Ad Libs: The power of enthusiasm

Ad Libs: The power of enthusiasm

By John Foust

Greensboro, N.C.

There’s a story about a professor of literature at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As he approached retirement, someone from the newspaper interviewed him. During the course of their conversation, the reporter asked the wise old professor about the most beautiful words he had ever read. He paused for a second or two and said, “Walk with light.”

“That truly is beautiful,” the reporter said. “Who wrote those magnificent words? Shakespeare? Milton? Keats?” “No,” he replied. “It’s a sign at a crosswalk across from the campus on Franklin Street.”

Walk with light. We could discuss the deep meanings and implications of “light” all day long. But for now, let’s use it as a metaphor for enthusiasm. When we go through the day with enthusiasm, we cast a positive light all around us.

Don’t get the wrong idea about enthusiasm. Jumping up and down is animation, not enthusiasm. While some people are naturally animated in their enthusiasm, genuine enthusiasm is an inner sense of optimism, excitement and joyful anticipation. My great-aunt Maude, who lived to the age of 106, was one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever known. When I visited her in her later years, she radiated enthusiasm with a great big smile that said, “I’m happy you’re here.”

It’s been said that the last four letters of the word “enthusiasm” stand for “I am sold, myself.” That’s especially true in the world of advertising, because it’s our business to sell and create ads that help our clients sell their products. If we aren’t excited about that, how in the world can we expect our advertisers to be excited about buying what we sell?

Enthusiasm is not frivolous. When it comes to work, enthusiasm is a roll-up-your-sleeves word. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Elbert Hubbard, a noted author and philosopher said, “Enthusiasm is the great hill-climber.” And opera star Placido Domingo once commented, “My strength is my enthusiasm.”

Some people are naturally enthusiastic, while others may struggle with the idea. After all, it’s difficult to be excited all day long, even for people for whom enthusiasm comes naturally. So, how do you become more enthusiastic? Many believe that the secret is to break it into smaller pieces. For example, instead of making a general statement like, “I’m going to be a more enthusiastic person,” focus your attention on something like, “I’m going to be enthusiastic about contacting that list of prospects.” Then you can attack that list with greater energy for shorter periods of time.

Enthusiasm is a matter of setting a goal and managing your attitude as you reach toward that goal. You might say, “I’m going to get excited about making my report at the next sales meeting.” With such a specific and doable goal, that effort can lead to an even better report at the following meeting, and so on. That’s how to build positive momentum.

Enthusiasm can light the path.

— John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. Email for information:

©2023 by John Foust. All rights reserved.