Facing Rejection

I believe this is the one obstacle that stands in my way of succeeding as an entrepreneur.

I’m currently reading through The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster. It’s given me wonderful insight into some of the hardships entrepreneurs face on their journey to business freedom, and it’s also opened my eyes to how I face my own challenges and ways to improve my reaction.

One thing this book has drawn my attention to is my rejection recovery time. This is how long it takes for you to bounce back after a failure, disappointment, setback or obstacle. In the book, Dan Hardy talks about how he got his recovery time down to the following:

  • At first it took him 2 weeks to recover.
  • He eventually focused on getting that number down to 2 days.
  • Then he reduced it again to 2 hours.
  • Then 20 minutes.
  • Finally, 2 minutes.

Now, when I get knocked down, I give myself about two minutes to sulk, and then I brush myself off and get back on the horse.

When I read that, I was in disbelief. “Two minutes?!” I thought. “I can’t imagine getting over something like that in just two minutes! It would take me…probably two months to recover!”

Oh. Wait.

It already does.

I have this notion that my interest in a subject can only last for about three months before I get bored and switch to something else. My excuse was always that that’s just how my brain worked, and there was nothing I could do about it.

But through conversations I’ve been having recently, I’ve become more and more aware of my tendency to run away when things get hard.

I don’t want to face hardship. I don’t want to own up to a mistake, because I’m afraid it will mean people are disappointed in me. I’m afraid it will mean I’m just not cut out for the thing in question, instead of seeing it as a genuine setback that can be moved past.

Eventually I do “get back on the horse” in that I eventually come back to the subject after about two months of ignoring it. The problem is, I never dealt with the setback, so that sense of rejection was never worked through. And the next time it happens, the same process starts all over again, and I run away.

I’ve been dealing with this in my writing for years. I can think all the way back to my freshman year of college:

  • Campus literary magazine trashed my poem
  • Lit professor said my poetry needed work
  • Got an article idea rejected from my supervisor at an internship
  • Turned down for several freelance writing positions
  • Barely anyone bought the (two, hah) books I’d published

And here are some rejections I’ve had related to Japan:

  • Turned down for a job at a Japanese company in my hometown
  • Just missed getting a job as a diplomat in DC; candidate right before me snatched it up
  • Completely bombed the hardest level of the JLPT
  • Turned down for several translation positions

And here are some more related to graduate school:

  • Professor rejected my thesis proposal
  • Stanford turned me down

The more I think on it, the more I can think of rejections I’ve had in the last couple years. And in each case, I allowed myself to believe that I just wasn’t cut out for that career or industry. Instead, I sulked on over to the next thing in my list, thinking I would have better luck at constant success if I tried over there.

That’s the truest truth I’ve thought all night. I need constant success. If I get any sort of rejection, my natural instinct is to cut and run. I’ve had a lot of successes in my writing career lately, but I assure you, if any one of those had been a rejection, I would have stopped trying.

For two months.

So now, my goal is to help myself learn how to sit with the negativity of the rejection, and to brush myself off so that I can get up more quickly.

The first step is to acknowledge my feelings about the rejection and to be able to sit with them and accept them.

Step two is to really see the rejection for what it is: a temporary setback or obstacle, and not an indication that I’m not cut out for whatever it was that rejected me.

The third step is to finally start working on reducing the time I spend sulking. I realize now that the 2-3 months I spend pursuing a different interest is not my brain hopping around to different activities; it is simply a defense mechanism, meant to protect me from the pain of rejection by giving me something else to distract myself with.

But I don’t want to be distracted anymore.

So let’s acknowledge that time period for what it is: the 2 months I spend sulking over a rejection.

Moving forward, my goal is to move that time down as follows:

  • 2 months (stop this shit immediately)
  • 2 weeks (a helluva difference for me; if I could get my rejection time down to where Dan Hardy started his, who knows what I could get accomplished)
  • 1 week
  • 3 days
  • 1 day
  • 12 hours
  • 5 hours
  • 2 hours
  • 1 hour
  • 30 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 10 minutes
  • 5 minutes
  • 2 minutes

I’ve given myself much more leniency, because I know this is a super huge issue of mine and that I’m going to need to be gentle with myself and patient as I work through this hardcore vice.

I can’t get my time down as fast as Dan Hardy can; but, with time, I’ll be able to get back up after 2 minutes, just like he does.

It seems impossible now, but I know that I can get there.

And I will get there proud.


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