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