Embracing “No”

by A Manly Guest Contributor on January 24, 2011 · 32 comments

in Blog

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Matt Moore. And a mighty fine companion piece to those who have been inspired to stop “should-ing” and follow their dream.

Matt has written a bunch of awesome articles for AoM in the past, and has happily agreed to become a regular contributor on AoM. He’ll be dishing out a monthly cooking article for us. Congrats on the Today Show gig, Matt, and welcome aboard!

“No” is my favorite word in the English language. I understand that may sound a bit contrarian to positive thinking, so perhaps I should clarify my comment. It’s not so much the word itself, but the effect of the word that I most value. For me, hearing the word “no” is the best form of personal motivation.

Most successful people are willing to make known that their journey to the top was fraught with several “no’s” along the way. Sure, there are stories of those who find overnight fame, but more often than not, a look into the background of these overnight sensations reveals that years of hard work, including failures, laid the groundwork for the final result seen by all.

I firmly believe that it does not matter how many times one is told “no” in a lifetime; rather it’s their response to the word which plays a key role in defining one’s character.

Last week, I was catching up with a friend over cocktails at one of my favorite establishments. After a few drinks, our conversation turned from the NFL playoffs to discussing his new business plan. The truth of the matter – his plan is anything but new. I’ve heard him recount his idea fifty times in the last five years, yet he never puts his words into action. Perhaps it’s his fear of failure, rejection, or just complacency. In any event, it’s moments like these when I’m reminded of the words of Ernest Hemingway. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

I’m not saying that you need a cocktail to come up with great ideas. Instead, I’m telling you to stop talking, to stop resolving for another year: it’s time to walk the walk. Today is January 24th, or the 4th week of the New Year. For all of those who made New Year’s resolutions, I’ve got to ask: Are you still on track?

Whatever your goal may be: to lose weight, to start a business, to change careers, or to become a better husband/father, I suggest sharing your goal with others in order to hold yourself accountable. Of course, it’s normal to fear failure or rejection. I’ve yet to meet a man who likes to be told he cannot do something. So instead, let’s alter our thinking. Try using the word “no” as fuel to turn a negative into a positive.

Last year, I resolved to write and publish a book. I get it, not really the most original idea, but hear me out. For years, my friends relied on me to supply simple, tasty recipes for everything from a Super Bowl party to an intimate date with their lovely lady friend. Over time, I realized a true need in the marketplace for recipes that were written from a man’s-man perspective, without the attitude or presumptuous tone of so many cookbooks already on the shelves.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of the publishing world, especially considering the entire industry is now in unrest, but the fact of the matter remains; becoming a successful author – major publisher or not – is still a VERY difficult task. Realizing I was facing an uphill battle, I put on my thick-skin, preparing myself for not only for criticism, but also rejection.

As it turns out, I received a “no” from every agent and publisher in the literary world (If you didn’t turn me down, I probably just didn’t contact you). You see, publishers and agents are interested in books that sell. In the non-fiction world, having a platform as an author is crucial in selling books. Though a platform used to be restricted to high profile or celebrity figures, it’s encouraging to know that publishers will now consider those with large followings on blogs, Facebook, or Twitter as potential candidates for a publishing deal. Me? I had nothing going in my direction, save what (only) I thought was a genius idea. Looking back, I’m not surprised that I was told “no.”  However, because I had expressed my goal to others, I was committed to pressing on.

I decided to start my own publishing company to release my book, Have Her Over for Dinner; a gentleman’s guide to classic, simple meals. I’m certainly not the first to pursue the self-published route, with the advent of e-books, Kindle, the iPad, print on-demand, etc., becoming a ‘published author’ nowadays is more realistic than ever.

Lacking the funds to hire a publicist, I took on the sole responsibility of marketing my book to the masses. I’d now found myself in the role of author, chef, freelance writer, photographer, agent, publisher, accountant, and publicist. (I’m never short on answers to the “what do you do for a living” question).

I found that pitching to media is a full-time job. Sourcing contacts, sending out review copies, following up with handwritten letters and phone calls, lunches, dinners, etc. is all quite exhausting, and expensive. Nevertheless, after you’ve convinced all of your family members and friends to buy your book, you must rely on the media to garner the attention of the public. It’s a path full of no, No, NO, NOT EVER, NEVER. In fact, I made it my goal to receive at least ten “no’s” each day. I didn’t view it as a negative, instead I simply saw it as a sign that I was working hard.

As it turns out, persistence pays dividends. After walking down the path of thousands of “no’s” . . . I finally got a “yes”, followed by another, and another, and another, etc.

I can clearly remember reaching out to Brett for the first time to inquire about writing for the Art of Manliness. He gave me a shot. In fact, I owe a big thanks to both Brett and the readers of this site who have generously supported my work over the past year. Thank you.

To wrap up my story, I can assure you that I’m not writing this post from a tropical island living off royalty checks. Instead, I’ve just finished up my biggest gig to date The Today Show– hopefully my segment this morning on cooking a romantic meal with Kathie Lee and Hoda went well.

I’m also quite pleased to share that after all of that effort, my book was named one of the year’s best cookbooks by The New York Times – an honor rarely bestowed upon self-published titles.

If you’re like me, you visit The Art of Manliness to seek advice on how to become a better man. In a world where men’s lifestyle sites focus on vanity, false wealth, or the hottest celebrity of the week, Brett and Kate’s community provides an excellent forum for discussing real issues that matter. Which begs the question, are you just reading, or are you actually putting all of this great advice into action?

I’m hoping that my journey will help you refocus on that New Year’s resolution. It would have been easy to give up – blaming my failure on the opinions of others – but instead I persisted through the hard times without a guaranteed result. Let me tell you, it’s been one hell of a journey thus far.

Whatever your goal is in the New Year, I challenge you to stick with it. Be at your best day-in and day-out. You will stumble, will be discouraged, and will be told “no” a thousand times, yet it’s all part of the ride. Rely on faith. Be persistent. You might just get what you worked for . . .



Matt Moore is the author of Have Her Over for Dinner; a gentleman’s guide to classic, simple meals.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Antonio January 24, 2011 at 1:50 pm



I have to admit I hate being told no – I am scared of rejection when it comes down to it really. But I am more scared of living a life that will be full of regret. I more frightened by waking up and my life being over and not having a darn thing to show for it.

You have to accept you are responsible for your life – then you have the power to move STEADILY move forward and live the life you dream about.

I often think all the obstacles I face are there to trip up OTHER people, not me. I’m going to succeed….and in fact, despite not being financially rich…..I have in many ways.

Stop watching life and LIVE it.


2 Chad January 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm


Great article – love your point of view – thanks man!

- Chad

3 Ahmad January 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I haven’t kept up my New Year’s resolution, but reading the “should-ing” article, and now this, I feel ashamed.

Thank you.

4 Joe D. January 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Really appropriate photo for this post. Between Matt’s post and the previous one by Brett, I feel like I’ve been hit by a lethal one-two punch combination. KO!!

Great stuff. Thanks for the reminder of the power of “no”.

5 Paul January 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm

10 no’s a day!? I think I’m at 0.5 a day. Your article in encouraging, though. Thanks!

6 Matt January 24, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I really like how you gave yourself a daily goal of 10 “No’s” to show you were busting your backside and working to make it happen. That is really an awesome way to look at it. I also share my goals with my closest friends to ensure I stay on task as much as possible as it creates accountability as well as a little pressure. I do well with a little pressure applied apparently, so I try to keep it on myself.

Great read, and I hope you have much continued success Matt.

7 John Rose January 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

I’m a musician and I have released two albums. And like you, I had to wear all the hats because I couldn’t get a manager because I didn’t have a publicist. I couldn’t get a publicist cause I didn’t have a manger. I couldn’t get signed to a label, big or small, because I didn’t have a promoter who said I needed a manger. I got “no’s” from everyone. Basically they told me, “We want to see what you can do on your own. If you can get big enough by yourself, we’ll offer a contract.” Fact of the matter is, if I’m big enough by myself, I’ll stay by myself. But I heard “no” so much and it the up hill battle was so steep, I quit. 15 years of playing around the world and I never made it. It never clicked. The word “no” chipped away at me until there was nothing left. I wish I would have read this article when I was 21. When I was 25. When I was 29. Now I’m 30 in a day job and I drive a Nissan. I have a nice collection of ties and I know the difference between a nice dinner jacket and a bad one. I miss my music. I wish I wasn’t defined by those who told me “no”. Be this a lesson to all who read. When you were born you were alone and you’ll die alone. All those people who kept you down or got you down won’t be there. They won’t care. So don’t let them or their words define you or your life. Great article.

8 Wheeler January 24, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Great post. Just what the doctor ordered to push through the first month. Look forward to more.

9 Robert Marshall January 25, 2011 at 1:18 am

This article is great! This really gave me motivation to keep going on even in the face of adversity. Sometimes when you are really going after your passion and you keep getting “no’s.” It can be really emotionally draining. Just keep pushing through and you’ll get it. The person who pays the price of hard work are the ones that reap the rewards.


10 Florin January 25, 2011 at 5:36 am

This is a really motivating article. You made my day great!

Thank you!

11 RJ January 25, 2011 at 5:47 am

Now I would like a suggestion or 10 on something. I am not a person with a great deal of skills and my education is for now , lacking. What types of courses or books would one need to read to become a Decent writer. I have had 3 ideas for books , for nearly 15 years. I get discouraged and leave them in the dark places of my mind. I get overwhelmed by the idea that my skill set is not enough. Since you are now published and seemingly a success, how would one build a good set of skills to write ? How pleab could I sound here. It may take me years.. I may have to school myself for a long while , but I am willing. I want to accomplish this one thing before I leave this world. BE Told NO when I have a completed work to give to a publisher. One I can be proud of before being told no. I want to understand how to get There and then how to pursue getting it published in one way or another. Feel Free to use the link , I am sure is there, to write me at my home address. Thanks.

12 RJ January 25, 2011 at 5:59 am

Oh.. to add to the above.. I grew up without a Father.. and a Mother who was rarely there.No real support from Family . I have had to teach myself a great deal all on my own. I am proud of the things I have accomplished. EXP : I had not the first idea how to cook and finally 10 years ago.. began to teach myself . Cooking a successful meal for a friend has been a great pleasure for me. This now happened as often as once a week for a few years. I am no culinary wiz kid.. but I have continued to grow in my skills and feel with my low education
( High school Equivalent and most of a self accredited AS degree )
I need to continue my education in many other areas , including Culinary skills. So far, anything I put my mind to, I learn.. Hook or Crook, I learn it. My writing skills are shaudy at best.. spelling , structure even worse. But with some guidance I am sure my hobby would become an eventual success.. satisfying Like cooking has become. I felt odd after pushing Submit on the last one.. but we are here to help each other , right ? I want this. I hope this was not to Un-Manly to ask.

13 Gerhard January 25, 2011 at 9:46 am

Well done.

14 Guy Miller January 25, 2011 at 10:22 am

Congrat’s Matt and nice job on the article. Any discounts on your cookbook anywhere?

15 Shawn January 25, 2011 at 11:54 am

First off Matt, great article. You have to put your heart into everything you do. John Rose, I too am struggling in the music industry. But you can’t give up hope just because you’re 30 hell I’m 27 and just barely getting in there. Keep at it even if you have to work your 9-5 and record demos in your basement. Never give up.

16 Darren January 25, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Awesome article Matt! Really motivating. I’ve been a fan of your articles here on AoM (especially the skillet meals) so I’m really happy to hear that you’re going to be contributing regularly now.

17 Caldwell January 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm

One of the best artichles I read.

18 Andrew January 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm


19 Brian January 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm


It doesn’t hurt to contact college professors and ask to audit their courses. Not all of them will allow it, but it is a great way to experience a course without spending lots of money. Of course you won’t get any credit towards a degree, but that is over rated anyway.

20 Jeff January 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm

I think this article ties in with Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” quite nicely.

The “No” that changed my life was the one I taught myself to say to others. I was a people-pleaser who could not bear to turn anyone’s request down. I even double-booked myself a few times: I knowingly scheduled appointments that conflicted with previous commitments, because I was afraid to risk souring the relationship. Ironically, saying “yes” to everyone meant I was maneuvering myself into a situation in which it was impossible to avoid disappointing someone.

Learning to freely say “No” to people freed me to be a man of choice, the main theme of the “Don’t Should All Over Yourself” article. Now I choose, instead of others choosing for me, and it’s forced me to develop the concomitant social skills to do so gracefully. I feel much more my own person now, and respected more than ever, even by those to whom I have had to say “no.”

How about an article about the manliness of saying “no” to others?

Keep up the good work.

21 Jeff January 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

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22 Jesus Garcia January 25, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Great article. This article shows that when a person desires success he-she should stick to the plan and put it into action. I understand Your message thanks.

23 Alejandro January 25, 2011 at 11:29 pm

As a technical and creative writer, this hit home with me. I submitted a query for my first completed novel to a publishing house last November. Writing is my one true passion in life, so being rejected is inevitable. There are some things that are just too important to give up and, yes, rejection can serve as much-needed fuel to get it done, no matter who says you can’t.

24 RJ January 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm

@ Brian
Thanks for that Suggestion. I have confidence in so many things. This is one I think I need a great deal of Guidance in to Catch my baring and make a good foundation. It will happen. The quality.. well.. that will be up to how I set my foundation. As much Help from anyone will be openly received. I am not sure how to give my Email address here. Or if that is considered wise or permitted. But I’ll give it to anyone who wishes to Help an Old Guy Catch fire for his dream.
Again.. Great Article. It , well, Inspired me too.

25 Chris Nelson January 26, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Like Matt, I realized the best way to make sure I stuck to my goal of becoming a Better Man was to brag foolishly about them to as many people as I could – it’s why I started a blog to document my progress. After one year, I failed at just about all of my goals, but the one thing I am proud of is not suffering the indignity of giving up….I continue strive, and I continue to blog. This is how life goes – not all of us get to be Justin Bieber, and lucky for us that’s completely okay. For one, the hair is ridiculous, and two, the simple act of working hard and doing your best can give you pride beyond measure.

26 Bruce Egert January 27, 2011 at 4:06 pm

As someone who has worked his way through college and law school and has been in practice for 30 years along with the long hours that go along with it, I’ve always made sure never to listen to “people.” I’ve given my two sons the same advice. “People” do not know what you want or wish you well. Follow your own path to success. Never give up and always work hard. Observe other successful people but always remain true to your own, unique virtues.

27 Eliabe January 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Man, this is great!

Those last lines are going right into my favorite quotes list!

Thanks, brother!

28 Kevin January 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm

An old game when going out to a club with friends: everyone throws 5 bucks into a pot at the beginning. Whoever gets rejected by the most girls at the end of the night takes home the money.

29 Boyd January 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm

As in Jeff’s suggestion for a companion article, I actually thought this was going to be about “saying ‘no’ to others” which I believe is a component of well-rounded manliness. Even still, I was pleasantly surprised by the direction of this post and I realize this is an area I need to explore. As a business owner, I constantly have to push myself out of my comfort zone and face my fears, but fear of rejection is biggie for most of us. I think this type of discussion can greatly strip that fear of its power and I’m grateful that AoM exists. The more I read this blog, the more I become a raving fan. Thanks Matt & Brett.

30 Aji February 3, 2011 at 3:32 am

I like what this article says, but frankly… I’d like to disagree on the “tell other people your goals so you have accountability.”

Here’s where I first heard the idea to keep my goals secret. And so far… so good for me!


31 Tim February 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Great message! I need this today. This morning I had another highly disappointing, unsatisfactory score on the GRE, this being the second time I’ve taken it. This bad grade is not a conventional “no”, but it’s a setback that works in the same way. I know I can do better, and I’m trying to rally in response to this “no” to be better and beat the test next time!

32 Vicente May 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm

First of all, let me start by apologizing for any english mistakes or errors comitted here, i’m not a native speaker (greetings from Brazil!).

I realize that this is an “old” post, but I think that the suggestion of aiming for a minimun of no’s everyday is a great advice, specially for people working with sales in general. I remember back when I was in college and I was looking for sponsors that would like to advertise in our Academic Week, and even though I “knew” that some companies would never sponsor us, I still called them and presented our proposal. It is a really great way of keep yourself running, and after all, you end up practicing your pitch as well.

Last, but not least, I also want to congratulate you guys for this excelente blog! I’ve been Reading it for the last 3~4 days and everyday I found something useful or some great foods for thought, keep up the good work!

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