A Different way to consider Rejection

It’s Decision Day. A time when the most ambitious students are waiting to hear whether they have been accepted to the school of their dreams. While many will rejoice at having been “accepted” by their top schools, others will face the misery of “rejection”.

But why do we call it rejection? Why are we so negative about not getting an invitation from a highly selective school? In reality, you probably weren’t rejected, instead someone else was selected. The last time you went to a new restaurant and were presented with a menu did you “reject” the choices or did you select what you felt like eating at that point in time? Just because you chose the chicken didn’t mean you thought the steak sucked. You just felt like chicken that day. You had a limited amount of information and time to make a judgment call and choose. So you made the best choice you could, but that choice may have been different on another day.

University admissions also have a limited amount of information and time to make decisions about a limited number of spaces. The admissions officers are selecting great students from a bounty of great students, and just because you weren’t selected doesn’t mean that they didn’t like you–it just means that they chose someone else. It is not a patent criticism or a statement of your basic inadequacy. Even the Academy Awards (some might say the popularity contest of the movie industry) never say “the winner is…”. Instead the announcement is phrased “The Oscar goes to…”. The other nominees are not losers, they just weren’t chosen.

Of course, it would be great to be one of the chosen. But it is a reality that everyone is “not chosen” at some point in life–not getting a job, not winning an election, not getting a contract. Life is filled with opportunities to not be chosen, but the mindset that only winners matter is a slippery slope that discounts the vast majority of people. In fact, if it makes you feel better here is a list of great people who at some point were “not selected”.

Soichiro Honda was “not selected” for an engineering job with Toyota before he started making scooters at home, the basis of the Honda Motors Company.

Richard Nixon was “not selected” by the majority of voters during the 1960 presidential election, but became President in 1969

Fred Astaire was “not selected” after his first screen test with MGM executives who stated that Astaire “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little”. Astaire ended up starring in over 40 movies and winning numerous awards.

Vincent Van Gogh only sold one of his paintings during his lifetime, but today his paintings are some of the most coveted in the world.

J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter was “not selected” by 9 publishers.

While it might not feel like it right now, not being selected is not the end of the world. Life is long (if you’re lucky) and there will be many more opportunities. So chin up and focus on all your other choices and ask, “What’s next?”

Okay, have some ice cream, cry a little, yell and shake your fist at the fates… then breathe and look at your opportunities and make the best of them.

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