Over 34 years, living in 10+ cities, and traveling a bit, I’ve met a fair amount of people. I think people, in general, are fascinating. I like observing and analyzing people, and I can usually find the good in them, or at the very least, figure out what they are trying to do. Most people are fine, some of them are great, some of them are weird. And then there are a few that stand out. You know the people I’m talking about – the ones with that glow, that energy, that… special something. I am calling these people sunshine people.
Sunshine people are not just nice, or funny, or generous. Lots of people are those things. Sunshine people are rare. I’ve known only a handful of them over the course of my life. I was with one last weekend, which is what inspired me to write this post. It’s not an exclusive list, but careful reflection on the criteria below has my count at 13. There are undoubtedly more I could squeeze in, and perhaps others who I have forgotten over the years, but this isn’t the Dean’s list, where anyone who puts in some effort gets in. This is an elite club, reserved for only the best of the best, so for now, let’s go with 13. I’m not going to name them, but I will share some of the general demographics. Of the 13 sunshine people I know, there are 8 women and 5 men. Many, but not all, I have considered one of my best friends at some point in life. Most are around my age, but they range from 24-65. Ten of them I have known for years, and three of them for mere months. I provide these stats to illustrate that this isn’t just a list of my best friends. It is a collection of people I’ve come across on my journey who are just… the best people. If you’re lucky, you get to have a few sunshine people in your life for a long time. But it’s possible that you might just share a single moment with one of them. If that’s the case, it’s likely that you will remember that moment for a long time.
In thinking about my 13, I’ve come up with a list of attributes that I believe all sunshine people share. This is not an exhaustive list, nor was it developed through thorough research. It’s simply a brief rundown of the salient characteristics that come to mind when I think of these people. I’m hoping that these descriptors will make it easy for you to identify the sunshine people you know and, perhaps, maybe even take some steps to become a little brighter yourself.
Above all, sunshine people are natural leaders. They can take charge of a moment, influence a group, and captivate an audience of any size. They need not be in any formal position of leadership. In fact, most of the time spent with these people is social, so there are no “roles,” but their natural leadership tendencies almost always shine through. They have a good sense of the people and the world around them and they make confident decisions. These people often put together social clubs, sports teams, or game nights. They might be the people who take the lead on picking a restaurant or planning a trip. Whether at work or out with friends, informal leadership always emerges. If a sunshine person is around, more often than not, they will be the ones stepping into that role.
Sunshine people are connectors. They are usually the hub of a group (probably many). They know lots of people and they love bringing people together. All of the people on my list have introduced me to someone from a different part of their life. They don’t just throw a party and invite people haphazardly. They understand social dynamics and are intentional about creating meaningful experiences and cultivating friendships between others. This of course comes in addition to their own personal connections. They seemingly always have time and energy for at least one more new friend. If it weren’t for my sunshine people, I wouldn’t have met half of the people or gone on half of the adventures I have in my life. I am thinking of the myriad opportunities that were opened up to me in Madison, Denver, Minneapolis, and Taiwan because of my sunshine people and I am very grateful to them.
Sunshine people make crazy good eye contact. This one is oddly specific, and I couldn’t decide if it deserved its own paragraph or not, but I think it’s important enough. It’s not just like, socially polite eye contact. When you are talking, sunshine people look at you in a way that makes you believe that what you are saying is the only thing in the world they care about at that moment. Without fail, their eyes, smile, and body language all have a natural beauty and grace. They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul but for sunshine people, they are open doors, inviting you to walk right in. They are good listeners and consistently show genuine empathy and true understanding. Aided by a look, a smile, a touch on the arm, a laugh, or a nod, they make you feel comfortable opening up to them. They make you feel really good about yourself and build you up rather than bring you down (a sadly uncommon characteristic).
Sunshine people share a hatred of dull moments. When you meet one of these people for the first time, they will ask you about your life. They will work to find a connection between the two of you. With that connection, they will ensure the conversation is engaging for both sides. If you are sitting in a room with nothing to do, a sunshine person will ask the group a question to get everyone involved, suggest playing a game, or offer to get everyone a drink. As mentioned, they are the ones likely to plan an adventure, a park day, a weekend getaway, or some other random reason to get together. They will be sure to invite the right people and host a well-executed event. It’s a great fortune to have one or more of these people in your life. Because of them, you will do more, see more, and have more fun than you would if all of the social planning was left in your hands.
Closing out the list for now is that sunshine people walk their talk. They don’t take a break from an unhealthy lifestyle to post inspirational quotes on social media. They don’t smile to your face and talk shit behind your back. The sun does not have an “off” switch. These people truly are who they are. They are as nice to the server as they are to their date. In a group, they will engage just as much with a newcomer as they will with an old friend. A former boss once told me “character is who you are when no one is watching.” I will venture to say that sunshine people don’t take many shortcuts at work or do anything sneaky to try to take advantage of others. They are legitimately just good. That’s not to say they’re perfect, of course. They can be crabby, tired, sad, and angry just like anyone else. But when they are, they are unlikely to take it out on others or let their own issues get in the way of treating others with respect.
Who are the people who have come to mind while reading through these traits? Do you agree with my list? Have I missed anything? My hopes for this post are two-fold. One is to acknowledge, thank, and honor my people. The other is to encourage you to identify your own sunshine people. First of all, tell them. Thank them. Remind them how wonderful and powerful they are. Secondly, reflect. How can you be more like them? What’s a small thing you could do to shine a little brighter each day?
To my sunshine people, I need you to know how powerful you are. You have the ability to influence many, many people over the course of your life and indeed you do, every single day. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world. Thank you for inspiring me to be more like you. Thank you for connecting me to others. Thank you for giving me opportunities, taking me on adventures, and creating lasting memories. Thank you for living a life that is continually making the world a better place. Don’t underestimate the influence you have over others. Don’t underestimate the impact that you’ve had on me.