They're unmistakeable. Two young men in suits carrying what looks like a Bible. You can spot them blocks away. Mormon missionaries. I was walking home the other day and found myself walking toward two Mormon missionaries. I prepared mentally what I would say if they asked to stop and speak with me, but I didn't need to. The two young men passed right by me and made a beeline for the older gentleman shuffling behind me.
"I know you guys are Mormon and I don't want to talk to you," he shouted.
I looked back and saw the two young men struggle to react.
Rejection. It's the part of failure we don't talk about. Even though it's likely at the core of why we fear failure. We don't want to be rejected by our peers. It's social, it's primal, it's human.
Whatever you think of Mormons or missionaries, you have to respect the amount of rejection they endure. It made me think of the story Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and a self-made billionaire, tells. She spent her early career selling fax machines door-to-door. She encountered a lot of rejection and credits that experience for her Spanx success.
I definitely think there is something to it. When you are rejected in some way, you are forced to look at your situation with different eyes. When you are rejected over and over again, you end up spending time outside the herd, as part of the unpopular, the misunderstood. Outside of the commonplace can be scary and lonely, but it's also incredibly freeing. And really, only the free can innovate.
So are you getting negged on a regular basis? If not, you might not be taking enough chances. So how do you go out and experience rejection that's helpful? Here are my suggestions.
1. Volunteer with kids - they usually have no time for you and getting them to hear you requires getting real
2. Go on a mission of your own - try to develop a cause, start a company, get a book published - use the rejection to hone your message or idea
3. Try and raise money for a company, cause or university. Asking someone for money is one of the more difficult things to do and the resulting rejection teaches you that most things are not personal. And when it's not personal putting yourself out there doesn't threaten your ego quite so much.
How else are you taking chances?