Overcoming a fear of rejection
Getting work is an essential part of any person's career, whether you are an industry veteran working as a full time employee or a newcomer looking for freelance jobs. We all have to sell our skills to get the jobs we want to do.
Part of that process has always been contacting potential employers or clients and presenting yourself as a good prospect for the work they need done. The down side of this process for most people is the realisation that the threat of rejection looms over every application.
It is a very real condition for most of us to find rejection uncomfortable. Years of experience in an industry does little to make a "no thanks" letter more fun to receive. The consequence of this is that many of us are reluctant to even try.
So, here is how I overcame my fear of no.
Many years back I needed to make more efficient use of my time as a freelancer. I needed to organise my schedule better. I set up a simple kind of game with myself.
Each Monday I would write myself a To Do List on my tablet for the week. I would include everything I thought I needed to get done. But I had a trick. Each time I completed a task I would write next to it DONE.
Now this may seem super obvious, but it was the emotional response I would receive by typing in those four letters...ALWAYS in capitals. It quickly became Pavlovian in nature. I would want to add more tasks to my week because I got huge satisfaction from completing things all for the simple reward of typing in done.
I realised recently I could apply this to job and client applications.
In this case I knew I needed something with more impact. Those dreaded rejections were a huge blow to ego and self image, so I decided to bribe myself. I changed the value of a NO from something potential hurtful and ego-bruising to something with actual value. One Dollar to be exact.
I created a spreadsheet for my new networking push, I had done spreadsheets like this before, name, company, date contacted etc. But this time I added a new column; the NO column. If I had no reply within 2 weeks or received a direct rejection to a request I would place a cross in the no column for that contact. Each NO was worth a buck, but I had to collect them in batches of 50 to be able to redeem them.
The Day I started this I sent out 50 contact requests. That was more requests in one morning than the previous 12 months combined. I was actually excited to send them out, frankly I was looking forward to getting back those NOs, if I got enough that was 50 bucks I could spend on a hobby interest.
Everything we do is based on our own self worth and how we motivate ourselves can be critically important in our success. I am probably one of the worst people I know for dealing with things like rejection letters, and yet such a simple ploy, such a small deceit has flipped my brain into not caring about potential rejection letters and in fact seeking them out.
This does not mean you approach unlikely connections or apply for things with anything less than your absolute best, but it takes a massive amount of the sting out of the tail of any NO you might be on the receiving end of.
try it, and I sincerely hope it helps.
It may not be what you think it is
I think one of the greatest issues with the word "success" is that the modern definition of it has been wildly distorted to a point where it is practically unobtainable.
Modern media shows us success in the form of AAA Hollywood actors, or chart topping musicians, or billionaire tech company founders. In reality these people are aberrations.
Anyone who has ever studied statistics can tell you that the first thing you do with a bunch of figures is, pretty much, ignore the very extreme examples at both ends. So out of a planet of 7 billion people a few hundred who are massively successful in their creative field are largely irrelevant to what normal people can achieve. And yet we set them as the bar we are supposed to reach.
"Aim high" is a reasonable and useful thought process when you start a creative career. Ambition can be a really good thing if it motivates you to work hard and helps you focus on a goal. But aiming to achieve a level that is essentially impossible means you may never be happy with the things you do achieve.
We can get trapped, forever looking to the top of the success ladder. I find myself often discounting achievements I should have celebrated because I was too busy looking to the next thing. It is really important to stop, look at the things we accomplish and acknowledge their significance.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences