You won’t get everything you want. Not everything will work out. And that’s ok.

At this point in my life, I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been rejected.

It’s a pretty humbling experience being rejected for the things that you want in your life: love, jobs, opportunities and more.

At a moment in history when it feels like people are pushing back from the notion that they even could be rejected from what they want, I would like to argue that the experience of being rejected is even more important than ever.

Rejection makes you tough.

Rejection gives you balls.

Not the real ones. The metaphorical balls of a person who has to learn how to dig in deeper, consider doing something a different way, or re-imagine how to reach goals that they hope to achieve because they failed the first time.

Do you remember when you experienced your first epic rejection?

For many people, it could be the experience of getting a rejection letter from the college that you had to get into. For me, it was Northwestern in Chicago. I actually was accepted by the other six colleges that I applied to. However, I got a big fat “no” from Northwestern, and it hurt.

Did that rejection end my world? No. I worked with the cards that I was dealt and ended up going to a university in the same conference and receiving an excellent education. I don’t wonder about “what if?” Because that ship has sailed.

Don’t focus on the “what if?”

Many people who experience rejection focus on the “what if?”

They ask themselves “what if I had married that guy/girl?” Well, you didn’t. You experienced something else instead.

Asking yourself “what if I had gone to Colombia instead of Australia?” is pointless. You didn’t.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, I would love to share some of the moments of rejection that I’ve experienced. Time to get real.

  • I auditioned for the Denver Broncos Cheerleading squad two or three times. One of those times I made it to the second or third round (it has been awhile) I didn’t get it.
  • I auditioned for the Denver Nuggets dance squad. I was rocking it out when the girl next to me fell, so I helped her get up. She got up and kept dancing. She moved forward to the next round. I didn’t.
  • I remember wanting to date this one guy who just didn’t seem to be that into me. We hooked up. Ahem. He still didn’t want to date me.
  • I’ve pitched a session or panel to a conference that I attend yearly. I still haven’t had a session picked. Plus, I’ve never won an award from that community and I still continue to attend and smile.

These experiences have taught me to manage these situations with short and long-term solutions. In the short-term, it’s perfectly fine to be devastated about an outcome that hasn’t worked out the way that you expected.

But it doesn’t help to sit around asking yourself “what if?” all the time. You’ll be much better off in the long run if you acknowledge the experiences you have had and dwell less on the rejection.

Grit and resilience through rejection.

Rejection is basically the other side of the reality that not everything will go your way. That’s a really good thing.

Suck it up buttercup, life doesn’t always work the way you want it to.

But that doesn’t mean you give up. It’s important to embrace strategies that will help you cope during those moments when you get kicked in the pants by life.

Keep things in perspective. Most people in the U.S. experience First World Problem rejections. We get rejected for the types of things that are beyond the dreams of most people. At the end of the day, you still have running water, electricity, and clothes on your back.

Understand that this is just one moment in time. Other opportunities to be accepted or rejected will continue to present themselves to you each and every day.

Embrace the experience, even if it’s painful. There is an old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved before.” Rejection basically is an experience that people have when they put themselves out there and open themselves to the reality of a well-lived life.

Rejection opens new paths

I don’t regret falling in love with past loves that didn’t work out.

I am now able to look back at different relationships that didn’t work out and acknowledge my part in the breakdown of each relationship.

I’m also able to reflect on most of those relationships and remember the good and the bad without feeling upset about how those relationships ended. With time I’ve learned that every relationship has a season and that the ones that didn’t work weren’t meant to be.

I think of the jobs that I didn’t get and am amazed by how happy I am now that they didn’t work out.

Rejection has made me a much more empathetic, relatable, and thoughtful person. I’m sure if everything had always worked the way that I wanted it to when rejection finally knocked at my door I would have been devastated and ill-equipped to deal with it.

Finally, if you’re having a hard time dealing with rejection, check out the following celebrity stories: Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and Jim Lee.

Remember, rejection offers a person two different opportunities: to become dejected or create fuel for the “next” thing.

What will you decide to do the next time you’re rejected?

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2016 really felt like the worst. Now that it’s over, we can breathe a sigh of relief. But was it really that bad? Are we just drama queens?

Many of us had just begun the process of putting our holiday decorations away and enjoying the beginning of 2016 when we heard the news: David Bowie died two days after his birthday.

It caught us off guard. We didn’t even know that he was sick.

WTH?

Collectively, we began mourning his beautiful music and the effect that his music had on our lives. The Thin White Duke was gone.

Celebrity deaths were everywhere in 2016.

As the year continued, it felt like 2016 had it in for us. Many of the people who were part of the tapestry of our lives weren’t going to get out of 2016 alive.

Prince, Mohammed Ali, Alan Rickman (Snape from The Harry Potter Series), Gene Wilder, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, and Fidel Castro. The alarming thing is that this is the short list.

And let’s not forget the late-year tragedy of losing Princess Leia/General Organa. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

It didn’t feel like we were drama queens as we continued to wrack up more losses even until the very end of 2016. It felt like the obvious response to emotional stress.

Was this the worst presidential election ever?

On top of all of the people dying, we were inundated by the constant sharing of the dulcet tones of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton making their cases for the presidency.

All day long. We couldn’t escape them, online, on TV on our cell phones, and any other place we found ourselves browsing for information. And we couldn’t escape friends and family talking about politics.

As we moved further into 2016 it began to feel like we were under fire.

Or, was our perception of what was going on in our world skewed by the constant availability of news, newsfeeds, and friends sharing things that would otherwise slip our notice?

Was our belief that 2016 had been a crappy year a result of the skillful targeting of Facebook ads and fake news stories? Was the real issue with 2016 that we had too much information available to us at all times?

Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss.

I found that, compared to other years, 2016 did feel like an exceptionally difficult year. And, as I wrote this post I decided to reflect on this. Was 2016, in fact, a difficult year? Or was there something else going on that I didn’t want to admit?

Are we all just a bunch of drama queens?

Life happens.

Life isn’t always easy. It’s messy, chaotic, and it’s not always pretty. Life is a gift, but it’s a gift that comes with the following reality: life is balanced out by death.

And, without being too morbid, death happens when you least expect it.

But 2016 was rough not just because of the beloved celebrities who passed away. It was rough because it felt like our way of life was dying. To me, it felt like the spirit of America in the way that we knew it was going away and maybe that was what was what we were having a collective reaction to.

And, let’s also be honest, as we get older our awareness of the mortality of the people in our lives becomes more acute.

We’re a lot more aware of the threats to our own lives and safety and with the ability to: Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Excessive amounts of frightening information leaves us shaking in our boots.

We begin holding our loved ones tighter and when situations like: terrorism, the shooting in Orlando, or natural disasters. We hold our breath until we’re sure that everyone we love and care about are OK.

We’re not drama queens for reacting to the changes we experience. Most people (myself included) resist change, especially when that change feels like an unwelcome visitor that just won’t go away.

So, are we drama queens?

I just think we’re human.

Perhaps the real issue that needs to be addressed is how to manage the emotions that come from the unexpected moments that break our hearts.

Own your feelings. David Bowie or Prince dying broke your heart because you are remembering the first time you heard “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Ashes to Ashes” and the way that you played it over and over again. Own it.

Do you love or hate how the election turned out? Are you frightened or thrilled by the outcome depending on your political philosophy? Own it.

Are you frightened of your own mortality? Be honest.

The most important piece of advice that I can give you is to embrace life. Embrace your loved ones. Don’t live in fear of the next shitty thing that may happen. Take each day as it comes because ultimately, you woke up that day.

I’ve had more shitty situations in my life than I would like to admit.

Some of those situations were my own fault, while other situations were the result of life happening. In every instance, I had to focus on becoming resilient and figure out ways to keep from being overwhelmed and demoralized by these situations.

But, let’s be honest, most years are a mixed bag.

At least you woke up today. Don’t take it for granted that life will always run smoothly.  And, yes, 2016 was pretty shitty.

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Hard work, dedication, and focus are necessary for you to succeed at your goals. But it takes more than just grit; there are other important factors, and grit binds them together.

Drake raps about collecting $500,000 to perform after starting from the bottom. The step in the middle is working hard, and he tells his audience all about it.

I don’t care if Aubrey Drake Graham really started at the bottom. He feels he did, and compared to some, sure, I’d agree. He’s not the only one praising his own humble roots. Donald Trump also claims to have modest beginnings, making do with just a million dollar loan from his father.

When Drake and Trump look back on their success stories, they put a strong focus on the hard work, keeping some of their advantages in the shadows. These success stories — and they are “true” stories as much as any perception is true — are about their persistence and defiance against obstacles to build their skills.

Unfortunately, hard work does not always lead to success. There are no guarantees. You could follow every rule in the book and still not get what you want out of life. Anyone who says differently is selling you something.

All who do succeed, by their own definition of success, have put in hard work to get to that point — and they have this thing called grit. Grit is essential, but not the only determining factor, for success. Combine this grit with other factors, and you increase your chances of reaching your goal.

What is grit?

What happens when a challenge prevents you from succeeding as quickly as you’d like — or as quickly as people you’re being compared to — and authorities call you out?

Imagine you’re dyslexic and are having a difficult time reading, and a teacher calls you stupid. How would you react? Work harder to prove them wrong, or give up? Success comes to those who set out to show that they can succeed despite the challenges. Those who persist. Keep trying.

Grit is persistence and self-control. Being in control of yourself gives you the opportunity and freedom to choose a long-term goal and for you to pursue that goal without wavering. When there’s only one thing you want to do, only one way you can see yourself living your life, self-control allows you to stay focused. Self-control also allows you to put aside some quick successes in favor of working towards the larger goal in the end.

Persistence is the fight in you, and it’s driven by your passion. Don’t give up because people say you can’t achieve your goals. Society places obstacles in front of you, and your obstacles might be larger than those that other people have to face.

Life isn’t fair — especially if you’re part of a group that routinely has more obstacles than others. It’s a disadvantage, but there is always the possibility of pushing through, even if the odds are stacked against you.

By itself, grit isn’t perfect. You can keep trying, but if you aren’t learning from your mistakes and focusing on other important aspects of success, you’re just as likely to fail at reaching those long-term goals. Even though everyone who succeeds has been persistent and controlled, not everyone who is persistent and controlled will succeed.

I grew my first business from nothing, and I eventually grew it to the point where it could sustain a lifestyle well beyond the ability of a day job in a corporate office or in a school as a teacher. It was never that lifestyle I was interested in. I just wanted to create something, a community, and I focused on that long-term goal. A large part of the success was a result of the hard work and focus I put into it over a long period of time.

But I also had these other factors working for me.

Creativity and intelligence factor into success.

You Won't Reach Your Goals Withing This One Key Factor

Hard work, determination, focus, and self-control, or “grit,” is still the primary driver for success. Grit is so powerful it can make up for shortcoming in other areas, at least to a point.

Creativity lets you look at problems from a unique perspective. When you fail — and everyone who’s successful has experienced short-term failure at some point — creativity gives you a new way to approach the problem.

Intelligence helps you gather knowledge along the way, so you develop insight that helps you make better decisions. It helps you make connections between different concepts. Some of the most successful people use creativity and intelligence to come up with business ideas and strategies that are unique, and they do this by taking good ideas from one experience and applying them to another.

And they test. Testing concepts over and over, in different permutations. That’s grit interacting with creativity and intelligence.

Luck and opportunity help a great deal.

Although not as important as grit, luck and opportunity play a big role in being able to reach goals. Unfortunately, these two concepts are often downplayed by people who are successful. In general, we like to feel that a good outcome is a direct result of things we can control like how hard we work, and that a bad outcome is a direct result of things beyond our control like bad luck, the lack of opportunity, the weather, traffic, culture, or insert your favorite excuse here.

“I built it” is the story we like to tell, because it’s more interesting, and makes us feel that we have had a direct impact on our ability to reach out goals.

But success is always a combination of things within our control and outside of our control.

Some people are in the right place at the right time. I started writing about finances a few years before the stock market crashed. When the economy fell apart, throughout the world, more people were looking to discuss saving money, earning more, and investing. Since I had already established my community, people found me. Advertisers found me.

Some people might say that I was particularly skilled at setting myself up for an opportunity that would be coming, but I didn’t know when the economy would crash. I didn’t know if I’d be ready to reach as many people as I did. Luck played a part. But I recognized the opportunity and jumped on it.

And I didn’t give up when the numbers of competitors increased. Instead, I looked for partners and worked harder and came up with creative solutions to drive my community and business forward.

A good combination of all of these factors absolutely makes your goals much easier to reach, whether these goals are related to business and financial success, fitness and athletics, creative fields like music, or even education. If you want to be able to put “Doctor” before your name, you can be sure you’ll need a mix of all the above. But grit binds everything together, and without that, long-term success will continue to evade you.

Grit: The Most Important Factor for Success

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