When was the last time you were rejected? Were you presenting an idea to your boss? Initiating a new relationship? Making a sales pitch to a client? No matter what the situation was, I’m sure it was rough. Being rejected is hard, and regardless of the other person’s intention, it always feels personal.
When I think about rejection, one particular experience comes to mind. I was just starting to build my business. I was full of enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. That day, I was looking forward to bringing a new trainee along to a couple of business meetings with potential clients.
At the time, I was still working as a diver. Diving is hard work. It requires a lot of physical strength and endurance, and I often ended my days on the job with new bumps, bruises and scratches. This time, the scratches were on my face, and because the water was dirty, they were infected. But diving had been a part of my life for so long that I barely thought about it. I met with my new trainee and we set out for our meetings, feeling keen and confident.
The first meeting was at the client’s apartment. But we didn’t get very far before he suggested we meet somewhere else. Since were already there, I pointed out that it made more sense to stay. I was startled when he responded with “Man, you know what? I don’t think there’s anything you have that I’m interested in.” It stung. I was new to the business and wasn’t used to rejection yet. But we set it aside and went to the next meeting.
This time, we barely made it past the front door. The man we were there to meet stopped up as we were walking up the stairs and told us that he wasn’t comfortable with us in his house.
It dawned on me then. With the infected scratches, my military haircut, my lean, muscular frame, I must looked like a hardened warrior—or maybe a criminal. Either way, my appearance was making people uncomfortable.
We left and I went home to bed, feeling overwhelmed. At that moment, it seemed so easy to just give up. I tossed and turned all night, running through the encounters in my mind and wondering if I should quit. But the next morning, my wife went off to a job where she wasn’t respected. It was worse than that, actually; she was constantly hassled by the guys who worked there.
That was all the motivation I needed. I wanted to get her out of there, and that meant I had to refocus, push through the rejection and keep working toward my goal. I accepted that there was a learning curve to my new path and I gave myself time to adjust.
When I look back now, I realize how much I would have lost if I had quit. Our life, our friends, our community and the lifestyle we’ve built—if I hadn’t pushed through, we might have missed out on all of it.
So the next time you feel like quitting, make it a learning experience. Look at what went wrong, and if it’s something you can fix or improve on, then do it. If it’s something that you can’t change, move on and try something different next time. If you’re working towards a goal that you truly want to achieve, never let rejection pull you down. You might be giving up more than you know.