How to overcome rejection: harnessing your superpowers

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a coffee shop when I was taken over by a feeling. It was a feeling that the person I was talking to could accomplish anything. I was lucky to be talking to this person. Only nine months ago, he sought me out for advice.

But now I was learning from him. Over the next thirty minutes, I became inspired by Mike*, who recounted his path to breaking into investment banking, against the odds.

It dawned on me. Mike had a superpower.

I like being provocative. My favorite question to ask people is “What is your goal?” (I am the best guest at parties!). A lot of people will say “I want X.” My next question is a bit of a trap, but I’ll ask “how much time have you spent working toward that goal this week?” They answers are usually “none” or “very little.” This usually triggers an “a-ha” moment for many.

For Mike, I never needed to ask him this question. He knew what he wanted and was willing to put in the work to make it happen

As Mike told his story over coffee (well, tea for me — I love tea!) — I was impressed to hear that his story really started as a freshman in college. He knew from the beginning his path would not be easy — he didn’t have the advantage of being at Wharton or Harvard where the banks recruit large numbers of students each year. He would have to take a different approach — outworking them and taking several steps to get there.

As he recounted his path to landing multiple finance internships that set him up for achieving his ultimate goal, I realized Mike was like me. He enjoyed the journey and all the ups and downs that went with it. And, like in most stories of this nature, there were more downs than ups.

He walked me through his past year. To say it sounded frustrating would be an understatement. He applied to ten banks; at seven of these he had networked and developed solid contacts . Of the ten, only five even responded to him. One specific Managing Director was a fan and said “let’s get you in here for an interview day” in November. But before Mike was officially invited in for an interview, that connection disappeared. Mike followed up in December and January and got no response. He was starting to get worried. However, he decided it was worth one final push — he made one more call in February and left a message. He was either going to embarrass himself or finally break through.

After two more brutal weeks of waiting, that bank finally contacted him to bring him in for an interview. The Managing Director said he was impressed with Mike’s persistence. He nailed the interview and got the job in April.

As I listened to him talk more about his summer role, he was filled with joy. His eyes lit up as he went deep into his perspective on quick-serve restaurant industry, which he covers as an analyst. He was so passionate that I wanted to ask him for a job.

Mike faced a lot of rejection. He could have easily taken that as an indictment of his skills and abilities and stopped trying. However, he had a special superpower. It’s known as a “growth” mindset. This means that instead of a “fixed” view of his abilities, he believed anything could be learned. For these people rejection is not in fact, rejection. It becomes just another obstacle to overcome. I’ve seen this mindset in many successful people. They love learning and are the type of people you are energized to be around them. Just like Mike.

Walking out of that tea shop, I realized this is why I love connecting with people and helping them achieve their goals. What did I tell him when we first chatted nine months ago? Honestly, I don’t remember. It probably didn’t matter anyway. People like Mike enjoy the journey and know it’s filled with ups, downs and failures. But they keep going. For them, the power is in the journey.

*Real name disguised to protect the innocent

About Paul Millerd

Paul is a writer, creator, and curious human that is passionate about how people can reimagine their relationship with work to do things that matter. He published The Pathless Path in 2022.