Today I am going to be looking at a something that virtually everyone that works in the creative industries will be familiar with. REJECTION.
Confucius said Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
That’s a quote that you will see appearing on social networking very often these days but it’s very easy to just pay lip service to it and dismiss and forget when the time comes that you need to take that advice yourself. Building RESILIENCE to REJECTION isn’t as easy as it sounds, so today I’ll look at what exactly it is and what it means AND at strategies that will help you to create and maintain it.
I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat. Sylvester Stallone Unquote
I trained as an actor so I’m no stranger to rejection, let me tell you that, and I worked as a professional actor for 17 years. Although occasionally I still take on a small roles in films if it sounds like fun and it works with my schedule, it’s something I no longer court. And I did pretty darn well as an actor it must be said though, and had some great opportunities playing great roles on tv and film and in the theatre amongst some really big stars like Brian Cox, Johnny Lee Miller, David Tennant, Sam Heughan, Peter Capaldi, Kevin McKidd, yada yada yada. Name Drop Name Drop. In all honesty though I can’t say I miss it as in amongst the roles I did get and I was cast for, I wasted countless days, week, months and years on fruitless auditions for parts I never came close to getting.
As a filmmaker too, I have applied for funding more times that I can remember, filling in endless long winded forms, pulling together supporting information and presenting projects that I had quite literally spent years developing and improving only to be turned down again and again and again… and again. I can tell you one thing about all of those applications - I was never successful. Yes you heard me; I was NEVER successful with a funding application.
I also realise that they pale into insignificance when considered as part of the larger world picture. I haven’t been struck down by crippling illness, I haven’t lost a limb or a child or been caught up in a war. When I look at the plight of others in unfortunate or disastrous or heart wrenching situations the day to day problems which we all have to deal with as creatives don’t seem so important after all, but they still exist, and they wear us down and if we let them get on top of us, can lead to more serious problems. The first-ever study of suicide by profession which covered England in the years from 2011 to 2015, showed that people who work in arts-related jobs are up to four times more likely to commit suicide. Among men working in culture, media and sport-related jobs, the risk is 20 per cent higher, and among women it is 69 per cent higher....
The risk is even more pronounced among individual professions. Male artists are more than twice as likely to commit suicide, and with female artists the risk quadruples and rates are also elevated among actors, entertainers and presenters.
There were 311 suicides among people working in culture, media and sport professions during the period of that study, but I didn’t need a study to tell me that. After spending 25 years in this profession I’ve lost many friends.
Now I’m tying those figures to an episode about rejection not because that study directly connected that topic to suicide, but because it simply cannot be denied that the constant rejection which we face in this industry can wear away at our souls and dissipate our joy.
It just can’t be denied that the passion for our work wanes as we are slowly driven under by small misfortunes and years of rejection and that’s why I want to talk about today.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller Unquote
So Adversity is a fact of life and don’t we know it? It’s something that the great philosophers have discussed for centuries and there are several lessons from history that pertain to this problem. The Greek philosopher Epictetus said:
Some things are in our control and others not. We control our opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and whatever are NOT our actions. The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained and unhindered, but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others.
In simple terms these philosophers explain that we shouldn’t waste our time worrying about things that are out with our control. Instead, the Stoics believed - Epictetus was one of them, and this is the big lesson here so listen up, they said that we should accept that misfortune will inevitably happen, but it is how we react to that misfortune, or adversity, or rejection that matters... and this brings me right back to Resilience.
But what exactly is it anyway? Psychology Today says that Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise.
And there’s a big message in there that I want to highlight. Adversity can have an incredibly strong negative influence on us in the form of overwhelm. Difficulties and failures can and often do, overcome us and it’s a real key topic of discussion in the world of productivity. What I particularly liked within that last quote was the explanation of how difficulties can drain our resolve, as that’s really what we are talking about here. We can put up with just so much before we find ourselves being overwhelmed - eventually our resolve is drained away and we find ourselves in trouble. BUILDING RESILIENCE means topping up and fortifying our resolve which is essential if we are going to gain success in our chosen endeavours.
We need to learn to cope with what are known as manageable threats and over time, we become better able to cope with life’s obstacles and hardships, both physically and mentally. Not all stress is harmful of course and some stress is in fact necessary for us to grow and learn from our mistakes and failures - I must say that everything in my research pointed to the fact that the current trend in offering “safe spaces” on college campuses these days is just a terrible idea, as it sets students up for a very fragile life of potential misery in the world of employment beyond.
Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant. Horace Unquote
This show is going out during the covid 19 lockdown and I’d like to think that the listeners to this show at least can see that the adversity which we now face, can be used to push us to do better, to learn more, and do more too.
We need to face adversity to drive us forward and solve common problems. We need to fail if we are to learn from, and transcend failure. Ultimately, failures are the stumbling blocks on the proverbial path to success: The lessons they teach have implications for humility, maturity, and empathy.
That doesn’t mean that it’s pleasant to fail or ignore the frustration that arises when a goal falls out of reach but if we can think intelligently about it and assume the attitude of higher level thinking on this topic which I talk about in episode 1 if you want to know more about it, then we can deal with it, build our resilience to adversity and maintain our resolve.
A recent Harvard study said that Everyone can learn to be resilient.
I’ve combined a few articles here to provide us with a series of strategies which will help you to do this:
Maya Angelou said I'm not sure if resilience is ever achieved alone. Experience allows us to learn from example. But if we have someone who loves us-I don't mean who indulges us, but who loves us enough to be on our side-then it's easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self-esteem. And it's self-esteem that allows a person to stand up.
· It's important to have people you can confide in. Having supportive people around you act as a protective factor during times of crisis. While simply talking about a situation with a friend or loved one won't make your troubles go away, it allows you to share your feelings, get support, receive positive feedback, and come up with possible solutions to your problems.
Self-criticism is an art, not many are qualified to practice. Joyce Carol Oates Unquote
· I’ve covered this in one of my earlier episodes, The Inner Critic, and what I get to in it is that when you hear negative comments in your head, practice immediately replacing them with positive ones, such as, "I can do this," "I'm a great friend/mother/partner," or "I'm good at my job." I also have a more recent episode on Affirmations so you should definitely check that one out too. These techniques will bolster your resilience and stem the flow of resolve if it starts to drain away.
Seth Godin says Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.
Which is a really awesome quote, but I kinda prefer a similar one from
Charlie Chaplin that covers the same bases You'll never find rainbows, If you're looking down... Unquote
· Positive thinking doesn’t mean ignoring the problem in order to focus on positive outcomes. It means understanding that setbacks are temporary and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face. What you are dealing with may be difficult, but it's important to remain hopeful and positive about a brighter future. And again this takes me back to the stoics – accept that misfortune and adversity will occur in the world, so that when it happens it doesn’t catch you by surprise and bring you down.
Don't be distracted by criticism. Remember - the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you. Zig Ziglar Unquote
· Your self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. Never forget to remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. As I’ve said several times before on here, celebrating your accomplishments is part of the circle of productivity. If you are in so much of a rush that you miss it out, you will find that your productivity falls away as you do so.
· Tied into this is that people who are able to come up with solutions to a problem are far more able to cope with problems than those who can’t. By practicing your problem-solving skills on a regular basis, you will be better prepared to cope when a serious challenge appears. Being active in working on solutions will also help you feel more in control, rather than sitting back and letting life happen to you.
George C. Lorimer said Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.
Waiting for a problem to go away on its own only prolongs a crisis so when misfortune occurs start working on resolving the issue immediately. While there may not be any fast or simple solution, you can take steps toward making your situation better and less stressful. And I accept that not every problem is immediately solvable. Sometimes you just have to accept that time will heal as well.
One of the more famous quotes that I found during my research for this episode is by
Frederick Douglass said If there is no struggle, there is no progress
so with that in mind remember that in addition to cultivating better emotional regulation in this matter and learning to cope with adversity, the negative experiences which you encounter also provide lessons that will stop your failure from repeating itself in the future. Knowing this will help to foster better resilience.
With your higher level thinking in place, and to remind you that is the act of consciously working on your life and career at the same time you find yourself living and working in it, you can fortify your future by intelligently engaging in what went wrong, why things didn’t work out and if something that has been rejected or failed is worth repeating. In the end I decided that I no longer wanted to waste my time on pointless funding applications so I simply stopped. This allowed me to concentrate my efforts elsewhere and move forward in new and better ways to achieve my new goals. When I think about the time I wasted on funding applications it always brings me back to the same Albert Einstein quote Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s why I gave up on the funding bodies. It was f*cking pointless.
Sylvester Stallone says I believe any success in life is made by going into an area with a blind, furious optimism.
I personally try to avoid blind optimism, but staying optimistic during dark periods can be difficult, but maintaining a hopeful outlook is an important part of resiliency.
Optimism gets worn down in parallel to resilience and hope but, like resilience it can also be cultivated. My optimism in regard to filmmaking right now is at rock bottom but I’ve started working on it and I now look for ways to reignite my passion for it. Somewhere along the way, I have a feeling I will find it again.
Grain by grain, a loaf. Stone upon stone, a palace. George Bernard Shaw Unquote
The final piece of advice that I have for you here is that you should focus on the progress that you have made thus far and planning your next steps, rather than becoming discouraged by the amount of work that still needs to be accomplished to achieve your goals.
I’m still using my Your Best Year Yet strategy from the Jinny Ditzler book of the same name and one of the big lessons which I took from it this year is to focus on the baby steps that need to be made to take me closer to the larger goals that I have set myself rather than on that goal itself. By having smaller more achievable goals we can foster the feeling of moving forward that will in turn strengthen our feelings of resilience.
It takes time and lots of courage, but bolstering your resilience to adversity is worth it. When you get used to living through rejection, you receive the ultimate power — the confidence that you can handle any problem in your life. This makes you stronger than people who have avoided rejection their entire lives.
Call To Action
Helen Keller said All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.
And your call to action this week is to think about the adversity which you have faced in your life and take a minute to write down what you have learned from it. If you can make sense of it and understand it, you will perhaps be able to avoid it happening to you in the future.
And please remember folks, that you are 42 percent more likely to do things if you write them down. Writing your goals down, or these little tasks that I sometimes set you, not only forces you to get clear on what, exactly, it is that you want to accomplish, but doing so plays a part in motivating you to complete the tasks necessary for your success. I want you to be successful. When you listen to these episodes, always try and find a moment or two to take some notes and give the topics some additional thought. Talk about them with people too, and that will help to secure them in your mind.
So Resilience refers to how well we can deal with and bounce back from the difficulties of life. It can mean the difference between handling pressure and losing your cool. Resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively.
Psychology Today says It is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.
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Let me end today with the words of Thomas Edison. It’s a classic productivity quote but it’s quite fitting for todays topic.
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Now, take control of your own destiny, build that resilience to adversity, and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!
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