Failure, Rejection & Success: ‘Let’s Get Rejected’ (The Birth of a Mantra)

Aaron Orendorff
Aaron Orendorff

Good news people … the dream is very much alive.

How do I know?

Because over the last 120 days, I’ve not only written for Fast Company, Copyblogger, MarketingProfs, and Entrepreneur, I also landed my first nearly $20,000, three-month client.

Few experiences are as joyfully intoxicating as slugging through an outline, first draft, second draft, third draft, finally hitting “Send” … and getting back the glorious word: “Yes!”

This is especially true for someone who constantly feels less than and a pretender — always on the cusp of being “found out” and exposed.

Rereading it for myself still feels unbelievable. You better believe I’ve done my share of fist pumping in the last 120 days.

But, enough about me. You’re not here to listen to me gush about how simultaneously insecure and awesome I am (except my mom, that’s exactly why she’s here).

No. You’re here to see if I’ve got anything that’ll help you along your path. So, let’s cut to the chase. You ready for the secret? It’s three words. Seriously: just three.

Breath deep. Wait for it. Here it is …

“Let’s get rejected.”
Yep, that’s it. Let’s get rejected.
(Read it again, just to drive it into your heart.)

Sounds weird, right? Yeah, I know.

But the deal is that three-word phrase was (and is) the only secret sauce I know.

That cynical little mantra was word-for-word what I told myself each and every time I went after one of those big, hairy, scary beasts.

Submit a guest post to Copyblogger: “Let’s get rejected.”

Cold email everyone with the word “editor” in their title at Entrepreneur: “Let’s get rejected.”

Direct message Ann Handley after a friendly email exchange: “Let’s get rejected.”

Fire off my first $100 per hour blogging proposal ($150 for sales copy): “Let’s get rejected.”

Each and every time, those three words were my companions. And let me say, they served me well.

They might sound a bit dark for those of you with sunnier dispositions. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not pre-loading sour grapes or setting myself up to get let down easy.

The point is so few people actually try. So few people go for it, put themselves out there, risk.


Easy. Because of fear.

We’re afraid. We’re afraid of being rejected. We’re afraid of not being “good enough.” We’re afraid of failure, of falling down, of looking stupid.

Every time I told myself “Let’s get rejected” I was saying …

So what? So what if I get rejected? So what if they don’t think I’m good enough? So what if I fail, fall down, and look stupid? So f****** what?

Not to get too deep in a post about a few content marketing wins, but it’s like Steve Jobs said in his epic 2005 commencement address at Stanford:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

“You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

In other words, the only real way to lose is to live like I’ve actually got something to lose.

By telling myself “Let’s get rejected,” I embraced the possibility of being rejected. I even welcomed it.

Once I’d crossed that bridge, not trying, not risking, not just going for it became the only guaranteed way to fail.

Of course, telling myself that little mantra wasn’t the only thing I did …

In fact, there are a handful of very practical and repeatable steps that have guided me throughout this process.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll walk through three.

For now, here’s a quick preview:

  1. Build relationships.
  2. Be a decent freakin’ person.
  3. Go after it … again, and again, and again.

Author’s note

This post originally appeared in Oct. of 2014, when I was just getting started as a freelance content marketer. But its lessons — and especially the mantra — have guided everything since then.

In fact, it was the heart of my very first conference presentation at Unbounce’s 2016 CTA Conf. Also in 2016, it gave me the courage to take a position at Shopify Plus, work my way up to Editor in Chief (when I had no business leading content at an enterprise ecommerce organization), and then to leave that position in early 2019 — when Shopify was absolute rocket.

Most recently, that same motto fueled the creation and launch of my first course, created in partnership with Joanna Wiebe (Copyhackers): Master of Guest Blogging.

Let’s save the world from bad content

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