Nan Russell | Unexpected pleasures

How many times have I been on this road? Fifty? A hundred? Each one accompanied by beautiful pleasures: an overflowing spring river, a forested fall tapestry, a majestic summer sunset, a topped off wintry peak. But this time the delight was an unexpected one. Only a few miles into Glacier National Park, a momma grizzly, followed diligently by three first-year cubs, briskly walked across the road a few yards ahead. Even in northwestern Montana this kind of sighting is a rare treat.

That bear family showed themselves for perhaps thirty seconds, yet seeing them even briefly delighted my day. Like the Dutch proverb proclaims, “For the concert of life, no one receives a program.”

If I’d been reading e-mails on my BlackBerry, I’d have missed them. How many times are we too busy texting, too engaged in our “important” cell-phone conversations, or too numbed by in-car entertainment systems to catch a glimpse of such wonders? How often do we miss the unexpected pleasures in our life?

It may not be a grizzly family of four where you live, but did you notice the teenager helping an elderly woman figure out the bus schedule, or the man who gave up his taxi to a pregnant mom with a toddler in hand? Did you notice the early buds on the trees last spring or the near-explosion of this year’s fall colors? Did you savor an unexpected pleasure today?

Some days I’m numb to the outside world, I admit. I’m engrossed in the next writing deadline, the next speech to deliver, the next client to meet with. I’m busy doing. These are the days I look past the robin fashioning a nest outside my door, or fail to catch the sun’s glitter on the lake I can see from my office window. These are the days when life’s concert is still playing, but I haven’t tuned her in. These are the days that blur together and unravel my energy.

But when I’m awake to small pleasures, the blur diminishes. A mind-photo of momma bear with cubs makes the day stand out. So does hearing children laughing, seeing random acts of kindness, or appreciating bright green tree growth. My day is enriched just by the noticing.

What I’ve found, in the scheme of things, is every day holds unexpected pleasures. Even on difficult days, there’s a hand offered in kindness, a stranger’s smile, a new flower blooming, or a compassionate heart reaching for ours. But we need to look up for a few seconds to see them. Unexpected pleasures breathe life into me and stir my spirit. I am grateful for these joyful seconds of wonder, inspiration, connection, and hope.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008), and host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on, Nan Russell has spent over 20 years in management, most recently with QVC as a vice president. Sign up to receive Nan’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at



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