Saints have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance.Anne Sexton
I have a moderate fear my happiness may seem oppressive.Sara Watson, These Are My Feelings
I apologise for the wet blanket of my happiness.
Society has its ways of encouraging us to be moderate in our expectations and our hopes. Society exists to constrain immoderate behaviour, to restrain the dangerous madness (and also the genius of crowds) and to prevent flights of dangerous exuberance. Our organisations take that further with a rule, a policy and a process for every moment and a suggestion that any flight of fancy might be unduly dangerous.
From an early age we are encouraged to avoid disappointment and manage our expectations. Colleagues will push back on overly enthusiastic and risky courses of action. Projects, strategies, change initiatives, businesses, careers and lives are meant to fail. Everything always falls eventually. It takes real bravery to believe in the lift, to pursue the exuberant flights of the crazy brave.
Oscar Wilde took this to its amusing limits when he suggested that ‘everything in moderation, including moderation’. We need to be moderate in our moderation when dampening our enthusiasm, easing the stretch, and deflating our exuberance means losing the human energy and intuition that drives great teams to even greater achievements. There is a reason much success if begun in wild exuberance. That start is a calculated overreaction to a glimmer of potential.
The very longest swell in the ocean, I suspect,AR Ammons, Swells
carries the deepest memory, the information of actions
We need exuberance to find the signal in all the noise of our busy lives. We need exuberance to devote time to that signal and to draw from it the potential. We need exuberance to commit to the risk of taking potential and making it real.
The crow wish’d every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white. Exuberance is Beauty.William Blake, from ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’
Seeing the potential to make a change, to build something or to become something is not enough. We need a little irrational bubbling energy to lift us through all the forces of moderation and to push us to go after what might be. Dreams are not formed in balance and stasis. They come in a rush of energy and activity. They come to life in wild moments of abandon.
Exuberance challenges pilots
to master the Falling Leaf, perfect the Tailspin,
ignore the Graveyard Spiral, the Doom Loop.
These aviators predict every American will fly.
Dolores Hayden, Exuberence
Exuberance is contagious. Like any emotion, it spreads like wildfire in relationships. Shared exuberance at the miniscule signs of progress is what keeps teams delivering when the nights are long and the challenges many. People want to join in to the energy and the enthusiasm. Much cited by central bankers as the enemy of orderly markets, ‘irrational exuberance’ even has its continuing attractions. People don’t want to miss out on the momentum and energy. Big visions, big ideas and big energy motivate people because once they overcome their initial moderate fears they see the potential and the promise.
Whatever your life’s purpose, approach it with exuberance. Save your moderation for everything else. Your exuberant energy will be a force multiplier for your work, your relationships and the potential of whatever you set out to achieve. The darker the surrounding days and people, the more important it is that you bring your own great passion and own energy to what you want to do.
Joy is not made to be a crumbMary Oliver