This Is What Rejection Taught Me About Success


I didn’t always know I was going to be an entrepreneur.

Some people seem to just know who they are and what they want to do. I never did.

I went through the motions, just expecting whatever I was looking for to appear out of thin air. After I graduated from college, like many millennials I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I decided to become an actor. With zero stage or film experience, I moved to Atlanta, got an agent and started going out on auditions.

I got rejected a lot.

That’s the name of the game in acting, and although I didn’t mind hearing “no,” what really bothered me was that at the end of the day, I didn’t have any control over whether or not I got the role.

I remember very distinctly the very last time I went out on an audition. I was supposed to play a zombie for the show The Walking Dead — which I’d admittedly never seen at that point.

I got into the audition room, braced myself, and as soon as the cameraman said, “Rolling,” did my thing.

There was a silence in the room. The casting directors looked at me, looked down at their cell phones, looked up at each other and started laughing, almost simultaneously.

“That’s your idea of a zombie?”

At that point, I knew I wanted to stop auditioning for other people who could tell me “no.” I decided to take the power of “no” back for myself, and at least be in a position to get what I wanted of my own accord.

So I began writing movies.

I’d never written a movie before. I’d never written much of anything before, at least not what I considered was worth sharing with others. But this script felt special. It felt right. I wasn’t going to make any money with it, but it felt very important — and that made me focus my energy.

I wrote the script. I knew a little bit about the casting and production process since I’d done acting for a few years, so I combined that knowledge with some books from Barnes & Noble and began to raise money to start shooting a proper short film.

It was hard. I didn’t really know how much everything was going to cost. I didn’t have a single wealthy family member, and didn’t have my network of fancy friends at the time.

Looking back, I didn’t have much going for me!

I was 21 and mostly had a network of college friends. But I was determined to make it work. I set up an indiegogo campaign that made a little bit of money. I asked every single one of my Facebook friends (maybe ~1000 people at the time).

Then I started going to local film producer meetups in Atlanta just to understand what was going on in the industry. I learned that I could source production crew and talent for close to free. Then I began looking at locations I wanted to shoot the film and started asking local business owners if they’d allow me to use their restaurant, store, or clinic for an hour our two at a time. Many of the locations were so excited about the possibility of having a movie shot in their location that they were happy to let us use it for free or cheap during down time.

Then I began doing the casting process. A friend of a friend let us use his office space and I had actors come in and out. This time I felt like the one in charge as I looked over their headshots and said, “thanks for coming, we’ll be in touch.”

The big win for me here was getting Jasmine Guy to agree to star in the film. My best friend’s aunt is a well-known stage actress and she made the introduction to the famous TV actress on my behalf. That was a Holy Shit moment. I felt like I was making some real progress with my life.

In the end, I raised almost $13,000 and the movie is about 14 minutes long. It was a pivotal experience. It was my first big project.

Everyone needs their first Big Project. The project should not necessarily be a job. It’s best if the project is something that you choose, you design and you fund.

The Big Project should have a clear beginning and end.

You’ll know that you have a well-chosen Big Project when you can show someone what you’ve done, point to it and say “I made that.”

Examples of a Big Project:

  • Write, produce and star in a film
  • Learn a dance choreography and perform it on stage
  • Write a book and publish it
  • Learn a language and travel somewhere to speak it
  • Master a genre of cooking
  • Learn to program and develop an app
  • Create a blog and write at least 10 meaty posts

These are just ideas. Decide for yourself. Writing a movie was my first big project, after I couldn’t land gigs auditioning as an actor.

This Big Project will do incredible things for your life:

  • It will show you that you’re capable of coming up with an idea and seeing it through to the end.
  • It will allow you to create in a relatively low-stakes environment. You can’t really “lose” if the project doesn’t go well. (Another reason why it’s best not to consider your job a project.)
  • It will teach you to creatively find resources that you need in order to complete the project. Especially because you probably don’t have a lot of money yet.
  • It will help you to see your true path and connect you with others who are also looking for their path, which is similar to yours. (The first stage of networking.)

Here’s some hard truth: it’s going to be very, very tough.

But if you commit to following through with that first Big Project, you will quickly get out of the “what should I do with my life” mindset and actively begin developing a vision for yourself.

And that’s all you need right now. A vision.

After the movie, I realized that I actually had more fun producing the film than anything else. I liked the business aspect of it — raising the money, talking to people, making deals. That was surprising to me, since I’d always thought of business as boring.

But look closely at what happened…

I took it all the way back to what I knew was important to me: writing. I wrote the film and found out that I liked business. Writing led to the business.

Now I started to get more and more ideas. Maybe there was some way I could combine business and writing to make money doing the things that made me feel good?

That was almost exactly 5 years ago. So much has happened since then.

If my 23 year old self could look at me now, I’m sure he’d be impressed. But at that time, things were a blur. I had no idea what was to come, and the Rich20Something you know today, my online business with close to to $1 million in revenue and hundreds of thousands of subscribers, was still years away.

This is all about the journey. Read my words and find yourself in them. You’ll begin to understand that it’s ok if you have no idea what you’re doing. You’ll start to realize that almost nobody really knows. But there are steps you can take to make sure that even if you don’t know where you’re going, you always end up in the right place.

I’m going to talk about online business for a second here, because I think it’s important. And I know you want to hear more about it.

At the end of the day, starting a biz online is relatively simple:

  • Find something that people want.
  • Find the people who want that thing.
  • Ask them if they’d like to buy.

It can be a physical product, a service you offer, or just information. Doesn’t really matter.

Online business is not some weird thing. It’s not a scammy thing. It’s how business has always worked, just using a different medium. And remember,the message is always more important than the medium. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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