I graduated in 2010 with a degree in Finance. My degree is folded up to fit inside a small folio organizer. I haven’t used it yet, but I sure did try.
For a year, I searched for jobs. For a year, I was rejected at the point of application, the first interview, or the second interview. These companies didn’t believe that I was worth it, or else they were in financial trouble, or else they thought someone else could do a better job.
I grit my teeth for the first few months, but my jaw muscles got tired.
How Rejection Changed My Path
I was ready to settle. I was a 43-year-old woman, ready to be with anyone in order to get that ring and not be alone. Only, I was 24 and I was courting companies, not men. Still, it was similar.
I looked at my degree and it read, “Stephen Guise, B.S.B.A. Finance, Magnum Cum Laude: May Be Redeemed For Job.”
Excellent! I would use the money to enjoy my life outside of work. This seems to be the plan for many others given job satisfaction surveys (see pie chart). It was my plan all along, until I was rejected repeatedly.
When you’re rejected, especially repeatedly, it’s like the world saying, “meh” to you. It hurts, but if you believe in yourself as I do in myself, it doesn’t hurt as much as it makes you mad and confused.
“Why can’t anyone else see my potential?!”
~ Frustrated Stephen (2010 Edition)
The above quote has been my life’s theme song since graduating, and for a year, I didn’t do anything except keep applying for jobs. This was the thing to do, and if I had kept going, I would hopefully have one by now. But I started to not want one. Rejection did that to me. It made me say, “Well, maybe I don’t want YOU either!”
Yeah, I was bitter. But the experience did one other important thing—it made me question my path.
Rejection: it makes you question the path you took to get there, and if you want to try again.
Was a “normal job” what I really wanted? This was the question I finally asked. I say “finally” because I never allowed myself to ask it before. It was too risky to even consider another path. I had no experience or starting capital to make me think I could start a business.
Small Beginnings Come From Big Ends
I had been writing Facebook notes about life for a few years. I loved to write them, and some people really connected with the ideas. I clearly remember the night I sat in my Charlottesville apartment brainstorming domain names.
My friend was working 70+ hours a week at two jobs, and I didn’t have one. That was the night that I registered the Deep Existence domain. I knew nothing about blogging, but I wanted to share my ideas with the world, and explore personal development.
This wasn’t a ticket out of jobless misery as much as it was a way for me to fulfill my need to do something myself. I had to create something that I had complete control over, because I was really sick of having my fate decided for me, especially because it wasn’t a fate of having to travel the world extensively.
Fact: You Don’t Need A Resume To Blog
Being stupid, I was working 80 hours a week on the blog and not applying for as many jobs. I submitted my first guest post to Srinivas at The Skool Of Life and he accepted it. Later, I sent this post to Problogger.net, one of the top websites in the world, and they accepted it. I danced that night. It got my tiny little blog some exposure and I understood that if you write great content and get it in front of enough people, you can make a difference in people’s lives.
I was hooked, even if this venture brought no financial gain, because my articles were judged on their own merit! I didn’t need a resume. It wasn’t dependent on being related to the CEO or memorizing a speech about how my greatest flaw is that I’m too detail-oriented. It didn’t require me to omit that a crazy customer accused me of being on drugs.
Oh yeah. That.
Working at Staples, I was asked if I was on drugs following an unnecessarily tense discussion on magnetic storage. I mean, seriously, when has magnetic storage ever been this exciting? I mentioned this experience in the second round of interviews for a mall marketing job. I didn’t get the job, haha.
They asked me about a trying experience that I handled well. That experience made me upset, and I handled it very well. Perfect! But to them, it was, “we can’t hire this guy, because at least one person in the world thinks he’s on drugs!”
And yet, I just told you that story and it probably made this post more interesting. Blogging is the best!
I’m not cut out for job interviews. I’m honest. I hate the trite questions and the pressure to show my “best self,” which only means you have to mold yourself to fit the prototype of the
Class L264 Workbot ideal employee.
Is it better to have someone who will tell you anything to get a job or a person who is willing to tell you the truth despite how it might come across? Don’t answer yet. Wait until the first guy steals from your company.
Another question they asked me was how good I was at multi-tasking. I told them that nobody can multi-task well, but that I was adept at focusing and refocusing as needed. I know. I’m fully aware of why I didn’t get the job, but I would have hired me. 🙂
I don’t want to poison the whole well though. Some people, including those from companies, appreciate honesty. A friend got pulled over one time for running a stop sign. When the officer questioned him, he said, “I always run that stop sign,” and he got off unticketed for being honest!
Meanwhile, after I wrote the second post on Deep Existence, a couple told me that my blog was changing their lives, and they were really making changes! It was interesting to compare this with the hoop-jumping required to land a soul-killing job doing menial work for change. I wasn’t making any money blogging and still don’t directly (I use it as a platform to generate interest in my products), but I found it interesting nonetheless.
Finally, on the work front, I landed a job at Lowes for $10 an hour. But my first day on the sales floor disgusted me to the point I felt sick. It wasn’t the job, it was me. I had changed, and the only way I can explain it was that being there felt like I was burning my dreams at the stake. It wasn’t a choice. I had to leave.
How Rejection Reignited This Blog
Deep Existence has been growing fast since last year. What was the cause of this recent growth? You might not believe it, but it was this comment:
“You are complete bull kelp.”
Ouch! Ok, fine. It’s possible he didn’t call me the seaweed which grows in coastal waters, but I used to curse as a kid because it was cool, so now I don’t do it; is the word “cool” even cool anymore?
That little sentence made a big difference. It was in response to my take on the Law Of Attraction (I think the LOA is complete bull kelp), and my first official piece of hatemail. If you’re the one who sent this message, thank you. I was feeling discouraged at the time, and this comment nearly made me quit. I was so close.
When you’re at a tipping point like this, you quit or you try harder. I decided to try harder. I began writing more thanks to a new productivity strategy I was using called Mini Habits. My efforts paid off when a post I wrote went viral on Dumb Little Man and Lifehacker. It was read by about 200,000 people and shared several thousand times. It proved to me that I was capable of writing content with broad appeal and that I’d come a long way as a writer. From that spark and with my writing mini habit, I began writing guest posts consistently and readership surged.
I Needed Rejection First
The interesting thing to me is how moderate success would have been the worst for me. What would have happened if I got that mall marketing job? It would have made me complacent, because when you’re succeeding at a moderate or even low level, you don’t question things as much. You’ll think, “I’m succeeding a little bit, so this must be my place.”
When you’re rejected, over and over and over again, you start to question everything. This reevaluation can lead to your biggest breakthrough. Questioning assumptions is how I discovered mini habits, which have changed my life in a number of ways. It took complete frustration and failure for me to get to the point of trying one push-up and seeing what happens from that.
I consider this blog a success, as it has helped a lot of people grow. It also served as a platform that gave my book, Mini Habits, a chance to be seen (a luxury so many writers don’t have). And Mini Habits has been a phenomenal success, selling more than 20,000 copies in the first nine months.
Without rejection, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t mean that as a cheap “the past brings us to the present” kind of way. I mean that I would literally not have started this blog, written Mini Habits, and changed my own and others’ lives in the process.
For that reason alone, I have to say it.
I love rejection.
The subscriber-only message on 4/1/14 expands upon this post! It really does! This is not an April Fool’s joke!
The expanded content will explain why rejection can bring us more than motivation and how to use it to your advantage. Join Deep Existence to read the rest.