Do you love surprises? Or do you put your head down on the table when the waitress brings out a cake and belts out HAPPY BIRTHDAY? I love me some surprises. Many of the most beautiful moments in life are surprises. When a friend tells me that she’s pregnant, my first question is “are you waiting for the ultimate surprise?” Our brains are even wired for surprises – researchers have found that pleasure centers in our brains light up when we’re surprised.
Five years ago, I was traveling from continent to continent teaching yoga. (Writing that sentence is still a surprise.) Ten months into the trip, I was finishing my last gig and was running low on cash. This series of events provided the perfect opportunity to fly home early and surprise my friend Brendan at the 5 Point Adventure Film Festival for the premiere of 35, an inspiring film that he co-wrote. My friend Nick picked me up at the airport; we drove three hours into the Colorado mountains; and I gave Brendan the biggest surprise of the weekend. I still remember the looks of bewilderment, astonishment, and joy that danced across his face. Surprises created by the heart stay in the heart for a lifetime.
Here are five ways to put that look on someone’s face:
- Airports –– Figure out when your friend, partner, or colleague is arriving and greet them with a sign that says “Welcome home” or “I love you to the moon and back.” When they see you, jump up and down like your name was just called on The Price is Right.
- Birthdays –– Often discussed but rarely implemented. Surprise your friend with a visit, sing them a song in a restaurant, or send them a reminder of a happy memory that you shared together.
- Events –– We’re pretty good at showing up for weddings, funerals, graduations, and holidays. But how about surprising someone by showing up at a competition they’ve been training for, or meeting them outside their office on their last day at a job, or attending an event they’ve spent months putting together? Surprise the hell out of them at a moment when they least expect it.
- Cards –– Getting a card in the mail is always surprise. I love giving cards because they are vessels to deliver surprises and to spread joy. You can’t go wrong with a card from Lovepop… my girlfriend Kate is a fan.
- Feelings –– Use your words to surprise someone with a compliment. Tell them that you have always admired their courage, intelligence, humor, or wits. Thank them for supporting you through all of the shit life has thrown at you. Give a stranger a compliment and let the ripple of your words create a tidal wave of joy in their day. Say “I love you” to that person that you love but never told. Guys, this includes your buddies! Say it with me: “I fucking love you brother!”
As Brendan reminds us in the film 35, “we’re all capable of surprising ourselves.” This Sunday, the 5 Point Film Festival is screening How to Run 100 Miles. Five years after I surprised Brendan, this year the surprise is on me.