Transcript of salsa performer and instructor Magna Gopal’s TEDx Talk: The Benefits of Rejection @ TEDxJerseyCity conference. Learn more about the speaker by visiting her official website here.
Magna Gopal – Salsa performer and instructor
Good afternoon everyone. It’s exciting to be here.
Before I start, I’d like to ask all of you two simple questions.
With a show of hands, how many of you have wanted something and tried to get it by asking for it? Great. That’s all of us.
Now keep your hands up, if you have gotten everything that you asked for. Yeah, that’s what I thought. None of us.
So we’re at least on the same page. We have all had some of our requests refused. Or to put it in terms of my talk today, we have all experienced rejection.
Rejection is pervasive throughout our lives. I remember as a child I was always refused second servings of dessert. I’ve had school applications and job applications rejected.
I’ve asked to go out on dates and been turned down. And I’ve even asked for help from friends and sometimes been ignored.
Rejection exists everywhere, including in my industry. My career involves traveling the globe, teaching people how to connect through salsa dancing. Not sure how many of you are familiar with the dance, but for most of us the image that comes to mind is one of fun, passion, and lots of smiles.
It’s also a great environment to experience a lot of rejection and it’s actually where I learned the most about it.
When I first started dancing, I used to get asked to dance a lot. Could have been because I was always bubbly and smiling, or maybe just because I was a new face on the block. Either way I was always on the dance floor with very little effort of my party.
Eventually, however, people realized that I was an absolute beginner with zero technique. And dancing with me was a little bit more pain than pleasure. So naturally the requests to ask me to dance declined. And if I wanted to dance, I had to be the one asking.
Now it’s nerve-racking especially as a beginner, not knowing anyone to work up the courage and ask someone dance. It was even harder if that person happened to be surrounded by all of their cool friends. And then the hardest part was finally asking and hearing no.
Now maybe you’re thinking: So what Magna? You said it yourself we’ve all experienced rejection, we’ve all heard the word NO. What makes dance so different?
And you’re partially right, but let’s take the example of getting rejected from a job or a date. The chances of us asking again within seconds are pretty slim, most likely a few days, weeks or even months will pass before we make another attempt.
Partner dancing, on the other hand, takes rejection to a whole new level. Nowhere have I experienced as much rejection as I have in a dance. Let me take you through a typical night out to try and explain.
I would usually go out dancing for about three or four hours. The average song lasts five minutes. So that’s about 12 songs in an hour. I of course wanted to dance to all of them but initially I was getting rejected at least half the time, which meant six rejections in just one hour.
And sometimes if I really want us to dance to a particular song, I would ask until I got on the dance floor, which sometimes meant three or four rejections within the first 30 seconds of a song.
Those numbers are ridiculous. I can’t think of any other aspect of life where you have that many rejections in that short of a time.
Well, maybe telemarketing? I don’t know, but even then. Now the problem with rejection is not so much in the word NO, it’s the way it makes us feel.
Think about the last time you were rejected from something. How did you feel? Were you tense? Did your heart sink into your stomach? Did you feel defeated and worthless?
Now take that feeling and multiply it by the numbers and the frequency of rejections I was receiving, you might have an idea of how low I felt.
Of course, my initial reaction to this experience was: this sucks. I’m going to pretend it never happened.
But dance doesn’t afford that luxury, because if you wanted to improve, which I clearly did, you had to keep on dancing, and in order to dance you had to keep on asking, which basically meant every five minutes you had to set yourself up for another potential rejection.
And it took me some time to realize that rejection was like any other experience in life. There were lessons to be learned and opportunities for growth. I just had to find them but I couldn’t do that if I kept on pretending it never happened.
So I revisited some of those experiences. And the first lesson I learned was to not take rejection personally. Even if it was personal against my level of skill at that moment, it said nothing about my ability to improve and be better in the future.