I got rejected from a job the other day.
That's not really true. It's more that I never got called in for a job to which I had applied. I followed up with my contact, who said the general manager was out and that things would probably be back on track within a week or two.
So I waited the week or two and ... nothing.
While intellectually I knew this wasn't because I was a loser, a little part of me believed it was. That it was somehow because I wasn't good enough ... that they didn't want me because I was found wanting.
Beyoncé has a different perspective on things like this. It's very simple. In fact, she says it in just six words in Self-Titled (from BEYONCÉ):
"The reality is, sometimes you lose."
The mega-star followed that up with: "And you're never too good to lose, you're never too big to lose, you're never too smart to lose. It happens."
It just happens.
It happened to me in another way when I was 26.
At the time I was really unhappy, living in the cold and perpetually-foggy Outer Sunset district of San Francisco. Desperate to get out, I applied to two jobs at the same time: one at Teatro Zinzanni, a creative circus show, the other at Club Med.
When I applied to these jobs, I also prayed for guidance. I hadn't done that a lot in my life, but I'd had a pretty hard year. "Please," I prayed, "please just let me get one of these positions. I don't want to have to decide. Just give me the one that's right, and don't let me get the other one."
I didn't do this out of a sense of brilliance or determination. I didn't do it out of a deep sense of faith. I did it because I was tired. I was tired of trying to make ends meet; trying to get out of the pervasive gloom of depression I was in when I didn't even have health insurance; trying to figure out how to make my rent and also make my life work.
Please just give me the position that's meant for me right now, and let the other one fall away. After trying to control basically everything about my life, all the time, it was a remarkably freeing position to take.
It worked. I never heard from Teatro Zinzanni--I only got the job at Club Med. And that prompted me to move from my bleak, gray San Francisco neighborhood to the sunny Caribbean. It got me out of the haze of confused desperation I'd been moving around in--it got me moving.
The point is this: In both cases, there was a part of me that felt like I was a loser. That I'd "lost" by not getting a job.
But according to Beyoncé, sometimes that's just what's called for:
"The reality is, sometimes you lose. And you're never too good to lose, you're never too big to lose, you're never too smart to lose, it happens. And it happens when it needs to happen. And you have to embrace those things."
In our culture, we are trained to never lose. Never lose in sports, never lose in business, never lose in personal relationships. We are taught that it's always better to be the strong one, the one in control, the one who's got it all together. That if you lose, you're a loser.
But this is not how life actually works. In fact, that very concept goes against nature. The only thing in the natural world that grows at all costs and never "loses" ... is cancer.
If you're engaged in your career, it's personal. It feels personal when you don't get a job, don't get a promotion, don't get a contract. When you "lose" to a colleague, to a competitor, to a governance board. It can feel really bad.
I didn't get that job I mentioned at the beginning. In fact, I never heard from them. But in the weeks following, another (better) opportunity fell into my lap. And I was available to do so because I'd "lost" the other position.
I believe that's what needed to happen.
Sometimes in life you're going to lose. You're never too good, too big, or too smart to lose. Everybody loses sometimes. It's part of the human condition.
So when it happens to you, remember two things: one, losing does not make you a loser. Period. And two, sometimes losing is exactly what needed to happen.