I did all that work for nothing?
Ever feel that way after a failure? Maybe you prepared really hard for a job interview but didn’t get it. Perhaps you sacrificed nights and weekends for a month preparing a proposal that was eventually turned down. Were you gun shy for a while after? Did you pack it in for good? I hear living under a rock is coming back into style.
Nah, I didn’t mean it. It hurts – I get it. I’ve lived it. Woulda bought the t-shirt but my credit card got declined. (oooooh) It feels like someone’s telling you you’re not good enough. Not your work, not your experiences…but you. Doesn’t matter what reasons they give or how genuine they sound giving them. It still feels like rejection and the pain of rejection is real.
People develop some interesting rationalizations from experiences like this. Like this story from many years ago…
The Pain of Rejection Makes Stupid Stuff Sound Smart
It was my very last retail management job (although I didn’t know this at the time). I was an Operations Manager in a big box sporting goods store and one of the departments I supervised was footwear. The department manager was preparing to designate a lead associate, essentially her right hand. Our plan was let our full time associates know this was coming, then sit back and watch the cream rise to the top.
There were a couple promising candidates, one of them a gentleman we’d just hired named Ed. He had retail management experience and seemed like a bright fellow so I pulled him aside one day to let him know about the opportunity. I thought he’d jump at a chance to get back in the game. During my conversation with Ed, I could tell he was unimpressed by the opportunity – maybe a little jaded, too. Then he blew me away with what he said next.
He told me that if I gave him the bump now, he’d show me he was deserving afterwards.
After I discreetly picked my jaw up off the floor I said something like this, “Sorry Ed, that’s now how it works around here. Promotions are earned, not given.” The conversation ended shortly after and I walked away shaking my head. Granted I was a young manager, but I’d never had an employee conversation quite like that. A couple weeks later, we promoted someone who stepped it up and proved they could handle the additional responsibility. Soon after, Ed moved on and we didn’t miss a beat. Wonder if he’s still looking for that promotion on a silver platter?
At the time, I wrote it off as someone trying to get something for nothing. But after I took some time to think about it from Ed’s perspective, I understood what might have been going through his head. What if Ed had some bad experiences at past jobs? Maybe he’d been in this spot before, as the guy who’d stepped up but didn’t get the nod. Maybe an old boss, or bosses, made him some promises and later went back on them. Stings…
Who knows, maybe Ed decided he wasn’t going to be put in that situation again because he couldn’t bear the pain of rejection. He looked at the hard work as a waste of time because he’d probably get screwed over again. He didn’t see the value in what he’d learn and the reputation he’d make for himself by throwing his hat into the ring and fighting the good fight. Ed convinced himself that asking for the job before he’d proven his mettle was perfectly reasonable. And when I said no, he could blame me and our company for not recognizing his talent and experience. He walked away thinking he was justified and we were the unreasonable ones. Now that’s how you avoid the pain of rejection.
The pain of rejection really does make stupid stuff sound smart. To avoid it, we will convince ourselves of just about anything. We’ll say and do things that are completely the opposite of the principles that make the world go ’round. We’ll give up and hide in the closet because it’s safe. Forget “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” We’ll tell ourselves nothing gained is ok so long as nothing’s lost either.
Put the Pain of Rejection in its Place
Are you stuck in this cycle right now?
Do you want out?
Start doing this one thing right now. Value the journey, forget about the destination. It looks like this…
“I didn’t get the job, but what did I learn that will help me in the next interview?”
“She doesn’t want to go out with me, but somewhere there’s someone who does. I’m gonna have a blast looking for her.”
“That proposal got shot down, but now I know what the boss wants. Let him try to shoot me down next time!”
Value the journey, forget about the destination. Everybody’s destination is the same anyway. We all die in the end. Do you want to die having never really lived?
[reminder]What stupid things has the pain of rejection made you do?[/reminder]