Rejection is painful.

It triggers a fountain of emotions. It is debilitating and discouraging. After rejection what feels natural is to get in your pajamas, close the shutters, cover yourself with a blanket, and never ever try to accomplish anything again.

Can rejection lead to something good? Is there a path that leads from rejection to success?

There are five stories in this article that tell us there is.



Jim Carrey was born James Eugene Carrey in Canada back on January 17, 1962. His mother was a stay-at-home mom and his father was an accountant and a jazz musician who had a hard time keeping jobs and had a difficult time supporting his four children.

When he was in high school, Jim was working 8-hour shifts as a janitor after the last school bell, feeling the effects on his grades, his morale and his health.

The family even lived in a camper for a while, before Jim’s first stage appearance, in a stand-up club in Toronto, called ‘Yuk Yuk’. By his own account, he did not do that well with his first stand-up attempt. He was booed off stage. And that was the first greatest rejection in his life.

Nevertheless, Jim continued performing in Yuk Yuk, perfecting his work, preparing for something greater.

In 1980 he auditioned for the cast of Saturday Night Live, which ended up being was his second greatest rejection.

By 1985 he was a high-school drop off, recently divorced and failed actor.

Nevertheless, Jim Carrey never gave up to negative thinking. Later in his life he would be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and would confess to her how he would drive up Mulholland Drive and have pretend conversations with directors and producers he admired. He would imagine them saying how much they appreciated his work and that would make him feel more determined.

‘I had nothing at that time but it just made me feel better’, Carrey says.

Later he would go on to write himself a fake check for $10 million. For ‘acting services rendered’. He gave himself three years to substitute the fake check for a real one, from a movie.

The check deteriorated and deteriorated in his wallet, until one day, Carrey would learn he would get a $10 million commission for his role in the comedy ‘Dumb and Dumber’.

Today Carrey is one of the most beloved comedians of his time for his iconic roles in ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’; the sequence, ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’; ‘The Mask’; for his role of The Joker in ‘Batman Forever’; for ‘Me, Myself & Irene’; for ‘Bruce Almighty’; for the ‘Yes Man’ and others.

How to react to rejection like Jim Carrey?

  • Visualize yourself as being successful. Rejection is painful because you stop believing in yourself. Visualizing the successful version of you will help you change how you think of yourself. Subconsciously, you will get better ideas – Where can you be successful? What will make you successful? How do you look when you are successful? What does success look like to you?
  • Work on your vision. Start looking the part. Maybe get a new, more professional looking suit. Put yourself in the situations you visualized yourself in – attend events and meetings, work on diversifying your contact list, get yourself out there.
  • Quit dreaming and start planning. What else are you missing? Write down a step by step plan for what separates your reality from your vision of success. As Jim Carrey says, ‘That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.’

Watch young but already accomplished Jim Carrey confess his life philosophy of wishful thinking to Oprah Winfrey:


Famously, the idea for Harry Potter first came to J.K. Rowling on a train ride from Manchester to London back in1990. She was overwhelmed by this interconnected world of a boy wizard who survived a tragic accident when he was young. As soon as the ideas hit her, she started writing and could never quite put the idea of Harry to rest ever since.

However, less than a year later, on December 30, 1990 a great personal tragedy stroke J.K. After complications of Multiple Sclerosis and a tough battle with the disease of 10 years, her mother passed away.

Rowling fell into a deep debilitating depression that kept her away from her work. Later she would base the character of the Dementors on that crushing feeling:

‘Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth.’ – she would write –

‘They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself… soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.’

In an attempt to get away and try to focus on her work, J.K. Rowling moves to Portugal to teach English and to write in her free time.

It turned out to be the wrong decision for her. She got married and had a daughter. But the marriage was unsuccessful. Rowing couldn’t make any progress with her writing. She went back to the UK.

Broke, unaccomplished, and with another mouth to feed. She and her little girl had to survive off of government welfare. She had hit rock bottom. And in failure she found liberation.

‘Failure meant stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.’

She finished three chapters of her book and proposed it to the twelve greatest publishers in the United Kingdom. They all rejected her. But J.K. was no longer afraid of rejection and failure. She persevered.

A small publishing company, Bloomsbury Publishing agreed to read the manuscript. After years of fighting for her idea, Harry Potter was published. The first edition was in a humble amount of 1000 books. And this is how to story started.

Today more than 500 million Harry Potter books have been sold worldwide. There are audiobooks, movies, websites, conventions and a theme park based on the story.

How to react to rejection like J.K.Rowling?

  • Don’t give yourself to fear. Rejection has the power to liberate you. The worst has happened and you are alive, you are breathing. Gather your powers and go on. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
  • Strip your life from the inessential. What does success mean to you? Define your purpose better, make a plan. Do not allow distractions in your life.
  • One rejection does not mean the end of the world. Explore all options. Can you go another way? Can you send another email? Can you turn to another authority?
  • Believe in yourself. J.K.Rowling never let Harry go. Ever since that trip to London, she never gave up on the boy wizard. Through her depression, her failed marriage and her relying on welfare. She was not stopped by a mailbox full of rejections. And today the world knows his story, and hers.


Steve was born in the United States, California, on February 24th, 1955. His parents had put him up for adoption. His family name, Jobs, coming from his adopted parents – Paul and Clara Jobs. A lower middle class family.

Growing up at Silicon Valley, Jobs would be surrounded by engineers in his neighborhood, always busy with some gadget in their garage in the weekends. Always working, not always achieving.

There, at age 13, he met 18-year-old Stephen Wozniak, someone who would play a very important role later in his life. After a brief attempt and failure of studying Liberal Arts, Jobs went back to California and worked for the game company Atari, while growing closer to Woz.

Wozniak, at that point, was attending the Homebrew Computer Club and was working towards building personal computer kits. Jobs thought it was a good idea to offer Woz’s product to software enthusiasts from the neighborhood who were eager to try and write software themselves. Together, the two started a little venture for that purpose, called Apple.

Wozniak created the Apple II computer, a powerful system that would support color graphics. It was this prototype that helped Steve Jobs convince Mike Markkula to invest a quarter million dollars in Apple and set it on the path of greatness.

Jobs was always focused on the competition, insisting to add Graphic User Interface and a mouse to the next Apple project, the Lisa computer, named after his daughter. His hot temper and his perfectionism got him kicked off the Lisa project. Which he did not take that well.

He then took on another small project, called the Macintosh, adding most of the features he was seeing for the Lisa, but insisting the Mac was to be created very user friendly – ‘as easy to use as a toaster’.

He and his team were antagonizing the teams working on the Apple II and Lisa, when the latter seemed to be heading towards failure. John Sculley, whom Jobs had hired as an CEO was supporting the Macintosh.

After a short success the sales of the Macintosh were plummeting, but Jobs refused to acknowledge that, he kept acting as the saving grace of Apple. He started acting out against Sculley, who had now withdrawn his support – trying to get him fired. Instead, the board of directors agreed it was Jobs who was toxic to the company.

Steve Jobs was put in a position of no power in Apple and, powerless, resigned within a few months.

‘At thirty, I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone. And it was devastating… I was a very public failure and I even thought about running away from the Valley. But something slowly came to dawn on me. I still loved what I did.‘

Discouraged and at the same time full of himself, Jobs decided to incorporate a competing company that would specialize in higher education, despite Apple’s threats to sue. It was called NeXT. It was a good product but a failure nevertheless. It wasn’t selling.

At that point Jobs felt disassociated from his work. He was losing his passion and he was focusing more on his new family. He decided to invest in the graphics division of George Lucas’s company. He accumulated a team. And created Pixar. in 1991, Disney signed with Pixar for making a full-feature computer-animated movie. Toy Story was born.

The success of the movie allowed Steve Jobs to take the company public. The company he actually considered his ‘hobby’ and not his business made his net worth rise to over $1.5 billion — five times the money he had ever made at Apple in the 1980s.

Jobs was rejuvenated. He took advantage of a CEO change in Apple and restored his place in the company by selling the NeXT software to Apple. And as of the following year, he would once again be Apple’s CEO.

How to react to rejection like Steve Jobs?

  • Take a good look on the inside. Recognize your failures and apologize about what you did wrong.
  • Don’t lose your passion. Work towards what you love.
  • Have faith your passion will lead you back to success.

‘Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward’, says Jobs, ‘But it was very-very clear looking backwards… You have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something… because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference’

Watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement speech.


Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born in Metairie, Louisiana on January 26, 1958 to the family of a speech therapist and an insurance agent. After finishing high school in Texas and a short attempt at following a Communications major, Ellen headed for the standup stage.

Slowly but surely, she worked her way up to her first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1986 where she was noticed for her witty jokes, her great comedic timing and her original content.

Ellen stroke a great success, landing her own sitcom on ABC called originally ‘These Friends of Mine’. It was later renamed to match her and her character’s name Ellen in 1994, after its first season.

In April 1997 Ellen makes television history when she, through playing her character, comes out as gay as part of the sitcom plot, and as her public confession.

The decision is deemed controversial and the ratings of the show go down until 1998 when the sitcom is dropped.

‘I wasn’t sure if I was going to work again’ – says Ellen, quoted here by the NY Daily News ‘and although I was out, I was still trying to alter myself — not dressing the way I wanted to dress or wearing my hair the way I wanted to… I slowly gained the confidence to be authentic, and what I’ve learned about other people is that they strive to be authentic, too. So whether they fully support me, love my lifestyle or love that I’m married to a woman, I think they like that authenticity, and they’re drawn to it.

In 2001 she comes back, via CBS. Ellen launched a new series, called The Ellen Show. Her talk show suffers from low ratings, too. And Ellen was cancelled. Again.

It was only in 2003 that Ellen comes back in full capacity. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is now a success. With 15 Emmy Awards within the first three seasons, Ellen is becoming one of the most beloved talk show hosts fast, which led her to later host the Grammy Awards and the Oscars.

How to react to rejection like Ellen DeGeneres?

  • Never try to be someone else. You want to achieve success as yourself. Doing what you love, being who you are. Winning someone else’s game is not worth the hassle. Only by letting people know who you are authentically can you know if they approve of you or not.
  • Build your self-image. Stay true to who you are. Share your opinions. Stand behind what you believe in. You will feel more confident and will find it easier to walk your path.
  • Fight your battles. Today, Ellen DeGeneres is largely appreciated for being the first to talk the talk and walk the walk, taking a blow to her career because of the bravery of coming out. She paved the way for others, including, famously, Portia De Rossi, whom she inspired to come out, and who, later, became her wife.

‘If this isn’t an example of “It gets better” than I don’t know what is… Time is a strange thing. I was at rock bottom and out of money, with no work in sight, but one step at a time, it gets better. It gets much better.’


Oprah Winfrey was born January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to the family of a maid and a coal miner. Her mother was a teenager and had an issue keeping jobs.

Shortly after birth her mother abandoned her and left her to be raised by her grandmother. They lived in a bad neighborhood and Oprah was a victim of her circumstances. She was sexually abused as of young age by family members and family friends.

During her childhood, Oprah was often left alone, which made her both very independent and very defiant against the adults whose care she was put in. Able to read and write the word of the Lord as of very young age, because of her religious grandmother, Oprah always knew she would be doing something involving speaking, or drama, as her career.

Last year of high-school, Oprah was given a job reading the news on the radio. Her dream was on the path of coming true. With winning a public-speaking contest, Oprah found herself with scholarship to Tennessee State University. She majored in Speech Communications and Performing Arts.

During college, Oprah was offered a job as a co-anchor on a CBS television station. Her strive to get out of Nashville took her to Maryland, to a job for which she sacrificed her graduation.

She was hired as a reporter.

And the job did not work out.

Winfrey describes the experience as ‘being marred by sexual harassment, sexism and humiliation’. After several months of being the co-anchor she was fired and demoted to a position where she just had to read the morning headlines.

‘Not all my memories of Baltimore are fond ones… But I do have fond memories of Baltimore, because it grew me into a real woman. I came in naive, unskilled, not really knowing anything about the business — or about life. And Baltimore grew me up.’

In 1978, she became the host of a morning talk show called People Are Talking. And she knew that was it. That is what she wanted to do. ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ ran from September of 1985 to May of 2011 and changed television forever. Oprah became the richest African American of the 20th century. Today, Oprah has her OWN network.

How to react to rejection like Oprah Winfrey?

  • Don’t lose faith. Sometimes rejection comes to you for the better. When one door closes another one opens, showing you a better path to continue on.
  • Rejection shapes you. It teaches you to attack and defend. It helps you get stronger and tougher. It teaches you lessons for the future.


Jim Carrey, J.K. Rowling, Steve Jobs, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey are all incredibly accomplished people. They all take on a path of success of their own. Going though hurdles. Beating challenges their own way. One common thing – none of them ever gave up.

Rejection is NOT a necessary part of success. But having a healthy attitude towards failure is.

You cannot be afraid. You have to be ready to take a risk. To crash and burn. To always be yourself. To try one more time.

And trust that good days are ahead.

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