The Positive Power of Rejection

By Jim Whitt

I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about some famous people who were rejected when they applied for acceptance to prestigious universities. The list included people like Warren Buffet and Ted Turner.  

I was so far down the intellectual food chain that I would have never dreamed of applying to Harvard or Princeton. I sat out a semester after high school and then attended three semesters as an art major in junior college. Not wanting to add my name to the burgeoning rolls of starving artists, I dropped out and cowboyed in a feedyard, worked on a hog farm and then managed a ranch. It was then I received one of my biggest rejection slips. If Warren Buffett thinks it was crushing being turned down by Harvard he probably couldn’t comprehend how devastated I felt when I was fired for the first and only time in my life. I was lower than the proverbial snake’s belly in a wagon rut.

Rejection is one of our five basic fears. Slice it anyway you want but when you are turned down, turned away or turned out your psyche is wounded. While our economy continues to struggle, people are losing jobs and businesses. This means they are dealing with major league rejection. If you are among those in this situation or could be soon, take heart. I’ve survived a tubful of rejection in my life and have to agree with Warren Buffett, “You learn that a temporary defeat is not a permanent one. In the end, it can be an opportunity.”

After I was fired I went back to college. After I graduated I spent a dozen years in sales and marketing where I received the equivalent of a masters degree in rejection. Then I started my own business where I have received the equivalent of a doctoral degree in rejection.

You may be wondering why I am such a glutton for punishment. I’ve learned that if you want to minimize the degree of rejection you experience in life here’s what you need to do — nothing. That’s right, nothing. No risk, no rejection. Therefore, the more risks you take the more rejection you’re going to have to deal with. So, even though I have the equivalent of multiple degrees in dealing with rejection, I am continuing my studies.

I don’t like rejection, defeat or adversity any more than anybody else. So why do I keep putting myself at risk? I like the opportunities it brings. Granted, I fail more than succeed. But with each failure I find an unexpected opportunity. The one I couldn’t see before. Rejection is just a bend in the road or a hill to climb. It’s amazing what you find when you get to the other side. But you have to keep going to find out.

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