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  • 🎓 VulnU #014: Navigating Rejection: Learning, Growing, and Moving Forward

🎓 VulnU #014: Navigating Rejection: Learning, Growing, and Moving Forward

Turning obstacles into opportunities for self-improvement

Read Time: 5 minutes

Happy Diablo 4 day for those who celebrate. Sending this out from home in Austin after a week out of town and a long weekend off work. Routine? What’s that?

This week’s issue we talk through some rejection I experienced and how I’m going to move forward. You’ll learn:

  • What rejection looks like

  • How to name it (and ok it)

  • How to learn from it

  • How to move forward

Lets Get Vulnerable

After many years in the tight grip of the highly regulated financial industry, I have started getting back to my content creation roots. Starting this newsletter, for example, has felt like coming home in a way.

Speaking at conferences, blogging, and having an online presence all played major roles in my career development and even my social circles.

So naturally, this year I collaborated with friends and industry leaders, and we submitted to BlackHat, DefCon, and B-Sides. Three of my favorite places to be in the summer. Got word this week that all, you heard that right, ALL of my talks were rejected. I’m not the only one who is feeling the sting of that.

Let’s dive into rejection and what our next steps are going to be.

What rejection looks like.

This is rejection. It feels lousy. And even though all my therapists would be proud to know how quickly I moved through the emotions as I read through those denial emails, I still felt a lot of things.

Slowing that process down a bit, here’s what people might feel when faced with rejection:

  • Self Doubt

  • Self Criticism

  • Insecurity

  • Shame

  • Embarrassment

These might sound like:

  • I don’t have what it takes to get what I want.

  • I’m not smart enough.

  • What will my colleagues think?

Any things come up for you that I missed? Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn to let me know what rejection means for you.

Name the feeling.

When we name these things, we can interact with them differently.

This part is pretty simple. Call it out. Rejection feels like shit.

It’s easy, especially in a place of work where we earn our livelihood, to take these moments of rejection and create inner monologues with them and use them as justification to quit or switch gears.

Sometimes rejection keeps us from taking future risks at all. In order to give less power to limiting beliefs like this, we first have to acknowledge what is happening.

Beyond that, show compassion for how normal and common it is. We can’t rid our lives of feelings like this so let’s acknowledge them when they show up. Then we can even let it be ok to feel this way.

“Rejection sucks AND it’s understandable that I feel this way.”

Learn from it.

The submission topics, in my humble opinion, were going to make very good talks. In fact, one of them was about what we’re doing here with this newsletter. VULNERABILITY.

From one of the talks abstracts - vulnerability is:

  • a direct path to getting what we want and need in our relationships, lives, and careers

  • scary and so the very act of it requires strength and courage

  • gets a bad rap, conflated with oversharing or extreme expressions of emotion

And while sharing feelings is part of it, the perception of weakness when we fail, the lack of certainty when we take risks, and the discomfort that comes with all of it are what we really wanted to focus on.

Both me and my co-presenter would share our personal journeys with mental health / recovery and use academic research and our own experiences to prove that we can use vulnerability as a means to connection, understanding, and therefore an immediate path to community and career development.

Finally, the true and ultimate goal: collective resilience. How we get through all this, together.

I’m not totally sure why the talks were rejected. I can tell myself lots of stories. They’re not technical enough. I’ve lost touch with some of my cutting edge research roots. Conceptual thought provoking talks don’t hit as well as sharing real world things I’ve done in the past.

Makes me stupid happy to know you are all here having these conversations with me, proving that as a community we are ready to grow in this way.

The salient point is, while I can’t control why my talks weren’t accepted, I can find ways to use the experience as an opportunity. Whether that opportunity is for self acceptance, skill development, community building, learning something new, or building resilience is for me to explore. Which brings me to the last takeaway.

What to do next.

In this case, I think I’m going to use the rejection as motive to talk a little louder about this topic. By doing so, I’ll gain even more insight into the whether or not I need to adjust my proposal, submit elsewhere, or re-purpose it (a webinar, a long form article, etc)

Recall an earlier newsletter where I talked about utilizing a Growth Mindset:

Think of a time you felt like this. How did you respond to yourself? Were you critical or understanding? How do you view rejection? Is there room for another narrative? I’m a huge advocate of being willing to adjust your point of view when presented with new information.

So tell me, is this a talk you’d like to see at the next conference? Want to know more now? Should we do this talk somewhere else? I want to see this kind of content out there. Let’s keep this conversation going.

Elective Reading

I never really thought about this before. Different programming languages have different carbon footprints based on their efficiency. I’ve read a ton about how blockchain tech, and specifically bitcoin mining has huge emissions repercussions but hadn’t thought about languages.

The ever awesome Nate Warfield’s team put out this research that ended up as a Wired article. Lots of Gigabyte motherboards shipping preloaded with a firmware backdoor. Update if you got em!

Don’t forget to keep your domains renewed. Especially if they are hard printed on something as permanent as a license plate. Maryland learned this the hard way.

Vice apparently hit a bunch of stories this week that made it to my sphere.

From Joseph Cox: “court docs & Telegram posts reveal FBI is investigating a cybercrime gang called "The Comm" and its subgroup "ACG". Involved in a nationwide wave of swattings on schools, universities. Members also commission IRL violence; one victim's house bricked”

A vendor I respect a lot, Thinkst Canary, put out a detailed report that is worth reading. The best part about the splash page? It doesn’t ask you for a bunch of registration details. Keep being awesome Thinkst.

Props to Elastic. For any of you blue teamer running an ELK stack, this is a huge visibility win for in-memory threats.

There was a bunch of threads this week about China up to China things. Like the story we linked recently about them getting caught hacking criticial infrastructure in Guam.

This week they announced a plane design that we have a lot of data about what engineering parts were stolen via espionage.

I love that detection engineering is getting some spotlight these days. Check out this awesome talk from NorthSec. "Infrastructure as Code, Automation, and Testing: The Key to Unlocking the Power of Detection Engineering"

This was an interesting twitter thread for me. I especially like the ideas he put forward about having a Kale phone and a Cocaine phone. Have any of you tried this?

Extra Credit

Help Us Grow! If you know someone who might be interested in joining the Vulnerable U community, please share this newsletter with them! As of now, spread will just be by word of mouth.

Parting Thoughts:

Let me know how I can help as always.. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered in a future edition of the newsletter, or if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. I’m always happy to hear from our readers and help in any way I can.

Stay safe, Matt Johansen