Rejection Number 12

I hate Saturdays. Saturdays are writing days—and I'd rather french kiss my mailman during corona than write another one of these damn blog posts.

I resolved this year to write 52 blog posts in 52 weeks. I wanted to do it in part to improve my writing and thinking, but also because I knew it would plain old suck.

I have a knack for quitting things I don't like, and there's not much I despise more than failure. I wanted to get over this fear of mine along with my tendency to equate me fail-ing to me being a fail-ure. And what better way to dive headfirst into a pool of guaranteed failure than writing publicly?

Roughly 97% of book sales are made by 20% of the authors[1]. And not every manuscript is getting published. Even J.K. Rowling got her pitch for Harry Potter rejected 12 times before becoming the highest grossing book series in history.

But what if she quit? Would any of her friends and family batted an eye if she had given up after rejection number 12?

While there's no way J.K. Rowling could have known it at the time, but she faced a billion dollar decision point. Do I quit, or do I continue despite the risk of failing again?

I've spent most of my life holding back so I'd have an excuse for failing, and if I wasn't slacking off on purpose I abandoned the game altogether. But I'm not sure that failure can ever really be avoided. Isn't a life of not trying a failure in itself? Can we really find comfort when deep down we know we're leaving so much on the table?

I might hate writing. I might be terrified of failure. But I also hate regrets, and you never regret trying.

Even if Rowling stopped at rejection number 12, I say she'd deserved a round of applause for getting that far. You're not a failure for having failed—you're a failure for having never tried at all. Maybe that's harsh, but if it stings there's probably some truth to it.

There's a fine line between persistence and delusion, but I say we embrace that crazy itch to strive. Were the colonists making sound decisions when they uprooted their family to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and effectively invade a new world? Absolutely not, but bless 'em.

America was built by nutbags and I think it's the nutbags that will continue to push us forward. Elon Musk is trying to literally put people on Mars. He also just named his kid X Æ A-12. Is Elon a crazy person? You'd best believe it, but he's also an American. And for better or worse, Americans make crazy shit happen.

It's easy to say you're not an Elon Musk or J.K. Rowling, and you'd be right. We're all unique and have our own set of capabilities and opportunities. But would J.K. Rowling be J.K. Rowling if she had given up after rejection number 12? What's your rejection number 12? What's mine? How much of our potential are we leaving on the table? There's only one way to find out.

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