Sitting quietly (with gusto)

I never wrote about this, but I saw Dave Eggers at the New Yorker festival this year. He was oddly fidgety, as if he was uncomfortable with the attention. I wanted to say, "Dude! Do you know how brave and awesome you are! Sit quietly!"

Later I stood up to ask the first question. I told him that I really admired all of the projects he's involved in, from McSweeney's to writing books to writing screenplays to running 826 Valencia. Then I quoted an interview he did with the Harvard Advocate about 10 years ago, in which he said "No is for wimps."

"Do you still believe in that?" I asked.

He smiled and said that with two small kids, he's much more able to say no today. But he also said that life is very short and that he thinks a lot about mortality and that, when given the opportunity to do interesting things, he welcomes them.

How do you create those opportunities? I think it's fair to say that they're born out of a careful combination of humility and GUSTO. Yes, gusto.

Gusto is a force that feels simultaneously like riding in a hot air balloon and being rooted deep in the ground by a tall, tall tree. It is the not the ability to dream big; people dream big all the time. Gusto is the ability to dream big knowing that you deserve to dream big. And also knowing that you have it in you to pull those big dreams off.

I did not always have gusto. Maybe I still don't totally. For a long time, I had the urges towards gusto; I felt the tiny seeds, but was not fully-formed enough to own my gusto. Working at Arc90 has helped with that. Never in my life have I felt as good about confrontation with people than since I started working there. I've learned that confrontation doesn't mean problems. It means opportunity for conversation. It means opportunity for better decisions. And I really feel that I have been weathered away to be a good, strong communicator because of confrontation (both at work and outside of work). Confidence feeds gusto, in small and healthy doses.

Maybe this is about turning 30 in a few months. Maybe this is about having some great meetings lately at work. Maybe this is about getting married next year. Maybe this is about sharing my fiction in class and standing behind my characters. Whatever it is, lately I feel gusto in me, the kind that is pulling me towards some really interesting opportunities of my own.

1 comment:

amber, theambershow said...

Oh my goodness. The way you put this made me swoon. Gusto and humility: the hot air balloon and the tree.