Lessons from rejection- Jack Ma

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Rejection is never a positive word. No one wants to have a badge written reject. We all want the glamorous success at everything we do. Imagine getting rejected more than 40 times. Over the years, I have been someone who tries all avenues to better themselves. This means that I have been actively looking for opportunities to grow, financially, socially and intellectually.

To get these opportunities, you have to look for them or have someone recommend an opportunity that would benefit you. Not forgetting the job applications I have sent and interviews I have been called to. One common factor that has characterized these opportunities is rejection. In most of those applications, my email inbox is full of regret mail.

They read something like, “Due to the high number of applicants, we are sorry to tell you that you were not accepted”. Imagine trying to apply for a fellowship four years in a row and getting the same email. I am referring to Young African Leaders Initiative. Well, the very first one at least I was shortlisted and went for a face to face interview. Atlas Corps, rejected. The Moth storytelling workshop, rejected.

I don’t want to go into details of how many jobs I applied for and was called for interviews and that was it. After the interviews, I heard nothing from them. These are many. More than the fellowships and scholarships I have tried getting.

At some point, I started thinking I wasn’t good enough, there was no point trying or my favorite, ‘maybe people look at my disability and deny me opportunities thinking I am not up to the task’. The problem with such thinking is that you look externally for excuses rather than introspecting for self improvement.

What I later did was work hard to improve myself. Even the very fact that I am writing this post, means I am a work in progress, improving each day. You don’t get rejected all the time, sometimes you are really good at what you are doing and compel someone to give you a chance. People have given me chances.

The thing that spurred me to write this piece is watching the story of Jack Ma. The guy is more familiar with the word rejection than anyone else. He applied 10 times to get into Harvard and got rejected. Got rejected at 30 jobs. Tried getting to the police force and was told, ‘you’re no good’. He tried applying for a job at KFC, and was the only one who was rejected out of 24 people.

Today, Jack Ma is the richest man in China. He founded Alibaba in 1995, which is now the largest e-commerce platform. In his Forbes profile, his net worth is $35.5 B. What he learnt from rejection was that you have got to believe in your self, even if other people think your ideas are stupid.

Here is an interview of Jack Ma at Davos World Economic Forum, 2015.

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