3 Steps to Help You Move Past A Setback

What Helped Me Move Forward After A Disappointing "Failure" 

By Meghan French Dunbar 

In February, I submitted my book proposal — something I’d been working on for a year — to a publisher that I had a warm introduction to. I opened my inbox one day to find the words, “I'm sorry to say that I don't have an offer for you.” I was gutted. 

For some reason, I’d been counting on this publisher to accept my proposal, allowing me to skip the entire laborious process of finding a book agent, submitting to publishers, and praying to the stars that someone thought my idea was worth a deal.

I asked myself if I still wanted to move forward with the project after this initial setback, and felt a resounding “YES” in my body. Here are three things I did that helped me keep moving forward: 

1. Believe in the EFWO 

When I was leading Conscious Company Media, I had a saying that our team used frequently:. Everything F*cking Works Out…or EFWO. The gist of EFWO is believing that everything happens for you and not to you. It’s an unwavering belief that the path is unfolding exactly as it should, even when (or especially when) it doesn’t align with your expectations of how the path is supposed to look. 

Speaker cancels right before an event? EFWO! Advertiser backs out? EFWO! Team member decides to move on? EFWO! Inevitably, we’d get to the other side of something hard as a team and see exactly why it happened and feel grateful that it went the way it did. 

Once I felt a whole-body yes to continuing with my book, I tapped back into EFWO. I started to see this first rejection as an important part of the journey and something that was supposed to happen. Maybe this book was meant for a different publisher or that something else needed to happen first before this book could really come to life. From this place of clarity, I took the next step. 

2. Ask for Help 

My guess is that many of you don’t love asking for help, and I'm no different. I literally wrote the first iteration of the book proposal in isolation, only showing it to my husband and one beloved friend, before submitting it to a friggin publisher. Yeah, I like to go things alone. 

I realized after this first rejection that I needed help — from experts, from authors, from people who actually knew what the hell they were doing. I reached out to many of my connections who had written a book to ask for advice. 

Across the board, it was only women who responded (WTF?), and those who did respond were invaluable. Specifically, Jane Wurwand and Deepa Purushothaman — two extraordinarily busy women — went out of their way to help me. 

Jane sent me names of potential agents, samples of her query letter, and specific instructions on what to do next. Deepa got on a call with me and walked me through her entire process. She introduced me to an incredible developmental editor who took my proposal to an entirely new level (read: the first iteration wasn’t what it was supposed to be #EFWO), and has been in touch with me regularly to answer my questions and give me insights. I cannot express how touched and grateful I am to have received this level of care after asking for support. Without reaching out for help, I’m confident this proposal would have withered on the vine, and I would have walked away from a year’s worth of work. 

Recently, my development editor told me the proposal was ready for submission, which meant it was time to put myself back out there again, which brought me to step #3. 

3. Root Into Your Intrinsic Worth  

Prior to sending my proposal to potential agents, I asked the wonderful Deepa for advice. She responded, “Just remember it will work out and go the route it’s meant to go. Don’t tie your worth or the book’s worth to what happens in 24 hours.” 

The profoundly wise Deepa already knew that I was tethering my sense of self-worth to the responses — or lack of responses — from potential agents. Her words struck a chord, reminding me of the work I’ve been doing on myself for the last three years to root my self-worth to the internal, rather than the external. 

I hit “send” knowing that it will all unfold exactly as it’s supposed to and won’t inform how I value myself or what I believe I’m capable of is the critical foundation that I need to keep going against so much uncertainty. It may just be the secret to staying grounded as we all reach for the stars. 

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.