"Sorry, I have a crush on JW."

That one sentence broke my heart when I confessed my love for her. I was only 8 years old, but I felt like an old man. I looked at JW and wondered what he had that I did not have. Sure, he was taller and cuter, but I was smarter and sweeter. I was so embarrassed with the rejection that I could barely look at anyone at school during the next few weeks.

Since then, I have been rejected many more times, not only by girls I wanted to ask out, but also by schools I wanted to get into, companies I wanted to work for, and the list goes on. Despite having gone through many rejections, I could never get used to that feeling of getting punched in my stomach.

Then came my startup, Wonolo. It’s been just over a year since my co-founder AJ Brustein and I started working on it, but the number of rejections in my life has since increased exponentially both in terms of volume and frequency. I mean thousands of rejections in just one year. In fact, getting rejected has now become a daily routine for me. Whether from potential customers, partners, investors or job candidates, I have recognized that rejection comes in various forms:

  1. Herd Follower: "I believe in your idea. I'm just not ready now, but call me first when my competitors want to do something with you."
  2. Know-It-All’er: "I have seen similar ideas fail miserably before. Here are millions of reasons why it’s not going to work."
  3. Bottlenecker: "I don’t have any authority to make the decision, but you still need to go through me."
  4. Wolf in a Sheep’s Clother: "Really really love it. 'Let’s do it!'" Then, becomes an “Unsuscriber” (defined below).
  5. Unsubscriber: "Don’t call, text, email or say 'hi' to me. I will just ignore you."

Wonolo community
The San Francisco-based Wonolo team.

After going through so many rejections on a daily basis, I am finally starting to learn how to better cope with it. Here are three key lessons I have learned during this painful process, or perhaps I should say, growth experience.

1. Stay Humble

Before entering into any situation that involves decision making by the other party, it is often easy to underestimate the difficulty of getting that party to say "yes." It’s great staying optimistic, but not when it can adversely impact the level of preparation, seriousness and approach. Stay humble. Prepare as much as you can before meeting the decision maker. Listen to what the decision maker is saying, and show sincere respect even if you may disagree.

2. It’s OK to be Rejected

Yes, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. In fact, there are many other opportunities out there (which may be even more attractive than the one you just got rejected for). It’s hard to see other opportunities at that moment, but what this world does not lack is an abundance of opportunities. Keep going. Stay positive and look at the brighter side of the valuable experience you have gained.

3. Learn From Rejection

In every rejection, there is always one or more reasons which you may not agree with or do not even understand fully. However, what’s more important is to gather feedback, collect data and understand the rationale of rejection as much as you can. As you prepare for your next “sell”, this precedent data becomes a valuable resource in helping you navigate through unknowns much better.

Yong Kim
Yong Kim

As I'm writing this, I just got some more rejections via email. I am sure that there will be more coming in tomorrow. Nevertheless, I am glad this experience, i.e. getting rejected constantly vs. once in awhile, has taught me valuable lessons. Like in sports or competition, practice makes you better at it. I think that rejection is the same way. The more you get rejected (and learn from it), the stronger you become.

So, pick yourself up, lick your wounds and keep going.

Yong Kim is the co-founder of Wonolo, an on-demand staffing platform. Kim and AJ Brustein founded the company in December 2013 as part of the Coca-Cola Founders platform, a global network of seasoned entrepreneurs building startups with the support of Coke’s marketing muscle, distribution network and other assets.