I get rejected a lot. Not only do I get rejected a lot, but I get rejected in a lot of different ways, too. I get rejected with unanswered “cold call” emails, and by politely worded “not interested” responses and everything in between. I get a constant stream of rejection and when it’s not making me depressed, I savor it as much as the success. Getting told no tells me that I’m pushing for more than I deserve and its a good yardstick for measuring just how far I’m pushing the envelope.
I want to be clear though that rejection and failure aren’t the same thing. In his last blog post, Andy Ellwood talks about the benefits of failing spectacularly as a way of overcoming one’s fear of failure in general and becoming a better entrepreneur. Not purposely failing, but doing something you half expect to fail with the confidence and purpose of something who thinks they will succeed. Rejection is a very similar concept but where rejection is generally a private occurrence, failure tends to be an embarrassing public event. Instead of publicly realizing you are wrong, rejection are a series of small failures that test your personal resolve to continue and teaches you what works and what doesn’t. If a big named entrepreneur or other VIP doesn’t respond to my emails its not a failure, its a learning opportunity. What did I do differently with those that did respond? It also indicates that I’m pushing the boundaries of what I’m able to accomplish. Chris Dixon summed it up really well in a recent blog post when he said “if you aren’t rejected on a daily basis you aren’t trying hard enough.”
The rejection comes in many forms. First there is the blatant rejection, the emails that read “I’m not interested” or some other polite variety of this statement. These slide right off my back, since the vast majority of these responses come from smaller potential customers, never from potential mentors. There is also the not so blatant “my schedule is really busy for the next few weeks, how about you follow-up with me then” which tells me they are clearly not interested, but luckily for them I’m a persistent little guy and I mark the date on my calendar for a follow-up. Then there are the ones that never respond. The worst though, are the ones that respond to setup a meeting but then either continually push it back or don’t show up.
For all the rejection, there is a ton of success. To me, networking is both a quality game and a quantity game. Remind anyone of dating? You never know where a relationship will lead, so I try to maximize my volume of meetings with the best people possible. The more rejection I receive, the more fantastic connections I’ve likely made. In other words it all goes back to Edison and his amazing lightbulb. Over one thousand failed experiments, each in its own way revealed a little more of the puzzle that, when finally complete, changed the world. As Edison said, genius is indeed “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”