Most of us face rejection of some kind, at some point, in our lives. When this happens, it inevitably impacts us deeply, often painfully. Yet rejection is a subject that many of us don’t even like speaking about, because of the social stigma attached to it, particularly in India. This is why Ambi Parameswaran’s new book, Spring , serves as a breath of fresh air.
The book is a candid exploration of rejection, how to face up to it, and bounce back from it, using the internal springs that every human being possesses.
None of us wish to crumble in the face of rejection. We would like to be resilient, get up each time we fall, and go on to succeed.
But unfortunately, that is not always the case. We may react emotively or harshly to a moment of failure, and decide not to move forward at all, which could be unfair to our own capabilities.
We may even draw ourselves into a negative spiral of thoughts, which may lead to withdrawal, or depression. Ambi’s book reassures us that we can do much better, that we can get up every time we fail, if we know how to unlock the spring that lies within each of us. And it then offers us a step-by-step guide to springing back.
What makes the book credible is that it is based on many episodes of rejection that the author himself has faced, over his long and distinguished career in marketing and advertising.
Those that blew it
You may begin reading the book by thinking, here is a very successful man, what can he tell me about rejection?
But wait a moment.
At the very start, you will encounter the story of how Ambi was rejected at his very first job interview at Hindustan Unilever, because he “blew it”.
Then again, you will read about how his advertising pitch for Hyundai cars was rejected outright by the Korean car major, because his team and he did not make a good impression, and their level of preparation was woefully inadequate.
There are many more such stories of his own failures that he narrates with refreshing candour. You soon realise that while the author has indeed been very successful, many of his successes are, in fact, built on learnings that he has gained from these failures.
That is, in fact, the thesis of this book. That each of us can learn from our failures, and then hope to succeed, if we imbibe these learnings well.
Ambi uses powerful examples from several professional spheres to illustrate his point — you will find in this book stories drawn from worlds as diverse as banking, marketing, sports, writing and science. Famous names such as Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Steve Jobs and Amish Tripathi mingle with other names you may never have heard about, but there is one common thread flowing through their lives — all of them have suffered failure and rejection, and each of them learnt how to bounce back from the dumps.
Simple concepts for life
Such powerful, real-life storytelling is accompanied by some simple concepts which we can hope to practice in our own lives. The author walks us through how best we can anticipate and accept rejection, without fear or shame.
He then takes us through the nuances of decoding the rejection we have faced, how “hard or soft” it is, and how we can seek support to deal with it. Finally, he narrates to us some methods we can use to learn from the rejection, internalise these learnings, decide what mistakes we will not repeat, and then move forward.
Many of these concepts are supported by extensive academic research, which the author briefly presents to us in each case.
This is yet another fascinating aspect of the book, because Ambi opens the door to many such seminal studies that you may wish to delve into further, if the specific subject interests you greatly.
For instance, the Harvard Business Review article “Rebounding from Career Setbacks”, authored by Mitchell Lee Marks, Philip Mirvis and Ron Ashkenas, which the author introduces to us, may be of particular interest to many professionals who are grappling with a variety of career setbacks, including job loss, during the current pandemic.
The book does not cover the all-important area of rejection in personal life. So if you are looking for stories or lessons about how to cope with rejection in love, or in friendship, you will not find your answers in this book.
Having said that, I think that some of the concepts which the author puts forward are perhaps applicable in these intimate personal challenges as well. I wish the author had also touched upon the subject of how best each of us can build a support system around us, that can help us deal with failures and rejection.
What are the constituents of such a support system, how can we carefully construct these networks and build a life-long symbiotic relationship with them?
What did this book do to me? Two important things. First, as I read Ambi’s book, many rejections that I have faced in my own professional life came uppermost to my mind, and I began actively processing whether I had indeed responded to these failures well enough. In some cases, I concluded, I had “blown it”, whereas in some other cases, I had done reasonably well.
This book has that sort of reflective quality. It makes us pause a bit, to reflect on the subject of rejection in our own lives.
Second, the book has made me more conscious of how I can potentially deal with future failures and rejections in my life.
In that sense, it is a simple “self-help” manual too, but it is such a pleasure to read because it introduces these simple practices to us through beautiful stories which we can relate to. You can read it like a storybook, in a single sitting, and it will still leave these principles behind, in your mind.
For both these reasons — looking back and looking forward — this is a book that is absolutely worth your time. Bringing his many decades of experience to bear, Ambi Parameswaran has written a superb book on a subject that is of vital importance to our careers and lives.
The reviewer is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons, and author. His latest book, ‘An Extreme Love of Coffee’, was published last year. Views are personal.