“It doesn’t really work for me.”

“I don’t see the audience for this.”

“We already have something similar in development.”

“Let me think about it and I’ll call you.”

If you have ever worked in the business of creating something, whether it be art, fashion, architecture, or even the next Snuggie or ShamWow, you have very likely heard these phrases and many others like them.

They are all euphemisms, with the exact same meaning: no.

No. That single word, that single, excruciating syllable, can cut through the human heart faster and surer than the sharpest samurai sword.

But to ultimately succeed, one has to learn to accept these rejections with a stoic grace, digest their underlying merits (if, indeed, there are any), and then forget about them.

This is not a skill that comes easily. No one likes to be told no. Yes is just so much more pleasant. In a single word, it says, we see eye to eye. We share the same goals. We’re both awesome and brilliant. Yay!

Which is probably why “no’s” are far more common.

Saying yes demands a commitment. Saying yes means devoting time, and money, and effort. And really, who wants that? Especially when that next, sexy, slam-dunk proposition is sure to be right around the corner…

But when you’re on the other side of this equation, when you have created something and put your heart and soul into it, those “no’s” are much tougher to accept. For you, it is not just a matter of a commission or a casual opportunity being cast aside. Rather, it is someone telling you that your ideas and innovations are not worthy of their further consideration. Having someone say no to your creation, your “baby,” is tantamount to that person rejecting you as a human being.

Of course, not all “no’s” are created equal.

There are, sadly, no shortage of people out there who delight in crushing dreams. It is in defeating other’s spirits that these sadists derive their own sense of self-worth. To them, I offer up a single word of my own: “karma.” And if there is a God out there somewhere, I can only hope that, for these people, she’s a bitch.

On the flip side, there are people who are far kinder in their rejections. Though I hate to generalize, these gracious, tactful no-givers tend to be women.  Perhaps owing to some ingrained maternal instinct, these women manage to couch their “no’s” in all sorts of peppy encouragement and flirty praise, to the point where I have actually left some of these encounters feeling like a prize winner, even though my work was very likely already in their recycling bin.

And yet, the end result is the same. It’s a no. By the time you walk out the door, you can almost hear the voice echoing from down the corridor:


No wonder Van Gogh cut off his ear.

But still, we must persevere, right?

And in fact, the evidence against taking “no” for an answer is so prevalent it is almost incontrovertibly persuasive. Examine any great success story, and their path to glory and riches will almost inevitably be strewn with a minefield of “no’s” before finally coming upon that one fateful “yes.”

A recent, shining example of this is David Seidler. Haven’t heard of him? That’s okay, he’s just a writer. An old writer, too; he’s 73 years old.  And before this year, only one of his screenplays had ever actually gotten produced, and that was back in the 1980’s. Sure, he had done some TV work to pay the bills and raise a family, but his heart was in film, and it was a cruel mistress, indeed.

Among those unproduced works was his pet project, a story that resonated deeply with Mr. Seidler because the story’s lead character had suffered from the same debilitating speech impediment that he did. Both were chronic stutterers. And if you think a film about stuttering doesn’t exactly scream “Box Office Gold,” you can imagine what the Sammy Glick studio executives of the world thought.

Those executives were all wrong, though. The King’s Speech has proved to be an inspiration for people around the world. It has been a huge success financially, and was recently nominated for 12 Academy Awards, more than any other film, including one for the writing.

And it only took Mr. Seidler a little over 30 years to get it made.

Just imagine how many “no’s” Seidler heard over the course of those many years. And imagine what a loss it would have been if he had taken them to heart and given up. And then, imagine being 73 years old and feted every night as one of the hottest “new” screenwriters in town.

This is all the inspiration I need. At least for today. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the next 30 years beyond that, I’ll worry about later.