If i were to make a top-ten of the hardest words in any language, this word would be my number one pick. It’s also one of the shortest. This simple sound has destroyed countless careers; it has propelled people into the depths of depression, and it has broken many hopeful hearts. It is the horrible, ugly word “NO”.
“No” is every salesperson’s nightmare. America’s Got Talent “No” has turned rejected lovers into vindictive maniacs. And -as any parent will tell you- “No” can turn the sweetest kid into a manipulative monster. In fact, this two letter word is so destructive; one could make a case for it to be banned from our vocabulary because of the damage it has done over the ages. But I can predict what our linguists would say to that: “No”.
In the united states, the nation is watching another season of “America’s got talent”. I pity the three judges who have to sit through a never-ending parade of geriatric belly-dancers, tone-deaf Whitney Houston wannabees, drag queen contortionists and hip hoppers with egos bigger than their beefed up physiques. And all of them believe that they’re the next big act to hit the Vegas strip, worthy of a million dollars. All I can think of is: who opened this loony bin… and who is going to close it?
Yet, aspiring actors, musicians, sports people and even job seekers have something in common with these strange folks. They too, audition. They might not do it on national TV, but time and again they have to face the final verdict that could shatter their dreams into a million pieces. Or not. You might be trying out for that spot on the team, that seat in the orchestra or you’re hoping to nail that job interview. Nobody wants to hear that nasty two-letter word “NO”. But what to do if the worst comes true? This is what I learned about rejection dejection.
SETTING YOURSELF UP
The greatest disappointments are always well-planned. Yes, you’ve heard me: we are setting ourselves up for disaster. Expectation and disillusion are twins. Evil twins. The more we expect, the bigger the disappointment. Watch “America’s got talent” for a few minutes, and you’ll see the following tragic story unfold: a camera zooms in on a middle-aged librarian who’s showing all the obvious signs of a sedentary lifestyle. The talent tells the interviewer: “I’ve been blessed with a unique gift. Since the moment I took my first breath, I knew I was destined for greatness. I am definitely going to blow the judges away. This is the moment I have been waiting for all my life. “
He steps up to the microphone; introduces himself to the world, and starts rubbing his hands together. This better be good! The next thing we hear is a sound that can only be described as someone breaking wind to the tune of “America the beautiful”. Yes, we’re blown away alright!
The audience starts yelling; the judges hammer on their red buttons and moments later, our handy hero is crushed and crumbled under the weight of humiliation that will haunt him for the rest of his librarian life.
BIG EGO, NO TALENT
Lesson number two: know your strengths! Small fish wanting to play in the big pond better bring something extraordinary to the table; otherwise the big fish will have you for lunch. One AGT-episode featured a self-professed ‘celebrity impersonator’. He was so bad that -even though he spelled out which impression he was going to do- no one got it. I know voice-over artists who make a decent living pretending to be someone else. Some of them are so good, it’s frightening… they sound even better than the original! But unless and until your impersonation is spot-on, don’t tell the world you’re the next big thing. People might get the wrong impression…
Lesson three: get a reality check (before going on reality radio). In other words: go for a second opinion. Get as many second opinions as you can. And please, don’t run to your mother for feedback. She’ll love you no matter what. That’s her job. What you need is an honest opinion. Go to a pro. Not one of those people who get paid to chat you up so you’ll enroll into some vague voiceover academy. A good coach will analyze every ounce of your talent (or lack thereof), and expose you for what you are. A great coach will also tell you what you need to do to improve. A superb coach will teach you the tricks of the trade.
Back to the show for lesson four: have a recovery strategy. I am still floored by how ungraceful some of the untalented are in defeat. They become defensive, they come up with excuses, they blame the judges… it’s always something or someone else, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positive reinforcement. But America’s upbeat culture of programmed positive praise has led to a distinct lack of self-awareness and humility. Thus, smiling small town hero’s turn into angry big town, big time losers when they hear the dreaded word “No”.
This begs the question: how should one prepare for possible rejection? Should we simply expect not to expect anything? That way, we won’t ever be disappointed. If you don’t strive to win, you’ll never lose. Could that be the answer? But what about our hopes, our dreams and aspirations? Isn’t life about taking risks, shooting for the stars and about being the best one can be? Had we been playing it safe, we’d still be staring at the moon, instead of landing on it. 안전놀이터