Reflecting on Failure and Rejection

As the end of 2019 draws near, I’m in my bed, on my laptop, severely jetlagged (glances at 3:49 am time), and doing my obligatory end-of-the-year reflection.

It’s been a fucking crazy year.

And while I can go on and on about all the incredible highs and lows that’s unfurled in 2019, I think my biggest takeaway of the decade is a simple lesson: Do not be afraid of failure. Get comfortable with rejection. Rise after each fall.

Both in the writing world and with my academic/industry life (to which this “lesson” is mostly applied toward), I’ve had the pleasure of celebrating fantastic successes–but what doesn’t get talked about nearly enough is the failure and rejection behind these successes. And I’ll be honest–I fail and get rejected, like a lot.

Failure and rejection are two words that evoke a strong negative emotion. And that’s a problem. Failure and rejection are inevitable, especially when striving toward goals that make you stretch and reach past your comfort zone. By associating such negative connotations with failure and rejection, how many opportunities have been bypassed just to avoid the sting of potential failure and rejection?

Obviously nobody likes to get rejected. It feels personal, it hurts, it’s disappointing. But here’s the thing–once I realized rejections aren’t personal, and that it was up to me to control how hurt and disappointed I would be because of a rejection, the world suddenly seemed much less scarier.

Of course it’s going to suck when something–whether it’s a novel, a research proposal, or job application–you put in dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of hours of work and effort into is turned down. Give yourself a set time to mope and be sad–vent to some friends, go on an angry run through the park, or binge watch a series with ice cream. But once that time’s up, move on.

And honestly, a side effect of receiving so many goddamn rejections over the course of querying 3 different manuscripts (100+ passes) is that it made me braver and better. You get used to it (to a certain degree–I mean, rejections will probably always suck), develop a tougher skin, and the idea of putting yourself out there doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.

If you don’t try, the answer is obviously “no.” And if you do try, and don’t get accepted, then “So What?” The world isn’t going to end (hopefully. Unless you’re trying to convince some madman from pressing the Self Destruct Earth button, then we need to talk.) Life will go on. If you gave it your best shot, then that’s all there is to it. Learn what you can, and apply this new gained knowledge to the future. Rest easy knowing you don’t need to wonder about those “What if I’ve tried?”.

Success is built on failures. Or at least, that’s the conclusion I’ve reached. Not saying we should strive for failure, but, any significant success is 99.9% of the time going to be preceded by some type of failure. So. Want success? Get comfortable with failure. Failure is proof you’re trying.

Sometimes failure offers insight to what can be done better. Sometimes things simply doesn’t go right and goes left (or up or down or sideways) instead.

Well, it’s almost 5 a.m. now and I have an early day tomorrow (or today, I guess), so I’m going to log off, pray there aren’t an atrocious amount of typos in this post, and end my philosophical-y life rambling here.

Here’s to a New Year of failures, rejections, and ultimate successes!

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