Last year, we bid for a job and were so glad when they told us we had won and would get the contract the next week. We were overjoyed. Next week came, we did not hear from them. This was seen as a pivotal job for our company. We felt we needed the opportunity. It was an area we wanted to be seen as good at and having that company in our list of credentials would have been good for our credentials list. I had even dreamt about taking a picture in front of their iconic building and announcing to my social media audience that we had won a chance to work for this organization.
Alas, we never got the job. We were then called about two weeks later that we did not get the job because the company wanted to streamline its processes and re-evaluate the reason for putting the job out to tender in the first place. I was flabbergasted. To say I was disappointed was a huge understatement. I was thrown into a depression. This was a job we had done everything to make sure we won. We had spent money to attend the presentation for the bid and our price was almost at the point of no profit. We just wanted to work in this organization! Took us a while to shrug it off and move on.
I was angry and sad because I felt I had an insider who I had been talking to and whom I felt should have done more to protect our interest. I even felt he worked against us and did not really want us to win. That he had been paying lip service to us and never wanted us to win for his own reasons. I expressed some of these feelings to him at that time. But this weekend, I called him to thank him for whatever he did in not making us win. You see, I had gotten more information and it was clear that even if he did not do what he did for our own interest. Whatever was done was in our interest.
The thing is, we would have won this job. Spent our money to fund it. Travelled several times to execute the assignment and might not have been paid when required, which would have crippled our resources and taken many of us out on this assignment. We would have spent time and not focused on other work. We would have had to eventually wait several months or years to be paid, which we just cannot afford at this life cycle of the business. For me, rejection in losing this job at this time was not bad. In fact, I had to thank the person whom I felt made us lose. I was grateful and thankful to be rejected.
Many times, rejection is not a bad thing. Rejection can be a blessing. In my career, I have been rejected many times. One notable one, was when I made senior manager. I applied for a job in one of the top 3 banks in Nigeria. I went through the interview process, met the MD, I was sent on medical. As you all know after meeting with the MD and they send you on medical thereafter, you’ve gotten the job. After the medical, which I must have passed as I have done many since then. I waited and waited, but never heard from them.
I later thanked God for not getting the job, because my then organization then went through a restructuring and my job became very strategic and this strategic positioning pivoted me to top management and set the tone for where I am today.
As human beings, business owners and entrepreneurs, the sting of rejection can pierce like a dagger to the heart. It can be extremely hard not to take rejection personally. It’s our ideas, our blood and our sweat and tears that are being shown the exit. We often forget the underlying truth that rejection experiences have given birth to cutting-edge enterprises. In many cases, rejections have been the genesis of brilliant solutions that would otherwise have been unfathomable were it not for our mental anguish.
In life and business, we need to be prepared for rejection at all times. Malachi Thompson and I have some suggestions below:
1.) Acknowledge and prepare for rejection.
Most of us become angry when, despite putting in eighty-percent of the groundwork, our customer then decides to work with our nemesis. Overcoming rejection actually occurs from accepting the emotions that come with it. It is OK to feel angry and frustrated. The emotional and mental weight you feel is just as valid as any physical pain. In the long run, it’s more appropriate and healthy — emotionally, mentally and physically — that you allow yourself to feel that.
Always have a rejection-processing protocol in place. Debrief with personal and professional support people who can empathize and appreciate your experiences without passing judgment, criticizing or looking to give you immediate advice. Primary acknowledgment of its emotional and mental impact upon on you is essential.
2.) Find the blessings in every rejection experience.
There will always be customers or people who do not like us, our service or our product. Whilst this prods us to do comparison reviews of systems, processes, products and service quality, put that aside for a moment. We often can’t see it at the time, but in many cases, rejections are blessings in disguise.
Do you want customers who wish to discuss minute details forever and a day, only to decide they want to start from the beginning again just as you were about to sign-off on the contract? Do you want to be treated like a commodity on-call 24/7, expected to make ‘urgent’ changes to a blueprint during Sunday evening quality time with your family?
You don’t want these customers. Nobody does. Refer and direct those customers to your competitors who are open to being treated this way — you are not.
3.) After licking your wounds, feed your growth mindset.
Steve Jobs was rejected and sacked from his own company, Apple, in 1985. After purchasing Pixar Animation Studios from Lucasfilm in 1986, he went on to generate his first billion dollars. Today, Pixar is the most successful animation studio of its kind. Not a bad comeback, some might say.
The whirlpool of unsavory emotions we experience in rejection is often a great catalyst for stretching our minds laterally to dimensions never visited before. You might initially doubt yourself, question your competency and your self-worth but after you have weathered the storm, activate your growth mindset and start asking questions.
What can I do differently? What have I discovered about myself? What changes can I make in my business? Could I have handled the closing conversation better? What will I do differently next time? What else is possible?
4.) Transform your definition of rejection.
We often ascribe rejection to something wrong with us. Start-ups and new businesses are particularly vulnerable to thinking rejection means they are not good enough. Even though this might resonate with you, it doesn’t mean your thinking is accurate.
Invite yourself to consider, Are my deductions about myself actually true or is it the pain speaking? Does it hurt so much because I wanted so badly to be accepted and validated? Is my service or product simply not substandard but simply not the best fit for that customer?
Consciously practice thinking more about the positive consequences of your being rejected. What opportunities can you now see that have been hiding behind the clouds of the status quo? Rejection can, in fact, be a glorious unveiling of new possibilities.