It’s funny how those two things are related, rejection and motivation. It’s not necessarily that one begets the other, but they are definitely linked. Circle of life, and all that.
I was recently in Washington, D.C. as a mentor for over one hundred of the brightest and most inspiring high school juniors and seniors America has to offer. They were motivating. They showed me that the future of the United States will have young minds willing to work together to produce change and not just lock foreheads and shout at one another. They showed me that the call to public service isn’t dead. They showed me that the “Me Generation” can rise above that simplistic title and become the “We Generation.” They showed me that the future is bright, despite what everything around us may say. They were curious, intelligent, and specific in their well-researched questions. They wanted to know the “why” behind everything. They wanted to make a difference. And when they asked me to speak about my own path through life, I talked about being one check ride away from failing flight school.
Failure is not an ugly word. It holds no judgment, no emotion, no weight. Failure exists. We make of it what we will. Usually, we are afraid. We do not want to try something that may not result in success. We do not want to look like fools. We do not want to stumble and fall, for getting back up is hard. But what I talked about was that failure is part of our lives. If we do not try something new, we are never learning. Failing is a natural part of life, should be a natural part of life. Failure means we have put ourselves out there and risked something. Failure means we don’t yet have the skills or tools to succeed, but we may next time. I said to be proud of our failures. If you put 100% of yourself into something and still fail, so what? At least you tried. At least you know you had nothing left to give and therefore that endeavor is something beyond your capabilities right now. But you tried. Look for the silver lining. Find the lesson learned. Adapt and overcome and try again.
And so rejection comes into play in my own life. I am no stranger to rejection or failure. These things present a challenge, a war cry, and to battle I go. In writing, I throw myself into the ether, submitting short stories, memoirs, even a poem or two, and wait. I have a spreadsheet filled with writing pieces submitted throughout the world. I list their status: Submitted, Published, Rejected. Over two-thirds of my sheet bleeds red with the stamp of rejection. I rally for the next round. Failure, rejection, I let them slip across my back and into the void place they rightly belong. “Submit and forget,” my grad school advisor reminds me. And so I do.
Meanwhile, I look to life for inspiration. I try to find the joy in simple things: early Spring buds, my chocolate Labrador’s smile, warm eggs fresh from the coop. And I continue to write. I harness motivation to move me beyond failure. If I do nothing, submit nothing, failure wins. I am a competitive person by nature – two lawyers for parents and a fraternal twin to compete with – and so I must continue in the direction I am heading. One day, things will fall into place. Until then, I’ll just keep swim…. er, submitting.