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Lose with Dignity: The Art of Manliness by Brett and Kate McKay [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2012-5-20 04:38:55 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Chinoy at 2012-5-20 05:50

“I cannot describe it. I cannot give you any idea of the kindness, and generosity, and magnanimity of those men. When I think of it, it brings tears into my eyes.”  -Charles Marshall, Aide de Camp to General Robert E. Lee

General Lee was wearing a new dress uniform, complete with a red sash and exquisite gold studded sword. Grant, who had not expected the surrender to happen so quickly, was in rough field garb, speckled with mud from riding to the McLean House. When Lee made the decision to surrender, he had said, “there is nothing left me but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.” But not a trace of his anguish could be seen as the two men sat across from each other as the Civil War drew to a close.  Grant reflected on that meeting:

“What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing over the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered much for a cause.”

The men conversed genially for a time before getting down to business. Grant had no desire to add to the humiliation of the man who was 16 years his senior. He did not take Lee’s sword, allowed the Confederate officers to retain their sidearms, the soldiers to keep their horses and mules for spring planting on their farms, and all the Confederate army to return to their homes free men, if they pledged never again to take up arms against the Union. He also offered to give 25,000 rations to Lee’s starving soldiers.

The two generals parted cordially after their meeting. As Lee mounted his horse, Grant doffed his hat in respect, and his officers followed suit. Lee tipped his hat in return and rode off.

4 years. 625,000 deaths. And yet one man was able to accept defeat with dignity. And the other was able to claim victory with grace.

Grant and Lee were examples of true gentleman. And yet how often do we struggle with doing likewise in the comparably small losses and wins of our lives? How often do we fall into the trap of being the angry sore loser or the smug victor?

In this two part series, we will first look at how to lose with dignity. We will then explore how to celebrate with grace.

How to Lose with Dignity

Accept responsibility for the loss.

A boy blames everyone and everything but himself when he loses—the refs made bad calls, the teacher had it out for him, somebody else must have cheated. A man takes responsibility for what happened.

Bow out gracefully.

No one respects the man who’s still howling for another recount even after the votes have been fairly tallied or the man who’s still pleading to go double or nothing once he’s gotten into a hole. Once you’ve lost, bow out with your dignity intact.

When General Lee realized he had no choice but to surrender and informed his officers of his decision, one lamented, “O General, what will history say of the surrender of the army in the field?”

Lee answered:

“Yes, I know, they will say hard things of us; they will not understand how we were overwhelmed by numbers; but that is not the question, Colonel; the question is, is it right to surrender this army? If it is right, then I will take all the responsibility.”

Acknowledge the winner.

At the conclusion of the 2010 Superbowl, Peyton Manning moped off the field without shaking the hand of opposing quarterback Drew Brees and those of the victorious Saints.


Some said this was not unsportmanslike—that Manning was simply disgusted with the loss and should be able to openly show that disgust (the “do whatever you feel like!” argument). But a failure to acknowledge the victory of your fellow competitor shows a lack of respect for him; a man can be your rival, but you can still admire his courage and his fight, and the fact that on this day, he fought harder. Sulking away also shows a lack of discipline on your part—you are so overwhelmed with anger and grief at your loss that you cannot think of anything else but your own pity. Being able to control your feelings in that moment is the mark of strength and self-control, not to mention perspective.



The presidential election of 1824 was a particularly bitter contest between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Jackson had won the popular vote. But without a majority from the electoral college, the decision was thrown to the House, which chose Adams to be the next president. On the night he lost the election, Jackson attended a party at the White House where he came face to face with his rival. The moment was tense as the two men stared at one another. With his wife on his arm, it was Jackson who made the first move, extending his hand to the president-elect and cheerfully inquiring, “How do you do, Mr. Adams? I give you my left hand, for the right, as you see, is devoted to the fair. I hope you are very well, sir.” Answering with what an eyewitness recalled as “chilling coldness,” Adams responded. “Very well, sir; I hope General Jackson is well.” A party guest was struck by the irony of the exchange: “It was curious to see the western planter, the Indian fighter, the stern soldier, who had written his country’s glory in the blood of the enemy at New Orleans, genial and gracious in the midst of a court, while the old courtier and diplomat was stiff, rigid, cold as a statue!”

Of course if your rival is so despicable that he does not warrant even an iota of respect, then you need not give him the respect of your acknowledgement. But be absolutely sure of that–in the heat of the moment you’re apt to think he won through nefarious means, only to realize later, once your anger has cooled, that he bested you fair and square. This goes for contesting the results as well–unless you’re pretty sure that your case can be proven, it’s best to be quiet; causing a row is apt to simply make you look like a petty, sore loser, hurting your reputation further.

And in some cases, even support the winner.

You’ve been putting in overtime at work. Doing the crappy jobs nobody else wants. Kissing butt and taking names. But when an upper-level position opens up, you get passed over for a new hire. You’re livid. You think about quitting but don’t really want to. So you stay, but how will you treat the new hire? Will you rejoice in his foibles as he learns the ropes? Will you seek to sabotage his success? Or will you put aside your bruised ego for the good of the team?

Learn from the loss and move on.

Some men manage to put on a dignified face immediately after a loss, but later proceed to question the victory of their rival—“He caught a lucky break,” “I don’t think he really did the project himself.” Instead, maintain your dignity and move on.

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Post time 2012-5-20 05:56:05 |Display all floors
PART II
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.

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Post time 2012-5-20 05:56:48 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Chinoy at 2012-5-20 22:02

Part III
Humble brags are so prevalent on things like Twitter and Facebook because folks sometimes use these platforms not to share updates, but to craft a persona and shape the way others see them. A humble brag is typically used online in order to share “news” that isn’t really news at all, but serves to show people that you’re doing something cool, and you’re the kind of person who does X.

Whether you’re sharing news of your success in the real world or online, it’s best to deliver it straight up. You may worry about coming off as smug, but it’s actually better to come off as smug, than to appear as someone who’s smug but trying to hide it. People are more annoyed by duplicity than pride.

Really, the best rule to follow here is one that will serve you well in all areas of your life: if you feel you have to cover up what you’re doing, even a little, that’s a sign you shouldn’t be doing it at all.

Resist the “How do you like me now?!” impulse.

When you achieve something that people all along the way doubted you could do, it’s very tempting to rub it in their faces. “How do you like me now, haters?!” And undoubtedly, talking about the obstacles that stood in your way on the road to the top can be appropriate, especially when it serves as inspiration to others. It’s neat to hear that some successful upstart got turned down 30 times by investors before becoming a billionaire dollar biz. But this shouldn’t be the focus of your celebration; otherwise, this behavior inevitably makes you look bitter and tarnishes your reputation.

Exhibit A: Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Jordan could have given a speech like those who preceded him the night he was inducted—John Stockton and David Robinson. Their speeches were filled with gratitude for those who had helped them during their illustrious careers. Instead, Jordan used his speech to criticize the teammates who froze him out of the 1985 All-Star game when he was a rookie, the college coach who chose other players to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the Bulls general manager for saying that organizations and not individuals win championships. He even flew out the now grown man that his high school coach had bumped him off the varsity team for his sophomore year, just to be able to point to him and say to his old coach, “I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.” That was his message to everyone: “Haha—you guys were wrong!” But Jordan’s record already said that loud and clear; showing he was still bothered by such slights made him seem petty instead of magnanimous.

Don’t punish the loser further.

The victory is enough; there’s no need to kick a rival when he’s down.

After General Lee surrendered at Appomattox and General Grant shared the news with his troops, the men started shooting their guns in victory. Grant asked them to cease firing, saying, “The war is over, the rebels are again our countrymen, and the best way of showing our rejoicing will be to abstain from all such demonstrations.”

He also decided not to go through Richmond on his return to Washington D.C., as he did not wish to do “anything at such a time that would add to [the South’s] sorrow.”

Some folks cannot be helped.

It’s gentlemanly to want to avoid coming of as Smugly McSmugs Alot and to make an effort to celebrate with grace. But keep in mind that no matter how tactfully you handle your success, there are always going to be folks who feel you’re stuck up. They’re jealous and projecting those feelings on you. Don’t worry about it.

Lose with Dignity, Celebrate with Grace

The ability to lose with dignity and celebrate with grace is rare in our society, but examples of gentlemanliness remain. Case in point: Delaware’s “Return Day.”

The Return Day tradition started in 1791 when Georgetown was established as Delaware’s County Seat. Residents of Sussex County had to travel there on Election Day to cast their ballots. Two days later after the votes had been tallied, folks returned to Georgetown to hear the results announced. Carnival-esque festivities attended the reading of the winners.

The tradition still continues today. On the Thursday after Election Day, businesses and schools close and Delawareans from all over the state converge on Georgetown for the Return Day festivities. There’s an ox roast, a hatchet-throwing contest between town mayors, and a most unique parade.

The winners and the losers of each political race put aside the rancor of the election and sit together in horse-drawn carriages that make their way through town. And then the chairmen of the Sussex County Republican and Democratic parties meet together to literally bury the hatchet. Each grasps the handle of a hatchet, and together they plunge the weapon in a box of sand.

A great tradition, I think. For it symbolizes the fact that makes it possible for each of us to lose with dignity and celebrate with grace: no matter how small or large the contest, life goes on.

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