Thoughts on Rejection

I couldn’t close the deal. After spending two months establishing a relationship, digging into the nitty-gritty requirements, refining a proposal, and heck, even getting access to their internal systems — the prospect decided to move forward in a different direction. Man, did it sting. 

My first instinct was to follow the prevailing advice for dealing with rejection. I should “move onto to the next one” and “get back on the horse”.

And accordingly, I dusted myself off, lifted one foot into the saddle stirrup and was ready to jump back onto the proverbial horse  — when I paused. If I move on too quickly, I won’t learn from my mistakes. Why did I lose the deal? What can I change to improve my chances next time? If I don’t take the time to ponder on why I failed, how will I ever achieve success? 

So I pulled that foot back out of the saddle and took some time to think about how I got into this position. But after about a week of self-reflection, a feeling of gloom overtook me.  All the attention on my failure started to chip away at my confidence and I fell into a mini-spiral. Why am I so dumb? I can’t believe I worded the proposal like that. I’m never going to find another client. And just like that, I was in a rut. 

If I won’t improve by moving on too quickly from failure yet risk the spiral of doom with too much self-reflection, how can I learn from my mistakes?

Like most good advice I think the middle ground is key. When dealing with failure, it’s useful to contemplate how I got there in the first place — but it’s equally important my brain doesn’t spend too much time in that space. To achieve that balance, I’ve started to:

  • Write down a list of what I can do better next time. The physical act of writing helps pull it out of my brain and solidifies the education. 
  • Hold a personal retrospective/post-mortem with a trusted friend. It’s common to conduct retro meetings at work — so why not leverage them on a personal level? I find the conversational recap of challenges and lessons learned priceless. The second set of eyes and ears on the situation also helps suss out undiscovered ways I can improve without letting my self-esteem fly over the guardrails. 

Definitely get back on the horse. But only after intelligently and sensibly figuring out why you were thrown off in the first place.

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