The enthusiasm paradox

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Table Tennis Party

The whole thing about enthusiasm is a bit weird. ‘Cause there’s the enthusiasm paradox. And it goes like this (and maybe it already happened to you?): You discover something new. Let’s say … a new sport. And you are all goosebumps because your hormones tell you: Enthusiasm! And then there’s this impulse. You want to do this new thing. And more: Everybody shall know about it. And even more: Your loved ones shall be part of it and share it (including your enthusiasm). Wouldn’t that be great?! Such a great time with your loved ones! Yay!

An example, and let’ stay with sports: You discovered this new trendy thing where people in mid summer simply schlepp their table tennis stuff outside and have a party. O.M.G. Revelation. Yes, you want to do this with your people! Damn, that itch!

So, on the way home, you can clearly see it in front of your eyes, the picture is crystal clear. You all will have fun and everyone loves this. Has to. So, you come home and tell everyone about about it. Gloating. Eyes wet, shining! And how great this would be and all your dreams. And then – a lame, lukewarm reaction: “So.f(/&$&.what!?”

And you simply can not understand how they can understand … Whats going on? Well, it’s the enthusiasm paradox.

And, sadly, this is exactly the one way that guarantees that no one of your loved ones will ever share the joy of outdoor table tennis with you. Not because they are bad people (you know that, don’t you) or because you are stupid.  You created that dilemma yourself. Because the enthusiasm paradox says that radical enthusiasm can generate the counter reaction of rejection. And that happens when your enthusiasm comes across as pressure for the other party to also be enthusiastic. When your enthusiasm tries to enforce and expects enthusiasm from others.

Let’s scale the example to the following dimension: people are departments and table tennis is methods, ways of working or ideas. Mayhem! But it’s what we often do: We impose on others (departments, teams …) to love what we love (methods, ways of work, ideas …).

As I am all for enthusiasm and a bright and colourful world and as I hate the idea of the enthusiasm paradox: How could we get around it? Instead of trying to convince and coerce, when I love the idea of playing table tennis outside … well … I just do that. I put the table outside and wait for others to join in. Neighbours, relatives, friends, passers by, whoever. The advantage: I already start having fun – instead of being frustrated over the otherwise usual rejection. And, as a side effect, I can demonstrate the fun to others and live the experience to show my loved ones what I meant rather than talk, talk, talk. (Pro tip: If no one or only few join the first time, be persistent and reliable: do it every Tuesday at 6pm … so people know you will be there). Even better: Now I am not a victim, I do something rather than waiting for someone to help me get started. Also, I don’t implicitly ask for permission to have fun (most great things don’t need and ask for permission. That’s often just an excuse.) And with a little bit of luck, some of my loved ones join in. Maybe not the first or the second time. But sometime. Even better: I don’t care so much anymore about if they will join in, ’cause I am already doing fine. And thus, my enthusiasm does not expect their enthusiasm anymore. I hacked the enthusiasm paradox.

I don’t want to bore you with transferring that to the level of methods, ways of wok, ideas. You get it. Worst of all: I guess it becomes clear how many times we ditched the enthusiasm of others. Because, of course, the paradox has two sides.

In short: Enthusiasm has to be earned and that works in oblique ways most of the time. Expecting enthusiasm leads to rejection. As bitter as that is. But better we understand this and work with it the to ignore it.



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