by Jeremy Cummings
Rejection is a bruise, and regret is a tumor.
One hurts now, and the other kills you later.
We all have an intuitive sense that some short-term pain is a key part of any worthwhile endeavor.
So many people avoid the short-term pain, though, despite the consequences of choosing the easy path.
Why do so many people choose mediocrity and short-term comfort, then, when the end result is a life of sadness and regret?
A punch in the face
Whether you’re asking someone out or trying to make a sale, rejection can sting.
Getting rejected despite making your best effort feels like a right hook from Mike Tyson.
It leaves a bruise. But bruises heal.
You come back next time a little bit stronger and a lot more ready to get the job done.
A lot of people never learn this, though, because modern culture places a huge premium on comfort.
Many people fear rejection almost as much as they fear an actual punch in the face.
Modern life has soft edges and safety nets, so most people grow up learning to always take whichever path is easiest and safest.
Often this comes in the form of taking safe jobs or pursuing mediocre relationships to avoid facing rejection.
Rejection makes you a stronger person, though.
Every time someone turns down a sale or declines to give me her number, I learn something about myself.
The obstacle is the way, and every “no” you get teaches you how to get a “yes” next time.
Modern convenience has primed people to expect a yes in every situation, though.
The “normal” path of school, career, family, has so many guardrails on it that people can just coast through life without taking many real risks.
But there’s something soft and indistinct about people who simply follow the script.
When you avoid all resistance you become soft, in mind, body, and spirit.
By avoiding short-term pain, you set yourself up for long-term suffering.
A slow poison
While rejection stings like a slap in the face, regret is a slow poison that takes years to kill you.
Regret comes from playing it safe when you should’ve shot for the stars.
In the moment, safety often feels like the right choice.
Fear bubbles up from the pit of your stomach and paralyzes your diaphragm, leaving you short of breath.
So you flee from danger and retreat to the safety of your cave.
You might avoid a punch to the chin, but by giving in to fear you’ve planted a seed of poison that will grow into a life-threatening tumor.
You might not feel it for a few days or weeks. Maybe even years.
But every second since you decided not to take that chance it grows bigger.
Most people don’t notice that they have cancer until they feel a lump or start having serious health problems.
By the time you notice it, you are already fighting for your life against a disease that kills millions every year.
Regret works the same way.
You decide not to start your business. You settle for someone who doesn’t really make you happy. You stay in your cave because the wilderness seems too scary.
Then one day you wake up and realize that you’ve wasted your life and it’s too late to do anything about it.
Regret has grown into a life-threatening tumor, and with cancer the cure is almost as unpleasant as the disease itself.
Having come this far along the easy path, it’s almost impossible to change course.
A big risk and a big reward
Many people strive for a life without regrets, but few really achieve it.
Even the most successful people still have a few regrets that keep them up at night.
The key is to step in the ring and do your best as often as possible.
The more chances you take, the more rejection you’ll face.
But each rejection builds callouses on your soul until you’re strong enough to overcome any challenge.
Just like people give up on their diets and workout plans because they’d rather have McNuggets and Netflix, a lot of people choose not to pursue their goals because the alternative is just easier.
That’s what it all boils down to.
Whether it’s because of their upbringing, some inherent weakness, or a combination of both a lot of folks just aren’t cut out for high achievement.
It’s always been that way and it always will be.
Some people stayed at home to tend the fields while the more adventurous souls set out across the open ocean.
Even though some people died at sea, the ones who made it to shore went down in history as great explorers.
You just have to decide how much risk you’re willing to take.