Dealing with rejection (the 33 per cent rule)


You know the sort of person who sings karaoke in pubs? The sort of person who stands up on stage and sings (or screeches) to their heart’s content…and seems to be having a whale of a time doing it?

I sometimes wonder how the hell they manage to do this without drowning in a tidal wave of sweat and anxiety. And I reckon it’s partly down to how they handle the prospect of rejection.

They’re not worried about being ‘rejected’ for their less-than-perfect singing. Because they know this means naff all about themselves a person.

It’s just them singing badly. Full stop. No biggie. Nothing earth-shattering. (No need to sit on a sofa eating a whole Viennetta Slice, say.)

Those of us with slightly more fragile egos take things a little more seriously, and that’s when fear sets in.

If you’re a writer, this might translate as a chronic case of writer’s block or a similarly debilitating condition, writer’s procrastination (my personal favourite).

Possibly writer’s block or procrastination is nothing more than a big fat fear that if we write something ‘crap’ or something other people don’t like or ‘don’t get’, it must mean WE are crap and they don’t like US.

And therefore we should crawl into a hole, give up on this whole writing malarkey, and disappear into oblivion. Because, quite patently, we are rubbish.

This, I feel, is a good time to mention Shed Simove (groovy name).

Shed is a highly successful author and entrepreneur who introduced me to ‘The 33% Rule’ in his book Success Or Your Money Back.

According to the 33 per cent rule, whenever you create something (a book, a song, a work of art, a business idea) and put it out there to see what the world thinks, the following is virtually guaranteed to happen:

33 per cent of people will hate it
• 33 per cent will love it
• 33 per cent won’t give a flying fig either way

So, according to the 33 per cent rule, we should expect rejection. There is no one idea that will wow the pants off every single person. You can’t please everyone.

It’s just the way life is.

This means we should be unsurprised (and unhurt) when we launch something into the world and some people are negative about what we’ve done, or simply don’t care.

We could even start to welcome this. Because if we keep going, eventually we’ll come across the people who get what we’re doing (so much so, they might even want to sing about it from the rooftops).

These are the people we need to focus on.

It’s simply a matter of statistics, as bestselling thriller writer Brad Meltzer points out:

“I got twenty-four rejection letters on my first novel. To be clear, there were only twenty publishers at the time – and I got twenty-four rejection letters, which means some people were writing twice to make sure I got the point.

That book is still sitting on my bookshelf, published by Kinko’s. But I had twenty-four people tell me to give it up – that I couldn’t write. Does that make everyone who sent me objections wrong? Not a chance.

The best and worst part of publishing is that it’s a subjective industry. All it takes is one person to say “Yes.” You just have to find that person.”

2 thoughts on “Dealing with rejection (the 33 per cent rule)”

  1. Funnily enough, I wrote about this very same topic myself, recently – it’s obviously a hot topic.Thank you for introducing me to the 33% rule – I shall add that to my toolkit for dealing with rejection! :-)


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