Caitlin Kirby, like most graduate students, has faced her fair share of rejections. But unlike most, she decided to celebrate her success at overcoming these rejections. How? By wearing a skirt made up of the rejection letters she’s received to the defense of her dissertation.

Ask the best decision makers you know. They can all tell you stories about the disappointments and crises they’ve overcome. After visiting with lots of them, my biggest take-away has been that they have learned to re-frame obstacles as opportunities. That may sound trite or sappy. But those making the best decisions have developed a resilience honed over years of managing these experiences.

Some people reading this will say to themselves, “You don’t my life. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Those people are just lucky.” To which the best decision makers will say, “Uh, no. We continue to face rejections just like you. We’ve just learned to take a step back, take a deep breath, and begin looking at alternatives and the silver lining in every cloud.” As one person put it to me, “I have become a student of rejection.”

There is no secret sauce or five magic steps. There’s no avoiding the emotion that wells up when rejection happens. But the best decision makers learn to manage it. Over the past 31 years, I have worked with hundreds of clients. I have also been rejected by tens of thousands of prospects. When people ask about my sales cycle, I tell them it ranges from three weeks to three years. Once in a while, a speaking engagement drops in my lap. But an awful lot of time, it is because of a seed that was planted years before. If I was to sum up my philosophy about chasing business, it would be, “Never no, just not this time.”

How about you? What happens when your grand plan falls apart? What do you do when the job opportunity falls through? How do you deal with those times when stuff just blows up? By the way, Caitlin passed her dissertation defense is now Caitlin Kirby, Ph.D. What can you do to reframe the rejections you receive and turn them into a positive force for personal success?

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