Why “No” Is Not The Scariest Thing You Will Hear

Written By John Sonmez

Spoiler Alert: Simple Programmer is actively seeking 2021 writers and contributors. Want to learn more? Check out our Write for Us page. Nervous about sending us a submission? Read on…

Many people will never step outside their box of comfort and complacency because they fear the rejection.

They fear hearing that tiny little word: NO

NoI somehow missed that sequence in my DNA structuring.

Want to know how to eliminate it from yours?

The way I figure it, if I'm already not doing something I want to be doing, then I'm getting a big old NO anyways.

If this were a fifth grade logical word problem, the sequence would go something like this:

Elisa wants to do Thing A, but she is not currently doing Thing A.

In deciding how to get to the end result of being about to do Thing A, Elisa is faced with two possible courses of action:

Solution #1 – Keeping with her current course of action and hoping that she will get to do Thing A.

Solution #2 – Asking the ominous Gatekeeper whether she can do Thing A

Which solution should Elisa select if she wants to have a greater chance of doing Thing A?

Folks often ask me how to launch a freelance career and get gigs, as I once made it my life's work. I'd like to say that I was a brilliant strategist who oozes such talent that people are veritably tripping over themselves to get me on a call with them.

Sadly, this is not the case.

The truth is that you just need to be a super stubborn person who is completely unaware of the correct “protocol” for most situations.

Picture this: It is New Year's Day of 2021 (the heralded “end of 2020 we were all waiting for!) and like everyone else you were having an exceptionally crazy turn of the year.

Staring at the course you had chartered for yourself, that includes coding a whole new app or finally learning how to play the didgeridoo, you become physically afflicted wondering “Is this what I want? Is this what is going to make me happy?”

This is exactly what happened to me a decade ago.

It was 2010 and I wanted to write.

Blogging was something that I loved, and people seemed to think I was half-way good at it, so I just needed to find a way to back up that life decision with tangible proof that I could sustain a life writing little articles and columns. Assessing the landscape for syndication, it was obvious that online media was the direction people were heading.

I spent a few hours looking at various outlets that I was familiar with and thought I might have a chance at getting a meeting at.

Finally, I settled on pitching Maine's largest newspaper and media site with a column on relationships and dating. 2010 was my year of Love (#protip: choose a word to center long-goals around so you feel like you have direction and purpose) and it seemed like a good way to focus on my intentions.

I knew less than nothing about pitching a column.

I researched Greater Portland's singles demographics, nearby media blogs, and wrote a sample piece. Scouring the site I found a tiny link at the bottom to email a content producer, since they did not have a full page with detailed instructions for How to Write for them.

(PS – we have one of those pages here on Simple Programmer, telling you exactly how to submit a piece we'll fall in love with and want to publish.)

They absolutely positively could have/probably should have said “No” to me.

In fact, I was fairly certain that they were going to. I had an entire laundry list of reasons that they would be idiots to hire me for this gig. They included, but were not limited to:

  1. I had no experience with a regular writing assignment
  2. My only credentials were an assortment articles for local newspapers and my own blog
  3. I thought had no idea how to write a pitch “correctly”
  4. Having not been in a relationship for over a decade, I was one of the least qualified people ever to write about relationships
  5. I felt like I had no real business passing myself off as a writer when (in reality) I was a middle-manager for an insurance company

But something I wrote caught the attention of that crazy amazing content producer and she agreed to meet with me on a Thursday.

My pitch had done the job it needed:

  • I was actually familiar with the content of the publication and explained how my column would add to it
  • I was aware of the style guidelines, and had written a sample piece to fit their voice
  • I had taken time to write something very personalized and curated for this publication
  • I explained the story I wanted to share with the readership, and how specifically it could bring value and an interesting new perspective for their readership
  • I finished with the experience I did have, noting what was great and where I recognized I may be lacking but had tenacity and drive.

I'm sure I made mistakes.

But within 30 minutes of my meeting, I was walking out of the paper's offices with a contract to write their newest online column, The Single Slice.

You could say I am a potential rejection junkie

Wherein some people get their adrenaline kicks from jumping from planes or mountain biking over cliffs, I get my thrills from setting myself up for failure.

How is that thrilling you ask?

I love looking at an impossible situation, and figuring out how to make it possible. Then I gather all the data and information I'll need to make it happen. Finally, I present all my findings in a way that now makes it impossible to NOT give me my way.

Ask any of my friends, they'll tell you how ridiculous I am about this. I ask for things often that any normal person wouldn't even think of asking.

You're already getting the NO by not asking for it.

NoSo why not ask and see what happens.

You are already rejecting yourself, how could it be any worse letting someone else do it?

Sure, you're not in control when you hand the decision over to someone else. But you are only fooling yourself into thinking you are in control when when you avoid the situation all-together.

That isn't control.

That is running away.

“No” is not the scariest thing you will hear when you are asking for something you want.

The scariest thing you will hear is that little voice in your head.

With its thoughts and regret churning through your mind in the silence.

Because you never even gave yourself the chance.


Write for Us at Simple Programmer

I wasn't kidding about that PS I snuck in up above. We accept new contributors and writers here at Simple Programmer.

There's even a full Write for Us page with the exact topics and examples of articles we are looking for, so that you don't have to do half the work I did to land my first online column a decade ago!

Still feeling a little nervous and want some more guidance? I wrote a whole post on the Do's and Don'ts for getting a piece published on Simple Programmer.