How good are you at getting rejected? What rejections have shaped you? And when are you planning on getting rejected next?

It’s a key skill for #innovation#creativity#entrepreneurship#leadership#selfdevelopment – but it gets too little attention.

A recent tweet reminded me how I got this insight from learning about Rejection Therapy.


The theory is that our brains are fairly ‘hard wired’ to avoid rejection. The logic is clear: being rejected by your family or your tribe would, for most of human existence, have meant near-certain death.

Apparently, part of our brains therefore fears social rejection as much as death itself (and it’s certainly a major driver of literature and drama).

I’m not too keen on these sort of ‘your early ancestors did x, so a part of your brain tries to do y’ stories, myself – too many big claims and assumptions – and usually too little attention to the incredible potential of human beings to change.

But I do know that rejection hurts. That we will do almost anything to avoid it, that it can cause us to shrink and cramp and limit ourselves.

And that the cure is – to get rejected.


For me, I was helped out of some of my fears by a range of things:

– political canvassing on council estates, and doing council satisfaction surveys in shopping centres – interrupting normally people in their daily lives and asking them what they think of politicians and of organisations

– working in jobs that required me to serve, in sometimes ‘menial’ ways, and deal with ‘clients’ and ‘customers’ who didn’t care how much a job was ‘beneath me’ when they criticised

– more radical thing: trance dance, embodying spirit animals: as my teacher said, ‘very good for losing your sense of self-importance, very critical for development’

– I might add, advocating for systems | complexity | cybernetics in our world


Being rejected is GREAT – for two reasons:

1- it encourages a bit of humility, a bit of perspective – ‘huh, it seems the world doesn’t revolve around me after all?!’

2- as you get used to it – even seek it out, respond to it – you realise that being in the position to be rejected – well, that also gives you a superpower that can advance your life. The ability to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there, to ask for what you want, to push the edges.

For me, it’s a constant thing – a constant desire to avoid rejection, a constant need to keep risking it. Of course, it’s at the heart of being human.

Example of a bounding box to sample a statistical distribution with an acceptance-rejection method.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rejection_sampling_of_a_bounded_distribution_with_finite_support.svg

So, when were you last rejected? When will you next take the chance?


The tweet that reminded me of all this was Maggie Xiao Qi Chen posting about her ‘deliberate week of rejection’ – https://twitter.com/cxqmaggie/status/1500838871281676292

The OG link is to Rejection Therapy – https://www.rejectiontherapy.com/game/rules

I love the objectives on that page:

  1. To be more aware of how irrational social fears control and restrict our lives
  2. Smash the tyranny of fear and reap the treasures (treasures include wealth, relationships and self-confidence)
  3. Learn from, and even enjoy rejection
  4. To not be attached to outcomes, especially when it involves the free agency of other people
  5. Permit yourself to fail

One thought on “How good are you at getting rejected? What rejections have shaped you? And when are you planning on getting rejected next?

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