Rejection can be OK

Success is wonderful. We all want it. But the road to success can sometimes be blocked by failure. Detouring around those roadblocks can be a challenge, but it’s not without its rewards. In her article ‘Inspirational Stories of Famous Failures and Their Future Success’ at, Janeen Elite writes about how the Vice President of Columbia University told a young actor that he would never make it in the business. That actor was Harrison Ford. Another example is John Grisham, whose first book was rejected by 12 publishing houses and sixteen agents. Years ago a record company passed judgment on a young rock band, saying, “We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.” The band? The Beatles.

When people are discouraged about the lack of progress in their lives, I always suggest that they watch or read biographies. There are few better ways to see for yourself how failure can actually set the stage for success. Successful people don’t achieve everything they attempt — especially the first time they try. In fact, they usually have more failures than the average person, simply because they take more risks. Risks (at least well thought-out risks) are the key to living life to its fullest. Along with the possibility of success, risks also come with setbacks and disappointments. It’s all part of the package.

Families and teachers can sometimes be emotionally, verbally or even physically abusive. But that won’t stop a truly successful person. Elite goes on to write about how Charles Darwin was told by his father that he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to himself and his family. Beethoven was told by a music teacher that he was ‘hopeless’ as a composer. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he “lacked imagination and had no original ideas.’ Albert Einstein wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4 years old and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”

Abusive people are almost always wrong. They’re resentful about their own lives and they take it out on others. If someone like that tries to put you down, take it as a compliment. It’s their way of showing that they’re threatened by you because you’ve attained what they couldn’t. Silently thank them, pity them a bit, then get on with your achievements!

Success usually evolves gradually. Most successful people don’t walk around thinking, ‘I’m successful.’ They’re too busy doing what made them that way in the first place; namely, concentrating on doing the things they love. Success begins the moment you commit to something you consider valuable: being an entrepreneur, an artist or musician, advancing a cause, or whatever your passion might be.

Thomas Edison was told by a teacher he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. Isaac Newton did poorly in school and failed at running the family farm. In fact, many of the brightest people couldn’t stand school.

Michael Jordan was cut from the high school basketball team, went home, locked himself in his room and cried. Marilyn Monroe was told by a producer she was “unattractive” and could not act. Julia Roberts auditioned — unsuccessfully — for ‘All My Children.’ Obviously, failure or rejection has little to do with eventual success. 

The authors of the book series, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ were told by publishers that “anthologies didn’t sell” and that the book was “too positive.” It was rejected 140 times. It has now expanded to 65 different titles and has sold over 80 million copies internationally. Philosopher Ayn Rand’s novel ‘The Fountainhead’ was rejected by 12 publishers before finally being accepted. It became a modern classic and was followed by the author’s landmark novel, ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ Library of Congress surveys have ranked it as the most influential book in people’s lives, second only to the Bible. Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ was rejected 18 times before it was published. In the first year it sold over one million copies.

The simple lesson in all these examples is that rejection doesn’t prove anything. In fact, it often proves the opposite. Many people are disturbed and frightened by something new or different. These people tend to avoid risks because they fear rejection. They stand squarely in the path of their own success by assuming that failure in one situation is sure proof of failure in another. A pouty ‘I’m a failure’ starts as their mantra, and then blossoms into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Successful people take risks and are undaunted by rejection. If you like what you’re doing and you know it’s of value, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll find others who feel the same way. Sometimes you might use that wisdom to abandon a floundering project in favor of a better one, but never give up on yourself. Doing that is the same as giving up on living.