I’m pretty good at handling rejection. And like most of you, I’ve had a ton of practice. When you are a freelance writer, particularly in the early days, you spend a lot of time fielding no’s. When you’re a parent, you get good at looking failure in the eye. Heck, when you’re, well, a human being, you get plenty of practice at managing mistakes.
But, I like telling those stories of defeat. The ones where I describe the more than 50 rejections I got before I sold my first piece to a major magazine. My favorite part is the story is the point where after all those no’s the yeses started coming and have continued to come, because I just wouldn’t give up.
Richard St. John lists persistence as among the eight qualities you need to be successful. You can see him talk about it in the video I’ll post Wednesday on this site.
Persistence is essential in relationships, business, and really anything, if you’re going to live a healthy life. You have to keep going, even during the tough moments. Even after failure. Especially after failure. But, it helps if you know how to handle those less-than moments so that you can keep moving toward success. Here are four strategies for handling failure.
Redefine what failure means. Intellectually we know that our mistakes yield opportunity and the insights we need to ultimately succeed in life. So, when the rejections come, or the boss says no, or you lose the financing or whatever it is that you want to work isn’t working at all, slow down to appreciate what isn’t working. Stop focusing on all the ways you’re screwed and start thinking about the information the failure offers. It’s usually telling us to find a new way, to redirect our energies. When we can identify what isn’t working instead of becoming identified with the pain of our failure, we can start on the solution, the new approach, the next big thing.
When, I was having a hard time selling magazine pieces, I experienced the disappointment of each rejection and then began looking at the things that were keeping me from acceptance letters. I realized that I wasn’t writing good pitches. And, I didn’t know why. So, instead of feeling bad, I quieted my ego, and hooked up with a coach who helped me hone that skill. Within months I began regularly selling my work.
Experience disappointment, but don’t wallow in it. Of course, it hurts when our dreams get derailed. Allow yourself to experience the frustration and disappointment that comes with failure, then get up and get going again. Don’t deny your emotions, but make sure that you also come up with another avenue, activity, interest to pursue so that you don’t get stuck in the despair.
Detach from outcomes; focus on process. Often the reason why our failures are so painful is that we have become deeply attached to a single outcome. If we have our minds set on only one end result, chances are you’re going to fail – at least part of the time. Focus instead on the process. What is it that is driving you toward your desired outcome? What are your passions and values? Are the steps you’re taking toward your goal in line with those things? If you are growing and learning and living close to your values and passions all along the way, any outcome you achieve will feel worthwhile and in fact, you’re likely to achieve more than you could even envision. You’ll succeed in myriad ways when your process aligns with your values and passions. If you are failing repeatedly, could be those things are out of sync.
Get some sleep. Seriously, people. The tough times are a lot harder to handle when you are not eating and sleeping well. Take care of your body. Get some sleep and examine the situation when you are more rested. Often we lose perspective and our ability to creatively problem solve because we are just too dang tired or hungry. Rest well and any rejection or perceived failure will feel a lot easier to deal with.
Watch this. Finally, it never hurts to have beacons of inspiration in your life. Seek them out. Find motivating quotes, inspiring videos, supportive friends. Rely on them when you reserves of persistence are running dry. And, watch this short clip. It is sure to give you a boost.