I adore Michael Phelps almost as much as I love his mother. I think I just love seeing the two of them together because it reminds me of my relationship with my own adored son, Lewis. There's just something so unique about that mother-son relationship. Of course, the mother-daughter relationship is special and unique also but that's for another post.
NBC had an extended interview with Phelps this evening, first with Phelps, his coach, and Rowdie Gaines (do we love that name or what?) and then with Phelps and his mother, who it turns out is a middle school principal in Baltimore.
This interview was particularly illuminating because Phelps and his mother talked about how he was made fun of and bullied through much of his school career. The other kids mocked his ears, mocked his dedication, mocked his "nerdiness." But instead of this having a detrimental effect on him, it was actually quite the opposite. It fueled him to work harder, swim faster, win more.
And this motivation continued throughout his career. Every time people from other teams (especially those pesky French) talked trash to him in the run-up to the Olympics, he didn't let it get him down. Instead, the comments motivated him. His coach figured this out and handed him the articles, with the best quotes highlighted. Michael would post them at the back of his locker and read them over and over again.
Now, me, I might hear the comments of those trash-talking French swimmers and wither. I might decide that they are correct. But Phelps took the opposite tack and we all know the result–8 gold medals at this Olympics only, 14 overall, the most ever by an Olympian.
Just think about how our writing careers might take a huge leap forward if we used rejection as our fuel and motivation. If, when you got a rejection from an agent for the novel you have loved and slaved over, you posted that rejection and read it every day and used it to fuel your determination to get your novel published.
I have to admit that I, for one, do not do that. Instead I think about how stupid that agent is for rejecting me and then I start to wonder if maybe she is really smart and I'm the dumb one for submitting my novel in the first place. And then I think some more and realize that my novel is such a huge piece of idiocy that even the post man was embarrassed to have to handle it and that I will never, ever, as long as I draw breath on this planet and no doubt any others, publish a novel.
So, hmmm, Phelps' approach or mine, which is the more useful? Gosh, that's a no-brainer.
So I am going to try the Phelps approach to rejection and adversity. I'm going to celebrate my next rejection because I will know that it is fueling my efforts to move forward and publish a novel. I'm going to post that rejection on my bulletin board over my desk and read it often, instead of hiding it in a file cabinet, or burning it.
By the way, just in case, the universe or creator or source or God or goddess is reading this post, can I just say that I would really prefer not to have to put this to the test? That I can live just fine without another rejection?
But just on the off chance there's another rejection in the offing, I'll let you know how the Phelps Theory works out for me.