Lessons Learned From Rejections

Rejection is important. I don’t want to annoy you with some long stories of overcoming rejection and persevering to become the man I always knew I could be. For one it just wouldn’t be accurate and two I really don’t want to bore you. Instead, I’m going to touch on rejection in business and creative endeavors.

I learned for one that anything in life worth pursuing is going to be full of competition and you are going to get rejected along the way, and it’s not so much as how much you grow talent-wise, though that’s obviously important, it’s more about your resiliency.

Your talent won’t have a chance to grow if you run away at the first sign of rejection. I know this isn’t something you don’t already know. This mantra circulates social media daily. Accounts share stories of perseverance and a willingness to succeed playing a more significant role than raw talent in a person’s career.

It’s advice we’ve all heard before and one reason is that it’s true. When I got started with writing, I wrote poetry more than fiction because, putting it bluntly, you can write more poems in a day than you can write fiction in a day, which means you can send out more query letters to literary magazines and you have more opportunities to get accepted. Quantity—quantity—quantity.

Of course, I got rejected a lot because if you are writing five or ten poems, a day chances are a few of them (if not all of them) are going to be–subpar.

I still have a slight fear of rejection, but it’s nothing like it used to be. When I first pursued writing in college, I would hover over the submit button for ten full minutes before finally holding my breath and sending out my work.  I took rejections personally too, even if I knew it wasn’t my best work and let a boilerplate response ruin my day. But as time wore on, and the rejection letters piled up (wow this is not making me sound like a good writer) my skin grew a little thicker, and I was able to brush it off and move on to the next one. Now, I’m not saying this guarantees I’ll succeed as a writer, but my chances have improved.

Moving on to traditional business endeavors. When I first moved down to New Orleans and started a consulting firm with my brother and father, I scheduled two meetings my first two weeks. They were both booked off LinkedIn, both essentially cold calls, and both turned down our services. Two rejections right out of the gate–and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

If it weren’t for those two rejections, I might’ve still feared pitching potential clients, or closing a sale. Yes, these rejections helped me on a technical front, they forced me to revisit my pitch, and focus on my delivery, but they also helped develop a skill I didn’t know I needed–the ability to brush off rejection–the ability to keep moving forward. You could be the most talented individual in your field but if you crumble when your ideas or pitches are rejected your career will stall.

Dealing with rejection is a skill, and it’s one anyone can learn. All a person has to do is put themselves out there a little more.


Building A Critical Mass

If you can build a list—a fanbase—a consumer base of diehards, you have your autonomy. Developing a critical mass of supporters who love your brand, who love your mission, who like the product and the services that you are providing allow you to navigate around traditional gatekeepers and control your own destiny.

For example, in traditional publishing, you rely on agents to get you in the door. They go to bat for you and try to sell your manuscript to publishers. In return, the creator receives a sum in advance limited royalties in the future.

Now, thanks to technology, the frequency indie authors are able to publish, and their ability to directly communicate with their fanbase has created a unique advantage. Though they have to self-fund their projects, and don’t have the same resources larger publishing houses have, they have the nimbleness to capture niche markets and build sustainable brands.

The significant number I’ve heard tossed around is 1000. If you can land 1000 fans, not just 1000 casual observers, or 1000 people who know you exist, but 1000 diehard fans who will buy everything you put out, will tell all their friends about you, will subscribe to your newsletter and promote your giveaways, then you have the means to build a career.

1000 is probably not a guarantee, but it’s great to have a figure in mind to strive for. After all, Napoleon Hill made it abundantly clear in his work you need specific numbers if you’re going to visualize your dreams into realities.

Hugh Howey, who wrote the Silo series has written plenty of content on the indie market and how much he supports creators pursuing their own paths instead of relying on traditional gatekeepers. He thinks writers should be more like musicians, building an audience on their own and building a brand on their own. That way, when those with money and resources approach the creators, those who have the content aren’t in a vulnerable position. They can control their own destiny because they built a brand others want and can negotiate from a position of power (or at least operate with some leverage outside an unpublished manuscript).

It all starts with building a critical mass—building a fanbase that can take you to the next level. Personally, I’m putting my focus on creating a mailing list, making a YouTube channel, and building a network on LinkedIn.