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8 Tips for Dealing with Rejection

As an entrepreneur and innovator, you’re bound to face rejection in your career. No matter what you do, rejection is part of life—whether it’s the job you didn’t get, the college that didn’t accept you, or the girl that you asked out and didn’t give you the response you were hoping for. It’s a neces

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
4 min read
Rejection and how to handle it

As an entrepreneur and innovator, you're bound to face rejection in your career. No matter what you do, rejection is part of life—whether it's the job you didn't get, the college that didn't accept you, or the girl that you asked out and didn't give you the response you were hoping for. It’s a necessary part of learning and growth. If you got everything you wanted on your first try, would it really mean anything?

Many people give up before they even begin because they are afraid of failure and rejection. If you're afraid of trying new things out of this fear, you likely won't make it far as an innovator. You're going to have to get used to hearing the word “No,” because rejection never goes away. The smartest, most successful people had to get rejected a bunch of times to get where they are. The key is to use it to your advantage.

How do you deal with rejection so that it doesn't eat you up and prevent you from moving forward, taking risks, and putting yourself out there again?

Understand Why You Fear Rejection

Most people fear rejection because they don't want to be considered a failure. Maybe you see it as public humiliation or you constantly seek the approval of others. Think about why you fear rejection, and what your real fear in this case is. Once you better understand your real fear, you can use that fear to your advantage and do something about it.

It's also important to understand why the rejection hurts you. It may be that you are being repeatedly rejected, the person rejecting you may be someone you are close with, or you may value the opinions of the person rejecting you because you may think they are smarter or better than you. Pinpointing the reason a particular rejection stings more helps you to move on and get over it.

Remind Yourself That Most Innovative Ideas Face Rejection

Uncertainty makes people uneasy, and innovation and uncertainty often go hand in hand. In many cases, a new idea is rejected because there is no current point of reference for those hearing the idea. By nature, humans resist putting their faith in something they’re not familiar with. Work on connecting your idea with existing reference points, but also keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to convince everyone. If it’s a good idea, it will get through somewhere—but it will likely also be misunderstood and rejected by many first.

Uncertainty makes people uneasy, and innovation and uncertainty go hand in hand.

Phil McKinney

Use the 24-Hour Rule

When faced with rejection, it really does hurt. It's easy to let that consume your whole life, and to let those rejections define you. If you face a rejection, allow yourself 24 hours to sulk over it, and then move on. Learn from the experience and keep working. The same holds true for a win. Celebrate accomplishments for 24 hours, and then get back to work.

Understand Timing

Often, it's not the idea that doesn’t work so much as the timing. It may be that the person you’re pitching to isn’t in a position to work with you right now, or that they’re just at a different place in the game. It might be doable for them later, or it might be doable for someone else right now.

Also, your timing might simply be off. Maybe the market just isn’t ready for your idea yet, or you’re a little late to the table. Pay attention to trends and see if you can adapt your idea to meet the market and culture where they’re at.

Get Feedback

Your idea isn't going to be for everyone. Nothing is. Use rejections as an opportunity to get feedback when you can. Sometimes the failures can provide you with some powerful insight that can seriously improve your idea or product. Take constructive criticism—you are not infallible, and getting an outside perspective is extremely valuable.

Keep Your Plate Full

It's easier to brush off rejection when you have more opportunities in the pipeline and more work to do. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and keep your schedule fairly full so you don’t give yourself too much time to stew on a rejection.

Use It to Motivate You…

Accepting the challenge of proving people that reject you wrong is a great motivator for many innovators. It's almost like an instinct. Not taking “no” for an answer is the result of being completely obsessed with what you do. If you believe your idea is valid and will benefit others, keep that at the top of your mind to find motivation to keep pushing through, and show everyone who rejected you that you were right all along.

…But Don’t Get Hard-Headed

Faith in your idea is crucial for success, but a rejection is just as much an opportunity to reflect as to find new wells of motivation. If you get a string of rejections with a common theme, it’s worth taking a hard look at the criticism and seeing if you can use it to improve your idea, or even just the way you present it. Don’t assume others “just don’t get it,” and make sure there’s nothing you’re missing.

It May Not Feel Great, but It Can Be Great for You

Just because one contract or funding source didn't go through doesn't mean that they all won’t. Remember that you and your ideas are works in progress, and easy success is a rare exception. Use these tips to deal with rejection and use it to your advantage as you move toward your full potential.

Contact me for more guidance on being a successful innovator.

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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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