Enthusiasm Adds Passion to Life

Rides down the river energize a Golden to reveal their inherent enthusiasm.

Call it the sweet nectar that lifts our mundane existence to another level. A gift given only to us—birds don’t have it, nor most dogs, cats, or geese. We might get an argument over monkeys, but probably not zebras or leopards. Mainly just us and selectively a Golden Retriever or two.

Icons who pushed Americans to achieve success in business, sports, the arts, politics, war, and life have praised personal enthusiasm as their catalyst. Ralph Waldo Emerson laid it out: Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Novelist Paulo Coelho sees it spanning every endeavor: “An enthusiastic heart finds opportunities everywhere.”

This human trait displayed in spades this week during the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals (“Nats”). The Nats had it, even when they weren’t winning. Renown football coach Vince Lombardi inspired: “If you aren’t fired up with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”  No ballplayers were being fired during the World Series, but it is a testing ground that is years in the making to create a team able to withstand the rigors of a long baseball season, followed by a “now or never” series. Washington managed to win four Series games on the road to clinch it all.

It took years for the match-up to happen. Houston became “Astros” when they moved into the Astrodome in 1965 nestled in the home of the nation’s (Manned) Space Center, but welcomed the Nationals to Minute Maid Park for the 2019 Series. In a switcheroo, the original Washington Senators’ team left to become the Texas Rangers in 1972. Baseball didn’t return to Washington until 2005 when the Montreal Expos moved south. The subsequent 14 years have awakened an unexpected passion in the souls of federal workers and politicians alike—the American Pastime!

In baseball, unlike other field sports, the rivalry can get heated as the fans demonstrate their loyalty to their perspective teams, winning or losing. In other athletic events, malicious adjectives fly between the fans, sometimes followed by projectiles or punches often coming from an excess of enthusiasm, beer, or both. Perhaps this is naive, but being a Nats fan (after a childhood as a legacy Chicago Cubs fan) I heard about none of that. Instead, just a light-hearted, “We didn’t have a big enough fly swatter!” That seems civilized for a loyal Houston fan.

But it’s not just baseball or sports in general that generates enthusiasm. Successful inventor Henry Ford obviously carried a passion for moving from horses to a four-wheeled machines, but also carved a path for others: “Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait, the grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.”

Enthusiasm can also work to raise the downhearted and provide a reason to rally for a cause. Winston Churchill drew his countrymen together when nightly air raids and continuous bombings were decimating London and would have terrorized and paralyzed a less courageous nation. He could see England’s future when no one else could. “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” he said. Churchill wore down America’s Franklin Roosevelt until he finally sent his airmen across the Atlantic and he began building the planes and tanks essential to the fight.

Churchill could not be swayed by the naysayers who believed Hitler would conquer England, just as the Nazis had run across Poland, Eastern Europe, and raced across France. He stood like the father in the door protecting the innocent. His belief in the future remained strong, as if he were listening to H. Jackson Brown: “Protect your enthusiasm from the negativity of others.”

America’s cheerleader, Dale Carnegie, taught a generation to believe in themselves and to become the optimistic and successful salesmen and women of the world. “Flaming enthusiasm backed by horse sense and persistence is the quality that most frequently makes for success,” he wrote. This flaming enthusiasm exposes itself through modern political discussions—don’t think we can call it “discourse.”

This wouldn’t be the first time political discussions have fallen into a food fight of ugly words and course actions, but now the words act like swords that pierce, divide, and destroy. Political discussions no longer carry a banter of policies or an attempt to come closer to solutions to fermenting problems. Politicians rush to opposite walls, believing that will be enough for a win. But the country remains in the middle, like children, some supporting one parent or the other in their battles, but just wanting the ranting to stop and whatever passes for normal to return.

Enthusiasm can be used for good or ill, but in times like these it’s important to remember to power our inventions, enliven our friendly sports competition, build back a nation’s gumption, or remind us what we’re capable of doing. The value of enthusiasm, despite its potential for evil, is strong enough to recommend it as an antidote to what ails us. Encourage your children to find their passion, whatever endeavor they choose.

American businessman and politician Bruce Barton urged parents: “If you give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.”  


Impact the Future as you Live the Present

Favorite view during daytime flight. Fluffy clouds that change from minute to minute represent the future because you never know what you’ll find on the ground. The world has changed while you’ve been in flight.

In conversation, we often talk about the past as if it were the present.

Instead we should live in the present but prepare for a future that improves upon it. You say it’s hard to know whether the future will meet that expectation. Ah, but if you aim low, for a so-so or not-so-good future, it’s harder to envision the possibility of a better one and harder yet to obtain the desired future.

“Past Becomes Present,” is this blog’s title, pulling our combined history into present day for better or worse. Or turning history inside out. That seems legitimate. But in conversation this week, I found myself reliving the past, not so much to sample its lessons, but to examine points of trial and pain that should be soothed and digested by now. I decided to take a look at the role the past and future play in life. One might think my hands and mind would have little bearing on the future as I am over 60, but as long as there is breath in any of us, we can influence tomorrow–whether it is the next time we awaken or even possibly 30 years from now.

If we want to push forward, we need to go far beyond the past, carrying it with us, pay attention to our role in the present, embrace it, but hold in our minds a vision of the future that we will work to achieve.

Cruel realities of 21st century life—extreme fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, political philosophies that whiplash the country left and right, and an economy rising upper incomes but often neglecting the bottom–threaten to cloud our impression of the present and impose fears for the future.

As a grandparent, who frequently looks into the inquiring eyes two generations below, I seek the positives that could provide them a future worth moving into. While the current state of affairs has not reached the conundrum faced by Abe Lincoln in the Civil War and Winston Church in World War II, they exercised hope in bleak worlds when their people needed it most.

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Message sent to Congress delivered a written review of the nation-(The tradition at the time minus tv cameras to register the clapping, standing, and sitting of the opposing parties). On December 1, 1862, Lincoln seemed to address my concern as he wrote:

“ The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Abraham Lincoln December 1, 1862

Churchill ventured across the Atlantic Ocean peppered with German U-boats to address the Canadian Parliament on December 30, 1941. He asked for their assistance but also spoke to his countrymen:

Let us address ourselves to our task, not in any way underrating its tremendous difficulties and perils, but in good heart and sober confidence, resolved that, whatever the cost, whatever the suffering, we shall stand by one another, true and faithful comrades, and do our duty, God helping us, to the end.

Winston Churchill December 30, 1941

Each man had the ability to see beyond the current difficulty to believe in their nation’s ability to overcome, not in a Disney-esque fashion, but in a positive reality built out of turmoil.

Few could have predicted what post-war Reconstruction would bring without a fair and steady hand, like Lincoln’s, at the helm. Some might say America still suffers from the missteps after 1865 that resulted in Jim Crow laws in the South that punished blacks and might have been avoided had race relations been handled differently immediately following the Civil War. Fortunately for Europe, Germany, and Japan a more progressive hand administered the Marshall Plan after World War II, yielding strong partners today. But still this did not prevent backward looking nationalist tendencies from cropping up throughout Europe and the U.S. today.

Every country and every era has been divided by serious issues, but without agreement about the need to draw the sides together and ease opposition by finding areas of agreement and common need, stagnation or worse begins to destroy a country and upset global harmony. On so many issues America seems to be at a stalemate, but as Churchill so memorably proclaimed to students at Harrow School on October 29, 1941:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never in nothing great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

For modern America facing the future this seems to translate: Stick to your guns, don’t give in to petty challenges. If, however, your country is at stake, work like heck to preserve democracy, just like Lincoln worked to preserve the Union, and Churchill sweat blood to protect England from the Nazi horde.