“To be, or not to be—that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them?” Hamlet (William Shakespeare), Act III, Scene 1
Shakespeare understood so much about the problems and pleasures of life. I suppose that explains why, 400 years after he died (1564 – 1616), he remains the best-selling fiction author of all time, with an estimated four billion copies of his works sold (Wikipedia). Shakespeare knew that life is about learning and sometimes the lessons presented to us are, or seem, harsh.
He understood that in order to build a satisfying life, we must learn to become ethical, wise and compassionate humans who are also equipped to take good care of ourselves and our families and manage to be good company along the way. In his sonnets and plays, he showed us that resourcefulness and resilience, good judgment and good humor will help us to find the courage to face up to our faults and fears and learn how to overcome obstacles and disappointments.
Shakespeare’s lessons apply not only to the personal, but also to the professional zone of life. Freelance consultants and business owners have many opportunities to show the world that we are capable leaders who can make our own way in the world, but there are the inevitable set-backs. Acquiring a skill set that helps you move beyond rejection and defeat, as you make note of what you might have done differently, is the most effective way to bounce back from adversity.
Realize that it was not you, the person, who has been rejected, but your business proposal. There are numerous reasons that may cause a prospective business partner, investor, or client to turn you down in the final stage of evaluation, even if it seemed certain that you’d get the green light. It is very painful to be unexpectedly denied and the incident can rock your self-confidence. It is likely that once the facts were laid out and analyzed, the investor/ partner/ prospect realized that either s/he does not have the resources to participate, or that business strategies will require that they take a different direction and so your proposal must unfortunately be decline
Separate yourself from the proposal, look at what you might have been able to do better, if anything, and if you’ve found something lacking, and that could mean your choice of whom to do business with and not your proposal itself, think about how to recognize a more promising prospect, or imagine how your intended might evaluate your proposal, so that you can correct obvious gaps or avoid potential misunderstandings.
Depending on your comfort level with the prospect who rejected your proposal/ funding request/ partnership offer, you can ask why that was the case? What is it that you are lacking, or what did you misunderstand? Maybe you can retool and make yourself a more viable candidate in the future.? Or maybe it is not a viable option for you after all and you finally accept that your efforts could be more generously rewarded elsewhere.
Without berating yourself, you can take stock of the new reality, even though it is not to your liking and devise a way to pick yourself up after disaster has laid you low. You might choose to stay the course, with some adjustments (More specific talking points? A different target market?), or identify a new approach. Maybe you can perform a beta test, or ask questions of a trusted colleague or client before you gamble on a roll-out.
If your proposals have been rejected rather regularly, consider that your intended target client group is not the best for you and that you might be well-advised to offer another product or service to a different cohort of clients, or pursue other types of business partners or investors. If you are unable to get to yes with at least one or two clients, you must discover the problems and challenges that those in the target category really want to be resolved, regardless of what they admit to. It could be so simple as the jargon used to describe either the problem or the proposed solution is not accurately expressed by one party or the other.
Disappointment is not easy to accept, but it is a part of life, part of the growing process. How you handle yourself in the face of disappointment can help you to become resilient and resourceful and ultimately, better prepared to pursue and achieve success for your goals.
Thanks for reading,
Phaedra and Hippolytus, Pierre Narcisse Guerin (c. 1802) Image courtesy of Harvard Art Museums/ The Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA