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If at first you don’t succeed… use ‘The Force’!

Author, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker Shed Simove on why it's good to get rejected and his wish to get on the Y-Combinator programme

Rejection. Ouch. It stings so badly and can have disastrous effects on how we live our lives, both personally and professionally.

Anyone launching a start-up knows all too well how often rejection comes a knocking and it’s my fervent belief that how we process rejection is one of the major determining factors in attaining success in any arena.

For me, how you deal with rejection is not only powerfully related to your dreams coming true (or not), I also utterly believe that how you react to the times when you’re rejected also directly affects how creative you are, how fulfilled you are and how many adventures you go on.

In short, handling rejection is one of the keys to a full, happy and exciting life. Dealing with rejection, and actually, the vital need to constantly, actively, seek rejection out, is one of the topics I cover in my motivational speeches to blue-chip companies and something I believe that should be taught in schools.

It may seem almost sado-masochistic (matron!) to consistently place yourself in situations where you feel the pain that rejection brings (and yes, it can be a real, visceral, physical pain sometimes), but actually, the only way to lessen that pain for the future, and to learn how to turn a ’no’ into a ‘yes’ is to always place yourself in situations where there’s a strong chance you’ll get knocked back.

Accessing the Y-Combinator Fellowship Programme

As well as espousing this view of rejection in my latest book and when I give my speeches, I live it all in all its rawness in real life (it’d be a tad hypocritical if I didn’t, wouldn’t it!).

Over the last year, as well as launching a number of physical products into the world and then waiting to see what people think, I’ve been super busy creating a new app called Sellervision – a cross between eBay and YouTube that allows you to sell any produce or service through a 30-second video filmed through the app.

Now, like many other digital entrepreneurs, I’d sell my Mother (and she’s a VERY valuable woman, let me tell you) to land a place on the prestigious Y-Combinator incubator programme that has helped create a number of ‘Unicorn’ businesses and helped hundreds of companies succeed in the Tech sector.

After six rejections (yes count them, six!) the most recent rejection from them for their new Y-Combinator Fellowship Programme flipped a switch in me. Their Fellowship Programme was created to be an easier way of tapping into the Y-Combinator network and yet still, six and a half thousand companies applied. Ha!

It turns out that it wasn’t so easy to get in after all – it’s exceptionally hard to punch through when there’s so much noise like that.

After getting rejected by YC for the sixth time, rather than giving up, or trying again using the same method (I’m sure you’re aware of the adage that says: ‘The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…’), I decided I needed to change tack.

I figured that this time, I needed something more creative and impactful to get on the radar of the Y-Combinator illuminati. I need to up the ante. I needed…The Force.

Given the current hype about the new Star Wars movie and my desire to reach people who are usually unreachable, I began to formulate a plan to send a message to the highest echelons of Y-Combinator by making a video that paid homage to Princess Leia’s hologram message in the first Star Wars movie.

I felt that the analogy of me needing to get a missive to a hard-to-reach source like Princess Leia did would neatly extend on a number levels too – I’m certainly as high maintenance as a Princess, as stubborn as Leia too, plus the fate of the Universe depends on my message reaching its target (well, maybe not so much the last one, but you get where I’m coming from).

And so, I spent a surprising amount of time and effort creating a video, entitled ‘Help Me Paul Graham, You’re My Only Hope’. You can view it below:

Taking rejection on the chin

I’m now hoping that through the kindness of people and the ‘power of sharing’ that the internet affords these days my quarry might meet its target and the video may actually be viewed by one or more of the Y-Combinator bosses, Sam Altman, Paul Graham or Jessica Livingston.

Even if the video never gets to them, or even if they do see it and still don’t want to meet me, then I’ll have to roll with yet another punch and come up with another way to get to them or other influential folk in Silicon Valley.

At the very least, I’ll have created a new piece of content that gives potential new users a chance to discover Sellervision. At the very most, either the Y-Combinator folk (or Ashton Kutcher!) may see my little video and invite me out to California. My fingers and toes are crossed.

One things for sure, if this attempt results in yet another rejection, I won’t let it stop me from reaching my goal. I’ll have to swiftly learn from the temporary setback, change tack once more and live to fight (with my light saber) another day.

And if you’re someone with a dream as well, albeit a personal or business goal, remember that seeking rejection is the only true way to innovate, learn and thus ultimately, succeed. I wish you all the very best – and May The Force Be With You…


(will not be published)