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Healthy ways to navigate rejection


Idea Journal Weekly 3

May 22 · Issue #244 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Being rejected stings. But it also offers an opportunity to learn. 
Author and speaker Nicholas Boothman has called rejection “a course correction on your path to success, and instead of inspiring you to self-pity, it should inspire self-examination.” 
When you get rejected—whether it’s from a job opportunity, a business deal, a romantic interest—try to react with a healthy and productive mindset. This issue offers a few ideas to help.
(~5 min read)

#1. Don't change for the wrong reasons
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin writes on his blog that when someone rejects you, they’ll often give you a reason.
But a common trap is to believe the reason they’ve offered: “The people who turn you down have a reason, but they’re almost certainly not telling you why.”
Rebuilding your product or pitch based on the stated reason is like driving by looking in the rearview mirror.
Here are some of the “fake reasons” you’ll hear:
  • It’s too expensive.
  • You don’t have enough references.
  • There was a typo in your resume.
The real reasons sit in the background and go unstated:
  • I don’t trust you.
  • I’m afraid of change.
  • My boss won’t let me.
From Godin’s perspective, you should certainly continue to improve your work, and as you’re doing so, focus on the unstated reasons that are behind most rejections.
Most important: “Shun the non-believers and sell to people who want to go on a journey with you.”
#2. Keep your poise after being rejected
Author Dan Pink writes in his book To Sell is Human that sales professionals face an “ocean of rejection” on their path to success. 
Pink references research by University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Martin Seligman, which shows that people’s ability to bounce back in the face of so much rejection largely depends on their explanatory style – how they explain negative events to themselves.
People who “give up easily, who become helpless even in situations where they actually can do something, explain bad events as permanent, pervasive, and personal.” They tend to believe that the negative conditions will last a long time, that the causes are universal rather than specific to the circumstances, and that they’re the ones to blame.
Instead, after a negative experience trying to sell (indeed, after any negative event!), Pink suggests that you ask yourself the following 3 questions and find a reasonable way to answer No to each one:
1. Is this permanent? 
Bad answer: Yes. I’ve completely lost my skill for moving others.
Good answer: No. I was flat today because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.
2. Is this pervasive?
Bad answer: Yes. Everyone in this industry is impossible to deal with.
Good answer: No. This particular guy was a jerk.
3. Is this personal?
Bad answer: Yes. The reason he didn’t buy is that I messed up my presentation.
Good answer: No. My presentation could have been better, but the real reason he passed is that he wasn’t ready to buy right now.
As Pink notes, “the more you explain bad events as temporary, specific, and external, the more likely you are to persist even in the face of adversity.”
#3. Be a professional: you are not your work
Author Steven Pressfield writes in his book The War of Art that fear of rejection is both psychological and biological.
Evolution has programmed us to feel rejection in our guts: “This is how the tribe enforced obedience, by wielding the threat of expulsion.”
For Pressfield, an “amateur” creator is one who gives into this fear, scared of exposing their work to public evaluation.
Pressfield tells the story of a friend who labored for years on a deeply personal novel. But once it was complete, this friend couldn’t bring himself to send the novel off to potential publishers: “Fear of rejection unmanned him.”
A “professional” creator is able to separate the results of her work – whether positive or negative – from her ego.
She loves her work and invests in it wholeheartedly, but she knows she cannot identify with it completely. Her creative self contains many works and performances, with the next one already brewing.
This perspective allows the professional to self-validate and view her work more objectively: “Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still.”
Pressfield acknowledges that taking this more objective view of one’s work requires tremendous strength of character, especially in the face of adversity.
But as he points out, for those who are truly committed, there is no alternative: the professional knows that it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.
Quote of the week
“One of my ‘favorite failures,’ which was actually a collection of many smaller failures, was when my second book was rejected by 37 publishers. I remember running out of money and walking, depressed, down St. James Street in London, where I was living at the time. I looked up and saw a Barclays bank and, without giving it much thought, I decided to walk in and ask to speak to the manager. I asked him for a loan, and even though I didn’t have any assets, the banker – whose name was Ian Bell – gave it to me. It wasn’t much, but it changed my life because it meant I could keep things together for a few more rejections, and after number 37, I finally got my book published. And I still send Ian Bell a holiday card every year.”
- Author and entrepreneur Arianna Huffington in an interview with entrepreneur Tim Ferriss
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