My senior year of high school in Illinois, I was ranked #2 in the state in the long jump. I remember showing up at track meets and hearing the whispers around me: “That’s the guy.” Being aware of that notoriety fueled my adrenalin and sent me soaring outwards near the 23-foot mark. I loved to jump. I mean I really loved to jump. I was dunking the basketball three years earlier as a sophomore. By my senior year I had an entire repertoire of dunks. I was demonstrating raw talent. Today, 38 years later, I put in the training and dunked it at age 55.
And that, my friends, is called bragging. The boastful stuff that swells your head like a pumpkin on steroids. As if that wasn’t enough…
My best 5k time is 16:08. At age 50 I ran a 4:45 mile. I’ve held my breath underwater for over 3 minutes. My lowest recorded heart rate is 38 beats per minute.
Massive pumpkin. Hard to fit into an elevator.
Six years ago, on a Carnival cruise ship, I won the ship’s free-throw shooting contest. I went three rounds deep in the playoffs, before sending a 19-year-old baller from New York back to his stateroom, crying like a pathetic mama’s boy. (Okay, so it was only me that saw it that way. Big deal.) I was awarded the exclusive, highly decorated golden plastic trophy. Last year, on a Royal Caribbean ship, I was bequeathed a golden First Place medal for winning the Western Caribbean Golf Tournament. (Okay, so it wasn’t really a golf tournament. So it was a 9-hole, super tiny, miniature golf course, sandwiched between the sport court and boogie board surfing simulator. Big deal.) But I sank a hole-in-one to go into sudden death with two other players. Two holes later, I was crowned Champion. Amidst my playing up the ridiculousness of attaining such “victories”, there was a part of me that wanted it publicly known what I had accomplished. And so I did it via non-verbal bragging. I wore that silly medal to dinner that night. Wore it like I had won an Oscar. “That gold medal around your neck—what did you win?” “Oh, I never thought you’d ask! Well, let me tell you…” And while I suck at real golf, that night in bed, I replayed the hole-in-one as if I’d just discovered something as unbelievable as unfolding the secrets to time travel.
We are born, and then we die. And in between what did you do? What was it that set you apart from the ordinary?
I say, brag about it. Don’t be so modest that on that final day of your life, as you lie immovable in a bed, you have a head full of incredible, but unspoken laurels. Don’t pass from this Earth, leaving it up to a family member or a collage of photographs resting on an easel to finally give insight as to what you accomplished or what you dearly loved. Let those laurels be the ones that you can truly rest upon. Don’t wait a lifetime to finally divulge.
You’re telling me she wrote all of these poems? They are so profound. Who would’ve thought she could write like this? I would’ve loved to have talked to her, to learn from her. I had no idea!
He was a water skier? He built that magnificent tree house? Seriously, all of those arehis medals from the war? I had no idea!
Ever notice when an older person shares (or even boasts) of all the places he has travelled to, or speaks of his many achievements, that we listen without complaint, without ridicule of him being too prideful. He’s 91-years-old and, instinctively, we feel obligated to give him our attention. His life is wrapping up. Let’s find out who he was, what he did, how many grandkids he had, what kind of car engines he liked to tinker with, how fast he ran. If he never took the opportunity to brag about himself, then, for sure, give him free range to do so now. The clock may be ticking, but it’s never too late.
Bragging is defined as the act of talking boastfully. To be boastful is to show excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities. What I’m encouraging people to do is to pull back the harness on the arrogance that is associated with bragging, and to convey something in a more tame boastful manner. Simply put: speak proudly. Soft brag. Unlock the magical unknowns that truly define who you are, and let them run loose in the streets. Don’t put a leash on them. Let them forever run free.
I have a strong curiosity about people. Not so much about what they’re doing, but rather what they’ve done. What is the history that has made them who they are? What obstacles have they had to overcome? What surprising humanitarian deeds have they done? What has defined them that they can brag about? Perhaps you weren’t much of an athlete, or never had the time and money to travel, and so achievements such as those never fell your way. Maybe you looked obesity square in the eye and said, “To Hell with you!” and proceeded to drop the pounds, promising yourself every day to never give up. 70 pounds later, as you stepped onto the scale, you nearly dropped to the floor sobbing with joy. Perhaps you have experienced other things that also penetrate our emotions: rescuing a suffering animal, surviving a near-fatal car accident, or surviving cancer.
And then there are the moments we take for granted that could use a good bragging. The diamonds locked in our memories. Taking your 4-year-old daughter to the river and letting her see her first family of snapping turtles, where not a word was spoken, but just the look in her eyes, large as Chinese lanterns. Those big baby blues consuming the sight of six turtles soaking up the sun as they sat motionless on a log rising out from the water’s rippling surface. So you were never the fastest runner, the highest jumper, or the strongest swimmer. So you didn’t have athletic ability. You lead a very simple life, and never cracked open a talent that set you apart from the common folk. Then, as you and your daughter strolled the banks of the river, you found yourself with an enthralled curiosity about all the interdependencies of plants and wildlife. Understanding wildlife habitats, aquatic ecosystems, and the hierarchy of the animal kingdom came easy, as you learned not from books, but rather from immersed observation. In a relatively short amount of time, you would later start a nature tour company, all because you had the gift of opening people’s eyes to the subtle nuances of nature that could so easily be overlooked. This journey of discovering yourself, of finally grasping what sets you apart from others…perhaps it’s time to brag. And what better reason to brag if your daughter was the main catalyst.
Don’t hold it in. Set aside modesty and advertise yourself for just a bit. You don’t have to do it in such an arrogant fashion that your legacy will teeter on the brink of disaster. Simply speak up a little, nice and proud. Just enough to let the world know you were king for a day.
Copyright Ros Hill 2016