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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rejection Is Not a Four Letter Word

This is a response to a great article from NPR. Rejection Is A Fact Of Life. Employers, Do It Right!

Quick summary. The author’s teenage son applied for an internship to which after he never received a rejection letter.

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been rejected before. I know you must find it surprising to hear that with all this talent and charisma, someone like The Mongo, who, besides pretentiously referring to himself in the third person, has been rejected. It’s true. I’ve been rejected more times than I care to remember.

Now, that’s not to say that rejection is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, rejection is grist for the mill. The moment you accept rejection as a final answer is the moment you fail. Of course, I’m not telling you to keep asking for acceptance when rejected. It is certainly a case by case basis. Persistence can lie somewhere just below stalking. Sometimes you have to know when someone is rejecting you for the right reasons and move on with your life.

But back to me, because it’s all about me, right? Rejection is an old friend of mine and sometimes I wonder why he hasn’t called sometimes. I mean there have been countless times in the past when I have applied for some job and never received a response. Worse yet, when you get an interview and then you never hear from someone again, that can be a little worrisome. Was I supposed to call them? Did they try to call me and I missed them? If you become too self involved with the job hunting process you could end up being Jon Favreau in Swingers. You get a little glimmer of hope, like an interview, or even a second interview and then you begin calling and calling, leaving countless messages with the company that become more erratic with each instance. Soon, the company has blocked your number. If they would have just told you the moment your application became an afterthought you could have regrouped or applied somewhere else or even just decided to go in a different direction.

I can only begin to imagine the reasons for not contacting someone in regards to their application. It might be because they have to wait until the position is filled to contact those candidates that were not chosen. It might be an automated process within an HR recruiting application that spits out a list of tasks associated with applicants not being considered. There might be some underlying bureaucracy that hangs the position out to dry and until it is finalized they cannot contact all interested parties. Both cases offer a different reason for prolonging the inevitable but when a position hangs out in the HR aether for over a year because a suitable candidate has not yet been found, I think it should be safe to contact the “also ran” crowd and let them know they can exhale.

I have also been rejected as an artist. I’ve gone on countless tirades about how CafePress moves one of my images into pending status with either no explanation or one that is contradictory to why another, similar, design is considered allowable. Frankly, this is more about principle than about being right or wrong. I accept, wholeheartedly, that there are some designs that should be flagged, but at least be consistent about it. That’s all the page space I’ll devote to that abused expired equine.

I’ve certainly been rejected in love, many, many times. Yet I have come to accept that it only put me on a better path to where I am now. There’s no way to know what might have been had another woman accepted my affections, without the use of a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts of power, but that could create a huge paradox and unravel the fabric of the space time continuum. Of course, but making that previous statement you have the answer as to why there is no need to wonder what might have been. Regardless, it wasn’t the right time or place for that to occur. There have been plenty of “Let’s Just Be Friends” moments in my life and a few cases of uncontrollable laughter that followed such declarations of feelings but one thing has always remained true. I’ve never found myself so distraught that I could not get up in the morning after being rejected. Rejection is a part of love as well as life and it should be embraced.

I’ve also been rejected as a writer, too. This must come as a complete shocker to you as part of the “reader elite” that makes up the average 20 hits I get per day. Just in case this isn’t coming across, this post is heavily laced with sarcasm. After all, I’m topical, humorous, grammatically proficient, and quite honestly engaging and worthy of a good read. But on four occasions I’ve had a screenplay rejected. The first one came in 1996. I submitted a screenplay directly to MGM. However, they sent it back unopened with a letter stating that they do not accept individually solicited screenplays. What did I know, I was 21 and thought I had a killer idea. I also believed that if I mailed myself a copy of the script, that was as good as a copyright. I was mostly wrong, on both parts.

The other three occasions came from the a screenplay I submitted three times as part of those Project Greenlight contests that happened back in the front five of this decade. In this case, a screenwriter submitted a piece of work and had to review and judge other pieces. Then a selection of the best pieces based on votes from other screenwriters would send a script to the next round where a panel of judges in the industry would narrow it down further. The winner would get their screenplay produced into a film with a budget of one million dollars. In the first two instances the winners came up shy of box office totals that exceeded their budget. According to my own suspicions I felt that the early judging process was a little slanted. In order to win, most people are going to trash other people’s work to give theirs a higher score. The actual percentage of objective critiquing going on there was probably small.

In my own house, I get rejected a lot, too. My gut feeling to do more work on leveling out the yard before putting up the pool was rejected in favor or getting the sucker up before the summer was over. Not that we’ve had a lot of great days to go swimming this last two months of summer. It’s been unseasonably cold and wet. However, there, in my yard stands a monstrosity that is 16 feet round and four feet deep…on one end. It’s also moving as the support pools are leaning to one side.

I’ve also been rejected on a lot of ideas I’ve had for how to get things done. My wife and I try to work together to accomplish goals like cleaning the house, running errands to the store, or general care of our two year old. Yet, we always seem to tackle these jobs together in the same space but with different approaches. I’ve constantly told her, “Let’s split up and tackle these simultaneously. I’ll go to the store, you stay here and give the baby a bath” or vice versa. Still, she feels compelled to go as a group into the fray and usually there is bickering and trampling of each other’s toes.

In every instance that I’ve ever been rejected it stings. A lot of times it pisses me right off to no end. But rejection is there to balance things out and keep you grounded. I’ve spoken before about how I detest the trend among community sponsored sports where there is no sense of failure. Soccer games that have no score and other sports where everyone gets to play and no one fails. Now, I can understand that to a three year old, failure is a rather moot concept and giving kids a sense of accomplishment is a good thing. So is a sense of reality for that matter. Kids need to know about failure. Kids need to understand that, in life, you can’t always get what you want. It’s going to get a lot tougher out there and the sooner they are able to process rejection and move on they will be able to not let it be a detriment to their character or persistence.

My kid fails on a regular basis. She falls down, clunks her head and cries. We kiss it and make it better and she goes on about her business. She constantly wants to take more stuffed animals in her crib with her at night and we tell her no. She gets a little upset and even goes into shut down mode which involves throwing herself on the floor in a crying heap. Eventually, she gets over it and goes to bed without further incident. She got rejected, processed it, and moved on to another thing.

So, the next time you get rejected think of it as a little more fuel for the engine in your spirit. Of course, I say that and I feel that my engine isn’t getting as good of mileage from rejection as it used to. Perhaps there is a program like Cash For Clunkers when it comes to rejection. If anyone actually read my work or shared it with others or even donated to the cause or bought a shirt that would be nice. Nope? Rejected again. Maybe next time.

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