prodp© Rodjulian | Dreamstime

What if Every ‘No’ Meant ‘Not Yet’

Using the Magic of Disappointment to Reshape Your Dreams

There was a time when I believed life had order. I thought I had it all, and that nothing bad could ever happen. I look back now and wonder… was there ever really such a time?

No one is immune. Life happens. At one time or another we all go through a challenge that you never expect… one that is life changing, even devastating.

We often hide our private struggles and disappointments, feeling we’re the only ones. Those times either stifle us or make us stronger.

“Your reaction to life challenges is your choice.”

It might feel as though you only have one option or one way of reacting to a challenging life experience or opportunity. When you feel the fear and chaos, it’s the very moment you’re forced to take the next step.

If you’re still alive, you’re not done, yet. Today is your opportunity to cultivate what happens next.

“No one in the world can fill the space that you were created to fill. Even if you were to have an identical twin, the combination of personality, skill, and interests would be different. The world needs what you have to offer.” — Chevonna Gaylor, LMFT, author, The Emerging Healer

Imagination is the beginning of a plan to fulfill your dreams. It begins when we’re children, and then, all is possible.

We played with infinite potential because our imagination had no boundaries. We were princesses, super heroes, presidents, and doctors. We could imagine ourselves being anything we desired.

The next 10 or so years, we attend school, and our peers have a huge influence on all we become. Then, we step into early adulthood, barely able to have a thought that wasn’t shaped by our parents, our teachers, or friends.

We still have imagination, but self-doubt keeps it at bay. We’re chained to the idea that we’re not quite good enough, or at least not as good as the next guy.

The negative chatter holds you hostage to the belief that you could never measure up; that dreams are for children, or for other people to fulfill.

It’s time to start believing again that all is possible… yes again because it never left you. It is just buried somewhere in disappointment, tears, rejections, and the events that drop us to our knees.

“What if every “no” meant “not yet,” or “Every setback meant, there’s something better?”- Mike Dooley, author, Leveraging the Universe

I recently saw an interview of a famous Los Angeles chef and restaurateur, Chef Niki Nakayama (Chef’s Table) who said she struggles every time a guest doesn’t enjoy a new menu or dish. It’s devastating, but makes her a better, more determined chef. She called the emotion, kuyashii.

Kuyashii is a Japanese word that stumps translators because it means so much more than the literal word. It’s the emotion you feel when you fail, but that emotion becomes the inspiration to fuel the pursuit of achievement.

It’s the ability to pluck the negative from a devastating experience and transform it into a personal dedication to winning.

“Kuyashii sets the stage for sheer grit.”

Grit allows you to get better and stronger from your failures because it gives rise to attributes like courage, hardiness, backbone… and tenacity.

We look at our childhood and realize we’ve internalized so much disenchantment. But, what if we could examine the events in our lives from a different perspective, and use the magic of kuyashii to our advantage.

As a young girl, I imagined myself being a star, a hero, a powerful presence. That’s the story I acted out every day with my dolls, my poems, and my songs.

It all changed on my first day of fifth grade. As the daughter of a Navy man, I started new schools every year and yet, I never got used to it. My stomach turned, my heart raced. I hated it. I couldn’t hide. I had red hair and freckles.

As I stood in the schoolyard, on yet another first day, I looked for someone to befriend. A boy came running from across the playground in front of a bleacher full of students. He stopped abruptly in front of me, leaned close and spit in my face. He started to laugh and yelled, “I’d rather be dead than red!”

I was stunned. For a moment I couldn’t move. I felt slimy spit dripping from my face. The boy laughed louder. I wanted to run, but I didn’t. I turned slowly and walked straight to the girl’s bathroom. Luckily it was empty. I stared into the mirror and started to cry.

That was the worst first day ever.

But, something inside of me wouldn’t let that incident destroy me forever. Without knowing the word, I implemented the magic of kuyashii.I looked for ways to do the things that made me feel good about myself.

I began performing in a local singing group, and then at 16 flew to New York to audition for a musical production that would tour the United States, Europe, and Africa.

I nailed it.

“Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time.”- Marc Chernoff, MarcAndAngel.com

Traveling around the world gave me something I didn’t expect… a reconnection with my dreams of being the hero of my own story.

And why shouldn’t I be?

“It’s time to be the hero of your story.”

From the stage, I discovered a whole new me, with a whole new feeling of confidence and faith in my personal greatness.

I imagined it, I pursued it, and it changed me.

“One thing is certain; nothing can ever be counted on to remain the same. When you try too hard to hold onto a time or a person or a feeling, it seems to be the moment you are forced into transition, and it changes you forever.” -How to Survive the Worst that Can Happen

One of the most difficult experiences of my life was the birth of my daughter, Julianne. I didn’t expect her to be anything less than perfect. I wasn’t prepared at all for the little face I saw.

She was born with a severe bilateral cleft lip and gum.

I’d never seen an unrepaired cleft before, not in person, nor in pictures. In the year she was born, we didn’t see ads in print or on television for Operation Smile showing us babies in third world countries who were born with these unusual faces.

At home, I had the perfect pink and white room waiting for my little baby girl. The walls were lined with Laura Ashley wallpaper and the crib adorned with puffy Shabby Chic pillows and blankets. She was going to be the new princess in the castle of my fairy tale life.

Yet, there she was, a tiny little baby girl with a perfectly imperfect face. I fell in love.

I didn’t know how my two sons would react. My husband told them she was beautiful and healthy, but there was a problem with her mouth that surgery could fix.

The next day they bounded into the hospital room, peered into the bassinet and declared her, the most beautiful baby in the world.

Then, they fought over who would hold her first.

That changed me. My sons were my teachers. Because they were fully prepared for this perfectly imperfect face, they were ready to fall in love.

I began to think of ways I could empower my daughter and pave the way for her own schoolyard experiences yet to come.

For years I worked with my husband who wrote scripts for television and movies (Beauty and the Beast, Sliders, Man of the House, among others), and for years I hid behind his work to satisfy my creative yearning. I didn’t believe in my talent or ability to write on my own. I never even tried.

But, when my daughter was born, she ignited my creative calling. She woke up the writer in me. It was time to begin my own body of work.

I decided to write a fairy tale for Julianne. It was the perfect way to give her the words and plant the concept that she could be the hero of her story. It was also a tool I intended to use when she started school, to help young students see the beauty in imperfection.

On Julianne’s first day of kindergarten, she confidently walked into the classroom with her very own book, Rosey… the Imperfect Angel. Writing that book helped me arm her with the words and the inner strength to boldly face the schoolyard.

She was proud of herself. She even shared pictures of how she looked when she was born. The young students were in awe and it changed the way they saw her, and she created deep and lasting friendships from those early days.

My daughter and I appeared on talk shows, and went into schools with my best friend, actress Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie), to raise awareness. Melissa willingly gave her commitment and time to help me pave the way for my child and others like her.

(Here’s a past article about it in the Los Angeles Times.)

photo © Teresita Lozano /Julianne today

To this day, my daughter is fearless, confident, and proud of who she is. Through the miracle of a gifted surgeon, her face was transformed and reflects the beauty she had inside all along.

She’s a fitness instructor, and she often shares her experiences to help other women who might feel different or struggle with self esteem.

If you begin to look at incidents like these from a positive and negative perspective, it untangles the wounds and allows them to heal.

It takes you away from the idea that you’re the victim of your story and into the star of your own life.

Does everything happen for a reason? Not really. Things happen, period. But, your rebound strikes change in you. You are stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

“Life has order and disorder… but all of it triggers the next stage of your life.”

The Next Step

It’s time to fall in love with your story in a new way. As you shine a light on the order and the disorder of your life experiences, you’ll discover how all of it triggered the beginning of a new you.

“Wisdom is hindsight transformed.”

It takes changing the way you see your life and implementing the wisdom of hindsight. By doing this, it reignites your imagination to embrace all that is possible.

“Stop giving power to the incidents that hurt you. Let resilience and new perceptions change the story.”

Look at your storyline.

1. Document your life on a piece of paper. Write down every event you can remember that might be significant.

2. How did each event affect you in a negative way?

3. How did each event affect you in a positive way?

4. What emotions did you feel about each event?

5. Can you now use your imagination to think of that event without the negative attached to it?

Doing this exercise is your chance to push the option button. You can look at specific incidents as life changing or life destroying.

Look for those kuyashii moments where something bad happened, and it drove you to higher ground. It ignited the resilience that rose up out of adversity.

Here’s my personal story, transformed:

1. Negative: I was devastated on the night of my daughter’s birth. She had many surgeries ahead, and potential shame in the schoolyard. How could I protect her?

2. Positive: In my determination to encourage her inner strength and confidence, I made a sacred contract to accept my creative longing as my destiny to help her. I wrote my first book.

3. Emotions: Sadness, devastation, fear, grieving. Challenged, igniting a strong sense of purpose, creatively alive!

Now, when I think of my daughter’s birth, I only feel the incredible joy of all she’s become. Her birth helped me write a book that not only helped her but other young children, too.

Is there something from your past that can be awakened and transformed?

“Believe in the power of imagination and the magic of kuyashii.”

As you do this, I promise your true strength and resilience will be evident to you. It will give your self-esteem a boost and help you rise to your greatness. You’ll discover fulfilling your dreams is just many layers of disappointment rising to triumph in the story of you.

Thank you for reading this! I hope you’ll “follow” me! I have a downloadable, Free Creativity Mindset Checklist for you that expands on some of the ideas I write about.