How to Handle Rejection as an Entrepreneur
Everyone is familiar with IQ, aka Intelligence Quotient. And many people have also heard of EQ, your Emotional Quotient. EQ is your ability to assess the emotions of those around you as well as yourself. Both IQ and EQ are important factors in how well you thrive in life. They’re even used when assessing candidates for job openings. But there’s another vital quotient, the Adversity Quotient, or AQ, that some believe is the most important factor of all in determining personal success. AQ is your ability to recover from adversity, otherwise known as how resilient you are.
Paul Stoltz, the researcher who developed the idea of AQ, writes in the Harvard Business Review that your resilience, aka your ability to overcome adversity, is statistically significant in predicting “Happiness, quality of life, exercise, diet, energy, optimism, engagement at work, sick days, and a broad range of health factors.” He goes on to say, “either adversity consumes you, or you consume it.”
As an entrepreneur, one form of adversity you will likely face is frequent rejection. Rejection is a core experience for entrepreneurs, more so than most other professions. Especially when you are first starting out, most of the meetings you have will result in rejection. So it’s essential that you find ways to not only handle rejection but to profit from it.
Handle Rejection by Learning From It
Rejection stings. A lot. Sometimes it will feel overwhelming–like your whole world is falling apart. But try to remember, even in the middle of the worst pain, that there might be something useful to you. Once you feel calmer, assess the situation and evaluate any feedback. If you start hearing similar reasons for your ideas being rejected, it might be time to re-evaluate them and see if you can improve your proposal.
Don’t Take Rejection Personally
Like everything to do with rejection, this is difficult. It’s you on the line, offering your best, so when your ideas are rejected it feels deeply personal. But it isn’t, actually. There are so many factors at play–the other person’s experience, their own ideas of what will or won’t work, the fact that they are distracted, or maybe just had a terrible setback of their own that they can’t move past. It isn’t you. Rejection as an entrepreneur isn’t a rejection of you as a person. If it helps, try putting yourself on the other side–imagine being approached by an entrepreneur for funding and think of the many reasons you would have for saying no to an unproven idea. You’ll begin to see that it isn’t personal.
Let Yourself Wallow (a Little)
If a rejection hits particularly hard, you don’t need to pretend otherwise. Maybe you went into a meeting brimming with confidence that this was the one, you just had a feeling things would work out. And then they didn’t. Go ahead and get angry, stomp your feet, throw your stress ball across the room, rant and rave to a close friend. Let those feelings out so you can begin to recover from them. Just be careful to not let your anger and hurt send you into a negative place where you feel hopeless. Like the old song says, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
Seek Out Entrepreneurial Comrades
One of the very best ways to handle rejection is to hang out with other entrepreneurs and share your stories. It’s cathartic and will help you heal quickly. You are guaranteed to hear stories even more painful than your own, and you will likely learn some useful information as well. If you are a college student, join your campus chapter of Epsilon Nu Tau or start your own!
Above all, remember that rejection is a key part of being an entrepreneur. So one upside of it is that if you’re experiencing rejection, you’re on your way to success! Remember all the many stories you’ve heard of famous entrepreneurs suffering rejection after rejection before they broke through. You’ve got this!