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Ep. 012: How to Conquer Rejection (Even If You’re In a Sea of Self Doubt) — With John Benzick

Is the fear of rejection holding you back?

Hear John Benzick, the host of the Product Launch Rebel podcast, explain his “Top 8 Tips for Conquering Rejection.”

Listen to his specific proven methods on how he has reduced his chances of rejection by up to 75%, even while requesting things from investors, potential customers and other important people that don’t know him from Adam.

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The E-Guide Referenced In This Podcast Episode is Available Here

Podcast Transcript:

Greetings, Venture Superfly leaders, this is John Benzick from Venture, the website that helps you double your entrepreneurial courage, even if you don’t know what you’re doing!

Today, on the Product Launch Rebel podcast is just me, myself and I . . . I am my special guest today.

I will be talking about a topic that effects all of us, and not just those of you that are aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s a topic that I have presented live at in-person events, but never on my podcast. It’s one of my favorite topics and one that I’ve dealt with personally and extensively, especially since becoming an entrepreneur for the first time way back in 1999.

So what is that topic?

Well, it’s the topic of rejection.

More specifically, this episode will reveal my “Top 8 Tips on How to Conquer Rejection, even if you’re in a sea of self doubt.” (And please be aware that I have a free e-guide that can help you avoid rejection by up to 75% when requesting things from important people. The guide can be accessed through this episode page on the website.)

Get the Free E-Guide Here

Of course, we all experience rejection — even on a daily basis — and over time, we tend to find ways to avoid it. But, I think that’s wrong, because of course, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

So, why do I want to talk about rejection?

Well, one of the key reasons is that in my presentations to aspiring entrepreneurs on how to launch a business, I came to realize that even though I could teach people the nuts and bolts of launching a product or planning or starting business, one of the key hidden obstacles within most of the students, was their reluctance, or their fear of approaching people that could help them with their business. Or that fear of rejection or of looking stupid.

To get a new business off the ground requires talking to lots of people, and that makes you feel vulnerable, especially when you’re trying to figure things out and exposing your lack of knowledge on something.

You know, in the early stages of launching my first company, it was a clothing company, I was rejected from all sides; I was rejected by potential investors; I was rejected by retailers; I was rejected by people that I wanted to hire, and by potential business partners. It was rejection city.

During this arduous period, however, rejections became acceptances. I expanded, deepened and sharpened my skills. I learned more about business and myself than any other time in my life.

I found that there was no substitute for this kind of training. My MBA and previous employee-based learning was nothing compared to the real-life lessons of launching a business, and putting myself in difficult situations.

Most of us have heard the expression: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” My amendment to this has been, “Anything worth doing, is worth the risk of rejection.”

So, what are my thoughts on conquering rejection:

Well, I’ve concluded that there are really two ways to overcome rejection:

One way is to learn how to handle rejection when or after you’re rejected, and you will become rejected, because that’s a part of life.

The other way to conquer rejection, when you do take a risk, is to reduce the chance of rejection in the first place, or at least reduce rejection by a considerable degree based on how you approach the risk.

So these 8 tips that I offer are the things that I do, and I hope that at least a few of them will help you, too. Here we go . . .

Tip #1 (and I’m going to start off very broadly here): Choose to Live a Meaningful Life

You know, life is tough. The world and people and forces around you have their own interests that are different from yours. So you have to expect to get knocked around a lot, and thereby acquire lots of psychological bumps and bruises.

But if you choose to live a meaningful life, you fortify your ability to withstand those opposing or contrasting forces.

And I think that if you don’t consciously choose to make life meaningful, time can go by so quickly, that you can find yourself later in life, finding that what you did with your time was not very meaningful or personally transformative.

So I think the main point to this Tip #1, is that life is short. And with this life-is-short mentality, it pushes you outside your comfort zone, awakens you to a broader life context and creates a motivation that goes just beyond a quest for fun or security or safety. Because a quest for these things are ultimately not satisfying when life is over.

When all is said and done, you want to say that you’ve lived a meaningful life, you’ve explored the boundaries, principles and fringes of life and your self, and as a result, you see things that others don’t see, you’ve gained a richer understanding of things that others don’t fully understand, which can provide a higher level of contentment and purpose, I think, to make any risk you take, worth it.

I mean, just think of a period of time in your past, maybe if you went to college, maybe you studied too much and didn’t establish the relationships that you wish you could have, or conversely, maybe you didn’t study enough, and maybe dropped out because you saw college as an obstruction to watching TV or other forms of fun or entertainment.

And, of course, each person has their own definition of what a meaningful life consists of for them, but I think that the common thread is that it puts each individual into a zone that allows for more risk-taking, and resilience (or quicker recovery time), because whatever quest they’re on, it’s important to them, and is aligned with their values or beliefs.

Choosing to live a meaningful life can make the concept or feeling of failure far less relevant (and therefore less painful) to what you’re doing, because you’re really aiming for meaning, which overcomes any feelings of stupidity or embarrassment.

So, I hope that this first tip makes at least some sense to you, but for me it’s been one of the cornerstones to being able to deal with and conquer rejection.

So when I started my first company, Morphic, I thought I knew what I was up against, that my chances of success, at least according to general statistics, weren’t that great. But I didn’t want to just be an employee for a company, even I failed at my own thing, I wanted to explore the boundaries of what I was capable of . . . I wanted to live more meaningfully, whatever the result.

Tip #2: Be Grateful for What You Have

So for this Tip #2, I believe this is also another cornerstone to being able to conquer rejection.

Being grateful for what you have, and taking inventory on those people and things on a weekly basis, and really absorbing them into your psyche, can really fortify your commitment and resilience against any obstacles that confront us.

Most of us, I think, operate and live with a general feeling of insecurity, when we see others and the world around us, we see that we don’t measure up, that this other person has a bigger house, or nicer car, or a better education or better social skills or network or whatever, and as a result we feel a scarcity within ourselves, which limits our motivation to take a risk or to recover from a mistake, or to try something new.

But conversely, by taking inventory on the things that we do have – however small – the things that are available on our terms and under our control, and shining a light and placing weight on those things, whether it be a simple skill, or a family heritage or set of values, or a knack for something, or a particular thing that you’re good at . . . can really tip the scale in your favor. And help you realize that your quest for something that might seem risky, is really not that risky at all. Because you can really see that whatever you gain in addition to that, is icing on the cake.

If you reach or ask for or pursue something that you didn’t have in the first place, and you don’t get it the first time (for example, if you get rejected), you really don’t lose anything because you still have the things that you always had before you reached to get the other thing. So it’s true, you really have nothing to lose.

John Benzick and Keynote Speakers

So for me, recently I was at a conference alone, and I wanted to meet 8 different keynote speakers to invite them to be interviewed for my Inner World of Entrepreneurs interview series. Going up to 8 different speakers, 8 different times, one by one, in a crowd of people is not easy for me to do. (See image to the left that shows the keynote speakers that I met.)

In fact, I feel very insecure doing that sort of thing. But what I do before approaching someone is to take inventory about the great things that I have in my life, such as my wife, my family, my previous successes in getting interviews scheduled, or even the fact that I was a captain of my soccer team in high school.

These are things that lift me, give me the courage to go up to these people, because I think, well even if the person I’m approaching rejects me, at least I have this history of things, or list of current things that I’m grateful for, that they can’t take away from me.

So that’s tip #2.

Tip #3: Pursue Something That is Worth Getting Rejected For

So this is similar to my first and second tip. I was very conscious of this when I started my first company, the clothing company. I was very self aware at that time that if that company failed, I wanted that pursuit to be worth the failure.

Out of all of the things that I could launch, for me, a clothing company was something that I could feel better if I failed at it, because I knew that was something that was worth the attempt. I had other business ideas to consider at the time, but to me they weren’t worth it, even if I had succeeded to some degree.

I’m not sure if that makes sense to a lot of people, but I understood that launching a company was difficult, and that 9 out of 10 companies usually fail, so I thought, “okay, if I’m going to fail, I’ll at least want it to be a failure based on something that I can really commit to, learn from, and meet some great people.”

So, if you do get rejected or if you fail, that rejection should be more comfortable than living with the regret of not trying to do that thing in the first place. And I knew that even if I failed at that first company, I wouldn’t regret it, because it was something that I really, really wanted to do.

Okay, so onto tip #4.

Tip #4: Focus 100% on Helping People

Think about this, if your focus is 100% on helping other people (customers or potential customers for instance), and understanding them and their fears, frustrations, challenges, dreams and goals — truly helping those people accomplish what they need with what you’re offering, it takes you away from thinking about yourself, and your insecurities and fears of being rejected or fear of taking that risk.

And if you get rejected in that situation, at least you can take comfort in knowing that you were taking the high road for the right reasons, to help that person. You can feel good about that.

If your interests are pure in helping someone, then you shouldn’t feel any guilt or shame about it, right? Focusing 100% on helping people can make you far more resilient than if you’re more concerned about how you might look, or come across, etc.

Plus, even if you are rejected (and chances are you wouldn’t be rejected), the person or group that turns you down would still probably respect you for your attempt, and aiming for respect should be a good goal to have, or at least it’s a very good by-product.

Okay, on to tip #5 . . .

Tip #5: Grow Up in an Entrepreneurial Household

So this is sort of a goofy one, because not everyone, obviously, has grown up in an entrepreneurial household like I did. But I think it’s still instructive for those that seek to get better at becoming more resilient.

For me, growing up in an entrepreneurial household taught me a key thing first-hand, that doesn’t always come natural to those that have grown up in households where parents were employed.

My dad, who was an entrepreneur, and who was self-made to a large extent, could go up to people in stores or restaurants and ask for things that normal people just wouldn’t ask for. And he would do it in a way that was non-confrontational, trust-worthy and sincere, sort of disarming those that possessed what he was interested in. His approach wasn’t calculated or contrived in any way, it was just him being himself and being transparent and friendly in how he would inquire about things.

And often times, he would get what he wanted by using this approach, because people basically trusted his demeanor and gave him the benefit of the doubt, even if they didn’t know him, which was often the case.

One time when I was in high-school, we were at a pizza restaurant, it was a chain restaurant, and he walked in the back of the kitchen where the cooks were and started talking to employees in the back room; I can’t remember what it was about, but it was just a friendly discussion about the food equipment or something like that, and it really didn’t upset any of the employees, just because my Dad had a friendly natural inquiry about something and I think the art and natural authenticity of him doing that gave the employees assurance that he wasn’t there to cause a commotion, but just to inquire about something.

The point here, is that he wasn’t concerned about rejection.

It seemed to be the last thing on his mind. Instead, his sincerity of learning about something, or asking about something, was his main goal, and even if he was disallowed from his request, it wouldn’t prohibit him from doing it again somewhere else.

I think that most people that are not entrepreneurs have limitations or structures already in their mind that they shouldn’t do this sort of thing. They operate within a more traditional social set of rules.

But growing up in an entrepreneurial household, at least for me, exposes you to a mind-set where getting rejected isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s something far from it. And growing up in that environment, you observe and incorporate those things into your behavior in a second-hand sort of way.

This art of approaching people and requesting something without the fear of rejection.

Now, let’s move on to tip #6 . . .

Tip #6: When Asking for Something, Don’t Expect a “Yes” (in a World of “No’s”)

Now, this might seem counter-intuitive or against the common notion of today’s better-known Law of Attraction idea. But this is an approach I often take. Before I ask for something from a VIP, although I can come very prepared in my request, I expect them to say no.

By doing so, for me at least, it lowers my anxiety of requesting something from the person in the first place. Does that make any sense? I’ve already absorbed the real possibility of rejection. I’ve dealt with it emotionally ahead of time. And since I’ve done that, that anxiety or sense of high-stakes is not with me at the time of my request when I’m with that person making that request. And so I have less of a hint of anxious energy that I’m giving off, to spook the person or myself, when I approach them.

The reason I feel this way is because the fact seems to be, that the world and its people, basically, have their own very specific self interests. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just is. People are interested in different things. And the likelihood of the person you’re requesting something from could very well be rejection. That’s fine, you’re just trying to help them, after all, right?

My personal story about this is that about 11 years ago a company that I partially owned was looking for investors. I was at an upscale restaurant that was jam-packed during lunch, and I recognized one of the wealthier and more successful business people in our city, who also invested in companies, I didn’t know him (and he certainly didn’t know me) but I recognized him, sitting at a table with someone, having lunch.

The e-guide I mentioned at the beginning of this podcast gets into the details of this story, but to make a long story short, I really felt fear the idea of approaching this guy while he was having lunch in a packed restaurant. A guy that didn’t know me at all. But one of the things I did before approaching him and requesting a meeting with him was that I absorbed the idea that he could decline my request to schedule a meeting with him to discuss an investment opportunity. And once I dealt with that likelihood ahead of time, with my anxiety diffused, my approach to him was easier to execute.

It turns out that I did eventually get that meeting with him. And that story continues with my next tip, tip #7.

Tip #7: When Asking for Something, Don’t Aim for a “Yes” – Aim for Gaining Respect

Okay, you do want to get a “yes,” but when you aim for gaining respect from that person, your approach to implementing your request with that person, is different. Your goal is to gain quick trust with that person and so your approach to him or her takes careful planning. It doesn’t have to be major time-consuming planning, but it does take careful thought.

So getting back to my example of approaching the investor candidate at the busy restaurant, before I approached him I put myself in his shoes. I used empathy as a key tool here.

I thought about some positive things and negative things.

On the negative side, I thought it’s likely that this person feels that he doesn’t want to be interrupted having lunch. I also thought that, as a VIP, he probably gets a lot of requests from a lot of people, and that he might be a bit jaded and mistrusting of others that he doesn’t know, and thinking that people are always looking to get something from him.

Thinking about him in this way, helped shape my thinking on how to approach him. I thought to myself, “okay, I can understand if he felt that way.” But, with that said, then I thought how could I, or what would be the best way to approach him to nearly ensure that he would quickly feel comfortable with me if I were to approach him. If there was a way to approach him and avoid stirring up those negative feelings in him, what would my approach look like?

On the positive side, however, I also thought that it was reasonable to assume that this gentleman wanted to be “in the know” about cool business opportunities, especially if there was evidence of real promise about that opportunity. And since he was an older guy, I thought that maybe, just maybe, he might be impressed by, or have instant respect for, a younger guy having the guts to courteously and respectfully approach him in a very busy and complicated environment.

Well, like I said previously, I did approach him at that restaurant, and I did end up meeting with him at his office within a few weeks after that day at lunch. There are some additionally juicy tidbits to share about that story, which I’d love to talk about, but perhaps you can email me to inquire about those things or, maybe we could talk on the phone about it.

But with that said, let’s now move on to the final tip, tip # 8, which is really in the category of how to avoid being rejected in the first place (even when you’re taking a risk), and it’s actually the nuts and bolts of the approach I used to successfully schedule a meeting with the investor guy at the restaurant.

Tip #8: When Asking for Something, Study and Know Your Audience and Plan Your Approach

I’m not sure what that sounds like to you, but it’s really, really simple, quick to do and enormously effective.

What I mean by studying your audience and planning your approach can be best communicated with an e-guide that I’ll made available to you now on my website at where this podcast episode is located (episode #12).

But suffice it to say, this two-step approach has really, really helped me reduce my rejection rate by, I would say 75%, when I approach VIPs.

I’ll go through the method very quickly on this podcast episode, but the e-guide gets into better examples and stories, so I encourage you to check that out.

So, there are five key steps to reduce your rejection rate following this method. It includes five, simple fill-in-the-blank steps that I learned when I started my career in advertising when creating an advertisement or a marketing campaign. Because an advertisement is a message designed to influence or convince a potential customer. And so this quick 5- or 10-minute planning approach that I will share with you now, is designed to help you influence someone (to avoid rejection).

And what I do when I’m confronted with an opportunity to speak to someone but want to avoid rejection, is to quickly write down these 5 key headings, maybe on a napkin or piece of paper or something, to focus and organize my thoughts. And this is literally what I did in about 5 minutes when I saw the business guy investor at the busy restaurant.

The first of five things I quickly wrote down was:

Who Am I Talking To?

Who is this person? Within the context of your request to this person, what is his or her situation, what are her interests, her goals, her dreams, frustrations or fears. List those things down quickly, maybe in bullet-point form, just to root yourself in their perspective. And really, the things you write down can get pretty basic, such as that they want to feel respected, they want to below to something greater than themselves, they want to be aware of opportunities that will benefit them, these are all good things. There are other details about this in the e-guide.

The key point here is that you’re igniting your empathy about that person, which is important when approaching and talking with them.

The second of five things that I quickly wrote down was:

What’s The Key Idea to Be Communicated?

This is really defining your very specific ultimate main message, or point. It might be something like, I have a business opportunity that could benefit your business or grow your wealth.

The third of five things that I quickly wrote down was:

What Must My Message Accomplish?

This is your primary overall goal or mission, or key takeaway that you’d like to see after you communicate your message to the person or audience. It might be something like, I want this VIP to respect me, be motivated with my offer and schedule a meeting with me.

The fourth heading is labeled as:

How Will They (The VIP) Believe This?

Here you think about and write down the top 3 points that support your message to the person or group you’re talking to. These top 3 points are your strongest most compelling support points to give credibility and trust-worthiness to what your key idea is. This backs up your key idea. And it might be things like, if your message is aimed at an investor, something like: our product has sold faster than Red Bull energy drink at retail locations like Dick’s Sporting Goods, or Target or something (of course, your support points have to be true and honest).

And finally, the last of the 5 elements is labeled as:

Executional Considerations

Executional Considerations is basically the style in which you use to implement your approach

Relaxed eye contact, looking and feeling confident, friendly, trusted, those types of things.

So, like I said, please check out the e-guide that’s associated with this podcast on the Venture Superfly website to get a better idea of how to leverage this sort of killer approach to get VIPs to offer you something that you need, without being rejected, or at least significantly reducing the chances of being rejected.

Okay, we’re at the end of the podcast, so in closing, I want to add that, even when you do get rejected, there are two additional benefits to being rejected.

First, in my experience in looking back, rejection can help clarify what’s most important to you. When challenged, you’re forced to discern your core beliefs. You’re pressed to think, “What do I really believe?” and “Is this really that important to me?” If you realize that these things are less important than previously thought, then reduce your emphasis on them. Instead, focus on matters that are more meaningful to you.

Second, discomfort and pain often results in re-birth. And rejection is a form of discomfort, obviously.

Although many people seek harmony, I welcome tension. The concept of re-birth as an outcropping from pain applies to every living organism. For example, your fingers first bleed when learning guitar; a blade of grass struggles through a cement crack to reach nutrient sunshine; the severe pain of childbirth soon leads to collective joy. Pain can lead to new greater things!

Finally (and obviously you know this), but remember that fear limits our progress. But many of our fears are blown wildly out of proportion. If we get rejected, it’s often not as bad as expected. And by demonstrating that we can rebound from rejection (or better yet, that it doesn’t effect us) it can engender respect among others. And it makes us stronger.

So don’t let the threat of rejection overpower your courage to advance. Challenge a small fear today. It will likely eliminate a more painful remorse later.

Thanks for listening, check out the e-guide I was talking about, and I look forward to connecting during the next podcast episode.

The E-Guide Referenced In This Podcast Episode is Available Here

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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