What If Rejection is a Good Thing?


Several years ago I made a commitment to myself. I decided that no matter what, I would always expect, and look for, the silver lining of any event that had the potential to present itself as a problem.

And here I have to make a distinction between a silver lining (or, as Maya Angelo sings it: the rainbow behind every cloud) and the rose-colored glasses that my Pollyanna, painter mother wore with a flair.

Rose-colored glasses treat all events alike and blur the boundaries of contrast and challenge.

A silver lining, on the other hand, is the event inside an event that just happened, often not showing its sparkling face until the first event is over.

Here’s an example from yesterday, an ordinary day spent doing ordinary things, like unloading dishes.

I was pulling a small glass vase out of the dishwasher when it caught on the edge and snapped, dropping shards of glass into the bottom of the dishwasher.

As I was cursing myself, and leaning over to pick out the broken pieces, I noticed a slip of mahogany wood, less than ½ an inch long and about an 1/8th of an inch around – pointed oddly at one end, and broken off at the other.

Antlers and Mothers and Silver Lining Trivia

I held up the slender piece of broken wood from the dishwasher, studying it with intense curiosity, wondering where it had come from. Normally, I would have tossed such an inconsequential splinter into the trash.

Then I turned toward a cabinet across from the dishwasher where a lovely, carved antelope, which that had been my mother’s, sat in regal simplicity.

For a long time now, I’d noticed that one of the antlers had broken off, which I thought happened during the time my mother had treasured it.

Then I was looking back and forth from the antelope’s foreshortened antler back to the splinter I held between my thumb and forefinger.

From Cursing to Gratitude

I have no idea how that antler broke, or how that antler splinter of mahogany managed to fall into the bottom of my dishwasher.

It mended easily with wood glue; the crack nearly invisible.

In a flash of absolute joy, I saw how breaking my vase had led to the silver lining of that missing antler—a small matter in the universe of silver linings, but a significant shift for me to travel from cursing to gratitude in the time it took to pick up a seemingly insignificant, tiny piece of wood.

And so it is with rejection – a short journey of three steps between the heart-stab of insignificance that comes with rejection and gratitude for the silver lining that is sure to follow.

Where the Dynamic of Rejection is Insurrection

I’ve known many artists who will bend their lives out of shape to avoid what seems, at first glance, to be a low blow, a terrible thing, a splintering of their vulnerable artist hearts.

But what if rejection was the best thing that could happen to you?

And what if rejection was more than an event; it was a process with specific stages that you could navigate once you had the map?

Most importantly, what if rejection is the only possible way that something else more valuable can emerge?

What if the pre-requisite to a silver lining is always the cloudburst—a clever, set up by a Divine and Magical Universe to trick out specific pathways of your life?

Sort of a universal insurrection that forces you to look twice.

My Four Corners of Rejection Reflection

Before anything at all could happen, I had to cruse that broken vase. Damn that was stupid of me to move so fast! That was real and I’ve learned that it’s never a good idea to go against the real.

So…Rejection Reflection Facing South: Feel it First. Hold yourself tenderly and accept the feelings – for they hold your vulnerable heart, without which, any artist would be truly lost.

Only, first reactions are just that: first. Which implies there is a second. In my case, my second reaction was to take action and pick up the broken glass. Taking action, even if it’s not perfect, is the perfect next step in rejection of any kind.

Rejection Reflection Facing West: Go for it; decide to take any action that feels right in that moment. Then, pay attention to how the action changes your initial reaction. In my case, cursing myself shifted to curiosity as I held up the splinter of wood.

If you are feeling victimized by a rejection, a counter-intuitive, but very effective action is to ask yourself: Specifically, how was I giving them permission to do X? In this case, action is inquiry into your own truth.

After this, practice being open to the silver lining. In my case, because I have practiced living by this awareness for many years, it comes easily.

Rejection Reflection Facing North: There is always a silver lining, even if you steadfastly refuse to turn around and see it. Maybe that rejected-by-the-jury piece needs something you aren’t acknowledging. Maybe another, or better, opportunity is around the corner, and without this rejection, that better opportunity will never show up on your radar, much less be noticed by you.

I admit Rule #3 is a stretch. It is never easy to believe in what we can’t see. And an unrevealed opportunity – that might take weeks or months (years?) to show up – is no exception.

Which is why we need…

Rejection Reflection Facing East: Trust the process. Funny how easy this is when you are in your studio. But outside the studio, where your artwork is visible and vulnerable, trust is trickier to come by. I’m not suggesting that anyone cultivate naïveté; I am suggesting you transfer that trust in your art process to your art life outside the studio, especially when something as challenging as rejection shows up.

Maybe it’s time to reframe rejection as the high-octane fuel that cleans out the sludge our daily routine leaves behind. You don’t need it all the time, but once it a while it’s not a bad idea to burn a little hotter, so we can burn a little brighter.

Do you have a rejection story that turned into pure gold?

Tell me, please…

My new Manifesto For Visual Fine Artists is all about making sure you have the tools you need to develop the relationships a thriving artist needs most.

If you love exploring how stepping fully into your creative flow encourages the collective consciousness of humanity to step into its collective, creative flow, then  click here for your copy of my  Manifesto For Visual Fine Artists.

Then come back here and tell me about the principles you believe will take you closer and closer to the visionary summit of the truth and power in your art.

The Next Step

I have been coaching visual artists on their career path to Visionary Affluence since 2004.

That’s the ten-year minimum it takes to master any skill—not to say I’ve actually mastered anything. Just letting you know I have logged the 10,000 hours it takes to run fast enough, flap your wings hard enough, and leap high enough to discover whether or not you can fly.

And what I can tell you is how remarkable the view is from 10,000 hours above the creative landscape.  I can spot enclaves of my artists as they sit ‘round mythical campfires at different levels of the Mt. Olympus climb to their dreams.

Leaning into the smell of a wood fire, these artists – intrepid visionaries every one – share their experiences with each other. A hawk cries out and circles overhead as the mountain range frames a bold streak of sunset sky deepening to blood red.

I invite you to join your fellow artists, and me, under the emerging stars of your own visions, where the expansive beauty of the horizon calls out, the fire is warm, and the truth of your heart is irresistible!

Your Truth – Your Power – Your Art

Click here to get your download.

And I’ll keep you posted on the exciting new events, webinars, trainings, books, and successful artist interviews I’m mapping out as we climb this dream summit together.

4 Responses to “What If Rejection is a Good Thing?”

  1. Sam Liberman says:

    How often my instructors have said, “We learn more from our mistakes than our successes.” I haven’t spent enough time learning from my rejections. I haven’t really thought about them enough to learn anything.

  2. Interesting dissection of rejection. In “the moment” it is not always easy to sit back to make such an analysis.

    Having been in the “rejection business” for over 25 years, I have no golden stories but I can reflect back and notice how my reactions have changed due to maturity and experience.

    Early on I usually took the rejection to mean I needed to work harder – study more, etc. This was good. Now I take it more as a chance or a gamble that didn’t land. There is a whole lot less emotion attached to it. It is always a disappointment and the amount of energy I hold in that disappointment is nominal.

    I do wonder how I would have reacted to this blog some 20 years ago. :)

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