Reward and recognition are important values but, how often do we celebrate our own successes? ‘Celebrate Everything’ has been an important motto of mine for some time now. I forget what triggered it, maybe when I was in the midst of my Coaching & Mentoring Post Grad at Oxford Brookes: “How are you going to celebrate that?” sounds like a typical coaching question. Whilst the moment itself isn’t memorable it was hugely significant because, the moment you decide to celebrate your own success you change the game. It is transformational.
In my real-world job (not Coaching & Mentoring, that’s an extra-curricular activity) I work very closely with colleagues based in the US. In fact my boss and team are based there and the global nature of my role means I have first-hand experience of how diverse the two cultures are and, how they influence each other – for those of you witnessing the American invasion into our language and culture I assure you it works both ways! One of the ways in which we differ culturally, in a Grand Canyon gaping wound in the landscape type of way is our attitude toward success. Americans are, typically very good at patting themselves on the back. By contrast we Brits champion the underdog and are a little uncomfortable with celebrating our own success. It’s in the language we use: Americans say “Good job!”, “Way to go!” “You go girl!” “WOOHOO”. We say: “He’s getting too big for his boots”, “Who does she think she is?”, “No-one likes a show-off” and… actually, there is no suitable British equivalent to the American whoop. That British reserve, of which I have bucket-loads, prevents us from public whooping.
A couple of years ago I worked with some colleagues both sides of the Atlantic to set up a Mentoring programme. In the research phase, when I began to interview people about their experiences an over-riding theme seemed to be that in the UK if you had experience of being Mentored or, indeed being a Mentor it was part of a program. In the US you were far more likely to have just approached someone you wanted to Mentor you. Culturally the US are far more mature in this field; it’s more experience, people are more likely to be open about wanting to get on and wanting help to do it. These two things are historically alien in the UK. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen but, if we’re open about our intentions we tend to be viewed as being ‘aggressive’ and ‘ambitious’ in the extreme. We don’t seem so good at pushing ourselves forward, although we are definitely getting better.
As I write I’m reminded of something I witnessed, in 1990, when the company I worked for at the time began to move away from the traditional Managing Director roles in the UK to Country Managers reporting into Vice Presidents. At our annual all-hands, all-day, off-site conference for the UK staff our new American ‘big boss’ flew over to promote the new organisation structure and company strategy. Let me paint a picture for you. The company had hired out a large function room at the Rover Plant in Oxford (now BMW); rows of chairs were laid out, auditorium style in front of a large stage onto which our new branding was being projected. Senior managers from the region (plus very important America big boss) came on stage to promote our new corporate message whilst Snap’s ‘I Got The Power’ was being blasted across stadium speakers during transitions. The theme was all about empowerment, this being pitched to people who didn’t feel particularly empowered at the time. After a big, flashing lights, booming music build up our new American ‘big boss’ was introduced and he entered, stage right, running, fist-pumping and skidded to a halt (literally skidded, like a five-year-old in socks) and, with free arm aloft shouted into the microphone he was holding in his other hand “CAN I GET A WOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO?” … and about eight hundred pairs of British eyes blinked back silently “no, you can’t”.
It’s difficult to explain how incredibly painful it was to sit in that auditorium, silently for what seemed like hours (seconds probably) while the chap on stage composed himself and began his subdued monologue to a wholly unimpressed audience. I’m guessing it was worse for him. At the time we probably thought “what an idiot”. In truth, many of us probably felt insulted. Who the hell does he think he is bringing his brand of happiness and enthusiasm into our world. Go home you complete loon. And, therein lies the gaping cavern of cultural difference. It’s not that we don’t celebrate or indeed, appreciate success, it’s just that we reserve that for the underdog. And, more importantly we reserve that for others. There are just some things you can’t say about yourself (if you’re a Brit). It’s OK point out how well someone else is doing: “well done, great job, you should be really proud” but, as soon as they concur “you’re right, I did a fantastic job, well done me” we’ll turn on you “steady on love, no-one likes a show-off”.
I digress… So, celebrate everything! If, for no other reason do it because it’s joyful; it’s happiness creating and it’s infectious. This is why, on Sunday afternoon I found myself making a mad dash to the shops to grab a cheap bottle of bubbles to celebrate Beryl Beryl Yellow Peril (henceforth known as The Award Winning Yellow Peril. Stable name: Beryl) winning best Mod scooter a the South Bucks Scooter Alliance custom show.
Actually, that was the official reason I was celebrating. The real reason I was celebrating was that Sunday marked my longest scoot to date; a fifty mile round trip, which is a significant distance for someone who sat on a motorcycle for the first time this year and passed their Motorcycle Mod2 a few weeks later. My road to scooter riding has been swift and arduous; starting with me imagining that riding a Motorbike (during the license phase) would be a bit scary and ended with me experiencing first hand that it is, in actual fact mortally terrifying. I found the entire CBT/MOD1/MOD2 process immensely stressful, to the point of panic & intrusive thoughts; I have vowed never to get on a motorcycle again. I should point out here that I don’t feel the same on a scooter (it’s slower, I’m more in control, I don’t know why exactly, I choose not to question that too deeply). But, here’s the thing: I felt the fear and did it anyway. Even after George offered to get me a small frame 125cc scooter so I could ride on a renewable CBT license I persevered. This is something I really wanted and I was damned if I was going to let fear get in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll quite happily dump something and move on if it’s not working for me but, I had a vision and that vision was George and I scooting around town in the summer months all ‘Modded’ up to the nines and I knew that to get there I had to ride this damn 600cc motorbike that I could barely hold on to. There’s maybe some ego at play here as well; I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to give up Beryl and I didn’t want my ride restricted to a 125. And, if we’re being completely honest I didn’t want to spend my life riding on L plates. These aren’t things I’m particularly proud of but, these were the life buoys that kept me afloat just above the surface of my sanity whilst my mind was playing its own version of Final Destination and interrupting my sleep. So I persevered and, the moment I passed my Mod 2 motorcycle test my joyous cries (maybe a little American-style whooping) could be heard throughout the test centre along with my declaration of “I’m NEVER getting on a motorcycle again!” closely followed by “BUGGER!” “Bugger, bugger, bugger!” when I realised I still needed to get home.
You’ll maybe understand now why my fifty mile round trip felt like a milestone to me and, why I chose to mark the occasion with a glass of bubbles. I’m providing myself with positive reinforcement and creating good memories along the way.
If you’re still wondering why it’s important to celebrate everything ask yourself this: Why would you not? Why would you deprive yourself of any given opportunity to do something nice for yourself? The happier you are, the nicer you are to be around. When you take care of yourself you have more to give others. And, why should we not be proud of our achievements. I’ve been working with a coaching client recently who’s putting together plans for her own business. I suggested that she think of a way to celebrate a particular goal she was hoping to achieve. During a follow-up she told me that, as she rarely makes the time to chill out and watch TV she celebrated by pouring herself a glass of wine and relaxed for a little while. Sounds simple doesn’t it but let me tell you what else she learned through that experience. By actually marking the occasion in a positive way, in a way that made her feel good she is associating those tasks that she often puts off with those same positive feelings. She acknowledges that she is far less likely to procrastinate on a task now because she feels so positive about her previous experience. Achieving something new, whether it’s learning to ride a scooter for fun or creating a successful business means stepping outside of your comfort zone. But, when we do step outside it’s often stressful and sometimes terrifying and we often stop or sabotage our potential success. So, when we do take that leap, however small it’s important to acknowledge it. Celebrating everything is a great habit to get into; positive reinforcement creates greater chances of success. And, it feels good!
So, tell me again why you wouldn’t reward yourself for a job well done?
I leave you good folk with this message: Celebrate Everything! Give yourselves permission to celebrate your achievements and, when no one is looking give a little whoop.
Oh, and while I think about it: Rover auditorium, summer of 1990, the other message here is pitch to your audience! As a former member of Toastmasters International let me tell you, there is nothing more important when you’re up on that stage than to know exactly who it is you are speaking to. Because I have learned, thankfully through someone else’s experience, that it’s surprisingly easy to make over eight hundred people turn against you in a split second.
Now for the real reason you tuned in … enjoy the scooter pictures from the SBSA Family Day & Custom Show at the Dashwood Arms, Piddington xx