Leading Indicator of Success: How You Deal With Loss, Failure, Rejection

Many years ago, when I was working as an associate editor for North Light Books (another imprint of F+W Media), I applied for the lead editor position on Writer’s Market. I interviewed with three different people in the division. I wanted the job so bad that I would drive around Cincinnati interstates late at night, for 30- or 60-minute stretches, just thinking about how much I wanted that job.

I didn’t get it. The hiring manager encouraged me to keep trying to transition to the Writer’s Digest community if other positions opened up.

Within 2 weeks, a managing editor position with Writer’s Digest magazine was posted. I thought: They’ll never hire me for that job. Why bother? I have no magazine experience. And so I didn’t apply. Another 2-4 weeks passed, and the job was still posted. I remember staring at the job description in the lunch room, finally snapping out of my self-pity, thinking, Why the hell not? What have I got to lose?

I got the job. The rest is history.

Of the thousands of writers (and creative people) I have met, all have failed at one point or another. No one is immune. That’s why I so consistently preach passion and persistence. If you don’t have the passion inside you to motivate yourself to continue, you might not find the persistence and strength you need when faced with failure, loss, and rejection.

There isn’t a lack of wisdom for writers (or the human race) when it comes to failure.

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.
—T.S. Eliot

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
—Thomas Edison

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

your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it.
But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with
plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid
this failure, because you won’t. it’s whether you let it harden or
shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you
choose to persevere.
—President Obama

I know right away when I meet a person who has been hardened or shamed into inaction. It can happen to all of us, at some point, especially when we’re young and invincible or new to something, and plan to take over the world. Then something happens, we’re blocked, and we dip into despair, self-pity.

You can go there, but you must move through it. The longer you let the failure consume you, the more fierce the casualties. The happy (and usually successful) people I meet have a resilience that you can sense when you talk to them—people who understand that failure, loss, and rejection are all part of the game (no matter what game is being played).

I tend to associate failure with loss. Most failure impacts our sense of self, our confidence level—whether we were able to accomplish something. You can lose a piece of yourself in failure, if you let it. It can lead to a loss of identity, a crisis. Loss sometimes triggers a recognition of a failure (both real and not real).

So you have to take failure and shine a different light on it. Think of it as (1) being a part of life and part of the process (2) bringing you one step closer to success (3) a learning moment (4) an opportunity to make a positive change (5) helping you find better relationships and wellsprings of support.

Can you change the light on what’s happening? Do it, and you’ll be closer to making your mark on the world.

Photo credit: WorldIslandInfo.com

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0 thoughts on “Leading Indicator of Success: How You Deal With Loss, Failure, Rejection

  1. maryjale

    The Writer’s Perspective," a blog dedicated to the publishing industry and other writing-related news. She’ll keep you up-to-date on the writing essentials, all while providing links that might be interest you and commentaries on the industry’s hottest topics. Stop by for a visit.


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  2. Alban

    You are right. It is always good to keep in mind what we want and are passionate about and focus on that instead on our imagined hurt. It is always the same thing, isn’t it? Without forgiveness or letting go of what we think the obstacle is, we die by our own thoughts about the story we tell ourselves. In our mistaken thinking we take things personal, way to serious, and lose sight of what drove us prior to our perceived defeat. We are in charge of what we focus on. We hold the power of decision. Thank you.

  3. The Writer Mama

    You know I recently learned from personal experience that Internet is a giant copy machine. It would have been one thing to hear it but it was another thing to experience it. I didn’t like it. I’m not sure I still like.

    But the value of painful or uncomfortable experiences is that they become lessons we don’t forget.

    I get it now: the Internet is a giant copy machine.

    I won’t be likely to forget it…and that’s where something once painful can make us wiser.

  4. Sherry

    Thank you Jane, I needed this post. It is so hard not to get the writer’s blues. We strive for excellence and when we are shot down, it hurts…it hurts real bad but the ones…the true conquers of the art of writing never stop. We create a shield of armor and slash the competition with our pens, and one day at that moment of turning back a small shimmer of light gives us hope and onward we march to the winning battle.

  5. Bob Mayer

    Rejection is part of life, especially a writer’s life. Part of Who Dares wins is breaking rules– and there are three rules of rule breaking: know the rule; have a reason for breaking the rule; take responsibility for breaking the rule. Dealing with rejection comes with the third part. You do something different to stand out and once in a while it works. Often it gets rejected. I often feel perseverance is more important than talent. As they say on Galaxy Quest: Never Give Up. Never surrender.

  6. Becky Levine

    Wonderful post, Jane–thanks.

    A little over a year ago, I pitched an idea for a writing book to an editor named Jane Friedman. She answered that they didn’t really have the market for that book. So I swallowed deep, took a breath, and pitched another idea, that some writers in a panel audience had been asking about.

    A year later, I am finishing revisions on that book and sending it off! Yes, keep trying!