Let me tell you a story.
Almost five years ago I was in London trying to get my Masters degree in Electrical Engineering & Business and eventually crack the code that will grant me access to the corporate world. In the meantime I wanted to explore more facets of my character, so I experimented with different activities.
I tried music lessons, learning new languages, and also bartending.
Especially bartending was the most interesting part. I actually went to a bartending school to learn the basics and then I started applying to various bars around town.
One of those bars is called Floripa and it is a famous Brazilian cocktail bar in the heart of Shoreditch. It had kind of a funky feel and the staff members seemed quite friendly and inviting. I enjoyed going out to that bar, so I thought that working for it would be fun too.
Luckily enough, the bar manager at the time, a young and friendly chap called Lee Jones, was looking to recruit new bar members, so he decided to arrange a trial for me. He specifically told me that he liked the way I promoted myself in my CV.
“An extroverted, motivated, high-energy guy who can adapt to any environment and help the guests ‘elevate’ their experience.”
“Especially the energy part was so important to me,” he said.
I got really pumped after his words and although I knew that most of the things I wrote in the CV were just a way for me to influence his view, I got really excited for the opportunity.
My trial was on a busy Friday night. He wanted to test my readiness and the way I would interact with people in a new and challenging environment.
As I have mentioned here before, I wasn’t always comfortable with exposure. Despite my ENTJ personality type, enjoying being around people doesn’t necessarily mean that you are good at interacting with them.
Especially in high-energy environments, your skill repertoire needs to be diverse and flexible. But most importantly you need to constantly reevaluate what you consider effective based on the feedback from your environment.
The first few hours of my trial went great according to my perception. I was kind of fast at mixing the drinks, I was smiling a lot, I was trying to be polite and everything seemed fine. But at some point, Lee grabbed me by the shoulder and asked me to join him outside for a cigarette.
“Andrian, I want to be honest with you.” He said. “I really admire your character. You are a really nice guy and polite and everything and you are relatively fast for a newbie. But I didn’t hire you for that. I hired you because I thought you were an enthusiastic/high-energy bartender. The guests here don’t come to enjoy their cocktail in our fancy couches. They come because we represent the Brazilian mindset. We might not be Brazilians but we want to embody the Brazilian attitude and way of life. We want to be energetic, we want to emanate a slight sense of craziness and we want the guests to be absorbed by that state. If you don’t really feel that this is something that represents you it’s ok. But if you do, please go back inside and show it to everyone.”
After those words, I felt a strange mixture of bafflement and motivation overwhelming me. I wasn’t always open to criticism and although my ego was resisting his words, deep inside I knew that he was right. My perception has failed me. What I thought was right was different than what my environment thought and I needed to change that.
I thanked him for his advice and went back inside. It was around 11pm and the party had already started to heat up. I wasn’t sure how to reverse the situation so I kept it simple with an attempt to build up momentum. I initiated hi-5s with the guests who came to order and I tried to engage in small talk. After a few lukewarm conversations, I started to feel more confident and the interactions oscillated between witty banters and honest compliments. Within a matter of minutes, my enthusiasm went through the roof and I was feeling like a true host. Lee loved, the guests loved it, the staff loved it, I loved it.
That night was a great night. I got a great tip, I met a lot of cool people, I got numbers from girls and most importantly I realized an important power that we all have inside us – the power of enthusiasm.
The Power of Enthusiasm
The reason I wrote that story from my past and the reason I keep propagating the idea of enthusiasm is because it is a very crucial skill to possess.
My view on this is empowered by history, personal experience, politics, and sales. I am going to lay out all argumentation below, but before I get there I want to clarify something.
Enthusiasm is closely related to comfort and especially comfort in one’s skin.
That’s a very critical point to understand especially for introverts. I know that some of you who identify yourselves as introverts 1 find it difficult to break through your introverted shell and demonstrate excitement when you need to.
My buddy Brad Branson, in an interview we did last year, coined a term called “the glass ceiling phenomenon.” This suggests that for some people, no matter how much they invest in themselves, there will always be a glass ceiling above them that won’t allow them to break through their problem and feel comfortable in their own skin.
Excitement requires comfort and most people who feel uncomfortable in their own skin will never feel comfortable showing enthusiasm.
There are usually two reasons why this discomfort is fostered: Suppression and lack of protection during childhood.
Suppression refers to the constant pinging we receive from society to “behave.” We are rarely encouraged to express ourselves, our emotions and our views. We are being told to watch our mouth, to be politically correct and to follow etiquette rules. In all honesty, there is nothing wrong with political correctness and etiquette rules. They are absolutely essential for the propagation of social stability. Without them, we would possibly revert to a primitive behavioral landscape that would cause even more friction in our relationships. The point is that without the necessary awareness over those processes, they become an unhealthy norm that severely damages our ability to express ourselves.
Lack of protection refers to the inability of our parents to communicate verbally and nonverbally that they have our back. During childhood, we are exposed to a plethora of challenging situations and environments. Most are pretty novel and oftentimes hostile and aggressive. As a child, if you don’t receive the necessary guidance and help to face those environments you will inevitably become submissive to the figures that dominate them. This submission can have a long-term impact in the way you perceive yourself and your strengths and may detrimentally affect your ability to show excitement and comfort in the face of strangers.
If you can resonate with the ideas above you are not alone. I have been there and I know how it feels. That, however, didn’t stop me from reversing the situation. Especially if you consider yourself an ambitious person it stands to reason that you need to assume control over this process.
The reason is quite straightforward: Excitement is a crucial parameter of personal, social and professional success.
Here is why:
1. Energy = engagement
If you take a look at the most popular YouTube channels, you will notice a similar pattern. Almost all of them have managed to work their way around the effective use of energy to communicate their message.
Most of them understand that the average attention span is limited and they need to find ways to overcome this human disadvantage. They do so by changing scenes regularly, adding uplifting background music, merging images with narrative and increasing the pitch of their voice.
Those are all elements of successful storytelling and can help individuals stand out in such a crowded and competitive marketplace.
Recently I read “How I raised myself from failure to success in sales” by Frank Bettger. This is a relatively short and easy read, but I regard it as one of the most important books on sales. The author used to travel across the country with Dale Carnegie in order to accompany him in his seminars and talk about sales.
The reason this book caught my attention is because Bettger spends a lot of time explaining the role of enthusiasm in rising in your professional career. Before he became a salesman, he was a baseball player and his first team fired him because he lacked enthusiasm. The passage below explains the case in detail:
Later on, he used this advice to increase his income and caliber as a salesman.
The effect of enthusiasm in your job is quite substantial. I personally remember that in my previous job as a consultant I was treated favorably when I would participate in a meeting with more enthusiasm or if I would deliver a presentation with more energy. Moreover, enthusiastic directors and principals were generally more attractive and respected in the eyes of my colleagues. And I knew that those traits weren’t inherent in them. They developed them with hard work and devotion to this idea.
It goes without saying that people want their representatives, to be bold, dynamic and energized. They want them to be able to stand out, command attention and take a bullet for them. I have stated here before that politics = theater. Politicians are performers and the best way to increase their influence and likeability is by energizing their performance.
Our attraction towards enthusiastic and high-energy leaders is not something new. In primate species, this is the most characteristic attribute of alpha males. I explain that in detail in the following video from The Quintessential Academy:
Closing remarks and ways to do this
Based on my experience there is no easy way around developing an enthusiasm-driven mentality.
The most effective way is to progressively increase your excitement levels in different environments. It is a process similar to exposure therapy where the individual is exposed to stressful situations gradually in order to treat their anxiety disorders. Main areas to focus on should include:
- Smiling more
- Talking louder
- Being more expressive both verbally and nonverbally
- Talking more
In “Speak Like a Leader” I cover most of these in detail.
Public speaking courses, speed dating, networking events and these sort of events can also help you accelerate that process.
As a side note bear in mind that most people lack insight in evaluating their ability to distinguish between different levels of enthusiasm. Calibration is key here. Understand when your energy is at the right level based on the nonverbal signals you receive from your environment and calibrate accordingly.
Developing enthusiasm is an intrinsic process that requires methodology, devotion and sometimes tricking your mind to behave in unusual ways. Especially daily rituals, challenges, and self-affirmations can lay the right foundations.
Challenge 12 from the “30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses” handbook is about conquering fear and self-doubt and I propose the following self-affirmation passage, which can help you immensely:
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