How to Overcome Rejection

(with Dave Rose)

How to Overcome Rejection

Dave Rose and his team build custom revenue engines for companies around the world. He is the author of Overcoming the 15 Categories of Rejection. Rejection is a common occurrence that we all encounter in our lives. In this episode, we’ll talk with Dave about rejection and how we can overcome it.  

The Journey to Writing His Book

Dave was asked to speak to an audience about rejection. Dave thought, “No problem.” He jumped online, looking for the categories of rejection, and couldn’t find anything. So he went to the library. The librarian searched on her computer and couldn’t find anything. She asked another employee for help and they all started searching through the drawers that still used the Dewey Decimal System. They couldn’t find anything.

Dave happened to be advised at the University of North Texas. He asked some of the professors there, but none of them knew anything either. “Nobody [had] ever categorized rejection,” he explained. “It just hadn’t happened. There are lots of books around persuasion, and great books about overcoming being told no and rejection, [or] being more powerful with these kinds of skills, but no one had ever categorized [it].”

Dave continued, “Fast forward 10 years of studying in 22 countries to be able to say I’d categorized rejection and named the categories and helped people overcome [them]. I had no idea that was going to be how the book came about. But that’s what’s happened and it’s changing people’s lives.”

Categories of Rejection

In our interview, Dave shared some of the categories of rejection from his book.

Mind Blocks

Dave said this category was hard to identify. Most people understand a monetary block; they understand that they can’t buy a $50 million house without that much money. But people miss mind blocks as a source of rejection. Dave explained that this mind block “stops people from even trying.”

He gave the example of asking me to borrow my car when he knew I’d say no. When people know what the answer will be, or think they know, they won’t even ask.

“There [are] mind blocks in the audience’s mind,” Dave continued. “This has been the most powerful [thing] where we help CEOs and companies change mind blocks [of their audience].”

Decision Makers

The next category is decision-makers. “Most people aren’t even talking to the right [person],” Dave explained. “They’re walking away rejected, they’re trying to get somewhere in life and their trajectory is dampened. And they weren’t even dealing with the right decision-makers. That was something that was overlooked for a while as an actual category of rejections. . . . It’s like you’re asking mom to borrow the car on Friday night but you know it’s dad’s decision, or you’re asking dad and it’s mom’s decision.”


Likeability is the third category of rejection. Before the book came out, Dave was speaking about it and taking questions. A woman said to him, “Love is a category. Did you get that?” Dave said, “Well actually . . . love is not a category.” She said, “If you don’t say love is a category, then you’ve never figured it out.” Dave said, “Well, we figured that the third category of objection is likeability.” He asked her “Have you ever loved someone?” She responded, “Well, yes.” He asked, “Have you hated that person?” She said, “Yes.” Dave told her, “You [see] how that’s on a scale. So we call it likeability on a scale. [You can go from] maybe in the neutral middle, to love, [to] hate, however you want to look at it, but likability is a category of rejection that encompasses love.”

Goal Shot or Close

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Another important category is the goal shot or the close. This is “asking for what you want,” Dave said. “Most people think they’re rejected, but they never really try to get what they want.” They might say, “I didn’t become a doctor (or a lawyer, accountant, dentist, etc.) because I didn’t have the money for school.”

Dave continued, “So there’s a combination of money [and a] combination of a mental block. There might have been a combination of not asking for what you wanted. You can analyze a situation and find multiple categories of rejection impacting a situation. When you study it, you can start to remove those categories of rejection and get a lot more in life, and it just works for sales, for leaders, for a relationship, [etc.].”

How These Categories Can Benefit Entrepreneurs

In our sales efforts, one of these categories might be an obstacle to overcome in order to motivate someone to buy our product. There are also other ways these categories can benefit us. “Sometimes [the benefits are] not so obvious . . . report, culture, morale, employee relations, using it for how people interact and work together. Oftentimes they’re hitting up against one another.”

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Sometimes in companies, we have one team for one aspect and another time for a different one. We might think that one of the teams does this specific thing and someone from that team can’t go into the other team. “That’s a communication and rejection issue,” Dave said. 

“Helping people understand how to communicate and how to get what they need from one another and overcome the rejections with one another and the teams . . . is very transmogrifying for a business. You find that it starts to impact the short term, the morale, and then you’re gonna impact culture, and you can get a consistent, repeatable process in there.”

– Dave Rose

Being Proud of Our Passions

One day, Dave was talking to a rock star speaker who’d heard Dave speak. This person said to Dave, “When I’m asked on a plane what I do, it’s sexy. I just tell them “I help companies build rock stars,” [and] I love that. I just thought it’s hot, but what you do isn’t sexy. You build revenue engines and the customer experience.”

When Dave heard this, it hurt. He said, “For a couple [of] weeks, it hurt, and then I realized . . . but we sell millions of dollars worth of stuff every year. I mean it works. . . . My passion is building revenue engines, and that’s not really sexy. And if [I] just say that . . . it’s kind of confusing to people in a way. [But] I don’t care anymore. My passion is to build revenue engines. . . . I don’t make any apologies for that anymore.”

Dave is doing the thing his target audience wants the most: he’s helping CEOs make more money. Someone else’s passion may look more exciting or sound more interesting, but as Dave has learned, we don’t have to feel bad about what we are passionate about.

Jumping on Tectonic Shifts and Breakthroughs

Here are a few examples of people or companies who had great breakthroughs or jumped on big tectonic shifts early to leverage them.

Elon Musk 

When I asked Dave who he thinks the best digital monetizer is, he said Elon Musk. Dave compared Musk to Donald Trump, saying, “Donald Trump has a potential of notoriety and big ideas and an audience. And you take Elon, and he does it right. He does it right, and I’m not subscribing to any political side [or] ideology one way or another, I’m just saying there’s a little bit of a similarity to me in terms of the platforms they have and what they can do, and comparing them, Elon takes this to another level from the digital side, and [he’s] a master.”

Elon Musk is a great example of someone who has jumped onto tectonic shifts early and leveraged them. There’s a great story about Elon Musk I told in a previous episode that is very relevant here. When the internet was very young, he went to one of the CEOs of one of the top yellow page companies, and he tried to sell them on a deal. Musk wanted to put the yellow pages online, and the CEO of that company took his huge, thick yellow pages, and threw it at Musk and said, “Do you think you’re ever going to replace this with the internet?” 

This is one of many situations where Elon Musk was rejected by someone who could not see his vision for leveraging tectonic shifts. But Elon went on to create something even bigger and more successful than the Yellow Pages.


There’s a legend that a similar thing happened with Netflix and Blockbuster. Netflix apparently asked to meet with the CEO of Blockbuster, and the Blockbuster CEO said, “What’s a Netflix?” Obviously, they never made a deal, but it’s the same question as with the yellow pages: What would have happened if they had made a deal? Blockbuster could have so easily been the digital streaming platform. They had all the resources. They had connections. It would have been so easy for them to do it, and they didn’t take advantage of that tectonic shift. It destroyed and put that company out of business.

It’s easy in hindsight to look back and see who ended up on top. However, it’s not just what those big companies are doing wrong, but it’s the opportunity that it presents for people like us. A lot of times people like us think there isn’t a way for us to compete with those well-established, well-funded, and huge brands, the behemoths that are out there. We give up and are rejected before we even try. But all we have to do is find that tectonic shift, that disruption, that almost by definition the big companies are not going to quickly and effectively adapt to. We need to jump on that and build our business around that. That’s our best strategy to leapfrog well-funded and established businesses.

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

Dave and I also discussed how breakthroughs can come from anyone. Dave said, “You need to set your company up to believe that it can come from anyone. Sounds like some sort of Fantasyland [to] make that happen, but you can do that with the right system. That’s what leaders need to work on, creating a system that anybody here can make something amazing happen.”

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The idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos came from Richard Montañez who was working as a janitor for the company. A broken machine produced a batch of plain Cheetos, and he took them home. He put chili powder on them and tested them out on his family. When they liked them, he pitched the idea to a CEO over the phone and two weeks later presented it to the executive suite. Montañez ended up becoming an executive inside the corporation (Source:

That CEO was wise enough to not reject a great idea or its messenger because someone with a lower position came up with the idea.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Dave for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Sometimes our journeys will take us in unexpected directions, as with Dave’s book. As he did, we can turn the unexpected into something great.

2. Mind blocks happen when people don’t even try to ask for what they want. 

3. We must make sure we are asking the right decision-makers.

4. Likeability is a scale that encompasses love. 

5. There can be a combination of categories of rejection impacting a story. This is why it is important to identify each of them so we can overcome each of them. 

6. When we’re facing competition from large, well-established companies, we can often leverage tectonic shifts more quickly than they can, and that may present an opportunity to leapfrog the competition.

7. We should set up our companies so that anybody can make something amazing happen.

Connect with Dave

If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Dave or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn at, you can learn about his book at and you can learn about his consulting services at

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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