There are few experiences more painful than rejection. Four years ago, Brian Acton was looking for a job after 11 years at Yahoo.
After Facebook said no to Acton, he and a colleague from Yahoo, Jan Koum, decided to work on their own start-up. WhatsApp, an instant messaging company, was born. On Wednesday last week, Facebook announced it is buying WhatsApp for $19 billion, its biggest acquisition ever.
Need to belong
You don’t need to me tell you that everyone experiences rejection. We vividly remember the hurt of not being picked for a sports team, not being invited to a social event, or not being accepted to university. Our basic human need to belong causes these incidents to stick with us through the years.
Yet, very often the people who you think “have it all” are people who have endured more rejection than most. What sets them apart is their ability to use rejection to propel them forward. And that is why rejection might be one of your most important ingredients for success.
It happens to all of us. No one who has ever built anything of lasting value —be it a business, a personal relationship or a body of critical knowledge— did it without suffering pain and disappointment. Failure, at some point along the way, is inevitable.
Hanging by a thread
Statistics estimates that just two-thirds of all start-ups see their second birthdays, and less than half make it to their fourth. And in an economy such as ours, plenty of those survivors may well be hanging by a thread.
Entrepreneurs who make it manage to take the hits and keep getting up. Accepting rejection, however, is not an easy process — for children or adults — and many of us handle it poorly.
At various times in our careers we’ll not get selected for jobs, promotions, or projects; or even less significant benefits such as parking spaces, preferred offices, or new computer. Whether it’s fair or not, the hard reality is that everyone cannot have everything.
Even Steve Jobs
Even Steve Jobs, whom we remember as a digital visionary, got rejected. The man who brought poetry to the microchip was a human being before he became a legend. We can’t all be Steve Jobs, but we can all learn from his extraordinary life.
After getting fired from Apple when he was 30 years old, Mr Jobs was clearly devastated. I would like to quote him verbatim.
“But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.”
Embrace your personal rejections. Being fired from Apple freed Mr Jobs to enter one of the most creative periods of his life. During the next five years, he started two companies and fell in love with an amazing woman who would became his wife.
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When you are rejected, don’t sit around wishing you could turn back the clock. That would only put you in a position of experiencing the rejection all over again.
Don’t wish you’d never asked for what you wanted. That would just leave you wondering. You needed to be rejected, so that you can get on with what comes next in your life. Plus, there’s only so much self-pitying any of us can stand.
Weak in the stomach
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.
Entrepreneurs needs to learn that rejection is part of life. It doesn’t matter if you are Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. The secret is to use the rejection to motivate yourself to reach your business goals.
Mr Waswa is the managing director of Outdoors Africa. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org.