*Click "display images" at the top to see some graphs that are central to my opening essay. Yes, it's getting steamy this week.
Today I'm giving zero fucks about rejection
Rejection is an issue for me - but this is something I'm only recently learning. Lying below how I perceive myself - confident, sorta independent, able to hold her own in a physical fight and demonstrating a decent amount of flair in the kitchen - lying below the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves (watch Brené Brown talk for more on this) is the truth about who we really are. A truth we often don't realise because addressing vulnerability is scary and we would mostly all rather be who we hope we are - the person who sails through life easy breezy - than the person we actually are. So sometimes the real bits of us get hidden. Well, allow me to clear my throat because... *stands up* - I'm Jacs, and I do not deal well with rejection.
Two Fridays ago, I was told that I didn't get onto the Entrepreneur First incubator in Berlin with my mental health AI business idea. For context, it's a really well-respected international incubator for tech startups that provides you with investment and a lovely little salary while you work on building your startup with a co-founder. I was proud to get an interview in the first place, let alone just inches away from getting on the programme. So, when I opened that email, I was gutted. I started this process in November last year and I'd worked my arse off for it ever since. I started to feel down. I didn't want to, in fact I told myself there was no reason to feel low because I hadn't really lost anything but it was one of those times when my brain chemistry wasn't playing ball. My body felt sad.
They said I was an exceptional candidate and that I should apply again in the future. But I won't be. Why? Because I told myself that that rejection meant that I wasn't good enough for them - not now, not ever. Which is, if I may say so, just a little bit absurd.
You see, my confidence is directly linked to how much rejection I face. It's not the only factor (wouldn't life be simple if that was the only variable), but there is a strong correlation there. I'm going to provide an incredible computer designed image below just so you can visualise that correlation (Zero F*cks kudos if you can guess which piece of software I used).
You have rightly surmised from the above that a) the more rejection I face, the less confident I feel and b) this picture is too shit to be created in anything other than Paint. Neither of these statements is a surprising one, I'll give you that. But I want to tell you about what happened after I was rejected by the EF incubator and after I'd gotten over the initial reaction of feeling down and irrational. It created an outlier in my little chart, like so.
You've hit the nail on the head - while also proving your ability to interpret highly complex statistical information. Yes, that's right - I'd been turned down, given the old "thanks but no thanks", but my confidence was soaring. Quite out of character for me, after that rejection (and after I'd hit my desk with my hand loudly, slumped down in my chair, lamented my now bruised hand, closed down the spreadsheet I was working on in protest, then opened it up again because my boss can see my screen) I felt this odd sense of... pride.
I was proud of everything I'd done to get to that point in the process. It had all been great, truly great, and I'd even surprised myself with just how brilliantly and fearlessly I'd gone about it all. I'd surveyed my target customer base on depression and anxiety, ended up speaking to leaders in research into voice technology that recognises mood based on voice tone in New York, I'd had a Skype about my idea with a successful health tech entrepreneur in Berlin, contacted female entrepreneurs that I admired about my business idea and was amazed to get their help when I did. I'd even had the balls to invite the interviewer who had turned down my EF London application for a coffee and a chat, just so I could learn from the experience and use that for Berlin. It's fair to say, I attacked the shit out of the whole thing.
I felt proud of myself. I couldn't really see an opportunity to beat myself up or criticise what I'd done. I'd just done, well, really well. I sort of felt as proud as peacock, if I'm honest. That's right. And no one tell me a peacock isn't proud of what it's got, the bloody show-off, fanning it's big old beautiful feather-tail out for the world to see. I felt like that and not even the fact that I was in Croydon still could get me down. And do you know what peacocks are? Confident. You don't go flashing your bits about if you're not (and certainly not in Croydon). And why shouldn't they be confident? They're a god damn miracle of nature. And I'm honestly feeling as confident as a peacock - it started two Fridays ago when I got rejected, and it's still happening.
Some people say "everything happens for a reason". I don't believe that in the cosmic destiny, someone has a greater purpose for us, sense. But I do think that in the space that's left behind when something doesn't work out, there lies opportunity. Or, in the words of a brilliant woman I met with last week, "there's a miracle to be found in everything". I'm not the religious type, and I don't think she is either, but my miracle this time is a confidence that feels fierce and a calm and quiet self-assuredness that tells me that I've got what it takes to run my own show. Even if Entrepreneur First didn't think so.
So I'm running my own show, from now. I'm launching a new mental health initiative -- MNTL HLTH. I know it looks like wanky startup branding, but the hidden vowels actually represent how mental health issues can be hidden, while also demonstrating just how profound and deep I am and that I'm not really a startup d-bag at all. I'm trying not to interrupt the flow of this beautifully penned opening essay with all the details, so you'll find those below (please keep scrolling on).
But there is a beautiful chain of events here that is worth noting. This particular "rejection" for a business incubator led me to a pit-stop where I fuelled up in confidence and then down a road of working on my own thing anyway - and it's one that feels more "me" right now anyway. I won't lie, I don't see myself as a natural tech entrepreneur, but what I definitely am is someone who can write and talk about mental health in a way many others can't and don't. I care about mental health in a way you probably only can if you've felt just how horrifically destructive it can be - and that's reason enough for someone to need to do something because 75% of the 1 in 4 people that experience it receiving no treatment for their mental health conditions (fact) isn't ok. So I'm trying.
I think sometimes we think rejection takes something away from us. I'm not surprised because sometimes it does. But it doesn't always need to, I don't think. We have agency and the power to influence and while we can't choose what happens to us in life, we can choose how we respond to it. So I choose to give zero fucks about the fact that Entrepreneur First didn't want me. I haven't got time for fuck-giving - I've got a new initiative to run and some new, much-prized confidence to look after.
MNTL HLTH is my initiative to change the mental health landscape and break the silence. At its launch event, I'll be hosting two panels of speakers: one for professionals in the mental health space, one for people with mental health stories to tell. There will be stories of pain, but there will be stories of hope and recovery too.
There are three central tenets to all of this:
outing the truth - the stories we tell will be honest, the truths we hear might be hard to handle
active engagement - it's a two-way conversation, not audience vs. speakers, and there'll be opportunity for anyone to share their mental health story
commitment to action - it doesn't end when we go home; a lot of the hard work, the pushing for change, truly begins when we leave the room - we'll be thinking what we can do to improve the lives of everyone touched by mental health challenges
You guys are my inner circle (fine, so it's a big inner circle) so I don't have to try and craft an impactful, succinct statement where I convince you that this is the must-attend mental health event of the year. Whether it is or it isn't, I do believe that my event will be special and I really hope some of you, having followed my journey, will want to come along and support.
I wanted to keep this bit short, even though its not my forte. The reason is because I hope the concept speaks for itself - and I think it does.
And there's a 10% ZFs discount on tickets. At checkout, use: IGIVEALLTHEFUCKS. Ticket price covers my costs and and bubbles for you when you're there.
I'm copying Ann Friendman and I'm not even sorry. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and all that.
26th March - WGOIYH, The H Club, London - I'll be performing a spoken word piece that I wrote on mental health. I've never done anything like this before, my acting career high was starring as the Mad Hatter in my Year 6 play - I'd love a ZFs turn out there.
25th April - MNTL HLTH: Don't Ask, London - so good it bears repeating. Come to the launch event for my new mental health initiative. I'll be sharing my mental health story and I hope you'll come to share in our speakers stories and perhaps even share some of your own.
Learning not to fear the year. I really like this piece, more than most - I wasn't sure why but I think it's probably because it shows I'm starting to harness the ballsy confidence of someone who's got their mental health shit sorted. Hello new feeling, what a strange thing you are (p.s. but I like you).
This week it's Brain Food Daily, the daily newsletter which muses beautifully on life, from philosophy to poetry to popular culture and more. And being a single woman, having something to wake up to every morning is a strange but comforting feeling. It's impressively short for a newsletter, no more than a couple of minutes read and usually just a paragraph or two long. And I adore it, I really do. I've read every single one without fail since I signed up to it. It's pushed me to consider things in a different light, a particularly memorable example being when I read this passage on optimism by Guillermo del Toro:
"Optimism is our instinct to inhale while suffocating. Our need to declare what "needs to be" in the face of what is. Optimism is not uncool; it is rebellious and daring and vital."
Marianna is the, well, brains behind Brain Food and she's told me that much of her inspiration comes from Maria Popova's Brainpickings. It doesn't surprise me; this newsletter is written with a control, a purpose, and yet a freedom that I've only seen in Popova's work till now. I'd recommend signing up to Brainpickings too.
The Ladder (you know the one we like to extend to other women because we want to see them climb)
Hope Virgo is one of the most influential mental health and eating disorder awareness campaigners around. I'm also hugely excited that she is one of my speakers at the launch of MNTL HLTH. She's been working tirelessly to bring attention to her current campaign, #DumpTheScales. It calls for faster and more effective treatment of eating disorders, herself someone who has battled with anorexia, and she shares those battles with great honesty on social media. Dump The Scales raises awareness of the fact that an eating disorder has nothing to do with how you look, how much or how little you do or don't eat, or how much you weigh; it's about what's going on in your head. That's why the scales need to go do one and why Hope is calling on us to dump 'em.
ZFs is fully behind Hope and the important work she does. Please do sign her petition if this feels important to you too because that way her voice can be heard louder and clearer and people will have to listen. If nothing else, please do click through to her petition page and read her story. It's so important we know the truth about mental health issues and a lot of Hope's truth is in the words you'll find there.
Last week I was hit by both that horrible virus that's been going round and a huge writing deadline. Music took a back seat because I can't listen to it and be successfully creative. I have, though, been listening to Mabel - Don't Call Me Up on repeat. But I don't expect everyone to be a sucker for a Kiss 100 hit of the week. So I'll pull up one from my archives - Lo Fang - Permutations - this song felt magical to me in the summer of 2017. I was dating someone new and I'd just moved into my own house and was feeling free and the lyrics "another familiar accident changes where I call home" felt special to me. This song just felt like possibility every time I listened.
Sally Brampton: I told myself - 'Get over yourself. Stop snivelling. Stop whining...' - for making me feel loss, even though I have never met Sally. I happened upon her book, Shoot the Damn Dog, when I found I couldn't stop reading about depression. At the end of the book Sally has recovered from a terrible depression that almost stole her life. I found this piece here because it was linked to in another piece by a good friend of Sally's - it was remembering Sally's life and her struggles, as someone who had eventually committed suicide. This news honestly devastated me. Sally wrote about depression like no one else I'd come across - her story isn't what it should have been, but I urge you to read this small part of it.
“She never looks back”: Inside Elizabeth Holmes's chilling final months at Theranos for fuelling my never-ending addiction to the story of Elizabeth Holmes and her con of a company, Theranos. It's a long story, with so many amazing "fuck no way" moments, but EH was "the next Steve Jobs", she even used to wear a black roll-neck because he did. Her company claimed it could accurately read blood tests from a pin prick of blood and then fucked over America and people who were truly, seriously ill when it turned out that it was all a sham. And now Vanity Fair have written about it too.
How to build a brand for being a potential lifeline for someone who feels like they need a lot of guidance in this department (me). It's less a single article to read and more a series for people who would like to spruce up their branding. And using phrases like "spruce up their branding", like it's some kind of spring clean or I'm pruning a hedge, I think I could probably do with reading them all #toneofvoiceiseverything
I'm all for cardio, but I'm all for giving zero fucks too.
QOTD (like OOTD but more quote-y)
Lifted from my girl-crush thing of the week, Brain Food Daily:
"Never complain, never explain." - Benjamin Disraeli
When you feel the need to explain, you instantly give your power to someone else. And when you complain, the most likely result is to push what you are after further away.
That's What She Said
Guys, I loved how much response I got to last week's zero fucks about solo holidaying. It seems it's on a lot of our minds. Please keep the emails coming - it's so much more fun when I remember real human beings are reading my words.
"I was on my first solo trip two weeks ago... and I thought, maybe she should write a newsletter about giving zero fucks about solo travelling. AND YOU DID! How amazing is that?!? Dreams do come true!" from Nadia. That's me, Jacs Guderley, making dreams come true since, well, two weeks ago.
"I've been really enjoying your emails, I find there's a lot I can relate to but have always struggled to talk or think about. Thank you." from a mystery man.
Like what you've just read? Pass this on to a woman or man who gives so few fucks that they couldn't even give a fuck that I'm writing this in a dressing gown after a spa and feeling zen AF.