The Inspiration of Rejection

If at first you don’t succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.
            — Bill Lyon

As much as my brother and sister might groan about how successful I’ve been in my endeavors (though I don’t hear them groaning when I help them with their homework assignments), I have failed. A lot.

Now, I’m not claiming that I’m at Abraham Lincoln’s level of cosmic unsuccessfulness—ran for state legislature, applied to law school, sought to be speaker of the state, tried to become an elector, ran for congress… the list goes on and on and on, but he failed at every one of those.

However, in the end, he sure accomplished some amazing things.

The reason I’m discussing failure is because I recently applied and interviewed to give the valedictorian address of my class (I know, why did they make me apply for something I should have just been handed?); however, they did not select my speech to be read. And as much as I tried to pretend it didn’t matter, the rejection still hurt.

As a writer, however, you have to be used to rejection. It comes in various forms and various levels of politeness, but it essentially all boils down to the same thing.

What you did wasn’t good enough. What you wanted wasn’t achieved.

Failure personifies the thought that all of us are constantly dealing with: I’m not as amazing as I thought I was. And not only does that in-your-face reality hurt, but it also hamstrings us from achieving more.

When I was younger, I was told I was a bad singer and from then on became too embarrassed to ever sing in front of others. A friend of mine was told she was terrible at creative writing when she was younger, and has been too afraid to write a piece of fiction ever since.

However, this last summer I took singing lessons. Recently, my friend took a writing class. Letting that failure restrain us from ever trying for that dream again is the real failure, the real criminal hindering dreams and laming achievements.

And that idea—of overcoming our fear of failure to free ourselves in pursuit of our dreams—was everything I wanted to convey in my valedictorian address. So next Wednesday, I will post the speech that the valedictorian board ruled “too dark.” The one, ironically, that failed to be selected.

I apologize now, that the next post will be longer than usual, but I wanted to post it in entirety. For maybe something in there will resonate or inspire you, and if that’s the case, then I didn’t fail at all.


Author: jdt

Jake writes weekly posts every Wednesday on the intersection of psychology and philosophy. To learn more about him, or to propose a topic you'd like him to cover, go to

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