How to Use Rejection to Achieve Your Business Goals


Even though I’ve always been a pretty confident guy, early in my career as an entrepreneur I struggled to deal with the rejection I received.

In part, I think, I was shocked that somebody would actually tell me “No”. But even when I got over that feeling, rejection still had a sting to it. If I hadn’t learnt how to deal with that sting, my life as an entrepreneur may have been short-lived.

Why do you fear rejection?

You probably fear rejection for a number of reasons. For instance, you might fear to be considered a failure, you see it as public humiliation, you’re a perfectionist or you have a low self-esteem and just want everybody to approve of you.

Rejection brings those fears to the surface.

One of the reasons I bring this up is because it’s very important that you understand why you fear rejection and what your real fear is. Once you do that, you can actually do something about it, and use that fear to your advantage.

Why you must conquer your fear of rejection

The entrepreneurship game is a tough one, and it’s not for those who are weak in the stomach. If you don’t like hearing the word “no”, then you should probably find something else to do.

See, if starting a business was easy, everyone would be doing it. So, think of rejection as the necessary process of weeding out the weak.

The lesson every entrepreneur needs to learn is that rejection never goes away. It doesn’t matter if you are Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerber. You will get rejected.

The secret is to use the rejection to help motivate you to reach your business goals. Here are some tricks that I have found to be very helpful when I deal with rejection.

Accept rejection as a challenge

Using rejection to motivate you to prove people wrong can give you a powerful jolt to building your company. In fact, this is such a popular way of thinking among entrepreneurs that it’s almost a cliché, which probably means there is a whole lot of truth to it.

For some entrepreneurs that response is kind of like an instinct, and it’s usually combined with a hard-headed attitude that simply will not take no for an answer. They’re kind of like the bulldogs in business.

That doesn’t mean if you don’t have this instinct, you can’t be an entrepreneur. It just means you’ll have to develop it.

How do you develop this kind of tenacity? Well, for starters, you have to be completely obsessed with what you do. You have to believe that life has no meaning if you don’t do it. And you have to believe that thousands of people can benefit if you do it.

If that doesn’t describe you, then you need to start looking for something else to do. Otherwise, rejection will knock you down…and keep you down.

The other trick to developing this tenacity is to simply remind yourself not to take “no” for answer. Put up signs around your house and car to remind yourself.

Finally, hang out with people who will push you and encourage you not to give up. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely game, so find people you can trust who will hold you up when you get discouraged.

Be more assertive

Some people confuse being assertive with being aggressive or being arrogant. That’s not what I mean. Being assertive means doing the following five things:

  1. Express what you need – Tell people what you want and need clearly and concisely. Be firm and steady when you state those wants and needs. People will definitely pay attention when you confidently express yourself in this way.
  2. Change your body language – Learn how to keep your chin up and look people in the eye. Cross your legs and fold your hands if it makes you feel more comfortable. One thing you don’t want to do is to come across as cold or emotionless. Be friendly.
  3. Stop apologizing – Unless you’ve sincerely done something wrong, then you don’t need to apologize for anything. Telling a potential client, “I’m sorry, it’s $24,000 to update you guys” will only lead them to ask, “If you are so sorry, why don’t you do something about it?”
  4. Don’t ask questions when you make a demand – You will not sound assertive if you end all your statements with a question. That will only cause people to doubt you have the confidence to get the job done.
  5. Use the word “I” – This is a great way to be assertive because it shows that you are taking responsibility for you and your efforts. This will also help make your needs and wants more clear. After all, it is only you making these demands, not anyone else.

If you are not naturally assertive, relax. Changing takes time, so use these tips to become more assertive, but allow yourself time to change.

Use the 24-hour rule when rejected

Of course it hurts to be turned down for funding, to lose a contract or to watch your best employee leave for the competition, but that is going to happen to you.

One trap that you can fall into is wallowing in those rejections and then letting those rejections define you.

Don’t do that…swallow your pride, accept the rejection and move on. In fact, if you experience a particularly difficult rejection…say you’ve been preparing for a funding meeting for months, talked to the right people and got all your papers in order only to be turned down, go sulk for 24 hours.

But after that get back up and go at it again.

Keep in mind that this rule applies equally well to wins. If you happen to get the funding, contract or star employee, you can gloat and celebrate for 24 hours…then get back to work!

Count to ten

I know some entrepreneurs who like to count their rejections. They do it not because they want to get depressed, but because they want to know when they are going to get a win.

See, on average, ten rejections is the going price for any worthwhile win. People become legends when they don’t back down from rejections and keep trying and trying.

This is true for athletes, actors, presidents and entrepreneurs. You will eventually win as long as you stay in the game.

Work on your timing to minimize rejection

It’s important to understand that most of the time when you are rejected, it’s not you, who is really being rejected. Simply, the person on the other end has reasons not to get involved with you at that moment.

For example, you may try dozens of ways to approach potential clients and get shot down for a dozen of reasons. This one is too busy right now…this one isn’t looking at new opportunities…this one is getting out of business.

In each of those cases, you might have gotten a different response. Approach the new client when he’s not busy, and you might get twenty minutes of his time. Or wait until that client is looking at new opportunities, and she may be interested. Or consider the possibility that if you met that client three months earlier, when that client was still in the game, things might have happened for you.

As you can see, most rejections really don’t have anything to do with you or your idea. Anyone else who approached those potential clients probably would’ve gotten the same answer.

Analyze every rejection

Just because I encourage you to get over your rejections, I don’t want you to think I’m suggesting you dismiss every rejection as imaginary. I am also not suggesting you start thinking that there is never anything wrong with your approach, product or idea.

Sometimes failure can provide us with very powerful feedback that can lead to some pretty powerful insights and profitable opportunities. Take any constructive criticism someone offers about you, your product or your approach and be ready to make proper changes if necessary.

In fact, I recommend to a lot of young entrepreneurs to follow up with those who’ve rejected them, thank them for the opportunity and then ask for feedback. Then thank them with a card if they offer advice.

Understand why particular rejections hurt

Rejections tend to sting for three reasons:

  1. When you are rejected frequently – It’s easy to shrug off one bad meeting, but enduring twenty or more setbacks before a win can take its toll.
  2. You care about the person rejecting you – Being rejected by somebody who you are close to is not the same as being rejected by a stranger. The more emotional involvement you have with a person, the higher the pain of rejection will be.
  3. The person rejecting you is important – You value people’s opinions who you think to be smarter or better than you, so you might take that person’s rejection to heart.

I’ve found it very helpful to pinpoint why a particular rejection stings in order to get over it. If you can identify which scenario, out of the three, you are facing, then you are a step closer to getting over your rejection.

Create active ways to deal with rejection

A lot of the advice above is about coping with rejection after it happened by reframing it so you can learn from it. That’s kind of a passive way to deal with rejection. So, I want to share a few active ways:

  • Find a motivator – What is that one thing that keeps you obsessed about what you do? It could be a certain part of your business that you just love and never want to stop doing. That will keep you motivated in the face of rejections.
  • Keep your pipeline full – Rejections are easier to brush off when you have something else to fall back on. If you have all your eggs in one basket, then all your hope is riding on one outcome. Instead, spread out your fear over several things.
  • Focus your efforts. Not everyone is a qualified prospect for you, so make sure you know who your most qualified prospects are, and focus all your energy on them. Don’t waste time being rejected by people who don’t matter to your business.


You can probably remember your first major rejection…I think we all can. And then the next one and the next. What’s important for your success as an entrepreneur is how you react to that rejection. Make sure you are taking steps to recover, and focus on your next steps.

Don’t waste your time on negative thinking. Just because you didn’t get the funding or contract doesn’t mean you won’t get the next one. To be honest, nothing is really easy when it comes to being an entrepreneur, but I hope that the above techniques will help you to enter the battle and stay in the battle a lot longer than you ever expected!

What techniques do you use to defeat rejection and to motivate you?


  1. Amir @ Blue Mile Media :

    This is great, I haven’t read a post on this issue in a while anywhere. Dealing with rejection is a strong skill. I remember in the beginning when I did a lot of cold calling, I took each rejection personally and it really does kill confidence. But you need to figure out what goes wrong and improve.

    The main thing is to not take rejection personally. Sometimes the customer/client truly can’t take on your service now but they want 6 months down the line. You shouldn’t burn bridges and take that rejection as something you did wrong on your part.

    Take note of what you did and how you can change and improve yourself with it.


    • Rejection hurts (especially when you’re a total noob to online business).

      I REALLY loved the 24 hour tip. But I’m not sure whether a person who gets rejection really implements this tip or not.

      What I personally do when I get rejection from others is: I’ll blame them 😉 (if it’s not my fault, I can’t hold fire for a long time).

      Great insights Neil!

      • Yep, not one likes to be turned away. However if you want to succeed you have to move past your pride and figure out what you need to do differently next time.

    • Thank you Amir,

      I completely agree that you need to learn from past rejections in order to be successful in the future. Also like you said it is not the best idea to burn bridges, especially when unnecessary.

  2. I find that the best way to beat rejection is by having a lot of egg baskets 🙂

    It’s true that it hurts a lot when everything depends on the person you’re reaching out to. I’ve found that it’s very rarely (but possible) the case that all your eggs for a particular decision will have to be in one basket. The point here is that this is not the case with majority of the proposals you send or decisions you make – so if you get rejected, chill, and reach out for the next basket.

  3. Walt Disney and J K Rowling were rejected many many times. If that’s not enough motivation to deal with rejection then nothing is.

    Great post Neil!

  4. This is a great post Neil. Every entrepreneur whether a newby or someone that had been in business for some time will deal with this issue at some point.

    One thing that I do if I get a rejection from a client, I politely ask them the reason why they are rejecting the idea, proposal or my services and I often do find out that it is not because of me or my services it is because we may not be a fit or they are not ready for me at this time. This feedback helps because I can definitely see how by accepting the rejection is a benefit for the both of us. Why waste time on someone that is not suitable for my services when I can focus on the people that DO appreciate me as a whole 🙂


    • That is a great way to go about it. It is better to know why or what the cause of the rejection is than be bitter and confused.

  5. I’ve come to realize accomplishing something in life is only a temporary satisfaction..its actually when I reflect on the journey, the REJECTION, the bad, the struggles that it truly feels rewarding…

    Embrace hard times, embrace rejections, it makes the story that much better..

  6. Craig Pennings :

    Great post Neil,

    I personally have had a high closing rate but as I’ve been asked to come in on more and more competitive bids recently, I’ve been overlooked a few times. I need to try your 24 hour rule 🙂

  7. Great post! I like the part “Analyze rejections”. Rejection is never a result of a single variable, and “You” is only one component, often not that relevant one. Among other components there is a product/idea variable which could be optimized over time with some constructive feedback.

  8. Well done Neil.
    Idea to analyse the rejection is focal point to minimize / remove rejection cause !

  9. Clearly written points rejection is needed for its that thing that points to us how desperately we really want to reach that particular goal of us.All of my pasts failures are life lessons for me .

    Good posts.

  10. Some rejections are easier to accept then others, it just depends on the rejection. There are times when you have an idea that would be nice to try but your business does not depend on it. Then other ideas you put so much hard work, thought, and time and when they get rejected that is harder to overcome.

  11. Awesome and very motivating article Neil, thank you!

    It is definitely hard to deal with rejection but no one ever succeeds 100% of the time so rejection is just part of being an entrepreneur.

    Bo Bennett said it best:

    “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”

  12. Just keep swimming… 🙂

  13. Thanks a bunch for this post. It’s perfect for freelance writers, too. Sometimes, rejection can feel like it’s our middle name.

  14. Great post! You make a strong point of finding the balance of when to accept and when to ignore rejection. It is certainly a useful tool. I particularly liked the 10 rejections rule.

    Often you hear “Failure is not an option.” In reality, it should be “Failure is the preferred option.” You cannot learn if you do not fail.

    From the perspective of Mitt Romney, the bummer is not the fact that he failed. It is that he will not be able to apply what he learned from the failure.

  15. Hannah Hamilton :

    Like your post here Neil, as always. Quite an article to start the day with. When rejection strikes, it doesn’t burn me or make me shrink but I always get motivated to prove others that they’re wrong. Make rejection a drive, or a reason for you to keep going. Optimism and perseverance will lead you that contract or the fund you wanted. 🙂

  16. A great deal of this also applies to that sense of foreboding before an annual contract review (or price increase negotiation) with a client (or a manager) and automatically assume that it will be negative.

    Great advice.

    • It is not helpful to go in assuming the worst. No matter what the odds are if you go in with a positive and confident attitude it will help more than you can realize.

  17. The rejection sometimes makes me down and frustrated, especially when I submitted article. But I also often make the rejection as learning. I have to go ahead and move on. I should not retreat because of resistance from some of the demand. Thank for your article. I always take advantage of what you have described.

  18. I tend to reject people too but I’m sure people who are rejecting me do it more often. 😛 This has helped me to understand why people reject others. Sometimes, it’s really not about the person, the pitch or the effort needed. It can be simply because of timing as mentioned in the blog post.

    To help turn a rejection into a motivator, I always look at why a rejection happen and what are the things that will make my next attempt a better one.

    • Everyone does it to someone and everyone has it happen to them.

      I am glad you are able to turn rejection into a positive learning experience because that is the best and only way you really will ever grow.

  19. Rejection is painful but very daft, no one anywhere whether they are a writer, a footballer, cricketer or politician ever has a 100% track record without having faced rejection.

    Great idea about sulking for 24 hours then getting over it. One very important aspect to take is that rejection means that you are not yet good enough so we can learn and improve our skills to a point where we land more and better jobs/guest postings etc.

  20. Hi Neil, some great advice here, I know many people who allow rejection to stop them moving forward with things.

    Rejection can hurt but it is only the ego that is bruised, it should be seen as a lesson, we are rejected because people don’t think we are capabl;e of doing the job or that we offer a good enough service.

    We just have to up our game to show that we can handle what is thrown our way or that we offer great service and skills.

    As you say, sulk for a bit then get over it, move on otherwsie you will polute your mind and soul. a very important post I think Neil.


  21. THANKS, Neil, for another great post!

    1) I usually look at rejection situations as time and opportunities for other things. Realistically, there is only so much work I can do. So if, say, one prospective client rejects me or a project falls through, what this means is that it frees me up and creates time and room for other clients and projects to come in. Otherwise, I will be busy with that project and hence no time. This is pretty much always how I look at “rejection” situations and hence they don’t bother me.

    2) By observation, often people cling to things (incl. clients, projects, jobs, as well as in personal relationships) to things that are not good for them. I read in some book that people tend to go out of their way to try to impress people they don’t like, as counterintuitive as it sounds. While this wouldn’t apply to me personally, I do know lots of folks to whom it applies. So in situations like this, rejection may be actually the best thing.

    As an ex., I used to have this pathetic job with a pathetic boss which was a year to year contract. To say that I hated it would be a major understatement. They pretty much kicked me out by not renewing the contract, and there was some additional drama to the situation. As bad as that job was for me, I would have probably continued with it had they not kicked me out. For one thing, at the time I didn’t even see many other options other than similar jobs in similar industry. But them kicking me out was one of the very best things in my life ever to me because I ended up moving to another region and totally change my life and what I do for a living. It was indeed one of the very best things ever to me. Since then I have learned not to wait for others to “reject” me but proactively get out myself out of things that are not good for me.

  22. Neil, I love this post. Thank you for writing it.

    Having stepped out from behind the curtains of other great companies (building their training programs for them) this past year and half myself, and having to face my own questions about who I am, what makes me different, how can I package it etc. I came to realize that I am actually afraid of rejection so bad that I cannot truly answer any of that until I get over it.

    And my fears have nothing to do with a lack of self confidence / esteem etc. – they all lay hidden under my true desire to make everyone else happy. If I even sense that I am not making others happy I internalize it. But only as a “problem solver” (as that’s who I am) not as someone lacking self esteem. And I do look as rejection as a door that has been completely closed to never open again. Which is really stupid when you think about it. Because as you said – it may not have anything to do with you it may have everything to do with timing (and nothing more). And that in and of itself is the most important message I take from this because many of my prospects and clients have returned to me. Sometimes even 10 years later, the do come back – WHEN THEY ARE READY.

    I just never really had my AHA on that until your article.

    Your tips will help me remember that for sure.

    Thanks again.

    • There is a quote by Bill Cosby and it goes “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

      Sometimes you have to say no or move on in order to do better. I am glad you have realized that sometimes it is about timing and have experienced it first hand.

  23. Andrew Gilleran :

    Got rejected for a second interview yesterday which annoyed me. But reading this now has turned that around. One of the best positive articles I’ve read in a long time. Thanks.

  24. This is a fascinating subject, and here are some additional thoughts after reading the comments:

    I wonder to what extent this is actually cultural and culture specific.

    1) Re “internalization”: This reminds me of a psychology study I read about. The study was done at some US university and used American and Russian students to examine possible cultural differences depression, anxiety and things like that. To cut a long story short, what they claimed to have found was that there were significant differences, with the main one having to do precisely with “internalization.” They claimed that on average, when bad things happen, Americans tend to internalize it and see it as somehow reflective of them, as their failure, or whatever else, i.e., internalizing things close to heart so to speak. In contrast, the researchers said that they noted that Russians tended to keep a distance between things happening and themselves and were not prone to internalizing. I don’t know how true such generalizations could be. But as someone who was born and raised in Russia (now living in the US), I think there is a lot of truth to it. When I read and hear people talking about internalization, it is frankly difficult for me to even understand the situation or relate to it. E.g., I got kicked out from some job I used to have, or I don’t get a project, or in personal life – indeed, there is a distance between me and those things, I can’t see how people internalize such things. Also, I read quite a lot of Russian blogs, news etc – and again, I just don’t see such a subject even brought it, whereas it is a quite common theme in the US.

    2) Re “don’t take “No””: There are definitely huge cultural differences here. Again, I think Russians in general (I for sure) tend to simply ignore “no,” without even much thinking. There is even a way to word it, we say in Russian that “”no” flies into one ear and flies out through the other ear.” Parenthetically, at the society level this creates unique challenges in Russia, such as people ignoring rules and laws, a well documented and noted phenomenon.

    Meanwhile, Russians have their own challenges to deal with. E.g., they tend to be late with everything. So even after years in the US I still struggle with this literally every day (a big problem in work).

  25. Chimezirim Odimba :

    Sulk or celebrate for just 24 hours and then get back to work — That’s one piece of advice I am going to keep in mind for a long time. It really hurts to be rejected. It makes you feel less but it could help you achieve a lot more if you get out of the rot and get going as fast as possible.

    • If you really can’t shake the rejection give yourself a day to recover. Anything longer than that is a wasting time you could be spending improving or trying again.

  26. Alexis Marlons :

    Being rejected is maybe one of the best thing that could ever happen to an entrepreneur. It promotes self-preservation, making a person more challenged to become better and better. Thanks Neil for your post.

  27. Neal, this is off the subject, but still:

    I loved your case study! Very interesting!

    But: there are no buttons to Twitter, FB etc it. And no place for comments or discussion (I do realize it was intentional).

    Why not also give it a try to post some case study (could be a small one) as a regular blog post. If it is framed so that the focus is on listing lessons learned, best practices, things to consider, i.e., of direct value to readers, and using the case study as a way to illustrate those points, then seems like it may be very interesting, and folks can comment and discuss, too.

    Also, as another thought: since you have so much experience and expertise in SEO, conversions etc, you would notice lots of SEO, conversion etc things just by looking at some website, whereas the rest of us wouldn’t. E.g., I have done lots of work in the past in the hotel industry, so whenever I am at some hotel I automatically notice lots of things and can come up with a long list of suggestions and issues without even much thinking, because I have a trained eye for it, it comes natural by now. Same for you. So if there are some non-client websites (especially if it’s a kind familiar to readers) that you’ve encountered that “scream” at you as an expert things that they could improve or consider in terms of SEO, conversions, that may be fun and educational for a blog post. 🙂

    • Good point. I should try making the case studies blog posts as well. I don’t know how well they would do, but it would be interesting to find out.

      I used to analyze random sites and tear apart what they did wrong on my old blog, It wasn’t popular when I did that years ago… maybe I will give it another try.

  28. I too agree that rejection some time let you achieve more better things in future and give you more opportunity, but many times it hurts. Sometime you reject and later you realize how important is that.
    Everybody have diff. opinion so that mine.

    And also great post Neil.

    • It definitely hurts, but you have to be able to move pass it. There is always going to be a time when you will be rejected no matter how successful you become. I to this day experience rejection every once in a while.

  29. Rejection is a part and parcel of life, everytime you wont get acceptance.

  30. Free Web Design Tutorials :

    Thats right! First of all nice post Neil, and after been rejected there is a 80 percent of probabilities that you will be accepted next time. For sure!

  31. Great post!

    Yes it is true that you dont have to worry about rejection, just give it a shot.

    • Thanks,

      No matter what, do your best and keep at it. You will find there will always be rejection by some and acceptance by others.

  32. Great Article, as a noob I have been rejected quite abit and it does get you down. Especially when this is what you do for a living and you assume you good at it. But I am determined to be successful, so I sulk and eat junk food for a day, count my blessings in life and start again and try to find alternatives. Its not easy though.

    • It isn’t easy, but success rarely ever is. I have failed and been rejected many times. I move forward by improving and learning.

  33. Our knock back for part of our site build funding happened to be a blessing in disguise. Time to go over everything and we found new developers, produced a much beter business plan (and freed up more cash).

  34. Damn Neil, your timing couldn’t have been better with this post.

    “See, if starting a business was easy…everyone would be doing it. So think of rejection as weeding out the weak…

    The secret is to let that rejection go…and use it to help motivate you to reach your business goals.”

    That is exactly what I needed right now, thanks man!

  35. Gerri @ Ninetynineways :

    The part that I like in the post was not letting the rejection define you. One of the things that I live by is not letting other people define you because it can really kill the greatness within all of us if we let things such as rejection or people define us.

    • Yep, you have to be strong and hold on to who you are and what you want. If you do that you will find a way to make it happen.

  36. KSingh - Blogger :

    If any one who is successful claim they have never faced rejection, they are not being truthful to say the least. When I first started work, I must admit facing rejection was a nightmare. However, as you get more experience, not only do the rejections reduce significantly, and you also get better at it.

  37. If you want to achieve anything worth while your going to have to overcome different forms of rejection. But if you ‘keep on, keeping on’ you’ll find many lessons in the difficulties you’ve surmounted

  38. iPhone apps Development :

    Agree with Neil. Rejection really kills confidence, but we should consider Rejection as first step towards success. Mainly no one likes the rejection.To become successful entrepreneur, it is really important to come out of your rejection. This is really a useful blog one should must read. Thanks for taking time to write such a blog.

  39. Googma Sansar @ Make Money :

    Rejection may be bitter for new guy but as a successful enterpreneur never avoid the rejection. One enterpreneur can leaern better lession from one rejection and he or she can analyse what mistake hidden in rejection. In few moment one cant lose temper but in future it may led inspire. In this challenging period it’s hard to get easy customer so that every marketer should follow again and again by improving quality service and reducing mistake. Thank you Neil for sharing nice post.

  40. these are supporting lines for those who really face heart rending rejections. and in true sense a successful person must not avoid these rejections, and should use these rejection as catalyst in his life. this post is remarkable.

    thank you.

  41. Hello!,,,,,,
    Hi!,,,Awesome and very motivating article Neil, thank so much you!

  42. Hey Neil !
    This is a fabulous post. I must say, i don’t know anyone else but you are our motivator. This is such a motivational post and a remedy for all those who have faced hard rejections. There is my friend who work properly only when he faces rejection. That’s quite funny but interesting one.

  43. cold calling door to door canvassing :

    Interesting blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out.
    Please let me know where you got your theme. Bless you

    • It is a custom theme I got from

      • Hi Neil!
        I browsed this page down to see what wp theme do you use and I found out this comment.
        You did not notice that the last comment is spam?

        P.S.: It`s my first time on your blog(I come from Patt Flynn`s blog) and I really enjoy your articles and it`s my time to TAKE ACTION and WORK MY ASS HARD! 🙂

  44. Hello Neil !
    I love your blog. Because mostly your articles contain a motivational factor which i really like as it always motivates me. This is an awesome post. You are right that we should take our rejection as a challenge and analyze that to find out the basic reason of rejection.

    • Kenway, it’s a very true concept. Sometimes failure and rejection make people who they are meant to be.

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