When I was in my 20’s, it was my dream to be a great poet, published and recognized for the depth and quality of my work. I had other jobs to pay the bills, but writing poetry was the work I did to express my authentic self. Of course, if you’re going to be a recognized writer, you have to send out your work for publication. You have to be seen. This realization at first sent shivers down my spine of fear and excitement. I was sending myself out into the world with each envelope of poetry mailed off to a new publication!
Well, you can imagine what happened. I had some lucky hits that struck the right target magazines and got published. I also had dozens of rejections returned to me as small slips of paper with mostly impersonal messages-- “Thank you for your submission. Your work does not fit our current requirements.” At first, I was dismayed that my own original voice was not being heard out in the market place.
Then I began to see the humor in being rejected from so many different magazines from all over the country. I started plastering a wall in my bedroom with the rejection slips, because I wanted to write, and I wanted to show that they weren’t going to stop me. Also, I figured if someone had sent me a rejection, that meant that, in any case, they had seen my poems. Whereas, if I’d never sent them out, no one would even have read them at all.
To paraphrase from former professor Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, “If you’re wanting to create something and you hit a wall, it’s the universe saying, ‘How badly do you want it?’” I wanted A LOT to be seen and heard in my own unique way-- & curiously, these tangible rejections reminded me that I was staying on track with my vision. All I had to do was find the right targets, educate the right people, and I’d be out there with my published poetry. And that’s what happened.
Now when I coach people who are serious about going in a career direction that’s radically new for them, we do exercises to play with their attitudes about what it is to be rejected. Rejections can be learning experiences that remind you of what you want and what you don’t want in your life. Remember, too, that rejections often have to do with conditions beyond your control (e.g., who’s in charge, finances, etc.). Rejections can actually help remind you to take charge of the directions you choose, the people with whom you connect, and the way you educate your contacts about the benefits of what your plans. Rejections can be motivators that help propel you forward!
Join in the conversation!
- What’s your dream or vision for yourself?
- How badly do you really want to achieve your dream?
- What will help you find the value in rejections as you go forward towards your dream?