The band U2 performing

U2 Were Rejected Until They Found What They Were Looking For

U2 opened their Australian tour in Brisbane on Tuesday night, and Suncorp Stadium was packed to the rafters with fans. But here’s the thing. U2 was originally rejected by a big record label.

“Thank you for submitting your tape,” they were told. “We have listened with careful consideration, but feel it is not suitable for us at present. We wish you luck with your future career.”

Perhaps it was luck. Perhaps it was perseverance. Perhaps it was talent. Or even a bit of all three.

It’s a good story to tell our school-leavers this week, as they wait in anticipation for a silly little figure that will be important for three minutes in a lifetime.

As they walk out of the school gates, let’s give them the definition of success by telling them about those who were rejected, years before they filled stadiums, statute books, medical history and library shelves.

They need to hear that. They need to know they will be rejected by friends and employers and those they believed they could trust.

They will find heartbreak after first love, and hard times after good ones.

A failure or a slip-up or a challenge will be the lesson they need to learn. And that little OP figure won’t help them a bit.

Tell them about Walt Disney, who was fired from The Kansas City Star 100 years ago, because his editor believed he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.

Or tell them about J.K. Rowling, who was rejected by 12 different publishers; one rejection letter said the first Harry Potter story could not be published and become a commercial success.

“I wasn’t going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen,” Rowling later wrote.

The list goes on: Steve Jobs was fired by the company he created, Thomas Edison was fired by Western Union after spilling acid on the floor, and Oprah Winfrey was sacked as a television reporter.

Charles Darwin was an average student, and Brisbane’s own Professor Ian Frazer and his co-inventor Jian Zhou worked every day for years before they found the science behind the cervical cancer vaccine.

Imagine if they had given up after one year? Or even 10?

From today, whether our teen got a C for chemistry or an A for algebra, it does not matter; it will not dictate whether they fall in love with a person who’ll support them through tough times, or whether they’ll live to lovely old age.

It won’t determine their career path either. There are myriad ways through the entry gates to the workplace they want. And once inside, everyone has an OP of 0.

From that point, it’s about team work and listening, leading and confidence, believing in themselves, and acknowledging the role of others.

The head of senior school at one of Brisbane’s all girls’ schools penned a delightful list of tips to her school leavers this week. These are some of them:

  • Even in the most challenging times, never forget that you have a voice and the power to change things. Many of you are now eligible to vote, so be informed and vote wisely.
  • The longest distance between two points is the shortcut. Wanting something now means you will probably pay later. Be willing to work hard.
  • Remember that you always have a choice. No matter what the situation.
  • Be brave enough to say I’m sorry, or I love you, or I forgive you.
  • Success is not measured by your job, your education, how much money you have, where you holiday or what kind of car you drive. Success is determined by who you are, how you treat others and how you lead your life.
  • Surround yourself with people who remind you of how amazing you are and avoid the ones that don’t.
  • Life doesn’t always follow the plans you have made out for yourself. Be prepared for highs and lows. Celebrate the highs and ask for help during the lows.
  • Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.

They’re not just relevant for school leavers, but this week we should share them with all those we know who are graduating.

They now get to write their own story, and history has shown there can be a best-seller in all of us.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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