When Things Aren’t Working, It’s Time To Change Your Strategy


Imagine spending hours on a piece of work, then submitting it only to have a rejection letter come your way. You feel disappointed right? However, this is the daily struggle of most writers; something that has helped me in my life as an engineering researcher.

Last month I received a rejection letter on a paper I submitted. There were many comments from the reviewers but none of them outright rejected it, so I felt sad that the editor rejected it before giving me a chance to address those comments.

During the same couple of weeks, my applications for engineering jobs came back with rejections too. Something snapped in me then. I was hoping that paper was going to get accepted so I can add it to my CV so I can send out more job applications. But then it got rejected, and that pushed me to step number 2; hustle.

You see, for the longest time I had that idea that as long as I had the degrees and papers under my belt, the world will appreciate me for my mind, and it will see how much I love science, how much I love deriving equations, poring over data, discovering trends, and testing theories then seeing them work beautifully (or not). I thought the world would notice, and I wouldn’t have to work too hard to get a job.

Boy was I wrong. The world is filled with people like me. Even though I’m big into self-love and personal affirmation, I like to tell myself that my value is inherent and I am enough. For me. The world’s perception is different. It really doesn’t care about my inherent value. All it cares is how this value will add to its value. It doesn’t care about what I can offer in general, as long as what I’m offering is the exact skillset it needs.

And there was one way to find out what the world needs; to talk to people. I’m an introvert by nature, and I enjoy my solitude. It’s not that I’m anti-social, I actually like people. It’s just that my schedule is usually too busy to go out of my way and meet them.

But that changed after the rejection letter. All I could think of were the social meetings I had to cancel because I was too busy working on something that might have taught me something, but failed in nonetheless. The thing I was spending so much time and effort in wasn’t working anymore. Doing well in school had always worked for me until now. But now since it hasn’t been working, something ought to change.

For the last two months I decided to go out into the world, reach out to people even though half the time I was superscared about sending that email, let alone meet them face to face and talk to them. The only thing I keep on telling myself is;

  • I will never stop being scared. It’s not the fear that defines a man but how you face it.
  • 98 % of the people will just ignore the email, and that’s okay. It’s not like they’re going to make it their life’s mission to come after me for bothering them. Just ignore them and move on. There are 7 billion other people in the world.
  • 2 % will respond positively, and some may even take time out of their busy schedules to talk to me, so I should be humbled by that.
  • Never lose sight of the big picture. The only reason I got into engineering was I loved science, I loved solving problems….The outcome that my paper was rejected doesn’t matter because it’s the process of learning more about science and engineering that I’ve always loved.

Inspired by Rachel Darnall’s post; aiming for rejection; https://medium.com/i-digress/aiming-for-rejection-9bc56bef4db5#.4j9ovfw8b

Let me know your comments on this post on twitter @ahechoes.

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Also, check out my short story collection, “All Bleeding Stops and Other Short Stories from the Kenyan Coast,” and the non-fiction book summarizing a lot of ideas in the personal development field if you want to change your life but don’t know where to start, “Mine your inner resources”.