Go forth and be positive.
Go forth and be positive. (Illustration: Brendan Leonard)

Make 2021 the Year of Maximum Enthusiasm

If not now, when?

Go forth and be positive.

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Note: I first wrote and published this post on December 29, 2011, calling it “Make 2012 the Year of Maximum Enthusiasm.” Every year around this time, I see a handful of friends sharing it again, so this year I’m republishing it, changing nothing but the number 2012 to 2021 and the name of one musical artist (to keep it more current). I hope you like it, whether you’re reading it for the first time this year or the tenth.

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 midstride 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:

(Brendan Leonard)

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 2021, 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 five or ten 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 2021.

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 2021.

Enthusiasm doesn’t have to stand up to criticism. It doesn’t even have to really make sense. If you finish a ski run, mountain-bike trail, or sport-climbing route and you 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 Brockbeats album? 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 love, that you’re passionate about, isn’t cool. Hey, this is 2021. Everything is cool. Irony is either everything or dead. Be honest: When you see someone wearing a Mötley Crüe T-shirt, you don’t know if they’re serious or wearing it to be ironic, do you? Do you like Mötley Crüe? 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 email? 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.

You may have already made some New Year’s resolutions, to lose weight, to eat better, to read two books every month, whatever. How about making one more, to be just a little more awesome?

Note: The shirt in the drawing is now a real shirt that you can buy and wear if you wish.

Lead Illustration: Brendan Leonard

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