A Performer's Guide To Handling Rejection 8/15/17

  Rejection means nothing to me emotionally anymore. I don't take it personal, because I don't feel it's ever permanent. No I'm not a sociopath, I'm just a comedian. This is our life. Most of the noes we hear are temporary.  Things change. Quickly. Just take advantage of the moments when they change, and never be caught off-guard. When they say you have to develop thick skin to be a comedian, they are not just referring to being on stage. The thick skin is needed mostly for what you encounter daily offstage. The industry. The occasional green room prima donna drama. The cancellations. The travel. The bounced checks. Sleeping in your car more than any adult should. These are all par for the course. Then you wonder why one occasionally snaps at your friend at the club for his "innocent" drunk heckle lol (...I'm not lol'ing though. Your friend deserved whatever he got.) 

  The best thing a comic can know is where they stand with the powers that be. If you tell me you don't like me, and provide a reason, I have respect for you. Strangely I prefer a negative response over being ignored, because too much of a comedian's life is filled with ambiguity. I value negatively tangible over positively absent. I don't enjoy either, but whenever I get ignored by a booker, a club, or an agency, I think to myself "Wow. How much better am I going to be as a performer by the time they come to their senses?!" Arrogant-sounding I know...but how else should I look at it if I want to survive? It's not arrogance when you've put the work in. It's simply confidence in your progression as an artist. Without it? A comic wouldn't even have the guts to shift their car into drive and travel to the next gig sooo...NO apologies coming from me any time soon for knowing and expressing my aptitude for comedy. Ever. 

  There is a larger emotional side-effect at play which rejection has taught me to utilize more than doubt or depression, however: Gratitude.  Instead of privately moping or publicly ranting on social media about the places that don't want my services, I focus my positive energy on the places where I AM wanted. I heap tons of praise and future promotion on the people and venues who have all shared a stake in allowing me to fulfill my dream of performing comedy for gainful employment. They deserve it for believing in me, and continuously booking me for future engagements.  

  When athletes get traded by teams, it can be devastating if a player wasn't expecting the move. But you will find a common mantra among career-long journeymen who have countlessly been through the rigors of talent exchange: "It doesn't mean my current team gave me away, it means another team wanted me more." There is great power in that attitude.

  As performers, we must adopt that same mindset. When you send your available booking dates out to venues and agencies, whoever ends up filling those weeks for you simply wanted you more at that time than the ones who didn't.  They may show it by the amount of response time they choose to take or the amount of money they choose to offer. Either way, when that booking date gets confirmed, understand that it means you were made a priority in that moment.

  Show bookers can and will reject you often. Just remember they are not your enemy for not selecting you.  They cannot book every single person they want to during a given year. There are only so many slots, and there are SO MANY performers bombarding them constantly.  They have to find reasons to choose one act over another. Reasons which often land in the realm of subjectivity over objectivity because there may just be no other way to decipher between several options at the time of their selection. So to my young performers out there scratching and clawing just to be seen, I beg of you to comprehend that getting booked is a privilege, not a birthright.

  An agent once told me "Alvin, when you are selected for a show, it has everything to do with you. When you aren't? It had NOTHING to do with you." I have always carried that mindset with me: Be grateful when you get it, mindful when you don't, and constantly move on to the next step no matter what.

  Give your attention to the wins in your life and build upon them. Learn to view rejection not as a loss you must avenge, but as an inevitable part of the success process you must acknowledge and move passed.  There will always be more rejection around the bend, but the same can be said for opportunities.  Concentrate your energy on your next opportunity, and those perceived losses won't phase you nearly as much. You'll also be surprised at how some of your desires which you didn't attain at one point in time may not be something you want in your life down the road anyway!  So in that sense, rejection can be your friend because it acts as a tool that allows you to transition passed false neccesities and their fleeting validation. 

  Last but not least, remember: Bookers have the power to select someone OVER you, but they don't have power over YOU. Without performers to choose from, the people who wield the authority to hire you over your competitors would actually have no value whatsoever. So always respect your value to the entertainment hierarchy. Focus on YOU, not them. Win. Occasionally get back to those bookers who reject you if you still feel the need to be validated by their selection. If they pass over you again, so be it. Go elsewhere and win again, outside of them. Repeat. If you do this enough times, they'll take notice, Trust Me.

   I will always find a way to be more grateful for being wanted than saddened if I am not. I hope that in your life, my highly valued and appreciated reader, you will do the same. :) 

 

-Alvin

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