As I get ready to launch another business I start getting fear – the fear of rejection. You see no matter how brave of a face I put on there is still the fear – what happens if this product doesn’t work out? Why isn’t EVERYBODY in love with this thing? Why doesn’t EVERYBODY write about it? Why isn’t my inbox flooded with emails telling me how great this product is?
As an artist (entrepreneurs are basically artists) you have to face the fear of rejection. You have to step inside the ring and often times – especially the early days – you will take nothing but a major beating. And the bad news is that the more successful you become the more rejection you will get. In marketing a 2 % response rate is considered pretty good. That means at least 98 % of the people are constantly rejecting you. If I want my web product to be successful than if I go from a 100 hits to a 1,000 hits per week – I go from being rejected 98 times to being rejected 980 times every week. But I also go from having 2 customers to having 20 customers.
If you start focusing on the rejections than you won’t get the customers/fans. Focus instead on the 2 or 20 people that are using your product – how can you get them to LOVE your product? Where can you find more people like them? I used to focus on worrying about converting every single one of the other 98% and get annoyed on why they didn’t go for my product – now I’ve learnt to focus on the 2 % and find more people like them. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. It sounds easy to read but we do want to please all of the people all of the time.
Ultimately a customer/fan in love with your product is the best salesperson you can hire for your business. And they don’t cost you anything. The amount of people I see loving their macs or their iPhones is amazing – I could have sworn apple was paying them to pitch to me – but they aren’t. Or the fans that U2, Beatles or the Rolling Stones have – they want you to buy their favorite band’s products.
100 % of the world did not buy Michael Jackson’s albums – less than 2 % did. 100 % of the people don’t have an iPhone – less than 2 % do.
The only way to really deal with the rejection is to feel the fear and do it anyway. As an entrepreneur/artist/musician/director the business/painting/song/movie while its in your head doesn’t take any rejection. While its not “out there” everything is rosy. But when you do release the product/website/painting/song/movie you realize that people have their own lives to worry about and they don’t really have time for your product and you have to start to deal with the rejection. Or they tell you “its nice” but your inner voice starts saying “do they mean it?”.
Whatever you do – you have to start with yourself first. The thing you are launching is not you. Yes, a big part of you is in the product but ultimately if someone doesn’t like what you produce doesn’t mean that they are rejecting you. If you don’t like my cooking, we can still be friends – you just simply don’t like my cooking!
Either I go away and change the spices to your liking or I find someone that likes the way I cook. That’s the decision you will have to make. If you are confident than try to get other people to taste your cooking before switching the recipe too quickly.
See I used to go to the outside world to get my ego trips. We all have a need for significance – but when I started looking internally I found that I could try out more stuff because I was ready for a bit more rejection. Now as I start remarketing a product I am connected to a lot of the people I knew in school, university and a lot of my professional life. As I use facebook to market my product there is a fear that everyone I know will be seeing it crash….but I’ve realised just as I don’t really think about EVERYONE on my ‘friends’ list all the time – they don’t really think about me all the time.
You see most people will want you to succeed. They might not like your product but they will wish you well. They have nothing to gain if you fail – and something to gain if you make it.
The best training I got for rejection is really by messing up. I’ve made a “fool of myself” many times. Many times I’ve simply been an idiot. But I realised no one really cared if I slipped on a banana peel – if I could learn to laugh at myself as well than life became easier.
If you are going through an anxiety phase about launching your painting or whatever product you are thinking about than the best training I could tell you is to go do something really embarrassing. Walk up to 100 strangers and tell them you have a third eye underneath your armpit. The first 2 or 3 people will be really tough to do this to. By about person number 7 you get used to it. By person number 68 you really don’t care.
Go ahead and face your fears – get rejected.
Find the 2 % that love what you do…they are the people that will make it worth it for you.
According to the current structure of education if Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg or Albert Einstein came and taught at a university they would actually hurt the rankings. You see these guys were university drop outs. They don’t even have a bachelors degree, never mind a PhD.
The top of the food chain in terms of policy and planning are PhDs in the academic world. This is an “exclusive” club that guys like Steve, Bill, Richard, Mark and Albert can’t join. These guys would get relatively junior positions working in education in the middle east and their ideas are not likely to be heard. The academics are deciding what the next generation should be learning, not the entrepreneurs.
If Bill, Steve and the gang sacrificed 3 to 5 years out of the real world of creating jobs and inventing new things to go into academia they would be able to have more influence on policy in government or finally begin a career in teaching at a university.
The myth is that the more degrees you have the more qualified you are to tell the next generation what to do. From having worked with many PhDs – and I apologize if I generalize here – but they are impractical people for the real world. They over analyze decisions. They are great at producing documents because that is what they have been taught. The more paperwork, the better. Not many PhDs are granted if at the end of the dissertation the student comes back with a one pager on how to change the world. Instead they need to make that one pager in to over 100 pages.
This was fair enough when their wasn’t too much information in the world. There used to be a lot fewer books. Now though the world wants to know less, not more. We use Google so we can visit less websites, quicker. In the new economy how many people you can influence with your ideas is more important than producing things that no one reads.
How do you pass a PhD? You supervisor and a handful of people decide if your work is good enough. Essentially they are seeing if you actually did the work.
How do you make a successful business? The world decides by voting with their wallets if they want to buy your products or services. If you produce something impractical, you go hungry. If you produce something the world loves, you make loads of money. Unlike a PhD, it doesn’t matter if you did the work or you got someone else to do it. As long as it was done.
I see many of the ambitious people in the Arab world decide to pursue a PhD rather than start a business. This means financing either from their parents or the government for 3 to 5 years. No jobs are created. No real wealth is created. Instead what they have is a stable job in government after receiving the letters “Dr.” in front of their names. A burden to the tax payer (or a drain on the oil money if you are in the middle east).
Henry Mintzberg, a management guru, wrote “Managers not MBAs” and I agree with him that MBAs are also over-rated. I’d like to write the follow-up book called: “Entrepreneurs not PhDs”.