Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs, Here’s How To Overcome Rejection…Again

In any part of life, rejection can be painful. For entrepreneurs, rejection can be a surprising and painful blow. In fact, in my own experiences with entrepreneurs, I’ve seen that the ability to be generally successful in most things can make a sudden, major rejection become almost overwhelming.

While rejection is hard, the way an entrepreneur responds to it is even more important. In a world where 50 percent of startups fail by their fifth year, the way you respond to rejection and failures is key to your ability to move on to bigger and better things.

Being rejected for a major deal or losing a big-time client is tough. It can make it tough for your business, too. But learning how to overcome rejection, again and again, will provide valuable growth and learning opportunities that you won’t get any other way.

Don’t Let Expected Success Override Facts

Rejection can be especially challenging for entrepreneurs who have experienced repeated success in most other areas of their lives. Confidence and optimism are must-have traits for entrepreneurs, but sometimes, they can become vices.

In some ways, this can be similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, a form of cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their own skills or knowledge, even in areas where they have limited competence. While successful entrepreneurs are rarely incompetent, they may overestimate their chances for success based on previous outcomes or their own self-confidence, rather than quantifiable facts.

When our brains anticipate a desired outcome, we can feel as though success has already happened. But this kind of anticipation can fuel false confidence, obscuring objectivity about how things are actually going. Visualizing success is a helpful tool to inspire our teams and stay focused on a goal. The key is to never allow your visualization to morph into expectation, or you could be setting yourself up for magnified pain if things don’t work out as hoped.

As Joshua George, founder of ClickSlice explained in a recent conversation, “When it comes to areas like search engine optimization, you can’t rely on a ‘gut feeling’ to tell you whether your metrics are improving or not. All the good feelings in the world are meaningless against actual performance numbers. Unfortunately, many have the tendency to let emotions override what the numbers are telling them. This can lead to major disappointment when the outcomes don’t live up to their expectations. Understanding what’s actually happening is key to putting results in context and taking appropriate actions.”

Practice Humility

Rejection can be a powerful learning opportunity for entrepreneurs — but only when they have the humility needed to recognize and correct potential shortcomings of their own. Like it or not, your own actions will generally play a role when your entrepreneurial efforts are rejected.

Humility has long been cited as one of the most important traits a leader or entrepreneur can develop, improving engagement and performance from their entire team. A key part of this humility comes from a leader’s knowledge that they don’t know everything, and can learn from almost anyone’s input.

As George noted, “Seeking feedback from decision makers is one of the most valuable ways you can learn from any business rejection. This helps you go beyond the basic ‘no’ and understand the ‘why’ that led to that decision. When you can pair quantifiable results with deeper motivations, you gain the critical insights you need to not make the same mistake twice.”

Rather than growing bitter or comparing themselves to others, humble leaders reflect on what they can do to improve and seek any feedback available so that today’s “no” can lead to tomorrow’s “yes.”

As Marshall Goldsmith notes in his recent book, The Earned Life; Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment, “Motivation is a strategy, not a tactic. Motive is the reason we act in a certain way. Motivation is the reason we continue acting that way. It’s the difference between impulsively going running on a sunny afternoon to release some restless energy and running six days a week month after month because you want to get fit, or lose weight, or train for a race. In identifying your motivation, be sure to grade it on its long-term sustainability—and be realistic about your ability to sustain in the face of risk, insecurity, rejection, and difficulty. Two questions: How have you responded to adversity in the past? Why will it be different this time?

Acknowledge Pain, But Don’t Let It Overwhelm You

“It’s not personal…it’s strictly business” may have become a pseudo-cliche in the business world, but there is no denying that to entrepreneurs, their work is intensely personal. After pouring your passion and efforts into something, it can be a real emotional blow to see it rejected.

How you process that pain will directly influence what you do next. On one end of the spectrum, there are entrepreneurs who try to bury their feelings of disappointment or sadness after a rejection. But this emotional suppression can eventually return in other destructive behaviors — both at work and in one’s personal life.

On the other end are those who overindulge in their pain. Rather than acknowledge their own shortcomings, they use a victimized response that blames others. They may blame the decision maker for making a poor choice in rejecting them, or even fault their own team members for the failure. This can lead to bitter feelings that erode vital business relationships. This focus on grievances can be truly debilitating to your personal and business growth.

Instead, entrepreneurs must find the balance where they can acknowledge the pain of their rejection without letting it become overwhelming. Naming what you’ve lost from the specific rejection can help you put things in perspective and identify how other similar opportunities are still available. Rejection isn’t an end to your entrepreneurial career — it’s a temporary setback. As you mindfully process the emotional pain associated with the rejection, you can turn your focus to how you can learn and grow to take advantage of future opportunities.

Control What You Can Control

As nice as it would be to imagine that everything that happens in your entrepreneurial career is within your control, this simply isn’t the case. Whether you made a mistake in your pitch to a prospect or global events completely disrupted your industry, you can’t change the past.

As Goldsmith writes, “In many cases, the outcomes of choices, risks, and maximal efforts are not “fair and just.” Unless you’ve led an absurdly charmed life, you know that life is not always fair. It starts at birth: who your parents are, where you grow up, your educational opportunities, and so many other factors, most of them beyond your control.”

But you can control how you respond to rejection and apply it to your future efforts. When you turn rejection into a learning opportunity rather than a devastating blow, you’ll experience invaluable growth that can serve you well throughout your career.

Rejection is one of life’s most painful experiences, especially if you are used to being successful. It doesn’t have to be debilitating. Underneath rejection’s disappointment, there are lessons and growth awaiting us if we have the courage and humility to uncover them.


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