Day 170: Rejection shouldn’t mean dejection: the benefits of being knocked back

“We all learn lessons in life. Some stick, some don’t. I have always learned more from rejection and failure than from acceptance and success.” – Henry Rollins

Whether it’s in a bar or at the business table, rejection sucks. It’s a tough pill to swallow, though it’s one that we’re often encouraged to eat up in the hope that we might extract some form of positivity – even if it’s just a glimmer. After all, doesn’t every cloud boast a silver lining?

Last week, I’d applied to pitch Tinkerdash at Virgin Media Business’ Voom event, part of the London Business Show 2017. The winner would find themselves enjoying brunch with Sir Richard Branson and £5,000 richer – what did I have to lose?

On the morning of the business show, whilst waiting for a free seminar to start, I received a generic email from the VMB Voom organisers politely declining my application. I instantly felt dejected. I genuinely believed that the application was worthy of a place in the “Start-up” category. It outlined a clear problem and how Tinkerdash helped to solve it. I’d even included feedback from early users of Tinkerdash to help validate the idea.

Despite being in an environment that was brimming with inspirational speakers, countless networking opportunities and unmediated advice from people who had once been in my position, I felt deflated and was ready to go home.

Fortunately, the arrival of my business partner coupled with my stubbornness meant that I was willing to give the event another go. Instead of going home, I spent the next few hours listening to a number of free seminars and talks, which offered a welcome dose of motivation. I also met a UK-based virtual assistant company and a low-cost provider of desk space in London, both of which I may want to use in future.

After lunch, I decided to check out the VMB Voom stall (a big red bus) where I happened to get talking with Phill, who manages the Voom tour. He divulged how they select candidates to pitch, revealing that it’s part-based on “gut feel”. It was useful information, and learning that there was an element of subjectivity involved made me feel better about not being selected. Phill then gave us his email address, saying that he’d try to get us pitching at a future Voom tour event and that we should apply. Great.

Below, the Virgin Media Business Voom big red bus. I wonder who gets to drive it…

The most unexpected outcome, however, came from receiving a free copy of a book titled Interpreneur by Simon Coulson, who’s something of an internet marketing guru. Over the course of the next two days, I studied the book. What I learned was simply that there’s a lot I don’t know about internet marketing, for example, how to choose keywords that actually convert online. In hindsight, this may be why a couple of tests I ran last year on potential business ideas flopped.

Tinkerdash may never be invited to pitch at a VMB Voom tour event but there is at least a greater chance than if I had given up that morning and gone home. And by staying, I was able to make some useful contacts and learn an important lesson or two, which may just prove to be the difference between success and failure for Tinkerdash.

Only you can determine how you handle rejection, but if you ever stand the chance of succeeding it’s imperative that knockbacks aren’t seen as failing. It’s true that nothing worth having is ever easy. So, next time you face rejection, be kind to yourself, don’t over analyse the situation but do try to learn from it.

And never let it stop it you from pursuing your goals. As Jia Jiang demonstrates in his fabulous TED talk about being rejected every day for 100 days, it really isn’t a big a deal.


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