I think I’ve spoken before about how, as a writer, I spent years and years and years knocking out material only to be rejected and rejected and rejected.
I used to think, back then, that it was a sign of my own weakness, my moral shortcomings, my inability to be articulate and disciplined and witty and engaging and a good storyteller and so on. Essentially, I used to think that being rejected as a writer was a negative.
These days I realize how wrong I was.
Yes, being rejected hurts. Being rejected humiliates. Being rejected stings in a deep way that only someone who really lays it all on the line and then hears “Sorry Charlie, no thanks,” can understand. The “owch-factor” is brutal.
Matter of fact, the owch-factor is probably why so few people actually ever really attempt to reach for their dreams in this world… cause coming up short can be way more painful than not ever having tried at all because then you can always tell yourself, “I could have if I tried.” Which is Bullshit! btw.)
Of course, these days I am much more philosophical about rejection. Sure, it helps that I am now under contract for my tenth published book aside from having captained an immense curriculum project that represents the best teaching I have ever done. Plus, nowadays all kinds of major publishers are eager to work with me. Truly, I am one of the lucky ones. (And I work hard not to forget it.)
However, rejection is a giver of wisdom once you can learn to put your own feelings of having your ego bruised aside. Rejection teaches things. (BTW, I don’t know that success doesn’t teach things as well — I won’t go that far to say that the wisdom rejection offers is more profound than that of success because both, I’ve learned, are pretty profound if you are paying attention.)
But nowadays, I see more of a pattern to rejection. And it’s staring us all in the face if we pay attention.
For example, read this article.
Look at what Warren Buffet has to say about rejection in the piece.
“The truth is, everything that has happened in my life…that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better,” Mr. Buffett says. With the exception of health problems, he says, setbacks teach “lessons that carry you along. You learn that a temporary defeat is not a permanent one. In the end, it can be an opportunity.”
Mr. Buffett regards his rejection at age 19 by Harvard Business School as a pivotal episode in his life. Looking back, he says Harvard wouldn’t have been a good fit. But at the time, he “had this feeling of dread” after being rejected in an admissions interview in Chicago.
And the other night, I was burned out so I turned on the tv. (Rare for me.) Lo and behold the biography channel was showing an episode on Rodney Dangerfield. Literally, what I learned about the man amazed me.
Rodney Dangerfield was once Jack Roy, a comedian who never made it. For 12 years Jack Roy toiled. Finally, he got married and quit showbiz all together. For the next 11 years after that he sold aluminum siding. (Middle class successful, too.) But he kept writing and writing and writing jokes. Finally, he couldn’t stand his life anymore and hit the stage again… with a new name. (Yep, Rodney Dangerfield.)
He ended up on Ed Sullivan.
He ended up being one of Johnny Carson’s favorite guests. (25 million viewers a night at the time.)
He opened a comedy club, did a few movies (Caddyshack and Back to School being all time classics, IMHO) and basically, Rodney Dangerfield became the man we know today. (Or used to know – he passed a few years ago.)
As it turned out, Rodney was a writer’s writer as well. The guy made it look so easy, “I tell ya, I don’t get no respect…” but Rodeny didn’t even hit upon that tag line til he was in his fifties.
Over 30 years after he started in show business!
And all the pros in the comedy business talked about how Rodney was so precise and meticulate with his lines. How he’d re-write and re-write and re-write jokes.
In the tv piece, Rodney talked about how it would talk him 3 or 4 months to write 6 minutes worth of material for Johnny Carson.
Four months to write 6 minutes? Wow.
Rodney knew rejection.
Warren Buffet knew rejection.
It taught them success.
And if we can teach our students this, we will have taught them something of great value.
Don’t give up. There is an Outstanding Plus Side to Rejection.