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Learning to Deal with Rejection (It Happens…)

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Rejection is something we all encounter from time to time. It usually isn’t fun to deal with because it hurts and stings! But a person who takes on more risks is bound to come across rejection at a more frequent rate. And without taking risks, life isn’t much worth living. As Charlie Chaplin used to say, “actors search for rejection. If they don’t get it, they reject themselves.” Shouldn’t the same apply to the common person’s life as well?

Rejection vs. Failure

Rejection can sting more than failure because failure is usually something we have control over – rejection is not.

In a sense, failure can be remedied. For example, if you miss the game winning free throw and your team loses the game, you can always put in more practice time and increase the odds that you make the shot the next time around. The same is true with scoring low marks on a math test. Just study more and do better next time.

When it comes to rejection, we often have very little say over the final outcome. It doesn’t matter how much preparation, effort, or passion you put into something, because ultimately, the decision isn’t up to you. This can be not only nerve-racking to have to deal with, but often times heartbreaking!

Here’s what to do when rejection shows up on your doorstep:

Step-By-Step Approach

1) The “Get Over It” Period
Depending on the severity of the situation, you should allow yourself at least 24 hours, or 1 full day, to get the rejection out of your system. I find that one day (or two) is usually ample amount of time to get over most rejections (e.g. job interviews that lead to no offer letters, being fired, first dates that have no potential for a second, break-ups, being outbid on a home, etc.).

Obviously, something more devastating like the demise of a long-term relationship will require more time to cope with. In this case, you may need to budget a month or two to allow yourself enough time to sufficiently heal.

Everyone is different, so deal with it in a manner that works for you. Here are some recommendations:

  • Vent to a friend, family member, acquaintance, co-worker, or even an online forum. Surround yourself with good company.
  • Get some fresh air. Go outside, or on a hike. Escape to nature.
  • Listen to angry/sad/inspirational music.
  • Release your physical aggression, but do so in a constructive manner. Go to the gym, run, play sports, be active. Keep your body moving because this will do wonders in helping you feel better. Exercise will release endorphins, which are your body’s “feel good” chemicals.
  • Write a poem, journal, or blog entry.
  • Try to get some good sleep.
  • Cry.

You may even wallow in self-pity. But try to keep this to a minimum! Do everything you need to do to flush the rejection out entirely, because once this grace period is over, it’s time to move on for good.

2) Keep Yourself Busy
During the early stages of recovery, you will want to keep yourself especially busy so that you don’t drive yourself crazy, replaying the rejection scenario over and over again in your head. Playing the “what if” game does you absolutely no good. In fact, this will just make you feel more depressed and miserable. Try to avoid it! Instead, follow the suggestions outlined in Step 1. Do as many of the above that make sense to you. Once you get past this phase, make sure to occupy your time with productive hobbies. If you don’t have any, learn something new. Play piano, learn how to cook, read a book, go skiing, shoot some pool, go bowling, learn how to dance, etc.

3) Learn and Adapt
Once the wound has been healed, it’s OK to revisit and analyze the rejection. In fact, it’s good to try and learn from it, if possible. Be honest with yourself in your assessment. You aren’t trying to impress anyone, or convince anyone of anything. So, be real. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What would I do differently if I face a similar situation like this in the future?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • Is this something I really want?
  • If I can’t have this, what are the alternatives?
  • How do I improve?

If you do get that second chance for redemption, make sure you are prepared to succeed the next time around. For things such as interviewing for a new job, or making another offer on a dream home, chances are high that you will have another opportunity to win.

However, for some things, the harsh reality is that you won’t get a second chance. If you apply to your dream school and get rejected, for instance, the odds that you get another shot are low. You obviously can’t keep trying every year until you make it, as this wouldn’t make much economical sense. What should you do in this case?

Move on. Eventually. It won’t be easy, but try to not to make any one thing out to be larger than it really is. There’s nothing wrong with falling back on your second choice. Or third choice. So what if you don’t get into the Ivy League school of your dreams! Is your life really over just because of that? Can you still not succeed, anyway?

4) Get Motivated, Believe, and Never Quit!
With that said, keep the rejection in your back pocket. If you are the type of person who thrives on adversity, keep a datalog, or journal of the event. Mark it down somewhere and refer to it from time to time for extra motivation.

As they so often say, “you only live once.” So, keep your head up and keep moving forward. Time is precious, so counteract resistance with persistence. Believe in yourself and what you are fighting for. Don’t get discouraged and don’t ever let rejection deter you from getting what you really want out of life. You can’t win if you quit.

Here’s a popular tale of what once happened to a future NFL hall of famer:

Randy Moss was drafted in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft. His dream was to play for the Dallas Cowboys, the team he grew up rooting for. In that draft, the Cowboys passed him with the 8th pick. He was not selected until the 21st pick, which was held by the Minnesota Vikings. Moss was so angered by the outcome that he swore to seek revenge against the Cowboys everytime he played them for the rest of his career. He has gone on record saying, “am I still mad at the Cowboys? Man, I always carry a certain chip on my shoulder for the Cowboys.” In 1998, his first game against the Cowboys, Moss scored 3 touchdowns. He is 8-0 lifetime against them, and has gone on to produce receiving numbers than rank him amongst the best of all time. He is almost a sure bet to make it into the pro football hall of fame.

So, how’s that for turning a negative into a positive?

5) Go Kick Ass!
When a door closes, know full well that the only reason this happens is so that a better path can open up. Believe this with all your heart, because it is true. Even if it seems impossible at the time, you will see that things usually happen for the best, later on. As The Notorious B.I.G. and 112 used to sing, “the sky is the limit, so just keep on pressing on.” Continue living life. And do so with both confidence and swagger. Everything else will fall into place. Just watch!

6) Seek Out New Rejection
For those who are now pro at dealing with rejection, continue to go out and actively seek it. Once you’ve dealt with it enough times, it’s no big deal, since it does get easier each subsequent time it happens. Life is also more interesting when we take risks. And who knows, something amazing might just happen if you keep on trying. Maybe you’ll pull an Andy Dufrense (The Shawshank Redemption), and get an entire library built because you wouldn’t take “No” for an answer!

Summary

Rejection is something we all have to deal with at some point in our life. It can be difficult to overcome, especially if we aren’t used to it. By following the approach outlined above, a person can take the steps needed to properly get over the rejection. It will hurt at first, but as always, time heals all wounds. Afterwards, we can move forward with our life, and continue to accomplish amazing things!

Part 2: Personal Tales of Woe

This entry wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t disclose some of my own stories of personal rejection, now would it? After reading this, hopefully you’ll be convinced that I’m not just blowing smoke. 😉

I’ve faced my own fair share of rejection just this past year alone:

Rental Properties
When I first started looking for properties to buy back in May 2012, I fell in love with what I thought was the perfect 4/2 condominium. It was priced just right, so I immediately put in an offer. I lost. And it was devastating for me to deal with. This was my first attempt at buying property, so of course I went in with too much emotion and too high of expectations. I had nowhere to go but down.

After this rejection, I continued on, only to be rejected about 5 more times before finally landing rental property #1. And even though I eventually won rental property #1, it still did not come easy for me. In fact, I lost the original bid, and only got a second crack at it because the original winner wasn’t able to obtain financing.

In retrospect, winning rental property #1 was a blessing. Although I had made other offers before this, this property was by far my favorite one. And I’m not just saying that because I won. 😉 When the doors were closing, I got frustrated, but I didn’t quit. Had I decided that this game was too difficult and not worth the effort, I might have blown my money elsewhere. Then it wouldn’t have mattered if opportunity came knocking, because I wouldn’t have been prepared. Goes to show how important persistence really is!

At this moment in time, I’m attempting to close on rental property #2. The sale is pending, but the odds are such that I may in fact be rejected by the lender. It’s a 50/50 proposition, so perhaps I’ll have to deal with another round of rejection… If so, you can bet that I’ll bounce back and find some other way to succeed. Winning this would be great, but losing will not be the end of the world either.

Blogging
When I first started this blog in February 2012, I went through a number of early rejections. For starters, some of my best articles were written early on, when I had very few followers. As a result, I would spend countless hours writing and revising posts, only to later realize that probably only a handful of people ever read them. Progress was really slow at first. I even e-mailed and tried consulting with other more established bloggers (that will remain nameless) who didn’t bother to reply back. The early stages were difficult, so I could have easily thrown in the towel and said, “this blogging thing is just too hard. I quit.” But I didn’t. I kept at it, and over time, things started to get better. People actually started reading this blog, and I found great support networks in Yakezie and through other dividend investors (thank you all! I really appreciate the continued support!). This blog still has ways to go, but it’s been a wonderful journey so far. And one I would have missed out on if I didn’t learn to get over the initial rejection.

Job Interviews
I’ve interviewed and been turn down by so many companies, I’ve honestly lost track. Just this past year, I was turned down for a job that I felt I was more than qualified for. However, most of my more painful rejections happened earlier in my career.

There’s one rejection, in particular, that stands out the most in my mind. I first interviewed at this company in 2008, while I was still an intern at another company. I was looking for a full time gig, so I was very nervous during the interview. However, everything seemed to bounce my way, as I was breezing through most of the questions. I established a strong rapport with many of the engineers, and felt confident I would get the job offer. As it turns out, I did! And for that brief one week period, I was on Cloud 9. That week still ranks as probably one of the happiest periods of my entire life.

I was anxious to start working, and was celebrating with my family one night, when I received a phone call from the hiring manager. Apparently, the economy wasn’t doing so well, and the CEO wouldn’t sign off on the hiring (they must have had great foresight, as they implemented a hiring freeze the Summer just before the financial crisis hit).

I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do, since I put all my eggs into this one basket. But with enough time, eventually, I got over it. I continued to work hard and look for advancement in other ways. I even tried applying to other companies. Again, I was met with one rejection after another. But this time, I didn’t take things so personally. I got so used to companies saying “No”, that I started to expect it. Still, I kept at it, until finally, I succeeded and got a job offer from a top-notch company. As a matter of fact, I had two offers come in that same week. Did this make up for all the previous 10’s of interviews where I struck out? Absolutely!

Dating
In my own personal life, I’m dealing with rejection as we speak! This past Friday night, I was anticipating taking a girl out on a nice date. Well, as it turns out, she decided to go AWOL on me, and vanish off the face of the earth instead! One minute we are going out, texting, and having a good time (she even sent me a text before Christmas wishing me a great holiday. Yes, she even used a smiley face =) to end the note). Next thing I know, there’s nothing but silence. She just stopped responding completely. Gone, just like the wind. So much for that plan.

Am I upset and frustrated with the situation? For sure, but I’m not going to let it keep me down. I have too many other awesome things going on in my life right now. After a few days, I can even laugh about it now. Since all of her previous actions never would have led me to believe that she wasn’t interested, it’s all actually rather humorous. The joke’s on me. 😉

Ultimately, I know what I’m trying to achieve in the end, so I just take it in stride. I’ll gladly go through this wacky situation a thousand times over again, if I have to, since I know it will eventually lead me to the right person. I believe it’ll all be worth it in the end. So, once again, “the sky is the limit, so just keep on pressing on.”

There’s my $0.02.

 

How do you deal with rejection? What are the steps you take to heal? What are your stories?

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Lisa @ Cents To SaveNo Gravatar December 30, 2012, 4:49 am

    Rejection does suck! But you provided many great reasons to bounce back from rejection, learn from it, and move on. I hope all goes well on your 2nd rental property and it works out in your favor.

    • FI FighterNo Gravatar January 3, 2013, 8:53 am

      Lisa,

      Rejection sure does suck! But I’m learning to deal with it, and it has been getting easier over the years. I think the important thing is to learn from it and move forward as quickly as possible. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when things don’t go your way, which can derail progress in other aspects of your life.

      Best wishes!

  • Brick By Brick Investing | MarvinNo Gravatar December 30, 2012, 11:23 am

    I push myself so much that if I’m not failing I know something is wrong or I’m being lazy. But rejection?!?! Having no control!??! That’s just not me, never has been. You hit the nail on the head by distinguishing the difference between failure and rejection. Rejection was and still is one of the hardest things for me to deal with.

    Back in the day when I was single, I was venting to a close friend about a girl who just shot me down and he gave me the BEST ADVICE EVER, he said “Well you know Marvin, not every girl is going to be into you and if you expect them to you’re a fool.” It was harsh advice at the time, but it made sense and I never took rejection personally again (at least when it came to dating).

    • Progress TrapNo Gravatar December 30, 2012, 2:09 pm

      This post is very relevant to me because I definitely have issues with rejection. I’ve lately been cold emailing people for a side project I’m working on and have only built up the courage to email two people so far (one declined my offer politely and the other hasn’t responded yet). The first rejection was something along the lines of “hey, thanks for the offer, but I don’t have time right now”, very reasonable, but I definitely felt depressed afterwards. I think part of it goes back to what Marvin said – if I expect every one to be excited to work with/date/meet/whatever me, I’m just being foolish. The other thing is that I probably just need to grow a thicker skin through small rejections and small victories. I’m trying to think of it as a game. The rejections are inevitable and required, so I might as well rack them up as quickly as possible. This is easier said than done, so it’s one of my goals for 2013.

      • FI FighterNo Gravatar January 3, 2013, 9:02 am

        PT,

        Yeah, cold calling/e-mailing is not something I excel at either. I’m actually quite a terrible salesperson. It used to be mainly b/c rejection was hard for me to deal with. But it does get easier with time (and age). Maybe we do get bolder as we get older? That, or we really do learn not to take rejection so personally. Either way, one question I ask myself before I start something like that is, “if 1000 people reject you, and 1 says yes, would it be worth it?”

        If my answer is yes, then it’s easier for me to handle each individual “No”.

        Best of luck in 2013! I hope the side project works out for you!

    • FI FighterNo Gravatar January 3, 2013, 8:58 am

      Marvin,

      Exactly! Having no control… that’s something I’m not programmed for either. I used to take rejection rather personally, so I’ve been working hard to break free of this. It’s difficult, but I know not doing so will just keep holding me back.

      Interesting story, and great advice! It applies to dating and everyday life. Even in investing. Just like how every girl you meet won’t fall head over heels in love with you, not every friend/relative/co-worker will share your same excitement for investing (or retiring early). You just have to keep meeting new people until you find someone you click with. Knowing this in advance will take some of the sting out of the initial rejection.

      Glad you were able to learn from the experience and become better off b/c of it!

      Cheers!

  • Brett @ wstreetstocksNo Gravatar January 1, 2013, 7:52 am

    It is very important to be able to deal with rejection. Inevstors espically need to be ready for rejection

    • FI FighterNo Gravatar January 3, 2013, 9:04 am

      Brett,

      Very true, since individual investors usually have very little say in how the market moves. You have to learn how to handle the peaks/valleys/bull and bear markets, etc. in order to succeed. Otherwise you’ll be running to the exits in no time.

      Best wishes!

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