Early in my career, when I was struggling to start my company, I made a list of all the accounts I wanted to sell.  Some, I admit, were far out of my reach, and to my dismay, they wasted no time in telling me so.

If you’re in the entrepreneurship game you better get used to hearing the word "no." If starting a business was easy, everyone would want in. (Too many already do! ) Rejection helps knock out the weak. In my case, those early rejections forced me to really listen to my potential customers and find out what I needed to do to change “no, thanks” to “where do I sign?”

You can’t escape rejection, I learned.  But you can let it go.  Here are some exercises that paid big dividends for me:

  • Dissect thoughts under the microscope.  When faced with a challenge, what do you tell yourself?  “I’m no good . . . this is too hard . . . I’ll never make it . . .?”  Don’t let negative self-talk sabotage your attitude.
  • Identify realistic fears.  Whom do you fear?  What might go wrong?  Who has the power to reject you?  Why would that person say no?  The answers will help you prepare your best offer, and facing them will help you keep your composure.
  • Focus on the moment.  Keep your perspective.  Rejection lasts only a moment, and once it’s over, you’ll be able to move on to the next opportunity.
  • Be more assertive.  Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people.  Don’t base your self-esteem on their opinions.  Learn to express your own needs (appropriately), and say no to requests when you genuinely can’t help.
  • Analyze every failure, but never wallow in one.   Harry Truman once said, “As soon as I realize I’ve made one damned fool mistake, I rush out and make another one.”  Failure is a condition all of us experience.  It’s our reaction to our failures that distinguishes winners from losers.
  • Don’t rationalize away the hurt.  Turned down for funding? Didn’t get the contract?  Turned down for funding?  Lost a top employee to a big competitor?  Don’t let your worth be defined by others.  Get back in the game.  It’s not a permanent condition; it’s a short-term setback.

Ten setbacks are the going price for any worthwhile win.  Look at the major league baseball standings at the end of any season: Out of 30 teams, only eight make the playoffs, and only one winds up winning the World Series.  Are those annual standings the end of the world for the 29 losers?  Hardly.

Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Burton never won an Oscar.  Babe Ruth was never named Most Valuable Player.  Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson all lost elections for the presidency before they won one.  Losers?  No.  Legends.

Mackay’s Moral:  Don’t get dejected if you’ve been rejected. Just get your skills perfected!