I’m a bit of a rejection addict. It’s not that I like being rejected (though I don’t mind it all); it’s that I know the value of it. The few “rejection virtues” I live by are these (to be applied separately and in conjunction):
- Rejections represent opportunities for learning.
- Consistent failure to learn from those rejections leads to failure, not the rejections themselves.
- Consistent avoidance of rejection leads to a limited opportunity for learning.
- Limited opportunities for learning lead to limited opportunities for success.
- Consistent rejection coupled with constant learning from that rejection results in unlimited opportunities for success.
Let me fill you in on a few well-known people who lived by these virtues of success.
Was made bankrupt five times before he succeeded in developing the assembly line that revolutionized the car industry.
Was a single mother, suffered from depression and was rejected by a long list of publishers before her manuscript of the first Harry Potter book was accepted.
Harland David Sanders
Was rejected by over 1,000 restaurants before one finally offered to sell his chicken. Now, there are close to 20,000 KFC outlets selling chicken in close to 120 countries.
Failed the sixth grade and lost every public election he took part in until he became Prime Minister of the UK, aged 62. His efforts during the Second World War give him the reputation as one of the greatest political leaders of all time.
His presidency changed the course of the US, but in his younger years Lincoln entered the military as a captain, failed miserably, and was discharged as a private.
Was booed offstage after freezing during his first ever stand-up performance and went on to create one of the most popular and highest earning sitcoms in television history.
Was rejected by over 30 publishers before his first novel, Carrie, got the go ahead. He now consistently ranks amongst the world’s highest earning novelists.
Was fired by manager Jimmy Denny in 1954 who gave the advice that Presley “go back to drivin’ a truck.” Two short years later, Presley recorded and released what became the first rock-and-roll album to top the Billboard chart.
When you realize that rejection is necessary for high achievement, you unlock some golden doors that lead to some pretty amazing things.
Wayne Gretzky, the Canadian hockey player (who, by the way, was nicknamed “The Great One” and continues to be regarded as arguably the greatest hockey player of all time) famously said that during his career he “missed 100% of the shots he didn’t take.”
What Gretzky had, and what you must have, is a mindset with an unrelenting focus on ‘attempting greatness’ rather than ‘avoiding failure’.
Most of us aren’t born into greatness and don’t come ready-made with success. Most of us don’t currently have what it takes to be great and to achieve an extremely high level of success. And at some point in their lives Ford, Sanders, Churchill, Lincoln, Seinfeld, King, Presley, and Gretzky didn’t have what it took for them to be great.
They weren’t born into greatness, nor did they come with ready-made success.
But do you know what divides that list of people, from the rest of the people—just like them—who start off with nothing?
- They didn’t think like the rest. In their minds, their rejections and their failures didn’t define who they were, and those rejections and failures didn’t represent an ultimate failure that they could not overcome. What they represented were opportunities to learn, to improve and to progress.
- They were willing to persist through the rejections and the failures, to build on the lessons they learned because of them until they struck success.
What lessons can you take out of this?
Firstly, become a rejection-addict.
Feed off it. Welcome it. When I was pitching for freelancing writing work, I pitched to a whole bunch of companies I thought might require my services. I probably sent about 150 emails to target companies, was ignored by about 130 of them, was rejected by 15 of them and was accepted by just 5.
Did the 145 that either rejected or ignored me bother me? No way.
Why? Because five companies hired me.
And three of those five companies continue to be my primary clients (contributing to about 50% of my freelance writing income and workload). Without them, I wouldn’t be able to live the life I do and to spend the money I have.
A high volume of rejection means nothing more than that you are pursuing a high volume of success. Imagine if I’d sent just 30 emails and was ignored by the lot? If I’d given up there, I’d not be in the position I’m in today.
Secondly, take stock of your rejection.
The 15 companies that took the time to formally reject me each taught me at least one lesson about the rejection. Four or five companies said they didn’t hire writers without previous experience. Three said my prices were too high for someone with such limited experience. A few said their company didn’t require writing services.
What did I do with this information?
- I didn’t ignore it. I absorbed it.
- I went away and gained some experience with the intention of re-pitching to the four or five companies who rejected me on that basis (and some have since hired me after a re-pitch based on the experience I built).
- I designed an alternative pricing model to cater to those companies who looked at a per-hour model and felt my charge-out rate was too high (I designed a per-word model that looked far more favorable than a $95/hour pitch, but essentially converted to a $95/hour result).
- I made a list of the companies not requiring my services, grouped them into their industries and determined which industries just didn’t need a writer. From then on, I stopped pitching to companies that fell into those industry types.
What’s your next step?
Become a rejection-addict who learns from their rejections. This is a two-step process:
- Procure rejection: For a month, consider rejection as your badge of honor. You live for it. Walk into five bars, cold sober, and ask for the phone numbers of five men/women you’re attracted to in each. Need a job? Call the hiring manager of 30 companies and pitch directly to them.
- Learn from that rejection: Don’t worry if you’re rejected by every man/woman in every bar you enter. Learn from it. What could you do better/differently next time? Don’t worry if you don’t get a job out of your 30 telephone calls. Ask them why they can’t hire you, group their responses into categories, and address the categories one by one until you tick all the boxes.
Be smart with your rejection, iterate your approach with informed changes and be persistent. Life is simply too short to compromise your opportunities for success.
Flickr/ Daniel Kulinski