Bingo.  I had a business idea.  So, I pitched it to someone.  I just wanted a yes.  They said no.

It hurt (ok) and I balked (not ok).  I was caught off guard by the sting of rejection.

We all know how rejection feels—like a piece of us is ripped out.  But first, of course, there was the fear.

At the outset of our lives we don’t know fear.  Then we form attachments with worldly things and those things are eventually torn away–always.

The first time it happens it’s a lollipop.  For 100% percent of people, the ripping away feeling starts with a lollipop.

Then we grow up and we lose a career path we’ve become attached to; a relationship; a house.  And its scary.  And, sometimes, the fear so overwhelms us that it mutates into anger or even bitterness.

I wanted to know how successful business people overcome the fear.

What I Learned

It’s fun to give.  Everyone enjoys this; whether it’s our art, an idea, love, a helping hand, or just a kind hello or thank you.

But it’s when these gifts are rejected that we experience some of our worst pain.

Over time, rejection teaches us to reduce our gift-giving; our creativity; our art.  We learn that the stimulus is the giving and that if we eliminate the giving we can avoid the rejection.

Tony Robbins said people will do more to avoid pain than receive pleasure.

Learn A Different Lesson

Successful entrepreneurs experience the same rejection but learn a different lesson.

They learn that rejection is a signal to tweak their approach or their art; or simply to try it on a different person or group.

They understand that the person who rejected them doesn’t necessarily know them.  They can choose someone else to do business with; they can try again.  Simple.

They haven’t, necessarily, figured out how to avoid fear.  They feel the same burn of rejection.  Maybe they’ve developed strategies to reduce it. (next week’s post).  But they except and acknowledge it when it’s there.

They understand it’s normal and they can try again with new ideas or with other people.

They look inward and not outward for the answer.  They don’t get angry at the person rejecting them.  Maybe that person didn’t ask for your ideas and opinions.  They didn’t ask for your help.

Or maybe they did.  It doesn’t matter.

They Don’t Let It Become Anger

Its OK to be angry sometimes.  Sometimes something so shocking happens that we skip fear and move straight into anger.  9-11 for example.  I’m just saying that if you’re angry try to acknowledge it.

Become aware of it and try and get back to pure fear.  This is where the potential for courage is.

Without fear, there can be no courage.  Because courage is not the absence of fear. It’s when you’re afraid but you go ahead anyway.

With fear, at least, you have more of your wits than with anger.  Sometimes we associate anger with masculinity.  This is false.  Being angry doesn’t make you seem bigger or more powerful.


Because anger is just super fear.  It’s fear evolved to a state where you have lost balance and control.  You are no longer in the driver’s seat.

Don’t Hide Anger

I got good at hiding anger.  But hiding anger didn’t mean I’d hidden the fear.  Fear oozes through every crack in a human form.

So, if you ever realize you’re afraid, be grateful.  It means you haven’t slipped into anger.  You are aware of the fear and you proceed with it.  And there is a hidden life hack here: You cannot be grateful and afraid at the same time.

Acknowledging anger can get you back to fear.  Acknowledging fear and not letting it stop you gets you to courage.

You’ll never have to wonder why you’re angry again.  It’s because you’re afraid.  But why are you afraid?  That one goes deeper.  It’s biology.  Maybe there’s an answer.   Maybe there isn’t.

Studying the reptile brain with Steven Pressfield can provide some insight.

How To Eliminate Fear

Fear is the product of losing things or the expectation of losing things.  We are born into a world where everything physical, including our lives, will be taken away.  At a time and place not of our choosing.

Along life’s journey we grab onto possessions, ideas, or beliefs thinking maybe we can hold on to life forever.  We form attachments.  Then we fear losing those things.  More things to lose equals more fear.

So how do we live free of fear?

There is only one way.  Eliminate attachments.  If you are attached to something don’t be.  Figure out how never to become attached to things that are out of your control—everything in the known world.

This is impossible.

So, give freely regardless of the outcome.  This means acknowledging our finiteness and realizing we are here to give until we have nothing left.

Try Knew Things

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  I’ve known this for a while now.  I still violate the rule, constantly.

So, this time I sat back and thought about what had happened with my most recent rejection. How do successful business people deal with rejection?

I found out that giving is hard, not because we would rather receive than give, or that we want to accumulate things and giving them away is not good for this, but because our gifts are often rejected.

I think this is what successful entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, learn to master.  Give without fear.

Not All Of Your Gifts Are Wanted

We’re supposed to grow up and leave childlike ways behind.  Kids cry if a bully takes something away from them.

But adults do too.  But it’s not a bully, now.  It’s rejection.

We like to attach ourselves, our identities, to ideas as much as things.  Politics is an example.  Why do we care so much?

When our political ideas are rejected we feel the pain.  Oh, the pain.

We’ve become attached or identified with our idea; our belief.  When it’s thrown back in our face, often by someone we love (Thanksgiving dinner?), it hurts.

I think entrepreneurs who master rejection to keep giving until they achieve breakthrough do two things well:

  1. They are less attached to their ideas, so rejection is not as painful
  2. After rejection, they try again

Rejection Is A Skill

James Carville said he admires politicians for one simple reason.  They aren’t afraid to fail publicly.  They got good at rejection.

I don’t want to avoid giving my art which often leads to rejection.  I want to get better at rejection itself.

This post is about awareness and identifying the problem.  Half the battle.

Next week I’ll write about the strategies entrepreneurs use to reduce fear and attachment to achieve breakthrough.


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