Who here loves the movie Office Space? You know the one. Peter Gibbons absolutely hates his job at Initech. He can’t stand his boss:
(Umm, yeeahhh, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow…) and he sees no purpose in his day to day work.
(It sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays.) That is… until he gets hypnotized to help him relax and enjoy life. Well life would have it that his hypnotherapist dies during his session, and Peter is in a permanent state of hypnosis. He is totally carefree. He literally stops caring about work, ensuing in comedic gold for the next hour and a half.
So what’s your point here, Megan? My point is that we can’t go to work every day feeling like Peter Gibbons, or we will surely end up destroying any passion that we have for our profession. Or at least destroying the copy machine.
At the very least, we should be able to have meeting with the “Bobs,” enthusiastically explaining to them why our work is important. I should be able to let them know what powers me, and how I help power the mission and vision of the company.
(Ok I think I’ve successfully incorporated a number of my favorite parts of the movie in a somewhat meaningful way.) In all seriousness, if you lack passion, energy, and enthusiasm for your work, chances are, you will have a hard time finding the success you seek. So if you’d like, hang with me for my second of twelve promised blog posts in 2018; this one all about enthusiasm (John Wooden’s second cornerstone in his pyramid of success, to which he describes as “the engine that powers all blocks of the pyramid“). As you read below, I’d invite you to reflect on what powers you.
It’s a pretty simple concept at its surface – if you enjoy what you are doing, you are more likely to be successful at it. What’s more difficult, is executing it. That is, sometimes we can get caught up in the day to day negativity, that we forget why having enthusiasm for what we do is so important. February, although the shortest month of the year, can oftentimes feel like the longest at school. Nothing overly exciting happens in February, and it takes great focus on enthusiasm to maintain it. And you know what? The most successful people I know do just that. Before going much further, I want to share a couple of quotes from Wooden, by John Wooden, on his thoughts on enthusiasm.
“You have to like what you’re doing, your heart must be in it. Without enthusiasm you can’t work up to your fullest ability.”
“You must have enthusiasm to prepare and perform with industriousness. Enthusiasm ignites plain old work and transforms it into industriousness.”
One caveat before moving on – I’m not saying that life can’t knock you down. Because it definitely can. We face adversity. Things get tough. But, if you love what you do, it’s easier to bounce back from those curveballs that life throws your way. It’s easier to stay positive during life’s most trying times when you have a genuine enthusiasm for what you do. You know that little phrase, “Fake it ’till you make it?” I believe in this. Let me clarify. I don’t believe in being a “fake” person – I tend to be a very “real” person if you know me. But I also know that as a leader, people can thrive (or not) off of my emotions, so I must try to be enthusiastic about what we do, even when I may not feel like it on a particular day. This is much easier when I have an authentic enjoyment for what I do day in and day out. As John Wooden writes:
“Enthusiasm brushes off on those with whom you come into contact, those you work with and for. You must have enthusiasm, especially if you’re a leader or if you wish to become a leader.”
Sometimes, I find that people who love what they do don’t always show enthusiasm for it. Why is this? One answer could be personality. I get that. However, we oftentimes get caught up in wanting to look “cool.” The best educators I know are the ones who don’t give two thoughts about looking silly in front of their students (or maybe more importantly, their colleagues) – yes, even at the high school level. Teachers who go “Owl In” (pardon the pun, our school’s mascot is an Owl..) with their enthusiasm and aren’t afraid to totally “nerd out” and risk looking ridiculous in front of their students are the ones who win over their students’ hearts. This is a concept we try to instill in our students – do what’s right regardless of what others say or think. Don’t get caught up in whether it’s “cool” or not to have great character. Who cares how many “likes” or “streaks” you have on Instagram, Snapchat, etc. What’s more important is whether or not you are a good person. I think that same principle applies to showing enthusiasm for what you do. In fact, this Wooden quote is hanging up in my office:
Now, I have to say I am not perfect in this regard by a long shot. I, too, get caught up from time to time in wanting to look “cool.” But, once you get to know me, it doesn’t take long to figure out that I’m one of the most uncool people you’ll ever meet. And I’m really ok with it.
You can take me off the court or field, but you’ll never take the coach out of me. So, I’d like to take the next couple of moments to speak to my people. Coaches out there – are your athletes excited to work hard every day? Do you foster a culture of enthusiasm that revolves around the daily grind of the sweat that goes into practice every day? Even through the most difficult drills, conditioning, or even those “teachable moments” that can oftentimes come in the form of tough love, are your kids excited to be there? Are they cheering for each other? Are they lifting each other up? The fundamental drills – are your athletes excited to do them? Do you hear them encouraging one another? Are they there for each other? (I hope at this point, it’s clear that I’m talking to more than simply “coaches.” This philosophy transcends educational roles.)
As a college athlete, I was fortunate to be a part of a team who understood this idea of enthusiasm. Every rep, every ground ball, every practice, I had a team full of student athletes cheering each other on, who loved putting their cleats on every day, who knew our time on the field was precious. We lifted each other up. We cheered. Sometimes, we even got in trouble for telling each other “good job” when it wasn’t deserved (something we still get a good chuckle about today). Softball sometimes gets a bad rap for being “annoying” or “over the top” with the cheering that comes with the sport. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty of being annoyed by some softball cheers. Let’s be honest… there are some doozies out there that I have shut down as a player, coach, and definitely given some eye rolls as a spectator. BUT.. here is what I will say about the cheering that exists within a softball team. When you start a cheer, you are encouraging those around you. You are lifting the enthusiasm level of your team. Another truth bomb… we don’t draw huge crowds for a run-of-the-mill softball game. So… we feed off of one another. The enthusiasm is contagious. And if you spread enthusiasm, you can spread industriousness in those around you. If one “dumb” cheer can lift up one of your teammates, it’s a dumb cheer well spent. Teammates are there to pick each other up, have each other’s backs, let each other know that you believe in them. And you know what? If you allow yourself to feel it.. it can be fun. Like… really fun. But you know what? You can’t be afraid of what others think. (Even those like me who have done some major eye rolling at cheers before – hey.. no one is perfect, just being honest here in this safe space…) When you let judgement of others prevent you from being enthusiastic, you are letting them keep you from your fullest potential. Nerd out. Do it. Don’t apologize for loving what you do, and for having a great time doing it.
I’d be willing to make you a bet. Those ladies that I shared a field with in college – The ones who brought enthusiasm to every practice, every conditioning session, every game, every mental training… I bet they are bringing that same enthusiasm with them in their professions today. Because being enthusiastic is a skill that has been engrained in us. It’s what we know how to do. For my ESU softball alum reading this… Can I Get A Whoo Haa?
My Challenge For You
As I conclude this blog post, I want ask you this – what do you do to foster enthusiasm in your job? Or what can you do to create a culture of enthusiasm like my team had in college? We so often get bogged down in the day-to-day things that can be downright HARD, and it can take a toll! Enthusiasm can fade, and it can fade quickly. I’m guilty of it, no doubt! I’ll ask you again, what do you do, or what can you do to revive the enthusiasm in your daily work? And if it is so mundane to you that you don’t know how to answer that question, I can’t help but ask – is it time to re-think how you do what you do? I’m not telling you to quit whatever it is that you do. What I’m asking is, is it time for a re-birth in what you do? Do you need something to revive your passion? To reignite the fire that used to be there? If the answer to those questions is yes, I don’t have the magic solution, as every case of unenthusiastic-itis is unique. However, I’d be willing to bet that with some soul searching (and maybe even some internet searching), you can find a project, an angle, a philosophy, a SOMETHING to get excited about. And if you’re thinking to yourself, maybe nothing at this point can give you enthusiasm for what you do, and you’re overall miserable in your career, then I will go ahead and direct you to this quote from Wooden.
“…I believe it’s true in any profession. If you’re knocking it all the time, get out! Don’t whine, complain, or criticize. Just leave.”
I can tell you, at least if you’re in the world of education, there are so many ways to find yourself again. To revive the love and passion you have for this profession. For me, it comes in many forms as an administrator. Getting into classrooms, seeing excellent teaching in action, interacting with kids, implementing positive behavior supports, learning as much as I can to stay on the cutting-edge of education, just to name a few. I nerd out about those things, and I take no shame in it. I challenge you to find the passion within you, find resources to feed that passion, and learn. Learn and implement. Even if it means flipping everything that you’ve ever known about teaching on its head. You don’t have to take a giant leap into something to feel reignited. You just have to take the first step.
Enthusiasm helps us find the joy. Enthusiasm means we have found a purpose. Enthusiasm helps us get through the hard days. Enthusiasm turns our hard work into something we love. Enthusiasm, as John Wooden says, powers us.
Thanks for reading! Here is to hoping you have as much enthusiasm for your profession as Milton does for his red stapler.