pat-mcgrath

Failure is not a fail: what we learn from rejection


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SEPT 27, 2017:

To quote Aaliyah: If at first, you don’t succeed, dust yourself off, and try again. And judging by the below examples, that’s not a bad mantra to live by…

Pat McGrath, makeup artist

There’s no need for an introduction. Pat McGrath is considered a genius within the beauty and fashion community. But success didn’t come overnight. At the beginning she even struggled to get bookings, she told InStyle: ‘I remember my mother, after many years, saying, “Are you sure you don’t want to get a real job?”’ Of course, this being McGrath, she never let the rejection get her down. ‘Nothing’s meant to be easy,’ she says. ‘You just keep going. I always felt that it was meant to be.’ More importantly, McGrath isn’t afraid to make mistakes. As hairstylist Guido Palau told Refinery29: ‘She is not scared of doing things, of pushing herself, of wiping it off and starting again. She is passionate about her work, but not precious about it.’ You have to take risks as an artist, in order to succeed.

Lisa Ko, author

In May, Lisa Ko published her debut novel, The Leavers. How did she get there? Not by dreaming of success, she told NBC News, but by setting a goal to get 50 rejections a year: ‘The idea was that the more she put herself out there, the more chances she had of getting her work accepted.’ Last year, she entered a competition, thinking she’d never win, but she would get another rejection. Months later, she won the 2016 PEN/Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Ko now says her success due to persistence and accepting disappointment as part of the process. ‘It takes a lot of extreme stubbornness and failure,’ she said. ‘Like failing over and over again and getting rejected over and over again, and still really believing in the work and wanting to get it done more than wanting to give up.’

Months later, she won the 2016 PEN/Bellweather Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Ko now says her success due to persistence and accepting disappointment as part of the process. ‘It takes a lot of extreme stubbornness and failure,’ she said. ‘Like failing over and over again and getting rejected over and over again, and still really believing in the work and wanting to get it done more than wanting to give up.’

Catherine Baab-Muguira, journalist

Quartz writer Catherine Baab-Muguira wrote an inspiring and open article this month entitled: The good news about failing at absolutely everything in your 20s. She candidly lists the many rejection letters she has faced throughout her early career, and how badly she dealt with them at the time. She writes: ‘I’d been disappointed, sometimes crushed, the first time I’d read them. Now I was smiling. From the vantage point of my 30s, what I saw was not a bunch of rejections – it was a bunch of dodged bullets.’ Her advice for current twenty-somethings? ‘Try stuff. Take advantage of relatively low stakes… We tend to regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. The basic formula is: Trying and failing is > not trying… How else will you know what’s possible and what isn’t? (My version of an inspirational quote: You’ll never know till you fail!)

Do you have tips for preserving through mistakes and rejection? Share in the comments!

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