Several weeks ago my husband forwarded an article to me about failure — for inspiration. The article, Aim To Fail: Why Rethinking Rejection Can Increase Productivity, by Jessica Sillers, encourages readers to put themselves out there regardless of how many rejections they have encountered. In fact, the article goes so far as to suggest we celebrate failure. While that may seem a bit out there, the author makes a good point. “The real cost of rejection isn’t hearing “no” that one time,” she writes. “It’s missing opportunities to try again because the original rejection is still echoing in your head.”
It’s true that rejection and failure often leave us wanting to withdraw, to hide under the covers and say, “Never again!” But while we’re eating ice cream out of the carton and feeling like no one will ever see our potential, we may be missing the most brilliant opportunity ever.
Wouldn’t that be a shame?
The article also references an essay published last year by nonfiction writer Kim Liao, where she described her strategy to aim for 100 publication rejections each year. That’s not a new idea. I recall some of my writing friends talking about this very goal back in 2015. While it may seem a little masochist, think about it. Anyone receiving 100 rejections would have to be putting themselves out there every third day or so. No time for crawling in bed to lick ego wounds — only time for seeking more opportunities.
This goes for any goal you may have. Looking for the perfect job with the perfect company? Don’t stop applying just because the first 53 applications have not yielded the desired outcome.
Looking for an entrepreneurial idea that gains traction? You may have to consider 100 possibilities first. If you write down ten ideas a day, you’ll have 100 possibilities in less than two weeks. Market testing the best of your 100 ideas will take more time. As you weed out the ones that don’t pass muster, celebrate! You’re one idea closer to the one that may change your life.
Let’s agree that 100 annual failed attempts on goal can, in fact, have a silver lining if it keeps us moving — or better yet if it produces eureka. But there’s also a downside. Failure sucks. It disappoints. It hurts. Whether we like it or not, we all have an ego and egos don’t do rejection very well. That’s why I’m giving you this list of my favorite rejection rebounders — practices to help your ego rebound from the rejection doldrums.
- Exercise. According to a recent Anxiety and Depression Association of America online poll, 14 percent of people make use of regular exercise to cope with stress. Exercise is a coping technique recommended by health care professions. Other popular strategies include walking, running, and yoga. My personal favorites are biking and dance. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and enhance self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
- Meditate. When you meditate, you release the desire to control the mind and focus instead on your breathing. The mind wanders, and you gently bring it back to your breathing. The mind recalls the failure and, without self-judgment, you refocus it on your breathing. And so it goes until the monkey mind acquiesces to your desired state of peaceful calm. The body begins to sink into relaxation, heart-rate slows, negative thoughts fade, and better feelings follow. Mediation has been shown to have many positive effects on the body. Not sure how to get started or feel too short on time? Check out these free guided meditations from UCLA. They take you step by step through the meditation process, and some are as short as three minutes. Come on! Everyone can find three minutes to pause and focus on their breath!
- Watch a funny movie. If you need to veg, make sure you watch something that will lift your spirits. Like meditation, laughter has many positive mental and physical health benefits. Health benefits from laughing include lowering stress and blood pressure, oxygenating the brain, enhancing energy, boosting the immune system, and releasing endorphins in the brain for a better mood. In fact, this article will show you how to add ten years to your life in just 20 minutes. Yes, I was skeptical too, but trust me on this one!
- Make plans to meet a friend. The power of a good listener cannot be overrated. A true friend is someone who will listen to you and support your intentions — without judgment. Sometimes just having someone to bounce your feelings off of is enough to lift the veil of disappointment. Everyone loves a cheerleader so if you don’t already have one, add that to the top of your to-do list!
- Help someone else. Charity has a profound emotional effect on both the receiver and the giver. When we focus on the needs of others, it provides context. Perhaps you have a disabled neighbor who relies on others for transportation. Offering to assist is not only kind, but it also serves as a reminder that you are able bodied. Think gratitude! Maybe the person in front of you in the grocery store is $5 short, and you happen to have $5 in your wallet that you willingly give. While the recipient may have just been running short and appreciated the convenience and hurriedly offers to go to the nearest ATM to repay you, sometimes the recipient doesn’t have another dollar to their name. Your generosity makes a tremendous impact on them and everyone around you — including you. Charity refreshes the spirit and helps put everything into perspective.
When we put ourselves out there heart and soul with no progress, it’s natural to doubt ourselves. The key is to keep on keeping on. In Ms. Sillers’ article encouraging failure, she writes, “Success takes a never-give-up attitude that psychologists often refer to as resilience or grit.” To help you stay in the resilient zone, she also shares five expert strategies for moving forward.
When it comes to defining grit, I always think of psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth and her Ted Talk, Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. In just six minutes, she concretely describes how vital “grit” is a predictor of success.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and fail your way to success!
Sheila Callaham has failed her way to several rewarding career paths, including the most recent as a best-selling author and motivational speaker. For more inspiration, join Sheila and the Braveheart community on Facebook and Twitter!