Usually when I read anything about the power of the word “no” it has to do with using it. Today I want to talk about receiving it.

A young friend of mine shared an experience she had last week and was still upset about. At her father’s urging she had tried out for spring track, a sport she had participated in last year and enjoyed.

She didn’t make the team. She explained to me that she was angry with her father because it was his fault. He had “pushed” her to try out and she had failed. Worse, she had failed in front of her friends.

I get that she is upset, I really do. But I also see that she was upset because she was embarrassed. She had expected to make the team because she made it before, and when she didn’t make the cut and all her friends knew she didn’t make the cut—well you see. Embarrassment led to anger and the need to lay blame.

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, is going to hear “yes” all their lives. We all must deal with rejection, some of us more often than others. What we do with that rejection is important.

I pointed out to my young friend that there were two things she could have done to help her in the tryouts.

1)  She could have practiced more during the preceding weeks.

2) She could have put more “try” into her tryout.

Either or both of these actions would have given her a better chance of being selected for the team. But because she had been selected the previous year with no extra effort on her part she expected the same result this year. Unfortunately for her, the third factor, the one that she had zero control over, came into play.

3) There were enough girls working harder than my young friend at the tryout to fill the team and the coach didn’t need her. 

Nothing she could do about that. But if she had taken action on the two things she did have control over, then she might have been one of the chosen instead of the rejected. In that scenario she would have put her best effort forward and could feel proud even if she didn’t make the cut.

I can relate this to my writing (and other parts of my life that I won’t go into today). I occasionally write short stories, mostly to practice my craft. It’s easier to focus on one skill, say dialog, for 6,000 words than it is to stay focused for 60,000 words.

I send every finished story off to a paying market of which there are a limited number. The competition is fierce. There are always other writers who are better than I am, who work harder at this than I do, and to date I have not sold a short piece of fiction.

But I embrace the challenge. I keep working at my skills—practice and education—and I keep trying. One day I will get there. One day I will be the better writer and my story will be chosen over others because I continue to work hard at my craft. I don’t give up. Nor do I blame others.

This is the power of “no.” It is a personal challenge. A gauntlet thrown down. Do you want this—whatever “this” may be—enough to work for it? And to keep working for it until you succeed? I have a folder full of rejections that keep me powering forward. For me the challenge has become a game and I enjoy it.

I hope my young friend can embrace her rejection and pick up the challenge. She’d make a hell of a track star.