Rejection vs. Failure: Which is Worse?

Fail fast and fail often is the new mantra in the starter community. I agree 100%, but I think there is a difference between failure and rejection. Most of the time, what happens is actually rejection and not failure.

Let’s look at the definition of rejected vs. failure:

Definition of rejected:

Definition of failure:

Rejection could mean many things.

  1. Not getting an email reply from someone you want to do business with
  2. Getting rejected for a job or startup that you wanted to work for
  3. Getting rejected for a date with someone you like
  4. Not making the final shot at a basketball game.


  1. Getting fired from a job or client
  2. Getting a divorce
  3. Having to shut down a business you started.
  4. Getting kicked off the basketball team

How often do we actually experience failure in our lives? It happens, but it’s actually a lot less than we think it does.

How often do we get rejected? As a starter, the answer is every day. And it hurts. It hurts bad.

Here is my theory on why it hurts:

It hurts because I know that another person got the best of me. There was a physical human being on the other end that said, “you know what, I don’t want to do business with you,” or, “I just don’t have time to reply back to your email.” I could actually care less that the person doesn’t want to do business with me, or meet me for coffee, or whatever it is. It’s the fact that I know this person has the upper hand. By rejecting me, he or she has the advantage. It makes me feel stupid.

This has been by far the hardest thing to work on as entrepreneur. If I was playing chess and the IBM super computer beat me, I would be mad—but I wouldn’t treat it as a rejection or failure. It wouldn’t sting. It would make me work harder, but the feeling of losing to a computer wouldn’t necessarily hurt me. Now, If I got beat by Bobby Fischer, whom I thought I was inferior to my chess ability, then it would hurt like hell. It would hurt because I know on the other end that Bobby is happy as hell and he’s laughing all the way to the bank. It would hurt because now Bobby “thinks” he is better than me.

Still, to this day, the hardest type of rejection is when I don’t receive an email response or a phone call back. It’s the hardest because there isn’t any closure. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on the ten emotions of no reply email rejection. I’m sure many of you can resonate with this.

Being rejected is extremely hard to swallow. I still get rejected every day, but how I handle rejection is much different since I’ve had about a year to learn.


  • I took it personal. It was an obvious attack on me and the other person obviously has no idea what they are doing. They don’t know my true capabilities or my company’s potential.
  • I never wanted to see that person again. I would avoid the embarrassment for both of us.
  • I felt dejected, inferior and my anxiety increased with every rejection.
  • I stayed up longer at night thinking about why I got rejected.
  • I felt like I was doing something wrong.
  • I felt like I was the only person ever to get rejected.
  • I un-followed them on twitter so I wouldn’t have to see their tweets or get reminded of why I got rejected.
  • If they had a recent success, I would never congratulate them. Why would I thank them if they couldn’t even email me back?
  • I felt that they HAD to respond back to me out of human decency.


  • I don’t take it personally. It is what it is.
  • I become extremely curious. Why wouldn’t this person respond back to me? What can I learn from this interaction?
  • Read. Read. Read. Anything that helps me become more influential or help me build relationships, and anything that has to do with building better social interactions.
  • Write. Write. Write. I write more and make sure that they know that I am still out there.
  • Refer them interesting people I think they should meet.
  • Respond to their tweets.
  • Learn. Fix. Repeat.

Don’t get me wrong. Rejection still hurts, but I take each rejection as a learning experience. I learn how to get rejected so I can avoid failure. That’s the only way to move forward.

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