Almost every leadership or management book that you pick up these days points out the fact that we do not devote enough time and effort to celebrating our successes. With ongoing pressures in the workplace, it’s just easier to check another item off the list as done, and move on.

My neighbor is the best at celebrating achievements of anyone that I have ever met. She has led a truly successful life. She has a house, a cook, a chauffeur, and a host of people to attend to her every need. At two years of age, she’s made it!

I remember not so long ago she was toddling around the yard, eating grass, and barking at my dogs. She was ferocious. She was also very uncouth. But that was yesterday and this is now.

She has become a woman of the modern world, of sophistication. She wears designer outfits, hosts parties where she is showered with gifts, and gives recitations on topics ranging from the color of the sky to the rampant theft of noses. However, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the celebration of accomplishments.

There is a certain amount of theatrics to her revelry which generally commences with a flailing of arms, the sputtering of spittle, and the shuffling of feet. Depending on her level of achievement, she may even burst into spontaneous song or speech. But the ceremony always ends in the same way when she utters the magic phrase, “Ta-dah!”

Greeted by laughter and applause, the celebration is complete. All who participate are uplifted.

I have to admit my celebrations are not so dramatic. I seldom say, “Ta-dah”, and I can’t remember the last time I broke into joyous verse. Over the years I have lost some of my enthusiasm and have become bogged down in the corporate mire.

Additionally, my sensibilities have been numbed through scientific training. I have been taught to deaden my emotional response to experimental results. Limiting my expectations of outcomes means that I have less to lose should an experiment turn out differently than predicted. University culture also discourages raucous displays for academic achievement. Ivory towers seldom shake with laughter or elation. Sports, on the other hand, are another matter.

Today, however, I am almost giddy. Eli Pearce, former ACS President and University Research Professor at Polytechnic, sent a note to say that he liked one of my articles. I know this doesn’t call for a parade with a big brass band, but I respect Dr. Pearce very much, and his note was all it took to brighten my day.

To celebrate I think that I will invite my neighbor and her entourage over for hot fudge brownie sundaes. And after I have devoured the last drop of syrup from the bottom of my bowl, I guarantee I’ll say, “Ta-dah!”

This article was written by David Harwell, Ph.D,, Assistant Director of the ACS Department of Career Management and Development. Originally published in the chemistry.org newsletter June 18, 2007.

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