Ever heard of John Kennedy Toole? He wrote a
novel called A Confederacy of Dunces.
He lived in New Orleans and he submitted the manuscript to Simon and Schuster
for publication. However, he and the publisher could not come to an agreement
on the novelâ€™s need for significant revision. Ultimately, the book was rejected
and Toole took his manuscript back. Further attempts by Toole to publish his
book were unsuccessful.
The rejection of A Confederacy of Dunces sent Toole into depression. He started to
drink heavily and increasingly became agitated and paranoid. His mental state
continued to deteriorate until Toole committed suicide. He killed himself in
his car with a garden hose running from the exhaust pipe to the window.
Two years after Tooleâ€™s death, his mother
started making attempts to find a publisher for A Confederacy of Dunces. She got numerous rejections. She took it
to Walker Percy who was a novelist and teaching at Loyola University in New
Orleans. Walker Percy read the manuscript which impressed him. He went on to
submit it to a publisher. It was finally published by Lousiana State University
Press. As a result of A Confederacy of
Dunces, Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.
Now what happened? What is the difference
between the rejected manuscript and the published manuscript? It was the same.
The author was dead. He did not edit it.
If your personal worth is tied to getting
other peopleâ€™s approval such that you are devastated when you do not get it,
this is what you have done: you have taken your worth, put it on a roulette
wheel, and spun the wheel saying, â€śWhatever the world decides is my worth, that
is it for me.â€ť This action is very dangerous because the world (the wheel) will
not come up with your number as often as you would want.
It is important that you separate your worth
from your work. It is also important that you separate the result of your work
from your work but when your ego runs you, you find this pretty difficult. Your
worth as a person is not tied to the success of your career, album, book, or
When one gets a taste of success, one can
begin to have a more inflated sense of oneself and even become addicted to the
positive feedback and attention. This is why you may find popular celebrities,
star athletes and top CEOs who have become huge, self-entitled egomaniacs. They
have made it and they have switched their mindset to â€śgetting what is mine.â€ť
Now that recognition, that award, matters. They need the media attention, the
money and the title, not for the team but for themselves, â€śIt belongs to me. I
have earned it.â€ť Controlled by the ego, they fail to realize that none of the
things they presently crave got them to where they presently are.
The egomaniac feels entitled to future
success as a result of past success. Life hardly works that way. No one is
totally immune to obstacles, mistakes, and failures. As the sense of self of
the egomaniac keeps getting inflated, life looks for ways to get him humble. As
life does this through his life situation, the egomaniac instead of becoming
humble ends up getting angry and frustrated, â€śWhat I have earned is being
denied me,â€ť he thinks. Put aside your ego and see this: no single result can
completely define you for better or worse.
You are not the result of your work. Stop
attaching so much importance to what
happens to you. Even what happens to
you should come under question. What happened simply happened. It did not
happen to you. You think it happened to you because you brought yourself into
it and told yourself a story. It is a matter of a negative interpretation. For
instance consider Ifeanyi and Titi who are in a relationship. Their
relationship is three years old and Titi has just gained admission into the
university. All the while, Titi has been evolving and now that she is in
school, she wishes to move on, not out of hatred for Ifeanyi but simply to
continue to allow the process of her awakening without hindering what is trying
to come through her. At this point in her life, she also wants to focus on her
studies. She decides to move on and tries to explain to Ifeanyi why she does
not want to continue with the relationship. What does Ifeanyi do? He blames
her. He gets angry and develops hatred for her. Titi does not in any way intend
to hurt Ifeanyi but Ifeanyi has interpreted the whole thing negatively and his
ego has created a story out of it. He finds himself in a drama. What really
happened is quite different from what Ifeanyi is telling himself. Where Titi
has actually not hurt him, he has brought himself into the picture and sees
Titi hurting him. He has not bothered to consider what is best for Titi. He has
identified with his ego. The consequence is what you call pain.