Getting rejected, part II

[Here’s Getting rejected, part I]

Seth Godin is a personal hero of mine. His most recent book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, has been a joy to own.

This story is my favorite passage from the book. It’s a simple, but powerful lesson on how to think about rejection:

Try this with $5

It might teach you something about what “no” means.

Go to the bus station and walk up to the first person you meet. Say to him, with as much confidence and trustworthiness you can muster, “would you like to buy this five-dollar bill? I’m selling it for a dollar.”

The odds are, he will walk away without buying anything. In fact, he will probably avoid eye contact and walk away rather quickly.

How rude!

Doesn’t he know that you’re offering him a five-dollar bill for just a dollar?

Of course people won’t buy a five-dollar bill from a stranger at the bus station. It’s the first rule of the bus station: don’t buy something that feels like a scam. The second rule is don’t talk to strangers.

That story got there before you did.

Do you understand that the ‘no’ that you heard wasn’t someone rejecting you, or even rejecting your new project after carefully and completely reviewing it?

It was the ‘no’ of someone examining your story (as heard) and comparing it to their worldview.

You never had a chance.

Consider this alternative…

Go to your neighbor’s house with a $5 bill in a plain, unsigned envelope. Leave it in his mailbox.

Go back again tomorrow.

Do it one more time the day after that.

Then, on the fourth day, ring his doorbell, hand him another $5 and say, “I’m the guy who keeps leaving you five-dollar bills.” Smile and walk away.

On the fifth day, ring his bell and say, “Hey, wanna buy a $5 bill for a dollar?”

My guess is that it’ll go a lot better than it did at the train station. 

The five-dollar bill later in this story is worth just as much as it was at the beginning. What’s different is the story, not just the story you’re telling, but the story he’s hearing. It’s weird (you’re weird) but it feels a lot safer this time, doesn’t it?

Everything you create, every idea you try to share, every project you launch is a five-dollar bill. Sometimes, people will refuse it, even as a gift. Other times, they’ll fall all over themselves to pay you ten dollars.

They buy (or reject) a story. Not you.

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