Rejection is a part of life. You can’t avoid it, whether you’re a salesperson with a tough quota or a shy nerd hoping for a date with a supermodel. You can’t let the fear of rejection paralyze you from the start, or you’ll never get any sales—or any dates.

Like many of us, Jonathan Robinson, now a professional speaker and author, was shy as a young man—painfully so, especially when it came to women. One day in college he decided to do something drastic about it. He handed a friend $50 and told him, “Don’t give this back to me unless I get rejected by 10 different women by the end of today.”

The idea was to push through his fear of rejection, with money as a motivator. Robinson headed through the campus, looking for women to ask out. The first time, he barely stammered through his question. The woman he approached thought he was babbling and blew him off. After a while he grew calmer and the prospects warmer.

Then something unexpected happened: His seventh target agreed to go out with him. Robinson was so shocked he was tongue-tied, but he managed to get the woman’s phone number. Number eight also said yes to him.

In all, he collected six more phone numbers, and had to resort to consciously chilling his charm to reach his quota of 10 rejections in order to get his $50 back. Not only did he get his money and plenty of dates, he vanquished his fear of rejection. I’m not recommending the Robinson gambit to beat rejection, but it pays to know your worst fears are usually trumped-up traumas.

Early in my career, when I was struggling to start my company, I made a list of all the accounts I wanted to sell. Some were immediately attainable, while others were far out of my reach. That list was the impetus for my eventual success. It made me really listen to my potential customers and find out what I needed to do to change “No, thanks” to “Where do I sign?

You can’t escape rejection, I learned. But you can let it go. That requires programming your mind-set. Here are some exercises that paid big dividends for me:

  • Dissect thoughts under the microscope. When faced with a challenge, what do you tell yourself? “I’m no good…” “This is too hard…” “I’ll never make it…” Don’t let negative self-talk sabotage your attitude. Size up the evidence objectively. Chances are you’ll realize your worries aren’t accurate or realistic. Drain the power out of irrational fears.
  • Identify realistic fears. Whom do you fear? What might go wrong? Knowledge is power so clarify the facts: Who has the power to reject you? Why would that person say no? The answers will help you prepare your best offer and facing them will help you keep your composure.
  • Focus on the moment. Keep your perspective. Rejection lasts only a moment, and once it’s over you’ll be able to move on to the next opportunity. Overcoming your fears can be an exhilarating experience, so savor your triumph. Great athletes and ace competitors of all sorts are master of deftly moving through both ups and downs… and not wallowing in either.
  • Be more assertive. Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don’t base your self-esteem on other’s opinions. Learn to express your own needs—appropriately—and say no to requests when you genuinely can’t help. People respect peers who stand up for themselves.

Mackay’s Moral:

Don’t regard rejection as failure—think of it as the dress rehearsal for your next glowing success.


Excerpted from: The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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