How many rejections could you tolerate?

Today is January 11 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How many rejections could you tolerate?” It is nearly impossible to find someone who translated one dream after another into reality who never experienced rejection. Someone along the way will surely reject you. Understand that, get over it, and find a way to move forward. Entrepreneurs and authors routinely face rejection on a daily basis yet learn to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well.

After operating Starbucks for 15 years, the original owners sold the small coffee shop with just six stores to former manager Howard Schultz with a vision to expand across the globe. It was during this time that Howard Schultz went searching for investors who believed in his vision. Of the 242 investors Schultz talked over, 217 rejected him. During these over 200 rejections his father-in-law came to see him. As Schultz recalls


“He asked me to go for a walk. I knew what was coming. We sat down on a park bench. As God is my witness this is exactly what happened. He says: ‘I don’t want to be disrespectful, but I want you to see the picture I’m looking at. My daughter is seven months pregnant and her husband doesn’t have a job, just a hobby. I want to ask you in a heartfelt way, with real respect, to get a job.’ I started to cry. I was so embarrassed. We went back to the house and I really believed it was going to be over. That night in the privacy of our bedroom, I told my wife the story. I was so disappointed. Not angry, disappointed. She was the one that said: ‘No, we’re going to do it. We’ll raise the money.’ If she had said: ‘He’s right,’ it would have been over. I’m sure of it.”


With a tremendous belief in his vision and a relentless amount of perseverance, Schultz convinced enough investors to give him the money he needed and soon Starbucks opened its first locations outside Seattle at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Chicago, Illinois. By 1989 Schultz had opened 46 stores across the Northwest and Midwest. Today there are over 20,000 Starbucks locations around the globe. As Schultz observed "I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It is seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It's seeing what other people don't see and pursuing that vision." Author Dick Wimmer held on to his vision for decades and dealt with one rejection after another as he sought to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well.

Dick Wimmer is the self-proclaimed most rejected author in history. His first book, Irish Wine, published by Mercury House in 1989, was published when he was 53 years old. He had relentlessly attempted to get that work published since the early 1970s but received 162 rejections for the book from publishing houses over a more than 25-year period before the work was finally accepted for publication. While Irish Wine proved to be a success with critics it was never a bestseller. The praise of critics helped provide the support he needed to publish two sequels that would eventually go on to form the Irish Wine Trilogy. To add insult to his injury experienced over 25 years of dealing with rejection for Irish Wine, Wimmer’s first sequel, Boyne’s Lassie, was rejected 83 times. His second sequel, Hagar’s Dream completed the Irish Wine Trilogy. Jack Canfield and Robert M. Pirsig were two other authors that faced over 100 rejections.


Jack Canfield faced 144 rejections before finding a publisher for Chicken Soup for the Soul. The book eventually became a best-seller. He then launched a series around the Chicken Soup concept. As Canfield noted: “If we had given up after 100 publishers, I likely would not be where I am now. I encourage you to reject rejection. If someone says no, just say NEXT!” Additionally, Robert M. Pirsig kept saying NEXT! as he searched for a publisher for his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM). First published in 1974, Pirsig received 126 rejections before an editor finally accepted the book for publication, although he doubted it would generate a profit. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was subsequently featured on best-seller lists for decades, with initial sales of at least five million copies worldwide, and has become the best-selling philosophy book of all time.

Rejected dozens, or hundreds, of times. Are you ready? As you look to translate one dream after another into reality can you reject rejection?


Do you go from one rejection to another without any loss of enthusiasm? Can you accept that rejections are going to cross your path as you navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well?


How many rejections can you tolerate and still move forward?