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Jay-Z Wants You To Keep Dreaming

There’s a lesson in rejection if we’re open

“Something ‘bout the struggle so divine

This sort of love is hard to define

When you scratching for every nickel and dime

Got me itching to do this shit for my mom

Do this shit for my town

Leave the door open hoping they kick it down” — Jay-Z, “Nickel and Dimes”

Waddup! Joel Leon here with another edition of my weekly Medium column, “What Would Hov Do?” Together, we tackle your everyday struggles with the help of Hovito’s lyrics. If you’ve got something you’ve been dealing with, me and Jay-Z can help you get through. Just drop your questions here. We keep it a hunnid (and anonymous.)

This week, one of our readers — let’s call them “The Dreamer” — has a serious question about how to move after rejection:

“I’m trying to find hope and faith in my dream after constant rejection, minimal progress, and busting my ass to get to this point.”

Listen, I’ve been there. If I’m completely honest, I’m still there.

I can go through the list of “Sorry to inform you” rejection letters I’ve gotten from fellowship, grant, scholarship, job, and publication submissions. I can also give you a rundown of all the unanswered DMs, e-mails, and texts I’ve sent to any and everyone over the years requesting my work to be reviewed. I sent so many notes hoping that there would be an opportunity for collaboration for a project I knew was phenomenally dope and just needed the team involved to take it to the next level. But alas, great ideas don’t pay the bills — execution does. That’s another topic for another day.

For as much rejection as I’ve struggled through — even at times when it started feeling like trudging through a never-ending ocean of quicksand — Hov’s bars from the Magna Carta… Holy Grail album are a stark reminder that our dreams are seldomly just about us. They are for the people in our lives and those prior who inspire us to pursue what speaks to our hearts.

There’s a lesson in rejection if we’re open. And it doesn’t have to mean we should stop reaching for the dreams living inside of us.

Struggle reminds us that our goals require focus — sometimes the energy of the people we’re dreaming for can carry us to the mountaintop.

Some of us dream for our parents, and some for our kids. We dream for our ancestors. We desire for our city, our block, our town. Remembering why we dream and who we’re yearning and working for can keep us motivated to pursue despite the roadblocks.

Struggle, hardship, rejection, and the nickel-and-dime work on the road to success all become opportunities. Every L I’ve taken has given me insight into what I need to lean into or away from. Maybe it means pivoting to something more tangible in the interim while figuring out what the dream’s macro looks like. It might mean getting other folx involved whose vision you trust to ideate different ways to take flight. There is no need to stop dreaming. Rejection can make us forget the real purpose behind why we started dreaming in the first place.

Keeping our eyes on the prize means we get to remind ourselves that our dreams are there to be nurtured. What shows up on the journey could derail our dreams or be the fuel to help us get back to the center.

Our dreams are bigger than us — Jay-Z knows. So do I, but I digress.

For the newbies out there, feel free to get familiar with some of my previous Medium work here. And here. Oh, and here, too. Submit any WWHD questions here while you’re at it.

Written by

he/him. i tell stories for black people. work: @taylorstrategy @nike @twitter @gatesfoundation @ted @hbo @ethelsclub @medium @newsweek @twloha #BXFOREVER

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