A few months ago, I submitted a proposal on a technical topic for which I am certain there is a market. Initially, the prospect was excited about it. I hurried to build a course scenario and develop my plan. The prospect then forwarded my proposal to a technical reviewer, and that's when things got interesting.

The reviewer felt the course was "too niche" and used this exact phrase three times in almost as many sentences. He suggested a much more expansive course, both in depth and breadth, using one of his own deep dive courses as a point of comparison. Being honest, I felt like he completely missed the purpose of my proposal, which was meant to meaningfully tie multiple technologies together to solve a specific business problem that few understand today. Talking about tools in isolation, as he suggested, has never interested me.

The prospect, a long-time business partner and respected peer, agreed with his assessment and asked me to resubmit. I didn't have the technical acumen on this particular topic to create a comparable product to what the reviewer suggested. I looked him up; he had a decade of experience on this specific technology where I had about two years. He had many other courses focused on nothing but this topic domain. It would be quite unwise for me to pursue the opportunity further given the enormous time investment required.

I wasn't angry at anyone, but it was my first business rejection. I waited a few days to reply so I could collect my thoughts. I wrote a genuine and unambiguous response to the editor, praising the reviewer's technical superiority and directness of his criticism. Bashing him would be petty and unprofessional. I admitted I was not at his level in this particular vertical. It would be a poor business decision for me to pour tremendous effort into a course that would not yield a justifiable ROI for me. I'm often willing to deliver courses outside my comfort zone, but this was simply not worth it.

The silver lining is that I was already nearing my "red line" and losing this contract was probably a blessing in disguise. Don't say yes to crazy assignments. I kept the door open because, as I gain experience in this field, I will someday have the chops to profitably deliver it.

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