Sydney, March 2017.
Somewhere along the bustling George street.
It was going to be a busy Monday. In the middle of the human stream that thronged the street, there you were, in suit and tie or perhaps in pencil skirt, your every step forward bristling with haste and hurry. Just then you sighted a street fundraiser in pink shirt 30 metres ahead smiling and waiving at you.
What would you do?
A. Smile back and engage in a conversation with himB. Point at your watch and say sorryC. Avoid eye contact and walk past himD. Demand that he stop what he is doing at once. E. Tell him to f*** off
20 metres. He took a few steps forward to your direction. 10 metres. Uh oh you accidentally looked him in the eyes. 5 metres. 2.5 metres. Two human beings were about to collide. BAAM!!
“How are you today? I know you are super busy, but can I have just 30 seconds of your time?”
Within a snap of a second as you hurdled Options B to E at him, he was reeling with pain and disappointment. As far as we can tell, being said NO to in the face tasted more bitter than Aussie Vegemite.
“Why did everyone say no to me?””Why was it so disappointing this Monday morning?”Why do I suck so bad?”
At some points in our own lives, our career or our relationships, we are also the street fundraisers, obliged to smile and wave, to stick our neck out and risk being rejected. Maybe it is going for my first job interview. Maybe it is asking someone you like for a date. Maybe it is bringing a new and unheard of product to the marketplace. Regardless of what we are aiming for in life, the only things guaranteed are setbacks, more setbacks and finally enough setbacks before our efforts bear fruits.
We are all aware of it. Yet, so often we cannot help screaming and kicking and sliding into disabling disappointment. We start to play the blame game and convince ourselves why we can no longer persist and persevere towards our desired ends. We learn helplessness and take our setbacks as signs of permanent defects within ourselves.
Fortunately, the problem is not the problem. The problem is our perspective of the problem.
It all starts with the acknowledgement that out there people are more interested in their own business than in our efforts to approach them. Neither you nor I am the centre of the universe, and life will not go our way 90% of the time. Being rejected is just part of the journey and we can always learn to inject the perception we choose whenever rejection hits, by habitually asking ourselves new constructive and empowering questions.
After several more unsuccessful approaches, the fundraiser realised two things: 1) There was no point in lamenting. He still had to reach his lead target before 5 p.m. 2) He was standing right next to the traffic lights where people were crossing. Definitely not the best place for initiating a conversation.
“What was great about being rejected?””What if all of the rejections I had today were actually invaluable lessons?””If they were, how could I learn from it to become a better fundraiser?”””If they are short of time, should I offer to walk with them?”Should I go further down the street where passers-by are more willing to talk?”
Still that fundraiser guy in pink but can you tell the difference? It is the new set of questions he is asking. Once questions are asked, answers invariably follows- answers that imply solutions.
Failure and rejection may not be what we accounted for. Indeed, they may be the best things that ever happened.
So instead of feeling dejected and pained, what if we could learn to condition ourselves to regard any issue, be it in career, finances or relationship as a learning experience to be welcomed and enjoyed?