As aspiring entrepreneurs, the word “NO” is something that we hear on a daily basis and will be heard repeatedly over our lifetimes. It manifests itself in the forms of rejection, failure, and obstacles. These forms of “no” hold us back from what we want to achieve. What results is an all too familiar feeling of frustration and self-doubt. The negativity can be overwhelmingly distracting. However, the ultimate test of your passion is through facing adversity.
What truly defines us is how we respond to the no’s in life–the inevitable rejections from colleges, employers, people with influence, and other channels that we are trained to believe determine our futures. The most successful people dislike the word no–instead, they respond with action.
If the most prominent CEOs and businesspeople had honest resumes, their long list of failures would be listed first before following with their incredible milestones. Read any 10 Wikipedia biographies of very successful people–you will notice they all have a foundation of failures to their accomplishments. Their successes are only the tip of the iceberg.
Thomas Edison’s quote exemplifies why he is a famous example to all entrepreneurs: “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison was dubbed “stupid” and “unteachable” in school, terminated from various jobs at a young age, and launched multiple costly ventures that failed. During his career, he filed for 1,093 patents. They were all unsuccessful except for a select few inventions–most notably, the lightbulb.
Dan Kan was told the word “no” repeatedly as soon as he graduated from college. Wanting to pursue a career in finance for the salary potential, he applied to 35 employers and received rejection letters from all except for two. With tenacity and a little luck, he got his foot in the door at Silicon Valley with a job opportunity at a small startup called UserVoice. Over the years, he founded several companies of his own and built over 30 apps. He sold a few that were met with mild success and was forced to shut down his other ventures that were met with rejection. However, he responded to the no’s in life by keeping his passion, commitment, and vision unwavered. He soon co-founded Cruise Automation, a startup for autonomous driving technologies. Today, he is 29 years old and his startup was recently acquired by GM for $1 billion.
Apple’s Steve Jobs was fired from his own company at 30. Walt Disney was let go from his first job at a newspaper because he was told he lacked creativity. Bill Gates’ first company crumbled. Milton Hershey launched three companies before building his candy empire, the Hershey Company. Stephen King’s first book Carrie was rejected over 30 times before reaching worldwide recognition. These stories reveal a common theme–the failures built a foundation for monumental successes.
To survive in the startup ecosystem and business world, you have to be prepared to be thrown into the deep-end at any moment. The word “no” will manifest through a riptide, it’s up to you to either sink or swim. The old saying, “do not take ‘no’ for an answer”, applies in this field. Do not let your passion and commitment subside during difficult times. Learn to dislike the word “no” and tackle life’s challenges with all of your energy. By embracing adversity, you will find that your passion, confidence, and commitment outshine your hardships.