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Sherry Russell BCBT BCETS

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7 Lessons from Rejection's Autopsy
by Sherry Russell BCBT BCETS   

Last edited: Monday, September 29, 2003
Posted: Monday, September 29, 2003

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If you could autopsy rejection, perhaps it would unfold a golden formula. A golden formula for detaching the emotional self so dealing with those dreaded stinging barriers wouldn’t be so crushing.

7 Lessons from Rejection’s autopsy
By Sherry Russell GMS

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Thomas Edison

If you could autopsy rejection, perhaps it would unfold a golden formula. A golden formula for detaching the emotional self so dealing with those dreaded stinging barriers wouldn’t be so crushing. Ahhh, wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy? Rejection is an ogre lurking in the corner like a sassy cat eager to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Once it pounces, rejection drapes you with self-doubt shading your straight thinking view from your true goals. It isn’t easy to pry open rejection forcing it to disclose the puzzling deceptive authority it looms over us, but it can be done.

Like the crushing grip of a powerful vise, rejection undermines self-esteem, confuses goals, as well as spins you off center. Allowing rejection to invade your emotional self feeds into its empowerment. It will gladly meddle with the nourishment of spirit, body and mental attitude. Whether rejection be small or large, it is mighty in the eye of its target person. Dissecting through all the layers of snags, is actually a soul-searching journey into life’s priorities.

Being an author, I have learned to accept rejection. It’s a rather untidy mate as it has taken up residence in the cobwebby part of my brain along with fear, those dreaded moments of low self esteem, and the “ I don’t wanna do this anymore” cry of despair. Rejection used to have a magical powerful grip on my self-esteem. With the nod of a “no thank you”, my self worth drained from me in a flash vanishing into the stratosphere. One of the most amazing magical tricks rejection used to pull on me was instantaneously changing my sweet charming self into a chilling stone of moping pouting misery. A nanosecond filled with rejection and I allowed it to trample on my attitude for the next hour, day or week. I used to wonder why as an author, I had a hard time giving myself credit for well written prose and yet when I received a rejection (a form letter no less), I immediately noticed how expertly phrased it was with saw blade piercing prose.

Then I decided to become a draftsman for my own positive survival in a world of heart breaking setbacks. Once I autopsied rejection, it lost the power hold on me. After all, when you logically think about it, success comes after you pogo around in the field of possibilities and rejections long enough. Rejection, therefore, is nothing more than an unavoidable colleague as you blaze a path onto the foothills of successfully obtaining your goals.

The following are seven lessons I learned while dissecting rejection to force the opening of the gripping powerful vises:

First, you must give rejection its due. It does have the power to make you jittery, disturbed and leave you feeling like flabby contaminated goods. The lesson is to fight off the invading rejection with an armadillo glistening armored shell. The “rejecter” is not saying no to the “rejectee” personally. They are making a judgment call for the need at that time coupled with the pre-determined idea of what they are looking for. If you take the rejection as given, it should be viewed as a minor snag to your major well thought out and worked for objective.

Second, understand that rejection has the capability to get the best of you, if you become an ostrich. Ostrich thinking confuses the truth rather than confronting truths. Ostrich thinking leads to rejection’s contagious disease and it will lasso you if you aren’t aware. The disease is “rejection avoidance” which becomes complicated by “success avoidance”. Scary, isn’t it? Fortunately, there is a cure. The cure is choosing the right path. Learn to invest your time wisely. Don’t put anymore of your time into a negative situation. Rise above it and move forward. No doubt, getting a rejection pirouettes you into a temporary let down. At that point, you determine whether you should move on with “next” or if you will dwell on that particular “no”. The disease is best avoided by the attitude of “next”. If you have placed enough baited fishing poles with your idea into the sea of opportunity, you will certainly have a “next”. If you don’t take the cure, you just might stay in the pursuit of getting ready to get ready. One day I was talking with a professional woman who decided to enter the world of personal career coaching. Two weeks later she was still getting ready to get ready to start work. She had first to purchase the right clothing, then she had to set up an office, then buy a brief case, then, oh for goodness sakes, it just went on and on. Excellent case of “rejection avoidance”.

Third, accept the momentousness of the desire to savor your ideas being trumpeted and your art form admired. Beneath the glorious themes of wealth and fame, everyone wants to be accepted. Rejection will stomp a wild polka on all those dreams but only if we let it. Social disapproval is an exhausting blow. Sometimes, when you confuse who you are with what you do, rejections may chase you into a protective “hermit mode”. When this happens, you set yourself up for failure. Sounds crazy, but it happens more than you think and more easily than you can imagine.

Fourth, beware of the victim mentality brought on by the “rejecter”. If you are living in the “why me” –“what did I do to deserve this” type of reality, you have entered the reality zone where victims are intrigued with their own victimhood. They begin to build a relationship with their rejections rather than keeping an eagle eye on attainable goals. Victim mentality dominoes, leading you to conclude false beliefs about your talents and abilities. It lends a hand in self-defeating purposes and loss of prevailing actions. This odd enough, will make you successful indeed– at reducing your chance for success!

Fifth, you have the ability to choose how you react to situations. If you opt for reacting in a positive manner to criticism and rejection, you will construct a healthy personal truth blooming with matter-of-fact explanations for the rejections. This will spring forth positive results while expanding your opportunities for success. By keeping things in perspective you won’t dawdle. Dawdling is the unique individual inclination to find shrewd ways to justify doing later what you should be doing right now.

Sixth, face your rascals. The hidden you, the little ogre voice that questions your actions and hustles up self-doubt. When countered with a positive reaction, rejection won’t covertly twist your goals into knots of distractions. Understand and acknowledge your stress buttons. Relaxation techniques can play a winning role in neutralizing your stress rascals. Learn to relax your mind and your body. Take to heart the importance of correct breathing techniques for when things aren’t going your way. I personally find yoga a perfect way to balance an ever-growing stress portfolio.

Seven, spend time with someone important – you. Determine what your style is in responding to rejection. I don’t know about you, but I know my life certainly has qualified several times over as best selling lyrics to an old style country song of woe and pity. What makes the difference in life is the way you choose to respond. Rejection is neither a negative nor a positive. What it is and how it will affect you, is up to you. By focusing in on your core values you will always keep perspective as to the exact impact of the rejection and where it stacks up in your life priorities.

Don’t mistake the use of autopsy to mean rejection is dead. Rejection is alive and panting blasts of challenges on us every day. The lessons learned from yanking and pulling apart the emotional impact of rejection gives you choices. You can choose to squeegee away the gloom and doom negative bump in the roads. The lessons allow you to conquer and take back at least a smidgen of control in an otherwise chaotic world of likes and dislikes. There is a helpful duo to strengthen the day to day episodes of dealing with rejection and criticism. The team of persistence and consistence will do the trick. Persistence is the continual action of pursuing your goal while staying consistent in your core values and faith.

Staying consistent isn’t easy when confronted with ego stomping criticism. The process of being examined through a faultfinding microscope is distressing. There is a hefty investment in the emotional bank when you publicly present your inmost musical imaginativeness. Your emotional investment situates you in a rather fragile and tender position, especially, if criticism comes in a hurtful sharp form rather than a just analysis of the project. When your core values are deeply rooted, you can determine for yourself if there is suitability in the comments. Look for the truth in all critiques while considering the source. Keep your eye on your goal of turning out the best work possible to ward off the negativity of backing yourself into a defensive mode. If the critique has the smack of a gavel, ask for more specific details to help evaluate the overall complaint. Keep in mind, every opinion made may offer an item urging you to unearth your finest talents.

I wish I could pitch the idea that with the simple action of staying positive you could observe rejection being chased away like a mockingbird chasing an egg robbing crow from its nest. But being positive to rejection isn’t effortless and rejection never will be yielding. Understanding rejection doesn’t make that stinging uppercut to the jaw less hurtful but it will make the impact only momentary and fixable. You can’t get anywhere in this life without struggles, hardships and confrontations. Happily for us, life is a balance. We can weather proof ourselves to charge through the formidable storms so we may experience the brilliance of flourishing goals, the splendor of mastered hardships, and the richness of the meeting of the minds through confrontations.

Let me leave you with this thought, I remind myself of the miracles of acceptance in this world of rejection every day. Timing of finding the right person to receive the perfect information/idea at the precise time for the designated project is a miracle. The biggest risk you take in your life is to do nothing with it. Sure, rejection causes agony of spirit but where would we be without daring ventures? We wouldn’t be musicians, writers, artist, and free thinkers.

Creativity, like rejection, is perpetually drifting afloat in the sky. Not everyone will like what is in his or her pluck’s reach but just move around a bit and try again to pluck some more. Minimizing the negative impact of rejection is difficult yet making a commitment to do so will give you a competitive edge. For once you can use rejection as a stepping stone to your goals. The path you lay with these stepping-stones is of your choosing. Do yourself a favor, make it an invigorating fun and amazingly captivating path propelling you to new heights in achieving your dreams.

Personal Advice

Charles Bernstein – Composer, SCL Board Member
On criticism: I guess my observation would be that the words "criticism" and "rejection" might be re-cast in our minds as different words. When a filmmaker doesn't respond to a musical idea I have presented, I don't necessarily have to view it as "criticism," but as guidance or direction. I try to remember that they not critics or judges, but people trying to get the right score for their film.

On rejection: By the same token, when one of us doesn't get a certain job, we don't have to call it "rejection." Someone else got the job instead of us. Let's face it, everyone in the film industry gets passed over for jobs all the time. Not getting hired is actually part of the job of being a freelance composer. We might as well get used to it, and not apply the word rejection. After all, they don't say, "I reject you for this job." If they don't use the word rejection, why should we?

Miriam Cutler – Composer, SCL Board Member
On criticism: When you decide to be a composer for hire, by default you are saying you want to collaborate with others - otherwise you'd be making records or playing music by yourself. I always try to enter the working relationship with filmmakers with an open heart. By accepting the assignment, I'm agreeing to contribute everything I have to offer as a composer (and as a person) to supporting and enhancing their vision for the project. A big part of my job is to create a safe environment for the creative work and put them at ease by encouraging honest communication. This can't happen without candid discussions during the process. I always bear in mind that there are infinite possibilities for every cue - what approach you take, what style, instrumentation, notes, keys, and on and on. If a director doesn't think one of my ideas works, then I try to discover the reason and build on that.

An emotional reaction to this process is counterproductive. Trying to convince them to like something is also counterproductive. As in all artistic work, initial gut reaction really is the best gauge. Over the years I've learned not to get attached to any particular cue or approach, rather - to embrace the process and what our collaboration yields. As in any relationship, if there is mutual respect, than the sum of our ideas tends to be more than our individual contributions. And the best part is that the work stays fresh and unique. When I do start to react emotionally, I try to remember that.

Dan Foliart – Composer, President SCL
On rejection: Having someone to talk to (a partner, spouse, friend…) is very helpful. I had a writing partner for 8 years and it was great having someone to commiserate with during the down times and keep my spirits up. In my experience I would only get about 1 in 7 shows I tried for, so when getting rejected from a show, I just looked at it as the law of averages. Also remember that much of the time, not getting a gig has nothing to do with you or your music. There are other external stimuli such as pre-existing relationships with other composers and so on. We all get rejected from gigs we want, it’s part of the job – don’t personalize or dwell on it or it will start affecting your future work.

On criticism: I’m one of the worst people when it comes to taking criticism. You can be guaranteed that given ample time, you’ll get lots of criticism from lots of people – much of it conflicting. Don’t get defensive about your work – we’re not writing symphonies, we’re writing music for a client. Therefore it’s their decision. Try to figure out what’s bothering them and how to fix it.

Shie Rozow – Composer/Music Editor
On rejection: The way I see it, people get hired not just because of their creativity, but also because of their personality, reputation, contacts and so on. If I don’t get a gig, I look at it is part of the game. We win some, we loose some. I don’t look at not getting a gig as a personal reflection on my talents, or me, but rather as a situation where things didn’t line-up in a way that would allow me to do the project. They’ll line-up better on a different project.

On criticism: This is a hard one. I pour a lot of emotion into my music (whether composing or editing), and therefore take a lot of pride in my work. I always try to do the best I can at any given time, so when a director or producer doesn’t like what I’ve done it stings inside. The thing to remember is that they’re not trying to rain on your parade; they’re trying to get the product they want out of you. After all they hired you, not someone else. If I’m there, it means I am the one they trust to get the job done to their satisfaction, and therefore I try to take criticism as direction and figure out what to do to get the music to where they want it to be.

Jonathan Wolff – Composer
On rejection: This is the major leagues. When you swing hard at the fastballs, sometimes you miss. And there’s no real "how-to" pamphlet on avoiding or handling rejection. Even with great training, I’ve had some really spectacular failures. I don’t regret them. In fact, my most memorable moments of stunning clarity have been achieved while studying the mushroom clouds of my career. Sometimes, from the fallout occurs an unexpected zenith of understanding.

I’ve found that a person in the approval chain who has actually participated by investing time and money into the music that you’re creating for them will consider your work with more interest and respect. If you (the composer) establish that the market value of your work is zero, it’s not the fault of the producers if they are predisposed to agree with you. The pain of a spec demo rejection is made worse by the insult that you did the work for free. So my advice is never work for free – there’s always money somewhere. For example, if it’s not up-front, own your publishing, that way you own the product should it generate money down the road.

Web Site: Published article in fall magazine SCORE

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Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Reader) 9/29/2003
Excellent !!!!
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