Leading with a Joyful Perspective

He was in his mid-50s. Unkempt hair. Tank top. Flip flops. Ripped jean shorts. No helmet. Riding a bike with a cigar in his mouth.

I confess to making a quick judgment about how his cigar—before 8 a.m.—belied any effort on his part to be healthy by biking. And, I confess, I judged him quicker because of his disheveled appearance. What I saw frustrated me.

Snap judgements are rarely positive.

Then I remembered joyspotting, a concept by Ingrid Fetell Lee on the power of looking for joy all around us. On her blog, Fetell Lee explains,

“We can tune our attention to something joyful and use that to buoy our spirits. Instead of seeing the world around us as a distraction, joyspotting reminds us that it can be a reservoir of positivity, one we can turn to at any time.”


We too easily fall into a cynical narrative because of situations we encounter—litter in the hallway, a door left ajar, dishes not put away, an ignored stop sign, a late co-worker. It’s not to say joyspotting excuses such things; rather, joyspotting is a reminder about the importance of shifting our perspective and the way we operate in relationship with others. Indeed, as Fetell Lee asserts, “Maybe instead of chasing after happiness, what we should be doing is embracing joy and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often.” By looking for it, you’ll start creating it, and others will get to soak up its power, too.

Seeing the positive through the negative sharpens our perspective.

People who become leaders do so because they are optimistic about the organization and the people. But too often the reality of leadership turns toward pessimism. A leader’s job is to problem solve, forecast problems and head them off, and deliver bad news. Additionally, as human beings, we are good at seeing the negatives in ourselves and others. When you are trying to improve, it is more difficult to pick out the positives.

So, I decided to figure out where I could find joy regarding the cigar-smoking bike rider. Maybe the man had been a chain smoker for years, had recently taken up biking, and kept a cigar in his mouth to help him overcome his addiction. Or maybe he had a history of biking, but the night before, had gotten bad news about a cigar-smoking friend, and so, tired and disheveled, he got up for his daily ride with a cigar in his honor.

Granted, the scenarios are conjecture. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t possible.

From a corporate standpoint, consider the WWW/TALA to ensure you are combining both the positives and negatives. Negatives tend to get overwhelming and cause a spiral into more negativity. Emphasizing the negatives without a focus on the positives only gives you half the picture. Through discussing and processing the positives, you widen your perspective on the situation.

For me, by looking for joy rather than judging the biker, my attitude immediately flipped; frustration was replaced by joy and hope. In her Ted Talk, Fetell Lee says,

“We all start out joyful, but as we get older, being colorful or exuberant opens us up to judgement. Adults who exhibit genuine joy are often dismissed as childish or too feminine or unserious or self-indulgent, and so we hold ourselves back from joy. . . . But if the aesthetics of joy can be used to help us find more joy in the world around us, then couldn’t they also be used to create more joy?”

I’m glad that disheveled, cigar-smoking biker showed up that day. Turns out, he was just disguised as joy. And I had been put in the path of it.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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