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Episode 005 - The Rejection Special 2018 - The Evil Tester Show

In this podcast we consider rejection, and how to stop it from stopping you.

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Show Notes

TLDR; Everyone experiences rejection. We need strategies for how we respond to it.

Have you ever been rejected?

Of course. Everyone has. The problem is not being rejected. The problem is how do we handle being rejected.

Summary Notes


Everyone experiences rejection.

  • Your defect got closed and not fixed
  • You didn’t get a pay rise
  • You didn’t get accepted to talk at a conference
  • You didn’t get the job

Rejection is a daily phenomenon.

And the more you put yourself out there, the more rejection you will face.

  • The more you post on your blog, or create videos, the more negative comments you will receive
  • The more types of videos you release, the more thumbs down you will receive
  • The more work you pitch for, the more you will not make the sale
  • The more interview you go for, the more you will be rejected for

The obvious conclusion then, to avoid rejection, is:

  • do less
  • create less
  • stay in your box
  • do not try and advance

The obvious conclusion then leads us to the wrong action.

So we do not try to avoid rejection.

We learn to handle rejection.

Lessons from Sales

A common (meaning I can’t remember where I first read or heard this) phrase to describe selling is:

The right offer, to the right person, at the right time.

Even if you have the best product in the world, at the cheapest price it has ever been or will be, and you still won’t sell it to someone who doesn’t know anything about it or care about it.

The great thing about this phrase is that it has at least 3 index points.

  • specific offer
  • specific person
  • specific time

Which means, although you might receive a rejection. It does not mean that you will receive a rejection from the same person, with the same offer, at a different time.

Perhaps if you had adjusted your offer: how you presented it, what features you talked about, what benefits you extolled; to that person at that time, you might have made the sale.

This phrase has built in defence against giving up. And indeed, if we look at successful sales people, very often it is the most presistent sales person that wins the sale.

Stay Down

Have you seen the fight scene in Cool Hand Luke?

It might not be the best example of handling rejection since there was no change in strategy adopted after each knock down. But it is a reminder of persistence.

When you receive rejection. You have to decide if you are going to persist on your path or not.

And that comes down to:

Do you believe in what you are trying to achieve?

If you do, then no matter what knock downs you experience, you can keep going.

It won’t be the rejection that stops you. You will stop when you no longer believe in what you are trying to achieve.

Extended Notes

You will receive rejection in many parts of your life. Happens to everyone. Everyone. The important thing is how you react to it. It is possible to allow a rejection to knock you flat and suck the motivation out of you so you give up. You have to understand that that reaction is a choice. And giving up, is probably the wrong choice.

In this podcast we will cover other choices you can make and strategies you can adopt to deal with and handle rejection.

  • How to develop resilience
  • How to handle rejection
  • Sales is “get the right offer, in front of the right person, at the right time”.
  • Rejection is built in to the sales process.
  • Nature abhors a vacuum how to avoid doubts filling a confidence vacuum

Show Notes

I want to talk about rejection.

You will receive rejection in many parts of your life:

  • You want a raise, you don’t get it
  • You want a promotion, you don’t get it
  • You apply for a job, you don’t hear anything
  • You interview for a job, you don’t get it
  • You want to talk a conference, you don’t get accepted
  • You want to attend an event, you don’t get in
  • You write something, people don’t like it
  • You create something, you get bad review
  • You want to write an article, people don’t want it

Happens to everyone. Everyone.

The important thing is how you react to it.

It is possible to allow a rejection to knock you flat and suck the motivation out of you so you give up.

You have to understand that that reaction is a choice. And giving up, is probably the wrong choice.

What do you choose to do?

Every knockback makes me work harder

 - every bad review on amazon
 - every lost sales pitch
 - every failed job interview
 - every rejection - publishers, conferences

I don’t know if that’s healthy. I keep having to work harder.

But I do know what is not healthy.

Taking push back and someone else’s criticism to heart. Is not healthy. That is a mental disaster waiting to happen.

No-one can punish you better than your own brain. It can just cycle things round, and round. It can wait till you are about to go to sleep and pounce on you like a ravenous tiger. And it can just keep making new stuff up, new reasons behind the rejection, and each reinforcement makes it easier to pop back.

Sometimes a rejection just makes me more committed to seeing whatever it is through.

There is a four and a half minute fight scene in The film Cool Hand Luke. Where Paul Newman is continually punched in the face and knocked down. He doesn’t have a chance. He gets knocked down. He gets back up again. It’s a good motivational segment.

To do that, you have to have an end goal in mind, and the will to see it through.

Sometimes a rejection makes me work harder to introspectively find any flaws or gaps in my skill set and I practice more.

Sometimes it makes me change my communication strategy and try again.

How do we build resilience strategies?

And one way of building a resilience strategy is to provide evidence that you have succeeded in the past.

One way it to index the reasons. The article doesn’t suck - that particular person, on that particular day, didn’t find value in that particular part of the article.

Create opportunities to receive more positive reinforcement feedback. If you go to a meetup or a conference then you might get lucky and someone will tell you how much they liked your article. IF you ask for feedback in your article - which parts of this article resonate with you? leave a comment and let me know. Which experiences do you have that are similar? leave a comment and let me know. Perhaps you’ll get more than the trolls commenting.

Create a list of todo items which you have created that you are using to build your future. And when you get a knock back - go straight to that list and get back to work creating your future.

You can build up the confidence and belief in yourself and your current capabilities, and a belief in your future capabilities. Where you are better and stronger and more skilled and more resilient and more flexible.

One way it to believe in the thing you are trying to achieve so much that it doesn’t matter how much knock back you get. You keep pushing it through.

Lessons Learned from Sales

Now it could be that you are engaged in a sales process:

  • Pitching a book
  • Submitting a conference talk
  • etc.

Sales is “get the right offer, in front of the right person, at the right time”.

Rejection is built in to the sales process.

If you don’t make the sale then its either:

  • The offer
  • The person
  • The time

The offer might be:

  • The product
  • The price
  • The communication of the features

But it is the offer in relation to the person:

  • That person doesn’t see the value

But the relation relates to the timing as well.

There are a lot of factors in there.

Which is often why a successful sales person is simply the most persistent.

You might have to change your strategy.

  • Change the offer
    • develop new skills,
    • mention fewer skills
    • Communicate differently
  • Change the person
    • target different companies
    • Different industries
    • Different conference
  • Change the time
    • Apply again
    • Apply a different way

You might have to change your strategy.

Normal Life

You can get knock backs in normal life. Just everyday work.

  • You don’t get positive feedback on your work.
  • You put a lot of effort into something and the only feedback is “this bit is wrong” ignoring all the parts that are right

It is easy to focus on the negative, on the empty space in there. Nature abhors a vacuum. Any time there is a vaccuum something rushes in to fill it. When you get a negative vaccum all your doubts and insecurities can flood in there to fill it.

Instead, fill it with your evidence and your future.

I worked at an organisation once. They title me in charge of “Quality” with no actual way of doing that.

And at the same time started trying to implement “Lean Six Sigma” to improve quality and the call went out to do six sigma training. I thought I was a shoe-in. But no. I was rejected for the training despite them wanting me to implement it. That was a pretty bad knock back because that gave me the picture of an unvalued role, no support, and no future in that company.

So I borrowed all the books I could on the topic from people who were doing the training - because the training was taking a lof of time, was boring, required lots of travel, was slow (I managed to find all the negatives in something that I have previously marked as positive). Essentially I learned the topic on my own so that it couldn’t steam role over me. And I managed to get involved in some of the group sessions for people doing the training. I learned that I found no real value in the training and I disagreed with many of the things taught. Bit if ’they won’t train me’, I will train me. I gained. The company lost my respect and I left not long afterwards.

Creative life

Anytime you start creating blog posts, or videos, or conference talks. Whatever.

Someone, somewhere is going to give you some negative commentary.


Examine the comment and see if there is anything you can build on. Ignore all their pejorative statements. Rewrite it removing those and get to the core of their comment. And if there is nothing there you can work on then leave it. If there is then take your rephrased todo and act on it.

Much of the time the comments are going to be empty of stuff you can work on. I usually just mark it down to that person, at that time, having a bad moment. And move on. Much of the time comments are a reflection of the commentor and not on your work. Sometimes the comments aren’t even about your work. Your work just ’triggered’ something in them that they are commenting on .

If you have shared your experience, or stuff you have done. Then you are on solid ground.

Haters are going to hate. Deal with it and move on.

“Their” Feedback

Some rejection is described with reasons but when they are entirely subjective and not actionable

  • We have to ignore it
  • e.g. a bad review on amazon, or a blog post that doesn’t like your work
  • Rejection for a job because “you’re not a good culture fit"

Some rejection has no description

  • A refund with no detail
  • No response to your job application
  • A templated pro-forma response when you ask for a reason
  • We have to ignore it
    • You might want to introspectively analyse if there is something you can tweak for the future, but there is nothing actionable here so you have to ignore it.

Some rejection you believe is wrong:

  • I received knock back on my Selenium book from publishers because there were no selenium books on the market and I was told they didn’t think there was a market.
  • Some of the publisher’s stopped returning my emails
  • Some gave me a rejection of “it’s not for us” - possibly culture fit, possibly pro-forma cut and paste
  • I self published because I believed it was an important topic and there was a market
  • When you believe a rejection is wrong
    • Double down
    • Work harder
    • Make the sales proposition even better
  • If you are creating then chances are you can self publish
    • If your conference talk is rejected, record it on a phone and put it on youtube
    • Blog about it
    • Fund your idea or startup via kickstarter
    • Self publish on Amazon
    • Incrementally self publish on leanpub
    • Create and get your stuff out there

But be careful about changing your strategy based on the feedback that you get.

  • The next person might respond to your original offer
  • They might be trying to fob you off.
  • They might still not buy because there were other reasons.

Change your strategy because of what you believe. Not because of subjective feedback.


There is so much more we could cover here but…

Rejection is a normal part of trying to do “the next thing”, to move on to something else, to create something.

If you dwell on each rejection then you don’t move on to the next process, the next step, the next strategy, the next action that can lead to rejection which means you don’t move forward.

Rejection gives you the opportunity to try again, try again differently, or try another thing entirely.

Each rejection means you’ve taken another step forward.

Keep moving.