The Upside of Rejection

1-11 One to Grow On

 We are programmed to avoid rejection. After all, who wants to deal with the feelings and consequences that accompany rejection? For example, if you are unemployed and do not get one call back on the 25 jobs you applied for last week, the impact on your bank account and self-esteem will probably not be good.

Similarly, if you encounter rejection in personal relationships it cannot be dismissed like some business transaction that did not work out. Instead, there can be deep pain and sense of loss. Thus, it is possible that not putting ourselves in a position to be rejected could spare us from outright misery. At the same time, not being rejected could be equated with not trying to stretch growth boundaries. So, maybe we should be open to the prospect of rejection.

How Rejection Helps

The One to Grow On quote this week comes from professional speaker and coach Steve Maraboli (he bills himself as “the most quoted man alive,” so it’s about time one of his quotes is featured here). Maraboli’s thoughts on rejection serve as an important first step in turning rejection from a negative to a positive. His statement encourages us to think about rejection in a different way. If rejection is something (or someone) saying “no” to us now, it keeps the door for something else saying “yes” to us later.

We have heard stories about successful people encountering rejection that would make many people retreat never to try again. Among them:

  • Michael Jordan did not make the varsity basketball team his sophomore year in high school.
  • Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen received more than 100 rejections from publishers before getting a “yes” for their Chicken Soup for the Soul series that has sold more than 125 million books.
  • Andy Warhol could not even give away his paintings at one point in his career. The Museum of Modern Art in New York declined his gift of a drawing he offered in 1956.

The list could go on, but you get the point. Many successful people did not take the express lane to that destination. Instead, their route was unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant along the way.

Use Rejection to Your Advantage

When you face rejection (yes, it is a matter of when, not if), resolve to turn the short-term pain into long-term gain by doing the following:

  • Realize it may not be personal – Many times, rejection occurs through no fault of your own. Substitute just about anyone else for you in the same situation, and rejection would be a likely outcome for them, too.
  • If it is personal, be accountable- In some instances, it is you. Avoid the tendency to affix blame externally (the economy, your in-laws, the boss, your co-worker) and look into the mirror to understand why the rejection occurred. What misstep(s) did you make? What could you have done differently to change the outcome? What will you do the next time you are in a similar situation?
  • Make it part of your story – I would not encourage you to go out of your way to fail, but rejection can become part of your personal brand story. Just like Michael Jordan, Jack Canfield, and Andy Warhol experienced rejection only to rise to great heights, rejection that you experience could be a marker on your success journey. It is inevitable that you will fac adversity; how you respond to it will go a long way toward defining you.

Embrace Redirection

I like Steve Maraboli’s characterization of rejection as a redirection to something better. And, I see it as more than an effort to put on a brave face when adversity strikes. Many years ago, I did not get a job that at the time I thought was my dream job. Less than two years later, I accepted a job at the institution where I still teach today. My career and family life would have been drastically different had I gotten that dream job, and I am afraid it would have been for the worse. Rejection redirected me to another opportunity down the road, one that I cherish each day.


Win Today to Achieve Growth This Year

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A new year brings optimism and an opportunity to do and achieve more than experienced before. Turning the calendar to January symbolically gives us a clean slate that we can take advantage of to grow and move forward. And many of us do… for a while. Good intentions, often taking the form of New Year’s resolutions, orient us toward personal growth. Unfortunately, those plans get derailed for a variety of reasons, and we lose sight of the growth milestones we envisioned at the beginning of the year. What will it take to break this pattern?

Pick a Theme

The notion of New Year’s resolutions is increasingly giving way to another approach to pursuing personal growth: Focus on a single word or idea that will guide your thoughts, decisions, and actions. For me, my focus for this year relates to Emerson’s quote about making every day the best day of the year. I resolve to live today and do what I need to do to “win today.” Setting goals or making resolutions is pointless if one does not commit to the daily actions required to get to the destination. One of my weaknesses is follow through on plans. I know what needs to be done but too often fail to make it happen. So, my focus is on doing what I need to do to win today, realizing that a series of daily wins will move me closer to reaching bigger growth goals.

Know What Gets in the Way

A focus word or theme is a great starting point for achieving personal growth, but obstacles will appear that threaten personal growth. Some of these obstacles are external, put in our path by others. Yet other obstacles are internal as we unwittingly sabotage our plans. Recognizing the obstacles can help you deal with them and minimize their threat:

Others’ agendas– An external threat to winning today occurs when others attempt to draw you into their plans as a means to achieving their desired end. You can become conflicted between helping others to add value for them and becoming involved to the point that it takes away from pursuit of your own end. Sometimes, saying no to others is saying yes to our own growth.

Fear of failure- Perhaps the greatest internal obstacle to growth is not following through on daily actions because we are afraid of what the outcome of our efforts will be. If I write the paper I have been working on for two years and submit it to a journal, will it be rejected (odds are yes as the acceptance rate for many journals is relatively low)? So, if I divert my attention and time to other tasks my paper will not be rejected. It will never have a chance to be published, either, but avoidance of rejection can feel better than swinging and missing.

Fear of success- This obstacle may sound crazy because the aim is to succeed, right? But, what if the success desired puts you in a different place whether it is in a job with more responsibility, a new peer group, or higher tax bracket? Those different places may push you out of a comfort zone. Just like fear of failure can keep us “safe” by not trying, fear of success can hinder our growth by choosing to remain status quo.

Every Day is the Best Day

What beautiful words from Emerson, the thought that every day is the best day. We have been given 366 best days in 2016. Although planning ahead is necessary to chart a course for what we want to be, do, or have, do not lose sight of he daily journey taken to get there.

Creating Value = Job Security

12-14 One to Grow On

My wife texted me a list of items to buy while I was at the supermarket one evening recently. One item on her list was golden delicious apples, which I managed to overlook. So, I knew there was only one way to correct my oversight: Go to the supermarket first thing the next morning and buy golden delicious apples. As I walked up to make my selection, I noticed the apples were arranged perfectly in rows. A sense of guilt came over me as I was about to undo the splendid appearance of the apples. The employee responsible for this work of art was still in the area, and I jokingly asked his permission to mess up the display. He laughed and said “go ahead, it’s job security.” Yes it was.

A Demand for Value

Why was a task so seemingly routine as arranging fruit a source of value for me? The appearance of the display attracted my attention, recognizing the product I sought immediately. Also, the display conveyed a message of quality and was part of a produce department that had a presentation that was inviting and conducive to a positive customer experience. We are all consumers, so there is no need to persuade you there is a demand for products, services, and experiences that create value for us. People are not interested in buying stuff as much as they are interested in what the stuff does for them (i.e., how it creates value).

Another recent encounter as a consumer reinforced the notion of an ongoing demand for customer value. Our dryer was not performing its primary task: Drying clothes. I had called two different appliance repair services in the past, but another business caught my eye as I searched online for a solution. I read customer reviews on this individual, and common themes were fair pricing and customer concern. After giving this business a call and having the proprietor service my dryer, the reviews were confirmed. This person created value by building trust and competently performing the service he promised. Guess who I will be referring business to anytime a friend is looking for an appliance repair service? Thank you, Mike Jarrett, owner of Mike Way, for the value you offer to your customers daily.

Strive to Add Value

Albert Einstein will forever be remembered as a brilliant man, yet his words of wisdom that are this One to Grow On quote are strikingly simple. Instead of chasing success (whatever form that might take), focus on being a person of value- to your family, friends, co-workers, customers, community, and even strangers- anyone whose path you cross. When you focus on creating value for others, it almost always will be noticed. It may not be today, next month, or next year, but if you commit to be a source of value for others it will likely be recognized and often rewarded. The nature of the rewards can vary from a “thank you” to customer testimonial, award, raise, or promotion, all of which are indicators of success. Thus, if you make being a source of value your focus, the trappings of success often follow.



Put Your Passion to Work

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You may have heard exhortations to follow your passion to guide decisions about the type of job to pursue and even the organization with which to work. This advice is well-intended but at the same time can be misleading, if not dangerous. Finding a job that relates to your passion sounds like a dream come true. After all, if you do something you love it may not feel like work, right? Oprah Winfrey said “do what you love and the money will follow.” If that is true, scores of people should turn in their resignation today from the job that drains energy and enthusiasm from them and do work aligned with their passion. Yet, we know that is not going to happen. Why?

The Role of Passion

Passion has connotations with eliciting strong emotional responses such as excitement or love. However, the origin of the word passion can be traced to the Latin “pasi” which means “to suffer.” Whoa! Does this mean you should be searching for a job or employer that will make you suffer? Of course not- a deeper interpretation of passion is that it is linked to something for which you are willing to invest heavily- time, effort, and yes, suffer through occasional adversity and disappointment. But, because of the intense emotional connection you have with something for which you are passionate you will go through tough times to enjoy the pleasure and satisfaction derived from the endeavor.

Think of passion as the fuel for your purpose. Your values and motivation are energized when connected with passion. In the context of personal branding, passion can be defined as the sources of happiness that energize the work you do. The impact of passion is not limited to work you do through carrying out job duties- it is evident in the volunteer work you perform, conversation topics in which you engage on social media, and the hobbies or outside interests you enjoy. All of these non-job aspects of your life play a part in defining your personal brand. Thus, recognizing your passion is vital to personal branding success. The challenge is how to channel passion to strengthen your personal brand while enjoying the synergy of a career in which your passion figures prominently in your work.

Passion First

If you subscribe to Seth Godin’s view that passion should guide your work, a great deal of anxiety can be eliminated. Rather than seeking a job that is a match with your passion, look for opportunities to allow your passion to be introduced into your work. For example, if you love writing poetry but come to the conclusion that you cannot earn an income to meet your financial needs as a poet, do not stop writing poetry. Instead, look for ways to inject your gift for creative writing into a job in which that skill is valued. Similarly, if you find fulfillment in crafting objects out of wood, put the ability to make a useful object from raw materials to work in other contexts such as product design.

Take the Easy Route

Perhaps the most compelling reason to follow the advice of transferring your passion to your job is that it is easier than the alternative. It is much easier to energize your work with passion that flows from your purpose rather than shopping around for a job comprised of tasks that are a match with your passion. Put your passion to work… whatever your work might be.

Whose Life Is It Anyway When Serving Others?

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Sign the form. Reply to the email. Approve the request. Take the meeting. Answer a question. Listen to a rant. Deal with a problem. I could go on, but you get the picture. A day in the life of a role in which others count on you requires complete attention to their needs. That focus could require your own needs, goals, and priorities be tabled in order to serve others. A shift in my job responsibilities had led me to reflect on just how I should approach my new leadership role. The above quote from Albert Einstein is an idea upon which I will focus this week to give clarity to what can be a frenzy when serving others.

Shift Value Perceptions

Do we tend to be selfish by nature? As I read over the list of ways others seek my time I cannot help but think about how it takes away from my time- the reading I want to do, social media interaction that has to wait, and writing that becomes less frequent than hoped. I want my life back to do the things want to do!

At the same time, a huge red flag is raised when I encounter complaints that include frequent mentions of “my,” “me,” or “mine.” That skepticism extends to my own language. I realize I need to reframe how I define value. It is not dependent on how much “me” time I get but rather the impact can I have on persons who depend on me- family, coworkers, and students, among others.

Kid’s Play

If you are put in a position of service to others, avoid the temptation to think about how to get out of the situation or what it would be like to not have those obligations. You are there because you are needed. Replace “obligations” with “opportunities” to clarify your purpose.

Einstein’s statement seems strong- is a life lived for others really the only way to attain a worthwhile life? As I reflect on some of the most meaningful experiences in my life, I realize the answer is “yes.” And, I can thank a group of four-year-old kids for one of the most poignant life lessons I had.

When my now 20-year-old son was four years-old, we signed him up for his first soccer team. I was excited when the phone rang and the league president was on the other end of the line, calling to tell me about Sidney’s team. He told me that there was no coach for Sidney’s team, and if a coach could not be found… there would be no team. You can probably guess who became coach. My qualifications were puny. Although I am a lifelong sports fan I never played soccer nor knew nothing about it.

I not only got through the season, the joy those kids experienced playing soccer gave me more joy than they will ever know. It would have been easy to say “I can’t do that,” but it would have denied me the opportunity to stretch my comfort zone and the resulting thrills of coaching a youth soccer team.

Grow Up, not Give Up

This week, embrace the possibilities for growth by looking for ways to live life for others. What you are most likely giving up, your “me time,” is limited in impact compared to the difference you can make in the life of others.

Be Thankful for Your Critics

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Here’s a sobering thought to begin your week: People dislike what you do, how you do it, or why you do it. Your work is not done the way they would do things. Fortunately, not everyone around you falls into this category. The reality is you have detractors. It can be comforting to remember the words of Zig Ziglar who said “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.” However, Ziglar’s statement is not our revenge against critics. In fact, you should embrace criticism and use it as fuel to energize your personal brand.

Why You Have Critics

If facing criticism is a given, then it can be helpful to understand its sources, or why you face criticism of your work. Among the possible reasons are:

  • Different approach- Your way of doing is different- not wrong- just different from how others would perform in a similar situation.
  • Envy- You are doing something others want to do but are unwilling to attempt.
  • Spite- Some of your detractors simply want you to fail; better you than them in their minds.
  • Encouragement- Some criticism is actually constructive; following it will serve you well.

It is tempting to dismiss critics and criticism for the first three reasons cited above. Recognizing when criticism is a form of encouragement to improve makes it worthwhile to process all criticism directed at you.

A Different Take on Criticism

Rather than allowing criticism to deflate you or hurt your feelings, resolve to make criticism work for you. For each of the reasons for criticism identified earlier, translate the criticism into how it can help you grow:

  • Different approach- In many situations, there is more than one right way to do things or reach an end goal. Be receptive to the ideas and experiences of others.
  • Envy- Recognize that criticism driven by envy may be coming from someone who has never been in the situation you face. He or she does not fully understand your situation or the variables that influence your decisions or actions.
  • Spite- Accept that some people may want to see you fail and that their criticism is not input for improvement but piling on any time a perceived misstep or mistake happens.
  • Encouragement- This form of criticism should be welcomed and acknowledged. When someone offers constructive criticism, it is often coming from his or her own experience. The feedback given is an attempt to help you not make similar mistakes made when facing similar circumstances.

No Statues

There are no statues erected to honor a critic, nor are there statues erected to honor someone who puts down a critic. Be open to receiving criticism, process it to separate useful feedback from noise, and be thankful that some people care enough about your development to give input that could positively shape your brand.

Inferiority : A Self-Diagnosed Condition

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Do you struggle to make distinctions between optimism, pessimism, and realism? When it comes to your professional life, you want to subscribe to the “I can do anything” mindset but easily become defeated by setbacks, disappointments, and even failure. Negativity can put a damper on your quest to achieve, and “being real” often means you lower your sights for outcomes that may be attainable but are beneath your capabilities. What is the cause of this act of self-sabotage?

Inferiority Unleashed

This week’s One to Grow On quote is one of my favorite quotes because it reminds me I am in control of my thoughts. And, that reminder is needed frequently as we can be led to believe we are unworthy of being, doing, or having what we aspire to achieve. Do the following observations sound familiar?

  • I’m too young (or too old)
  • I don’t have enough money
  • I did not go to a prestigious college
  • I lack experience
  • What do I have to offer
  • Why would people want to connect with me?

 I’ll stop here as I realize the list could become very lengthy! But, you get the point- we can talk ourselves down a few rungs on the ladder, closer to the ground where it is “safer.” If safe is your goal, you are set. If growth and achievement are goals, you realize you are taking steps backward that put you farther away from where you aspire to be.

You Are in Charge

You may be risk averse by nature or concerned with how others perceive you and your capabilities. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote serves as protection against others asserting themselves as being a cut above you (and thus you being inferior to them). Are there others around you superior in terms of experience, rank, status, or wealth? Absolutely! Does it mean you are inferior to them? Absolutely not! They differ from you because of different life circumstances and journeys. They are not better than you (nor you better than them); you are merely different. You are in charge of discerning between real and perceived gaps between you and others. Recognize that different perspectives or backgrounds is just that- different.

Do not mistake this call for self-assurance with arrogance or creating an inflated ego. Respect must be earned and value must be demonstrated, but the good news is both of those things can happen. Back up self-confidence with performance.

This Week

You will encounter people who appear to be unique, superior, or better than you. In turn, you may feel unworthy of being around them. You may even resent their position and perceived superiority over you. Don’t take it out on them as you are the one allowing yourself to feel inferior to them. Replace feelings of inferiority with recognition of differences, appreciating the opportunity to learn from those different than you (remember they are not superior). Most importantly, remember that no one can make you feel inferior unless you allow it… so don’t allow it.

Create Separation along the Extra Mile

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The news stopped me in my tracks. A very influential voice in my personal and professional development (and for thousands of others over the past forty years)) has been silenced. Dr. Wayne Dyer passed away over the weekend at age 75. He publicly acknowledged he was battling leukemia, but he never used his illness as an excuse to slow down or deviate from the message of body, mind, and spirit existing together in harmony.

Dr. Dyer’s work has touched me for the past twenty-five years, and it is only fitting that this One to Grow On post be a positive message from him.

The Journey of the Extra Mile

“Going the extra mile” is a timeless expression encouraging us to go beyond the minimum required to complete a task or meet a commitment. It is more than we have to do, but going the extra mile often delivers added benefit in the form of higher quality work or more meaningful service to others.

Buying into the idea of going the extra mile can be difficult sometimes. After all, it is extra- not traveling that last mile will not harm us, get us fired, or otherwise have negative effects. And, it is easy to not go the extra mile as we are adept at talking ourselves out of it. Perhaps we want to save gas (“I’m tired”). Or, we do not want to wear out the equipment, our mind and body, by delaying the journey (“Maybe I will do it tomorrow” or “No one else is doing it”).

Unfortunately, when we talk ourselves out of going the extra mile we can deny ourselves the joys and benefits of what we can experience once we have traveled it. It is highly unlikely that a family headed for a vacation at Walt Disney World would turn around and go home because of heavy traffic on the last mile to the front gate. Yet, when we talk ourselves out of going the extra mile we may be shutting out opportunities to meet interesting people, learn new skills, or gain valuable experience.

Eliminate the Extra Mile

So, how can you become a more seasoned traveler and make the journey of the extra mile? As I see it, there is no need to go the extra mile when it is not extra- it is simply part of the trip you take to the desired destination. For example, if you are in a position of serving other people you consistently treat them with respect, promptly resolve problems, and strive to be a valued resource. It is not extra; it’s part of your product design. However, it will look like you go the extra mile in the eyes of others who too often interact with people who slam the brakes before going one inch along the extra mile.

I am grateful for the encouragement of Dr. Wayne Dyer to go the extra mile and the many other words of wisdom he shared in his books and presentations. His physical presence has ceased to exist, but his influence will live on.

Don’t Wait for Permission

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A phrase that I heard in childhood that had a stickiness to it is “you are what you eat.” It was a message intended to influence dietary habits. Its significance was not as great when I first heard it in grade school as it is today when every extra calorie seems to linger as a vivid reminder of that statement.

A similar line of thought is found in this week’s One to Grow On quote from Brian Tracy as he suggests you are what you believe. What an empowering idea! You do not have to wait for permission from someone else to think or live your belief system… within limits, of course. I would not encourage my 15-year-old son to take this quote literally, for example. Similarly, you still follow norms and rules in the workplace and in the community. But, when it comes to making choices about your values and how to position your personal brand, it is unnecessary to have those decisions imposed on you.

From Amateur to Professional

Reading Brian Tracy’s quote reminded me of the inspirational story of Nancy Frates shared on the TED Radio Hour podcast recently. You may not recognize her name, but you surely have heard about a cause with which she is closely associated: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Nancy’s son, Pete, turned his ALS diagnosis at age 27 into a force for change by enlisting family members to help raise money for research to take on this horrible disease. There was only one problem- Nancy Frates knew nothing about the online communication channels crucial to the success of her son’s ambitions. Nancy did not even have a Facebook page, but she did not let her limitations be an obstacle nor did she wait for someone to grant permission via training or a degree to begin using social media in pursuit her family’s philanthropic goals. Nancy just did it, and the efforts of the Frates family have been instrumental in raising more than $115 million for ALS research. You can see Nancy Frates’s inspirational Ted Talk below.

Believe and Act in Order to Be

Thankfully, Nancy Frates did not do things by the book. If she had, she would have not taken the leap to the epicenter of her son’s crusade to fight a disease that is slowly taking him away from her. She did not have the preparation to take on the role of nonprofit marketer, but the lack of credentials did not dissuade her from pursuing what became a family priority overnight.

“Whatever you believe with feeling becomes your reality” should be amended to “whatever you believe and do with feeling becomes your reality.” The proper mindset is a necessary starting point in order to grow, but belief is not enough. For example, many people may claim to be a writer/author (belief), but they do not practice a daily discipline of writing in which many professional writers engage. The difference is in the actions- one believes it, the other believes and acts on those beliefs. Complement beliefs with actions to achieve the reality you desire.

Be a Genius- Be Adaptable to Change

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Change is a dominant theme for me this time of year. As an educator, August has as much significance for ringing in a new year as January does for most people. A new beginning in the form of meeting new students, teaching new classes perhaps, and implementing new initiatives or policies are part of the way of life in academia. And, change brought about by a new school year impacts anyone with school age children. Kids make new friends, meet new teachers, and even find themselves in a strange place if they are in a new school. The adage “the only constant is change” is evident this time of year.

Change is Tough

Change may be prevalent when you embark on a new year, endeavor, or project, but just because it is expected or common does not mean it is easy to handle. Change is not only hard to handle, it is too much for some people to deal with. The result is they do not adapt to change and struggle to keep up as the world moves forward without their buy in. Why is change difficult to embrace? Three barriers to embracing change are:

  1. Disturbs our comfort zone. Change can elicit a negative response because it is just that- change. We have to do think or act differently than normal, and normal may suit us just fine. We have a comfort zone in which we exist and operate. It is called a comfort zone for a reason- it is comfortable! But, comfort and growth are often incompatible conditions. The photo below was taken at Middle Tennessee State University’s commencement ceremony recently. The message is powerful. I hope a lot of graduates were able to see that message!
comfort zone
Photo Credit: MTSU
  1. What if I fail? Related to the notion of upsetting our comfort zone is that change brings risk that we are subjected to if we fail in adapting to change. Could you get fired if you do not meet expectations in a new position? Yes. Could you go bankrupt if your business venture flops? Yes. Could you stub your toe when you walk across the room to sit on your sofa to spend an evening watching television? Yes. Risk is ever present, but it should not keep us from doing something that we need or want to do.
  2. What if I succeed? This barrier might seem odd given that the objective for trying something new is to succeed at it. If so, why would the possibility of success make us resistant to change? The answer goes back to the comfort zone in which we reside. Success in a new job might mean more responsibilities, greater demands on your time, and even travel that physically takes you out of your comfort zone. You may have heard the saying “be careful what you ask for- you might get it.” That sentiment applies here. Change can result in success that can bring about even more change that you must be prepared to handle.

Adapt to Change

This week’s One to Grow On quote spoke to me when I encountered it. I was not seeking out words of wisdom to deal with change; it fortuitously crossed my path. However, it could not have been timelier for me as a new academic year is around the corner, my department is going through a reorganization, and I have taken on a new role as interim department chair. Change is going to be a theme for me in 2015-2016, for sure! When change unfolds, we can try to resist it or modify it to suit our personal agenda, or we can embrace it and adapt so that we not only survive change but thrive from it.

I am not suggesting to blindly accept and go along with change when imposed upon you. In some instances, standing on principle and fighting for what you believe is the right thing to do must be done. But, do not confuse those behaviors with defensive responses that fall into the three areas described here. Consider Stephen Hawking’s words that infer a link between intelligence and adapting to change. How you approach dealing with change and leading or working with others through change can result in the impact on intelligence that Hawking suggests.