Notes from a recent course I took at the Sivananda Yoga Center on “Living Without Fear” (May 2009):
Rejection Story 1: For one hour I was debating: Should I put my arm around her? Should I not put my arm around? There were only 20 minutes left in the movie — I knew I had to make my move! She was really sweet, interesting, smart and attractive. I kept shifting myself closer to see if she leaned in at all… Alas, no such luck. I thought to myself:
What the hell…I got nothing to lose. What should I do?
Go for a kiss? Nope, she didn’t lean in. And, let’s be honest, I was too scared.
Hold her hand? Nope, you are not in first grade anymore.
Put your arm around her? Ehh, why not? What’s the worse that could happen?
15 minutes left in the movie! I slowly raised my arm and put it around her shoulders…
She leaned forward away from my arm. My arm was hanging in the air. #Rejected.
Rejection Story 2: “Mom, I really want to play baseball! Can we find a team I can play on?” I was 13 and all the cool kids were playing baseball in the Babe Ruth League. The season started two weeks before, but my Mom talked the heads off the coaches until they let me play.
New baseball glove. New baseball bat. New track suit. I went to the first practice. I was the lone tall and lanky Indian kid amongst future baseball stars. While the future Hall-of-Famers were staring at me, the coach said, “Go to Right Field.” So, I went to Right Field.
The coach hit a pop-up straight to me… I ran towards it. It went over my head.
The coach hit another pop-up straight to me. I ran backwards. It fell five feet in front of me.
The coach hit another pop-up straight to me. It hit my glove and bounced right out.
It was like a scene from The Sandlot. My ego was battered and bruised. The rest of the day was a blur of baseballs flying past me and swinging through air. The coach was kind and didn’t ask me to quit, but I quit. I rejected myself. #Rejection
Rejection Story 3: Almost 8 years ago, I read about the One Laptop Per Child, a project by the MIT Media Lab, to supply every child in the world with a laptop. I thought of this was the equivalent of what Andrew Carnegie did with US public libraries but for every child in the world. 7 years ago, I read Tracy Kidder’s Mountain Beyond Mountains that describes the plight of Paul Farmer to heal the poor. 6 years ago, I read Muhammed Yunus’s autobiography and became passionate about microfinance and questioning the economic models we collectively have put in place.
All of these books stirred something in my stomach to figure out how to do good and earn money. My vision to make this a reality was to begin a pro bono consulting practice at the firm I was working at. I did the research, developed the business model, developed the partnerships, got projects lined up and presented everything to the CEO. He loved the idea, but was not willing to invest any money into it. #Rejected
Rejection can be humbling. Rejection can be a teacher. Rejection can be scary. Rejection can be funny. Rejection can hurt. Reject can be [you name it].
One of the most common conversations any of us have with anyone is about rejection (i.e. Did I get what I wanted or not?) Since, we all talk about rejection so much, I thought I would write out the steps of rejection:
(1) Want Something: To get rejected, you need to want something — it can be emotional, mental, physical or spiritual – a job, a new role, feeling needed, feeling respected, feeling validated, feeling smart, feeling peaceful, etc.
For example, at one point I wanted to start a company, KarmaCrunch, the TechCrunch of Social Ventures (i.e. a one-stop place for business models that are doing good and earning money), but, in addition to this, I wanted the feeling of doing something interesting and different.
(2) Create Expectations: Expectations, expectations and expectations. Every moment we think, we are creating some grandiose visions, plans and expectations!
In the case of KarmaCrunch, I wanted all businesses across the world to leverage KarmaCrunch to develop innovative strategies to do good and earn money. Why did I want to do this? Because I wanted to change the world. Why did I want to change the world? Ego. Nothing more.
(3) Pursue that Something: The chase. We all love the chase — it gives us excitement, it gives us motivation, and it gives us the feeling that happiness or fulfillment is just within reach.
With KarmaCrunch, I created the business plan, found investors and flew to India for a week to meet with 15+ social ventures.
(4) Learn What Happened & Create a Story: At some point, we learn our fate – whether our hopes and expectations are validated. Then, we make up a story about why it happened and what it means and use this story to dictate what we want or believe we can have in the future.
On my plane ride back from a whirlwind trip to India in one week – I look at the situation: I had lots of support, investors, business partners, but I was feeling tired, feeling burnt out and feeling like I wanted to quit. I quit. I rejected myself. #Rejected
Life is a game filled with risks that you may win or lose — where you may get rejected or not. Whether you are interviewing for a job, asking for a raise, requesting something from a friend, saying how you feel, putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, etc. — there is a singular moment in that climactic moment, where your expectations — the sum of all the thoughts and emotions about all the grand stories about why you are taking x, y or z risk – are affirmed or shot down.
A thought I have had lately is “Am I being rejected enough?” In other words, am I playing games for the things I want? On the whole, I think I am taking sincere risks that put my ego in-danger around 10% of the time (Albeit different risks, have different weights, but the question still holds).
What games are you playing? Are you playing the “I am afraid of being rejected game?” Are you playing the game of looking at the present through the lens of my past? Are you playing the game of looking at my present through the lens of my friends and family? Are you playing the game “I want it my way and no other way?” Or, are you playing the game “I want to try your way and learn something new.” Are you playing the “I want to protect my ego game?” Or, are you playing the “I am going to let my ego go for a little.”
There have been so many times where I do not say something, because I am scared of the reaction that might cause in someone else. Or, that I don’t go talk to someone because I don’t want he or she to blow me off. Or, I don’t say how I feel because I question whether that feeling is valid. I call this game “preserve my ego and make sure you never have to face rejection.” What about you?
Are you playing games that you will win every time? Are you playing chess with my two-year-old niece? Are you playing games that you may lose? Perhaps the following holds true: greater risk, greater reward; lower risk, lower reward. There is nothing wrong with playing games you will win every time, the point is to simply recognize what games you are playing. Reflect on your games.
What games do you need to play to get what you want? For example, what games do you have to play to climb Mount Everest? If you are going to climb Mount Everest, you have to play a lot of different games: Game #1: Be disciplined. Game #2: Be confident. Game #3: Be consistent.
Your Mount Everest can be losing x pounds, speaking your mind, finding a job, running a marathon, being in peaceful relationships your loved ones, being happy despite outside circumstances, etc.
To really get what I want, I am realizing I need to play different games: Game #1: Be patient. Game #2: Be mindful. Game #3: Be giving with my time.
Whether it be giving cookies to strangers, questioning my wants, questioning what I know, making commitments that I am scared to make, giving myself fully to others, being completely vulnerable, or writing this blog – I want to feel more comfortable with rejection.
What about you?
* Photo by Caro Wallis