Get Rejected. Get Rejected Again. Repeat

“A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”

-Bo Bennett

Learning to handle rejection (and fail gracefully) is one of the most valuable skills for succeeding in almost every endeavor in life. Why? Because the only thing worse than a half-assed attempt at success is not even trying at all. And someone who cannot tolerate rejection will likely give up before he even tries.

I’m not the only one to recognize the importance of embracing rejection. Jason Shen started Rejection Therapy as a means to push his limits and step outside of his comfort zone. The more you step out of your comfort zone, the thinking goes, the better you will be in uncomfortable situations that really matter (think job interview, first date, approaching an influential individual, and so on).

The more I pay attention to this topic as plays out in everyday life, the more obvious it becomes that there is a significant correlation between your ability to handle rejection and your ability to get what you want in life.


My New Approach to Rejection

I’ve written about embracing rejection and failure before, but I never really lived true to it. Like many, I feel the sting of rejection quite strongly, and a particularly harsh rejection can impact my mood for weeks. So in typical Jon format, I’ve decided to start tracking rejections (on post-it notes, of course), and rewarding myself for reaching my rejection goal. Ultimately, I want to gamify the receipt of rejections so that I welcome them, rather than deplore them.

A few examples:

  • If I put my all into applying for a spot on a project at work, and am turned down, that counts as a rejection.
  • If I go on a date, and I’m interested in a second date and she isn’t – that’s a rejection.
  • If I put myself out on a limb, and am turned down in any way that leaves an emotional sting, +1 rejection.

The way I see it, if I receive a particularly brutal rejection, perfect! I took a calculated risk that gave me an opportunity to move a step forward in life. Although it didn’t work out this time, it still brought me one step closer to reaching my rejection goal.


Adding In Some Gamification (Just For Fun)

As I started paying more attention to rejection, and how consistently I had been avoiding it to my own detriment, I started gamifying certain elements of it, to see if it would allow me to better handle rejection.

Gamifying Rejection - Part 2

If you want to see how the system came into being, I recently guest-posted on Jason Shen’s blog, describing the system.

So has the gamification and tracking helped turn me into a fearless rejection machine? So far, the answer is a resounding “sort of.” Like most gamification efforts, it doesn’t completely change behavior. It simply guides in the right direction. So, while this system hasn’t given me fearless super powers, it has given me the incentive to take on additional actions with a risk of rejection, simply for the sense of progress and rewards it provides for doing so.

It will be a long time before the fear of rejection no longer impacts me as much as it does now, but this system is helping me take baby steps towards progress on something that has been holding me back for as long as I can remember. Cheers to progress.


Conclusion: It’s A Numbers Game

Numbers Game

The reason I’m embracing this system is because many things in life are a numbers game, based on probability and randomness. Focusing on the actual probability of success can be healthy in moderation, but unhealthy when obsessed about (as I’ve written about here). Nevertheless, randomness and probability play a large role in success in life, so it’s important to be aware of them.

An example: The average Joe, who spends plenty of time out and about meeting new people, is more likely to meet his special someone versus, for example, the award-winning musician/novelist who spends his weeknights and weekends at home, never leaving the couch. (I’m not sure why I used award-winning musician / novelist as an example, but doesn’t that person sound interesting?)

Even though an award-winning musician/novelist is likely a very interesting, intelligent person, if he never leaves the couch (an inferior strategy for meeting people), his odds of success plummet compared to the average Joe who’s out and about talking to people.

Another example: If you apply to enough jobs, and your resume is solid, you’ll eventually find an opportunity worth pursuing. For example, as a senior in college, I spent a lot of time sending out applications (dozens of them), only to hear nothing in return. What’s more, I had to apply to Google 3 times before I finally received an offer from them. Despite being a qualified candidate, I still had to play the numbers game and face a series of rejections.

A final example: If you write enough blog posts, and you’re a decent writer, you’re very likely to eventually write something people resonate with – but you’ll likely have to write in obscurity for years before that happens. In my case, this blog had a very, very small readership until I started writing about goal gamification.

This is why handling rejection (and any sort of failure) like a champ is so important. People who quit too early into the numbers game don’t get to reap the benefits. Any numbers game requires a certain amount of attempts before the odds begin to make themselves obvious (in statistics, this is the statistically significant sample size). When you’re playing the odds, you have to keep trying as often as you reasonably can.

It’s one thing for me to sit here and write about how you should embrace your failures and learn to handle rejection. At this point, I’m sure many of you already know that. I’m writing this post as a call to action to find your own unique way of handling rejection. Being the gamification nerd that I am, started tracking my rejections and attaching rewards for hitting certain rejection milestones. Would that work for you? Maybe, maybe not.

Maybe you’ll resonate with the idea of a group of friends who are willing to take on rejection challenges with you. Maybe you’ll enjoy starting a blog to track your adventures as you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll resonate most with the idea of taking one small action with a risk of rejection each day, and ramping up the difficulty as you feel ready.

There’s a way out there for everybody; find yours.

The Sharp Pain of Rejection and the Dull Pain of Regret

The pain of rejection

This pain. It hurts. It hurts a lot. It’s the pain of failure we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Even as I write this, I wince every time I think back to a recent, miserable failure I experienced. Although this failure was weeks ago, I still feel the sting whenever my mind chooses to wander back to that day.

Although personal development gurus and teachers rightfully advocate taking risks in life, I don’t think they quite emphasize how painful the failures can be from the risks that don’t work out. It has been weeks and I still feel the pain of my most recent failure. And I’m sure others have experienced just as painful failures, losses and rejections as a result of high-risk, high-reward actions that didn’t quite work out. I’m here to tell you that these painful memories don’t fade so easily, no matter how many times you hear a motivational speaker tell you that you need to embrace failure.

I’ve come to know the pain of failure intimately ever since I started taking more calculated risks in my life. And I’ve come to learn a few things about it which may help you, should you ever find yourself in a gloomy state from a recent, unpleasant failure.

1) The pain really is terrible. The more emotional attachment you feel to the outcome you want, the more painful the failure will feel. A lot of “gurus” recommend avoiding such emotional attachments, but sometimes you can’t help it. And sometimes, it’s that emotional attachment that drives you to work harder and persevere longer than you would have normally. Just be aware that these powerful emotions are double-edged swords.

2) You won’t feel like it was worth it while you’re experiencing the pain. The pain is usually acute, sharp and unwavering, and you’ll wish you had never taken that risk. You might feel stupid or foolish for having done so, even if the risk was well-calculated and the right thing to do in that moment. This is a normal part of the recovery process.

3) Talking to friends and reading inspirational pieces will help you feel better, but only temporarily. Unless you’re a very optimistic person by nature (most of us aren’t), our minds like to dwell on the negative from time to time, especially during the rough period after a hard failure. Friends who give you great advice and books that show you how fortunate you are in life can all work to adjust your mood and bring you to a better place, mentally and emotionally. But most of the time, this is only temporary, and you’ll soon find yourself back in a painful spot as you remember and dwell on the failure. Therefore, it’s a wise idea to keep good company and inspirational literature close by for whenever you need a bit of support.

4) Thankfully, the pain does go away. It took years for the pain from some of the epic failures in my life to fade, but it eventually goes away. Remember that while you’re hanging in there. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be in a week, month or even a year from now. But it will go away.

5) As the pain fades over time, you will feel glad you took to route you did (assuming it was a calculated, educated risk, rather than a reckless, foolish one). You played the odds to pursue something you valued. You went after what others wouldn’t dare to pursue. And you failed. But you learned. And you’ll live the rest of your life feeling no regrets about that moment, because you strived as high and acted as intelligently as you could.

6) When you experience that pain again, you’ll feel slightly more immune to it. And you’ll recover a little bit quicker. And it won’t be as painful a memory as your last failure. You’ll start to feel “immune” to the emotional impact of failure. In other words, the potential reward of the risks you take will remain just as high, but the potential losses shrink as you feel less and less emotional pain from failure.

7) When you look back, all of those acute feelings of pain you experienced were nowhere near as bad as the dull, steady pain of those who never took risks, and now hold a lifetime’s worth of regret on their shoulders. That type of pain starts off manageable and easy to ignore. But over one’s lifetime, it becomes an insurmountable cause of unhappiness, with each day becoming more and more painful as the new regrets pile up on top of old ones.

So the next time you find yourself in the midst of pain from failure – a pain so bad, you’ll wish you could go back in time and take the safer route – read the seven points above. It’ll help you cope until you’re ready for your next calculated risk.

Does Hypnosis Work? A Resounding Yes is in Order

After a few months of working with hypnosis, I have a new view on the subject. I used to have this very polarized idea of how hypnosis worked. Either you were incredibly susceptible to it (and could be hypnotized to think you were a chicken on stage), or it had no effect on you. I no longer believe this to be the case.

Hypnosis, for therapeutic purposes, is essentially a guided meditation with positive affirmations being spoken to you. Some people can go into a state that is deeper than meditation, but I am the type who has trouble relaxing to that extent. So basically, you’re relaxing your mind through meditation to slow down that whir of thoughts that are always going through your head. Once this happens, your mind is less likely to criticize and scrutinize the contents of the hypnosis tape, allowing them to do their job better. That’s it. It’s really nothing too far-fetched.
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