Four days ago I got a call at the gym.
Standing outside of the equipment room, my phone buzzed – I recognized the number as the HR agent at a company I had been talking to for the past few weeks. I was eager to hear what new opportunities were in play, so I answered in my short black joggers and light blue, sweat-proof shirt. I would have answered had I been summiting a volcano, or in the middle of a handshake with Seth Rogan.
Hell, I would have answered had I been a backup dancer in Beyonce’s halftime show at the Super Bowl. This company was everything. A short-form content company focusing on online media with a purpose, hosting various YouTube series with themes revolving around conversation, connection, and human communication.
Their slogan was “We make things that matter”. Their videos were of the quality and character I dreamt of producing every day. Their approach to content combined positive psychology (A.K.A. my academic love) and creative media (A.K.A. my career aspirations).
And their parent company? One of the most influential long-form content production companies in the industry. Think of any documentary you have seen in the past 10 years. That’s them. In other words, a network that met every one of my personally founded passions and career-related pursuits.
I started watching their content five years back, and when I got an email for the initial phone conversation I was enthralled with a reel of possibilities that played in my head (picture something more dramatic than the epilogue of La La Land). I saw myself living in Los Angeles, contributing to the creative industry, and working in an innovative environment focused on well-being, genuine living, and production with a purpose.
In the turbulent time of graduating college, figuring out some semblance of what we want to do, applying to an embarrassing amount of jobs (according to the stock exchange there are 45,508 companies in the world – my resume may be sent to the applicant void of the 45,500th by the end of this month), and simply not knowing how to function as an adult, I had, for the first time, something to envision my post-university “real life” around.
And then my phone buzzed, I answered, and the infamous two-sentence conversation played out:
I don’t actually remember the exact words, but you know how it goes.
(Insert unoriginal, inauthentic, cringingly formal speech), we have decided to pursue other candidates. Thank you for your (insert more unoriginal, inauthentic, cringingly formal speech).
Processing the words as fast as they were said, I answered in the chipper, upbeat voice I always vocalize with others (and especially employers): “I understand, have a great day!”. But the surprising thing was, I had voiced genuine joy.
I was chipper, and upbeat. I was happy. And I was dropped from my dream company.
In that 5 second moment, standing outside of my university gym, rejected from the future I had been illustrating in my head for the past month, I realized three things that are fundamental to the job search.
Edit: I realized three things that are fundamental to living.
1) In every moment of our lives we have a choice. We can choose to be upset, or we can choose to be happy.
A lot of the things that take place in our lives are not under our direct control. Many of the decisions made by our influencing entities will not be catered to the daily, weekly, or lifelong courses we carefully envision for ourselves. However, we have a unique, simple, and powerful opportunity in every moment we experience to take charge of our psychology: to ruminate on the aspects of our experience that have the capacity to make us upset, or to focus on the aspects of our experience that naturally help us reveal our joys.
Instead of diving into the the questions, concerns, and worries that often arise from rejection, we can recognize that we are happy, stable, and well at the base. That beyond the fluctuations of self-doubt and insecurity that often cloud our minds in moments of defeat, something stable is always there, ready to bring us back to focus.
Our family, our friends, our homes, our memories, our capabilities, our privilege, our aspirations, our accomplishments. Our generally rewarding, fulfilling, and exciting ability to live the human experience. And our current opportunities to enjoy life.
This goes for any minor blow: If we were happy before the “bad” thing, why choose to be upset afterwards? Regardless of what takes place in our lives, being upset will never erase what was previously written – good or bad.
Unlike the hangover birthed from the 10 margaritas you had yesterday, you don’t HAVE to feel bad after something bad takes place. Feeding into the spiral of negative experiences after an unexpected and unwanted occasion occurs is not mandatory like your Aunt Bertha’s Easter party.
Sure, rejection sucks. But you don’t have to.
Being rejected from a job does not mean you will never find one, or that you will never achieve the future you envisioned.
If we can focus on the fact that we are alive, have been and will continue to be, and have the same capacity to flourish as we did before, we can champion on unfazed by the minor blows of life.
We have a unique, simple, and powerful opportunity in every moment we experience to take charge of our psychology: to ruminate on the aspects of our experience that have the capacity to make us upset, or to focus on the aspects of our experience that naturally help us reveal our joys.
2) In situations that aren’t dead ends, we have the ability to feel better within minutes, hours, days, or weeks. It is important to remember that this is a privilege, and it should not be ignored.
Job rejections, loss of a career, rude remarks from strangers, your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere – all of these things aren’t necessarily all fun and smiles. But more importantly, all of these things are definitely not the end of the world.
There are people in this world who are stuck in situations that do not allow for such natural resolutions. There are people in this world who are legitimately locked into circumstances that they can not escape, that a change in psychology can only benefit to a certain extent. Which is why we should be working to help these people, and spend less time wondering why the world is not helping us as much as we would like it to.
To be frank – no matter how easy of a thing it is to do – a failure to recognize that the small blows in life are indeed small, is a misguided use of our privilege.
We need to understand that we have the option of letting frustration, negativity, and rumination slip by, unengaged, when we are presented with minor blows. We do not need to feel like trash every time we are rejected from a company, or every time the cards do not fall into play.
To a significant extent, we are in charge of how much we engage with the negative aspects of our experience.
We are in charge of ourselves.
There are people in this world who are legitimately locked into circumstances that they can not escape, that a change in psychology can only benefit to a certain extent. Which is why we should be working to help these people, and spend less time wondering why the world is not helping us as much as we would like it to.
3) We are responsible for our lives, our contentment, and our fulfillment. Not a company, city, or position. Not a relationship or a bigger paycheck.
Life is a canvas that requires our own brush. Think back to that 8th grade art class. If we anxiously wait for the teacher to come around, never painting on our own, our canvases will never develop into anything. It would lack color, creativity, and content.
The point is, we are in charge of our own lives. The company? The job? The city? All of these things are exactly like teachers, they are there to help guide us, to give us direction, not to write our entire stories for us. Just because you landed your dream job does not mean you will be launched into the perfect career. You still need to work hard, dedicate yourself, and craft your own narrative.
Those dreams we have, those futures we see, those big ideas we lose ourselves in.
The people we envision ourselves being in 10 years.
All of it is up to us – not a job, not a company, not a city.
I realized that the main reason why I had been so enthralled over the idea of working at this company was not because of some higher calling – it was because it gave me something to envision myself around. It gave me a sense of security, a sense of solution.
I thought that if, and if only, I were to land such a job in such a company, my doubts and worries and insecurities about the future would melt away. I would be given a fast pass towards becoming the person I always envisioned myself to be.
Living in Los Angeles would give me the fuel and drive that other creatives residing there fostered – I would champion the projects I always dreamt of producing.
Working at a content company would immerse me in a network of supporting creatives that could propel me forward in the artistic industry – I would be a character in Mario Kart, and the company would be one of the rainbow booster strips that would send me forward, flying towards my dreams.
But when this false sense of security dropped out of sight, as I was from the list of potential candidates, I realized that my foundations of resolution were built solely from external things – I was no where to be seen.
The security I found in the idea of finally finding a job, a city to move to, and a network of employees to befriend – none of it illustrated a life built around me, my capabilities, or my aspirations. I was giving full responsibility of my future to things that can never win our dreams for us.
I had been looking at it all in the wrong way.
To renounce responsibility for our dreams, for the people we hope to see ourselves become, onto a job, a city, or a company, is to put falsely founded trust in the belief that these external things will make us into different, better people. People more capable of achieving the things we hope to.
I realized: WE ARE THOSE PEOPLE. Now. Tomorrow. The day after tomorrow. We always have been, and always will be.
There is only one thing stopping us from recognizing that we are the very people who can (and will) achieve the things we dream about: Our dependence on something else.
The need we grew up with for other things to tell us that we are good enough.
First it was our schools, then our universities. Now it’s the company, the supervisor, the owner.
But this entire time, our families have been telling us. Our friends have been telling us. Hell, even some strangers have been telling us. But it is not until we tell ourselves, that we begin to act in accordance with our passions, pursuits, and aspirations for life: We are good enough.
We are good enough.
Everything we need to excel, flourish, and materialize our biggest hopes and dreams exists in our own abilities.
Conceptualize your capability, passion, and self potential as the Google Maps app that never fails. Now route your dreams and press “navigate”.
Stop imagining yourself chasing what you want in the future, and hit the pavement sprinting. Afraid of tripping over a hurdle like you did at your 10th grade track meet? Remember that you can get back up and keep running. Remember that the bruises heal, and without much effort.
We will all be rejected a countless number of times in our lives.
We will all be given opportunities to feel like s**t, question our worth, and wonder “what the hell am I doing wrong?”.
The determining factor of whether or not we will flourish in ways farther than we could have ever initially imagined exists in our ability to perceive positivity, recognize our power in choice, and respect our responsibility to our best selves – the ones we want to become (that will inevitably be built from, and by, the ones we are today).
In other words, the ability to bounce back stronger with each blow, full-hearted and smiling.
Trusting ourselves and championing on.