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. 

Even as I assist my clients with assessing their positions, identifying their priorities, and taking risks, it's tougher to do this with 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 rejection. “I really wanted to work with them.” “I put myself out there, and they didn’t choose 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 shame. 

But after 24 hours, that sadness and shame passed.

Then I went deeper and asked myself: What can I learn from this? 

And the insights were different the second time around, as they didn’t originate from my ego and emotions.

In this grounded, non-judgmental place, I saw that I had likely 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 and been more assertive.

Because I sat with the rejection and moved through it, I learned some important lessons. I now know to ask for more details about decision-making processes, 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. 

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.