HARVEY MACKAY: The blessing of rejection

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Anytime you feel like quitting throughout your career, perhaps you’ll remember this story of one of our people:

When he was born, he was given the nickname “Sparky.” School was very difficult for Sparky, and he failed eighth grade. He also flunked several subjects in high school, the same high school that I attended a few years later.

He wasn’t very good in sports, either. He did make the school’s golf team, but he lost the most important match of the season and the consolation match too. Throughout his youth, Sparky was awkward. He felt he was a loser and other kids avoided him.

One thing that was important to him, however, was his artwork. He spent most of his free time drawing. He offered sketches to the high school yearbook, but they were rejected. Later on, he submitted his cartoons to many publications and studios, including Disney, and he was turned down by every single one.

Sparky was drafted into World War II, later stating, “The Army taught me all I needed to know about loneliness.” After the war, he dated a woman who rejected his marriage proposal and then married another man the following year.

He decided to tell his life story in cartoons and was picked up by United Feature Syndicate in 1950, but they forced him to rename his comic strip from “Li’l Folks” to “Peanuts.” Sparky did not like the idea, but he was ecstatic that his comics were finally getting published.

“Peanuts” would go on to become a cultural phenomenon because people could relate to the lovable loser main character, Charlie Brown, who reminded people of their own embarrassing and painful moments. But he never gave up. Nor did Charles Schulz.

We all face discouragement and rejection in our lives, but we have a choice in how we handle it. You can’t avoid rejection. The sooner you find out that rejection is a part of life, the better off you will be. It’s how you deal with it that sets you apart.

A prime example comes from Charlie Brown himself. In the first panel of a classic strip, he tells his buddy, “I learned something in school today. I signed up for folk guitar, computer programming, stained glass, art, shoemaking and a natural foods workshop.

“Instead, I got spelling, history, arithmetic, and two study periods.”

The next panel shows Charlie’s pal asking, “So, what did you learn?”

In his infinite wisdom, Charlie replies, “I learned that what you sign up for in life, and what you get, are two different things.”

In my book, “We Got Fired! … and It’s the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us,” I featured businesswoman and author Deborah Rosado Shaw, who rose from poverty to create a multimillion-dollar umbrella-making business, Umbrellas Plus.

The secret of her success? As she described in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article some years ago, she learned to play beyond the rules.

Refused admission to law school 11 times, she went into sales, which led to the creation of her company. She offers the following advice on getting ahead:

• Be willing to sacrifice.

• Get used to fear.

• Know where you’re going.

• Enlist the help of a business coach or mentor.

• Be creative about what you want.

• Make noise.

• Trade what’s predictable for what’s possible.

I’ve dealt with plenty of rejection over the course of my career, and I always offer the same advice. I usually focus on sales rejection, which constitutes most of my dealings.

First, don’t take it personally. You must remember that the person isn’t rejecting you; they’re rejecting what you’re selling. Always leave the door open. I always thank the person I’m calling on because they took valuable time out of their day to meet or talk with me. I’m grateful because we never know if our paths might cross again.

My absolute biggest rule on rejection is to never say no for the other person. Don’t anticipate rejection because then you won’t even try, let alone give your best effort. If you don’t believe in what you are selling, how can you expect a prospect to buy it?

I’m careful to analyze every rejection. I always want to know why people say no, and I’m not afraid to ask.

It’s helpful to remember past achievements. Look back to your past successes. Never pass up an opportunity to hone your skills and be ready for better times.

Mackay’s Moral: As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I was being rejected from something good, I was being re-directed to something better.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.” He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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