Monthly Archives: April 2013

Want to Succeed? Get Used to Rejection

how to handle rejection

I have to admit, sales and the process of selling both come pretty naturally to me – a fact that I’m incredibly grateful for, as these talents have helped me to build a career and grow the different businesses I’m involved in.

That said, when I tell people that I’m in sales, I invariably hear one reaction over and over again: “Oh, I couldn’t do that – I couldn’t handle the rejection!”

Here’s the thing…  Rejection is something that we all have to deal with.  Maybe you aren’t putting yourself on the line every day as you would in a sales career, but if you’ve ever been rejected by the hot girl or guy in the bar, been turned down admission to a school you wanted to attend or been told you couldn’t have the raise you felt you deserve, you’ve experienced rejection!

In fact, rejection is so common that I believe if you aren’t experiencing it on a regular basis, you’re doing something wrong by not taking enough risks!

Simply put, rejection occurs when you put yourself out there – when you ask somebody out, when you ask for something you really want at work or when you put yourself up for some major award or promotion.  If you aren’t doing any of these things, you’re living a safe life.  And while that might be fine in some situations, it’s sure as hell not going to help you experience success.

If you want to succeed, you have to get used to being rejected.  It isn’t a fun thing to do – especially if you’ve grown up believing that failure is the worst thing that can happen to a person – but it’s hugely important if you want to reach new heights in your personal or professional life.

The following are just a few of the different ways you can learn to embrace rejection and the eventual success it helps to bring about:

Idea #1 – Reframe rejection in your mind

In a lot of ways, I think our current education system does students a huge disadvantage by enforcing the idea that failure is always bad.  Students today are constantly pressured to succeed (even if that’s measured as something as arbitrary as standardized test performance) and reminded that failing will lead to a host of negative life consequences (as in, living in a van down by the river).

The problem with this black-and-white way of thinking is that failure – when used appropriately – can actually represent a tremendous learning opportunity.  When we fail, we have the chance to figure out where we went wrong and how we can change things in the future – that is, if we’re given the opportunity to do so.  If we’re constantly berated for making mistakes, it’s no wonder that we begin to fear failure and rejection.

The key to getting out of this harmful mindset is to reframe your way of thinking about rejection.  Instead of beating yourself up, learn to recognize that failures can be powerful ways to improve – but only if we learn to let go of self-flagellation and embrace the new opportunities that rejections can represent.

Idea #2 – Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Of course, the thought of learning to embrace rejection is one that’s easy to imagine, but much harder to put into practice.

If you’re having trouble seeing the upside of a past or future rejection, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  Odds are, it’s not as bad as you think…

Say you go after a major sales prospect at work and wind up not getting the contract.  You haven’t failed on some epic level – in fact, chances are your life hasn’t changed much at all.  You might not be getting a big, fat commission check, but nobody’s going to come tear the roof from over your head because you weren’t able to close this single sale.

Idea #3 – Actively seek out ways to be rejected

As with so many other things in life, the best way to practice reframing rejection in your mind and extrapolating future harm scenarios is to practice!

If you want to level up your ability to confront rejection like a boss, you’ve got to get out there and seek it out.  When you hit the bar with your friends, work your best lines on the “Perfect 10” sitting next to you.  Ask salespeople to give you unprecedented perks when buying major items like cars and appliances.  Try getting restaurant chefs to serve you entirely unique meals that aren’t listed on their menus.

Really, the possibilities are endless.  By making an effort to actively seek out rejection, you’ll learn that it’s truly no big deal to fail from time to time (although you might also be surprised by how willing people are to help you out with your requests).  And once you’ve learned how to diminish the power that rejection holds over your life, you’ll find yourself taking more chances and experiencing more success than ever before.

So now, I want to hear from you…  What’s the biggest rejection you’ve ever experienced and how did you handle it?  Share your responses in the comments section below: 

5 Small Talk Scripts to Memorize Now

small talk

Is there anything quite so scary as the thought of having to make polite conversation with total strangers?  Certainly, for some of the more naturally garrulous people out there, making small talk can be seen as an opportunity to connect with new people and get to know others on a deeper level.  But for the vast majority of people, small talk represents a deeply-uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking situation.

Unfortunately, you’ve got to get over this!  According to a recent Harvard Business Review article by Andy Molinksy:

“You can be the most technically skilled worker in the world, but your ability to progress in your job and move up the corporate ladder in the United States is highly dependent on your ability to build and maintain positive relationships with people at work. And guess what skill is critical for building and maintaining these relationships? Small talk.”

The secret to small talk is being prepared.  So if you feel perpetually flustered by the demands of making small talk, memorize the following scripts so that you’ll be able to pull them out at a moment’s notice whenever a situation calls for polite conversation.

Script #1 – “What do you do?”

People in the US love to talk about their jobs, which makes this small talk script a natural starting point for conversations with new people.  Though it obviously isn’t one that could be used when interacting with coworkers at a company event, it’s a great starting point to have on hand for business networking events and other social functions.

One caveat to using this script, however, is that it can backfire in situations where your conversation partner has recently been laid off or fired (as is all too common in today’s job market).  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it –in fact, in networking situations, it can be a helpful way for the person you’re speaking with to convey his or her openness to new opportunities.  However, you should be aware of the potential for discomfort and have a few expressions of sympathy ready, should you encounter somebody who’s recently out of work.

Script #2 – “What’s new with you?”

If you’re interacting with people you know on a casual level – for example, distant family members, social acquaintances or colleagues in other departments – there’s no more natural starting place for a small talk conversation than, “What’s new with you?”

The key to using this script effectively, though, is to learn how to keep the conversation going by asking probing questions.  If you use this script and your counterpart responds, “Oh, nothing much,” it’s still on you to carry the conversation with follow-up questions like, “Any big projects at work right now?” or “Any plans for the upcoming holiday?”

Script #3 – “Did you see that news story about [xx]?”

When in doubt about how to start a small talk conversation, jump in with a recent news article or major upcoming event.  Sporting events are a great neutral territory for these chats – something like, “Did you see the new story about that Louisville player Kevin Ward’s leg?” is bound to provoke a reaction.

There are two things you’ll want to keep in mind when using this script, though…  First, it’s imperative that you stay away from highly-charged political or religious topics.  Even if you’re absolutely certain that you know your conversation partner’s philosophical leanings, these heated topics really have no place in polite, public interactions.  Save your opinions for your close friends and family members!

In addition, it’s important that you actually have some familiarity with the news story you decide to reference.  If you say to somebody, “Did you see that news story about [xx]?” and he or she responds with, “No, tell me about it,” you’d better be able to back up your small talk script with actual information!

Script #4 – “Any vacation plans in the future?”

As much as Americans live for work, we also live for the precious few days of vacation we get every year – making this a fun small talk prompt to keep the conversation going.

While I wouldn’t use it to start off an interaction with a totally new contact, it’s a great way to learn more about the people you’re speaking with in a non-threatening way.  A discussion about future family trips could open the door to further questions about their family life and structure (for example, “How old are your kids?” or “Where do your kids go to school?”).  Similarly, a mention of a dream vacation destination could prompt you to ask, “What made you choose that location?” or “Have you always wanted to travel there?”

Remember, the more follow-up questions you can ask, the longer you’ll be able to keep your small talk going.

Script #5 – “Where did you get that [piece of clothing]?”

Finally, if all else fails, complement your conversation partner on an article of clothing and ask where it was purchased.

Secretly, we all crave the approval of others – especially when it comes to our physical appearances.  Making a comment that indicates you like a certain piece of clothing or jewelry provides this all-important flattery, while also giving you an opening to keep the conversation going on local shopping and apparel trends.

Certainly, these are just a few of the different scripts you can use to initiate and maintain small talk, but they’re a good couple of options to memorize and keep in your back pocket at all times.  If you have any other go-to conversation starters, share your recommendations below in the comments!

7 Ways to Prevent Office Distractions

minimize office distractions

We’ve all been there…  On the way to work, you’re brimming with enthusiasm and great ideas – ready to hit the ground running on a productive work day.  But the second you sit down at your desk, you’re hit with distraction after distraction.  Coworkers need your immediate feedback, emails keep popping into your inbox and your phone won’t stop ringing.

How are you ever supposed to get anything done amidst all of these distractions?

The reality is, all of us face distractions – whether we work in office environments, coffee shops or home offices.  You can’t avoid distractions entirely while working, but you can take steps to minimize them.  Give any of the following strategies a try in order to amp up your productivity and prevent distractions from throwing you off track:

Tip #1 – Turn off automatic alerts

Between the notifications that pop up in response to new messages on your smartphone and the Outlook flag that appears whenever you get a new email, automatic alerts can seriously disrupt your productivity.  The simple solution?  Turn them all off!  Really, there are very few emergencies, and you’ll likely find that the amount you’re able to get done in the absence of these distractions more than makes up for any delayed responses you might be forced to issue.

Tip #2 – Schedule time for yourself

Scheduled meetings are sacred time on most people’s business calendars – so why not take advantage of the fact that most people won’t interrupt these periods in order to get more done?

First, figure out when you’re most productive during the work day.  Then, schedule a 1-2 hour long “meeting” on your calendar during which time you won’t allow yourself to be interrupted.  Teach others to respect this time by ignoring calls or in-person requests and you’ll free up a nice chunk of time to work with minimal distractions.

Tip #3 – Wear headphones

Wearing headphones while working is one of the best signals you can give to tell others that you don’t want to be interrupted.  You don’t have to listen to music with your headphones on to achieve this effect – simply wearing them is enough to dissuade most people from disrupting your productivity with their own distractions.

Tip #4 – Clean up your work environment

If a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind, it’s possible that picking up your work environment could have a positive effect on your ability to focus without distractions.  But don’t limit your cleaning efforts to the piles of papers that have been sitting on your desk forever.  Clean up your browser icons, bookmark lists and old digital “to do” lists in order to minimize the digital clutter that could also prevent you from focusing at peak efficiency.

Tip #5 – Turn on website blocking tools

Work distractions don’t always come in the form of interruptions from coworkers.  In plenty of cases, we’re our own worst enemies when it comes to digital distractions.  Sure, you might tell yourself that you just need a few minutes of fun browsing in order to get back to work – but can you really justify this type of time-waster once you’ve blown through hours of could-have-been productive time?

The easiest way to minimize the amount of time you waste on your favorite websites and social networks is to install website blocking tools that prevent you from accessing these pages at different times.  For example, a few great options include Leechblock for Firefox and Nanny for Chrome.  Try to install a website blocking tool on every browser that’s installed on your computer in order to minimize your ability to outsmart these distraction-blocking systems!

Tip #6 – Look busy

If none of the other strategies described here have succeeded in minimizing work distractions, you can always try looking frazzled.  Even if you’re as calm as can be, act as if you’ve got more on your plate than you could ever possibly handle.  When coworkers approach your desk to distract you, give them the crazy eyes that say, “Back away slowly – I’m on the edge here!”

It sounds silly, but it’s an effective way to end distractions before they start.  Just be careful not to abuse it.  If your boss catches you looking stressed out too often, he might assume that you aren’t capable of handling your job – making you less likely to qualify for raises and promotions.

Tip #7 – Hide

One final option for minimizing office distractions?  Get out of there!  Sometimes, there’s nothing that you can do to stop coworkers from interrupting you or your boss from piling on more work than you can handle.  In these cases, do whatever you need to do to remove yourself physically from the distractions!

You could use the number of distractions in your workplace as leverage to negotiate a remote work arrangement.  If that isn’t an option, scheduling a “doctor’s appointment” could buy you a few hours to work from home in a distraction-free environment.  Again, you shouldn’t abuse this tip, but you should keep in mind that the amount you’re able to get done by “hiding” from your distractions could outweigh any concerns that your frequent absences mean you’re an unreliable employee.

Got any other tips for minimizing distractions in the workplace?  Share them below in the comments so that everybody can benefit!