusiasm as naïve? No!

My affinity for fashion doesn’t compare to the goals of these world-changing leaders. Their enthusiasm, however, reminds me that to be inspired is a gift. It shouldn’t be shameful, because it’s the fire behind the energy necessary to set and meet otherwise unthinkable goals — whatever those might be.

We may conflate the devolution of enthusiasm with maturity, or worse, success; these are things that seem to stem from the passing of time. It’s normal to grow weary. To “know it all” after you’ve been there, done that, bought the tee-shirt and sold it for re-sale at 20% of the original price. That’s life. Devaluing passion in exchange for the exaltation of blasé, however, gets no one off the couch.

Though consistently warned against it, my enthusiasm has proven my greatest asset. It’s allowed me to connect with whomever I meet and remain resilient in the face of rejection. Enthusiasm, I’ve found, engenders more enthusiasm and an ability to see the forest through the trees; the opposite is true of naivety.

Enthusiasm and experience are not mutually exclusive. Enthusiasm is a choice to allow ourselves to be perpetually re-invigorated; to opt for optimism over misanthropy; to prioritize the peaks over the pitfalls. When combined with experience — that’s when its most powerful.

So, sure. Maybe the homemade sideline signs and were a little intense. But sometimes, a little extra electrolyte-filled water is all we need.

Maybe it’s time we start replacing being too jaded to care with caring too much to be jaded.

Ceramic Dino by Brett Kern. Collage by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • toni

    I agree 100% and this is the way I try to be. hehe

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      • No, I don’t

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  • This was a great read. I really needed it this afternoon.

  • AlexaJuno

    When I interned for a Broadway producer, I got excited about everything and some of the largely jaded staff would look at me like I had an accident on the carpet (and very nearly did. I got to hold the Tony award for Best Musical, I couldn’t be blamed) Despite their judgment, I marched on un-phased gawking at former Broadway props, nerding out over reading e-mails from Patti LuPone, asking tons of questions, and trying to befriend everyone in the office. I had admired this industry for too long to not soak up every minute and I’d do it again.

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  • Mavis

    The grass is always greener, maybe? I struggle with what I would call oppressive positivity in the culture (maybe it’s a California thing?) that makes me feel like I have to do a whole series of contortions whenever I want to express myself so that it’s packaged in the palatable sunny optimism that is de rigeur out here. I don’t know if the problem is cynicism or positivity, but more the weight of the dominant line of thinking on “the way to be” you’re surrounded by.

    AKA we should all be allowed to be what we are even if it’s not exactly in line with what the people around us are doing. 🙂

    • grace b

      Way late to this post but your AKA is straight up the product of California in my opinion! When I spent a year there having moved from the east coast that is exactly how my then-boyfriend (a Bay Area native) felt and I thought that “I’m an individual let me BREATHE” attitude permeated everywhere. Spent less time in SoCal so can’t say it works there as well. But yea, I found it a bit depressing, tbh. Less of a sense of community. And I had always loved the idea of it.

  • We need more people like you in the workplace! I think too many people think they are bonding with coworkers or making themselves sound more important than they are by complaining. I think my enthusiasm, or at least positive outlook, helped me get promoted at my current job.

  • Georgie

    Love this, so refreshing to hear! People need to be excited to put themselves out there in their passions, amennn amen amen sistaaa

    http://www.thegeorgiegeorgie.com

  • I just really needed to read this, I am so enthusiastic despite all the negative things in my current working environment and that just pissed people off like CRAZY. I felt off, shameful even, like I didn’t belong. But time and stressful situations in “real life” have made me seen this as my greatest asset. Thank you for writing this.

  • Bella

    Amen!

  • Lua Jane

    Beautiful. And so true. Enthusiasm is indeed a kind of resiliance.

  • Whitney V

    This rings so true to me! But you know what, after having made the conscious decision years ago to be positive and focus on the good there are barely any downfalls and even when things get rough, I remain calm and look for the lesson to learn from those times. Plus, why not be a ‘ray of light’ if you can?!

    Love,
    Whit

    http://www.whitneyswonderland.com

  • phattnatt

    lurv you

  • Dan Cooper

    I’m not clear as to what you’re suggesting, but if you think experience brings loss of passion, that’s ridiculous.

    • Nope! (I think) I’m saying that experience is assumed to warrant a loss of passion, but that an assumption of that sort negates the power that the two could have if allowed to evolve together in over-enthusiastic harmony. Yeah? (No?)

      • Dan Cooper

        Gabrielle, my first question would be who exactly is doing this assuming. Let’s take for example Bernie Sanders since he’s in the news now. This is a man with both. Let’s think about Anna Wintour or Janet Yellen. So I would say yes, anybody doing such thinking requires a mental tune-up, because everywhere you look, there are deeply passionate people with astonishing experience. Pass the Sconnie please. It’s tea time.

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  • medidude

    Love is far more superior than all the negativity… and we live in a society of affection deprived people. God knows the pain of not having our most important need met… yet choosing the way of enthusiasm is choosing the way of greatness, courage and the way of life rather than the way of death. Cynicism is living life uncompletely. Why don’t you talk about technology and its effect on mental health?

  • Savannah

    As a fellow-over-enthusiast, I really hear you. I’m often being labelled as ‘naive and unrealistic’ when sharing my feelings about fashion and working in the fashion industry and it’s complete BS. We know better, being excited and inspired rocks! And it doesn’t mean we don’t see any negative sides to something, but well. You said it all in the article anyway, good job and a high-five from Milan. 🙂