CSLi’s founder Daron Roberts has an impressive resume. A bachelor’s from the University of Texas. Master’s and law degree from Harvard. Seven years coaching in the NFL. Author. Professor. Founder. Director.
But what the resume doesn’t tell you is how many rejections came before, after, and between all that success.
Instead of trying to hide the many rejections he’s faced in his career, Roberts has embraced his journey, and in a TEDx talk given on the campus of the University of Texas on February 10, 2018, he explained why people should purposely put themselves in situations where they will face rejection. Experiencing rejection, it turns out, makes us less afraid and more likely to try new things and take risks.
The entire talk is only 17 minutes and is well worth a watch, but if you only have four minutes, here are the top takeaways.
1. Don’t be afraid to change course, even if you’ve invested a lot of time/money/work in the status quo.
Roberts decided he wanted to be a football coach when he was only a year away from graduating with a Harvard law degree. He had taken out a quarter of a million dollars in school loans and did not have any professional coaching experience to speak of, but a life-changing experience coaching at the Steve Spurrier Summer Football Camp in South Carolina convinced him that this was the career for him.
Had he let those two years of law school and thousands of dollars of debt that he’d invested in the goal of being a lawyer stop him from changing course, he would never have achieved his dream of coaching in the NFL.
2. You can’t follow your dreams without facing rejection.
Once he decided to pursue coaching, Roberts had to convince someone to hire him. He sent a letter to the head coach and defensive coordinator of every single team in the NFL and all 50 NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The responses, if he even received one, were all nos.
Roberts didn’t stop writing these letters after receiving his first rejection. Sure, it stung, but instead of curling up in a ball and licking his wounds, Roberts pasted the rejections to the wall of his apartment in Cambridge and sat down to write another letter.
Eventually, Herm Edwards, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, called Roberts and offered him an internship. The job was unpaid, with no benefits and 18-hour days. Roberts, of course, accepted the offer.
3. Look at each rejection as an opportunity to grow.
Even after Roberts achieved his dream of coaching in the NFL, he still faced rejection. In 2014, the Cleveland Browns fired Roberts. One of the first days after being let go, he stood at the stove scrambling eggs, when his 3-year-old son Dylan walked in and said, “You eat breakfast?”
Dylan hadn’t seen Daron eat breakfast in years. It was that moment, just days after facing a painful rejection, that Roberts realized it was time to take another risk. Time to do something different. That day, he decided to leave coaching and reinvent himself once again.
4. Actively pursue opportunities to be rejected.
In one of the classes Roberts teaches at the University of Texas, he assigns his students something called the rejection challenge. In pairs of two, the students have to go to a Starbucks and ask the barista for a free drink. Roberts and his team of research fellows have found that after performing the rejection challenge, the students express greater willingness to take chances in their lives.
By experiencing and surviving rejection–being told no, getting stood up, not getting the job, getting fired–you realize it’s not as scary as you thought it would be. You didn’t crumble. Your career isn’t over. You went on other dates. And moving forward, other decisions you make, new things you try, and chances you take are less scary.
“So I am imploring you,” Roberts said to the TEDx audience, “not to think outside of the box. I’m begging you to burn the whole damn thing all together. Go out there and get rejected.”