The Secret of Success …

OK, I’m about to reveal – at no charge to you – the secret of success, in all aspects of life.

Pay close attention … No, that’s not the secret, I’m just letting you know you should pay attention because I’m about to reveal the secret.

You ready??? You sure?? Are you sitting down?? Notebook in hand???

Ok, ok, alright already, here it is (commence drum roll)….

————->>>>>> REJECT REJECTION <<<<<<————-

Oh, I know. It’s not that impressive. It’s trite. And it’s fairly obvious, so calling it a secret is a bit of a stretch. Probably that exact phrase has already even been used in some 7-step, self-help book (I purposefully didn’t Google it, cuz I didn’t want to be dissuaded from writing this piece). If I were to be completely forthright, there are probably other, just as important keys to finding success in life – Do What You Love, Practice Often, Floss, Take Vitamins, Don’t Waste Hours and Hours of Your Time on Facebook Games, etc. etc.

But I’m interested in making this as simple as possible, so we’re shrinking the playbook, focusing on the core. And as simple as Reject Rejection may sound, trust me, it’s a bitch of a mantra to truly absorb. (At first I was thinking of writing it as Don’t Fear Rejection, or Embrace Rejection, but there’s just something catchy and catch-22y about Reject Rejection)

The reason rejecting rejection is such a surprisingly tricky thing to accomplish is simple: We all inherently care about what people think of us, and of our work.

We seek affirmation, and feel lonely and dejected when we don’t get it. Those are very tough emotions to let go of or ignore. I know I haven’t yet learned how to do it, and it is very likely I won’t be following my own advice anytime soon. But if you want to be successful, you should do what I say, and not what I do.

I first began obsessing over this philosophy last fall when I was finishing up a Gotham writing class, and the teacher was giving out his final pearls of wisdom before sending us on our way. The one thing he kept harping on was how often we were going to be rejected if we planned on pursuing writing for a career.

He in fact highly encouraged us not to send in samples of our work to literary magazines, editors or agents unless we were damn sure we were ready for the torrent of form rejection letters that would be hurled at us like so many poisoned darts. He kept going on and on … You will be rejected. A LOT. Be prepared … I had really liked our teacher up to that point, but he was beginning to piss me off.

Look, it’s highly probable there weren’t any undiscovered Hemingways in that class (well, maybe some Mariels, but no Ernests!). We had all shared our writing with each other and none of us were that good. Some of the folks were barely literate. But who the fuck cares? We are told so often in our lives to be careful, and to be prudent, reminded about the long odds, and the need for fallback plans. What if we just went for it, and never stopped until we came to the end? If we didn’t care about being rejected, if we rejected the concept of rejection, then failure literally wouldn’t be an option, and wouldn’t that be a thrilling way to live …

Later that same week, I read Neurotick’s humorous post about his problems meeting women, and it made me realize that a fear of rejection can have rather crippling effects on our personal lives as well as our professional ones. I can’t begin to think about all the times I’ve seen a pretty girl in the street, or at a bar, maybe even noticed some flirty eye contact or smile flashed in my direction, and yet lacked the nerve to make a move, letting the opportunity pass … all because I was afraid of being rejected. Again, why the fuck did I care? So what if I got rejected???? I wasn’t likely ever going to see this person again – the only thing I had to be afraid of was my foolish, illogical pride.

And fear of rejection doesn’t just get in the way of pursuing a career or finding a woman. It affects almost every decision we make.

On some level, of course, this makes sense as we are often only rewarded, monetarily or otherwise, when people approve of us or something we’ve done. But as I see it, rejecting – rather than fearing – rejection is ultimately a much more fruitful strategy for two main reasons.

1) Confidence sells.

Whether we’re talking about flirting or job interviewing, there is no question that people respond well to confidence, even if it’s misplaced. I may think a guy who goes over to a random woman and puts the make on her is annoying and overly cocky, but I’ve seen that approach work time and time again. One of my friends told me he had this college roommate who would hit on anybody. He’d be rejected A LOT, but he didn’t take it personally and he also usually had a date.  When you reject rejection and look like you truly don’t care whether someone accepts what you’re selling or not – like you’re doing them a favor by offering it in the first place – you will get more favorable responses. Bank on it.

2) There’s no accounting for taste.

Look, the crappy Independence Day did over $800 million in sales worldwide, while the brilliant Arrested Development got canceled after 53 episodes.

Genghis doesn’t like Curb Your Enthusiasm, but has no problem dressing up in an outfit that looks like a Tropicana factory exploded on a Liberace-designed robot.

Some women like men with hard bodies, a full head of hair, and classically handsome facial features; thankfully, some like scrawny men, with scraggly beards and thinning scalps, and large Semitic noses.

The point is, you will never EVER please everyone, so why get upset if one person, or dozens of people, decide they don’t like you or what you’ve done. Examples abound of incredible artists who died penniless and mostly anonymous because their work wasn’t appropriately recognized in their lifetimes. What if Walt Whitman had stopped writing poetry when critics panned his Leaves of Grass anthology? Or if Van Gogh had stopped painting when his first efforts disappointed family and critics alike?

And who cares if all those people rejecting you are right anyway? That you suck, and you’re ugly, and will never amount to anything? As far as can be determined, we only get one shot at this living thing, and I can assure you that more people will respect you for following your heart and shooting for the stars than for hiding in a corner and watching the parade pass you by. Not that other people’s opinions matter anyway. Remember, if you reject rejection, then the only ones who can fail are the ones who don’t accept you.

So there it is. My secret to success in all aspects of life: Reject rejection.

Use it to your own advantage, or don’t. I couldn’t care less. (Ahhhh, if only that were so …)

4 Responses to “The Secret of Success …”


  1. 1 dude January 12, 2009 at 4:22 am

    i agree, but why did you only give examples of guys getting girls? isn’t your presime that this is the secret to all off life? is your entire life dedicated to hooking up?

  2. 2 bob January 12, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    good question, dude.

  3. 3 deadman January 12, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    dude, bob, i didn’t just give examples of guys getting girls – i think i mentioned that rejection happens in all areas of life, and it can affect us in our careers as well as our personal lives.

    In fact, the main reason why I first started thinking about this was related to my long-held, simmering desire to become a writer and how I have probably been letting fear of rejection keep me from pursuing that more aggressively. And that only after I read the aforementioned post about meeting women did I really start thinking about the other ways a fear of rejection can affect one’s actions, making us miss out on all types of opportunities as well as potentially compromise on who we are as individuals.


  1. 1 Deadman’s A-Z Guide to Living: Fear « Dead Man Blogging … Trackback on January 29, 2012 at 5:37 am

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