The Right Way To Handle Rejection

I’m reading the great James Altucher’s book, “Choose Yourself.”  It’s a fun and inspiring read, full of James’ trademark brutally honest yet whimsical writing style:

You really ought to buy the book, since James will actually reimburse you what you’ve paid (or donate the equivalent to charity) if you email him, so there’s really no risk.

(I still haven’t decided whether to have James refund my $5, or donate it to charity.  Something tells me I will end up choosing myself!)

One of the great points James makes is about how to handle rejection.  Essentially, James argues that there are three fundamental ways to deal with rejection:

1) Blame yourself (“I suck”)
This is the pessimist’s approach.  The problem is, it encourages you to stop trying.  Sure, you won’t get rejected again, but you won’t do anything worthwhile either.

Martin Seligmann’s work on optimism and pessimism calls this “personalizing” a negative event.

2) Blame others (“They suck”)
This is the bully’s approach.  It’s better in the sense that it doesn’t encourage passivity, but it doesn’t help you either.  This is the classic approach of the low-level salesman.  Customers who don’t buy are “tire-kickers” who would never buy anything.  Sadly, many entrepreneurs also fall into this trap, labeling the investors that reject them, “idiots” or worse.

3) Try to learn something (“What can I do differently in the future?”)
This is the right way to handle rejection.  Viewing rejection as a learning opportunity is very much the mark of Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset”.  You take something negative (rejection), and use it to get better.  When I reject an entrepreneur, I always try to give that entrepreneur a clear picture of why I’m rejecting him or her.  It’s not easy to tell someone why you’re saying no, but it is the kindest and most helpful option.

Note that you can’t prevent an entrepreneur from blaming themself or blaming you; you can’t control their reactions.  But you can make it easier for them to learn something.

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