November 19, 2018

Be Gracious in Your Victories

Be gracious in your victories! What comes to mind first when you read this? Possibly “gracious” is not a label you’d associate with being “victorious?” Certainly not in today’s world—right? The images and words of the victors today are rarely construed as gracious.

Why should you, I, or anyone be gracious in victory? Because it is proven to be a quality essential for growing your influence, increasing your impact and expanding your contribution.

Be “Gracious in Your Victories” is “Principle #2”  of impact, influence and contribution.

The Six Principles of Impact, Influence and Contribution


  1. Humble in your aspirations.
  2. Gracious in your victories.
  3. Resilient in your failings.
  4. Visionary in your perspective.
  5. Grounded in your choices.
  6. Persistent in your purpose.

You Know You Are Competing When…

I am not a fast learner. My collegiate basketball career ended almost faster than it began. Coach Anderson called me into his office.  He quickly said, “Jim, we love your energy and enthusiasm.” Now I lean in with anxious anticipation! Then he said, “You’d be a positive influence on this program.” “Hmmm, okay coach tell me more!” Then I heard the word you don’t want to hear. You know “THE WORD,” “But…”

My heart sank. I am sure all the color washed out of my face. “But, what,” I thought? “You are not big, but you are slow,” he said. There is was. The two things any competitive athlete (or someone trying to be an athlete) does not want to hear in the same sentence—not big, but slow.

You know you are competing when there is something at stake. “To the victor goes the spoils,” as the saying goes. We each may have differing relationships with competition, but make no mistake about it, if we perceive something is at stake we are competing. 

The Emotions of Victory

Winning is fun! It is always more fun when we win. You certainly remember big victories you have won. Get a good picture of one your greatest victories. Take yourself back to that moment in time.

  • How did it feel? 
  • Who was positively impacted by it? 
  • Do you still have something around that reminds you of it?
  • How did it (or does it) shape how you think about the future?

The emotions of great victories never fade. If anything they become stronger—even postively squewed. These emotions and recollections become so strong in fact, researchers have found they can be a barrier to achieving future success.

Success Can Threaten Your Best Future

One of the fruits of success is confidence—the courage that fosters a belief that we can compete and win. However, confidence does not make us fail-proof, but instead can beome an unhealthy and unproductive confidence. 

Confidence becomes a burden and limitor when it gives rise to pride/ego that blinds us to our shortcomings and leads us to believe we can succeed without study, preparation and practice.

When success goes bad it commonly manifests itself as pride. Unfortunately for us, false or destructive pride is easy for everyone to see except the person who is blinded by it. Success that threatens your best future looks like not being able to admit fault or wrong, ignoring feedback, feining curiousity, discounting advice or correction, failing to acknowledge or consider others, and craving recognition and attention.

Understanding Competition and Strategy

The confidence that comes from success turns against us the moment we celebrate them outside of the context of competition and strategy. Strategy, by definition, is the game. How do I beat a competitor knowing that competitor is trying to beat me.

Our competitor is anything that stands in the way of us becoming who we most want to become in order to grow our influence, increase our impact and expand our contribution. Victory and success does not mean the end of competition. And in many cases that competitor is not a physical or external opponent but is the enemy that resides within us as our thoughts.

How to Be Gracious in Victory

Every outcome, win or lose, is a data point. They identify where we are at a given moment in our journey. Thus being gracious in victory begins with the mindset of “So what—now what.”

Think about it this way. No one succeeds or fails on their own. We, by nature, are prone to take more credit than we deserve when we win and shoulder more of the blame than we deserve when we lose. Psychologically we over elevate ourselves in victory and over personalize loss. 

A “So what—now what” mindset treats victories simply as a data point. They define a result that does nothing more than define the starting point for what’s next.

Don’t Ride the Highs Too High

Early in my career, I received a great lesson on the importance of being gracious in your victories. I was an ambitious and competitive young sales professional. I loved the competitive nature of sales and left no doubt in anyones mind that I intended on winning.

One of the most successful and experienced sales professionals in our office didn’t seem to fit my image of a high-stakes sales professional. He was cool, calm, and aloof. If anything he gave the appearance he was disengaged. But every week, month, and quarter he was a top producer.

I remember asking Vic what the key was to his success. “Jim,” he said, “the key is don’t right the highs to high and the lows too low.” He was simply gracious in victory—no wasted energy or emotion. 

Where Are You Today?

The journey of our lives are simply marked by data points. Highs and lows over a continuum of time that show where we have been. As data points they represent how we got to where we are without any emotion attached. Now, what we do with them is up to us.

”So what, now what?” Be gracious in your victories and focus on taking the next best step towards growing your influence, increasing your impact and expanding your contribution. 

Put the Principle to Work

For each of of the six principles, I have created a worksheet to help you think about and put the principle to work.

What you'll learn:

  • Thinking About Your Victories
  • So What, Now What—Take a positive step forward!

Click to Download Principle #2 Worksheet

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