It is okay to blog about yourself, unless you want people to read it. And yet, a blog in which one doesn’t talk about himself will not be much for reading either.
Facts are fine and all, but stories are what we care about.
With my last post, which was basically one giant allusion to this post, I had hoped to feel a sense of “freedom” from writing it, and I even thought I did for about a day after I published it. I thought it’d make it easier and I’d flow right into this post.
Clearly (if you look at the dates), it did not.
Because, though it was a good post, it wasn’t this post.
“Take The Lid Off!”
In basketball – which is probably my favorite sport to play – we have this expression: “to take the lid off”. It’s what you might call a hyperbole. You yell “take the lid off!” when you miss multiple shots in a row, and especially easy shots. Or, you might hear it from someone in your team’s “rowdy crowd” when the other team can’t seem to miss and your team can’t seem to hit.
There’s a funny seriousness to the concept of “taking the lid off” though.
It can begin to feel very much like there is a real lid over your rim and no matter how great your aim you absolutely cannot make a basket. It can begin to just set in mentally and even spread across your team. It’s strange.
Life can be like that in many ways – have a proverbial “lid”, I mean.
Something that is typically easy and certain for you can just become difficult and frustratingly unrewarding all of a sudden. It can seem to last for an unreasonably long season.
You begin to wonder, “What the heck!? Why is this!? I have this ability – I know I do – so what’s my deal here!? What’s the matter!?” but you just can’t seem to get the lid off and start making shots again.
It’s like you need something to blame outside of yourself.
And, sadly, we too often do come up with “lids” that we can blame instead of dealing with what we feel. We allow ourselves to become victims of our circumstances and mental states instead of figuring out how to overcome them or take control of them.
Sometimes though, we simply don’t know how to take the lid off no matter how badly we want to or try to.
We have times in life which we really do need (and hope) someone on our team comes along and saves the day by hitting some shots and taking that proverbial lid off because we really just need the help! We’re really off and can’t figure out how to get back on no matter how hard we try!
Side note: That’s the glory of teams and why we should always have them in every area of life – quite beneficial!
My Blogging Lid, And The Others
Now rather than I let myself avoid it by waxing on all theoretically, it’s time I must simply say, though obvious, “I’ve had a ‘lid’!” A strong, firm, lid!
The latches to my lid have been a few different circumstances that really buckled this lid down tight, and I have not been able to deal with these latches well enough to simply “undo” them quickly on my own.
This is why I spent my last post using a different sport analogy and speaking theoretically about needing to basically “step out of the ring” in multiple areas of my life.
An obvious place a lid was for me was on my personal blogs. This is easy to see if you look at the dates of my last few posts. I was rocking along writing as many as five posts per week (both hear and on my other sites) for a few months at the start of the year and then, *eeeeeaaarch*, I screeched to a halt for nearly four months!
That’s a lid what am a lid! You see, I’ve had no shortage of things to write about – I never do! It’s also not as if I lost my actual abilities to write – I was writing lots on my community blog with others. I just had a “lid” I couldn’t take off in my personal spaces.
It didn’t take me long though to figure out what the latches were that were holding the lid on, and as ridiculous and melodramatic as it may sound, I knew I’d have to write about these things in order to rip this lid off and be able to resume writing about anything else again.
I’d need to deal with my feelings.
Sometimes – especially to people who take their blog way too seriously *confession* – we just know deep down that to talk about anything else would be just plain false – almost a betrayal of ourselves, our abilities to think and write, our blogs and timelines of life. It just wouldn’t seem “right”. We’d know we weren’t dealing with the real issues.
At least this is true for me. If I don’t deal with the issue, it’s usually not going to be by smiling and talking about the weather; it’s going to be by altogether “stepping out of the ring” or complete retreat while I contemplate how to best proceed.
So, that’s why this is finally the post that takes the lid off.
The last post was psyching myself up and “stepping back into the ring”; this post is “taking the lid off”.
Now it’s time for the story. Now it’s time to deal with these things.
And, this is going to be win the new mark as the longest single post I’ve ever written. You’ve read the best and most elequent of the writing you’ll see in this post. Now it gets personal. So you can just stop here unless you’ve ever dealt with workplace rejection, or any kind for that matter, that is very confusing and disrespectful, ever had to persevere through a season of confusion, ever been made to feel like crap after you’ve worked really hard for something, and you just want to read through someone else’s story and see what he’s learned from it.
Because the rest will be, well, simply just “therapy” for me. But hey, “it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to. You would cry to if it happened to you.” Ha, okay maybe not, but now you’ll have that song stuck in your head all day. You’re welcome.
Still, you know it’s going to be quite an epic post when you start off by googling the definition of “melodramatic”. Yea… yikes!
The Ridiculous and Over-Dramatic Story
Over the last few months, I’ve come to call this my “season of rejection”.
I’m not sure if I’ve even said those words out loud. In a way, they’ve just been my mental “compartment” for this time frame and these thoughts and emotions I’ve had for a year now.
To be fair, the thoughts and emotions haven’t been all that intense for a year, but the story does start nearly a year from now to the date.
At this point, a year ago in mid July, I was insanely busy running my own business producing a social magazine and coordinating social events for an affluent neighborhood in my still “new” city. I was also filling in any gaps in my “insanely busy” with overcommitment to our church startup, non-profit and social teams in the city, freelance website building on the side, packing our entire home to move to our second house in a year in this new city, and trying to start a few other businesses with friends – cause, I mean, why not, right!?
It was an obvious recipe for burnout and disaster, but I was fully aware of it at least. I didn’t plan to maintain the pace.
And so it was, at this time, for who-knows-what-reason, that I began to take a great deal of notice in a software coding academy company that was starting to get a lot of traction. I had known of the company because one of the folks I follow online was involved in it, but in the past I had simply looked at it, said, “Oh that’s cool”, and went on.
I really did think it was awesome what they were doing, but I thought it was completely inconsequential to my life. I didn’t think I could play a part in their life in any way, nor that they would play a part in my life.
This had been, maybe, a year-ish of thinking that. Then, all of a sudden in the first half of the year I had begun seeing these new positions available.
I wasn’t looking, but I finally read a listing out of pure curiosity.
It resonated like crazy!
It was all sorts of “me” and what I was thinking and had been aligning with for quite some time. In fact in many ways, the position and the company mission actually helped clarify my thoughts and alignment on what I was wanting to do with my future.
So, my interest meter nearly redlined.
I was so utterly swamped with other work though that for a few months I put it off and tried to not even think about it. I had a good thing going – or multiple really. My wife and I both loved our new city and communities we were becoming involved with. Why would I change anything now?
But by the time we finished our move in August and summer franticness began winding down, I finally couldn’t take it any more and felt I had to inquire about these roles in the company.
So in early September I began trying to draft the perfect love letter to this company. The application process was in fact simply that: “Tell us why you’d be a great fit with us and show us three of your favorite things you’ve seen on the internet!”
So, I went for it! I think I drafted eight different “final” versions of that letter and finally went with one of the longer ones that told my story and pitched Kansas City for the next place to launch one of their “campuses”… because I had no idea what they’d actually want to know…
Though I was lead to believe multiple times in the following months that they never read any of it, that email / letter did get me an interview and, for a while, some very promising next steps…
It turned into a long, drawn out, process…
And here’s where it gets emotional and silly… Just plain silly…
Let me begin by saying that, yes, some people obviously didn’t care about others and didn’t try, but that aside, I know that nobody was trying to be malicious or even disrespectful. It just ended up being a major mess because they weren’t trying NOT to be.
For the rest of the fall and winter I worked my business, aaand worked on trying to achieve their business. I’d email and get small replies like, “Great! Keep your head down. We’ll be in touch!”
I was quick to excuse it because, “They’re growing so fast. They’re understaffed and don’t have processes in place” and so on.
But, man, I put myself out there.
By December, with little time and ability to drum much up on my own, and little feedback from the company, I was becoming a bit… well, speculative and cautious.
I began thinking again, “Why not just stay here? I have so much good going for me here.”
So while praying and talking about this with my wife and mentors, I started trying to just forget it. My thoughts were, well, they should know I really want this, they can contact me if need be. I had even told them I’d move and it wouldn’t need to be in Kansas City for me to work.
So in the middle of all this, an email arrived from a WordPress theme making company I had purchased from in the past. They were beginning to grow quickly and were looking to hire a “Community Manager” that could work remotely. I read this, thought, “Wow that sounds great” and quickly applied.
Long story short, after much back and forth, they kindly and respectfully told me it came down to me and another lady, it was a very difficult decision, and she won out.
Rejection #1: Complete.
Here’s the thing though, they handled it so well! I felt valued, respected, heard, and lead well the entire time. I am no less their fan than before.
It also helped that when they revealed who my opponent had been later (by hiring her), I had lost to a very well qualified lady.
She had a website and portfolio put together that displayed her work really well. She had a seemingly active and dynamic online personality that was put together well. She was an obvious choice against my odd, all-blogs-shut-off, most social accounts looking deserted, image that I had at the time from my year off the internet while I worked.
I would have chosen her too! To this day, she’s still rocking that job!
Still, I was a bit sad and I didn’t know who had beat me for more than a months. So, I began to think about how I’d really thrive in a Community Manager role and wondered why I hadn’t convinced them of such.
The whole experience had set in stone even more how I wanted to get back into the digital world, blogging, and tech scenes.
I knew I needed to.
So, end of December, I began turning everything back on. Five blogs: back online! Social accounts: all systems go! New themes. New branding. New goals. New online mentors and subscriptions. Lots and lots of studying of what was out there to learn and do. What and who did I need to learn and become to move forward? Check. Check. Check.
Then a logical move… Shoot for the moon!
Buffer was expanding their support people – “happiness engineers” – and, if anyone knows anything about tech, software, and digital life, Buffer is like legendary in culture and pay and personality and awesome products.
So again, I went for it. I applied the crap outta that application.
Aaaand, I got back crap. It was kind crap though. Just an automated response that out of the thousands of applications, I was not moving forward. No time wasted at least.
Though I expected it, and expect a human never even read my application but some software just looked for an unknown “personality fit” or “mood words”, I was still a bit deflated.
Rejection #2: Complete.
So… what now? Why didn’t I seemingly have the personality to do that job? Again, I know I could! Anyone who knows me knows I could have flourished in the job and rocked it.
So, why didn’t I have the right words, image, or, whatever, to get that job or the last one?
I decided I needed to freshen up my online brand to fit the sort of roles I would be seeking to fill in the neat future. These things do matter these days and I had been neglecting my online persona since I was running a local business.
I got a writing and life coach. I spent hours on all my websites getting them cleaned up and in order (or shut down as necessary). I started writing about “work” topics and less ministry (I used to do full time ministry). And, I started tweeting different things and following different people.
I mean… can you really know a person online apart from their tweets? I think not. *smirk*
Keep in mind that this entire time, I’m still running my business. My income was entirely based on sales, and so for the entire year I’m weekly being rejected by people who give no reason… and often would be a great fit with the product.
They just, reject it… cost, misunderstanding, bad timing, bad haircut, whatever.
Rejections. Rejections. Rejections.
Note: Thankfully, I was getting “yes” as well or else I would have starved. I did have a business.
Now, I should mention, that when the theme making company first told me “No” in December, I went to my wife and said, “Welp, that’s the first time I’ve ever tried for something and been told no-go and can’t do, I believe… especially and undoubtedly in terms of work-life.”
So this was all a bit new to me.
*Waaa-waaa* Call the wambulance, I know, but try to feel it, okay?
My discontent was only growing, but I had no idea what to do with myself. I knew it was time I began to phase myself out of my business and position myself for something else.
Back to the first company…
I sent an email and asked where we were at with things. This was late January by now.
What followed was… well… absolutely one of the worst, most horrible, unbelievably ridiculous, disrespectful, uncaring, and unprofessional treatments I’ve ever experienced. I really thought they had to be messing with me to “test” me or something. No kidding.
I’ve heard of worse… but those are in movies and stories, when companies are firing people unjustly to cut costs or cover themselves or something. I had certainly never had it happen to me.
Even all my mentors (which are major successful business leaders and executives) started telling me, “Yeaaa, I don’t know if I’d recommend you work for this company… This sounds, pretty bad.”
I just reeeally wanted to assume the best of them and I justified, for them, all the reasons the whole process had been crappy and was becoming worse by the day.
I mean, after all, their website said they were “people first”.
Then it got real bad… Let me just bullet it out:
- Him: “Have you had an interview?”
- Me: “Yea… with you!”
- Him: “Oh okay talk to this person now, then.”
- Me: “Okay… hey this person!”
- *waaaaiting…. waaaaiting… for over a week*
- Me: “She’s not responding to me. Did she get my info?”
- Him: “Hey this person, respond to him!”
- Her: “Hey you, put yourself on my schedule. We’ll talk soon.”
- Me: *trying to be peppy:* “Okay done! Talk soon!”
- Talk goes awful! Trap after trap. I leave the convo and when telling my wife, I said, “I felt like the entire time she was just already set against me. I mean, it was crazy! I have no idea what to think but I felt cut off and trapped in everything… it’s like she resented me.”
- *Waaaaaiting… waaaaiting… for weeks*
- So I get a bit nervous and I (seriously, no kidding) record a heartfelt “hello” video to one of the founding partners whom I had been following and somewhat chatting to online – a genuinely cool guy! – and I tell him who I am and how I’d love to come work with him if he felt he could help or put in a good word! Then at the same time send an email to the others…
- Me: “Have you all decided anything?”
- Original Him: “Did you talk to her?” Oh, okay, well now talk to Her #2.”
- Me: “Okay! Awesome!”
- Her #2: “Hey, I’m super friendly! Let’s do this!”
Talk goes seemingly really well, but when I get off the video call this time I tell my wife, “I thiiiink it was really good. However, I will say that she struck me as a person who would smile to your face and treat you well and then get on Slack and say, ‘Nope, definitely not – hated him.’ and I’m not entirely sure why I feel that way about her.”
- *Waaaaiting….* But this time I’m not going to wait so long because it seemed the last few times it was just a matter of me saying something. I conclude: they must just be waiting for me to say something! It’s part of it all, I bet! They’re looking for high initiative folks! So, after three days I send another message…
- *Side note* I have a guy interested in buying my current business I had started and been running. I’m thinking, “Thank God! It’s a sign!” Ha! So it’s time to know some things about what my options are!
- Me: “Hey, thanks for speaking with me. I’d love to work with you all! Please let me know what you decide as soon as you can! Thanks!” (As opposed to another 7 months, because it’s March now, and this all began last September! Plus, they knew I was running my own business that I’d need to exit.)
- So then, after 7 months of pursuit and hard work and a rollercoaster ride of “they like me”, “hmm, maybe they don’t like me”, “oh no they like me!”, “no they don’t even think about me” and on and on… this is what I get from a person I HAVE NEVER, EVER, SPOKEN TO. She’s brand new to the company, hired to recruit talent and has never done that before, and she doesn’t know me from Adam…
- New Her: “I regret to inform you that we will not proceed forward… Good luck with your job search.”
Here were my thoughts:
“Huh? Who are you!? This feels really cowardly. It also feels really insufficient after 7 months of this pursuit! At least have the deceny and respect to tell me why by someone whom I’ve spoken to!”
And on top of it all… This wasn’t a job search!!! This was all because of a one-focus pursuit of something I thought I could love and add great value to but had been stringing me along for 7 months!
I was a major, unpaid, ambassador for them. I was a huge supporter. I loved their mission in every way.
This was a cheap, rude, disrespectful, uncaring, low blow, with no explanation, respect, or value given to me. And in that one move, they lost all my trust and left me wondering, “Was there a personal offense I did to someone – someone doesn’t like my religion or something? Ooor, was it the lady I got in trouble for not replying to her emails?”
Rejection #3: Complete.
I never replied a word back. I must have drafted dozens of emails asking for an explanation, but I never could. I didn’t have a place to say anything, and so nothing seemed right. I felt hurt. I felt devalued. I didn’t trust them anymore.
I wanted to tell them what they did was crappy. I wanted them to be mature enough to realize it on their own and offer a mature rejection. But, I was in no position to instruct them on how to be caring and mature people. I didn’t even know who I would email.
Most of all, I expected a reply would just be, “Oh, umm, okay. Who are you? Sorry about that. We’re a startup and don’t have good processes. If you’re not tough enough for that then it was probably obvious and you’re not a good fit. That’s why you didn’t get the job.”
Which would have just made me want to punch someone and say, “How’s that for ‘tough’… freakin tough… Come out to the farm, or race me, or try running my business by yourself while you start a church, and I’ll show you freakin mentally tough.”
But, that’s just me being honest about my feelings… aaand why I never emailed anyone about it.
I just went silent.
My wife kept telling me, “I just can’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense. You have to email someone. Maybe this new lady was confused and she didn’t know who she was emailing. Maybe the original guy you were talking to doesn’t even know you were given an answer!”
We pondered those things, because any reason would have helped.
The only guy I ever sorta-spoke to about it was the one nicer partner guy. He eventually replied a friendly message, though awkward because of my original awkward message, and I felt compelled to attempt to explain my awkward friendliness. That only made it more awkward because he had to try to defend his company and probably play ignorant to a lot of back channel chatter about me in order to continue to be kind.
The whole deal was an awkward, ridiculous mess. Sorry Eric. Still think we’d be great pals if we lived near each other.
And as we let it go and walked away from it, I retracted from the internet almost entirely again.
I was left pondering a few things:
- Who am I and what is my “brand”? What must I be “giving off” online? Am I too confident? Not confident enough? Not proving enough experience? What the heck should I do with myself? Who was I supposed to be to them?
- How do you even make an online brand? I thought I knew this!
- What give us our impression of people on the internet? Is what we pick up and think of a person we don’t know, really very accurate?
- How do we decide who seems right for the job? What makes us choose one person over the other? That’s an extremely complex equation to solve.
- When companies say “culture fit” what do they mean? In startups, it too often means, “whatever the person likes and feels that day whom has the power to say ‘no’.”
- Do I make people feel valuable who aren’t necessarily of value to me for my task? Do I on the internet? Do I do anything to give others the bad impression I felt from this company. We are all people, after all.
- If ever I’m hiring, firing, rejecting, etc., I definitely know how I want to treat people and make them feel in the process. If people are applying to work for you, they are your biggest fans! Don’t spoil it for your organization by treating them with disregard even if you can’t do it for the sake of their innate value!
- If this happened to me, it no doubt happened to many others who were applying as well. That’s crappy.
I came to find out a few weeks later, the lady who I felt trapped by and had accidentally forced to be “reprimanded” for her slow responses, had, only recently been given that power to say “no” to new hires and was being placed in charge of campus expansions. Ha!
*Ooooh I see!* Only confirmed my suspicions that, unfortunately, they had left me to suspect.
However, I vowed to be friendly to them and support them again. Every single one of them. Yet… it’s taken me a long time to even feel interest in them as a company or group of people again. I want to though, and I will.
I feel this post alone has been a therapeutic relief that may just free me up to start being “supportive” again.
It has helped that an obvious few of the people they chose instead of me to fill those jobs apparently ended up being a bad choice as the last 4 months have proven. They aren’t still there, and well, I’d be lying to say that isn’t somewhat comforting because, obviously, I can’t believe they were making wise decisions at the time.
Moving on though.
The final rejection (that I know of so far) came in the next month. For the rest of March I decided to go ahead and proceed with closing down my business. If I could sell it, great, but either way, my head and heart were no longer in it. I needed a change.
The sale fell through – but that wasn’t a rejection, just bad timing. And, at the same time, a job opening appeared on our local market.
It wasn’t software, tech, web development, education, or anything like the nature of the last ones, but it was Head of Marketing for a local “foodie” co-op.
Cooperative organization, organic and healthy, local food from and for our community, marketing and public relations… Not only was this my degree as well as inline with my farming and ranching background, and an easy transition from my current business, but I could do this and love it!
Another round began of applying for a job that every friend, mentor, parent, stranger, and wife said, “Oh wow, you’re a no-brainer for that position! Perfect fit! You have this for sure!”
But, I had heard that before… a few times now the last few months.
Long story short: After several rounds of interviews, writings, presentations to a panel, and so on, they told me – kindly, respectfully, but still confusingly – “Tough decision, but we think we’re going to not move forward. We’re looking for someone with more ‘tried and true’ traditional marketing experience.”
Aaand, then they didn’t choose anyone else over me, they actually put the job opening back up on the market after a month of it being down while we interviewed.
Rejection #4: Complete.
Strange. But at this point one has to just laugh, right!?
I mean, what other choice do I have?
I would have loved that job. I would have eaten it up (*puns are fun – Foodie marketing? Get it?*) and done whatever it took to be great at it!
But, convincing someone else, a very different, complete stranger, of that in a structured environment… that’s pretty difficult to do! Who knows what went wrong and why they didn’t think so.
They said nothing but great things about me and even that they were impressed with me in “pretty much every way”. But… apparently not the “right” way… whatever that is.
Still, they were amazingly friendly, respectful, and gracious people, no matter how confusing their judgements, and I’ll gladly continue to fully support their work even if I don’t like the direction they’re going with much of their marketing I’ve seen lately.
Big difference from the taste left in my mouth from the last company, eh!?
Final Thoughts On My Season Of Rejection
So, I’ve already stated many of the things this process has lead me to ponder, so I won’t rehash it all now. It’s already plenty long.
Yet, there’s a couple things to conclude with that are worth saying again, and very clearly:
It’s hard and delicate work to make yourself known, correctly, on the internet, and it’s hard work and delicate work (and maybe quite a lot of “luck” and good timing) to get hired in an organization you can truly care about, with a good team that truly cares about you, and to be given the chance to do work you can enjoy and thrive at. It’s difficult and delicate.
It also takes a great deal of rejection! And, sometimes, for no apparent reason!
At least, I believe now that it does.
Had you asked me a year ago today, I would have been likely to answer, “Naaa, you just have to work harder. You have to tweet better tweets. You have to get a better suit. You have to get a better education.”
Bla … bla … bla …
Some things you can’t control though.
Some things you can’t take personally.
And, you shouldn’t, unless someone tells you otherwise – as in, what you need to improve.
And, if you’re a leader… stinkin be a leader that cares about people enough to tell them if they should think they need to improve something.
Just, be a person who cares – especially if you’re blessed to have a leadership role! It’s not enough for it to just be on your website that you “care”- your people need to believe it’s worth it to do so too.
Lastly, in this difficult and delicate drama of finding how and where and when we add value to the world in our work, and who with, there are simply too many moving parts, messed up and stressed out people, and all sorts of odd factors to ever simply conclude why a door didn’t open. It’s never one thing. It’s multiple things. It’s tons of tiny, uber complex, changing factors.
People of spiritual faith often want to say things like, “Oh, God just wants you here then obviously”, but I don’t think that’s comforting. One, they don’t know that, but, two, it’s too complex of a system of parts to even attempt to guess what God wants of it. He probably was and is doing a million things through my little dealings in the last year, for and in me as well as others, and nobody could even attempt to claim what those are.
Because I do believe there is a divine and good God in control of it all though, and the only one who can be, I still take rest in that fact he’s looking out for me even though I can’t know why seemingly amazingly fitting situations that make tons of sense to me how they’d be so great for everyone involved, don’t pan out.
I can’t imagine anyone, not taking rest in it.
In fact, it’s that fact that he’s in control of every detail, that has let me and my wife live the last four months freelancing, businessless, smiling, and worry free. We’re doing as well as we ever have, loving our city, and loving our church, and loving each other, and loving our good God who keeps providing.
It’s given me time and space to realize that, after all, I need to go BE the student at the coding academy (though which one I don’t know) instead of help run the academies. Of this, I’m fairly certain.
The funny thing is, in the very first email I sent, nearly a year ago now, I specifically said,
“If you don’t hire me, I’ll just have to come take your courses, convince you I’m cool, and then get hired by you!”
No kidding… Oh the irony.
Maybe that’s what God wanted me to conclude all along and it just took all of this. Ha! Just kidding, I have no idea what God specifically wants of me… but I think we’re all okay with that.
P.S. If you actually read it all the way to here, you pretty much have to say so in the comments just so I can think you’re amazing… and weird. :) Also, feel free to tell me your story so we can lament our rejections and talk about what we learned together… or something.