Monday, 4 March 2013

Rejection is Challenge

"This is good but, not the kind of work we are interested in. However, we'd like to thank you for trying and we wish you the best in your future endeavors."

Most of us crumple upon finding this two-liner in our mail. But, history is replete with stories of rejectors who have eaten many a humble pies.

Recently, a friend who is keen on writing, did not make it to the final list in a novel writing contest. She was so hurt that she quit creative writing for more than a month, engaging her efforts instead, on writing commissioned articles for magazines. This one is for her and for everyone who wants to throw a curve ball but is stopped because it does not fit in to the existing norms. Don't worry about being the square peg unable to fit into the round hole. Just don't try to fit in. There also exists a square hole made just for you and your ilk.

My advice for those faced with rejection would be, thank the rejector. When life throws lemons at you don't worry, make some lemonade. Treat rejections as challenges. They should make you doubly determined to follow your dreams. Also remember that not everyone understands your vision but in a world of 7 billion there are millions who embrace your dream. You just need to persevere to reach them. Dream on and dream big.

One of the contemporary world's most celebrated artist, Vincent Van Gogh led a tormented life. He was shunned and ridiculed and only sold one painting in his lifetime and that too to a friend! But, he never quit, leaving behind over 800 pieces. In today's market, his art is priceless.

And if that was not enough for Van Gogh, when Irving Stone sent his manuscript, "Lust for Life," this is what came back in the rejection letter, "A long, dull novel about an artist." But, the rest as they say, is history — perhaps history enjoying another little joke at Van Gogh's expense through Stone.

Rejection should not be treated as humiliation. Treat it as a challenge instead. Otherwise, there would be no Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was fired from a job quoting, 'lack of imagination'.

J.K Rowling, the author of Harry Potter series, speaking at Harvard in 2008 did not discuss success. Instead, she spoke of 'failures'. Her own in particular.

“You might never fail on the scale I did,” Rowling had said. “But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.

Her story is perhaps the most famous, failure-reversed-to-resounding-success stories of the 20th century. Today she may be richer than the Queen of England. But, back then, she was a penniless, recently-divorced, single mom, she wrote the first Harry Potter book on an old manual typewriter.

The manuscript was rejected 12 times. It was only a year later that Bloomsbury decided to go with it and that too it is believed was a fluke that made it possible. She was also advised to get a day job by her publishers because, 'there was no money in children’s books'!

Now, imagine those who had rejected Rowling's adventure series when it had come to them. Think how they must be kicking themselves for their lack of foresight. It is a sobering thought, isn't it?

Many dreams are nipped at bud by teachers and peers because of their own limited understanding. But, there are also a  handful who make mockery of the criticism and come on top.

As a young boy, Charles Darwin gave up on a medical career. He was often chastised by his father for being lazy and too dreamy. Darwin himself wrote, "I was considered by all, my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect." Perhaps they judged him too soon, as Darwin today is the man who proved the theory of evolution. He is perhaps himself the best example of his theory of 'survival of the fittest'.

Sir Edmund Hillary’s gym instructor ridiculed the puny school boy despairing, ‘What will they send me next!’ That same boy by conquering the Mount Everest trumped his master's ill-asked question.

Then there is Beethoven whose music teacher had declared him, "hopeless at composing!"

It is imperative to dream. We stop existing the day we stop dreaming. Dreams are a manifestation of our power to achieve. We just need to believe in them.

Actor Amitabh Bachchan, speaks freely of his failures. On how his deep baritone voice was rejected by All India Radio and how he was turned down as an aspiring actor because of his great height and lanky frame. He however, lived on next to nothing and slept on benches but persevered. and won the National Award for the best debutant for his first film, Saat Hindustani. The rest of the journey, we all have grown up watching — it's history!

Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, everyone of them was asked to pack up and try something else.  Monroe was advised to find a day job as a secretary and Elvis was suggested to keep his day job as a truck driver. Beatles were told that guitar was not popular any more! The list is endless and the victories so great that many of these stories have been buried under the edifice of achievements so unique and great that the rejections are now laughable.

Scientist and inventors have often had to walk through fire, live in extreme poverty and deprivation and often fear of persecution to bring the world one step closer to the truth. Think Copernicus and Galileo and how the Church discredited and then censored their theories.

Let rejections not worry you. It does not matter what others think of you. What does really matter is what you think of yourself and how much do you believe in your dreams.

The best thing about dreams is that they are a manifestation of your own imagination. You should have total control over them. Forget about age, society, family, peers, mentors or religious propaganda. If you think it can be done by you then you can do it. Go ahead, chase your dream because that is the purpose if your life.

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