Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

When Getting Rejected Pays Off (Big Time)

When you see a giant success like WhatsApp’s recent $19 billion acquisition by Facebook, it’s easy to get a little green-eyed, especially if you’re facing some career hardships of your own. How did those guys get so lucky? Why can’t I have success like that? When will I get my big break?

What can be harder to see are the hurdles said successful people faced along the way. In this case, we’re talking about WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who, four and a half years ago, got rejected by the very company that just wrote his (giant) paycheck.

After a long tenure at Yahoo!, Acton was on the hunt for a new gig and got rejected by both Twitter and Facebook in the same year. That’s when a former colleague from Yahoo!, Jan Koum, asked if Acton wanted to help him start his business, and WhatsApp was born.

It's a great story of things coming full circle, no doubt, but there’s a larger lesson to be learned here: When you’re staring rejection in the face, have a good attitude and keep pushing forward. That’s not to say you can't be a little bummed or feel the sting. But if, like Acton, you project positivity (“It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people”) and try to keep your eyes to the future (“Looking forward to life’s next adventure”), you’ll be more likely to invite other opportunities into your life—opportunities that could turn into your next big thing.

It can be hard to see when you’re facing a disappointing situation, but if you work hard enough, success will come. Maybe not in the way you expected, but maybe in a much, much bigger way.