When you read the stories of the great entrepreneurs – Jobs, Musk, Edison, Ford and others, there is frequently a common theme.
These people got a lot of no’s.
Their hearts were broken many times before they were anointed as heroes.
And while most of us may never ascend to those heights, anyone trying to lead change – whether as a startup CEO, a nonprofit leader, a government official or a change agent in a big company – collects nothing if not piles of rejection.
So how can you keep your spirits high and carry on?
I know several SaaS CEOs who have taken their companies to multi-billion dollar exits, who kept lists of the hundreds of investors who rejected them during their early years. But they kept on going.
In a much smaller way, we deal with rejection every single day:
- The unreturned cold email
- The deal you lose to a competitor
- The customer who “goes dark”
- The user who is pissed off and shares it in social media
- The candidate who turns you down
- The employee who leaves you at the worst time
- The award you don’t win
- The article you don’t get
- And yes – that pesky VC who takes weeks to say, “We’d love to stay in touch”
To be honest, if you count the amount of rejection the typical entrepreneur receives in a month, it can be pretty depressing.
And most people who ascend to leadership roles weren’t trained for much rejection. Maybe you’re someone who was used to lots of A’s, accolades, and awards in school. You were used to winning but never realized that winning can also involve A LOT of losing.
The Golden Rule: Humility
So how do people deal with this much rejection? How do you push through until you finally get a yes?
At Gainsight, one of our company values is the Golden Rule – treat others the way you’d want to be treated.
Sometimes it can be helpful and sometimes it can be oppressing in these situations.
The core to the Golden Rule is expecting good intentions from others. No one is out to get you:
- The unreturned cold email is because the person was busy or didn’t read it.
- The deal you lost to a competitor was not a reflection on you as an individual.
- The customer who “went dark” had personal issues going on in their life.
- The user who is pissed and shared it was really stressed that day because her manager yelled at her.
- The candidate who turned you down got the chance of a lifetime somewhere else.
- The employee who left you really appreciated everything you did for her.
- The award you didn’t win didn’t matter.
- The article you didn’t get will be forgotten.
- And the VC will be back some day.
The crucial part of the Golden Rule is that you cannot use these situations to say, “I’ll get back at them some day – just you wait.”
Instead, it breeds a forgiving and humble attitude.
The hope is that once we have all reached whatever level of success to which we aspire, we then treat the people who are asking for help from us, the way we would have wanted to be treated.
It may be easier said than done, but we’ll keep on trying.