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What I Learned From Rejection

6082521945_e02a298548_zIf I had to write my own job description, the first sentence would read, “Must prepare for and handle rejection on a daily basis.”

Oh yes, I am no stranger to rejection. It’s something that I’ve had to deal with my entire life. But I also contend that it’s the core reason for my success. And perhaps for my very being.

It’s not because I had to go through it time and again. It’s what I learned from it. And I learned a lot.

Our Aunt Katie had a saying that I always admired. She would say, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Hmmm, simple enough, right? Wrong. It’s not always easy to put yourself out there and ask for what you want. And the reason it’s so scary is because of rejection. We fear rejection. In fact, we loathe it. I’m no different.

Because I’m in marketing, I learned that rejection comes with the territory. In fact, it’s baked right in. Over the years, I’ve pitched a lot of creative ideas and concepts that ultimately got rejected. At first, I took this pretty badly. In fact, I would turn-tail and run most of the time, feeling like I failed.

But one day, I ran across an old episode of Bewitched. And I watched Darrin Stevens very carefully. Yes, that Darrin Stevens – the mortal husband who never let the love of his life be who she really was – a witch! BUT, he did teach me one important thing that would come in very handy at work – the ability to prepare for rejection; also known as having a plan B.

If you recall, any time Darrin’s advertising concepts got rejected by a client, he’d always (magically) have another idea up his sleeve. Never mind that the winning idea was almost always a result of Samantha’s witchcraft – which saved his ass with many large accounts. (But that’s a whole other blog).

The point is, Darrin Stevens taught me how to prepare for rejection. I learned never to just pitch one idea. I’d start with one and then build-up to the best idea – and that last one would almost always be selected. And without any witchcraft! Imagine that.

But preparing for rejection and handling rejection are two completely different things. I had the first part down.  The second part was much tougher. So how did I overcome the fear of rejection?

I stopped running away from it. Now, when I get rejected, I stay. I engage. I listen. I process. I learn. I rebound. And then something crazy happens – I come back stronger. I persevere. And in my opinion, this is the true measure of success.

Being rejected taught me to never give up. And just like Samantha’s witchcraft saved Darrin’s ass, perseverance saved mine more times than I can count.

It saved my company after everyone stopped spending on marketing after 9/11. It saved me from losing out on my first real job (I got a rejection letter and wrote back stating why I disagreed with the rejection, highlighting my credentials as it applied to the job requirements). That got me an interview and I landed the job. Go figure.

So if you, too, fear rejection, take my advice. Stop running. Face it. Engage with the person rejecting you. Ask them why. Listen. Learn. Then come back stronger the next time.

And remember what Aunt Katie said. “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” Words to live – and work – by.