Rejected? You Win!

As a physician, I have never had to ask for referrals. The first time I met a patient, they were there with some problem for me to solve. Since we had that face-to-face, meaningful, interaction, they usually came back to see me. We had established a relationship.

Then I became a life coach and spent part of my time working as a life coach, and part of my time working as a physician. I got a lot of referrals from colleagues and eventually from people who had already coached with me, but a year or so into working as a life coach, I realized I had to start doing some marketing of myself and my business.

I tried to ask people to send me clients and–I couldn’t do it.

So, what did I do? I hired a coach.

He immediately saw my problem: I was absolutely terrified of rejection.

So what did he do? He challenged me to get 10 “no’s” from potential clients. I was to offer a free sample session to enough people to get 10 “no, thank you,” responses.  I was dubious about the challenge, but I agreed to it. I had two weeks to get 10 no’s.

Initially, my progress was slow. I had a hard time asking people to schedule a sample session with me, but I did do it. Then (dammit!) all the people I asked said, “yes!” So I started asking people who I knew were going to say no (all of my brother-in-laws, my dad, my friend who never accepts help from anyone). Even a couple of them said, “yes.”

The weekend before my challenge was over, I realized I still needed 8 no’s. I was determined to win the challenge. I went to a family party and started asking everyone I could if they wanted to schedule a sample session with me. My sister’s in-laws, an acquaintance I hadn’t seen in 20 years, a few strangers. I had to ask a lot of people to get the 10 no’s, but I did it. Yay, I was a winner!

Wait a minute. Can it really be that arbitrary? Yes, it can. All I had to do was change the rules in my head and I could do what I thought I would never be able to do.

Now that I’m a writer, I have changed the challenge to fit my current life. My goal for 2012 is to get as many rejections as I can. If I get 10, I win, but I’d really like to get more. I picture that big nail that Stephen King impaled all his rejections on. He had way more than 10. The way I (choose to) see it, the more rejections I get, the closer I am to publication.

I’ve already gotten a rejection for one of my short stories. But the guest post I offered to write for a coach I admire was accepted!

Only 9 rejections to go!

How do you get past your fear of rejection?

33 thoughts on “Rejected? You Win!

  1. This post actually made me laugh. What a funny was of tricking yourself! lol I can understand how it would work though… Myself, I’ve never dealt with my fear of rejection. I’m still working on editing my manuscript and I’ve never submitted anything to contests or anything like that. He closest I’ve come to “rejection” is when I get no hits on my blog for a day. 😛 But I’ll have to face it eventually because I’m determined to get my manuscript published, dammit! 🙂

    • Hi TraceyLynnTobin,
      I’m glad I could make you laugh. And oh, yes, you will experience rejection once you finish editing your work and start putting it out in the world! But if you make a game out of it, it doesn’t have to feel like a knife to the heart!

      Good luck with your writing and thanks for your comments!


  2. Extremely funny and honest post! I think I got over my fear of rejection years ago when I competed in martial arts. I had such stage fright getting up in front of people to perform but I forced myself to do it. I started small and worked up my way up, performing in front of hundreds. By that time, it didn’t matter anymore what other people thought – the focus was internal. It was all about STARTING and FINISHING and winning wasn’t important. Participating, doing my best was enough. That shift in mentality won me lots of trophies because I hadn’t backed myself into a stressful corner with my own unrealistic expectations. The “win” wasn’t the best part. I met lots of great people, improved my skills, ENJOYED the competition which pushed me to work harder.
    So easy to translate those lessons into writing. Do your best, accept the judgment, and realize it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get the trophy because you did your best and put yourself out there.

    Moral of my story: If you don’t get the trophy, you get to enjoy the experience in other ways. Win-win.

    Love the story of your experience Diane! Thanks for tweaking my memories.

    • Hey Laura,
      Thanks for that great story! It’s so funny what is scary to each of us. I used to speak in front of groups regularly as a medical student and resident, and it didn’t bother me–but to ask somebody for something? Now that was scary!!!

      I agree with your lessons for writing. All we can do is our best work, accept what is said about it (not necessarily agree with it), and realize it’s not the end of the world if it’s not the prize-winner.

      Happy writing!


  3. Pingback: Rejected? You Win! « robertcdeming

    • Hi Laura,
      You are welcome! I couldn’t get rid of the fear–until I made it all into a game. Turns out that took all the fear out of it for me. And yes, I know that my writing will suit someone (besides my twin sister–she loves everything I write!) so I’ll keep trying until I find a good fit for my writing!

      Thanks for commenting and for reading!


  4. I really can relate to this article. I have a terrible fear of rejection. I sent out a couple of chapters of my book to editors early on. I now know it wasn’t fit to be seen yet. I guess I’ll go back and retry for the l0 nos.

    Again in my purging, I came across this little gem(?). I wonder if you’ve heard of it? “I Write Like,” at “You paste a few paragraphs that exemplify your writing, then click ‘analyze’ and –poof!–you get a badge telling you that you write like Stephen King or Ernest Hemingway or Chuck Palahniuk.”

    I tried it and there’s the rub. Mine said I wrote like David Foster Wallace. I wasn’t familiar with his work so I checked out some of his books from the library. I din’t relate at all and that simply scared the hell out of me. He is considered a major American literary figure. Where do I go from here or should I say there?

    • The problem with comparing yourself to someone else is that you will always be disappointed, especially if you haven’t reach the stage of accomplishment that’s equivalent to well-known writers. Strive for personal best, as corny as it sounds. You can’t fake sincerity in your writing! It may not be perfect in form, but that’s something that can be corrected with revision. I think rejection happens for a number of different reasons, some of which we have no control over. Go with your gut. Rejection is not the Word of God. These are the words of someone still striving…hahaa


    • Hey saranell,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes, rejection is scary, but if you want to get your work out into the world, you have to find a way to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” My way was to make it into a “get 10 no’s” game. I hope that will work for you, too.

      As far as writing like David Foster Wallace, I’ve never heard of him (but out of curiosity, will go look him up). I wouldn’t put any stock in the fact that you write like him. I don’t think it means a thing. How can a computer program know what your writing is truly like after “analyzing” only a few paragraphs?

      Good luck, saranell! Try my game and let me know how it goes for you.


    • Hi Jacqueline,
      I haven’t heard of rejection therapy, but you are the second person to mention it in these comments. As soon as I finish replying to the comments, I’m going to go check out the website. Thanks for sharing!


  5. This is a great post, and I can relate to it from the sales perspective with my business. But I will say I played the rejection game for a while with the fiction stuff, and I really think there’s a better way. (That way is obviously going indie, but I don’t presume to tell you something you haven’t already considered. I will just say that the sales you make — while not earth shattering for most — provide great fuel to write more and aim higher.)

    Great luck getting a few more “no’s” and that all important yes! That would certainly be the best path forward.

    • Hi Stan,
      Thanks for your comments. I haven’t ruled out any avenue for getting my work out into the world, but for now I’m having fun submitting my work. I want to write some articles for magazines, too, so I’ll make my “pitches” part of the game. I may definitely try self-publishing, especially some of my writing for my life coaching business.

      Thanks for your kind words and happy writing!


    • Hi Yasmine,
      Thanks for your comments. I agree, I’ve used this with many things over the years. It seems to work for anything that you care enough about to get scared about.

      Good luck with your achievements–writing and otherwise!


  6. Pingback: Rejected? You Win! « Live to Write – Write to Live « moreStories. moreSmiles. moreSharing.

  7. I just saw this in our small town newspaper and thought it was just the ticket for this discussion…

    “Fear, above all else is a thief; an insatiable thief. He won’t stop until he has all our joy and potential.” Diane Popenhagen

    • Hi saranell,
      I love this quote. Thanks so much for sharing it! I agree. If we lived in the time of the cave dwellers, it would make sense to be afraid all the time, but in this day and age, the fear is often as useless as our appendix. I try to remember that when I’m feeling scared. I try to decide if my fear is useful or useless? If I’m in NYC and about to cross Broadway, fear is useful–prevents me from jay walking and possibly getting hit by a cab. Sitting here at my desk in my home office–fear is useless. So I try some tricks to get past it. They usually work.

      Thanks for reading!


  8. That is awesome. I suffer from the same fear and I honestly think it has hindered my ability to get published and take some big steps in my writing career. I just wanted to say thank you. You have given me something that fits my personality and could be the thing that helps me reach my dream.

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