I’m a big sports fan. I love football (go Broncos and Vikings!), hockey, and baseball. I played fast-pitch softball as a youth — and for a while as a young adult — and I think this gives me a greater appreciation when watching world-class athletes compete. Participating in youth sports taught me a lot about resiliency — lessons I was reminded of recently as I watched the World Series.

What is freelancer resiliency?

Have you had a pitch rejected yet? Heard an emphatic “no!” over the phone? Received a bloody, red-inked draft back from an editor?

How did it make you feel?

We freelancers face a lot of rejection in our line of work. We often fall short, miss the mark, have to suck it up and re-do assignments because we biffed them. Freelancing can be hard on the ego.

Resilient freelancers are the ones who have learned not to take these things personally. Resilient freelancers quickly put the bad stuff behind them and continue moving forward. Resiliency is “the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens,” according to Merriam-Webster.

What sports can teach us about resiliency

You may have heard an old adage that usually goes something like: “Even Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest hitters of all time, struck out nearly two-thirds of the time he stepped up to the plate.” (For the record this is not entirely accurate, but it’s based on Mantle’s lifetime batting average of .298.)

In fact, here’s what Mickey had to say about it himself:

“During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at-bats a season. That means I played 7 years without ever hitting the ball.” – Mickey Mantle in Mickey Mantle – Memories and Memorabilia (Larry Canale, Krause Publications, 06/20/2011, Page 150) [Mickey Mantle Quotes]

 

“I played 7 years without ever hitting the ball.”

Freelancing can feel like that sometimes, too. Like we’re playing without ever hitting the ball.

But looking at a major league player’s lifetime batting average and seeing he only hit the ball in roughly one out of every three plate appearances tells only a fraction of the story. The real crux of the matter is: How does any major league player handle such a ‘low’ success rate? And how do they bounce back from their truly embarrassing failures, such as Bill Buckner’s legendary ground-ball-between-the-legs gaffe?

The answer is resilience.

How to develop resiliency

Key to developing the ability to rebound after rejection and failure is keeping a sense of perspective. On your list of life priorities, where does that red-inked draft really stand? Is it as emotionally crushing as having a child with cancer? Of course not!

Buckner says perspective helped him overcome his error in the 1986 World Series:

 

“People’s lives, health, family are much more important,’’ he says. “You’ve got to enjoy the good when you’ve got it.

“But life is not all good things. You’ve got to rebound.’’ — Bill Buckner

(from “It’s all behind him: 25 years later, Buckner is handling things flawlessly and with a firm grip

You should not expect to become resilient overnight. Personally, it’s something I work on every day. You can practice resilience by mindfully accepting every setback your freelance career throws at you, assigning it a rank on your overall priority list, and consciously choosing not to let one rejection, slip-up, or failure define who you are as a writer.

That is your challenge for today…and every day going forward. You can do this.

Do you consider yourself a resilient freelancer? What tips do you use to maintain a sense of perspective when you get rejected? Please share them in the comments!

Wishing you well,

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