On being ... a fresh perspective

By Ingrid Sapona

A couple weeks ago I made a formal proposal to a client on an idea I had. Before making it I had run the idea past them and sensed (perhaps mistakenly) an interest on their part, which is why I put time and effort into doing a fairly detailed pitch.

The client was expecting the proposal and, given the details involved, I expected they’d think about it -- you know, mull it over. I was quite surprised when, within 24 hours, the client phoned to say, in effect, thanks, but no thanks. Given the reasons they cited, it was clear the idea was dead on arrival.

I was quite upset with the client and myself. After all, how could I have been wrong about what I perceived was their interest -- both initially and when I mentioned I’d make a full proposal? Why did the proposal not merit more consideration on their part? Why did I bother putting any effort or mental energy into the project in the first place?

Though I’ve never been the type to “count my chickens before they’re hatched”, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel tremendous disappointment (especially when the little chickadee is an idea I like or believe in). And, when I’m disappointed, though I know it’s not particularly productive, I tend to brood.

The brooding made me unable to concentrate on much of anything that afternoon. So, I turned to the mother of all time fillers (or wasters, depending on your perspective): e-mail. Just then one came in that was clearly a joke or one of those chain-letter stories promising all your wishes will come true if you forward the e-mail within X minutes and threatening dire consequences if you don’t.

Though I often delete such e-mails, I opened it and started reading. It wasn’t particularly interesting but, wondering why my friend sent it, I kept reading. Then, toward the end of the story came this statement: “I believe that God only gives three answers to prayer: 1. “Yes!”, 2. “Not yet.”, 3. “I have something better in mind.”.”

When I read these words, I literally caught my breath. What a positive way of looking at things! After a pause to think about it, my next thought was that maybe the client’s resounding “NO” means something better’s on the horizon. Of course, I’ve no way of knowing if that’s the case, but I do know that looking at it that way is better than brooding over the “No” I’d been given.

Over the next few days, as I made my way out of the funk caused by the rejection, I thought again and again about those words. It occurred to me that sharing the inspiration I felt in an On being … would be a nice way of starting a new year of columns. But, as I usually do before committing to a topic, I needed to kick the idea around a bit.

My first thought was, “how can I test this idea?” Obviously, if a perceived rejection is really just “not yet” or “I have something better in mind”, it’s going to take a bit of time for either of these possibilities to come to pass.

Flash forward to the fabulous weekend I just had and my reflections on how it came to pass. In late December I got an e-mail from an editor I didn’t know. He had gotten my name from another editor for whom I had written a short piece last year.

He was interested in an article about a gourmet weekend package offered by a local hotel. I thought it would require traditional reporting -- you know, phoning the hotel, getting a few details about the type of people who splurge on the $1,000 per couple weekend, etc. But, that’s not how it panned out. Instead, I was invited to “cover” the story by attending the Saturday night dinner (at one of the most exclusive restaurants in town) and the Sunday brunch (at one of my favourite places). Treat doesn’t begin to describe the experience…

On my way home from brunch, while marveling at my good fortune, I started thinking about how this assignment came my way. First, I thought about the referral from the one editor. Nothing particularly noteworthy about that: referrals aren’t that unusual, especially if you’re an OK writer and you’re conscientious about deadlines.

But then I started thinking about how I got the assignment from the first editor. In that case, the editor had kept my contact information from years before when I had pitched her (and a bunch of other editors) an article idea about Toronto. I didn’t get a single response back then to my queries. In fact, given my success rate, after that I pretty much stopped pitching article ideas to editors.

That’s when it hit me: maybe the initial (silent) rejection of that long-ago query really wasn’t a rejection. Maybe it was a case of “I have something better in mind”. (In this case WAY better!) That’s sure one way of looking at it!

So there you go. I offer this not so much as a comment on prayer (for, though I believe in prayer, I certainly don’t waste them on things like queries and pitches), but as a reminder of the benefits of a fresh perspective -- one I sometimes forget to take: the long view. After all, only time will tell whether today’s rejection or disappointment may some day end up working out as you hoped or maybe something even better will come as a result of your efforts.

© 2007 Ingrid Sapona


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