I came across a commencement speech given by the actor Robert De Niro. He was addressing the NYU-Tisch School of the Arts. He began by telling the new graduates they chose a difficult occupation, acting. If they would have gone to any other of the NYU Schools, business, accounting, teaching, or nursing as examples, they would already have jobs. But they chose to be actors, and as actors they are graduating unemployed.
De Niro then shared this. They must prepare themselves, as artists, for a life of rejection. When they audition for a new part, they must realize the director is in charge of the project. The director has a vision for who will best reflect the character in the play, movie or commercial. When you get rejected, it is not personal. You just weren’t the right fit for what the director had in mind.
So he gave the graduates a word to remember at the point of rejection. “Next.”
When you get rejected for a part, as you are walking out the door, simply say, “Next!” You will learn from the audition. You introduced yourself to a new director. You were exposed to the casting team. All this is beneficial to your career. But you were rejected. “Next!”
I often think of entrepreneurs as artists. Entrepreneurs also choose the hard road as occupations go. In the great majority of cases, like actors, you are chiseling out a living, sometimes holding lower level jobs just to keep the lights on. But once in a while, we witness the God-given talent and success of a Robert De Niro or a Mark Zuckerberg.
As the entrepreneur, like the artist, you struggle to create a new brand in an already crowded marketplace. You know you’re good but not really sure sometimes. Confident on the outside and fragile on the inside. Potential customers you talk to reject your idea. It feels like they are rejecting you. You walk out of the meeting taking it personally. Don’t do it!
Customers are our directors of projects. They have a specific need and a certain type of person they envision filling that need. It just wasn’t your product or it just wasn’t you they needed. You tried your very best, but you didn’t connect. You can’t be everything to everyone. It’s not personal. Learn from the experience, and realize you introduced your company to a new future customer. All this is good.
Walk out of that meeting and simply say, “Next!” Then take what you learned and go to the next appointment, the next audition. It will happen. You will eventually succeed.
And then it happens. You get the part!
Here is Robert De Niro’s speech. It is worth the 16 minutes. You are an artist performing on a different stage but an artist nonetheless. “Next!”