Don’t Take it Personally

“We’ve decided not to proceed.”

Those five words opened the meeting, and I took a moment to compose myself. I’d just been told that a solution I had worked on for a year was getting scrapped.

It wasn’t only my solution. A team of us had worked together to try and get it working. The idea was bold. Implementing a solution that reduced data restoration times in a large environment. It was a lot of data, in a complex environment, with a limited budget to make it work. You might think that it was an impossible task. We gave it our best shot anyway.

After a year of design work, testing, problems, troubleshooting, and vendor support calls, we actually got it working. The problem was, it was going to cost a lot of money to run it. So the customer decided to cancel the project. They dropped the news to us in a project meeting on a Friday afternoon.

There was a time when this would upset me. All my hard work flushed down the drain by some upper level manager who didn’t understand the technical side of things. I’d spend time and energy complaining to my peers, then waste even more time and energy sitting in quiet frustration.

But this time I didn’t get upset. After more than a decade of seeing projects succeed and fail, I’d stopped taking these things personally. For one thing, it doesn’t help the situation. My energy is a finite resource. Spending it on something that can’t be changed is pointless. And being a serial complainer, someone who whines when things don’t go their way, isn’t a label I want to earn for myself.

Don’t take it personally.

The idea can be good, but that doesn’t mean it deserves to be implemented. Some ideas don’t fit the situation. Sometimes a different idea is chosen, even if your idea was better. There’s any number of reasons why that can happen, including political reasons. When there’s room for just one idea to be chosen, yours won’t always be the one. If it’s a good idea it will get another chance in the future.

The solution can be elegant and efficient, but that doesn’t mean it solves a big enough problem to earn a place in the environment. Maybe another solution is simpler. Maybe another solution is more complex and impressive sounding. And maybe the best solution is to just do nothing at all.

Your sales proposal can hit all the right points, but that doesn’t mean the customer can’t choose someone else. It happens. Another customer will come along.

If a customer doesn’t like you, why would you want to work with them? You wouldn’t. And if it’s something you can change, whether it be your hair, your clothes, the way you present your ideas, the price you charge, then you can decide whether to change or not. If you like the way you are, accept the customers who don’t see you as a fit, and seek to please the customers who think you’re the right fit.

It’s hardly ever personal. And even when it is, you shouldn’t take it personally. Your ideas can live on and find new life when the next opportunity comes along, if you let them.

Photo by Julieann Ragojo on Unsplash

By Paul Cunningham

Paul is a writer and entrepreneur living in Brisbane, Australia. He enjoys spending time with his family and running in the mountains. Paul was the founder of Practical 365, a former Microsoft MVP, and Pluralsight trainer. Paul is also on Twitter and Instagram.

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