I’m constantly reading quotes from famous people about the importance of failure and rejection. Learning from it, turning rejection into action, owning it, and more. The problem is, failure and rejection are HARD, and while everyone tells you it can be a good thing, very few people tell you how to handle it. To that end, here’s a few thoughts that might help you handle rejection the next time you experience it:
1. Don’t over-think it. Sometimes we wallow in our rejection in an effort to understand it. But often, it’s just a matter of timing, chemistry, or circumstance. Actors see this all the time in auditions. Their performance might be brilliant, but the producer was looking for a blond, a deeper voice, or a taller person. More often than you think, rejection has nothing to do with your performance or lack thereof.
2. Don’t take it personally. I know that’s easier said than done because in my twenties, I took rejection really hard. But over the years, I learned that in most cases it’s not about me, it’s about the project, idea, or job. Learn to separate criticism of the project, from criticism of you. It will keep you from jumping out a window, and keep you in the game. And never forget – they could be right. Poet Carl Sandburg said, “I sent [poems] to two editors who rejected them right off. I read those letters of rejection years later and I agreed with those editors.”
3. Find objective advice. Occasionally, the person who rejected your idea or project is an idiot. Find another experienced person you trust and run it by them. It’s always good to have a bigger perspective on the potential reasons for rejection.
4. At the moment of rejection, keep a cool head and ask for constructive criticism. It’s tough to keep your emotions from running wild at the moment, but if possible, keep calm and politely ask for some reasons. If the person is mature, they’ll be happy to offer a teaching moment and you could end up in a much better position. James Lee Burke said, “There’s nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.”
5. Finally – Don’t let rejections derail your dream. Nothing is perfect, no idea is sacred, and we’re all human. Rejection and failure happen. Understand that, keep tweaking your idea or project, and most of all – keep moving forward. Maybe the best rejection quote is from actor Sylvester Stallone: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”
How do you handle rejection or failure? What keeps you coming back for more?