On December 31, 1967, the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys met on Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship. Later dubbed the “Ice Bowl,” temperatures hovered at 13 degrees below zero, the turf was as hard as rock, whistles stuck in referees’ mouths, and members of the halftime band were sent to the hospital for hypothermia. It remains the coldest NFL game on record.
For sixty minutes, these rival teams duked it out, with each player digging deep to summon the fortitude to battle both the cold and the opposing team. With sixteen seconds left in the game, the Cowboys held a 17-14 lead, and the Packers had the ball. On 3rd and goal, Bart Starr executed a quarterback sneak with offensive lineman Jerry Kramer giving him the block needed to get into the end zone and win the game. The Packers had made it to another Super Bowl.
That block has been called the greatest in NFL history. Yet Kramer didn’t dance around or pull a Sharpie out of his sock to sign an instant autograph; he simply walked off the field.
There was no need for such outward expressions–the satisfaction of a hard-fought win was enough.
How to Celebrate with Grace
Last time, we talked about how to lose with dignity.
It’s a difficult thing to do, but in some ways, it can actually be easier than celebrating with grace. When you win a great victory or attain a noteworthy achievement, it’s hard to strike the balance between genuinely enjoying your success and not adding to your opponent’s misery or coming off as a smug braggart. Here are some recommendations on how to walk that line.
Should you celebrate publicly or privately?
This is one of the big questions people struggle with in regards to celebrating with grace–should you display your adulation publicly or keep it to yourself?
The answer to that question depends on what kind of accomplishment it is, and whether you are in direct competition with those around you.
When an accomplishment is of the type that places people into “classes,” (things like grades, salary raises, promotions, and try-outs) it is generally better to keep your celebration private (to be enjoyed by yourself and close family and friends). So for example, when the teacher hands you back an A+ paper, there is no need for a whoop and a fist pump–just smile and put the paper away. The more competitive something is, the more true this rule becomes–which is why people never talked about their GPA or rank in law school.
Rubbing your win in your competitors’ faces in these situations will not make your achievement any more real–it is merely an attempt to stroke your ego and tends to create rancor with your peers.
Of course there are situations where it is appropriate to celebrate in front of your opponents–such as the award ceremony or sports game–as the competition is the raison d’être for these events, as opposed to being unspoken.
Even when your success can appropriately be celebrated publicly, use discretion, particularly when using social networks like Facebook and Twitter. These mediums have made news-sharing so easy that some folks have gotten confused about what constitutes actual news. Most people genuinely want to hear about what’s going on in your life and your success, they just don’t think that having an awesome bowel movement constitutes a singular achievement.
Appreciate those who helped make it happen.
The humble man realizes that even when praise for a victory falls entirely on him, there were people along the way who helped make it happen. The star player thanks the team; the boss thanks his employees.
Show gratitude in general.
Celebrations come off as smug when the victor acts as if he were entitled to the success he’s found. The dignified man is proud of the work he did to get where he is, while also being forever grateful that he was in the right spot at the right time and a confluence of factors came together in his favor.
Acknowledge the loser.
Shake the hand of your fallen opponent. If you chat, focus on the game itself, instead of on the outcome. And as an old Esquire etiquette guide advises, “In the conventional exchange of remarks at game’s end, the good loser compliments the winner on his skill and the good winner sympathizes with the loser on his luck.”
Don’t disparage your victory.
The man who trivializes his win can be as much of a pain as the one who lords it over you. While acting like you didn’t deserve to win or it isn’t a big deal might seem like the “nice” thing to do or something that will deflect attention, it only ends up making the victor look even better–”Not only did he win, he’s so above it all he doesn’t even care!” And it adds insult to your opponent’s injury. As a loser, I want to know I was a worthy foe, and that you actually wanted to win, because I certainly did!
When George C. Scott won an Oscar in 1970 for his portrayal of George S. Patton in the film that bore the general’s name, Scott became the first person to turn down an Academy Award, saying he was not in competition with other actors and that the ceremony constituted a “two hour meat parade.” This surprising move put more attention on Scott, not less (it dominated the news for a couple of weeks–even garnering the cover of Time), and it sent a message to the other nominees that not only did they lose the award, they were losers for even caring about winning!
Share in the rewards.
When a gambler makes money, he often tips the dealer. It’s good karma. When something good happens to you, spread the love. If you get a great promotion at work, take all of your friends out for drinks on you.
Don’t do the “humble brag.”
Some people try to split the difference between celebrating something, and not wanting to boast, by employing the “humble brag.” The humble brag is where you’re really boasting about something, but you try to disguise this fact by throwing in a complaint or a self-deprecating aside.
I hope that you are thinking about this: I am. As a physician, I typically diagnosed a disease, told the surgeon what I thought was wrong with the child, and the surgeon operated. The surgeon could have deflected his praise to GOD, but usually talked about how well he and the patient did, and the ol’ doctor that made the diagnosis and got the child to surgeon on time was forgotten. Where does the praise and glory go, anyway?
Just Thinking, The Sandhill Philosopher
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