“If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen!”

by danyaneering

Mmhmm, I know how you feel, girl.  Despite the fact that her hair is absolutely killer, this adorable girl is pretty miffed right now.  She did NOT get what she wanted…just guessing.  Like her, we’ve all been told “no” more times than we can remember.  My mom said “no” to hockey so that I could keep my teeth (or, more likely, so that she could avoid 5 AM wake-ups), Conde Nast Traveler said “are you kidding, lowly intern girl?” to my quarter-page world music feature pitch, and Tuck and SOM said “sorry, you didn’t make the cut.”  But, it’s truly alright.  Because not getting what you want can actually be the best thing that ever happened to you.

What if we did always get what we wanted? You’d be a cocky asshole, I’d be an entitled snob, and they would be total princesses.  When you get knocked down, let your humility, not your ego, build.  It’s typically a HUGE mistake to say “they don’t know what they’re missing” and to move full speed ahead with total disregard for self-reflection.  I don’t care what your GPA was, how many times you’ve been promoted in five years, or how truly charming you are; if you got rejected or turned down, you’ve got room for improvement.  If we always got what we wanted, we’d either be infallible (impossible) or doing something illegal (not smart).

Getting rejected sucks.  Instead of slamming my door (office, bedroom, or otherwise) and crying in a corner, what should I do? Pouting really is a waste of time.  I am by no means advocating that you deny your emotions; in fact, I HATE those Johnny Walker ads in the subway that say “I would rather streak across a packed stadium than tell you this.  You deserve it.  You’re a great little brother.  There, I said it.”  (Full commentary on that reserved for a hypothetical future post.)  I’m just saying that it’s not productive to stay pissed or burned for too long.  The first few times I got a blunt “I’m not interested” email response from an outstanding college student whom I contacted about considering TFA, I felt a little embarrassed and somewhat hopeless.  Four years later, I can tell you that I’m horrified at the thought of what might have happened had I given up easily instead of sitting up straight in my rolly chair and sending back a “Just out of curiosity, why aren’t you interested?” email.  I can’t even tell you how many students have replied to that question with more detail and ultimately agreed to speak with me about educational disparity…and then applied to TFA and become transformational leaders for kids whose lives would truly have been on a different path had I not built a tough skin.  The more you pick yourself back up – and quickly – the more opportunities you’ll have to try again, thus the better your odds of eventually getting what you want.

Like Caddie Woodlawn said (if you haven’t read this favorite childhood book of mine, add it to your list…), “If at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry a hen!”  After you punch a pillow, cry on the phone to your mom or dad or best friend (or therapist?), and take a few moments to ponder the “what ifs,” it’s time to open your mind and consider the possibilities.  Not getting what we want forces us to be open-minded about alternate universes that we may not have imagined for ourselves, but which are our only options.  On the other hand, if there’s no compromising about what you want, but you get dissed, you’ve just gotta get creative and come up with a new strategy to achieve your goal.

You’ve gotta fight!  For your right!  To chaaaaaaange your mind! I fell in love with Wesleyan but chose to attend Wash U after not getting into the school with the naked dorm, and I wrote a memo at the end of my first year at TFA proposing my ideal job role (which wasn’t implemented) but took a more traditional promotion, and I spent over a thousand dollars and hundreds of hours on the business school application process but reinvented my plan for the upcoming year.  And you know what?  The only judgments I’ve ever gotten for reserving the right to change my mind (or, more accurately, to go with the flow…) are approval and praise.  When I didn’t get into any of the three top ten business schools I applied to, I immediately began to think of other ways I could achieve the experiences that I had hoped to get in 2011.  Among other goals, I wanted to climb a steep learning curve and to partner with smart & innovative people from all different sectors.  I realized that the even BETTER thing for me to do than to go to business school was to work at a startup, and I’ve had the most thrilling few months embarking on this unexpected, yet perfectly fitting adventure.

So, since you’ll inevitably not get what you want sometime in the near or distant future, here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Prepare. Entrepreneurship is so hot right now, and no one who was born in the mid-80s or later has the same job for more than a few years, so prepare yourself for sudden change, the unknown, and multiple realities and be ready to embrace any/all.
  • Be humble. Know that any time you don’t get something you want is a time to reflect on what you could have done differently to achieve your goal.  Clearly, you missed something this time; so, pinpoint your mistake or area for improvement and do it right next time.
  • Know your goal. Don’t become obsessed with the process or the means.  Remember what you were aiming for in the first place – if you don’t get your golden ticket by doing one thing, try another.  Giving up after the first attempt is pretty lame, so pick yourself up and try a different strategy to achieve the ultimate end you’re dreaming of.

On that note, I did NOT get what I wanted with this blog post: brevity.  Remaining humble and acknowledging that I didn’t try that hard, and brainstorming ways to achieve my goal next time (music post!)…

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