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‘Don’t Let Your Judges Define You’

Editorial Team

At age 81, Jules Feiffer—known for his edgy Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoons about sex, politics and neuroses—has written a memoir called Backing Into Forward (Doubleday $30). In the book, he recalls ups and downs in his long career, telling USA TODAY that it’s a “cautionary tale” about “getting rejected and slapped in the face by the powers-that-be.”

“Success is nothing to sneeze at, but failure, too, offers great possibilities,” he writes. “And always remember, do not let your judges define you.”

In this economy, millions of people have lost jobs or seen their careers dashed after being “judged” that they’re no longer needed. But don’t let that judgment define you. If you have a job, be open to candid feedback, learn from and correct mistakes. But don’t focus on the past; always plan ahead.

If someone has sent you packing, mourn for a bit—like a day or two—and move on. There’s always hope, another job and another career on the horizon. You just have to be determined to make it happen.


  1. Hello Tory,
    What a great post. Many of us are experiencing this kind of rejection. I know older people who are suffering from “not belonging” syndrome in this economy.
    After being laid off, I decided to do something completely different and build an online business. I wrote you all about it when you were looking for people over fifty who changed careers.
    I’ve have little to no support especially from my family. They think I’m just wasting my time and don’t even allow me to talk about it. They funny thing is, being a webmaster is so exciting to me and I love it.
    Part of the problem is people see your value according to how much you make. Fortunately, there are others online that I can connect with who are working hard to build online businesses too.
    Thanks for this great reminder that success will come to those who keep at it. DR

  2. How true. The saddest thing about this recession is that so much talent and experience is going to waste. We can’t just sit back and let government create jobs for us. It’s not going to happen. Regardless of our work history, we need to band together and make our own opportunities, and start looking at ourselves as business owners rather than employees.

  3. Very wise words – I look forward to reading this book and learning more.

  4. lee jones

    Too often we let our jobs ‘define’ who we are, especially if we have devoted most of lives to that job. There is life after that job ends. I agree, take that day or 2 to mourn the loss…and move one. Don’t dwell on the past…move on and focus pn reinventing yourself for the future. Jot down what you bring to ‘another’ table. Be determined to pursue a different avenue, one you have always thought of, but never pursued. Enroll in a class, volunteer ..try something to keep you mind alert. Pursue a passion. With determination, you can do what you want to do.

  5. Wendy

    Thank you for being an up-beat force in so many lives. this article is just one more reason to keep moving forward.

  6. not me

    I just wish I could see that job. Just when I believe it is going well, this will be the one, I get smacked down. Know I can do the work, maybe a bit slower than others, however, I have different qualities & skills to offer. Wish I could get those in hiring position to see, understand and accept. Working on staying positive.

  7. Ladyjag

    I could write a book on how it feels to be “judged you’re no longer needed” every time there was a budget cut or a new administration. In the past, I’ve always seemed to bounce back, and had little trouble finding employment…until now. When you are 50+ years old, it’s a different world. I was sure my 30+ years of experience in everything from clerical to HR to proposal editing would increase my chances for employment…not so. I’ve reduced my salary requirements and have applied for hundreds of jobs…to no avail…not even an interview! You think maybe its me…maybe…but until now, I’ve always received an interview, and been offered the job 9 out of 10 times! So as I appreciate your positive advice, and it does hold up very well in an “ideal world”, it takes a bit more to “only mourn a day or to” in the real world.

  8. Susan

    Thank you! This article came at the perfect time. I just lost my job, and I’ve been feeling fairly worthless. You have given me some hope.
    Something good and new is on the horizon!

  9. Christine A. LaJoie

    Mr. Feiffer is my kind of thinker. After working my way up the corporate ladder in Fashion Design I was laid off for good after 911. I grieved for a week then reviewed my other degrees and talents for the next seven years. I would like to have my own Design Troubleshooting Consultant company but now find myself homeless and without my precious design bibles. I was depress today until I read this article and remembered: Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in this world by mistake. I’ll never give up!

  10. Kalpana

    Well said.

  11. LC

    I pray for my own encouragement and the encouragement of others. I’ve been out of work for two years. And now that within those two years I’ve alos become a mother (see what being at home will get you)I dont know where to turn to get back in the game. Im only 34 yrs old and my resume is okay but not competitive. My past work relationships have left much to be desired and for all my asking for critique and feedback, everyine tells me how smart and innovative and educated I am. This leaves me empty because I dont know why in the past Ive always been so easy to let go. I wish the mourning period only lasted a day or two. But Im currently paralyzed by not knowing what to fix. Ive revamped my resume. Ive paid good money to have others revamp it as well. Ive volunteerd, interned and done the whole internet thing. Unfortunately I have lost hope in commercial America and the job market. It favors superstars only. Regular, not-so-fabulous people like me would like to eat, have shelter, clothes and provide for family like everybody else. I dont know any high powered people. Im the only college graduate in my family. Ive approached organizations and my church for help. Im in the wrong place. I either dont need enough help or I need too much. I cry daily, pray daily, praise daily that me and my son are healthy and am greatful to live in a country where welfare is a possibility although it is a diplorable situation to be in. Im not down or sad everyday. But I dont beat myself up when I am. I figure, why not get as low as possible, there wont be anywhere else to go but up.

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