A few weeks ago I spoke to a friend about a creative opportunity. The specific opportunity doesn’t matter—it could have been a speaking gig, a publishing deal, or a freelance job.
I thought I had a good shot at being accepted, but then my friend called me back. I was not going to be considered for the opportunity.
This was not the news I was hoping for. At first, I was hurt and a little angry. Didn’t they see the skills I could bring to the table? Wasn’t it obvious that I have been adding value to others for a long time?
I moped around the house for a couple of days, feeling sorry for myself. But on Saturday morning, I woke up and had a stark realization: I was acting like a child and my attitude sucked.
Instead of continuing to wallow in self-pity, I stood back and took a hard look at myself. What could I learn from this? How could this rejection make me better?
Here are nine things I have learned from this experience. I hope these will be useful as you deal with rejection in your own life.
1. Remember that it’s better to be rejected on the front end of an opportunity.
I wouldn’t want to be chosen for an opportunity if the people doing the choosing didn’t truly want me. It’s much better to experience rejection now, rather than months or years later, when you’re in the thick of a situation that’s not right for you.
2. Don’t rely on other people’s acceptance to feel validated.
When you’re accepted by others, it’s easy to feel great. “Yay! I was chosen for something!”
But it’s also easy to feel worthless when you’re rejected. “Oh, no! Nobody likes me!”
Neither scenario is true. Your worth as a person is completely independent of other people’s judgment about you. You are priceless, valuable, and awesome … regardless of what others think.
3. Remember that opportunities come and go.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to work at the such-and-such place. Or you’ve always wanted to speak at a certain conference or work with a certain publisher.
The truth is that there are unlimited opportunities around us every day. Don’t get your heart set on any one specific opportunity.
4. Take control of your own destiny and choose yourself.
I recently read James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. The title sums it all up: stop waiting for others to pick you. Choose yourself.
Creative people often have to wait for gatekeepers to approve them in some way. Whether it’s a publisher, record label, art gallery, or something else, we spend a lot of time waiting for others’ approval.
But today, you don’t need to wait for someone else. You can take control of your life and get your creative work out there so others can experience it.
5. Remember all the great leaders who faced failure and rejection.
Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs all faced rejection or failure at some point. But they persisted. They were resilient. They had the right attitude. They kept at it until their dreams became reality.
Did you really think success was going to come so easily? Not a chance. The trials we go through are shaping and molding us for something greater down the road. But we can only make use of these disappointments if we have the right attitude.
6. Don’t make a bad decision when you are emotionally compromised.
Remember the scene in Star Trek (2009) when Spock gets into a fight with Kirk, and then steps down from his command? The reason was that he was “emotionally compromised.” He knew that his emotions would prevent him from making good decisions as a commander.