Cultivate Exuberance

January 18, 2013

220px-WhitewaterKayaking-BLMPermanent whitewater requires not only a positive spirit, but what Kay Redfield Jamison calls “exuberance.” Exuberance can appear anywhere. It manifests itself in persistent intensity. Anyone, anywhere can manifest it. For example, Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, a Vermont farmer, had a passion for photographing snowflakes and became the world’s foremost authority.

Jamison writes, “Exuberance carries us to places we would not otherwise go– across the savannah, to the moon, into the imagination… I believe that exuberance is incomparably more important than we acknowledge… Exuberant people take in the world and act upon it differently than those who are less lively and energetically engaged.” Or consider the words of Katharine Graham, legendary publisher and CEO of The Washington Post, “I loved my job, I loved the paper, I loved the whole company.”

If you lack easy access to your natural exuberance, and if so then you are far from alone, then try to connect with your exuberance. Find what you love to do. Ideally, what you find becomes your job. If not, then find the parts of your job that you love or the parts that you love that your job enables you to do. Exuberance comes from within. It is very hard (and tiring) to fake… to yourself or to others.

Find the cause for celebration and celebrate. Enjoy the physiological response. Share it.

Such exuberance gives you energy to move ahead, to meet another set of difficult challenges. It also can spread. Including others, directly or indirectly, in the cause of your celebration allows them to draw on a natural and powerful source of energy, namely of doing well, of sharing the success (and recognition), and of doing something deemed of value.

A whitewater environment holds tremendous force and danger. Meet it with equal force. Don’t wait for it to happen to you. Find the fun. Exuberance can turn serious challenges into opportunities for celebration and colleagueship. They can turn threatening whitewater into an exhilarating run. (For more on exuberance, see Chapter 4 in Your Job Survival Guide.)