“If people aren’t laughing at your dreams, your dreams aren’t big enough,” some guru once said (the internet can’t seem to decide which). It makes an awesome meme, but I wonder if just hearing this sort of uplifting but generic encouragement is enough to help people persevere when they’re surrounded by doubters.
Thanks for the sentiment, you might think, but perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something with this chorus of derisive laughter. Maybe all these people smirking at my dreams are right and I really am wasting my time.
If that’s you and the usual rah-rah quotes aren’t cutting it, you need some stiffer medicine to help you persevere, I suggest a recent campaign from British insurance marketplace Go Compare (yes, this is totally an unlikely source of inspiration).
To buck up those who feel beaten down by their detractors, the company gathered up incredibly harsh burns superstars received early in their careers. If even these icons faced such incredibly negative feedback, maybe there really is a pretty poor correlation between random other people’s opinions and eventual success.
1. Oprah Winfrey
These days Oprah is so influential and beloved people are even speculating that she might run for president, but back at the start of the career she was just an unemployed TV journalist who was fired from Baltimore’s WJZ-TV because as she was, in the words of one producer, “unfit for TV and too emotionally involved.” He probably feels pretty silly now. You should probably feel encouraged.
2. J.K Rowling
The Harry Potter series has sold over 500 million copies, making it’s author, one-time welfare mother J.K. Rowling, into an incredibly wealthy woman. But not everyone instantly appreciated the potential of the adventures of Harry and friends. In fact, her editor initially advised her to, “get a day job. It’s impossible to make a living writing children’s books.”
3. Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg had a pretty impressive resume when she first started interviewing at Silicon Valley tech firms in 2001 — armed with a Harvard MBA, she had previously served as chief of staff to then Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. But even these accomplishments weren’t enough for her to get her foot in the door of a new industry initially. One CEO even told her: “I would never hire anyone like you.” It took her almost a year to land her first gig in tech.
4. Steve Jobs
It’s hard to feel too bad for Steve Jobs — he always seemed like the kind of guy who heard his own inner voice loud and clear — but even someone as confident as Jobs must have felt a little discouraged when he and Steve Wozniak were first presenting their ideas to companies and were met with only swift rejection. One CEO told Jobs, “Hey we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.” Oh how wrong he was.
5. Arianna Huffington
How did Arianna Huffington prepare to launch a game-changing website and become a much respected thought leader? By failing again and again and again apparently. “Her second book was rejected by publishers 36 times and she suffered humiliating results during her 2003 run for governor in California. Likewise the launch of the Huffington Post blog was accompanied by lots of ill-wishes,” reports GoCompare.
Back in 2005 LA Weekly even called her recently launched site “the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable… Her blog is such a bomb that it’s the movie equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one.”
Next time you’re facing negative feedback, keep these quotes in mind to maintain your perspective.
Yes, consistently heard advice from people who know you well and understand your goals probably contains valuable lessons, but even the best ideas in the world are often dismissed by the uninformed, unimaginative, or simply bitter and/or terrified. A few no’s, no matter how harsh, shouldn’t be a death sentence for a dream you believe in.
|By Jessica Stillman| INC