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‘Thanks for the Rejection’ Article by: Dr. Gary S. Goodman

It sounds a little masochistic, but I actually appreciate being rejected.

No, I don’t needlessly relish the sting of reproach, or eagerly welcome scornful criticism, per se. But, as a writer, a salesperson, and an entrepreneur, I have come to appreciate that there is a strong correlation between the frequency of rejections that I withstand and the amount of success I generate, especially in my career.

Every professional writer can wallpaper a mansion with rejection slips. In fact, I read somewhere that the famous novel The Yearling was submitted under a different title as an experiment, and it was rejected by scores of publishers AFTER it had won incredible acclaim. Curiously, the original publisher rejected the work, too.

Salespeople are taught that there is a math-of-success. They have to withstand a certain number of no’s before they can earn a yes. And few entrepreneurs succeed after trying only one venture. Typically, it takes several attempts, and even when one initiative prevails, its lifespan is limited.

As I write this article, in fact, I’m probably not experiencing enoughrejection. If I want to get more done, to appreciate the thrills of more achievements, I need to put myself on the line, more and more. I have to ask for what I want and need, and of course when I do so, I’ll be giving people the power to say NO.

Let me ask you this:

What could you achieve in life if you decided to become totally and blissfully impervious to hostile criticism and to rejection? What careers or hobbies would you pursue that you’re just too emotionally brittle to engage in now?

For instance, a friend of mine is a professional actor. He is among the 10 percent of thespians who actually find a considerable amount of work in the field. In fact, just this year he appeared in four motion pictures, and a few were highly publicized and did fairly well at the box office.

But he has to constantly trawl for work, and he is a tireless self-promoter. Though he hopes that one of his roles will become a breakout success and will attract even more roles, he doesn’t assume this will occur.

On the contrary, he hustles day in and day out, answering every casting call and networking like crazy to hear about roles that he might play. He behaves like a kid who is struggling to get into the business, and he’s grateful for every break he gets.

He speculates that most people don’t make a living in the acting field because they become worn down by rejections. They stop believing in their skills, and as a result, they try less and less. And by trying less, they succeed less.

If they would just work the numbers and eagerly go for every opportunity, they’d work more, they’d polish their skills, and they’d stay busy doing what they love. Success would then become inevitable.

I’ve been giving considerable thought to the fear of rejection, and here’s one of my conclusions about it:

It isn’t the rejection that is intrinsically disturbing. It’s the interpretation we make about it that drives us nuts and prevents us from realizing our potential.

What do we tell ourselves? In essence, we draw the wrong inferences and make inappropriate generalizations from these experiences.

For one thing, we tell ourselves that the rejections will be pervasive. If X rejected us, so will Y and Z.

Another tendency is to believe that today’s rejection will be permanent. If X said no yesterday, he’ll definitely say no today and tomorrow.

Finally, we tell ourselves that rejection is personal. It’s about us, as individuals, and it reveals fundamental flaws about our character, our skills, or our attractiveness.

When you read these things, they instantly seem foolish, don’t they?

For instance, on what authority, we have to ask ourselves, do we know that if X rejected us, Y and Z will follow suit? We fear that that will be the case, and we may suspect it will be so. But by no means is it conclusive, until we make it that way by failing to keep trying.

Likewise, on what basis can we assert that today’s rejection will recur tomorrow?

When I was a salesperson, working my way through college, I contacted a fellow who LOUDLY rejected my offer, to say the least. Actually, he got unhinged and declared, “Never contact me again!”

I remember this episode vividly, because it was so exceptional. Anyway, the very next day, by mistake, I phoned him. (Apparently, I forgot to strike his name from my list.) My error became apparent to me only after I got him on the line and asked him how he was.

At that second, I thought, “Oops!” To my surprise, he replied, “I’m fine.”

I had no choice but to continue with my sales spiel, fully expecting him to reject me, even more loudly and emphatically, at any moment. Imagine how shocked I was to ask him for his order and to hear him cheerfully respond with, “Okay!”

He bought from me, the very day after telling me to never contact him again!

Please believe me when I tell you it was a mistake that I had called him back. Given how poorly the first call went, I was in no mood for a repeat performance. But by erring in this way, I accidentally proved the point that rejection isn’t necessarily permanent. Today’s no can even be a precursor, and a necessary one, to tomorrow’s yes, if we only get our minds around the concept.

This story also demonstrates that rejection isn’t necessarily personal. The day before, when this guy bit my head off, he was probably overwhelmed by something that had nothing to do with me. Yet, when many of us are being spurned, our impulse is to blame ourselves and to feel sullied by the overall experience. We feel awful and beat ourselves down before the next person can do it to us.

So, what can we do to conquer rejection and to actually learn to invite it?

Four Actions to Conquer Rejection

  1. Tell yourself it is isolated.
  2. Tell yourself it is temporary.
  3. Tell yourself it doesn’t pertain to you, personally. In other words, they may be rejecting your idea or offer, but they aren’t rejecting YOU.
  4. Prove these truths by actively seeking more rejections. If you hope to publish that novel or to get that screenplay into the right hands, send it out more widely. Give more people the chance to say no!

This is one of the great secrets of the Law of Large Numbers. Do more of anything and you’ll make success inevitable!

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a popular keynote speaker, consultant, and seminar leader, and the bestselling author of 12 books. Gary teaches Entrepreneurship and Consulting at UCLA Extension, and he is President of Customersatisfaction.com and The Goodman Organization. When he isn’t being rejected, he can usually be found at the beach in Santa Monica, California, where he makes his home.

Learn more about Dr. Gary S. Goodman and his new audio program, The Law of Large Numbers: How To Make Success Inevitable.

All articles by Dr. Gary S. Goodman

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"First say to yourself what you would be: and then do what you have to do."

- Epictitus

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