A few days ago I posted something on Facebook that was more or less a joke about my own death (because my humor). In it I mentioned getting thrown out of a plane, at some far off date, with a parachute made of all the rejection letters & emails I had received over the course of my (hopefully long and generally happy) life.
A few people hit me up to make sure I was ok, they thought the post was a cry for help after being rejected or something. Some thought I was making light of the fact I had failed at something (life?). I expressed appreciation for the love and concern… but had to reassure that I’m good. There was a lot going on in that post (Steph Curry 2s, Foreigner), but for some reason that rejection-letter-parachute thing got people thinking.
I got a few inquiries from folks asking how I dealt with rejection. Ah… now we’re on to something.
As someone who’s pitching SOMETHING all the time, whether on my own behalf or for a client, I get regular doses of rejection and being ignored. Constantly. To the point where I’ve forgotten what it’s like to get seldom rejected. This isn’t counting the countless times I’ve gotten songs or verses shot clear out of the sky (or altogether ignored) by my bandmates. One gets a thick skin.
Here’s five rules I have learned to live by:
- Don’t Take Anything Personally – Of course this is easier said than done. In the attention economy, if you’re not offering immediate and obvious returns to someone paying attention to you, get ready to get ignored…. or put on the back burner. If you’re responding to a call for something and aren’t hearing anything back, be prepared for consistent and well-timed followup, or to just let it go altogether. Taking things less personally and letting them go all become easier when you have the next rule working for you.
- Cast a Wide Net – In other words, have so many possibilities going for you, so many wheels turning and so many irons in the fire that if one thing goes ignored, you’re so busy that you’ll barely notice. Stack the numbers in your favor. The other upside to this is, if you have numerous possibilities out there, there is a good chance you also have more rejection coming your way, which just makes you stronger and more savvy. It also decreases your needed emotional recovery time between “rejection scenarios” to the point where it can become nonexistent. You automatically bounce back from every setback on fresh feet, with no time lost in between.
- Remove Expectations – One of my favorite lessons learned as an artist is that once you put something out into the world, it doesn’t belong to you anymore (if it ever did). Neither do people’s reactions to what you put out. It is done, and now you’re moving on to the next project. Similarly, once you apply for something, pitch yourself for something, run an idea by someone…. once the pitch is done, it is done. You may never hear back. Don’t expect to. And that’s ok, because you have already started tending to the next garden (read: cast a wide net). If you are inclined, come back and tend to this one when you can (read: followup). When it becomes apparent that nothing is happening though, move on to your other options. ALWAYS HAVE OPTIONS.
- Know The Difference Between Rejection & Failure – I’m not here to define the two, you can Google that on your own. Once you get it, don’t forget it.
- Try For Something Bigger – Maybe you were playing it too safe. Maybe you were aiming too low. Reach higher, define greater stakes and claim them. Eventually you will have them, and getting turned away by low-hanging fruit becomes a hobby, or practice, like sparring and hitting the heavy bag. And you will slowly eliminate fear of going after big kills. If something low-stakes turns you away this time, go for something even more grandiose next time. Watch how quickly you grow.
Unofficial tip #6 is talk to people about your let downs. Be an open book. Getting it out there lessens it’s impact, and you’ll also hear from other people about how they dealt with theirs. Having a community to lean on is therapeutic and helps you not take yourself so seriously.
Good luck building your own rejection parachute 🙂
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#builtonstilts #keepitmilky #dragon