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Exhilaration and Letdown of Success

You've worked on a big important project for months, maybe years. You've put in many long hours, stressed over problems, and rejoiced over big successes. You've been stretched beyond your comfort and came out a success (or maybe not) -- and you are better for the experience. You've probably had doubts in the down times, and huge expectations in the great times. It has been a roller-coaster of emotions. The day finally comes that you are done. All the details are wrapped up -- a big red bow is tied on your work.

Now what?

Move on to the next project. Probably. But what about the one you just sweated over? It can't just be over like that. There is an exhilaration and a depression of finishing something that you've poured so much of yourself in. Our minds won't let it just end with nothing to commemorate the accomplishment.

I found in the early days of tech (and still in some startups) that successes, and project successes in particular, were celebrated. Sometimes celebrated very heavily! It was a big event and we wanted to congratulate each other and revel in our accomplishment. Sadly, this is mostly gone. There may be an obligatory "party" that is not much of a party, or nothing at all.

I have found that celebrating successes is an important part of my life -- at work and outside work. Little things. Big things. All things! Going out to dinner and having a toast with some great wine and recounting the effort and accomplishments. Whatever is a celebration to you. I even re-instituted the high-five for tiny accomplishments. It is silly but it is a commemoration. It works. It is recognizing someone, or us, for doing something great.

I believe these celebrations help create the stories of our lives. They build on our culture. They reinforce what we value. It helps us cement in our minds and memories the significant and important events. This becomes our folklore, the stories that we retell and embellish for years.

I now work mostly alone. So who high-fives me?

Celebrating accomplishments are still important even if it is just me on the project. I tell my wife or a friend about the successes. I recount the hurdles and she supports me, and even sometimes high-fives me on successes. We may have a nice meal to commemorate the accomplishment. It's nice to have this. It's important to me.

I just finished an emotional and difficult series of paintings. The paintings are all lined up and polished, the photos are done, the website is updated, the book is out for publishing, I've posted to social media, and an email will go out shortly. I am exhilarated and a bit depressed. I miss the process and the work. I need a celebration. Probably tonight. Then I can start on the next adventure!

Do you have a great celebration story? Or a lack of celegration story?

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