// what do you think?


My Two Best Friends: Failure and Rejection

I got some pretty bad news this week. I was rejected. I think I actually deal with failure and rejection pretty well (once I get past the initial sadness then anger) and it’s only because I have lots and lots of practice. I don’t have a showroom of failures but I’m thinking about it.

Like my friend and mentor Mark Solon (@mark_solon) once told me, “No is the second best answer.” It was also when working with Mark and the guys at Highway 12 Ventures that I learned why VC’s like entrepreneurs who have a failure or two under their belt.

My life is filled with rejection and I’ve faced plenty of failure. Every company I have been an owner/partner of is out of business today. The very first company I ever owned (the skateboard shop) went out of business several years after I sold it due to the recession but it still hurt. The next company, (a small marketing firm called BlueLine) went under after I left and I tried to warn them it was going down. But the next two startups I tried on my own never even got off the ground.

I don’t think we talk about rejection and failure enough. It’s really easy to talk about the great things happening in our lives. Especially those of us in Marketing, PR, Communications, we make our living talking about the positive things for our clients or trying to stop people talking about the bad things. I for one have never had a client ask me to help them proactively talk about their failures. I think that would be the best project ever.

But in reality failure and rejection happen almost every day. As a kid, my mom used to tell me if I wasn’t crashing, I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I learn a lot from rejection and failure. Mostly I learn about myself. It’s easy to be confident and happy when things are going well. It’s even relatively easy to move on when failure and rejection happen behind closed doors. You can just pretend it never happened.

In the United States we’re very lucky though. We have a culture that does accept failure and we love a good comeback story. Whenever I talk to business professionals from Europe and Asia its one of the things that they comment on about the US. If your business goes under, you declare bankruptcy in the US, you can start over and while it’s embarrassing, you can start over and that’s okay with everyone. It’s one of the biggest reasons the US has such a high entrepreneurial culture compared to most of the World.

Back to my pain.

So why am I talking about this now? Why embarrass myself by pointing out my rejection? Well for one it’s probably just cathartic for me. It also turns out another unrelated very cool opportunity has popped up because of the experience (more on that later). But the main reason is that I think we need to talk about out failures more. We need to be comfortable and okay with the fact that life and business don’t turn out the way we want.

In my time working with companies big and small, I think far too much time and energy are spent trying to not be wrong, or spin failures into not-really-a-failure, instead of accepting it, owning it, learning from it and moving on. And I think we’re just as bad at it in our personal lives.

The other thing my mom used to tell me was that chicks dig scars. Scars are cool.

(BTW, for those interested I was applying for another Masters degree program. Maybe I’m just done with formal education.)

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • http://www.researchgoddess.com ResearchGoddess

    Tac — I think that people who never fail at anything never achieve anything of note. I also think that those who have never been rejected never know what areas of their lives need improving. It SUCKS getting rejected — believe me, I know more than I’d like — but getting rejected makes you take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror as to why this person/program/company/group rejected you. Sometimes, you find it’s their problem. Sometimes, it’s something about yourself that you can fix. If it’s always because of someone else, then you’re not being honest with yourself. Failure is a necessity for achieving greatness in any endeavor. Life is tough :) But it’s the tough that makes it more interesting and fulfilling. Thanks for sharing your experience, and more importantly, for finding the lesson in it.

  • Mahe

    Tac — Thanks for this post. Not long ago, I read a book that was pointing out that brave people are actually those who are not afraid to talk about their failures or weaknesses compare to those who show off by exhibiting their successes. With this honest post, you’ve just given another element that shows on which side of the equation you stand. There is that new videos released on Youtube by RadioLab three days ago about Symmetry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEQskIsHKT8 This is a good illustration of what life is made of: balance. We travel through it, life is a journey with its up and down. The good thing about the bad moments is that you still have the choice to react positively or negatively to them, it’s called free will. You are in charge of your behaviour, you can choose to reflect on it or not, to learn about it or to repeat the same mistake again and again. And with a bit of distance you will often realise that something that appeared to be very negative on the spot was finally a great thing once you have the big picture, and this can be years later. Not my mum but a great friend of mine would tell you, relax, let go and smile. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Oliver Fritsch

    Some chicks also like wrinkles :) because they see the reflection of your life experience in your well weathered face.
    Good post….but what was the rejection about? Did you ever say? Don´t keep me on the edge.
    BTW: I just “amazoned” your name for your book…what happened to that?
    Cheers Oliver

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    The details are in the last line of the post. The book has yet to happen but maybe I’ll have some more time now to rethink my future as an author.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Great video, thanks Mahe.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    “Life’s hard. And that’s a good thing.”

  • Julie Anne Reda

    From the best mentors I know - if you don’t have a few scars, it means you haven’t taken enough risk.soo…I think if someone answers the question “What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from them?” and their answer “I don’t think I can recall…” it’s a good indicator they haven’t taken enough risks or are pretty new in their career. Part of charting unknown territory is knowing you’re going to stumble on a branch or two…fail fast! We need more scarred leaders that can make it easier for mentees to take risk. (But easier said that done.)

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