The time I cried and outsourced my happiness

If everyone had to be evacuated, they were coming to us. If there was a bomb threat or a terrorist scare, they were coming our way.

We were the contingency plan. If they came we would have to direct, communicate and calm them.

2012. The London Olympics. I was working at a train station, ten minutes from the Olympic park. Night shifts. Six till six. I slept on a campsite. I did this for three weeks. In that time, I visited the studio three times.

Before I left home for the job, I had seen an advert for a position as a personal trainer in central London. I’d reeled off an email and thought no more.

Sat in the motorway services car park en route to the campsite, I got a response. They were inviting a group in to talk about the company and what they were looking for. I replied and said I’d be there.

I journeyed into the studio in between my night shifts.

First visit.

I remember walking down the road for the first time. It was a coaching job, so I was in shorts and a t-shirt. But I was hot and sweaty from the tube and from being nervous. As I approached the front door, I took a deep breath.

They were big glass doors. Very London. I walked in, down the steps and into a plush reception area. It was all clean white and polished wood. It screamed premium.

Whenever I go to an event like that, I ask lots of questions. I get to learn and it helps me stand out. I make sure I’m the last to leave as well. That way, I can sneak some one on one time. I’m good at one-to-one. I find big groups difficult.

The afternoon went well and a couple of days later I got an invite to attend an interview.

Great. But not so great. I had nothing to wear.

I’d got a lift to the campsite. When you car pool with someone it’s rude to bring everything you own so I had the bare minimum. Tent. Sleeping bag. Work clothes. Jeans. Shorts. T-shirt. Hoody.

I went into Bluewater shopping centre. I bought some Kurt Geiger brown leather shoes. Picked up a white Calvin Klein shirt. Formal trousers. New belt. I didn’t need socks. Or underwear. I had those. No need to be extravagant.

Second visit.

The day of the interview was the same. I woke up at midday. Started work at six and finished at six. I slept for an hour. Caught the train into London at ten and arrived just after twelve. I left London at half-past four and started work again at six.

The interview itself went well. But it didn’t start well. I was hot and sweaty again. Not a good look in a white shirt. And my new shoes gave me blisters on both feet. It hurt every time I took a step.

I asked questions. I answered questions. I told them about my experience and how my lack of it was an advantage. I told them about what I’d done and what I wanted to do and why. They told me what they were looking for.

I walked out feeling good.

Here’s what was on offer: Full time salaried position in central London. Good money. (Their clients were paying upwards of six thousand for three months training. They had many clients.) Their educational pathway was rigorous and systematic. For the first year, you were there to watch, to learn, to get experience. Their standards were high. They had the best guys in London. They were based in a half-million pound studio.

Dream job.

I received another email, inviting me back for a practical session. Now they wanted to go through some of the assessments they used, see how good a coach I was, talk about the different services they provided their clients with.

Great. But not so great. I had nothing to wear.

Bluewater again. I bought some training shorts, top and a new jumper. I had trainers already. Let’s not be silly.

Third visit.

The day was long. A repeat of the first two. Except this time, I had two weeks of working night shifts under my belt. I felt awful. My head felt fuzzy.

As I was walking down the road to the studio, I realised the coffee I’d necked en route wasn’t going to save me.

Have you ever been so tired, that when someone talks to you, you only hear every fourth word, and when you do register what they’ve said, it takes several seconds to work through your brain?

That’s what I felt like.

I also think I looked like crap because five minutes in they asked me if I had slept at all. I said yes, for a couple of hours. I don’t know why I lied.

On the way back to the campsite, I wrote an email. I thanked them for their time and apologised for being tired. I assured them that wasn’t my normal self.

A couple of days later I got a response and it wasn’t positive.

The main reason was that I didn’t radiate enough energy. When you coach, you have to be the other person’s energy. You have to have so much energy that you electrify the other person. I didn’t have that.

And every one else they interviewed was really good. Unbelievably good. They told me so.

But wait!

They would be hiring again in several months. I was welcome to re-apply. This was August.

I waited till January. After several emails asking for updates and getting no response, I got the news. Sorry they hadn’t notified me. They had advertised again and they had hired and the standard of applicants was so high that it was unlikely I would get a look in.

I replied and said thank you for responding and other things that you have to say but sometimes aren’t sure if you mean.

I put my phone down and sat in the dark on my bed. I cried.

Then I rang Molly and I smiled again.

What I learned:

Don’t wait. Those six months I spent just waiting, stalling on everything else because I had this great opportunity coming up, I can never reclaim them. I could have started my own business. Or looked for better options. Done anything. But nope. I waited.

Competition sucks. Applying for jobs is like trying to be picked for a sports team at school. Except with teams, there’s more than one position. For jobs, there’s only one. So every other applicant feels like the awkward, nerdy kid at school who can’t play sports and is well aware of it. Nerds don’t have fun at school.

Expectations. The more we expect from an opportunity, the more painful the rejection is. When we expect it to solve our problems, to change our lives, to give us the chance we’ve always dreamed of, we’re setting ourselves up for a mighty fall.

The way to lessen the hurt and the heartache that rejection brings is to concern yourself with what is under your control. You can’t control another person’s decisions.

How we feel when we are rejected reveals how much we are placing our happiness and wellbeing and self-worth in the hands of others. If it stings, if it burns, if it makes you cry, you’re too invested in something you don’t hold any sway over.

Don’t outsource your happiness to the opinions of others.

Perspective. The best lesson in rejection is to learn that rejection doesn’t actually matter. Life is not zero-sum. More opportunities will come. So what if someone didn’t tick the box for you, or choose you for the role?

Every job I’ve really really wanted, I haven’t got. Right now, that looks like a good thing. Yes my life may have been different, perhaps better, but so what? I don’t have that life now, I have this one.

I intend to make the most of it.

How?​

By concerning myself solely with what is under my control, and meeting everything else with acceptance and gratitude.

This is part two of lessons in rejection. Read part one, where I applied for a job with Tucker Max and didn’t get it.