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I spend all this time teaching people how to share their voice with the world, market their story out about who they are and what they want to accomplish in life. One of the things that really surprised me when I started doing this, almost 10 years ago now, was how many people would come up to me and say:
Brendon, how do you deal with rejection?
These were often adults, which really blew my mind because I was a young man back then. It would be 45, 55 and 65 year old folks saying, Brendon, how do you deal with the rejection? I thought, what do you mean? There would be this insecurity in their voice as they asked that question.
I thought, you’re an adult and still struggling with ideas about rejection?
I think that’s unfortunate and it shows that sometimes people live an unexamined life, that they’re willing to not question themselves. Shouldn’t we have all gotten over and dealt rejection pretty young? High school, college level stuff?
I’m not saying we won’t ever be self-conscious.
Don’t worry you don’t have to give me hate…
emails and comments below, I mean, you can make fun of my shirt, but other than that… I’m not trying to be insensitive I just think that sometimes they don’t understand math and odds.
We think rejection is this thing that happens all the time, so what happens is that so many people guide their life based on this fear that they’re going to be rejected, so they don’t take action and don’t start new things or chase their dreams because they’re worried about what other people are going to think.
They’re going to be rejected and deemed unworthy, unlovable or not adequate in some way or another and you think, that’s so sad, because rejection, the actual form of rejection that shapes people’s identity and hurts them, happens so rarely. If you don’t believe it then that’s an internal fear, not the reality of the universe.
Let me prove this to you with some basic data. I’ve traveled around the globe, well over most of the globe now, and here’s what I find out over and over again when I speak to audiences.
I always do this little simple activity where I say, if you’ve ever been rejected in a way where it hurt, it actually hurt and formed and shaped your identity in a way, it was a significant hurt that you felt and it changed how you felt about yourself and what you might want to accomplish in the world. If you’ve ever felt that before would you raise your hand? Everyone raises their hand.
Then I say if you’ve ever been rejected by, let’s say, three people, who really rejected you in that way that you were shot down, hurt and it changed who you are and what you wanted to accomplish in life. How many times has that ever happened with three people? A bunch of people raise their hands again and I start escalating that number from three, to five to seven, to ten, fifteen, twenty. and thirty.
Here’s what’s amazing. I’ve done this all over the world with audiences with thousands of people in them and here’s the average across all those audiences, all around the world, it doesn’t matter the culture. The average number is about seven.
So anywhere between five and seven, meaning, people say between five and seven people hurt their feelings enough with a real rejection, not one of those, “Well I’m sorry I can’t go out with you I’m washing my hair” stuff. I mean someone who really criticized you and rejected you in a way that it hurt. The average person says five to seven people rejected them like that.
There are some people who have more than that. I’m saying the average is five to seven and yet so many people when I ask, how many of you are so scared of rejection that almost everyone raises their hand.
It’s like wait a second, you’re scared of something that barely ever happens?
The second question I get asked is, how many of you have ever interacted with let’s say, 10 people and when you interacted with those 10 people it went just fine. They were nice to you. They were polite. They were patient or they just didn’t care one way or another. Have you ever met 10 people like that? Everyone raised their hand.
Then I say, how many of you have ever interacted with, met, known or associated with 100 people in your life and those 100 people were fine with you? Everyone raised their hand.
I take that number up to thousands and everyone is still raising their hands, because we’ve all met with, interacted with, known or associated with thousands of people in our lives and most of them could care less, didn’t criticize, were generally supportive.
And so it’s like wait a second.
You’re basing your life and directing yourself based on this fear of rejection that maybes happen on average, for people between five and seven times? But, thousands of people you’ve interacted with are cool with you or at least, let you do your own thing and didn’t criticize it.
It’s like wait, if you realize those numbers and you did the math, like five people versus a thousand. Five people aren’t supportive of you but a thousand were and were fine with you. Think about that math and automatically, statistically, mathematically — five out of a thousand, these are the freaks! They’re the oddities and weirdo’s. They don’t make computational sense over here.
You’re worried about what the tragic minority in that sense, five out of a thousand. You have a thousand people who have your back you could storm these five people.
You have to realize that rejection actually barely ever happens. We fear it because when we were young and it happened, it felt so real and so big, but come on. As we get older we have to gain that greater sense of awareness and maturity that says, “I am my own person. I’m going to be myself regardless.”
Some people say, Brendon, you can’t expect that from people because they have so much fear. It’s like, why does fear get so much credit? People also have so much power. People have so much strength.
People have so much in themselves that it can actually be heroic tendencies if they focus on that as much as they focused on their inadequacies.
So why are we giving everyone a by card and saying it’s okay that you’re still scared of rejection. I don’t think it’s okay.
I think it’s rather, we should say, let’s have a higher ambition for ourselves as human beings to allow ourselves the freedom to be who we are, to genuinely express ourselves.
Yes, will some people criticize it? Absolutely. Some people will criticize this video and go “Oh man, I hate your shirt. Your hair looks bad. You’re really white and what’s your deal?” Everyone is going to say something. So what!
I’m not going to limit my service or message to the world, based on what other people think.
By the way, who are we fearing the most anyway?
Usually the people we fear are the harsh critics. Let’s talk about the harsh critics, who are they?
Most harsh critics, unless they’re paid to be critics, are just jerks, and we really don’t need to listen to them.
But, why are people critical?
Most people are critical for maybe four reasons:
1. Self boasting.
Most critics are braggarts. They like to say, “You’re not good enough. I do a much better job.” Fantastic. Good for you. Go do a better job, out of my vision please.
It’s like, don’t worry about the self boasters and the narcissists, you don’t need to be concerned about them they have nothing to add to the direction in which you’re going in your life.
Focus on your own thing. Don’t worry about the couch critics or apathetic advisors on the sidelines of life. They really have nothing to contribute to you. Unless you’ve asked for constructive feedback, don’t worry about it.
I think the second reason become critics often is because it’s self protection.
They’re critical of you because they see something outstanding, remarkable or different in you and they’re scared of different, because they’re comfortable in their own thing or it challenges their own beliefs and behaviors seeing you excel.
Seeing you have the boldness, the freedom, the joy, the ambition, the guts, the integrity and the courage to put yourself out there, they’re like, "Oh yeah, who do you think you are?"
They try to knock you down to their level.
Do you need to be concerned about those people? No.
I think the third reason people do it is because sometimes they’re just critical, but they’re critical out of ignorance.
They actually don’t know you. They don’t know what you’re talking about. They don’t know what you’re doing. They don’t know anything about your area of expertise or the thing that you’re trying to share in the world.
So, why be concerned about what somebody who has no knowledge about you or what you’re doing has to say?
4. Protecting You.
The fourth reason people do it is because they actually do want to provide value. They want to give you some direction to protect you and care for you, and they don’t realize that sometimes the way they do that, their tone might be condescending. Maybe the way they do it does hurt you or limit you, but they weren’t trying to be a tyrant to you, they’re just maybe a little unconscious or lack some emotional or social intelligence.
For those people, pity them and ignore the rest of them.
Give some of those people who are trying patience and pity, the other ones, don’t give them patience or the time and attention.
That sounds harsh to say and I’ll be criticized for it, of course, but that’s what I believe so I’m going to say it.
I want you to go say what you feel like with the world.
Go give yourself to the world without concern about what the world thinks about you so much, because if you don’t, if you limit the expression of who you are and what you have to give in the world, based on a couple people who might criticize you, what have you done? You’ve sunken below the lowest common denominator of mankind.
If we all shrunk in our ability to serve because of what some people might think where would we be as humans?
Go out and be great and never apologize for it.