Quote of the Week

“I think all great innovations are built on rejections.”
— Louise Nevelson


by Ivan Burnell

Have you ever been rejected? That is one of those rhetorical questions. Of course you have if you are alive and have done anything, which includes just breathing. You most probably were told at one time or another that you were not breathing (or standing, sitting, talking, and just about everything else) correctly. And to top that off, if they did not say it out loud they thought it and told you that you should do it differently.

So the question is not “have you ever been rejected?”, but what did you do about it? Just because someone, even someone in authority tells you or even implies that you were something less than perfect, it does not mean that they are right and that you are wrong. It just means that from their perspective they think you are wrong. I am not in the least suggesting that you categorically reject the “constructive criticism”, but listen carefully because there may be a grain or two of truth that you can use to better yourself. But do not take it as gospel, because quite often what is wrong to one group is right to the other.

My wife, Dagny, was a music teacher for more than twenty years in the school system. That is, until the day that she was told once too often by the administration that she was doing it all wrong! I am sure you would not be surprised to know that it took four teachers and as many years to replace her and even yet the school has never been able to produce the same quality of concerts and programs. The administration never did mention to her what a great job she had done, and yet her past students often come to visit and say things like “You were the best teacher I ever had!” and “Music is still a big part of my life”. For the past twenty years, Dagny has been teaching courses for my company and her students say “You inspired me to change my life. Thank you!”

When I was a boy I had dreams of space travel, perhaps inspired by the comic books I read. Buck Rogers was my hero and that got me interested in space travel and rocketry. In the late 1930″s not much was known about space travel but I did some research and reflection for a report that I wrote for my fifth grade science class. I speculated about some of the problems that would be encountered such as fuel, body functions, oxygen, and what to do with all the waste. My science teacher gave me a zero on my paper, commenting that any darn fool knew that you cannot fly in outer space because there is no air out there. Thirty years later, when I was a consultant to NASA in the early stages of manned space flight, I was there when the astronauts made the first trip into space, as well as several others. Maybe the fifth grade boy did know what he was talking about!

The story of Bill Gates is well known. He never finished college, no doubt to the dismay of his relatives and friends. And yet, if you are reading this e-mail, it is due to Bill Gates. He did not allow the lack of a college diploma to deter him from following his dream to his own success. Michael Dell was another who chose a path most people could not envision at the time. Now you have an affordable computer and both these people (as well as many others), by finding their own success, have contributed to yours.

The moral of this story is: March to your own music. You may find it valuable to adjust a note or two, but never give up your dream, and never give in. It may take time with many bumps in the road, but always march to your own music.

Ivan Burnell is the president and founder of International Personal Development and IPD Publishing. He can be reached at

Coaching Call to Action

Is rejection an issue for you? Does it hold you back? Does it keep you from trying new things? How does holding on to your concern about rejection serve you? Does it let you continue to “play small”? This week ask yourself these questions and see what insights you have about yourself. You may end up changing some of your perceptions and beliefs about life. This week I had two clients face their beliefs about rejection with wonderful insights about their life. Is it time you did, too?