Failure as Motivation
I have a plain manila folder on my desk that’s stuffed with 76 pieces of paper. They are all from different parts of the country. They are of all kinds of different sizes but they all have one thing in common.
Each one is a badge of failure.
The folder’s front cover reads “Rejections” and I’ve been adding to it over a four-year span.
How it Works
When I write a story or an essay I think is interesting, I polish it up, have someone I trust read it, and then I go over it again once last time.
In all, this probably takes a couple of months.
Then I stick it into an envelope with a SASE or I submit it online and wait. A month or so later I get the self addressed stamped envelope I made out to myself a couple of months ago and open it up. It’s magical—like mailing yourself a letter from the past.
They say things like:
- Thanks but no thanks
- We liked it but didn’t have room for it
- We didn’t even read it because we’re so busy
- Please try again sometime
- The intern didn’t like it or didn’t “get it”
- People like you are what make this publication possible
In the end, they all mean the same thing: I failed.
My attempts at getting published have been foiled a total of 76 times (multiple times for the same story). I had relegated this rejection folder to the bottom of a pile of papers in my night stand until I caught a glimpse of it the other day.
Wow, I thought, I haven’t opened this up in a LONG time.
And it hit me: I haven’t added to it in over two years—I haven’t failed in over two.
Failure to Fail
Without putting myself out there, I’m not going to fail. Sure, that’s technically right. But it also means I’m not even trying.
It’s like a baseball player that goes up to the plate and doesn’t take his bat off his shoulder. Sure, you might get a walk every now and then, but your batting average will always be zero.
Boring and lame.
After seeing the folder and realizing how long it’s been since I’ve failed, I feel motivated to add more rejection slips to it.
If I’m going to fail, I’m going to grip that bat as hard as I can, step towards the pitcher, and swing as hard as I can.
I may whiff a 77nd time, but I’ll go down swinging.