on (fear of) rejection.

I am good at walking away. Rejection teaches you how to reject.
— from Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles, by Jeanette Winterson

"Twenty," I tell him.

The paid bill sits upside down between us, our food long gone. We're at our usual spot, always the same booth at the end; two friends catching up over pad thai and drunken noodles.

 "Damn," he holds it out as he says it. "See, that's another difference between you and me."

"What?"

"I feel like if you're going to take a chance on something, you have to really do your homework. Both of us do that. The difference is if I look at the numbers, and my chances aren't looking good, I'm practical about it: I just don't apply. You don't really care about being practical."

Practical.

I think it over for a moment before responding.

"It's not about not being practical - it's just the way I see it I can't predict the future. I wanted to go to a good school - and good by my definition. There were tons of schools that fit that definition, but given how much I was doing, I did my homework and narrowed it to twenty I could give my best shot at.

So I applied to those twenty schools, and got into 8. Which was 8 successes. Because what I wanted wasn't the one, it was the kind. A lot's changed since then, but I think this much has stayed the same - I try to maximize my chances by doing. I don't see it as not being practical - I see it as the only way to be practical. To try."


There's this theory called the principle of least effort.

Yes, it's exactly what it sounds like:

The idea that humans, animals, and in recent years, machines will take the path of least resistance to reach a given goal.

And that's where the issue is. What is your goal?

If your goal is to not be rejected, why try? The path of least resistance is to literally do nothing. Seriously, if that's really the goal, take some advice:

Because as much as we love that song, it's very unlikely, that when we actually reflect on what we want, it's not "not being rejected."

We want to be the best we can be, do the best we can do. We want to be seen - for who we are and who we could be and what we're capable of.

We want to connect and to thrive and to grow and to build. We want our ideas understood and our voices heard and visions to be made real.

We want our family to be okay. We want them to never stop looking at us in the way they do sometimes.

So why add all that resistance? Because if you're too busy trying to avoid rejection, you aren't busy enough trying to get what you want.

Is your goal really to be rejection-free? Or is it to be free? 

If you're going to be rejected. If you're going to fail. Do it because you tried.

Anything less is rejecting yourself. Anything less, is failing yourself.