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Clay Hunt Fellow Lisa Smith on Rejecting Rejection

Lisa Smith
Lisa Smith

Lisa lives in Boston and served in the U.S. Air Force, 2007–2010. She currently serves as Region I's Engagement Manager, received a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Colorado State University, and is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Boston College. She’s the one who slaps together a Regional Conference, delivers a national presentation, flies out on a moment’s notice to support an international operation, or pulls up the slack when another leader is in need.

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Air Force veteran Lisa Smith is a member of Cohort 4 of the Clay Hunt Fellows Program.

It was about a year ago while scrolling on Facebook I found a Team Rubicon post a friend had shared. It wasn’t your usual TR post introducing an operation or a badass service project, but an announcement for the competitive Clay Hunt Fellows Program. The applications were out. I had friends who were part of the first two cohorts, and I always admired their passion for leading and impacting our society in the best way possible.

This fellowship is screaming my name, I thought to myself. I need to make it into this next cohort and show everyone what a great leader I could be. I filled out my application eagerly within the first few days. Well, one month and two interviews later I didn’t get it. Sometimes, even the highest amounts of motivation a person can possess at any given time just isn’t enough. That’s part of the experience of becoming a leader; something achieved through mere motivation may just as well have been luck, because there’s a process. But still, I felt defeated… womp.

As bad as I wanted it, I started to second-guess if I was even a good leader. A few weeks of sulking went by. Then, I sucked up my pride and kept on volunteering in the best TR fashion. When I reapplied a year later, under the powerful push of my TR family I did so knowing my ego was still bruised. I wasn’t sure I could handle that rejection again.

Lisa deployed to Operation What The Flood in 2013 in Colorado.
Lisa deployed to Operation What The Flood in 2013 in Colorado.

It was about a month later that I took a huge leap in a positive direction. I was accepted into the fourth cohort of the CHFP! I did a little happy dance with my fat dog and tried to deal with the relief I was suddenly feeling. I couldn’t believe I could finally tell everyone ‘I am a Clay Hunt Fellow!’ I calmed down from my excitement and reflected on why I reapplied. I asked myself, what kind of example would I be setting for others if I buried my head in the corner after being told “no” once? Sure, it stings when you don’t get what you want but a true leader needs to see how things aren’t always going to go your way. Resiliency is one of the fundamental components to being successful and a strong leader.

Lisa took on a Tough Mudder with fellow Greyshirts from New England.
Lisa took on a Tough Mudder with fellow Greyshirts from New England.

I feel empowered, now, three months into the fellowship, like I can reach for the stars with the strong support of my cohort and TR staff, knowing they’ll be right behind me on every move. I choose to face my barriers head-on knowing each Greyshirt has my back. The CHFP focuses on leadership development and self-growth. I discovered my resilience and drive before my commencement with the program, and it has inspired further personal growth with each passing week. Even if I screw something up, a little part of me will improve and grow from each mistake, and the Clay Hunt Fellows Program as shown me that light.

Life won’t always go your way, you won’t always get that promotion and you might not get that second date with the hot brunette, but therein lies an opportunity to let your character flourish, during times of rejection. Basically, when life throws you a chainsaw, get to work. So for all those people out there hesitant about taking that leap, those of us who don’t get picked in the first round, those who have fallen after giving so much, pick yourself up and brush off that Greyshirt and step back into the arena.

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Lisa waiting for her turn at some competitive team-building exercises with Cohort 4 of Clay Hunt Fellows.