March 4, 2012

Celebrating rejection and failure

March 4, 2012 - Categories: business

Dave Ferguson told me this story of a real estate agency that trains people to not be afraid of rejection. Salespeople aren’t afraid of “no”s because those “no”s are part of the path towards “yes”es. This real estate agency realized that at some point, their new recruits are going to experience clear, unambiguous rejection: a door slammed in their face! When that happens, that person’s mentor is going to take them out, treat them to lunch, and celebrate their first door. It’s an important milestone.

There’s another interesting idea along those lines: the Rejection Therapy game. The rules are simple: Every day, you must be rejected by at least one person. Not “try to be rejected”, actually rejected. A flat-out no when you are in a position of (some) vulnerability and the other person is in a position of (some) power. If you have a hard time coming up with rejection situations, you can get the playing cards or the app. Tapping into your fears or uncertainties might give you plenty of ideas. The game desensitizes you to rejection, making you less afraid of it. In the process, who knows what you’ll learn and how wonderful your life will be?

What might my rejections look like, and how can I get ready to celebrate them?

Consulting: Plenty of opportunities for rejection here. You don’t have enough experience. This doesn’t make sense. It’s not a good fit. You don’t know enough about our culture. This wouldn’t work here. You charge too much. Each of those things illuminates something else I can learn and contains a hint about where I might succeed. I’m going to celebrate my first blank stare, my first awkward silence at a workshop, my first client-walks-out rejection.

Writing: Apathy is the toughest rejection to crack. After I self-publish a book, I can look forward to celebrating any months without sales. If I go with the traditional publishing route, I can celebrate my first form-letter rejection, my first hundred. Harsh flames might be worthy, too. After all, safe writing is boring writing. I want to write things that are useful, which may mean writing things that people are surprised by or that people disagree with.

Drawing: I’ve actually made a lot of progress towards rejection milestones in drawing. I’ve gotten the “Maybe you should learn how to draw – my kid can draw better than this” rejection. I’ve gotten the “That isn’t funny” rejection and the “That’s insulting! Won’t someone think about company morale?” rejection (from an executive, no less!). I’ve gotten the “Your style tries to copy ___ too much” rejection, too. Hmm, maybe I can collect different kinds of rejections… I found it easy to deal with those rejections because I don’t have my ego wrapped up in my drawing skills or my sense of humour. I know I’ve got tons to learn!

I tend to celebrate rejection and failure through blog posts (because I’ll almost always manage to get a story out of something!). What are other good ways to celebrate them? Hugs, cat-cuddling, bike rides, a good session with a book, some sketches, a trip to the museum or art gallery (surrounded by the beautiful results of countless failures)… =)

What do your rejection milestones look like, and how can you celebrate them?