I was riding my Harley through the back roads of Maryland last weekend feeling tougher than my nerd-like appearance might suggest. As I rode into a shady portion of the road, my senses came alive with an entirely different experience. The air was cooler on my face and arms. The scent of pine and decomposing leaves wafted by my nose. And the bright green leaves and bronze fields I had seen in bright sunlight turned to dark green and brown in the shadows.
This is why I ride a motorcycle.
The sense of presence when I’m riding is remarkable. While I may be traveling the same roads I would in a car, the look, the feel, and the smell of the surrounding countryside on a motorcycle are heightened.
I was explaining this to my son and daughter and mentioned how comforting the smell of manure is to me. They were not impressed. I clarified that the smell of manure was part of my rural upbringing so when I smell it now, I am transported to a comfortable place in my memory. And just for the record, cow manure is a wholly different smell than dog poop which, by the way, I think is just disgusting whether I’m on a motorcycle or not.
Presence is a powerful way of living and the more we practice being present, the more easily we can achieve excellence….and humor – which are the foundations of a Do it Well, Make it Fun philosophy.
In Evelyn Underhill’s classic 1914 book, Practical Mysticism, Ms. Underhill claims that mysticism is the art of “union with reality” and that wisdom comes from this union. She goes on to explain that we routinely give labels to our experiences rather than truly experiencing them. So, a tree becomes something we casually acknowledge as a “tree” whereas in reality, it is much more than that. It is a vivid creation of color and smell and texture. Similar to my motorcycle ride which could be viewed as simply a journey from one point to another is, in reality, an abundance of other sensations.
But how does present-ness lead to excellence and humor? I’m glad you asked.
Excellence. Golf is one of the easiest sports in which to evaluate your skills because every shot gives you immediate feedback. If you hit it straight down the fairway, you’re doing well. If you hit a tree and the ball careens off a player on another fairway, not so much.
But when it comes to other skills in your life and work, excellence may not be so obvious. You could be a decent employee but you might not realize that your listening skills are poor. You may be a great manager but don’t recognize that your mentoring skills are underdeveloped. And you can be a visionary leader but unknowingly lack the people skills you need to generate excitement about your vision.
This is where presence can lead us to excellence.
The more present we are with our day-to-day activities, the more clues we will be given about our abilities. We must pay attention to the results of our work. Is it leading to the outcomes we desire? If not, we attend to the disconnections. By being present, we will discover the deficits that can lead to a plan for improvement.
Humor. The key to finding humor in our life is to be keenly aware of our surroundings. Last week, I called tech support because I couldn’t log onto the website of a financial service I use. After realizing that he needed to escalate my issue to his supervisor, the tech support representative asked me if there was anything else I needed. I told him there was not. He then said, “Well, thank you for calling. If you need additional support, just log onto our website for more information.”
This ridiculous disconnect may seem obvious here. But for many of us in the moment, we miss the irony because we are more focused on the frustration of the problem at hand. Look around and see where you are missing the funny right in front of you.
Excellence comes from being present to ourselves and our surroundings. And if we are truly paying attention, we will find gems of hidden humor as well. That’s what it means to Do it Well and Make it Fun.