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How to bounce back when you're told no

Every entrepreneur, including those who have experienced the most success, have been told no. Entrepreneurship calls us to seize opportunities, and sometimes even our best efforts are met with a closed door. But we have a choice when we’re faced with an obstacle: we can stay stuck, or we can fail forward and grow stronger. So when you’re told no, here’s how to bounce back.

Find inspiration in others entrepreneurs’ success stories.

Before he built his computer empire, Bill Gates started a business called Traf-O-Data. The business failed and he dropped out of Harvard. But his passion for technology led him to start Microsoft. Fred Smith, while a student at Yale University, presented his idea for a parcel delivery service to his business management class. He received nearly a failing grade. Yet he pushed past the setback and founded FedEx. These are just two of numerous tales of entrepreneurs who went on to thrive after they were told no. So after you’ve faced a setback, read the stories of the men and women who inspire you. You’ll find encouragement in the paths they took to get to where they are today.

Reframe the setback.

Consider what might have happened if you’d done things differently — but in a healthy and constructive way, steering clear of the discouraging “if only” thinking. Psychologists call this objective and realistic process counterfactual thinking. Suppose a potential funding source said no to your pitch. Rather than thinking about how unfair that decision was, or how discouraging they were to you, actually consider what you might have done differently. It’s a way to take responsibility where necessary, uncover how you can improve and be optimistic about what lies ahead. This kind of objective reflection can motivate you towards creative problem solving, so you’re ready the next time you face a similar situation. 

Do something that brings you joy.

Move past a disappointing outcome by experiencing what truly brings you passion. This could be directly related to your business — if you own a furniture company, for example, get back into the woodshop. Or, you could do something entirely opposite of your line of work and stretch yourself differently. Choose something that you know will reignite your passion. This is something just to make you happy. It’s a reminder that, after a disappointing no, you need to reconnect with yourself.

Get honest with someone you trust.

Smart entrepreneurs have trusted mentors: seasoned cheerleaders who believe in them and have been there before. So after a painful obstacle, connect with someone who can give you feedback that is both honest and encouraging. A person who is outside of the situation can provide needed perspective, help you course-correct where you are off and then help you polish your game plan to move forward towards success. 

Explore more resources for entrepreneurs on the YE blog.