Rejection Is A Bitch

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That’s the way the Cookie Crumbles…

According to research conducted with MRI the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.  Psychologically speaking, our brains deal with both in the same way.  It is any wonder then that we try so hard to avoid rejection.  However, from a personal growth perspective, it’s actually beneficial for us to put ourselves in situations where we can get rejected.  Why would you do that to yourself, you ask?  It’s all about building resilience.

One of my comfort zone challenges is to start a profitable business.  Unfortunately this is not that story.   Apparently they say that in order to be successful in business, first you have to fail – so I guess in that respect you could say that I am at least part of the way there.

Late last year my favourite uncle died from cancer.  Despite knowing how ill he was, his death affected me in a way I was not expecting.  I left work early after getting the phone call and I went home and cried and cried.  Then a strange thing happened, I felt the need to bake.  Let’s call it ‘comfort baking’… hey, it’s gotta be better than comfort eating right?   So I therapeutically baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies and took them into the office the next day.

As a result I had the idea to sell freshly baked biscuits to offices on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly subscription.  Wookies {Work Cookies} was born! What a great idea I thought, I’m going to be a cookie magnate for sure! Everyone around me was so supportive.  So I baked and baked until I had perfected my recipes: a burnt butter choc chip, a luxurious chewy ANZAC and a melt in your mouth buttery shortbread.  I then went to work on taking pretty pictures, creating a brand, a logo, and a pretty damn impressive website (if I do say so myself).   But once all that was done I actually had to go out and sell my product.  Yikes!

From what I can tell (being married to someone that has successfully started a business), being an entrepreneur is the mother of all comfort zone challenges.  It seems that every day you are putting yourself and your ego on the line.  I recently heard someone say that “When you’re in a corporate job, you have to ask your boss for a pay increase once a year …, once you have your own business, you have to ask for the sale every day…”  Some days you get a yes, and other days you flat out get rejected.

Sometimes though, the hardest part is actually asking.  For weeks I had messed about with what I thought was ‘setting up a business’, but all I was doing was the fun stuff.  And unfortunately procrastination does not a business make.  Once I got to the ‘Now what?’ stage (after re-writing the copy on the website 5 times of course) my husband kindly suggested that I actually go out and SELL my cookies.  To like, a real person.

I’ve been in sales before and I hated it.  After spending just over a year selling managed funds for a living I had convinced myself that I was ‘just not a good salesperson’.  So the idea of having to knock on doors and convince people to buy from me was intimidating at best, and terrifying at worst.  But I managed to tell myself that this time around I would be selling something that I actually believed in (sorry Goldman Sachs).  And rather than convincing people, I would be giving them an opportunity to buy something that they would absolutely LOVE (provided they hadn’t heard the bad news about sugar, eherm…). The only thing I didn’t think about was that putting your heart and soul into something also puts your heart and soul on the chopping block.

I decided that the way forward was to give out free trial jars of Wookies with the hope that I could sign customers up for an ongoing subscription once they had tasted how freaking amazing they were.  So I baked 5 batches of chocolate chip cookies and packaged them into their beautifully branded Wookie jars and headed to North Sydney.  As I walked in to the first office my heart was beating so hard that I was sure that you could see it through my shirt.  My hands were shaking, and so was my voice.  “Hi, I’m Jane form Wookies, Work Cookies…” I gave my nervous spiel.

The girl at reception was very sweet, but basically said ‘thanks but no thanks’.  My heart sank and my negative self-talk started.  ‘This is a stupid idea, why would anyone buy my cookies, I’m just a home baker, I’m not good enough for anyone to pay money for them.”  But I had 5 jars of 30 cookies in the back of my car, what was I going to do with 150 cookies?  So I took a few deep breaths and went into the next office, with my heart rate a bit slower and a more confident spiel.  The receptionist was so enthusiastic, and was genuinely excited to take a trial jar.  Woohoo!  I walked out of there with the biggest smile on my face.  My confidence was through the roof, it was such a rush.  I went into 9 offices in total that day and gave out 5 trial jars, not a bad hit rate.   Then again I was giving away free cookies!

When I went back a week later to collect jars and get a commitment for subscriptions, three were a polite but definite no, but two of the offices said they were interested in taking delivery every fortnight.  I was so excited, and my dreams of cookie world domination seemed to be that much closer.  Unfortunately neither of my potential customers sent back an order form.  That hit my confidence pretty hard and I got very despondent about the whole venture.  It turned out that my work place became my biggest (only) customer, and I continued Wookies for a few months.  I eventually realised that I enjoyed baking less when it was done under obligation.  Plus I didn’t get that same feel good factor of ‘giving’ and ‘sharing’ my baking with others.  Also from an economic standpoint it seemed to be a big effort for very little reward.  So as it stands today, the Wookies idea has been put on the shelf.

I’m not sure whether Wookies would have been successful had I picked myself back up and kept persevering, but regardless of that, starting Wookies wasn’t a completely wasted experience. I learned a lot from my brief foray into the business world.  I certainly gained a new respect for small business owners.  However, the key realisation was how important resilience is in business.  The ability to pick yourself up after being rejected, to not take it personally and keep going can be the difference between success and failure.  Rejection is a normal part of business and a normal part of life.  But it’s NOT personal.  It’s not a judgement on who you are as a person.  It’s about how what you have to offer fits with someone else’s needs, and whether they personally value what you have to offer.  It’s about THEM, not YOU.

In business, as in life, we have to risk rejection in order to achieve what’s most important to us.   By experiencing rejection regularly and building and strengthening pathways in your brain, you build resilience and reduce the pain reaction in your brain.  Being able to push past the fear of rejection will build your confidence and allow you to do things you never knew you were capable of.  I feel like this is one comfort zone challenge I am going to keep persevering at, but hopefully the more I do it the easier it will get.  I don’t want to let fear hold me back anymore.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Love Jane xx

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