Secrets For Dealing With Rejection

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?

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  1. I wish I could go back in time, to my younger self knowing what I know now. Oh, how different things would be! In my 20’s I took rejection extremely personally. I would ruminate over the why, oh why me?! As I have matured spiritually over the years, by the grace of God, I have learned that his ultimate acceptance makes mans rejection a small, insignificant nuisance. I have learned to go to God in prayer and ask if the other person’s assessment of me has any truth to it and ask God to do his work in me, to grow me for his purpose. For those of you younger people of faith out there…remember how God sees you, look for how he wants to use you and recognize that your life and your work was decided long ago as it says in Ephesians 2:10-“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Man cannot alter what God has ordained.

  2. Great topic and terrific strategies for dealing with rejection. I’ve discovered over the years you have to go into every pitch meeting with the attitude that you are going to find a way to win something, even if you don’t sell the pitch or get the gig. The other ways you win are: 1) You leave the meeting with a new contact. If your pitch was decent, even if it’s not what they’re looking for, you’ve acquitted yourself as a pro and made a good impression; 2) You leave the meeting with more information. If they’re not buying your idea, then ask what they are looking for, and voila, you’re armed with new data about the business and what’s selling; and 3) You leave the meeting with your head held high because you’ve just taken your pitch for a shakedown cruise and it will be tighter next time. If you practice Phil’s strategies at every meeting you take, pretty soon you’ll realize there is no such thing as rejection. Only ways to win and improve your game.

  3. As an actress I deal with rejection almost on a daily basis. But I have to get the word “rejection” out of my dictionary and replace it with something else. Something that merely represents a closed door which doesn’t speak against my talents, but rather causes me to change direction and find the path that I was destined for. All those rejections or “closed doors” are how we find our successes and triumphs, so really, it’s just about having the right perspective.

  4. I think it’s important to acknowledge the loss that rejection entails. We let ourselves have up to one day to mourn a significant rejection (and have taught our kids the same), then the next day, we’re back up and looking at what’s next.

  5. When Phil asked me to respond to this topic I at first didn’t think I should as right now I’m not in a very positive frame of mind but I reconsidered. I might benefit someone and maybe also help me focus more.

    Regarding rejection first I would say to do some inner soul searching. Even in the most egregious situation I’m sure that you can find things that you might have done to contribute to a negative environment and that you would not want to carry into a new one.

    Next, do not seek any sort of retaliation and watch what you say. In my situation I had a very pleasant 19 year experience. Through several internal and external events though the situation turned negative and several of use were let go.

    Try to reinvent yourself. My previous position developed as the years went by. What I did for 19 years seems to not be needed by anyone else so I need to do my best to offer strengths that are needed. With technology changing so quickly it would behoove us all to stay “cutting edge”.

    Some of your worst critics and naysayers may be the people closest to you. If that is the case seek out people who will lift you up. People who just won’t say what you want to hear but who know you and who you trust.

    Don’t be afraid to take a position that may be a bit below your standards or desired income. Who knows who you might meet. They may be looking for someone just like you.

    Be realistic but also don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t have only one “game plan”. God may take you down a whole new path that you would have never considered.

    Take a little time off just to regroup. Believe me I know it’s tough when you are juggling bills but take some time to refresh yourself and to seek The Lord.

  6. Phil’s advice to “separate criticism of the project from criticism of you” isn’t easy…especially when the rent is due and you needed that project to pay your bills.

    Over the years I’ve learned that challenging, defending and blame-shifting won’t turn negatives into a positives.

    How you respond to rejection (and criticism) says a lot about you, both as a person and a professional. It’s a big part of your brand.

  7. Our entire entertainment industry is founded on REJECTION. Every creative artists, performing, visual, fine, etc. deals with rejection. This advise is wonderful for all of us to take to heart. And my main summary about how to deal with rejection, which most of us do every day: IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT ME! Just a thought……

  8. Whenever the word rejection crops up, I always think of George McFly (“I just can’t take that kind of rejection!”). Back to the Future – what a great film. In fact, have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like it? I’d actually advise urgent medical attention for anyone who doesn’t.

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