Finding inspiration from rejection – the positive power of no.

Thinking of a child who hears “No” sometimes can be one of the saddest images in my mind. I mean, they just wanted the ice cream! But in all seriousness, it is sad when a child hears “No” regarding their dreams. Kids should be encouraged to dream big, yet from an early age, “No” is a common response from parents, peers, and figures of authority. When you’re 4 and want to be a dinosaur, everyone should stop crushing your dreams and let you just imagine it!

Yet, as we get older the big N-O becomes even more prominent from those we love and trust. Teachers, friends, mentors, elders, they all use it with the best of intentions, to shield us from embarrassment or guide us in the right direction.

As we begin to grow into our own person, the word becomes pretty much a staple in our lives. Hearing “No” you don’t have enough experience for that first job, “No” only people that look a certain way can model, “No” your grades are not high enough for that, “No” that career path isn’t realistic, “No” we do not want what you are selling, “No” we as a bank do not think you will ever be able to afford it. We begin to become a product of the negativity bestowed upon us.

Sometimes “No” is the answer, and that is that. In those cases, it is my opinion that the Universe is just simply trying to redirect us to a path that will suit our happiness much better. In those cases, even when the “No” is not what I wanted to hear, I usually over time could see the benefit of being turned down. Other times however, “No” was just not an acceptable answer, and it would sit really poorly down in my gut. The hardest part about this, was overcoming the negativity to turn it into something wonderful.


The first instance I had of this being a real problem for me was in high school. I had tanked on a calculus midterm, which was uncharacteristic of me. After being called in by the teacher, he looked at my grades, where though I was doing well in math and science I was excelling beyond belief in English, history and art. He then told me with extreme conviction that he knew I wanted to go to engineering school but “No” he didn’t think I would ever be successful, and I should go to university for something my grades showed I had talent in.  At first, since I valued his opinion I left pretty dejected, but something didn’t sit right with me. Since I was younger and a lot more defiant, I simply went “FUCK THAT” and applied to various schools anyway. Slamming down the acceptance onto his desk for the school I chose to go to was one of the most glorious moments of my high school career. I remember saying something along the lines of “and you fucking said I couldn’t” and storming out.

Since that time I have definitely not been as bold, and the word “No” has certainly stifled my confidence, however there are a few exceptions to that. 1) Getting into an engineering masters with a learning disability 2) Turning down that masters for my MBA, after the MBA admission committee had initially turned me down and I just couldn’t stand it 3) Changing to a finance major 4) Seeing that high school teacher 6 years later at my boyfriend’s celebration for his engineering ring ceremony, and telling him my team had written a thesis that was being presented in Montreal that year at a quadrennial (once every four years) biomaterial conference. (The look on his face was so priceless!).

What was it about those times that really got me, whereas others, I have just let that word crush my spirit? I honestly can say I just went into a state with blinders on, and didn’t stop until I exhausted every possibility.  There have been smaller victories along the way as well, where the blinders were definitely used. After much soul-searching, introspection, and welcoming a new way of thinking into my life, I have realized just how positive rejection and “No” can actually be.

Sometimes it gives you that extra push to keep trying, other times, it is a signal to re-evaluate your current strategy towards an end goal. In my side business, we are often told “…those who have reached the top have just heard a lot more “No’s” than you”. I am just now starting to realize that this is actually a very powerful statement. Why? Well because they have heard more “No’s” sure, but they have KEPT GOING. They have pivoted their tactics, pushed past their insecurities and decided that one person saying “No” to them isn’t going to crush their dreams. THIS is the key of why “No” can be one of the most powerful motivators.

In conclusion, what should you do when you hear the big N-O?

  • Listen to your gut. Is something in you saying that this can’t be the end? That you’re on the right path? Keep going
  • Evaluate your options. Maybe you haven’t been talking to the right people, maybe there is a different path to the same desired outcome. Identify it, and set the plans in place to travel that path.
  • Ask for feedback. In the professional world especially, rejection is quite common. One of the only ways to get better is to see where you went wrong, and work on it. In my experience, even if it is just a few lines, most people are willing to guide you on improvement areas if you just ask!
  • Yes, it didn’t happen on your first try, but no one is perfect. It can be extremely difficult to be rejected. If you can move past the negativity and sadness of the initial reaction, you can begin to flourish, and succeed in your goal!
  • The Universe doesn’t say No. It doesn’t even have that in it’s vocabulary. It looks directly at us an says “Yes”, “Not right now”, or “Hang on a sec, I have something better”.


In the end, though “No” is traditionally used to give a negative response. For those out there looking for more out of life however, it truly is one of the most positive and inspirational words in the dictionary.




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