I find myself very outspoken about three very important things this week. 

  1. Top Gun Maverick 
  2. My first Phish concert
  3. Somebody Feed Phil

Everywhere I go I’m telling friends and strangers about these wonderful experiences. And I just realized they all have something in common. 

Smiles. 😀

Smiles that erupt from genuine joy. Smiles that beam with wonder and gratitude. Smiles that spark a chain reaction of smiles. 

What I noticed this weekend is that Tom Cruise, Trey Anastasio, and Phil Rosenthal are smiley Pied Pipers of passion. And you can’t help but smile and follow along. Because of science.

Paula Niedenthal and Adrienne Wood, social psychologists at the University of Wisconsin, wrote a paper on how and why smiles are neurologically contagious. We mirror facial expressions as a means to recognize emotion.

So when Maverick is riding his motorcycle next to a fighter jet and grinning ear to ear we physically cannot help but smile back. When you go back to see the film a second time like I am this weekend, pay attention to how many smiles there are on screen in the first two acts. It’s overwhelming in the best way.

This past Saturday at my first Phish concert I caught myself smiling countless times in response to Trey, the lead singer, and guitarist, beaming while jamming with his band mates. 

And after a long day of work and parenting, there’s currently nothing better in my opinion than mirroring Phil’s contagious smile while he eats delicious things in foreign places. 

Top Gun Maverick, Phish, and Somebody Feed Phil are all drawing record-breaking crowds. I can only speak for myself, but seeing Tom, Trey, and Phil glow with joy is part of the equation. It just feels good to smile right now. 

So perhaps the question for all of us, especially leaders, is what do we have to do to get a little more contagious joy in our work lives?

Hard work, passion, and collaboration seem to be the ingredients for the aforementioned leaders. 

 Work hard together. Play hard together. Smile hard together. Let the contagion begin.


Brad Wise

Brad is the Chief Creative at Boonrise. He has committed his life to helping others tell their story more effectively. He has worked with companies like Kroger, World Pay, Macy’s, and Procter & Gamble to help them tell better stories.

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