The Journey of a Thousand No’s

For the record, believe it or not, the conversation I mention below was had long before I knew of any such similarly-named children’s book. It’s purely a coincidence, but one that indeed proves great minds think alike.

Most of us have hopes and aspirations that are different than where we are currently. Right? Maybe you always wanted to be an artist of some sort, a writer of books or songs or music. A painter. A digital artist or cartoonist. A performer. A filmmaker or storyteller. Maybe an athlete or other competitor in some sort of professional capacity.

Whatever it was (is, I should say), the usual tendency is for so many of us to opt for the safe route. We get a job with benefits and security. We pay bills. Buy houses. We may never go all-in and go for it with those dreams out of fear, or maybe out of sensibility and logic. Maybe we’ve been told it’s too tough by someone we love and trust, and maybe we took their word for it.

Maybe our inner voices are not telling us the truth. Sometimes these voices sound like us, but are really the words and skepticism of someone else. Not everyone’s inner voice is as trusted and collegial as others. It all depends on what you have been fed and told in your formative years, and by who.

Sometimes what keeps us from the pursuit is the simple matter of the challenge itself. Some of these dreams take years to come to fruition and might involve going up against high volumes of competition with even higher stakes. They might cause us to risk spending years in poverty and financial insecurity before the eagle finally lands, if at all.

For some there is one thing and one thing only that dissuades them from going for it, and that’s fear of the sheer amount of rejection involved. The Arts in particular have this characteristic (as well as the aforementioned poverty and competition factors, of course).

But what if someone told you that your greatest dreams and aspirations for success, and the most ideal version of your happy life, are right around the corner? That the only thing standing between you and victory… is a thousand rejections?

No, seriously.

If you finished that rock opera you’ve been writing since the 8th grade (or that book you’ve been penning etc) and started out on the journey to get it produced/published/recorded, and were guaranteed to succeed in your mission on your terms and live the life you’ve always dreamed of… with the sole condition being that you have to endure one thousand rejections first before getting a Yes, would you go for it?

I have a friend who is an aspiring novelist. She is an extremely creative and artistically minded person with an exceptional imagination, an inventive way with words, and a unique perspective. She wrote a book and was unsure about seeking publication. The primary concern which she voiced to me? Rejection. The stress and disappointment, and risk, of rejection. After all, it’s a hard thing to take in any sized dose and it makes some tasks unattractive to those who would otherwise undertake them.

For many people, fear of rejection is enough to keep them away from their true goals and desires and cause them to choose a safer road with less uncertainty, less risk, and less rejection.

And less fulfillment.

As we were talking about this fear and it’s power to limit people’s ambitions, I naturally gave her my related take on it all as an actor. I mean, performing artists are no strangers to rejection, so I knew where she was coming from. I didn’t ask her the question above, but rather told her how I came to terms myself with this fear and with the massive obstacle that is rejection in my business.

Embrace the “No’s”. They are not permanent.

I knew going in that I was bound, absolutely and totally predestined, to be the recipient of numerous rejections before I’d get into orbit with my freelance voice-over work, as well as the other facets of performing arts (like TV and Film). My rationale was simple: if it takes me 1,000 rejections before I achieve success, well then I better get crackin’!

It’s not that I enjoy the rejection, I don’t at all. And I certainly do not go into these auditions and opportunities hoping to be rejected, ever. But I am acutely aware that there will always be more No than Yes in my line of work, and that the No’s will be abundantly front-loaded in the early years of this endeavor. This allowed me to fully embrace the notion of rejection. To accept it as merely one component of a larger process, and one that is essential for progress and success.

Each occurrence of rejection gets us closer to our goal. Sometimes we receive criticism and feedback from which we learn and improve. Other times we get rejected because we barked up the wrong tree, such as publishers who favor one style of writing over another or producers who favor only one genre of music, etc, and yours isn’t it.

We get turned down for various reasons. Some reasons have to do with us specifically, but not all. Fortunately, we get the opportunity to grow from each “No” and show up stronger the next day (yet another absolutely essential component). We learn what to do and what not to do. We learn where to go and where not to go. That’s where the power lies in this perspective. That’s why I’ve never been heartbroken or devastated by getting passed over for an opportunity. You cannot let it in.

I make sure I take away a lesson from each “No” and show up better and stronger the next day. And I also count that rejection as one of the thousand needed. Therefore, with every “No” I hear, I view it as being one more closer to the big “Yes” (not the ‘Harry & Sally’ kind of “Yes”).

This doctrine must have resonated with her too, because the next day she emailed me her manuscript to read. She had decided to start on her journey of a thousand No’s after our talk. To me, that felt like a win for sure. It warmed my heart to have been able to say anything at all that helped my friend, a true artist, to break through and break out.

Powering through, staying strong, and staying positive are among the prerequisites to success. Listen more closely to your inner voice than you do to the “No”. Never stop moving forward.

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