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We’ve all faced rejection at least one point in our lives. We are vulnerable. Thanks to electronic communications, we are at risk of rejections in all shapes and sizes from social media, or dating apps, where we are connected to millions of people.
No matter what size or where the rejection came from, it still hurts.
This was something that I wrote back in the day…
Recovering from Rejection
Today is one of the first times I’ve ever felt true, disappointing, gut-wrenching, soul-crushing, rejection. I’m sort of numb and confused.
While I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of rejection and failure before, it wasn’t like this. In the past, I was rejected from things I didn’t care about.
But being rejected when we’re doing something we enjoy or feel inspired to do feels…terrible.
Many thoughts come up…
- Is the person/thing we’re being rejected by truly a good judge of my talent and ability?
- Is this going to change me or my path?
- (Or, even scarier) Does this mean I should just give up?
I’ve been waking up at 5 AM sharp (almost) every day and working extremely hard on a project for the last year, and I got some feedback from an important partner that basically came down to: “I have to be brutally honest, this just isn’t good enough.” (BTW: I’m not trying to be ambiguous, I just stay more motivated when I don’t share big goals. And, science.)
When we feel like we failed, we immediately begin trying to figure out what it all means and start writing a story in our heads about it. In my case, I’m going through 99 different “what if” scenarios. There’s even one of me becoming a homeless nobody that everyone forgot about, and I’m shouting at people shopping at Trader Joe’s.
Rejection can mean a lot of things. As I sit here right now trying to figure out what it all means, I realize it’s 100% up to us. It all lives inside our heads. The story and meaning I give this right now could completely change my life.
I can very easily allow this rejection to break me. I can even allow this to change who I am completely. And to be honest, in this moment, that’s exactly what I want to do.
Or…I can chill.
I can take some time to process what really happened, and look at it though a clear, objective lens once I’ve separated emotion from “reality”. But we all know that’s easier said than done.
Am I Alone?
There was a story floating around recently about Meryl Streep. Apparently she was rejected at an audition for “King Kong”, told she was “too ugly” for the part. That is a hardcore rejection. And yet, she pulled herself back up and told the guy he was just one opinion out of many. Today, she has been nominated for 20 (and counting) Academy Awards. Wow.
Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity squad of his high school basketball team. Throughout his basketball career, Michael scored 32,292 points, 6 NBA championships and 5 MVP titles.
Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television 3 times. He was eventually accepted by another school, where he dropped out to pursue directing. To date, Spielberg directed 51 films and won 3 Oscars.
Oprah Winfrey was an evening news reporter and apparently got fired because she was unfit for TV. Eventually, she became the host of her own show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and launched her own TV Network.
Here’s the Deal:
I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve pulled myself back up already, but I do think that the story is critical. It’s everything. A fixed mindset would view any failure or rejection as their new reality, and give up easily. A growth mindset would persist and view challenges as an opportunity to learn.
Who knows—maybe the rejection we face is actually meaningless. Maybe it’s simply a part of our journey, so that we gain the wisdom to help others. Maybe it means we’ve reached a limit, and it’s time to pick up new skills or knowledge. Or maybe, rejection is just a redirection to the right path, even if it’s not the one we initially wanted.
We all know the feeling of looking back at a challenge and seeing the invisible silver lining. Most of the time we have to laugh, because it was actually meaningless or led to something 10X better.
Whatever the lesson, none of it is possible without telling ourselves the right story. We get to choose that story.
[I initially wrote this on Monday when it happened, here’s how I feel today…]
In Seth Godin’s book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), he believes why it is so important to be the best at what you do and the benefits that result from catering to your strengths. The Dip is the period between starting something and mastery, when it’s really tough, and when most people or organizations quit.
For me, chilling out and stopping the “what if” game was a good decision. My story is this: behind every big accomplishment are the blood, sweat, and tears of obstacles, challenges, and rejection.
Rejection is redirection to the right path.