Why Enthusiasm Matters. Bob Hoffman’s Sage Advice from the 1950s.

Enthusiasm means a wholehearted devotion to an ideal, cause, study, sport, hobby, or pursuit. If you have an enthusiasm, your success in all you undertake will be assured. Too few people have continued enthusiasm. They are interested for a time, and then the passing fancy passes.

We say so often about weightlifting success, that only those those succeed who place weightlifting first in their lives. When the time comes because of other interests, that weightlifting is not first, that man is no longer a great champion. He can still be pretty good training along on part of his horsepower, or his manpower, but to the great, he must have the wholehearted devotion to his sport that puts it above everything else. He must be willing to strive endlessly, to labor incessantly, to think about his sport, to dream about it, it he expects to succeed.

At the recent Olympic Committee meeting, an old friend is connected with of the major airlines and who was with us at Helsinki and Melbourne and has seen us off on most of our trips around the world and to the world weightlifting championships, said to me, “I often wonder Bob, what will happen to your sport of weightlifting when you are no longer with us, putting your enthusiastic, wholehearted effort back of your favorite game?”

I said, “Someone else will have to become more enthusiastic then.” My friend replied, “I doubt if there is anyone around who has your long continued enthusiasm, your ability, your knowledge, your loquaciousness, your persuasiveness regarding your sport. It must give you a lot of satisfaction to see the progress your sport has made. You told me that at one time you stood alone, the only real believer in weightlifting as a means to overcome ills, as a means to improve any athlete at his chosen sport, as a very good sport in its own right…

And now from all sides we hear of the advantages of weight training. There are thousands of coaches of all sorts who are teaching weight training to their pupils, hundreds of thousands of athletes who are improving their athletic ability through weight training. Doctors everywhere are endorsing your favorite sport, its armed forces, schools and colleges, YMCAs and all sorts of other organizations are putting their wholehearted efforts back of weight training.

“You will remember that we were in the same apartment building at Helsinki, and we occupied the other half of the weightlifters’ house at Melbourne. In all the time I have known you, Bob, you have never ceased to talk to everyone about your sport.

Olympic leaders, servicemen, athletes and their coaches, writers, sportsmen of all sports – you have talked as long as anyone would listen. I am really concerned about your sport, Bob. Who else is there that can carry on with even a fraction of your enthusiasm if something happens to you?

You have lost a lot of the leaders in your sport, men such as Dietrich Wortmann, Wilbur Smith, Mark Berry, Harry Paschall, Emmett Faris and others. Where will your sport be without you?”

“I’ll be around for a long time, Fred,” I replied. “I have set my goal to live in three centuries. Since I was born in 1898, to reach my goal I’m going to have to make it to the year 2000.

Surely by that time someone will come along who will match my enthusiasm for weightlifting and all forms of athletics. It has been satisfying to see the public acceptance of our sport. Yes, after 35 years of enthusiastic effort, it is nice to see the rolling snowball rolling faster and getting bigger with each roll.”

Thousands of visitors come to York and I manage to talk to most of them. They are surprised to learn that I am even more enthusiastic than ever, that I enjoy talking to visitors about weightlifting.

They seem surprised that I will talk with as much interest as I did many years ago to any young fellow who comes to York. Officials and spectators alike are surprised that I come to the novice contests in our areas. Our hopes for the future depend on these youngsters and their continued enthusiasm, and I come to the meetings to encourage them.

Good prospects come along, life for a time, achieve some measure of success, and then for one reason or another, they drop out. They may say that is is because their job or their wife demands more of their time, or that they simply do not have the time to train for lifting.

In most cases, the real reason they drop out is a loss of enthusiasm. There is time for one’s family, there is time for one’s job, time to make a financial success of life, time for keeping well and strong, time for participating in athletics. It is just a question of arranging time so that all the essentials can fit in.

Enthusiasm is a little spark of celestial fire. Without it you can not succeed. It is the driving power which keeps you eternally working, striving to make a success at your chosen sport, to reach your goal.

Life is no longer worth while when you lose your enthusiasm. In fact, doctors tell me that they have seen people die who had nothing basically wrong with them. They simply did not have the desire to live. If they had had enthusiasm and a strong desire to live, they could have surmounted all obstacles and go on to success.

Enthusiasm originally meant inspiration by God. Real enthusiasm is a God-given trait. Socrates speaks of the inspiration of the ancient poets as a form of enthusiasm; other writers called it divine possession. The English word enthusiasm is taken from the old Greek word euthousiasmos, which meant to be inspired or possessed by a god.

Enthusiastic people possess an ecstasy of mind; they have strong emotions, eager interest, ardor in pursuit of their interest or their sport. They have hope and confidence of success, they have fervor, an intense, profound and eager interest in what they are doing, what they are promoting, what they are trying to accomplish.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Work hard, intelligently, enthusiastically, and you will be a champ. Nothing else is worth while. If you are going to play a game, be a champ. I made a success of every adventure I tried because I could work up enthusiasm, a terrific desire to succeed at the task at hand.

At this point you may be wondering how you can develop enthusiasm. How can you develop a capacity for enthusiasm that is warm, ardent and zealous? First, you have to want too badly enough. You have to be willing to study, to scheme, to contrive, to work early and late, to sacrifice if need be, to achieve your cherished goal.

You have to really believe in what you are doing. If you don’t believe how can you expect others to believe? People seem to be surprised when they find that I still train with weights.

What kind of man would I be if I did not practice what I preach to the limit of my ability? I have always told readers of this magazine exactly what I do myself. It is not a question of asking you to do what I say, but asking you to do what I do and have done.

Almost from the beginning of my introduction to weight training and weight lifting 35 years ago, I was its most enthusiastic devotee, its most enthusiastic missionary. It is not hard to continue to be enthusiastic about something that you believe in implicitly.

With easy passing year I have been more enthusiastic about weight training and weightlifting, each year I have believed in it more and more, for there is such endless proof of its advantages.

I spent one of the holidays with my older brother and his family. He is five years older than me according to the calendar but he is actually older than that.

He is retired and has no particular interest of any sort. He smokes constantly and doesn’t seem to care of the harm it will do him. I said to him “You’ll have to get some interests, brother, become interested in sports or athletics, exercise. Here I am just a few years younger than you, and I am working just like I did when I was twenty, with the same interests, the same desires, putting forth as much effort, even longer hours, and liking the work I am doing.

I am writing a book, I am promoting new products. I develop them, write all the material for them, all the advertisements, three or four articles a month, and I am whizzing around here and there, just like I was twenty years of age.”

A man or woman becomes old rapidly when he or she does not have interests. Statistic prove that men live an average of three years of life after they retire. All their lives they work. They look forward to the day of retirement.

And then unfortunately they are not interest in the things they have given up all their lives. I ask them what they are doing now that they are retired. And too often their reply is, “Catching up on my rest.”

Only a fair amount of sleep is necessary, six or seven hours daily, for those who are mature. Do something interesting in the other hours of the day. Be interested, work up some enthusiasm about project. Enthusiasm is necessary to your success, it is necessary to your happiness, it is necessary to the length and the fullness of your life. For your health’s sake, be enthusiastic.


Bob Hoffman, ‘Be Enthusiastic’, Strength & Health, May (1959), 4-6.

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