Powerful Lessons in How to Use Rejection as a Driving Force in Your WorkLife
Feedback Can Build You up or Knock You Down. It Has the Power to Reconstruct or Destroy Your Worklife at All Stages.
I was listening to Scott Budnick on the podcast Big Questions with Cal Fussman. He shared the story of the feedback he’d received at the end of his summer law internship. This is the point you find out whether you get an offer to come back at the end of law school. It’s a big thing because most people want to set themselves up for those jobs.
Budnick was the last of the interns to be called in to discover his fate, which in effect, was his future. The managing partner began by saying: “When we don’t give someone an offer, we know how that can be damaging to someone’s career, and it puts a black mark on you. We take it very, very seriously to not give someone an offer. In your case, it’s different. We’re not going to give you an offer. We didn’t stress about it. It was an easy decision. I personally don’t even think you should finish law school. I think you should drop out. I don’t think you have the interest or the aptitude, or the demeanour. I don’t think that’s what you’re meant to do with your life. I don’t think it’s for you. I actually think you should come back here. I think you should start a business and you should come back here as a client. I think you’re more salesman than lawyer.”
Budnick said at twenty-five years old, it was a gut punch, and yet in that moment, he knew he was right. He went back to law school and finished, and he realised this was not going to be his life. He changed direction and ended up in the talent business, going on to have a very successful WorkLife.
This story brought me back to a story I first shared in my book Your WorkLife Your Way. In Chapter 19: Rejection Recovery Resilience, I shared a story about Sir Anthony Sher, who I had recently seen play the lead role in Death of a Salesman in the West End. His performance was phenomenal, and without exception, the entire auditorium was on its feet for the final curtain call. His performance earned him five-star reviews.
Shortly afterwards, I read an interview he did with the Guardian newspaper, where in response to the question, “If there was one thing you would change about your appearance, what would it be?” he answered, “Everything”. I was saddened by this because no matter how good actors are, the critique will continue. If they cannot be critiqued on their performance, they will be critiqued for their appearance. When it comes to actors, the whole world are critics. This, in effect, is feedback — feedback of the downright ugly category.
In the interview when Sir Anthony was asked, “What was the worst thing anyone said to you?” His reply was: “When I auditioned at RADA, they urged me to seek a different career and not to give up my day job.” Thankfully for him (and us), he followed his heart and has since been knighted for his contribution to the Arts.
These stories highlight the disturbingly different approach the managing director at the law firm took in contrast to the head of drama at the drama school. In delivering the feedback they needed to give, both had a responsibility to their student to say what they needed to say with empathy and an understanding of the impact this would have at what was the beginning stage of both their WorkLives. One gave this feedback in a manner that was good, and the other in a manner that was bad.
In the book Choose Yourself by James Altucher, he talks about how every day, in all aspects of our lives, we are rejected. He says: “Rejection is probably the most powerful force in our lives. Think back on the times you were rejected and how your response to it changed your life completely.”
He shares the response that many people have to being rejected, which is to ask themselves: What can I do differently? What can I learn from this rejection?
He then goes on to share these:
Words of Wisdom
Ask yourself the following questions:
Can you improve your offering?
Can you take a step back and improve what you’re doing?
Maybe you can, and maybe you can’t. But brainstorm first.
What are the ten things you can do to improve what you are doing?
Take time to reflect on these questions, then through self-feedback, take the actions that come to you in knowing what you need to do to be able to choose yourself in pursuing your best work-life.
While both men have thankfully gone on to lead WorkLives that have been fulfilling for them at all stages, the memory of the words spoken at this initial stage has remained with them throughout their lives.
Budnick said he is thankful to the managing director for his honesty because, over a short space of time, it helped him know that this was his truth — that a career in law wasn’t for him, which made the decision to pursue a WorkLiife in the talent business easier for him.
Sher said that while he was totally crushed by the feedback the head of drama had given him, his burning desire to become an actor, which came from knowing his purpose from an early age, gave him the drive to push beyond this in pursuit of his passion. In the interview, he was also asked: “What book changed his life” and he replied: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare because it led him to the RSC, which allowed him to fulfil a dream he held since a young boy”.
Sadly, Sir Anthony Sher passed away in December 2021.
Feedback the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly is part of a series of people’s stories of how feedback impacted their work-life at different stages. How it enabled or disabled, how it championed, criticised or crushed. How it left them feeling encouraged, deflated or broken.
WorkLife Book Wisdom
The intention of this story is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.
My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story.
Today’s featured book is: Choose Yourself by James Altucher.
This story was featured in my book: How To Recover From Rejection And Build Story Resilience, from
This story was originally published on 17/5/21. I needed to republish it to add updates and also to tell you
… The Continuing Story …
The pandemic brought about a change in my WorkLife from delivering in-person individual coaching sessions and group workshops to creating resources to help people self direct their WorkLife learning.
In the last three years, I’ve published 30 books and over 200 stories.
Each book and each story is based on real life struggles and successes that people have encountered in their WorkLife. They also detail the exercises that helped navigate through these situations, which are set as assignments for readers to adapt to their WorkLife situations and learning needs.
I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.
My inspiration for creating my work comes from a lifelong passion for learning. My work has taught me that the one thing in life that can never be taken away from you is your learning.
School of WorkLife Guiding Statement: To create resources that are helpful, insightful and inspiring in helping people to pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.
The resources I create will help you take ownership of self directing your learning in your own space and in your own time.
School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time.
What is Self Directed Learning?
Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint.
Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning
You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
Tap The School of WorkLife Book Series to view the complete collection of books. From here, you can tap on each individual title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
Founder of School of WorkLife, Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning. These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies. which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club.
That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.