Celebrating Disappointment by Kenneth John Atchity
Are you disappointed? We all get disappointed by life from time to time and, in these “interesting” times, no doubt more often than usual.
Maybe because I savored my Roman Catholic upbringing, I was drawn to a profession in which rejection became not a daily occurrence, but an hourly one—until the email era, in which rejections come in once every few minutes! As an intellectual property manager, I try to tell my rejected clients that every no is a step further to the one yes we’re looking for. I remind them of a story I was once told:
There’s a big blackboard in the sky. On it are all the NOS you or your dream project will ever get. And there too is the final YES.
The only problem is that you can’t see the blackboard.
Since this is the case, what does the dreamer do? Only three things:
Never give up. You never know, but the YES may be lurking behind the NO that makes you want to throw in the towel. There’s only one way to find out: Persist. As long as you live and breathe. My definition of a happy death is dying in the middle of your dream.
Get through the NOS as fast as you can.
Don’t think negatively about them. Do you really wish your dream was accepted by the WRONG person? That’s what a NO is, a wrong person for your dream. Nothing would be worse, believe me, than having your dream partnered with someone you talked into it when they didn’t see it in the first place.
Celebrate each NO as a step forward toward making your dream come true. No successful dreamer has succeeded without dealing with rejection over and over. Edison….
Disappointment and celebration. To live a happy life, you can’t have one without the other. Think of them as life’s teeter-totter, disappointment on one seat, celebration on the other.
Imagine that you’re on that teeter-totter (because you are) but don’t understand how it works. Every time disappointment has the upper position, you sit there like a lump on a log and bemoan your fate.
That will literally get you nowhere, allowing disappointment to maintain the upper hand. I went to an ashram outside of Delhi some years ago, to check out for myself whether a certain guru was all my current girlfriend believed he was cracked up to be.
I have to admit I was nodding during most of the program, but during the question and answer period I came awake as I heard a distraught westerner lament that she tried so hard to lead the path of perfection and serenity but, because she was only mortal, kept falling. “What shall I do?”
He looked at her with that infinite ennui that teachers who have heard it all a thousand times experience, and said:
“Pick yourself up and keep going.”
“Master, I try to do that,” she lamented. “But I am weak, and I only fall again. How many times can I pick myself up?”
“Sister,” the wise man replied, “how many times can you fall?”
That’s when I decided he was indeed a wise man.
You’re sitting there on the ground, disappointment in the air, wondering your glass of life is half-empty. Finally you get tired of the half-empty glass. Or you figure it out—or you remember--and you use your legs as pistons and celebrate your ability to return to the top of the teeter-totter where your glass of life appears to be more than half full!
That’s celebration in action, countering disappointment. That’s optimism, the only logical program to adopt for life. It’s logical because it either proves to be justified—by success; or you’ll actually never know because you remain optimistic to the end. That’s why, in The Godfather, we all loved the Don Corleone’s last words as he fell to his knees with a massive stroke in the tomato garden: “La vita é cosí bella…Life is so beautiful”—optimistic to the un-bitter end.
Don’t think I’m not as bad as the woman at the ashram in terms of sitting at the bottom of the teeter-totter wondering what happened to put disappointment in the cat bird seat. I am as good at lamenting as the next guy, maybe even better! One day I was complaining to my best friend (you need to be careful who you complain to, by the way) about a clump of setbacks that happened one after another, yet another reflection of the turmoil of our times. I recited them to my friend and explained why I questioned whether life was still worth living.
He said, “So some deals fell through, and so it’s hard to earn a living.
“But you don’t have mongoloid children, but two kids who are earning a living and leading an okay life. You go back and forth to New York whenever you want to. You have a beautiful Japanese wife who cooks, takes care of the house, works hard, has her own non-profit, loves you. Loves you. Your brother is not in jail, but is a millionaire who leaves you alone. Your sisters aren’t drug addicts, but doing okay. You aren’t pushing a walker, you ARE playing tennis 3 times a week. You’ve been involved in a whole bunch of books that have your name in them. You’ve been involved in a bunch of movies. You have a bunch of projects that are still viable. You have friends who haven’t killed you yet. You’re not driving a junk heap but a luxury sedan with air conditioning. You have a view out three sides of your apartment in L.A. You have a cat who loves you. You meet Hollywood people and literary people all the time. You’ve developed your companies in a whole new direction and had the best year in six years last year. You have several major feature films nearing production. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR ATTITUDE?”
One thing about attitude: you’re entirely in charge of it. Celebrate that. Celebrate that the problems you have are the ones you asked for. The cost of admission to the stage of your life.
Reposted from Tome Tender