It’s 1968 and he’s 33. He looks magnificent. He’s dressed in a jet black suit and adorned with his jet black hair and trademark sideburns. The iconic image he presents instantly lets the viewers know who it is they’re watching. It’s Elvis! He’s back. And he’s back in style.
The Singer Television Special (now known in the annals of rock n’ roll history as the ‘68 Comeback Special’) in which Elvis performed to a television audience, for the first time in years (and in the process reclaimed his crown as the ‘king of rock n’ roll’) is exhilarating to watch. I’ve seen it many times now and I’m always impressed by the energy and charisma that Elvis radiates throughout this spectacular programme. There’s something special about Elvis in this show. It’s true his entire career was remarkable, but this particular show stands out at this moment in his life. And you know what I think it is about Elvis that’s different? His enthusiasm! After almost a decade in the doldrums of being tied into movie-making contracts making films (many of which) even he didn’t like (and he was the star of them!) but which he couldn’t extricate himself from, he’d at last found his freedom and re-discovered his first love. Singing to a live audience! And the passion. The excitement. The enthusiasm is apparent. He is outstanding to watch. Such is the power of enthusiasm.
Follow that dream
Elvis once sang a song called ‘Follow That Dream’. In the song he exhorts us by saying: ‘When a dream is calling you…there’s just one thing that you should do. You’ve got to follow that dream!’ Anthony Robbins has often cited the dictum which states: ‘Success leaves clues’. That’s to say that if we study those who are successful and sincerely replicate the same kind of behaviour we’ll generate similar results in our own lives (to borrow a Neuro Linguistic Programming term known as 'modelling' I call this process 'holistic modelling’, that’s to say there’s a marked difference between someone who is doing ‘plastic modelling’, which means they’re going through the motions but their heart isn’t in it, whereas in ‘holistic modelling’ you really put your heart and soul into what you’re doing). I like Tony – and I agree with what he says.
Now, back to the song. So Elvis advocates that when a dream is ‘calling’ us…we should ‘follow’ it. And you know what? If you look at many of the greatest people who’ve ever lived that’s exactly what they did.. They had a dream – or a passion which filled them with enthusiasm and that enthusiasm helped energise them so that, whatever life threw at them, they were inexorably on target to do what they wanted to do. To be who they wanted to be.
As one door closes another gate opens
I watched Bill Gates at the global Live 8 concert. You know what I notice about him? He’s totally enthusiastic about his work and the projects he’s involved in. So’s Richard Branson. So was Mother Teresa. So was Dorothy Kerin. Bono is. And we all know Bob Geldof is ******* enthusiastic about his projects too. What’s more - all of these people have helped to improve the lives of many others through the power of their enthusiasm. Think about it. If my understanding is correct, back when it seemed an impossible idea to most people, Bill Gates’ goal was to have a computer situated on every desk running Microsoft software (or something close to this). And he did it. Now, in today’s world, it’s a given that most computers are running on Windows. But back then it started as a dream that Bill Gates had - which he ‘followed’ with enthusiasm. And because of this, now he’s probably the biggest philanthropist in history. Sir Richard Branson, as I understand things, started running his business as a youngster from a local phone box. He too had a goal/dream and the enthusiasm to go with it - and he made his dream a reality. Mother Teresa received a message from God which told her she had work to do. So she got started. She got enthusiastic about it, helped thousands and in the process set an example to us all about selflessness. So did Dorothy Kerin. As a desperately ill young person in England in 1912 she encountered a similar experience to Mother Teresa. As a result she had a miraculous recovery from her illness and got enthusiastic about her ‘calling’. Due to her lifelong enthusiasm the nursing centre she founded called Burrswood still exists today which provides healing to many, long after Dorothy physically left this world as a, then, elderly lady in the early 1960s. And Bono and Bob Geldof? Well their dedication and enthusiasm is apparent in all that they do. Millions will vouch for that.
Enthusiasm is catching
There’s something wonderful about someone who’s enthusiastic. Their enthusiasm is catching. It creates a kind of virtuous circle. They behave enthusiastically and their enthusiasm rubs off on those around them. (Dorothy Kerin used to ask: ‘What’s the good news today?’) So those around them start to act enthusiastically too - and everyone benefits! Imagine what it would be like if the whole world lived this way. The way of enthusiasm. If we all looked for the positive potential in our circumstances. And if we enthusiastically found ways together around the challenges that crop up in life from time to time. What a difference that would be.
For instance, just think about what it would be like to work for a company in which enthusiasm was a part of the corporate culture. I’m not talking about ‘plastic enthusiasm’, the kind that you hear about where people (often under duress) are drilled through a list of daily ‘motivational commandments’ each morning (that they often don’t agree with but have to suffer through) in order to get paid. I’m talking about real heartfelt enthusiasm. The kind that takes a dirt poor child from the streets of Tupelo, Mississippi to a place where he’s enthusiastically singing from the heart-of-his-soul for the ‘68 TV special. The kind that makes life really worth living. How could we begin to do that?
Deliberate acts of enthusiasm
A few years ago someone coined the term ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ to encourage people to make being kind a part of their day-to-day lives. I like that idea a lot. Of course, in reality, by incorporating such a precept into your life you aren’t really practising ‘random’ acts, in the strict sense of the word.. Sure…the time and the place may present itself without premeditation…but the desire to be kind is deliberate. For enthusiasm to fill our lives it also needs to become a deliberate act. That’s why I’ve coined the term ‘Deliberate Acts of Enthusiasm’. (I’m not trade marking it ;-) because I thought it might work better if it was placed in the public domain for anyone else who might want to use it to be able to do so too.) I believe that if more people were to get into the habit of practising deliberate acts of enthusiasm in their lives we’d soon notice the difference.
Curiously (or not) the word enthusiasm is derived from the Greek word ‘enthousiazien’ which literally means to be ‘possessed by a god’. So this means that, originally, being enthusiastic was considered to be a divine attribute. Maybe it still is? Maybe this means that by being enthusiastic in our lives and in our work we can share a little bit of heaven with those we meet along the way?
If I can dream
The closing song that Elvis sang on the ’68 TV Special was a song called ‘If I Can Dream’. This time he’s dressed in immaculate white. He looks magnificent. And he’s filled with passion – with enthusiasm – as he begins singing with the outstanding voice that providence bestowed upon him. At first he sings about the feelings of mistrust and unease that often permeate our global culture. He raises questions which ask, in effect, that if it’s possible to dream of a better world…why can’t such a dream come true? It’s a good question. But then the ebb and flow of the song begins to change as it lifts upwards…the mood shifting higher…becoming hopeful. Moving powerfully towards the crescendo Elvis becomes almost rhetorical in the words that he sings, by effectively answering his own questions, by declaring enthusiastically ‘out there in the dark there’s a beckoning candle’. And he’s right. Because enthusiasm is like a light that radiates outward bringing illumination and energy to those whom it touches. Elvis continues by singing about the miracles that can take place when we all have the ‘strength to dream’, a strength which can itself enable us to ‘fly’. To be lifted above the humdrum. To raise our potential. To move up to another level. Such is the power of enthusiasm.
Possessed by enthusiasm
I never met Elvis personally, but his enduring vitality and enthusiasm have radiated across continents and time and helped to shape my life significantly. Like Elvis, I believe that when we have a dream and when we follow that dream with clarity and become possessed by enthusiasm we can enrich our own lives and the lives of those with whom we live. I believe you do too. And maybe…just maybe if we both decide to practice Deliberate Acts of Enthusiasm in our day-to-day lives we’ll become a permanent part of that virtuous circle that the great-and-the-good are inviting us to join. And then who knows where that could lead?
© Kerin Webb August 2005-2008. Follow that dream was written: by Wise & Weisman. If I can dream was written by: W. Earl Brown.
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