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By Robert Middleton – Action Plan Marketing

Many years ago I remember applying to the Art Academy in San Francisco. I wanted to take some classes and improve my design skills. 

I was already designing business identities, brochures and fliers. I thought I was pretty good at it. My clients even paid me well. 

But the Art Academy rejected my application. It made me furious and resentful; every time I thought of the incident I fumed. 

Many things that seem like small things are actually big things. And one of those small/big things is…


Look, I admit it. I wanted approval. I wanted to belong, be admired, be noticed and accepted.

And I didn't just want it, I wanted it more than anything else. Disapproval meant I had been cast out, shunned, ridiculed and shamed. 

When the Art Academy rejected me, I felt awful. 

It hurt. It stung. 

And so whenever I faced the possibility of disapproval, or any kind of rejection, I tended to shy away. "Better to not get what I want than to get rejected and hurt," I thought.

There's nothing wrong with wanting something. It's the very first impulse in life, in fact – to want milk, to satisfy hunger. 

And wants expand from there. We want more things, we want to play, do exciting things and spend time with certain people. 

We most certainly didn't want the word, 'no.' We wanted an endless stream of 'yeses' to meet our every desire. And when we didn't get a yes, we threw a snit fit. 

But sometimes those snit fits backfired and we were punished. Our parents and teachers told us how to behave and how not to be selfish. Always wanting things, asking for things, was educated out of us.

But if we pressed our case, we sometimes got our way or always got our way. Perhaps we turned into an egotistical, narcissist bully. We all know what that looks like. 

But most of us learned how not to rock the boat and ask for too much. 

We learned how to play it safe and get what we wanted on the sly. We learned how to be creative and independent – to get some of the things we wanted without having a snit fit. 

So we started our own business and became excited that we could do what we wanted and exercise our independence. 

And then we discovered something unsettling. 

We learned that it was uncomfortable to ask for what we wanted from others. Very uncomfortable. 

It seemed difficult, sometimes impossible, to ask for meetings, for money, for commitment. And to follow up and ask a client to work with us? Forget about it. 

We wanted acceptance and approval. 

We experienced fear instead. Fear of making a mistake, of doing it wrong, of not being perfect and making a fool of ourselves. We didn't want rejection or disapproval; we wanted success.

But fear kept coming up, over and over and over. 

People don't fail because of the economy or a bad business plan or poor marketing skills. We can adapt to challenges, bounce back and improve our skills. 

No, most people fail because of fear. 

There are endless things we could have done. We could have asked, risked, said powerful things and taken bold action. But we didn't do them. Instead, our minds conjured imaginary consequences that were bigger than the possible rewards. 

What is the worst that could happen if you were rejected?

What is the worst that could happen if your article or presentation or website wasn't perfect?

What is the worst that could happen it you asked for an appointment?

What is the worst that could happen if you told a prospective client you wanted to work with them?

The most likely worst scenario for all these is that nothing would happen. 

That's about the worst. I promise you that nobody would send a hit man to take you out!

When the Art Academy rejected me, I went on to do other things. A few years later I was designing web sites. 

When prospective clients didn't work with me, I found other ways to attract clients. 

When someone couldn't afford to pay me, I found clients who could afford my services. 

And what enabled me to do all those things, despite the rejection?

It wasn't just one thing. It was a few things. 

I didn't have an alternative. I had to be successful in my own business or I'd have to work for someone else. That was not an option for me. 

I loved what I did, working with my clients and making a difference. I loved being independent and creative. 

I spent a lot of time studying how to get past rejection, how not to take it personally, how to let go and move on. I learned to live from reality, not from a negative fantasy.

It actually took me quite a while to get past the fear of rejection and disapproval. I struggled with it a lot.

But ultimately I became failure-proof. I now see every so-called failure as just another learning experience. 

And I believe this is something anyone can do if they want to succeed in their business and marketing.

It's something YOU can do. 

Cheers, Robert

I work with independent professionals to find their own authentic marketing voice and to attract more clients. Find out more here.


0 # Clive Murphy 2016-12-06 14:37
Great article, Robert. Rejection can be one of the hardest fears to overcome. It certainly stops people from achieving.

I take the stance that people need to know what I do and how I can help them be more productive. If they say “No”, I didn’t have them as a client in the first place so I have lost nothing. At the least, now they know what I do.

People do not reject me; they simply reject what I offer. My challenge is to present an unbelievable offer that they want to say “Yes” to.
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0 # Jeanette Eleff 2016-12-06 18:23
Excellent article that I can relate to in many aspects of my life. Stagnation and less than desirable decisions are driven by fear.
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0 # Ron Gallagher 2016-12-09 03:48
Good article, got me thinking where I'd let myself down in the past. We must try and walk the talk.
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Robert Middleton, the owner of Action Plan Marketing, has for 30 years, been helping Self-Employed Professionals attract more of their ideal clients.  He offers the online membership site, The More Clients Club, and individual coaching and consulting through his Marketing Action Coaching. If this is your first visit to the More Clients blog, make sure to get a copy of the Marketing Plan Workbook and join the Marketing Club Forum for free.