How To Handle Rejection
I just held auditions for a student show, and as always, there was a wealth of talent on display; more than could fit into the show. At the end of each audition group, I told the auditioners to A) not forget the ageless Ellen Barkin's unsung contributions to the history of cinema and B) keep auditioning regardless of the outcome. Audition, audition, audition.
Because I've been in their shoes. I've auditioned for student shows and not been chosen and spent evenings and afternoons checking my phone every five minutes for an email that never comes. It's shitty.
It's also shitty to audition for a Playground incubator team five times. It's shitty to never succeed in a Harold audition and have to wait nine years (NINE YEARS) before you luck into an improv show at the iO, with an independent LGBTQ team. It's shitty to be in your (aggressively early, late early) 30s and have never gotten called back for TourCo auditions. It's shitty to send out letter after letter and email after email to agents, for a decade, and receive almost zero responses.
Auditions are shitty. Rejection is shitty.
But, it makes you better. It's made me better, by a long shot.
After 10 years in Chicago, and two very brief dalliances with agents (one of which turned out to be a scam), I finally have one. And they're amazing. And I realize I wasn't ready for them five years ago, or two. But I am now, because I have something that's really invaluable: a powerful level of Giving Zero Fucks.
That's not to say I don't care about my comedy career, or don't care about auditions or acceptance or projects I'm in. I always have and will continue to give my all. It's to say I finally Give Zero Fucks what people think of me, so a failed audition will no longer crush me, or even dent me. I like me. I know I have comedic worth and that there are successes still in store for me. If people are not on board with John Loos Inc., that's their problem and their loss, not mine. I'm not changing me. I'm being more and more me.
Maybe part of this attitude shift is a result of nestling safely into my 30s, but I like to think that after years and years of casual and callous rejection, I've built up a superhuman immunity to it. Don't want me in your show? Cool! Totally understand. Casting is tough and there are a lot of talented people out there. Don't want me on your stage? I get it. I'm not right for every part. I'm John Loos. And sometimes (probably most times, actually) you don't need a John Loos type. But when you do, you know where to find me.
Each of us has a unique value. Things about us that no one else has. Rejection taught me to not only seek comfort in that fact, but to embrace it wholeheartedly. At some point, I stopped trying to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be and I started to be myself. I started creating my own shit. And inviting people to be a part of it. I stopped asking for permission and started demanding attention. I use the phrase "throw myself in front of the bus" a lot, as in to get people's attention I've had to throw myself in front of a lot of (metaphorical) buses. I've realized they're never going to come to me. And that's fine.
I've been invited to very few Cool Kids Parties, so I'm currently throwing my own party, with Sheryl Still Single and half-assed Ellen Barkin references, and making people want to be a part of it.
In other words, I stopped seeing myself as one of a million American Idol-esque hopefuls lining up in a Best Buy parking lot and started seeing myself as a commodity. I stopped waiting for the magical hand that would recognize my unique genius and pluck me out of the crowd and make me famous and started seeing myself as a business. Thus, this site. Thus, this blog.
Don't let others dictate your success. Don't wait for the email or the phone call. And don't fear rejection. It builds character, as every storybook grandpa would say. It makes you stronger, wiser, smarter and sharper. Because, in it's own weird way, it brings you closer to you.