On Having the Courage to Accept Rejection

Dear Joe

So, your mum told me you didn’t get into Oxford.  She is very wise and I know you’ve had conversations to in some way put it into perspective, nevertheless she asked that I drop you a note with my professional coaching hat on, so here you go.

So, firstly, it’s a real f**ker. It’s important to connect with that. Our disappointments tell us what’s important to us. It’s horrible to have an imagined future taken away from us, and horrible to live in the place of uncertainty that opens up. Horrible to be rejected by anything or anyone. Horrible to have regrets. Horrible to look at your peers and think “bastard! I am so much better, so much more talented, I worked harder, I deserved it more”. All of this is no doubt true, but cliches are cliches for a reason and life’s a bitch is one of them. So make sure you wallow. Be kind to yourself. Do not go over and over it though – don’t try to fathom out what you could’ve done differently – that way lies madness – bat any thoughts that don’t serve you away. Be a friend to yourself and speak to yourself exactly the same way you would your closest friends in the same situation. If possible given A levels, give yourself a little time to distract yourself with mindless, shallow things – I shall not suggest what those might be (!), but have fun.

And then when you’ve done that, regroup – avoiding life’s pain by distractions (women, drink, drugs, spending, eating, workaholic-ism) is a way of living for some people – don’t be that person.  Accept that today’s circumstances arose from yesterday’s focus.  Know that pain and struggle are inevitable, our responses are not.   Recognise that it is how we respond to life’s setbacks that form our character, not the setbacks themselves.

It’s time for you to create your future – to be the author of your own life – and you can write whatever the heck you like.  In the book of your life Oxford saying no yesterday will be a sentence not a chapter, but shining though on every page will be the the choices that you made as a result.  But life isn’t scripted for us – it’s not like a novel with a beginning, middle and a satisfying conclusion – it’s like poetry – yes, I know that line from the movie The Big Short “the truth is like poetry and most people f***ing hate poetry” – that’s because its often difficult to understand, requires patience and the best poets try to articulate some kind of truth about human existence, which is often messy.

We spend a lot of time focused on what we want to DO with our lives, but possibly more important to answer is who do you want to BE?

I coach people, mostly 40+ who wished they’d taken the road less travelled – lawyers and accountants who’ve lived by “shoulds” and what they thought their parents wanted for them. Safe paths, often very lucrative, but utterly lacking in meaning. I’m coaching a self-made multimillionaire who runs a venture capital firm. He’s lovely and fun, but he told me that people think of him as successful, but that’s not how he feels – he’s living in a prison of his own affluence. I’m coaching 2 women who are both partners in their respective law firms, who’ve had cancer and questioning the relentless vigour they gave their careers. I had a call from a guy today who runs a globally successful animation agency (Euan plays their games on the PS4 – I’m already thinking maybe an internship there for him one day?!) who wants coaching on finding meaning and purpose in his life. I am not finding a shortage of people asking the question “WTF have I done with my life? Who have I become?”

So dream of, and start to craft, a life that is aligned with who you want to become and create your own definition of success. Maya Angelou said “success is liking who you are, liking what you do, and liking how you do it” I’d add “and liking who you do it with”. Victor Frankl said “success is waking up each morning feeling grateful”.  I appreciate it might feel easier to wake up feeling grateful in a lovely home, looking at your porsche on the drive etc etc, but only sociopaths would say that material comforts compensate for love, laughter, kindness, being with people who love us for who we are, moments of joy, a sunny day on Porthcurno beach (ok I’m pushing it now…!)

You’re very clever – what does this tell you about how to live and the choices to make henceforth? Be the young man your 40 year old self will thank.  Continue to live into being your remarkable mother’s son.

And when you do decide what to do, imagine immensities, don’t settle and remain steadfast. Anything worth having doesn’t come easy.  Whilst it’s all revenue to me, the world doesn’t need any more people asking WTF. The f*** is your life, do something great with it.

An article on being versus doing.

One I thought was relevant and inspiring in a general sense – I liked the line her Mum said when she called asking to come home, and I like the “act as if” mantra


With love,

Vicky x

Also published on Medium.

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