Redefine Failure For Greater Success

Rejection may be only the first step

failureAn author’s life is filled with rejection. I know. I have bulging files of letters to prove it. The proposal for my new book, Why Did I Marry You Anyway? 12.5 Strategies for a Happy Marriage, had been submitted to dozens of agents and publishers with great expectation, only to receive letter after letter politely declining any involvement. I still remember the first one that said in part, “While a very good effort, we simply do not feel that we are the right publisher.” I was ready to jump off a cliff. With startling revelation, I had the grim insight that it was probably good my first fiancé dumped me years ago because it prepared me for my life as a writer.

After moping most of the day, putting the manuscript in the fireplace and checking the want ads for a cashier position, I re-read the letter. I noticed that the editor actually offered several suggestions to make the proposal and the book better and more marketable. While defensive and argumentative at first, I begrudgingly began to think that maybe they knew something about this book business. Evaluating their input, I decided to rewrite the proposal.

The rejection letters continued. But I stopped putting the manuscript in the fireplace.

With every rejection letter, I painstakingly reviewed each thought, all comments, and suggestions made by agents, editors and “volunteer” readers. I continued to write, rewrite, and write again. Each time that I thought, “It can’t possibly get any better. This is the best I can do,” it got better. I added stories, case studies, quotes, and yes, even some occasional epiphanies.

The book has been the best lesson in “failure” that I have ever had. Some of that instruction:

  • If six people say you have a tail, turn around and look. It pays to prudently consider feedback from others. And if you receive similar feedback from several different people, chew it over very carefully. Things may be a lot clearer from their vantage point.
  • Avoid myopic thinking. Staring carefully at your feet with each step will only trip you up. Keep your vision wide and mind open; to new ideas, creative directions and innovative ways of doing things.
  • Learn from each disappointment. Remember that success is always a process. It results from drudgery and an open attitude. And if at first, you do succeed, try to hide your astonishment.
  • Turn off the negative voices. You know the ones I mean; they play in your left ear telling you why you “can’t,” why you “won’t,” and why it will never happen for you. Turn the volume down on each one and listen to your heart instead. Practice daily rituals to affirm your goals, your direction, and yourself.
  • Success is not giving up. Whatever the endeavor, few people achieve their goals the first time around. The original Chicken Soup for the Soul was actually turned down by 26 publishers and now the series has sold over 40 million copies. As General Patton once said, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.”

An author’s life is filled with rejection. I know. I have bulging files of letters to prove it. The proposal for my new book, Why Did I Marry You Anyway? 12.5 Strategies for a Happy Marriage, had been submitted to dozens of agents and publishers with great expectation, only to receive letter after letter politely declining any involvement. I still remember the first one that said in part, “While a very good effort, we simply do not feel that we are the right publisher.” I was ready to jump off a cliff. With startling revelation, I had the grim insight that it was probably good my first fiancé dumped me years ago because it prepared me for my life as a writer.

After moping most of the day, putting the manuscript in the fireplace and checking the want ads for a cashier position, I re-read the letter. I noticed that the editor actually offered several suggestions to make the proposal and the book better and more marketable. While defensive and argumentative at first, I begrudgingly began to think that maybe they knew something about this book business. Evaluating their input, I decided to rewrite the proposal.

The rejection letters continued. But I stopped putting the manuscript in the fireplace.

With every rejection letter, I painstakingly reviewed each thought, all comments, and suggestions made by agents, editors and “volunteer” readers. I continued to write, rewrite, and write again. Each time that I thought, “It can’t possibly get any better. This is the best I can do,” it got better. I added stories, case studies, quotes, and yes, even some occasional epiphanies.

The book has been the best lesson in “failure” that I have ever had. Some of that instruction:

  • If six people say you have a tail, turn around and look. It pays to prudently consider feedback from others. And if you receive similar feedback from several different people, chew it over very carefully. Things may be a lot clearer from their vantage point.
  • Avoid myopic thinking. Staring carefully at your feet with each step will only trip you up. Keep your vision wide and mind open; to new ideas, creative directions and innovative ways of doing things.
  • Learn from each disappointment. Remember that success is always a process. It results from drudgery and an open attitude. And if at first, you do succeed, try to hide your astonishment.
  • Turn off the negative voices. You know the ones I mean; they play in your left ear telling you why you “can’t,” why you “won’t,” and why it will never happen for you. Turn the volume down on each one and listen to your heart instead. Practice daily rituals to affirm your goals, your direction, and yourself.
  • Success is not giving up. Whatever the endeavor, few people achieve their goals the first time around. The original Chicken Soup for the Soul was actually turned down by 26 publishers and now the series has sold over 40 million copies. As General Patton once said, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.”

And now, the rest of the story: Why Did I Marry You Anyway? was released by Cumberland Press.

About Barbara Bartlein

Barbara Bartlein is The People Pro. She presents keynotes and training and is an expert in workplace culture. Her new book, Energy Suckers-How to Deal With Bullies in the Workplace is now available. Visit her site for more information.

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