Surviving Rejection—Lemons to Lemonade

“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.

Be objective

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.

Lessons learned

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.

Moving forward

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,

Kim

Phaedra and Hippolytus, Pierre Narcisse Guerin (c. 1802)                                                   Image courtesy of Harvard Art Museums/ The Fogg Museum, Cambridge, MA

 

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Power Through Stress

There are two types of people in this world—those who make things happen and those who allow things to happen to them.  Reader friend,  I know that you are the first type,  a mover & shaker take-charge Freelance professional who knows how to make good things happen.

But every once in a while,  I also know that the best-laid plans will not produce the expected outcome.  Other times, responsibilities and obligations pile on to a distressing level.  Such events might cause even a high-performing Freelance consultant to feel helpless and overwhelmed and as a result, stressed.

University of Florida psychologist Timothy Judge and colleagues encourage us to give ourselves a pep talk during challenging times, to promote the feeling that we are still able to exert control over the levers of our life and business (occasional slips of the grip notwithstanding), because his team’s research quite clearly indicates that those who feel confident in their abilities and in control of their lives are much better at managing stress and getting themselves positioned to capitalize on opportunities and dismantling or avoiding obstacles that block success.

Those who feel as if they are in control of their life and work can simultaneously feel very intense stress and anxiety from time to time.  However, their resilience equips them to manage those feelings differently from the passive types.  The powerful get busy when adversity strikes, while the passive are inclined to accept negative circumstances as inevitable and conclude that there is no recourse. They give up.

The ability to manage emotions and remain calm under intense pressure has a direct link to performance and the ability to perform well has a direct link to success.  Luck plays a role (let us not arrogantly deny that force of the universe),  but we are sometimes able to summon good luck into our lives.  It is often said that fortune favors the prepared.

As regards defeating or minimizing adversity,  realism makes us more resilient.  Prepare yourself for change by accepting that ups and downs are inevitable and the good times will not roll forever.  When billable hours are abundant and additional cash is available,  create short- and long-term savings and investment goals.  If nothing else, add more money to your retirement fund.  Whatever happens good or bad, money will be useful.  Think also of Plan B and even Plan C  alternatives that you could pivot into should unfortunate occurrences darken your door.

If you are presently in the clutches of challenging circumstances, you have my deepest sympathy.  Moreover I can empathize, because I’ve been there and I’m terrified of returning.  Respectfully,  I suggest that you take steps to shift your perspective to adopt the viewpoint of power and gain the confidence to take the reins. There may be aspects of your dilemma that are beyond your control,  but you are capable of controlling your response to it.  Long-term wallowing in self-pity is not useful.

Stress and anxiety can put us into a choke-hold.  To slip out, take action to build up your body’s hormonal stress-busters,  endorphins and serotonin,  with some regular exercise.  Any kind will do,  so long as you partake three or four times each week for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Please see my post from December 22, 2015. https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/exercise-leadership-in-the-new-year

Once you peel away a few layers of stress and anxiety,  you’ll be able to apply your renewed confidence to identifying corrective strategies.  It may take a while to engineer your repackaging or pivot,  but the time to begin the transformation  from passive to powerful is now.

Thanks for reading,

Kim