Coming From a Place of… “No”?

monkey-557586_1280I love feeling creative and thinking out of the box to solve problems, design new programs, and connect with teachers and students in different ways. This has normally been met with general success throughout my life and career, which has allowed me to continue the cycle of coming up with an idea, telling the right person (or people) about it, and then planning, executing, and reflecting on the successes and failures of the project. This cycle ultimately depends upon the answer to my initial request being something along the lines of “Yes. Go ahead and try _______. Sounds like a good idea. Here are a few things to consider, but I believe in you. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!” Or something along these lines, but always “Yes.” A question I’ve been considering lately, however, is: “What if the Answer is ‘No’?” Not every organization or workplace is receptive to new ideas, or is flexible enough to allow for a degree of risk and uncertainty. There are a lot of reasons for this, but at the end of the day, in order to maintain some degree of personal and professional forward momentum as well as to maintain the desire to be creative and forward-thinking in the workplace, it’s become imperative to make the “No” meaningful to me in some way.

It is far too easy to get frustrated after several rejections and just stop trying new ideas altogether. That doesn’t work for me, however, because NOT thinking about improvement, current trends, etc. is almost more frustrating and unsatisfying than making proposals that are ultimately rejected! So I say embrace the rejection, accept the “No”, but use it to investigate the underlying causes of the rejection. Maybe I didn’t talk to the right person to obtain the proper clearance along my path toward approval; maybe the reasons for the proposal weren’t articulated well enough; maybe the potential risk factors were not addressed enough; maybe it was TOO “out there”, and I could have taken a smaller step first; maybe there are political factors involved. All of these are considerations about which to be curious, and I am trying to consciously analyze my more recent proposals to preemptively identify any of these potential pitfalls. Even with my most recent failure, I am trying to take a philosophical approach and consider the factors I’ve laid out here when I reflect on the reasons for its rejection. Rejections also help me understand the organization’s values and beliefs on a deeper level.

Rejection is never easy. Having a growth mindset about it, however, can turn the very real disappointment– and sometimes hurt– into a valuable learning opportunity. It’s a work in progress, but that’s my new plan!

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