First year at college I met a guy who I thought was the only gig in town worth seeing. (First mistake, no one is ever the only gig in town.)
He had crazy chops. Soulful, yet technically sound. Spirited, but also grounded. He was the best guitar player in the program. When he hit wonky notes, everyone assumed he was just getting creative. When he got lost in the middle of a tune, we assumed it was the piano player’s fault.
Naturally, I made a conquest of him. And when the relationship went south, I went down with it. I dragged his name through the mud, wasted hours writing meticulously crafted hate mail.
For the better part of a year, I was violently angry. I raged on the walk to the subway. I raged my way through improv class, invited my rage to dinner and tucked it under my pillow at night.
Sue me. I was 18.
Rejection hurts. Today, I know better. But rejection doesn’t hurt less as you get older, you just bounce back quicker. You put things in perspective faster.
Recently I got a bad review from an editor and had to take my painstakingly crafted article back to the drawing board. I thought of my former beau.
I remembered something very key. Something I’d conveniently forgotten to notice in years of music school.
Not everyone liked him. In fact, his style was totally unique and not a great fit for most of the straight-laced bebop that was being played at the time.
There will always be people who don’t like your work. They might’ve been sold by some minute detail in your marketing – your birthplace, a past client, your swanky address – only to realize that you weren’t what they were looking for.
And that’s okay. You’re not for everyone. And that’s a good thing.
It might be a wake up call to show up more fully and authentically YOU. No filter. No 2 drink minimum. When you broadcast your shizzle loud and proud, it’s harder for others to get the wrong impression.
Sometimes rejection needs to be put in its place. It hurts. It resonates louder than all the applause. But at the end of the day, it’s one person’s opinion. (Sometimes the higher paid they are, the more it hurts. But that's a whole other can of worms.)
In a moment of supreme clarity, I emailed my former beau (now a friend, despite the rage mail). I reasoned that even though I thought his guitar playing was (and is) the best on the block, at some point someone had probably told him it wasn’t.
I asked him to share a rejection story. And this is what he said:
Do I have any amazing rejection stories? Between music and the opposite sex, I’ve got a garage full. One time someone in one of my own bands flatly told me my guitar playing was “boring as hell, and no one likes to listen to that!”
This made my day. And it made me think. At some point, some very great minds have been rejected. Even Galileo had to concede that the Earth actually was the centre of the universe, bury his head and work out his scientific theories in silence for the rest of his life!
Your turn. When did you get rejected? Did you bounce back or did you die a slow and painful death?