You’re Rejected! How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day

Rejecting every reason not to retire early

I first wrote this post on October 28, 2009 when I was just getting started with Financial Samurai. Nobody gave me the time of day and it was a rough slog! I've since updated the post 12 years later and continue to believe it's incredibly important to seek rejection if you want to grow. 

Unless you’re perfect, there will be times when things don’t go your way.  You’re last to be picked in PE class, Yale says, “thank you, but no thank you”, and your girlfriend/boyfriend dumps you for another man/woman. Do you start sulking? Or do you get up, get angry, and prove to yourself you’re worth it?

Some people are so afraid of rejection, they never put themselves out there.  They let their childhood dreams die because society tells them to do this or that. They reject themselves before even giving others a chance!

Here are some lame excuses people who are too afraid to try, tell themselves:

“Why would this school accept me?”

“Why would she want to talk to me?”

“I don't deserve a raise so I'll never ask.”

“I’m not good enough to work for this firm, so I won’t bother applying.”

“What if everybody thinks what I say is stupid?”

“My writing is horrible, why would anybody want to read anything of mine?”

These types of thoughts crush dreams, lead to low-self esteem and mediocrity.

Change The Way You See Rejection

Use the following five strategies to change the way you see rejection. Rejection hurts. However, it doesn't have to. By seeing the good in rejection, you can use rejection to propel your career, gain more wealth, and ultimately live a happier life.

1) Always ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?”

On a scale of bad things, 10 being some terrorist attack and 1 being a puppy pooping on your carpet, getting rejected by a firm, a girl, a company, or a potential client is around a 3. It’s no big deal! An given it's no big deal, you must continue to carry on.

2) Success is a numbers game.

When guys go out to bars, those who don’t care about rejection (point #1) usually succeed because they ask the most amount of women out as possible! 

If your chance of scoring is 10%, and you only ask two girls to have a drink with you, you’re going to have a snowfall’s chance in the Sahara of getting the girl’s number. You need to ask 10 girls to even have an opportunity for one to not think you’re a creep!

You may think your green marble has nothing to offer, but I bet if you put it up on Craigslist or Ebay there will be someone looking to buy it. The scale of these two sites is huge; you are maximizing your numbers game.  It’s the same for finding a job. Make enough phone calls, ask enough people and attend enough networking functions and you will get there.

3) Put your rejections in plain site as a badge of honor and take some of them personally.

When I was in my 20s, I used to have my college, work, and publisher rejection letters all taped up on my refrigerator and office wall for me and all to see. They were so motivating!

Back in 2009, I approached some personal finance network asking if I could join and they told me to go away. Awesome! Every time I see the e-mail, it motivates me to write more and grow Financial Samurai. I've asked a couple of the major PF writers for help before, and most have never bothered to reply back. Sweet!

Now that it's almost 2020, literally none of the personal finance blogs in that exclusive network are still around.

The best rejection that keeps on giving is my college wait-list rejection. Being rejected from one of my target schools has given me 20+ years of non-stop energy to prove their decision wrong. 

It’s a gift that keeps on giving! I must admit it’s an interesting scenario when I have to deal with interviewing candidates from this particular school. Honestly, it makes me absolutely giddy to watch their football team crash and burn this year!

4) Seek out rejection.

Rejection is like adrenaline during a fight or flight scenario. You’ve heard about people lifting cars and doing miraculous things because of their body’s natural defense mechanism kicking in.

Whenever you attempt something new, seek out somebody at the top of his or her game and get rejected. Turn your rejection into Popeye’s spinach and pound away.  Benchmark yourself to them and work your butt off to prove them wrong.

I remember when I was in my mid-20’s, I was rejected from joining my senior colleagues on a client visit because they said, “it’d be too crowded.” What they really meant to say was I was too junior, too inexperienced, and they didn’t believe I could hold my own. They may have been right, but I enjoyed taking their rejection to mean they were embarrassed of me. 

I used this rejection to work an extra 20 hours a week on my communication skills, while buttressing my knowledge of my particular product area so I would come across as the consummate professional. It worked, and I was promoted a year later to Vice President.

Related: Perpetual Failure: The Reason Why I Continue To Save And Hustle So Much

5) Know that even the best get rejected.

Here are some great examples of successful people who got rejected:

  • Michael Jordan got cut from his sophomore high school basketball team.
  • Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919 because, his editor said, he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • While a junior fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, Anna Wintour did lots of shoots, but apparently Tony Mazalla thought they were too edgy, and so she got fired after 9 months.
  • Jerry Seinfeld was fired after a poor performance on his very minor role on the sitcom Benson. Apparently no one told him he had been fired and he only found out about it when he showed up for a read-through and discovered his part was missing from the script.
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three times.

And the list goes on and on and on. Winners get rejected all the time. Winners are the ones who are able to keep on grinding for over a decade.

Embrace The Happy Loser Archetype

Clotaire Rapaille, a psychoanalyst and ethnographer describes a happy loser as someone who sees rejection as a challenge. The first “no” stimulates their brains to want to try harder and not give up. Clotaire highlights one example where a firm defines success not by how many wins a salesperson achieves, but by how many rejections instead.

In other words, until the happy loser receives a “no” from a perspective client, he or she has not succeeded. The Happy Loser archetype is similar to one who loses a tough tennis match. Instead of making excuses, the happy loser goes and runs 10 miles, hires a coach, hits 1,000 serves and does everything possible to prepare to win the next time around.

I’ve always believed the most intimidating opponent is the one whose been rejected all throughout high school but survives. Those are the guys who’ve experienced enough rejection to last a lifetime.

With a large chip on their shoulders, they have an unwavering desire to prove people wrong and so happen to often be the biggest successes. All that anger is bottled up into a cannon used to blow away the competition.

Some may wonder whether being a happy loser can be taught. The answer is yes! By shifting your mindset to look for NO’s you will gradually start experiencing the thrill of rejection.

Related: The Importance Of Feeling Consistently Uncomfortable For Personal And Financial Growth

Smell The Fear And Do It Anyway

So I ask again, will you let rejection crush your spirits, or raise your determination? You need unwavering focus in order to succeed in a world full of talent. The world is getting MORE competitive, not less, thanks to globalization.

Remember my #1 motto: Never fail due to a lack of effort because effort requires no skill. Go out there, get rejected, knowing that each time you do, your hunger grows until you finally succeed!

Related posts:

Three White Tenants, One Asian Landlord: A Story About Opportunity

The Best Money-Making Move After A Company Rejects You

Updated for 2021 and beyond.

About The Author

65 thoughts on “You’re Rejected! How I Use Rejection To Motivate Me Every Single Day”

  1. Pingback: Some Things Money Can't Buy - How About A USTA 5.0 Tennis Rating And Win | Financial Samurai

  2. Inspiring post. Here is a quote I love”I think that you have to believe in your destiny; that you will succeed, you will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours – so enjoy the view”….rejection makes me work harder.

  3. The funniest rejection I ever got was when I first finished college. I applied for a part-time job at a burger place to supplement my full-time day job in Marketing.

    But I got rejected. I thought it was hilarious that even with a Business degree they wouldn’t want me as a cashier.

    Rejection is just a reminder that people operate with insufficient information and are limited by their own perceptions.

  4. The Investment Blogger

    Great article! Rejection is always tough to deal with, but is a powerful motivational tool. And the satisfaction of perceiving is one of the best rewards! Excellent job with the Yakezie network, keep up the great work!

  5. twentysomethingmoney

    This is such a great perspective. I find that I fall into the category of ‘fearing’ being rejected — so I try to avoid that situation at any cost. But if you think about it, I’m screwing myself over, because I’m locked in a spot where I try to avoid risk all together.

    I’m getting into the mindset of ‘whats the worst that can happen?’ when taking on new challenges — if I fail, so what? I’ll still have my life and my health, so big deal, right?

  6. Great stuff; that’s the story of my blog. An MBA professor scoffed at the notion that I could make money from blogging on the side. Proved her wrong within a few months. I probably wouldn’t have pursued it with such vigor and been as far along if my thesis wasn’t rejected (laughed at) to begin with.

  7. I do not mind about rejection so much; I used it as a tool for me to go on with my goal. Rejection will always be a part of every man’s life. Do not be stress or get frustrated if anyone rejects you, it hurts a little bit, but see its positive side and everything will be doing well. Everything has a reason and a solution.

  8. I’ve been rejected. Rejection always brings a huge dissapointment. But I move on and try to get a lesson out of it, improve. I am afraid of rejection but this fear never stops me from trying again. So many great people were rejected. I take this fact as an ecouragement.

  9. Rejection can definitely be a source of motivation. It can motivate you to prove that you can accomplish what someone thought is possible. The important thing is to use it to motivate you and not to become bitter and hostile towards the person.

  10. Very inspiring post.
    We need to be pushing our boundaries and challenging ourselves. Too often, we cancel out our chance of something wonderful because we are too afraid to rejected. Setting up benchmarks and working to prove those wrong who have rejected you is a great strategy.

  11. Mike - Saving Money Today

    Sam, I applaud your ability to take rejection as a challenge to improve yourself. That’s definitely the right way to look at it (though it may be easier said than done sometimes). Our failures are just steps we take on the way to success.

    By the way, your second point made me laugh because it reminded me of a guy I used to work with when I first got out of college. We’d have office happy hours every few weeks and he would pretty much work the room going from one girl to the next asking “Will you sleep with me?” He got a lot of slaps and a few drinks poured on him too. Finally we asked, “Why do you keep asking every single girl you meet to sleep with you when you’re constantly get rejected?”

    He just stood there with a big grin on his face from ear to ear and said, “Because sometimes they say yes.”

  12. I really like this perspective, and it fits with my personal experience. In one 24-hour period about two years ago, I was rejected by a guy and then by my job. My civil and rational reaction to the first one primed me for the second in ways I really did appreciate. I appreciated the honest feedback and the opportunity to move on instead of drag on with something that’s not really working.

  13. An excellent article. I can actually relate to it. For me rejection is something I use in my advantage, people can say anything they want to say, you get rejected dumped…every negative feeling can be used to make your life better if you just know how to handle it. Experience is a great teacher and sometimes those that hurt most are the ones that can really teach us a valuable lesson. Just keep moving forward, as the movie Meet the Robinsons says…

  14. ParisGirl111

    This is an excellent and healthy way to view rejection. I never thought of it this seek it out. It reminds me of what a coach once told me when I was selling She said, just tried to get 20 no’s. It does help to motivate you to move forward.

  15. @admin
    Isn’t it about playing on your strengths? ;)

    The funny thing is…all those women, with the exception of me and one other gal, all weighed 300+ lbs but with some damn good voices.
    .-= Money Funk´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday =-.

    1. Money Funk – Definitely good to play to your strengths. 300+lbs? Pls don’t deflate our fantasies……… I’m sure some readers who know what we are talking about are bumming!

      BTW, why not continue if the money is good? How good was the money anyway/hr?

  16. Reminds me of my credit rejection because I have no credit history. I asked family, friends, and co-workers for advice to get a credit card. Some of them even offered to call one of their connections with the company and get me a card. While I would greatly appreciate it, I politely declined. I wanted to work to get that credit card and build up my credit the right way. I used it as a learning experience, something to work towards, and something to blog about :)
    .-= Derek´s last blog ..5 Ways Saving Money is Like Losing Weight =-.

    1. Derek – That’s an honorable thing to do. I’m sure once you triumph over your credit score woes, you will be a better man because of it! Of course, a nice blog article is just icing on the cake!

  17. Money Funk – Sounds good. Yeah, it is a lot in the mind, and the belief you will succeed. BTW, I always new there was something more to your “smooth jazz” voice after reading Ryan’s post and your comment on previous jobs! Call me Sherlock! hahaha

  18. Heh, sorry, no bashing from me today; give me a topic I disagree with you about, and I’ll go toe to toe for days, but I definitely not much of a basher. I definitely agree with your point; almost all the regrets in life are from when I didn’t attempt to do something for fear of rejection, rather than actually being rejected for doing something. As a result, I’m now much more likely to think that the possibility of failure is better than not trying at all.

    1. Roger – Indeed. Some of the regrets come from fear of rejection, and it annoys the hell out of me. Why didn’t I ask Michelle Kwan (figure skater) to join me for a drink in the lounge when I bumped into her on the way down the hotel elevator one evening in Denver, I donno! :) FS

  19. Favorite quote:

    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

    —Winston Churchill

  20. That “what’s the worst that could happen?” question has been very motivating for me as well and helped me get past a lot of fears. Like this month, I’m trying to write a novel with NaNoWriMo. Worst that could happen? I don’t meet the goal. Second worst? Novel is crap but I do meet the goal. Ok, that’s not really that bad. So it’s not scary to give it my best shot. Same with applying to grad schools & taking the GRE. If I don’t succeed this year, I’ll do it again next and I’ll work on becoming awesomer in the meantime. :)

    1. Mrs. Micah – Good work and I love it! Anybody who can be disciplined to write 50,000 words this month will be huge! That’s like me writing 30-40 posts this month…. hey, could happen! Problem is I have to spend time formatting and restarting a new idea each post, so not as much “flow writing” as I like to say.

      Good luck on grad school and taking the GRE! You can do it! Best, FS

  21. FS – I don’t have a PF blog…used to blog about random things a while ago from time to time. I just meant that I’m not a big fan of writing either!! haha.

  22. Well…since I’m so far down the list I won’t bash your site and than compliment it! LOL

    Great post…simple, and wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could follow it to the letter. This post was something that I needed. Just finished a book that ties into this very well entitled..Illusions, the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. Short read, sweet…and to the point.

    I always doubt myself, have for a long time although I do well in most everything I do. I applied for a job completely under qualified. Granted, I knew someone that worked there…although they were new to the industry as well and had only been there a few months so they didn’t have tremendous pull. 4 people were interviewed…I didn’t make the cut. A week later, I was called back for a second interview when something with their 1st pick didn’t jive right. Went through the barrage of questions again…was told they liked my attitude and were going to take a chance on me…letting me know I had X # of months to certain certs and get up to speed.

    Just about 2 years later…I’m still here, I’m strong, people recognize the work I do and am in line to moving up! :) I’ve made countless connections that will/can only help in the future.

    In regards to a previous commenter about not being good at writing…I’m right there with you. English what!?!?!

    1. Hi XtraCrispy – What’s your site? I’d love to check it out! Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Great story you provided regarding using the most of your opportunity. 2 years is a great achievement, so hears wishing you another great 2 years! FS

  23. @Matt Jabs
    Dang, NPR, that’s big time! At least you know that they’ve got your number and may contact you again in the future. You may be right about the bible focus, but who knows. I’d just contact them again and ask.

    Let me see if I can work on that slashing sound for you Matt. Good idea! ha. FS

  24. Great post and I love the picture you chose. If you won’t even try, the answer will always be no. Worst case if you ask the girl for her number, apply to the college, try to sell your green marble, and get rejected by all, you will be back to where you started, but at least you tried.

    I try to tell myself that everyday when I am scared or intimidated by something. What is the worse that could happen?

    1. @Casey – Good stuff man. Would you like to buy my green marble though? It’s actually my wife’s, and I’m trying to secretly get rid of her clutter! :)

      The things we want, always seem to be a little intimidating. We just got to go for it! FS

  25. Visiting Financial Samurai is like having a puppy poop on my carpet! Fired up yet? ;-)

    I was asked to be on NPR last weekend, then they called me back and told me that I wasn’t going to fit into their segment. That fired me up… I’m not sure why they cut me, although I think it’s because of the bible focus of my site – which is fine with me. If that’s the worst thing they could find about DFA then I know I’m right on track!

    Do you think you could create the sound of a slashing samurai sword every time I refresh your page? If you did I would visit over and over and over again!

  26. Credit Card Chaser

    Love this post and I have to say that some of the best things in my life have come about because of rejections that I have faced in the past and my reaction to prove those who rejected me wrong :)

  27. I loved this post, Sam. Rejection is never the end of the world. Most importantly, it should never be used as an excuse to give up.

    As you’ve noted, take rejection personally and ALWAYS use it as a powerful motivating force.

    Well done!

    Len Penzo dot Com

  28. I love point #3 and do the same thing with my rejection letters from fiction publishers. I keep them all in a nice file and every once in a while peruse through them for motivation.

    I’ve been rejected by some of the best publishers in NYC, not everybody can say that, at least I’ve tried.

    There’s also sometimes something to be found in personal rejection letters, like a quick note that may motivate you, or a piece of advice, so I always try to take these to heart, maybe it can help you avoid future rejections.

    But in the end, a rejection is just an opinion, so you can’t let it get you down.

    Interesting article, thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one who loves rejection.

    1. Max – Sounds good man. You’re right, a rejection is just an opinion, and it’s about finding the right person or institution who thinks otherwise and shares your own beliefs! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Best, FS

  29. FS – One of my best rejections was from Arthur Anderson back in college. They told me I didn’t have what it takes to be an AA person. Ever since then, I did everything possible to prove them wrong. And when they went under, I extended a hand to the recruiter who rejected me and said “Sorry. Thank you for rejecting me.”

    The Genius

    1. The Genius – Man, that must have felt good! Lucky for you, you didn’t join AA. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve heard plenty of folks who have AA on their resume who get funny stares. FS

  30. Rejection can be a powerful motivational tool. I like the suggestion to put rejection in plain sight. Opposition can either cause us to give up or motivate us to work harder. Thanks for the encouragement to do the later.

  31. Getting over the fear of success is important. It’s a weird concept the first time you hear it but it’s so true – same kind of thing with “what’s the worst that could happen” There will always be someone better at everything, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to surpass them. great post!

  32. @Greg
    Greg-San – Thanks for your bashing and compliments! Buying your pet snake is facing fear straight on, and I commend you for that! They say one of the top three fears is public speaking, so again, well done for addressing this aspect. Maybe you should do one of those video blogs about something? That would be pretty neat.

    Don’t worry about a following. I think with the right steady approach, we’ll all have a following eventually! Just write whatever you feel like. I think you have some nice topics, and a very nice set up with your blog. I love how you have all those icons where one can Digg, Reddit, Facebook etc. I wonder if I can do that, hmmm. I’m ready for ya! :) FS

  33. Samuari-san:

    This is the crappiest site I have ever seen. Your writing is horrendous. The content is lame.

    That was the most inspirational post I have seen in a long time! Keep up the great work and don’t let anyone get in your way. You do speak the truth!

    I’m right there with you. I bought a pet snake because they scared me. I took a job training because I was afraid of public speaking. I started a blog, in part, because I have historically been embarrassed by my poor skills and it always takes me 10 times as long as anyone else to write something.

    I love snakes now (non poisonous ones), I’ve received accolades and awards for my training and public speaking, but so far I am still a crappy writer with no following… yet. Watch out, I’m right behind you!


    Wow! This post was one of the best original articles I’ve read in a while! Reading post like this should make us all realize that settling for status quo is the same as losing!

    As for how I handle rejection, I don’t handle it as well as you describe that you do. But, deep down inside, I do try harder…

    The think that gets me fired up, is teaching my son to be a more successful health person that I was by being a more successful health person myself. The desire to be financially independent one day also make me quicken my pace a bit.

    Hmmm, once I get to work, I think I’ll print this out and post it on my cubicle wall.


    Thanks for the motivation!

  35. Actually, having a puppy poop on my carpet ranks more like #2 because I don’t have Stainmaster carpeting… :-(

    Good article! Or should I actually say it sucks? I don’t want you to get complacent! :-)

  36. @Jason @ MyMoneyMinute Haha, damn man, that’s harsh. You can blame the wordpress theme choice on my webdesigner… but gosh, yours looks eerily similar to mine! Hmmm, maybe I need a refund! j/k. At least I get a cool logo for my money. Can’t wait to get rejected at the bars tonight!

  37. Neal@wealthpilgrim


    Can’t say as I’ve look for rejection in the past….but now that you’ve planted the seed….I’m going out today and look for a way to get rejected…yes…..I’ll do it!!

  38. Man, this site is GARBAGE, and the WordPress theme is terrible!

    Haha, just kidding – unfortunately, you’re not getting any bulletin board material from me today. Great post – I need to get over fear of rejection and get on with life!

  39. If you can put a positive spin on it, then you will do fine. Sometimes you need to be open to criticism or rejection and learn from it to better yourself.

  40. @Gen Y Investor
    Thanks man. I like that, “if you’re not getting rejected regularly, than you’re not pushing the envelope enough.” I’ll have to remember that one. I got a match tonight, and am going out. Should a fertile ground for potential rejections!! FS

  41. John DeFlumeri Jr

    Reject rejection! Keep trying, because persistence will make it’s own good luck,

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  42. Gen Y Investor

    Great post! I think your point on asking yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” is right on. I’ve used the same question to motivate me to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have done. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. If you’re not getting rejected regularly than you’re not pushing the envelope enough.

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