This time of year, applications are mostly complete, recordings sent, and fees paid. This is a time of waiting. And more often than not, what we are waiting for is rejection.
There is a common story in the music world about a professor who kept two binders from his days as a student: one for his acceptance letters and another for his rejection letters. His file of acceptance letters was a small, paper pocket folder while his collection of rejection letters was a massive 4″ binder with tabs and dividers to keep it organized.
The moral of the story is of course that we must fail far more often than we succeed. But I ask how we define success at all.
I once set out to climb a mountain. Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs to be precise. Because of a variety of reasons including the elevation and the fact that we mistakenly got on the 24-mile trail instead of the 9-mile trail, we were forced to turn around before reaching the top. We set out to reach the peak of this mountain and had not achieved our initial goal which may seem to be a failure. HOWEVER, when we added up everything we had done (hike 21 miles, climb 6,000 ft. in elevation, and battle altitude sickness), we were pretty damn proud of what we had done.
Success isn’t always about getting that piece of paper with “CONGRATULATIONS!” written at the top. The only thing that that piece of paper does is provide external validation for something that we accomplish internally. With most applications, we learn a piece of music, rehearse it, record it, re-record when we didn’t like the first session, and ultimately release it into the world to be judged. That takes a lot of strength and will power. And that says nothing about what it took to accomplish everything that is on the resume we have to submit.
When rejection letters start rolling in, it is easy to get depressed or discouraged. So I just order something fattening, grab a beer, and reflect on everything I accomplished of which I am internally proud. Then those little pieces of paper start to take on a lot less meaning.