My father used to tell a story about the guy who taught him about sales.
The guy, my father said, was not an attractive man. It was the mid-to- late 70s so he had sideburns and shaggy, thinning hair that was always a bit too long. When they were on the road, he and my dad would hit the hotel bars at night. My dad was married, so he left for his room after a drink or two, confident his partner would find someone to take him home and my father could sleep in peace. Sooner or later someone at the bar would be lonely or sad or adventurous or horny enough to say yes. More often than not he was right.
The trick, the man told my father was the same thing that suited him in sales. Every no puts me closer to a yes.
When he was teaching me to sell, my father told this story a lot. Too often, to the point it became a joke between us. In sales, you have to acknowledge that every encounter is likely to end up as a rejection. You can take those rejections as a definition, or you can take them as a necessary step toward the eventual goal. He told me time and time again the key to being successful was not style as much as it was perseverance.
By the time I was finished selling houses as my primary career, I’d been at it longer than my dad had. And while many of the things he taught me turned out to be bluster, the ugly man at the bar was onto something. Over the years I’ve tried to embrace rejection and tell myself that every time someone says no, it’s just a step further to the eventual success. I’m not sure it’s true, but what else do you tell yourself as you ask again?
It’s a skill that served me better, I admit, when the rewards were more financial. Selling houses pays well if you do it right. Freelancing doesn’t. You can survive, and even make enough to buy yourself a new keyboard sometimes, but putting words on paper has never been a financially motivating gig. You write, or edit, or draw or paint or sculpt not because you expect to get rich, but because you can’t imagine yourself not doing it. Because it brings you joy.
The problem becomes when you want others to share the joy you feel. Because they don’t. Almost never. Joy remains unique to all of us. We can share some experiences — we can have a common reaction at times — but most of the time the joy we feel is private and of ourselves. So when we take our joy and expect someone else to feel it as well, they often say no.
Nice people say it nicely. People on the internet don’t.
But unless you are willing to take the no, you’ll find it much harder to get to the yes.