Enthusiasm! It’s the #1 thing you can do to improve your prospects at work, and it might even accidentally make your life better. But what is enthusiasm and how can we put it to work for us?

I’m not going to pretend like I’m some overwhelming success. I mean if you want inspiration and advice on how to be the next CEO of Google, movie star, or President – you need to look elsewhere because I don’t have that kind of moxie. But I am doing ok in life I think, or at least I’m striving for ok. I’m in my early 30s, so early, should we even call it 30? Let’s say around 30. I’m around 30 and totally comfortable with my age. Recently I was promoted to an Accounting Manager position at the large company I work for, pushing my salary above 100k. I know I know, how cool am I, wow brag brag brag. But that really isn’t my point. No I mean it, I am objectively un-special.

You see I’m not some accounting prodigy (is there such a thing?), my degree isn’t from somewhere fancy, and I don’t know the right people. I’m not extroverted and don’t “network”; I don’t schmooze or work long hours. (This all sounds like a humble brag – it’s really hard to be genuine on the internet.) My point is there is nothing differentiating me from your average accountant other than luck and one little characteristic I really make an effort on – enthusiasm.

Think about the person you most like to do stuff with (not being dirty) – who in your life is the most fun companion at a concert, on a trip, or when trying something completely new? Seriously, get someone in mind… Ok now, is that person enthusiastic? Uh yes! I hope so anyway, otherwise I guess stop reading this : /

People respond positively to enthusiasm! Work is a place where you’re always doing something, usually no one really wants to be there, and a general malaise hangs in the air. You can cut through this environment with just a small dose of zeal. I mean, you have to be there anyway, why not pepper in some eagerness and see how far it goes.

If you look for it you’ll see examples in your life of how the enthusiasm of others makes your day just a tiny bit better: the cashier at the grocery store who almost seems like she wants to be there, the Starbuck’s barista who comes off as proud of the coffee he’s handing you, the coworker that smiles when you burden them with requests. The thing that makes these interactions easy and positive is the person’s enthusiasm. Now your co-workers aren’t baristas that you have one quick interaction with (unless of course you yourself are a barista). Instead you have tons of small interactions with your co-workers so the positive effects of your interactions accumulate.

The great thing about enthusiasm is that no pre-requisite traits are required. You can be a sarcastic introvert that doesn’t really want to be there (like me), but you can still be enthusiastic. You don’t have to be a cheeseball about it, just the next time your boss gives you something to do say “alright thanks” with a smile on your face. When you hand it in later don’t do so with a complaint, instead bounce into their office and say with a smile “here you go let me know if there are changes”. When you’re leaving work with your group after a brutal 12 hour day and everyone is complaining, make sure you say your complaints with a smirk, be light-hearted, share in the misery, but make sure you’re the most positive person, not by a lot, not in an obnoxious way, but bring the mood up.

Show eagerness at work. Don’t be some bogus brown nose but at least accept your fate – you have to have a job. You need money, or health insurance, or whatever the heck reason it is you’re at work and not on your daddy’s yacht in the Mediterranean. So now that we accept our pitiful fate of needing a job, let’s show the tiniest bit of interest in it, even if you’re faking. Eagerness will drop the guard of your boss and coworkers, they’ll breathe a little easier and their stress levels will fall ever so slightly. When talking to others about you your boss will say you make things around the office easier, and she won’t even know why. Enthusiasm is the secret weapon of likability and success.

I think a lot of people believe enthusiasm is innate, driven by passion and optimism. That’s not true at all! You can absolutely conjure enthusiasm from nothing. I should know, I very much dislike my career and I definitely don’t have some great desire motivating me. Enthusiasm is just the active choice to react to small things positively.

I don’t want to make this sound flippant or easy. It is not. We’re conditioned to moan and whine and to really pile it on when others are doing likewise. But try to resist this urge. Instead try to be the one other people take their cue from. I think you’ll even find faking enthusiasm begins to affect you. You’ll start to genuinely feel some of the eagerness you’re putting out there and the more you care the more you’ll learn and achieve.

I guess I’ll leave you with this. As you go through your day be cognizant of the interactions you have that are positive. What about the other person’s attitude made it so? Sure there are people at work who are especially funny, charming, or brilliant. But what about the muggles at work you appreciate interacting with? What trait do the successful non-specials at your work have? Chances are its enthusiasm.


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