In Praise of Honest Enthusiasm for the Awesomeness of Life

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One Saturday morning last October, my friend Greg and I were running down the North Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon, close to halfway through 26 miles of trail. We had run four miles and would run about four more to Phantom Ranch, where we could double-fist coffee and Lemmy lemonade at the cantina before climbing 4,400 vertical feet back up the South Rim to finish a hike/run Rim-to-Rim.

I turned around mid-stride and said,

“Hey Greg!”

“Yeah,” he said.

“We’re running in the Grand Canyon!”

Sometimes I get to do awesome things, and I kind of forget how awesome they are. Do you? I get stressed, caught up in other stuff, and I forget how fortunate I am, how incredible life has turned out to be most days, and some of the special places I’ve gotten to see. Most of the time, though, I try to keep a pretty good handle on it — try to remember to turn around and yell to my friend that yes, we are running across the most famous hole on Earth, and that’s pretty special. Or, you know, even reminding someone a few months later about something special.

Kurt Vonnegut, in a 2003 speech to students at the University of Wisconsin, said,

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

In 2012, I urge you to notice when something is awesome, as it often is, and exclaim or murmur or just make a mental note of it. Isn’t it just goddamn fantastic that you have your health, for example? Or running water, or electricity? Or that you have enough money to actually pay someone else to make you a cup of coffee? Or if you want ice cream, you are at any time in America probably only 5 or 10 minutes away from a place that sells some form of it? (Trust me on that one)

Your life, even the bad parts, is fucking amazing. And most of the small things that make up your life are amazing, too — mountain bike rides, rock climbs, ski runs, sunsets, stars, friends, people, girlfriends and boyfriends, dogs, songs, movies, jokes, smiles…hell, even that burrito you ate for lunch today was pretty phenomenal, wasn’t it?

What was your enthusiasm for these things last year? I recommend you step it up in 2012.

People can disagree with things like quality, maybe your taste in food, or whether or not a movie is good. But no one can argue with enthusiasm, especially when it is over the top.

Do you think that climb you just did is the greatest climb ever? Great! If someone tries to tell you it isn’t, who cares? “Greatest Rock Climb Ever” is not an objective title. Thusly, when you are excited about a climb (or a trail run or a summit view or a bike ride or a sunrise), don’t let anyone bring you down.

A conversation where someone puts down your favorite ski area/mountain/rock climb/trail/burrito is not a conversation about ski areas/mountains/rock climbs/trails/burritos. It is a conversation about that person being a pompous asshole. Go forth and be positive in 2012.

Enthusiasm doesn’t have to stand up to criticism. It doesn’t even have to really make sense. If you finish a ski run, MTB trail or sport climbing route, and you like love it, I encourage you to try out new superlatives when describing it to someone else. This goes for everything you’re excited about. Examples:

“I’m just going to tell you now that Outer Space is the most incredible rock climb you will ever do. You cannot not smile while climbing it. It’s like the Beatles. Even if you for some ridiculous reason don’t enjoy it, you can’t deny its inherent goodness.”
“Have you heard the new Macklemore song? It will knock you on your ass!”
“The Eggplant Parmesan sub at Pasquini’s is probably my favorite sandwich in the entire city of Denver, if not the state of Colorado. In fact, now that I’ve said that, I think we should go to Pasquini’s immediately.”

Maybe some of the stuff you like love, that you’re passionate about, isn’t cool. Hey, this is 2012. Everything is cool. Irony is either everything, or dead. Be honest: When you see someone wearing a Motley Crue t-shirt, you don’t know if they’re serious, or wearing it to be ironic, do you? Do you like Motley Crue? Then ROCK THAT SHIT. And spread happiness.

Remember it is not illegal to high-five anyone. Do you use exclamation points in the salutations of your e-mails? Well, why not?

Do you like to laugh? Most people do, don’t they? Including baristas, waitstaff, and retail personnel. Perhaps you have at some point had a real conversation with one of these people. This can sometimes begin by sincerely asking those people how they are, instead of treating them like a machine that makes you coffee or orders your salad. This opens the door to making them laugh. If you play your cards right, you may be able to high-five them at the end of a conversation.

Remember yesterday, when you saw that one thing that reminded you of that one friend of yours, and you thought about how if you sent that friend a photo of the thing that reminded you of them, they would smile? But then you didn’t send your friend that photo, and it wasn’t awesome. Don’t do that again. Here’s what you do:

Take the photo.
Send it to your friend.
Your friend smiles. The world is a better place. Thanks.

Brendan Leonard writes the awesome Semi-Rad. He’s an awesome dude. High five!

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{ 21 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Michelle

    Excellent article. I didn’t have an awesome burrito but the taco salad was wicked. yes, even my job is good today. My b/f, awesome. My dog, he’s such a good boy. My house, my shoes, my semi ripe nectarine I just had…yep…all good. My life rocks! *high five*

  • Otis

    I swear to God if Brendan ever comes to Portland I will buy him awesome coffee and ice cream, and then high five him. And if he wants a really good bike ride recommendation, I’m good for that.

  • Cheryl

    Alright! Virtual High5!

    I just had some awesome sweet raspberries with vanilla yogurt and crunchy vanilla almond granola followed up by some salt and pepper cashews and I’m ready to rule the world!!!

  • Tired Mama Running

    If you’re ever in Grand Junction, Colorado, I will take you for an awesome trail run, and then you can choose whether you want awesome burrito, pizza, or sushi. Or just a beer of awesomeness. One of my good friends here did high-five the beer and soup guy after finishing her first ultramarathon, by the way…

  • Tom

    If I did what Brendan wrote; people would think I was just tooting my own horn about all the awesome things that I do (and they don’t), and the awesome restaurants I know about (and they don’t), the awesome trails I ride (and they don’t). I wouldn’t mean it that way at all. But I don’t have the personality to carry out what is written here, without looking like the pompous asshole.

    It’s fun to read this but the reality is, it takes mad social skills to pull it off. In general you have to proclaim things OTHER people do as awesome, or else you will look like a braggart. If you did something that’s awesome and you want to exclaim about it, you have to first consider whether your audience could have, or even wants to share in the joy. Like you don’t tell your friend, who just got foreclosed, how awesome your recent mountain climbing vacations was with your new XTERRA.

    If you want to be awesome, all the time, then you have to AVOID non-awesome people. That’s not so awesome.

  • Tom

    Sorry this is what happens wen you actually THINK about it. I do wish everyone to “Go forth and be positive in 2012.” Kurt Vonnegut said it very well.

  • Matt

    Awesome! Thanks for reminding us to be grateful for all the awesome things in our lives. I’m going to go for a run in the rain now, which is awesome! Then I’m going to be dry, warm, fed, and in front of a fire within an hour. SWEET

    BTW Brendan, if you’re ever in Asheville, NC, I’ll take you to Dynamite Coffee and Ultimate Ice Cream!

  • Nate L

    Brenden – thanks, man.

    You put into words what needs to be recognized more often – life is incredible. The skiers / surfers / bikers / climbers / hikers / outdoors-people that read this website are probably already aware of the sheer awesomeness of life. But you’ve taken it a step further, reminding folks to enjoy the moment, and be thankful for the gift. It isn’t always about going bigger/faster/higher (as our more extreme sports friends are prone to do), it’s probably more about enjoying the ride, and realizing just how good we’ve got it. Great post.

    Thanks man. Thumbs up.

  • Willie Bailey

    Brenden,
    Thank you! What a great piece of inspiration. I have forwarded it many times over to friends and family. They loved it!

    I understand completely where you are coming from…check the web address above. I did this almost a year ago and have tried to help people be a little more positive also, but you knocked it out of the park!! High-Five!

    Thank you again.
    Willie Bailey

  • Kristen

    This article is very uplifting! I sent it to a few of my coworkers(yes i cruz the web at work :p ) in hopes of giving them a diffrent insight on things. We have been so graciously informed(i type this with noted sarcasm) that we are being laid off in a month so we have been debbie downers around here lately.
    So..Thank you for being awesome! And reminding me that my world should not and does not revolve around my job. But should revolve around the awesomeness within us and most importantly around us. :)

  • Naomi

    I spent a year in rural South America working on building homes with poor families. When I came back to the US I remember being overwhelmed, truly awed by everything. Hot water! The ability to go see a movie in a nice theater! My abundance of amazing friends to lean on in tough times!

    Then over time, the sense of awe fades back into normalcy. Thanks for reminding me that that sense of awe can in fact be normalcy, if we cultivate it.

  • Swampy

    Yeah! I am spending yet another weekend driving my 14 year old SUV to some remote mountain destination. Packed with stinky running gear and empty Diet Coke cans rolling under the seats. Crumpled google maps liter the console and empty breath mint containers tease me with their false promises. But I am going to be RUNNING free in the mountains! Great article dude!

  • Chris

    Dude…you’re a kindred spirit! This life does indeed rock…every single day!!! Just be open to it right?

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