None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm – Henry David Thoreau
During my travels across the world, I met two kinds of office secretaries. One that would always be smiling even if he/she was staring at a nuclear catastrophe ie one with an extremely positive mindset which to a large extent would flow from having a good boss. The really great ones would see the best in life even if their bosses would make their life miserable. Some of them would internalize anger (and smile)which is not a good way to stay happy.
The other type of secretaries would be grumpy and feel angry even at doing everything right. A lot of times we forget that we bring our personal selves to work all the time. A fight early in the morning can truly ruin your day in office. Some of these secretaries would have faced such a bad morning. For others, anger and fear were a way of getting things done. Mostly, at the cost of relationships.
I would always be more empathetic towards the second type of administrative staff. The first type could take care of themselves.
This is just a very mundane observation but the larger point I am making is that there are two and half ways to lead life ie full of zest, morose or choosing the middle path of ambivalence or the “myeh” attitude.
To be truly happy, enthusiasm is indispensable. In fact, enthusiasm breeds productivity which in turn leads to success. I have seen many couples dance the funky chicken or skydive in their 70’s. Some would call it crazy, others keeping the spark of life alive. This article is a discussion about making enthusiasm a way of living your life.
The Master Of Small Joys
Last night, I chanced upon a unique book. The book was titled “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Normally, you wouldn’t think that tidying up can be magical or life changing but Marie Kondo, the author is an expert in helping people discover that joy. Personally, I do need tidying up just to help me become more efficient. The Magic takes over when that efficiency gives me happiness and my chores become my most favorite items of the day. Hard to imagine, right? I couldn’t agree more. Here’s Marie teaching a simple folding method. For a video that teaches you to fold a shirt, what is remarkable is that it has 3.5 million views on YouTube
However, the lesson I learnt is that it’s important to practice anything you want to be good at but that’s just the start. To create miracles, you need to find joys in every single thing you do. It’s the heart that creates joy.
Remember the small things that would give you joy as a child. Perhaps, it was a particular flavor of ice cream or a particular type of music. Some people even find joys in buying and trying different types of writing instruments. Others like Marie Kondo love tidying up. For Marie, her enthusiasm for tidying up has truly become her way of life. In fact, it has become her life’s work and contribution to the world.
Total Quality Management
To many people, tidying up and keeping things in their place seems to boil down to common sense. One of the greatest examples of consistently doing things right is the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM) — a concept pioneered by W Edward Deming. TQM is :
a system of management based on the principle that every staff member must be committed to maintaining high standards of work in every aspect of a company’s operations.
Deming was an American engineer, statistician, author, lecturer and cosnsultant known for his research into statistical process control.
His life’s work, along with that of Joseph M Juran, pioneered the quality revolution in Japan and resulted in the worldwide success of conglomerates such as Toyota-an automotive manufacturer known for high quality manufacturing and ruling the auto industry for decades.
I had the pleasure of witnessing TQM in practice in various Unilever factories across the length and breadth of India. Although, many of these concepts seem to boil down to common sense, what was uncommon was the zeal and enthusiasm with which the concepts were consistently put into practice. The magic was nearly spotless factory shop floors year round with extremely measured and high productivity. A little enthusiasm can convert even the most mundane into the miraculous. As Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it:
Genius is common sense dressed in its working clothes
Per an article in the Harvard Business Review published in 2016, its very typical for entrepreneurs to face a decline in enthusiasm as they continue on their journey. Therefore, they must constantly seek feedback from clients and their investors or partners. It is just not enough to make a passionate pitch to a Venture Capitalists. It’s what comes next that’s the dilemma. Sustaining enthusiasm during tough times, especially when the cash burn rate is higher than expected and only a few months worth of investment is left, can be incredibly challenging. Virtually every successful entrepreneur is a testament to the role of sustained enthusiasm albeit grounded in reality.
Call it a writers block, a lack of inspiration or pure listlessness, lack of enthusiasm affects the best of us. Holding on to your dreams is the only way to sustain your pursuit of happiness.
Success is Internal
Many people have called me over enthusiastic as if it’s a mistake to be one. An extra dose of enthusiasm may just be my blind side. It is these little imperfections that make us human.
Howver, a lot of success in my life can be attributed to a general enthusiasm — a zest for life. As they say in German, it has become my weltanschauung (world view). This world view is tempered by my clash with reality every day. My enthusiasm, however, allows me to search for solutions in a world busy with discussions of problems. A world that seems to internalize negative emotions soon but searches outwards for happiness. The biggest fallacy, perhaps, is our insistence that happiness and success need external validation. This validation takes many forms: to be perceived as cool, rich, beautiful and so on. There are certain benchmarks that society holds before us. Notably, a stage where money is of no consequence and we are deeply engaged in the pursuit of a grander myth-absolute power. Both are impossible to achieve but happiness isn’t. If only, we look inwards.