“No” Doesn’t Mean “Not Good”

You don’t know someone’s motivation behind not accepting your work, not giving you a job or a seat in a program, or not responding to an email. It could mean a lot of things.

Sharing Your Work

I was fortunate to be an editor at a literary journal and a satire newspaper. In those positions, there were times when really good pieces came in, but we already had our poems/stories/articles for the issue. I rejected people not because they were not good, but because I already met my quota or because the piece didn’t fit the theme of the issue. I’ve been in other positions where great ideas come across my desk, but I didn’t have the time or money to fund the project.

When someone says “no,” it doesn’t mean “not good,” it means “not now.” There are thousands of other desks and inboxes out there looking for a project, book, or poem like yours. Read and revise one more time and go on to the next name on your list. If you are persistent, your work will find a home when the timing is right.

Job or School

When 500 people apply for five openings, at least 50 of them are going to be good. 20 of the applications are going to be really good. 10 are going to be awesome. And the difference between the five who got it and the five who didn’t is very, very small. I have denied applicants to the apprenticeship program I manage not because the applicant was not qualified, but because it was a guessing game, just like pulling names out of a hat.

When someone says “no” after an interview or rejects your application, it doesn’t mean you’re not good at what you do. It could mean you were one of the last few names and yours didn’t get pulled out of the hat. When you don’t get into the program or are denied the job, go on to the next program or company on your list. If you keep practicing and hold your head up high, you will find a career or program that will take you where you need to go.

Asking Advice from Someone You Respect

I get a lot of emails and I try my best to keep them organized. Sometimes, I need a reminder that I haven’t responded to your email. Sometimes, I think I responded and I really didn’t. I’m sure I’m not the only one. If someone hasn’t responded to you, send them a friendly reminder. We’re all human, and reminders help. If they don’t respond to the second email, they are not in a place where they can help you. Find someone who can.

When someone you respect doesn’t respond to your email, it’s not because they don’t think you’re valuable. If a reminder email doesn’t work, it’s often because they are too busy putting out bigger fires elsewhere and they know you will find the support you need by asking someone else. We are all human: we forget and we only have so many emails we can respond to in a day.  

Remember, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback. And it’s what you do with that feedback that gives you wings or ties a lead ball around your ankle.

Peace, love, and hair grease,



Andrew J. Wilt is the author of Age of Agility, a book that addresses the skill gap between school and work. He can be reached at Andrew.wilt@sustainableevolution.com and on Twitter @andrewjwilt
"No" Doesn't Mean "Not Good"