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The vow to be joyful


Gerry Sikorsky, the inventor of the helicopter said:

“Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.”

It’s strange to realize that we don’t often stop and think about how important joy is to our lives.

For human beings, joy is like water to a fish. It’s like the air we breathe. It’s all around us. And it’s so essential that it’s easy to overlook or take for granted.

How easy it is to let stress or pre-occupation or busyness or expectations or disappointments or resentments crowd out the joy that is our birthright—no matter what has happened in our lives.

And it’s easy to think “someday I’ll be joyful.” But joy is not for someday. Joy is for today. Joy is not the end…it’s the energy that can keep us going.

When we enjoy what we’re doing, life feels more meaningful.

Relationships are for joy—they are meant to be enjoyed. Not to be used.

Joy is the deeper point of work. Our task is to find work that we enjoy—or find ways to enjoy the things we must do.

Joy is not about faking it. It doesn’t mean we pretend problems aren’t there. But when joy is real, it helps us to handle problems better, with less damage.

Yes, there is much tragedy and randomness in the world. All the more need for joy as a balancer to tragedy.

With its favorite tools—stories, laughter, and a sense of humor and playfulness—joy is a great stress-reliever. Joy helps us take things in stride and take on every problem as a challenge.

Joy may not be the answer to everything. But then again…it’s not a bad answer!

Maybe, following Sikorsky’s advice, we should take a daily vow to be joyful…to bring some genuine joy to our work…our relationships…even our problems.

Especially our problems.

The people who live and work around us will probably be glad we did.

Grace under pressure


Have you ever watched people running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain?

Some days feel a little like that—with deadlines, to-do lists and demands chasing us from behind, breathing down our necks.

Ernest Hemingway used the image of the bullfighter to describe a quality that can help us deal with the daily pressures.

Hemingway said:

“Courage is grace under pressure.”

To illustrate that idea, he pictured a matador who calmly stands his ground as the bull charges at him. Then, at the last moment, he gracefully steps to the side and deftly swirls the cape with style.

The crowds shout, “Ole! Ole!”

Now, to be honest, the people at work are not going to shout, “Ole!” when they see how gracefully you handle another “bull” charging your way.

But they might quietly admire your style.


Cheerfulness is daylight in the mind


What do you do when you get the blues?

Here’s an unusual prescription from the author, D.H. Lawrence:

“I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.”

I like that. There’s so much in life, in the news, and in the world that could get us down—so much we can’t control.

But here’s something we can control! We can take a break once in a while…and just do something with our hands, something constructive, something that puts us back into touch with the rhythms and innate goodness of ordinary, everyday life.

And then, I don’t think it hurts to take just a spoonful of those two timeless antidotes to the blues: mirth and cheerfulness. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell says:

“Mirth is like a flash of lightning that breaks through a gloom of clouds and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.”

So here’s a strategy for those times when we find ourselves singing the blues:

  • Putter around in the kitchen (while you’re singing perhaps)
  • Get down and scrub the floor if it helps
  • Look for moments and ways to let mirth and cheerfulness break through the clouds of the day
  • And never, never give up the quest for “a steady and perpetual serenity”


The bounce back


Have you ever hit bottom?

It is, to say the least, an interesting experience.

On the one hand, it can feel like you’ve fallen into a deep pit.

On the other hand, there are many who have found that “hitting the bottom” was an important experience in their life.

For Augustine, Abraham Lincoln, Dostoevsky and others, hitting bottom was a moment in which they made an important change or discovered a new goal or motivation.

As someone said: when you hit bottom, you may be getting to the bottom of things.

Well, we’re not advocating that any of us should go seeking such an experience. But it might be a good idea to at least arm ourselves with a little insight—just in case.

So if you ever do hit bottom…you might think of that pit you’ve fallen into as your own personal foxhole. You haven’t left the field of battle—you’re just pausing for a while to nurse your wounds, renew your strength and rekindle your courage.

And while you’re there, write these words from General George S. Patton on the wall of your foxhole:

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”

Then tell yourself…

It may take some time and perseverance, but I can bounce back from anything.

 And when I come back and join the battle with a new bounce in my step, others will be amazed…and I might even amaze myself.