This I Have Learned…

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

It was time to get my hair—ahem—colored again. So, I visited a nearby salon. When I walked into the cramped salon the owner was busily tending to a customer. He casually turned to me, sized me up and down, and said: “Do I know you?” I said that he had given me a haircut a while back; I asked if I could make an appointment. In a very dismissive manner, he brusquely said “No! Once you go someplace else you cannot return here!” He reminded me of the “Soup Nazi” in the sitcom “Seinfeld.”

As I ruminated about my experience I began to think about rejection. There are all types of rejection, of course, and my “rejection” pales in comparison to other rejections out there. Consider the following:


Book & Author—times rejected

Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen        121

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell        38

Carrie by Stephen King        30


Louis Pasteur—when three of his five children died from infectious disease, he theorized that disease was spread by germs. His theory (in the 1850s) was met with violent rejection and resistance from the medical community. Because of his work, it is now widely accepted that certain bacteria are responsible for sickness.

Medical Breakthroughs

We can thank Ignaz Semmelweis for the practice of antiseptic hand washing in hospitals. In the late 19th century, students and physicians were performing autopsies and then contaminating new mothers in the maternity ward. His theory of antiseptic hand washing was largely rejected by the medical community, and he was ridiculed for his theory. He became isolated and unpredictable and was admitted, against his will, to a Viennese insane asylum, where he was severely beaten by the guards and two weeks later died of sepsis (infection), the very thing he was trying to cure by hand washing. Interestingly, the first national hand hygiene guidelines were finally published in the 1980s.

We can thank Dr. Etienne Stephane Tarnier for pioneering the incubator. Dr. Tarnier enlisted the help of his associate, Dr. Martin Couney, to exhibit premature infants at the 1896 Berlin exposition, utilizing the Tarnier incubators. All six of the premature babies exhibited survived. Dr. Couney, who brought this technology to the U.S., died in 1950 in relative obscurity, not knowing the real impact the invention would make. Despite being rejected for many years by the medical community, this invention is now standard equipment in specialty nursing units, known as neonatal intensive care.

Hollywood Types

Sylvester Stallone had anything but a charmed life; still, he emerged from all of his childhood trauma, etc., by writing a major movie: Rocky Stallone wrote the Rocky script in 20 hours straight. The script was rejected over 1,500 times. Finally, the script was accepted by United Artists, but only if he did not star in it. However, as a compromise and in order to star in his own movie, he agreed to a $35,000 salary and a percentage of the proceeds. It cost $200,000 to make and it made over $200,000,000!

For a must-see video on how important people overcame rejection, go to

This I have learned…