For the past three years, I’ve kept the same slip of paper pinned to the bulletin board in my dorm room. It reads:
“I think guitar groups are becoming passé.” – Record Company Executive in his 1962 rejection letter, one of many sent to the unsigned Liverpool-based band known as The Beatles.
In 1963, The Beatles became the biggest musical group in England.
In 1964, The Beatles became the biggest band in the world.
Each day, I carry these words with me.
At a university like Princeton, rejection is inevitable. Here, I am surrounded by some of the smartest, most talented people I have ever met. And I wouldn’t change that for anything. This is the path I chose, and it is the path I would choose time and again if I had to do it all over. The path is not easy, but I never wanted it to be. I came to Princeton wanting to grow. To push myself, to be inspired—to learn just how much I do not know.
And so, whenever I open an email and see the familiar words: “Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept you at this time," my mind returns to The Beatles. The words on that little slip of paper have taught me not to fear rejection, but rather to embrace it as a reminder that I am brave. I am resilient. I am here.
Just years before founding Disney World, Walt Disney was fired by a news editor for “lack of imagination.” Growing up, Albert Einstein was oftentimes called “mentally handicapped” by teachers who said that he would amount to nothing. J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” was rejected by publishers 12 times. One rejection letter advised Rowling to “get a day job” because she had “no future in writing children’s novels.” The net worth of these individuals? Sky-high. The look on their critics’ faces as they realized how foolish they'd been? Priceless. As J.K. Rowling states: "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default."
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.
Naysayers are nothing. Live the life you’ve imagined. Audition for your favorite a cappella group. Interview for a position you’re passionate about, even when you know you’re not the most qualified candidate. Apply for that ultra-competitive summer internship in Paris. Whether you wind up munching on a baguette in front of the Eiffel Tower or adding another tier to the tower of rejection letters in your dorm room, you’ll know that you put yourself out there. You lived.
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” Listen to the boy from Liverpool. You’re in good company, after all.