Let’s get one thing straight: Rejection is not failure.
Failure means you want something and aren’t making an effort to get it.
Rejection means that you went for it, and it didn’t work out this time. Rejection, therefore, is more accurately described as an “almost-success.”
Let’s get another thing straight: Rejection hurts. It’s painful and embarrassing, and if we’re not careful, we might lower our standards or give up on our dreams to become more “realistic” about our lives.
I’m here to tell you: F*** that.
There are examples of people all throughout history that got rejected hard and still went on to succeed wildly.
Instead of crying about it (or perhaps after crying about it), these folks took their standing eight-count like a man, put their mouthpiece back in, and punched life squarely in the center of its dumb face.
Today, we celebrate these brave role models.
1. Walt Disney
The man built an animation empire and one of the most-loved brands in the history of the entire world.
What you might not know is that he was fired from one of his first jobs. In 1919, lil Walt was a cartoonist at the Kansas City Star newspaper. He got his walking papers because his editor thought he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
That’s about as damning as feedback can get in that line of work, and young Walt could have believed this editor and just packed it in.
Instead, he moved to Hollywood, and you can probably name like 20 of his movies and probably 10 or so that absolutely shaped your childhood.
The lesson? Don’t believe what other people think about you. Believe what you think about you.
2. Steven Spielberg
The tried-and-true way to become a film director is to get accepted into a top film school, make a bunch of high-quality student films that get recognized by some industry hot shots, and then after like 5-10 years of sucking up, you’ll get your chance to direct.
Steven Spielberg was totally willing to accept that model – except one thing, he couldn’t get into USC. That’s right, the guy who went on to become one of the most financially and critically successful filmmakers of all time couldn’t get into USC’s film school.
He instead went to California State University, Long Beach, and took up the habit of pretending to be a director in order to sneak onto the Universal Studios lot to learn everything he could about filmmaking.
He used what he learned to make a short film called “Amblin’.” The film impressed Universal VP Sid Sheinberg so much that he offered Spielberg a seven-year directing contract, making him the youngest person ever to receive a long-term deal from a major studio. So much for having to wait years to get your shot.
Amblin’ went on to be the name of his production company, which created hits like “E.T.,” “Back to the Future,” and virtually everything else you love.
After Spielberg’s massive success, USC offered him an honorary degree. Spielberg said he would accept only if the person who rejected him signed the degree.
3. Mark Cuban
Once upon a time, Mark Cuban wasn’t master of the universe. In the early 1980s, he was an ordinary computer salesman working for the man.
Cuban was always looking to go above and beyond to make a sale, and one day he wanted to step out of the office to close a $15,000 deal. The company’s CEO wanted him to stay in the office so he could unlock the doors when the store opened.
Cuban refused, under the impression that leaving $15,000 on the table was worse than the store opening a few minutes late. He returned to the office with that $15,000 check in hand, but he was fired because, well, rules are rules.
If Cuban was a different person, his takeaway could have been: “Oh man, I better start following stupid rules so I can keep my job next time.”
Thankfully, he drew a conclusion closer to something like, “Wow, never working for someone else ever again.”
And he didn’t.
Cuban started his own business, Microsolutions, and he made $2 million when he sold it less than a decade later.
He’s now worth $3 billion, and much of that can probably be attributed to a philosophy that selling is more important than rules for the sake of rules.