I’m in the midst of seeing my kids—twins, both seniors in high school—through the college application process this year. I’m sure that those of you who have been through this process can attest that it can be incredibly stressful for kids and their families.
The thing I’ve been reminded of as I watch my kids navigate this high-stakes rite of passage is the uncomfortable, but enduring value of “no.”
People who strive for success are bound to get some rejection.
My kids probably won’t get into every college they apply to. And the “no” answers are going to be just as important in helping shape their future as the “yes” answers. Even though it’s easy for this process to feel pretty crazy and dehumanizing, after the frustration, disappointment, and tears subside, I really believe that they will each find their place to thrive.
Every effective leader I work with talks about how failure and rejection was essential to helping them find their path.
I now shudder to think about how my life would be different, and far less satisfying, without those “no” answers. In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you get what you need.” Indeed, that has been amply true for me. While my kids are working hard to get into the colleges they aspire to attend, I hope they are getting much more than a few fat envelopes in the mail. I hope they are learning to trust the process of life—including the affirmations and the rejections—to help them find not just what they want, but what they need.
Cheryl is founder and CEO of Blue Beyond Consulting. She is a firm believer in high trust, high expectations workplaces, and a sought-after advisor and speaker on change, leadership, and culture.