“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful men keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton
Rejection hurts. Whether you’re a kid chosen last for the team, a teen left behind by his date or an adult passed over in a job interview, being told no can be humiliating and hurtful.
And yet, it’s also a part of life. I’ve never liked rejection, but I’ve learned that I can’t let my fear of rejection hold me back.
When I was in middle school, I had a crush. Jenny was in a couple of my classes, but I was petrified to speak to her. I was perfectly content admiring from afar, until our first school dance was announced. Here was my chance to declare my love by asking her to the dance. Would I write her a note, call her on the phone, or ask her in person? With each plan I made my mind also raced to the worst case scenario of how she would reject me. I’d never be able to show my face in school again. The horror!
While I was focusing on what might go wrong, some other kid swooped in and asked Jenny to the dance. She said yes, and I was devastated.
The week after the dance, Jenny and I were paired up in science class for an experiment. We laughed and had a great time working together. Towards the end of our interaction, I gathered the nerve to ask her how the dance was. She said she had a great time. I jokingly said that I would have asked her to the dance but I had another commitment. She looked at me and said, “Too bad, it would have been more fun if you were there.” My jaw dropped…
That day I learned that my fear of rejection is usually worse in your head than in reality. I was so scared of what might go wrong that I was paralyzed and lost the opportunity to ask my dream girl out. I knew then that I didn’t want to miss other opportunities because I was afraid that I might not get them.
This is important to remember in business: rejection is a large part of life. The sooner you get over it, the further you’ll get.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Yet, the best way to get over that paralyzing fear of rejection is to just take the first step and see where that takes you. Make that cold call you’ve been dreading to make. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no. What’s the best thing that could happen? You could book a meeting with a potential client. Surely that possibility outweighs the sting of rejection.
Once you’re ok with jumping into things, it’s time to take it to the next level. Life is full of rejection and people telling you no. Your job is to figure out how to turn those no’s into yes’s.
My first sales job during college was selling AT&T business phone service door-to-door. Our pitch was to show how much money our customers could save by switching over to AT&T. It wasn’t very inspiring work, but I needed the money and experience. One of the first things they taught their sales team was how to work “tight” (efficiently). We’d be given a street and hit each business on it. I remember my deer in headlights look when I entered each business asking to speak with the decision maker. My body language said, “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be here.” Huge mistake — you should prepare yourself for every scenario so that you can walk into it confidently. If you feel confident, you’ll look the part.
Everyone slammed the door on me my first day. For extra credit, one business had angry Rottweilers chase me away. The same thing happened the second day, but as I learned the sales pitch better my confidence increased. I was still getting a lot of no’s but some people started asking me to send follow up information. Some told me that their boss wasn’t in but think they might be interested in learning more.
I didn’t make much money with that job but I learned how to fight through adversity. The sting of rejection didn’t hurt so bad anymore — it was just part of the job.
To achieve anything in life you need to the perseverance and determination to overcome adversity. Accept that rejection is part of the game: Don’t expect it, but know that if it comes you’ll be able to cope. After all, no one in the history of the world ever accomplished anything important on their first try.