Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. You get rejected a lot. Whether it’s trying to chase down a new customer, pitching investors, recruiting new content providers, sending cold emails / cold calls to partners, journalists, and colleagues, there are just so many times when you’ll be rejected. Rejection itself can take many forms. A more polite rejection would be a terse “No thank you” response or the more frequent no reply. Sometimes it takes on the more harsh form of ”Go #$!!! yourself” or some variation thereof.
It’s certainly common to take a rejection as an indication of failure, and it’s the fear of failure that serves one of the primary reasons that people shun away from starting a business, engaging in a new relationship, or otherwise “hanging out their shingle”. It’s this exact fear of failure that so that often prevents good people from being entrepreneurial. They’re afraid of the daily moments of rejection that come along with creating something new and / or working for oneself.
To make it as an entrepreneur, YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO EMBRACE REJECTION.
I’m lucky in that somewhere along the road I developed thick skin. Perhaps it was growing up with an older brother or maybe it’s something I just picked up along the road. Wherever I got it from, I learned to embrace and welcome rejection. Rejection started happening to me so often that instead of letting it get to me, I decided that I should use it as a motivator. Allow me to give an example…
Back in late 2004 I wanted to be a photographer. At the time I was working for the world’s largest celebrity photo agency, WireImage, as Controller. But I wanted to do more than just crunch numbers, I wanted to shoot celebrity events. Because I’m a CPA, it’s often overlooked that I’m creative. Somehow the CPA designation (which took me just 2 years to get) overshadows the fact that I majored in Art History in college (w/ a minor in Studio Art) and that I’ve been studying and creating art (oil paintings, sculpture) since I has 10. Nevertheless, when I asked the assignment desk at WireImage if I could shoot, they rejected me.
Instead of letting this rejection get to me, I used it as a motivator. I went out and found events that the desk wasn’t already covering. At the time, no one was shooting book signings. My first book signing was with Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE. I went to Borders on Wall St, just down the block from my apartment in NYC. I bought Jack’s new book and got in line for an autograph. When I got to the front of the line not only did Jack sign the book for me, but he also let me take a few quick photos of him and his wife Suzy. Following the event, I showed the pics to the assignment desk that had rejected me, and they agreed that because I was the exclusive photographer at the event, I could load them to WireImage.
The images were quickly picked up by 60 Minutes who was in the process of doing an interview with Jack. It’s the image you see at the beginning of this post. I went on to photograph hundreds of events over a 3.5 year period and it got to the point where I’d routinely be request by publicists to cover and in certain circumstances I even had better access than WireImage’s own staffers.
It’s in these moment of rejection that you can truly learn and grow. That’s why EVERY DAY I TRY AND GET REJECTED. I push the limits as much as I can and do things that have a high likelihood of rejection. I enjoy the challenge of a rejection and I use rejection as a motivator. When I get rejected, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I actually feel sorry for the person that rejected me and I yearn to change their opinion or otherwise win over their business.
Ryan Born is the founder and CEO of AudioMicro, and also runs Audioo. Born was VP Finance / Controller for WireImage, has served at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and is also a photographer who has had his images appear in major print publications from Rolling Stone to People Magazine. Born blogs about entrepreneurship and startups at Ryanborn.net. He originally posted this article on his blog.