January 25, 2019

The Beauty In Rejection

I’m at the age and stage in my career that I’m getting too comfortable. 

I tell myself not to wait for a crisis to adapt and grow. And yet comfortable feels so nice, so known, and so very safe. 

This year I decided to get uncomfortable. I would put myself out there more. Not just set my personal and professional development goals and financial targets, but intentionally do those things that make me twitch.

And while I don’t typically give him enough credit, my husband also nudged me, and for that I am (now) grateful. It’s a real gift to have a partner as motivator and check and balance.

The twitchy things for me are sales and marketing. As an independent consultant, I don’t like selling myself, my brand, and finding that perfect pitch. For nearly a decade I’ve relied on recurring clients who value my work, as well as referrals from within this steady client base. But now my landscape is shifting. And it’s scary. But scary is good. 

It’s also funny that I assist my clients with assessing their positions, identifying their priorities, and adapting over time to reach their optimal expressions. It’s tougher to do this for myself.

Nervous, optimistic, and determined, I responded to RFPs/bids that were a stretch for me and largely ‘cold’ in terms of how I learned of the opportunities. I was a finalist for three different projects! Yippee! And I was rejected for each one. Ouch!

Initially I sought external reasons for why I didn’t get the work. “They weren’t clear about what they needed and wanted.” “They asked me to write a proposal when they already had someone in mind for the project and just needed another bid.” “The organization is in a messy spot, and they would have been hard to work with anyway.” This was my self-preserving ego talk.

And then I reminded myself to go inward and practice what I believe and share with my meditation clients. I gave myself permission to feel the pain and disappointment of the rejection. “I really wanted to work with them.” “I put myself out there, and they didn’t want me.” “I have all of this I want to offer, and they didn’t get it?” “Why didn’t I ask this or that?” "Why didn’t I tell them this or that?” And then I felt the shame. 

And after 24 hours, the sadness and shame passed.

Then I went deeper and asked myself: What can I learn from this? And the insights were different this time, as they didn’t originate from my ego and emotions, but from a deeper sense of knowing. 

In this grounded, non-judgmental place, I saw that I had self-sabotaged in the first two opportunities in some particular ways. Owning my relevant skills and experience more fully and as transferable to the organization’s specific content areas would have better positioned me. And for the third opportunity, I could have gained greater clarity about the organization’s decision-making process.

Moving forward, I now know to ask for clarification about specific aspects of the decision-making process, and I will present with greater confidence that my skills and experience are indeed transferable to some content areas that are less familiar to me. 

From this rejection I learned some important things about my business and myself.

And I'm sharing what I learned with my husband and my daughter too. Because I want us all to be comfortable with rejection. Because it brings with its sting some beautiful things.

As we move into February and past our initial enthusiasm for 2019 resolutions, I encourage us all to meet rejection head-on. Let it not be indication of our lack or the “Rejector’s” flaws. Instead, let’s play with rejection as opportunity for learning and growth.