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No matter your industry or aspirations, some days you probably feel like you’re swimming upstream against a river of rejection. Maybe a prospective client hired someone else. Or you didn’t land that speaking engagement. Or you didn’t receive the loan for your latest business venture. Everyone faces rejection, and for small business owners, the “no’s” commonly outweigh the “yeses,” especially in the beginning. While it’s hard to accept this fact when you’re fuming over the injustice of it all, it’s not the “no” that matters. It’s your reaction that truly carves your path.

We all know the stories. Oprah Winfrey was fired as a reporter for being “unfit for TV.” Now she owns her own network. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by dozens of publishers. Seven books, eight movies and one play later, she’s a billionaire. Look up any enormously successful person and you’ll find that their past is littered with setbacks. This is the norm, not the exception. Success is a direct function of grit, lots of hard work and copious perseverance. 

Easier said than done, I know. But there are several strategies you can use to reframe rejection and ensure that you regroup and chase that vision of yours more fiercely than ever. 

Rejection is a Rite of Passage: Own it, Live it, Love it

First, reshape your relationship to rejection. Every “no” is a gift because it moves you closer to a “yes.” Gatekeepers will always deny a visionary at first. Always. So if your business initiatives haven’t been rebuffed yet, you’re probably playing it safe. While the fallout from your latest repudiation may make the growth and future success of your business seem impossible, don’t surrender to the fear. 

Look at each refusal as a necessary step in your success journey. Invite them. Collect them. Catalogue them. Stack them into a file that you can look back on later with smug indifference. Use them as fuel, as your motivator. They’re integral to your business’s evolving story. 

And remember, a no is never final. Persistence has driven all of my entrepreneurial wins, and I rarely take “no” for an answer. It’s always okay to go back to someone about your idea multiple times, even if their initial answer is supposed to be final. And if that avenue never opens, find another. There’s always an alternate way to solve a problem, and a different person just waiting to help shepherd a business like yours. 

Feedback is Like Ambrosia From the Gods

Inherent in every rejection is at least one reason for the pass. Cull the explanations you’ve received for actionable feedback. If any of them ring true to you, or if you receive the same criticism multiple times from different sources, consider honing your plan by implementing the suggested changes. Perhaps what you’re attempting is too broad or too narrow and these “tweaks” can help you develop something more saleable. 

The people rejecting you are likely seasoned players with a strong grasp of industry and market conditions. Their insights can prove invaluable and possibly serve as stepping stones toward achieving your end-game. The trick is knowing the difference between a “no” stemming from short-sightedness, versus a flawed strategy that needs to be fixed.   

Supportive Networks Are Everything

This is where a team of trusted peers and colleagues can really help. Solicit their advice. People who understand your vision and support your goals can help you see the forest from the trees when things heat up. Rely on them and ensure that, in turn, you do your best to support them in their careers. 

This caring exchange will prove a source of strength and perspective. It will also help you better identify the opportunities within each challenge. At the same time, try to distance yourself from naysayers. Negative people who approach your ambition with skepticism are stuck in their own fear spirals, and it may be best to avoid that energy while you’re feeling vulnerable. If that person happens to be someone you can’t ignore, like a family member, attempt to overwhelm them with your own positivity. Even if it’s partially manufactured, your confidence and assurance will neutralize their fear and make the relationship more tenable.

And most importantly, don’t quit. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. 

Keep promoting yourself and your idea. You may not control the market or the money, but you control the future of your company. And if you stay positive and agile, your long-awaited “yes” will find you. 

About the Author(s)

Debrah Lee Charatan

Debrah Lee Charatan is an entrepreneur and real estate veteran widely recognized for her experience brokering, investing and developing commercial, residential and mixed-use properties in the New York City area.

President, BCB Property Management
How to Redirect Rejection