Rejection Happens

It is no fun being rejected. Is it? Alright, it downright sucks! None of us enjoy being rejected but perhaps, even as we are licking our wounds, there is something to be gained. Maybe we can lose the moment but still win the day.

Here are a few thoughts I have on the subject that might be good for us to keep in mind.

Rejection is inevitable.
American burlesque dancer and costume designer, Dita Von Teese said,

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

Getting fired from a job was one of the most shocking moments of my life. But it was in that moment that I distinctly heard (from the Holy Spirit, as I see it) the words, ‘You are going to move forward and not backwards.’ That is just what I have done. I am convinced that message was meant to keep me out of the pit of bitterness and one of thinking that I somehow was the “getting fired” pioneer. As if I made some new discover no one had ever experienced before.

Strategic advisor, business coach and author Dan S Kennedy says,

“If you haven’t pissed someone off by noon, you’re doing something wrong.”

Rejection is temporary.
To me, one of the greatest advantages of being a person of faith, is understanding the temporary nature of trials. This is especially true when it comes to rejection. It is my unwavering belief that you and I are purposeful creations. Letting the “nos” of our life lead to bigger “yeses” (some posthumously) puts us in good company.

Van Gogh got almost zero external validation in his life. He only sold one painting while he was alive but he is considered one of the greatest artist of all time.

Less than a dozen of Emily Dickinson’s 1800 poems were published while she was alive.

Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times.

Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times.

Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

JK Rowling got fired when working at the London office of Amnesty International because she would write stories on her work computer all day long.

After a performance at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, Elvis was told by the concert hall manager that he was better off returning to Memphis and driving trucks (his former career)

Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.

When Marilyn Monroe was trying to start her career, modeling agencies told her she should consider becoming a secretary.

Rejection is NOT your middle name.
Brian was 15 years old when he came to the boys’ camp. Both he and his mom lived with his grandparents who clearly loved Brian and his mom. Mom’s love for Brian was not so apparent. In fact, she was without affect most of the time I was around her. Brian was a bright young man but was failing in school and had recently been in some trouble for breaking into someone’s home. Making a long story short, Brian was the offspring of his mother being raped in her early teen years. Brian got an immense amount of love from his grandparents but always a sense of being unwanted by his mom. I was amazed in the year I spent with Brian to see him process the rejection he felt from his mom. Sometimes it was incredibly painful. He had spent his entire life with an unspoken understanding that he was not wanted. Brian, however, was unwilling to live his life as a victim. He had to remind himself over and over again that the circumstances of his origin were not his identity. It was hard to let go of his mother’s rejection, but once he realized that he did not have to change his mom in order to be acceptable, many things about his life began to change for the better. Brian is a champ. He hasn’t let rejection be his résumé for life and the world gets to enjoy Brian for the amazing gift he is.

If you believe yourself to be an un-resourceful person, if you are content leaving everyone you meet neutral or if you are fond of the role of victim, it is best not to put yourself out there in any creative way (artist, writer, realtor, business owner, singer, etc.). The fear of rejection is the number one reason why too many people sell out and won’t risk anything for a dream. However, once you do step out of your comfort zone, you are likely to discover resilience you never knew you possessed.

Building rapport and credibility takes time. It is a process. In fact, one of my favorite laws of leadership is the Law of Process which says leadership is built daily, not in a day. My two pieces of advice, while we wait for rapport and credibility to become established, is first, that we maintain our character and integrity, and second, is that we don’t make rejection an identity.

Remember that acceptance (rapport and credibility) are currency. They are the means to the end and not the end themselves. People want to do business with those they know, like and trust. Your reputation will get you in the door but your character will keep you there.

There is a mission/purpose for our lives. If you don’t know what yours is, then stop wasting time and get started with the Life Leaders GPS and find out. An improper focus on acceptance often causes people to do things contrary to the character and integrity they desire. I am convinced that most (but not all) sexual misbehavior, for example, stems from a yearning for acceptance.

Rejection is an opportunity for growth.
If we can get over the sting of rejection, there is an opportunity for balanced reflection to let rejection be feedback that enhances our personal and professional growth. Some rejection, especially abandonment, is just human cruelty and others might be a good indicator that it is time for a change.

As a new business owner, I have experienced something that makes me wonder if others have had the same thing happen. I can think of three people with whom I have spent time in meetings that involved conversations at a high level of excitement. We shared an idea we both felt passionate about and ended the meetings with action steps for follow up. I walked out of those meetings wondering how the time had passed so quickly and anticipating what would come next. And then…NOTHING. No follow through (on the part of the other person). No phone call. No email. Not even a simple text message. I called, no answer. I emailed, no reply. I texted, no response. What am I? A stalker? What is the deal!? Days, weeks and in one case months go by with zero feedback. It reminded me of what George Bernard Shaw said,

“The trouble with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I wanted a different result, but in each case, I had to realize the lack of response had nothing to do with me.

It can be difficult not to allow emotions to cloud our thinking, but oftentimes, rejection says more about the “rejector” than the “rejectee”.

The situations I described above pale in comparison to the three siblings whose mother abandoned them by putting them on the city bus and then jumped out of her seat at the last second in an attempt to leave them behind. They followed. She got back on until the next stop and tried again. Same result. She persisted until she finally timed it just right for her to be outside the closed door staring back at her children for the last time as the bus pulled away. Those three kids stayed on the bus until the end of the day when the driver kicked them off. They spent two weeks living under a bridge and eating discarded banana peels until they were found and taken to an orphanage.

There is no excusing the behavior of the mom, but it is easy to understand, it had nothing to do with the children. Some rejection comes because people do evil things. I met those kids and spent time with them. They are loving and happy. They didn’t know I knew their story and I would never have guessed what they had been through because they weren’t spending their life telling the world how they had been victimized. No time for that.

Not being chosen, being dismissed, being told “no” or not being contacted at all are tough pills to swallow but feedback is the breakfast of champions. While you are working for the bigger “yes” watch your expectations and make sure they are realistic. You may be fishing in the wrong pond. As Edison said about inventing the light bulb.

“I didn’t fail. I just found 10,000 ways it didn’t work.”

Being flexible in our behavior doesn’t mean we have to sell out on our dreams.


Keep believing in the bigger “YES”.


Rick Burris


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