When you’re starting out, building a new business or searching for a new job you have to deal with rejection all the time. Even when you are launching a new concept or trying to change direction within an existing business you usually have a string of failures before any glimmer of success. In this blog I discuss how do we can avoid drowning in a sea of rejection?
Although I’ve heard a hundred times before that “it takes time to build a business” and “you have to fail your way to success“, I have found it tough to maintain my motivation in these past couple of months. When dealing with disappointment I try to remind myself of why I am doing this, tell myself that this is just the beginning and I try to keep my goal in mind. I also tend to meet up with other people in a similar situation to get comfort and encouragement from them. Sometimes that works. Other times you start to feel like a bit of a failure. You start to question your own ability, relevance and even existence.
When I’m in a dark self-pitying place, telling me to “stay positive” doesn’t help much. It’s usually my wife or good friends that succesfully pick me up with a strongly worded pep talk. Having been in this place a few times and having heard this a few more, I decided to give myself the same talk, repeating some of their most piercing words, wanting to be able to pick myself up.
I say something like – “You have so much to be grateful for. You cannot control what happens to you in life, only how you react to it. You choose how you respond to what life throws at you. Life is a battle – fight it. Moreover start to enjoy the battle. Only the test of fire makes the finest steel”. It’s early days but this seems to be working.
Last week I was fortunate to meet Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human, A whole New Mind and Drive, the timing could not have been more perfect. What he had to say helped me made sense of how I deal with disappointment. Here are 3 of his ideas for staying buoyant in the face of failure and rejection. Some of these are intuitive but others fly in the face of conventional wisdom.
1. Talk to yourself
Before we go into any important encounter or presentation we often give ourselves a mental pep talk. You say “You can do this!” and get yourself pumped up for the occasion. Recent social psychology research suggests this does not work. Surprisingly we are better off asking ourselves “Can I do this?”.
Questions by their nature illicit an active response, even if you are ask yourself questions. Your mind starts to answer the question subconsciously and prepares you for the situation ahead. Try it!
2, Be more positive and friendly than feels natural
In sales and negotiations we are often taught to be poker faced. In business meetings we are coached to be professional. During any important encounter or act of persuading, influencing and convincing we should be positive. We are far more likely to succeed if we smile and are friendly. Positive emotions open us up and make us explore possibilities, while negative emotions narrow us and make us focus.
“Positive emotions broaden our ideas out to possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and making us more receptive and creative.”
How positive? How friendly? Research suggests that our positive emotions should outnumber negative emotions by a factor of 3.
One way of making yourself more positive is by making time for ‘awe’ – to stop, observe and appreciate nature, human endeavor and the world around us. Try it. Take a moment to pause and feel a sense of awe for the magnificence of a building, a garden, a view and achievement.
Another approach is to practice ‘gratitude’. Regular reflection on what you have to be grateful for improves your quality of life and well being. Try it. Write down 3 things you’re grateful for each night for a week.
3. Remember that it’s not the end of the world
The key to surviving and thriving from failure is in how we explain our failure to ourselves (and others). We need to ask ourselves – “Is it really the end of the world? Am I really a complete failure? Is everything really ruined?”.
Following any failure or rejection ask yourself the following 3 questions:
- Is this permanent? Have I lost all my skills or could I just be having a bad day? Could the client be having a bad day?
- Is this pervasive? Will everyone always react in the same way? Could everyone miss the point and be uninterested or is there a chance that its just this person that didn’t get it.
- Is it personal? It’s rarely personal. Maybe he just wasn’t ready. Maybe he’d agree on another day.
We hate rejection so much. We often over-react and start telling ourselves “this always happens”, “it’s all my fault” and “its going to ruin everything”. We need to be less dramatic and de-catastophise things.
If you’re applying for a job try writing yourself a rejection letter before you apply for the job. By thinking about valid objections and rejections you can mentally start to prepare for and respond to them.
What do you do? How do you avoid drowning in a sea of rejection? How do you keep positive in the face of failure and rejection?