“As of right now, we’ve decided to keep the project in house. We’ll reach out if we need anything else.”
That sentence above was the beginning of an email I received this morning. I’ve been in the business of selling something for most of my adult life, starting with the need to get a signature on a lease agreement for mail machines, all the way to being the Founder of a creative company 17 years later. Whether it comes in the form of “we’re going with your competitor” or “we’re keeping it in house,” I’ve heard thousands of “No”s in my life. I’ve been a part of a world class selling organization where they run exercises around the value of “No.” “It’s so important!” They would say, “to push a client to a ‘No.’ It’s all a numbers game and for every 8 ‘No’s you hear, you’ll get one ‘Yes.’ When you hear a ‘No,’ it should make you happy! You’re one step closer to a ‘Yes!’”
After thousands of rejections in my life, it seems like a small one, from a client to whom we were almost donating our time, wouldn’t be a big deal. But the problem is my thoughts. In my brain, it’s a huge deal. A stupid, ridiculous, irritating, huge deal.
Scientists would disagree, but there are two parts to my brain. There’s the front part, which is logical and understands the world is a complicated place. And then there’s the back of my brain. That shallow, evil monster. In the front of my brain I understand that there are hundreds of variables that lead to the decision to spend money. And that all it takes is for one of those variables to waiver, and things fall apart. I know that. I live that. But in the back of my brain, it’s a rejection of who I am as a person and what I have to offer the world. “They’re not even willing to spend $50 because you’re a fraud.” “Why would they spend money on you?” That “No” isn’t a rejection of the project, or the timing, or their situation, or the fit, it’s a rejection of ME. “You’re not good enough.”
Let me be clear that I’m not looking for affirmation, and believe me, it doesn’t help in these situations anyway. And it’s not as though these thoughts last all day even, but when they hit, they create a physical feeling of rejection inside of my gut. There isn’t a broad brush you can paint for the entire world to help with the feeling of rejection, but what’s a first step to understanding each of our own feelings about it? I’ve said this in the past, but when those things come I just continue to push forward and rely on the front of my brain to drive the car for awhile. “What you have is valuable and people want it” can get those emails running again. But it takes a bit to make that switch… and maybe more strength than I can muster sometimes.
I realized that for me, it’s a matter of focus. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to rid myself of the gut punch I feel when that email first arrives. I realize that my real work will be in shifting my focus toward something more positive when that happens. “I get it, it’s not me. I’m not there yet, but in 10 minutes I’ll be fine.”