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How rejection helped me level up

How rejection helped me level up

I’ve given 2 years of my life to full time entrepreneurship. I’ve had my share of success(services) and failures(products). In recent times, success more than failures. A thing about success is, repetitive success is boring. Repetitive success means that either succeeding is now a habit or your goals are not big enough. In my case it’s the later, and that is what makes me sad sometime. 

I spend some time in the self help section every week. This time, I stumbled upon this TED Talk where Jia Jiang talks about his 100 days of rejection experiment. I highly recommend this talk to everyone. The talk took me back to the time when I was 11 years old and gave a really bad pitch that was rejected (I was humiliated) by a teacher. That is a different story you can read here. This bad experience made me a perfectionist in a not-so-good way. I started avoiding things that I am not really good in. Whether it’s writing a blog post or participating in that Judo competition, I would not do it unless I know that I am going to win.

PS: I still managed to get a top score in board examinations and enter nationals a couple of times, so it wasn’t that bad either. 😉 But I knew I could do 100x better.

Now, I knew that, it’s the fear of rejection that I have been carrying for more than a decade now. I decided to practice rejection. Hell yea! Everyday I would pick up something I was sure of getting rejected for. On day 1, I started by asking a client for extra money, for no reason. Client gave a weird look. (But agreed after a week).

On day 5, I thought of asking a famous entrepreneur for time to discuss an idea. I decided to ask the most famous entrepreneur in my network for a meeting. Chances of rejection were highest if I chose a really busy man. Alok Kejriwal looked perfect. I dropped a message to Alok sir on LinkedIn and asked for a meeting and expected no response. Then this came up in my message folder the very next morning:

I was happy, I failed to fail. But now I was in trouble. I really had no research to back my idea. The idea is not yet validated in Indian market (but it deals with stuff I really love: Technology, User Behaviour and Gamification).

I got an appointment for a telephonic meeting on 6th March at 7:00 PM. Yayy!

PS: I won’t recommend anyone to ping Alok sir without enough research on an idea. 

So basically the goal was to use gamification for making people save more electricity. We would build a realtime app and reward people for using less electricity. The rewards may not be monetary. This involved some machine learning algorithms, some behaviour science, some amazing s/w architecture to handle all the data. I was ready with a compelling real-life story, all the technical details, user behaviours and how we can change them.

So days went by and 6th March came in no time. I was buckled up at 7:00 PM to call Alok sir and flaunt all my technical expertise and behaviour science skills. I was nervous, I had never talked to anyone outside my team about my billion dollar ideas before.

So our conversation started at 7:15 PM. I did not do well will be an understatement. I screwed up. We did not discuss almost any of the stuff I was ready with. He completely caught me off guard and asked some real no-fluff questions. Here is a list of the questions that I was asked and was not prepared for:

  1. Why did you chose a client which is broke?
    I knew that these electricity companies have profit, but I did not have the number. Alok -1/Aman-0
  2. Why did you chose your market where you have only 5–6 prospective clients(electricity companies)?
    Lack of preparation again. I knew 7–8 companies, but lack of research made me agree to Alok sir (There are~30 electricity companies in India). Alok-2/Aman-0
  3. Have you confirmed with the finance department of electricity companies if they even need your solution?
    I talked to someone at TPDDL, but was he in finance? No. I had clearly lost the game by now. Alok-3/Aman-0.
  4. What percent of electricity are you planning to save?
    I had no good answer. The call ended there as I was clearly not prepared enough.

I did score a few points when we talked about the tech and the trends side. But the questions gave me what I started the whole “100 days of rejection” exercise for. The reason for not doing anything BIG. I was putting in way too much effort on helping clients that had no big money or impact.

Is the idea of gamifying the energy conservation bad or not a viable business? I still don’t think so. May be there are more compelling problems with power companies, but it’s still a problem that needs more research. May be government is a better customer? OPower is already doing this.

Anyway, Here are my take aways from that short 15 min call:

  1. Choose your clients carefully: Broke clients won’t take you anywhere. Unless you can make your broke clients profitable with your product/service, stay away. Companies that call themselves startup enablers, should probably reevaluate if they are really doing it to enable the startups or just because startups are the low hanging fruits. If you think you give a premium service, charge premium for that.
  2. Market size matters: Are there enough clients and enough money in the market to sustain you and your competition? If not, it’s usually a bit risky to get into that market.
  3. Talk to finance department: Finance department knows the real financial issues. For instance, power theft is a more important issue for the power companies than power conservation.
    Golden Rule: Companies will pay you only for making more money or saving more money (unless you’re selling beer).
  4. Ask: If you need guidance, just ask for it.
  5. You and Your Idea are two different things: It’s easy to attach your ego to your idea. Everyone who disagrees with your vision seems like an enemy. This is because we don’t consciously believe that our idea and us are two different entities. If the idea is not good, doesn’t mean that you’re not good.

Thanks to Alok sir, I have now paused my 100 days of rejection. I’ve started experiencing some good progress already, with the above lessons. I will start the exercise again and go for bigger and more epic rejections soon.

I would love to have you as a part of my journey, we can stay connected on LinkedIn.

*Featured Image Courtesy: MemeCenter

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