Did you know Synapse Head of School, Jim Eagen, used to be an English teacher? To this day, he still loves to write! These blog posts come from his own pen and often start as emails or speeches to the Synapse Community.
Happy New Year! And yes, once again, I'm reminding you, Synapse community, to embrace a very simple, yet radical idea this year: practice maximum enthusiasm.
Look, I know, I have heard from some of you that not everyone is an extrovert. Many embrace a quiet demeanor, a somewhat contemplative approach to life, and see themselves as introverted. Great. This doesn't mean you can't embrace enthusiasm too. Enthusiasm isn't measured in decibels and antics, it is about intensity of interest and feeling. Just because you may not look psyched, doesn’t mean you’re not.
So! Once again, here is a blog post from Brendan Leonard. It's his idea, and he gets all the credit here. I loosely edited the original, taking out some colorful language, and personalizing it along the way. Enjoy:
"One Saturday night in June, my friends and I were at a show, listening to live music. We were surrounded by people dancing, laughing, mingling. The venue was small, simple, and we had never heard this version of the band play before. They're called The Constructivists. As the night went on, one of my friends turned to me, and said, "That singer is unbelievable! These people are your teachers? And parents? What kind of school is this? It's incredible!"
I laughed and yelled, “Yeah, these people are unreal! Can you believe this? It's the best!"
Sometimes I get to do awesome things, and I kind of forget how awesome they are. Do you? I get distracted, caught up by life, and I forget how fortunate I am, how incredible life has turned out to be most days. Much of the time, though, I try to keep a pretty good handle on it, and to remember to turn around and yell to my friend that yes, this band of teachers and parents is incredible, and that’s pretty special. Or, you know, even reminding someone a few months later about something special:
Writer 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 2024, I urge you to notice when something is incredible, as it often is, and exclaim or murmur or just make a mental note of it. Isn’t it just fantastic that you have your mental health, for example? Or Wifi, or an electric vehicle, or that you are flying in a plane? Or that you have enough time to take your kids to the ocean? Or if you want ice cream, you are at any time in the Bay Area probably only 5 or 10 minutes away from a place that sells some form of it? (It's true. Trust me.)
Your life, even the bad parts, is amazing. And most of the small things that make up your life are amazing, too — playing music, playing games, riding bikes, running wet trails, ski runs, sunsets, stars, friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, friendly strangers, all dogs, most cats, songs, movies, jokes, smiles … heck, even that yogurt you ate for breakfast today was pretty phenomenal, wasn’t it?
What was your enthusiasm for these things last year? I recommend you step it up in 2024. People can disagree with things like quality, maybe your taste in shoes, or whether or not indie rock from 2023 was any good (It was. Trust me again). But no one can argue with enthusiasm, especially when it's over the top.
Do you think that show you just saw was the greatest show ever? Great! If someone tries to tell you it isn’t, who cares? “Greatest Show Ever” is not an objective title. Thus, when you are excited about a show (or a trip or a lunar eclipse or a boba tea or a new house plant ), don’t let anyone bring you down. A conversation where someone puts down your favorite movie/ramen place/dog breed/winter hike is not a conversation about movies/ramen places/dog breeds/winter hikes. It is a conversation about that person being negative. Go forth and be positive in 2024.
Enthusiasm doesn’t have to stand up to criticism. It doesn’t even have to really make sense. If you finish a drawing, pilates workout, a crossword puzzle, or making a sandwich, 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:
- “Over break, a teacher and I saw Orgone at The Guild in Menlo Park, and we ran into a former Synapse parent. It was so much fun! It reminded me of the fun I had when I ran into some Synapse parents at an Avett Brothers show at Stanford. So cool!
- "Sure California sushi is awesome, but I'm telling you, in Crested Butte, the sushi here is the best! Went there twice over the holiday, so they even gifted us two free rolls. The ultimate!"
- "Bro, this is the best ski party lap ever filmed. Crazy steeze! That girl in the grey tee, throwing a front flip, to a backflip, to a 360? And the dude in blue, sending it over the lift, stomping it switch? It makes my eyes water every time I watch. And I've watched it 56 times this month, it's that sick. And I'm not alone. Check out the maximum enthusiasm in the comments!"
Maybe some of the stuff you love, that you’re passionate about, isn’t cool. Hey, this is 2024. Everything is weird. Be honest: when you see a pre-teen wearing a Cure t-shirt do you think, does that kid even know any of their songs? Or are they wearing that shirt because they want to be preppy? Do you like The Cure? Are you preppy? Who cares? ROCK THAT SHIRT. And spread happiness.
Remember, it is not illegal to high-five anyone. Do you use exclamation points in the salutations of your emails? Well, why not?
Do you like to laugh? Most people do, don’t they? Including Uber drivers, flight attendants, all children, and people waiting in lines. 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. 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.
You may have already made some New Year’s resolutions, to workout more, to meditate more, to get more sleep, whatever. How about making one more resolution, to be just a little more awesome?
Happy New Year, Synapse. It is going to be the best year ever!