Embracing Rejection: Turning No into Yes.

I’m used to rejection, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when it happens.

The rejections in my life are professional and two-fold – both as a sales representative and a writer.

As a sales rep, “no” is more frequent than “yes.” I represent ten directors, talented and seasoned pros for whom I secure commercials for them to direct. I feel responsible for their livelihood and aspirations, and doing so requires perseverance, a thick skin, and an abdication of control (or deluding myself into thinking I have some).

I hear about a project that may be right for one of my directors, and my job is to contact the gatekeeper in charge – the advertising agency producer. I used to be an agency producer before I transitioned to sales, so I certainly understand their position of being bombarded by hundreds of reps like me in an attempt to sift through the emails to find a match to present to their creative teams and clients. Often, my email (I don’t believe in hounding via phone) doesn’t make it through the noise, and the lack of response doesn’t upset me. Because I’ve been there. So when I do get a response and am asked to send reels, I rejoice. And when the reels get viewed and shared (we reps have spy-ware so fyi we know when this happens) I experience a win-thrill. I got a chance to throw the ball into the basket! Whether or not it goes in however, is not up to me. My job is to sit on my email-hands and instead send Jedi waves through the ether (“This is the director you’re looking for…”).

I try to turn a “no” into a “maybe,” and a maybe into a “yes.” And in the crazy ever-changing business of advertising, when that actually does work (I like to believe it’s because of my mind force) the ball can still bounce back out of the basket, even after it’s gone in. (Forgive the metaphor – I played basketball aka Jew-Ball in high-school and I sucked but played Center anyway because I’m a tall Jew). In a sense, I move air around for a living – trying to make a match between a project description and a person via the interwebs. Like a real estate broker without an abode or a shoe salesman without the shoes.

But my real currency is relationships; befriending and wining and dining the gatekeepers – many of whom have become long lasting friends – with the hopes that my email will break through the next round of clutter. Because if the gatekeeper doesn’t know me, the lack of recognition – just my name in the signature of an email – gets lost, confused, and sometimes, I’m mistaken for a dude from India.

But in the last week, I’ve found myself suddenly reacting with sensitivity and frustration (privately) to these rejections, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed.

Until I realized that earlier that day, I had received another kind of rejection.

My memoir is out on submission with my literary agent. My writing rep. In a sense, she has my job – sending material to the gatekeepers at publishing houses who say yay or nay to my book. She’s a straight up thick-skinned gal (my kind of woman), and we agreed that whenever she receives a reply from an editor, good or bad, she should feel free to hit “forward” so I know what’s happening, no emoticons or hand holding required. I’m cool with this, but on a particular morning last week, on the heels of a rejection from an agency producer, my agent forwarded me an editor rejection, “Not for me. Thanks.”

Ouch. My thick skin spontaneously melted into flimsy skin. It took a few forwards to my husband and to my group of writer pals to get over it and move on. In truth, I prefer the straight up pass, rather than a long explanation of tropes or apologies.

And yet, I keep going. Writing essays and submitting them to anonymous editors. Writing books and putting them out into a vast world of unknowns. Curating director reels and finding out of the box ways to get them viewed and considered, and trying really hard to let go of the outcome. Assuring my directors, just like my agent assures me, that it just wasn’t a match. Believing in my directors’ talent, like my agent believes in mine. But mostly, finding a way to recycle my belief in myself and not take the rejections personally, because as the old saying goes, it really isn’t personal.

The antonym for “rejection” is “acceptance” and “choice.” So I choose to embrace my choices and to do what I must. To keep going. Repeatedly hearing “no” is not going to stop me from exercising my throwing muscles, over and over, and reminding myself that the more “no’s” I get, the closer I get to a “yes.”

Momlish for Mother's Day

The older I get and the closer I get to motherhood, the more I fall in love with my own mother (“Ema” in Hebrew). The things that used to frustrate me when I was younger – basically anything that got in the way of indulging my childish antics – no longer do. Mothers are supposed to call you out on your shit (if not Moms, who else?), in whatever form (or language) the critiques come in, and I’ve finally learned to decode the real meaning behind my mom’s Momlish/Heblish – love. So in honor of my incredible Ema, here are Cougel’s Best of Ema posts.


Here are my favorite Ema-isms from the last year. If you don’t speak Ema (a language consisting of misspellings, malapropisms, and of course, love), bear with me.

Cougel: It’s looking like I’m close to getting this new job!
Mom: I am holding my fingers for you.

Cougel: I got the job!
Mom: You must be inside the seventh cloud.

Mom: re: new Christian boyfriend (now husband). How is it going?
Cougel: Good, we communicate about everything.
Mom: If you talk about everything, have you talked about him converting?

Cougel: My friend is going through a hard time and she’s staying at my apartment.
Mom: Just remember the saying, no good deed goes unfinished.

Cougel: What did you think of my essay?
Mom: I loved it. So hard warming.

Emails from Ema:
Just read in consumer report, of studies that showed that mercury is very high. in tuna .[we know that] . . you should not eat or give to your children more that 1 serving a week. [ children should have 3 oz ]. i am shocked. sub. canned salmon fr. Alaska. Love, Ema

To daughters (re: the Holocaust): … the other cuntries did nothing!

To daughters (re: Passover): Just came from Shoprite in Pars. they have all the dry goods out for pesach. bought most of the stuff. I don’t have to sclapp to Livingston. Meat and others, i will buy when i get back fr. Israel.

To Cougel (re: a funny joke): I am laughing so hard. Ha cha cha.

To friends: My famous daughter’s essay was published in HUFFINGTON POST PUBLISHER!

To Cougel: I brought your horoscope in heb. fr. israel. amazing so much to the point. Call me if u want me to translate.

To Cougel: Did you hear about the 8.9 earth quake in Japan? a big one so scary. nature is not in our control.


Email # 1:

Email #2:
Send me instructions how to get in? ema

Mom, don’t be sensitive. There’s stuff about you and Dad that’s exaggerated for comedic effect.
By the way, a “cougar” is a popular term in pop culture now for women over 40, attractive, independent, who go after younger men…it started derogatory but now it’s not.. it’s like Demi Moore.

Mom (after finally reading it):
It’s cute. I like it. Can I go on it and add more?

Yes, you can comment. What do u want to add?

I have to think about it. The world reads them???
Did you eat dinner ?


Mom left me a voicemail this morning and when I went to listen to it, I was with my co-workers, so I listened to the message like they would. Meaning, like people who don’t speak Hebrew. So the message sounded like this:

Chhchhh chhhh rrrrrrr chh rrr..em…rr chchchch chhh COSTCO chchchhchh cccchhhhhh CLIPPINGS….cchhhchchchch chchhchchchchchchcccccchh rrrrr cchchchcch (throat clear) cchhhhhh…lav you mees you, Ema (Thankfully she said it was her or else I wouldn’t know).

If you believe that I understood the message, you’d be wrong. It was staticky and I was on my way to the subway and it was no different than the messages I get every morning, which ask how I’m feeling, if my stomach hurts, while Mom’s en route to Costco.

I noticed that she delivers a different kind of message in the evening. Instead of signing off with “love you,” or even “goodbye,” she says “Uch! go eat something!” And hangs up.

I wonder if I’m going to be the same with my kids (minus the phlegm).

Oh, you might’ve recognized the one other English word in the above string: “clippings.”

Clippings (news articles “clipped out” by Mom) are another form of Mommunication. Every few weeks, Mom brings me a stack of them cut out from the Jewish News, The Wall Street J, or The Morris County Jewish Something, that she believes are pertinent or helpful to me. Sometimes she will give them to my dad to mail, in which case there are post-it notes stuck on there, with the following written in urgency:”Send to cougel!!”

The articles fall into three categories (Health, Books, and Health), and Mom highlights the newsworthy bits with a yellow highlighter, like (newsflash!): “Did you know the sun causes cancer?” The book reviews are usually for books whose subjects are Israel or the Holocaust. Except when I’m single, in which case she’d include a review for books like, “How to Marry a Mensch.” At least she didn’t send me the review for “Goy Crazy.” Although that one I would have read (and the book too).

When I was young (and stupid), this stuff would annoy me. But now? It makes my day. Because it makes my day start with a surge of love, and whether she means to be funny or not, a huge laugh. And when I bother to stop laughing in order to listen, or read, I actually learn something.

I love you, Ema. Happy Mother’s Day!