July 8, 2023




A Practical Guide to Overcoming Rejection

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Rejection is universal. You can be rejected by partners, friends, hiring managers, and universities.

  • Rejection destabilizes your innate need to belong and your self-esteem. In response, you temporarily feel you aren’t good enough.

  • Reframing tools such as the Five-Step Resilience Method, the Zoom Out Technique, and recalling the failures of successful individuals can help you cope with rejection.

A Practical Guide to Overcoming Rejection

Brian Acton spent his early career working in Silicon Valley. He worked for Yahoo for years before leaving to pursue new passions.

When he did so, Acton was nearing 40. He felt as though he was being ‘pushed out’ of startups. He applied to Facebook and Twitter but was rejected by both firms.

In response, he tweeted, “It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next adventure.”

His optimism and positivity were apparent in both the tweet and his attitude. Acton and his Yahoo colleague went on to found WhatsApp, a popular messaging platform.

They sold the company to Facebook in 2014, making Acton an influential tech billionaire.

Rejection is universal. You are no stranger to rejection. You can be rejected by partners, friends, hiring managers, and universities.

With each rejection, your fear of it swells. It hurts both emotionally and physically.

Rejection takes a toll on your psychology: We recall it more acutely than we do physical pain, and it temporarily lowers our IQ.

Rejection destabilizes our innate need to belong and our self-esteem. In response, we temporarily feel we aren’t good enough.

The pain you feel after rejection can be scientifically rationalized. The brain’s rejection response mimics its response to physical pain.

This leaves one question unanswered: How do we overcome it?

The Five-Step Resilience Method

The 5-Step Resilience Method has been a powerful reframing tool I’ve used many times.

Follow these five simple steps:

  1. Use the 10:10:10 framework. Ask yourself, “Will this matter to me in 10 days? How about 10 years?” Realistically, it won’t.

  2. Engage in activities that bring you balance. Exercise, take a hot shower, and spend time with yourself. Use this time to regain emotional clarity.

  3. For example, consider the role you played in the rejection. If you were rejected after a job interview, reflect on your shortcomings. Research effective interview strategies, and practice.

  4. Exercise, reading, and making new connections are all positive ways to restore mental well-being.

  5. Think back to the job interview example. After conducting research and practicing, use your insights to nail your next interview.

These other methods are similarly effective at helping you navigate and reframe rejection:

  1. The Zoom-Out Reframing Technique

Reflect on the rejection. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 days? How about 10 months? Will this matter 10 years from now?”

Consider how future you will think about the rejection.

Most often, you won’t.

  1. Own It

The Own It Method cultivates a growth mindset. When facing rejection, tell yourself, “This was meant to happen.”

Accept that the rejection is occurring. Do what’s necessary to move forward and grow. Learn from your own insights.

  1. Recall the Failures of Successful People

Highly successful people face rejection too. Here are a few of my favourite examples:

Stephen King. In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King writes, “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

King lived a life characterized by rejection. His first book, Carrie, was rejected by 30 publishers who felt it wasn’t commercially viable.

Luckily, they were wrong. Carrie was published in 1974 and sold a million copies in its first year.

Today, Stephen King is among the most well-known authors, boasting multiple successful adaptations and franchises.

Walt Disney. Early in Disney’s career, he worked as a newspaper cartoonist. His editor told him that he, “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Of rejection, Disney says, “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young…it makes you kind of aware of what can happen to you. Because of it, I’ve never had any fear in my whole life when we’ve been near collapse and all of that. I’ve never been afraid.”

Disney pursued undeterred, and today, the Disney franchise is worth over 167 billion dollars.

Brian Acton. Acton faced deep personal rejections, but he used them as growth factors.

He said this of his ingenuity, “My DNA is building a product and a service.”

Acton stuck to what he knew, and his failure fueled his later success.

There is a key takeaway here: Successful people don’t stop when rejected. They use rejection to motivate their next steps.

Reflect on these leaders’ rejection. Use their stories to motivate you to conquer yours.

Master the Art of Rejection

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

Each of the stories has a commonality: Rejection is needed to succeed. Embrace the insights rejection provides. Use it to your advantage.

Rejection takes many forms. Reframe rejection to unlock your potential for success in all of them.

This week, I ask you to consider rejection. Doing so isn’t easy, so take your time. Write down your answers to the following questions, and reflect on them. Use them to navigate rejection more thoughtfully.

  1. Think about a previous rejection you’ve encountered.

    a. This rejection can be personal or professional. Name the rejection specifically, and write a breakdown of your reaction to it.

    b. How did you deal with it? Write a response to your reaction analyzing how your response was or wasn’t effective.

  1. If the rejection happened again, would you approach it the same way?

    a. Reflect on what you’ve learned in this article. It’s likely you’d approach the rejection differently in the future.

    b. Revise what you previously wrote, and re-navigate the rejection based on your newfound knowledge.

    c. Which of the above tactics would be helpful and applicable? Which do you feel you can incorporate moving forward?

Rejection is a part of life. How you cope with it is the determining factor.


I’d love to hear from you:

  • Which of these did you feel was particularly helpful?

  • How can you practically incorporate these tools?

  • Which rejection are you struggling with?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


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