Yes Is For Wimps. Get Used To Hearing “NO”.

If you’re already a professional photographer or filmmaker, then you know that you had to hear a lot of “no” for every “yes”. If you’re not yet a pro, or perhaps more importantly if you are a pro whose enjoyed a taste of success, then hear this: Get Used To Hearing “No”.

But this isn’t a bad thing. “No” serves several functions.

1. Let “no” serve as a motivator. If you don’t win a gig from an agency or a magazine, if you lose it to another photographer, vow to win the next one. Make a plan for how to do it different, better than you did last time. Make new photos, prepare, hone your vision, whatever it takes.

2. Let “no” keep out the other people who don’t want it as bad as you do. Remember, when you’re hearing “no”, so is almost everyone else. When other artists hear “no” too much, they quit, defeated, never to return again. Don’t let that be you. When you hear “no”, let it remind you of this little post.

3. Let “no” remind you that this job isn’t for everyone, especially the uncommitted. In a round about way, every “no” should remind you that you’re in the right place, not the wrong place. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

4. Let “no” turn you into a better artist. A bunch of “no” usually doesn’t mean that you’re not talking to the right people. It usually means your work is not “there” yet. If that’s the case, see #1.

5. Mario Andretti once famously said, “If everything feels under control, you’re just not driving fast enough”. Same goes here. If you’re… …not hearing “no”, you’re not really getting your work out there enough, pushing what’s possible, pushing yourself.

Now here’s the kicker. It should be plainly obvious that, after a substantial amount of time cultivating the above vision, you will likely start to hear a hell of a lot of “yes”. That’s nice. Nice for the bank account. Nice for the ego. Nice for your portfolio or whatever. But when that happens, don’t get cocky. Don’t only seek yes, don’t depend on it, because it makes you and your work soft. Not in a cuddly way. In a way that you’ll get apathetic.

Of course it’s a balance, but mark my words: when you start to hear a lot of “yes”, consider doing what it takes to hear a bit more “no”. I’m betting that you’ll thank me – or more importantly, thank yourself.

144 Responses to Yes Is For Wimps. Get Used To Hearing “NO”.

  1. Jürgen June 29, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Hi Chase,

    Thanks for these reminder. You learn from rejection and it builds character.
    My favorite point is, though: 5: ..“If everything feels under control, you’re just not driving fast enough”.

    I will keep this in mind and will accelerate..

    • Maciek Krüger Fotograf Warszawa June 30, 2011 at 6:10 am #

      My friend got a ticket for speeding. He asked policeman: “Was I driving too fast? ;)”. Policeman sain: “Nooo. You were flying to low”… :) There is something in this sentence. Sometimes you are not in the right place and the right time and your photographs are great but not here and now…

    • Maciek Krüger Fotograf Warszawa June 30, 2011 at 6:13 am #

      My friend got a ticket for speeding. He asked policeman: “Was I driving too fast? ;)”. Policeman said: “Nooo. You were flying to low”… :) There is something in this sentence. Sometimes you are not in the right place and the right time and your photographs are great but not here and now…

    • fotografia ślubna rzeszow February 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

      awesome thing!

  2. daniel stark June 29, 2011 at 9:52 am #


  3. Daf June 29, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    The thing I wonder about – is if you hear a “No” – what and where to change.
    Do you think it would be un-unprofessional to go back to them and ask why ? Maybe phrased differently such as what would change it to a yes.

    I’m not a pro – but thinking about it for some time in the future.
    But one of my bug-bears is I need to know “why” with everything.

    • Bob cairnduff May 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      IMHO from my experience is that if im told mo its bevause my work isnt at a high enough standard. I always ask whoever it is that told me no what I could’ve done to make it a yes. Feedbackis how we as creatives improve ask as many people as you can and then take that criticism and go away and work hard on what you have to improve on.

      I dont thinks ots rude to ask I think if people in the industry see that you’re wanting to improve it tells them about your attitude which can be as effective as a good portfolio.

  4. Paulo Basseto June 29, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    I’ve said and repeat it a million times.
    We are all born with a no. Work hard for that Yes.
    If you put enough effort on it, no matter what you are doing, your work, that girl, that belief, that break through it will come together.

    No is the fuel for the yes.
    Great post Chase.


  5. Shelby White June 29, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Not seeking “yes” or depending on it for that boost you need to continue doing something, is powerful. Being denied shouldn’t hurt; allow it to build you.

    All points are strong and I agree with @Jurgen.

    • Jürgen June 29, 2011 at 10:01 am #

      Thanks, Shelby.

  6. James Kar June 29, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Does this apply to asking women out? Because I’ve been very used to hearing ‘NO’ :)

    Great post as always Chase

  7. Sergiu June 29, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I’m not saying you’re not right , but , it’gets very very hard to keep focus when you’re faceing a lot of “no’s”.When finaly some yes starts to show up , it’s kind of up to what kind of person you are that will determine the outcome. Some will be grateful and keep doing what made it happen, others will get an ego boost so high , they won’t know what hit them when it’s over.This applies to most industries/arts,One yes , or be it ten of them, mean you are on a good path with your carreer , but don’t fall asleep on yourself and don’t settle for what you’re doing.Get better.

    • Chase June 29, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      Yes it is hard. But plain and simple, working thru “hard” is what separates those that want it, from those that don’t.

  8. Life with kaishon June 29, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Awesome post! Just laughed out loud about James’ comment above me. Oh my goodness! So funny!

  9. Andrae June 29, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    This is really good advice
    advice that i will keep in mind
    I havent actually started with my photography, as in not with a stand alone camera, i do with my phone (the best camera is the one thats with you)

    I live in jamaica and while we are a musical and cultural Mecca its pretty hard to start out in photography here, infact it seems next to impossible (gear is expensive here and to get stuff from overseas shipped is just as bad)
    I’m pretty adamant though, I will be a great photographer despite a whole society telling me “No, do something more realistic” “you will never make it” so on and so forth

    Long story short thanks for the reminder and encouragement

  10. Brian Kelley June 29, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Isn’t that exactly what I needed to come across? Yes, it is! Thank you for putting that out there and thank YOU for putting it in front of me.

  11. Scott in AZ June 29, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    That was a damn good post man.

  12. Bram June 29, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Awesome post. After my exams are done I’m actually going to seek out a couple of no’s, I think :)

  13. Mark Matthews June 29, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    I couldn’t agree with you more Chase,

    I actually come from a background of peers who are all musicians (including myself), so the people I surround myself in are muso’s, none of which are as passionate about photography as I am. So I get flooded with a sea of “yes”. As fun as that is I always tell myself “no”, I’m not good enough to be on par with my photographic peers, and sometimes I’m so afraid of showing my work to other photographers because they could just rip my stuff to pieces… I guess what I’m saying is that I tell myself no and push myself to be better to avoid the fear of being ripped and analysed… Chase do you ever care/take on board other photographer’s opinions about your work or is it just “this is what I do like it or not.”?

  14. sweetandcoolval June 29, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    My brother works as an insurance agent and gives his reps bonuses to whomever gets the most no’s on calls per month. He uses the book “Go for No!’, which is a quick read but basically says: If you are getting 10 no’s for every yes, you are still connecting with 10 people who may not need your services or work now, but will hopefully remember you for when they do. It becomes a game and helps you not be afraid to hear no, sometimes it means, ‘yes, just not right now’.

  15. Don Hawkins June 29, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    That’s the danger with only getting feedback on your work from Facebook, almost everyone on there will tell you how great it is, not what you can improve on.

    • Bram June 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

      Couldn’t agree more! I won’t claim it doesn’t at the very least boost my ego a tiny bit when people tell me they like my photos, however, it doesn’t make me a better photographer. I’d rather they tell me everything they don’t like and everything that’s wrong with it.

  16. Christian Held June 29, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I don’t know if you’re a psychic but I heard a no the other day and was at first a bit disappointed as I’d have loved to shoot her for my portrait skills. But then at least I asked her. Anyway a no keeps you down to earth as well and it saves you from offering cheap mass production work used to do translations and I slipped into the cheap and not so accurate translator.

    So yes thanks for this post.

  17. Kelvin June 29, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Very true, hearing “No” push you to make better work.

  18. Nicole Raine June 29, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Thank you for the nearly daily kick-in-the-pants. It’s always well timed and valuable.

  19. Chris June 29, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I’ve to thank Gordon Laing for his video with Chase in Queenstown. That’s how I got to know Chase and that was the best that could happen to me.

    • Chase Jarvis July 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      say hi to gordon for me. good chap that gordon…

  20. Jus Medic June 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Great post Chase!

  21. Al Overdrive June 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Hi, Sorry I disagree with some of the above, esp. “A bunch of “no” usually doesn’t mean that you’re not talking to the right people. It usually means your work is not “there””

    I get some ‘No’s ‘ as my work isn’t the style they want, some cos their boss tells them to use the cheaper guy (even tho they know the cheaper guy is a false economy). sometimes you get know simply cos the people in charge have a buddy of their’s in mind.

    There are far too many of us all going for the same work – to insinuate that you get ‘no’s cos your work needs to improve is a bit simplistic – chase has made enough posts before about the politics of the game, so this suprised me.

    In my experience AD/CD don’t waste their time bringing in people who’s work they dont think is good enough… the website link has already cut those people out.

    Might be an idea to add a point that sometimes ‘no’ is also external factors that you will never know about or eb able to control ;)

  22. CallumW June 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    Oh my god, look at the time…..
    Sorry, gotta run


  23. Spencer Gordon June 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    Right on Chase.
    No means — not right now.
    Clients needs change it’s always good try back. Not the next day but you get what I’m say’n.

  24. Jan Oscarsson June 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Chase, I’ve been following your blog for a year or two, maybe three, can’t really remember…and it doesn’t really matter ;-)
    You’ve had a lot of great posts here but the one’s I love the most are these kinds of motivational and inspiring posts. Sure, most photographers are in one way, or another, “gear heads” and I can see that if you’re new in the craft it’s important to learn about gear or more importantly how to use it and if you’re seasoned then you can still enjoy and learn new things as technology and you, yourself develops. But all that, you can learn by trial and error, and yes you can learn the business and creative side by the same method, BUT the things you write about in this post and others like it are so much more valuable advice for all of us and goes beyond the photography business. It’s more like an A-Z on how to live your life no matter what business your in. Am I rambling, I think I am… Anyway I loved this post because it really says what I lovingly tell my two daughter’s 2 and 4 years old when they stumble and fall for the gazzillion time today: -Up and try again, you’ll make it, next time! Never give up, If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it! Thanks Chase for being such an inspiring and giving person.

  25. Brent Rust June 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

    “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!” ~ Randy Pausch

  26. ernie pena June 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Great post! But… is she holding soap-on-a-rope?!?

  27. Jomar June 29, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    Hey, Great post. May I ask, what is the percentage of you hearing no, than hearing yes?

  28. Andy June 30, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    Great post. Chase, you’ve got a way of putting my garbled thoughts into sensible words.

    Into month 9 of doing my own thing, been sodding hard work (doing nothing!) with many days full of “what the hell?”. In the last few weeks, Yes’s have started coming through, thanks mainly to the lessons learned from the Nos. Oh, but still plenty of Nos with those Yes’s!

    The honing never does end. And that’s what I love.

  29. Jonelle Louw June 30, 2011 at 3:00 am #

    Number 5 is true for us! Both my husband and I are photographers and I suppose we are driving. Probably not fast enough but we’re definitely not in control either. The financial burden is really putting a damper on getting our work out there…

    We’ll keep on pushing – and each one of us is pushing our own unique stuff.
    We’re not even hearing the “no’s” yet because people don’t see our work!

    (If you’re wondering why? Most of our personal projects are shot on film and living in SA makes it extremely difficult to get stuff developed and scanned professionally. And on top of that we’re trying to share a Mac… What a joke!)

  30. DanielKphoto June 30, 2011 at 5:20 am #

    Very useful post, especially the kicker part. Thanks a lot chase!

  31. DanielKphoto June 30, 2011 at 5:21 am #

    BTW, that photo is from the D7000 roadtrip right? :P

  32. bryan karl lathrop June 30, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    I don’t wanna get all mushy and stuff here, but I gotta say “I LOVE YOU MAN!” You’re always timely with these little gems that keep me on point in this crazy ride my camera (and my nature) have put me on. Keep em coming sir. And again, THANK YOU!

  33. Harry June 30, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    You had me at no.

  34. fas June 30, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Some people can just never say no. Its just them that they can’t, cant be blamed.

  35. erin skipley June 30, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    I love this post. It’s so true. Everyone who works as a freelance artist/photographer/stylist should print this out and stick it to the fridge.

  36. art and lemons June 30, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    no. yes. i mean no, and thanks for this post along with the gentle ass-kicking.

  37. TimR June 30, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    Chef from South Park said it best: “You’re not gonna score every time, but when you do, it makes all the trying worthwhile.”

  38. Will Austin June 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    So true, another great post Chase! I started out with a lot of Yes and the first couple times I heard a No it kinda rocked me…. I say just keep on rollin’, no time to waste.

  39. Bob Carter June 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    G’Day Chase

    I love photography, trying to get better all the time. Particularly love sports photography, and with a daughter playing Netball have combined my hobby & family. But guess what? No you can’t photograph, we are afraid of perverts so everyone with a camera is considered a suspect. It got so uncomfortable, that I stopped taking photos.

    However a few weeks ago, I fired up the Internet and did some research, hold on! I can take photos, I’m not breaking any law, I’m not a pervert, all I’m doing is documenting a time in my daughter life, where she is having fun playing sport.

    So I wrote to the governing body & stated my intentions, that I am within my rights to photograph my child, forwarded on some reference material and legal advice. Stated I will photograph my daughter and if you don’t like it “call the cops”

    Two weeks later a letter from the State Netball Authority stating that parents like myself are well within their rights to photograph their children.

    For too many years No! has ruled supreme, and here is one example. One or two individuals have said No so it has become gospel. All it took was willpower to challenge that “No!” Now my daughter will have photos of her competing in sport that she can show her children and I can enjoy my hobby. I say No to No.

  40. Chicago Wedding Photography Studio Finch June 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Spot on with hearing “no.” We all need to push the limits so we can grow. I’ve always been a big proponent of daring to fail big. If you don’t go for it then how will you get better? When I was in sales it was called “Getting to Yes,” the more times I heard “no” the closer I came to that person who said “yes.”

    LOVE the Mario Andretti quote!!!

  41. ami siano June 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    great post chase !

    my 10 cent’s –

    a while ago I went to this sales-seminar – and
    the lector said something similar, which resounds with a lot of my own personal expirience as a freelance.
    The FIRST reaction is almost always a “NO”. It could mean anything from “I don’t know you” to “I don’t trust that you are the right person for this job”
    Also a “NO” is a good thing (?) because it means that the person is thinking about it and not brushing it off.
    if you hear a quick “yes yes” it means they’re not listening. So essentially a “NO” starts a cognitive process in their mind.

    The problem is always our own Ego. A “NO” to us means rejection, rejection used to mean “death”.
    Say “YES” to the “NO”s !

  42. clopix July 1, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Chase, I doubt you ‘ll get a “No” for the book you book you about to publish. This was one of the most inspirational post I read in quite a long time. Good stuff man!

  43. Patrick Gensel July 1, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    This is great insight. I have heard NO! plenty of times before and have always used it as motivation tool. To succeed you must first fail! thanks for the great post, keep it up!

  44. jacob härnqvist July 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Really good post, nice tune-up for the fighting spirit!

  45. Foto July 2, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    Chase, Very useful post, enjoyed reading.

  46. Benny July 2, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Damn good read. I personally would take “no” as a “not yet” I don’t think I’m good enough for a job just yet but if I keep at it and getting better that no will turn into a yes.

  47. Rob Barnes July 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    Love this!

    “If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”

    If you love what you do and stick with it you will do great things!

    When I started out I vividly remember one photographer telling me “get out of this business while you can” and I thought are you freaking crazy??? I’m going for it and I’ve never looked back!!!!

    Great post Chase!

  48. Alexander Petrov July 3, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    Great post! Loved it. Thank you!

  49. Hunter White July 3, 2011 at 3:15 am #

    Here’s what I remember, if I hear no, it means I am doing something different than everybody else.

  50. Shannon July 4, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    Thanks Chase – sometimes no gets hard to take, especially being neurotic photographers – and occasionally it’s nice to hear that everyone’s getting the no sometimes. But to use that as a motivator to work harder, shoot better and create a unique voice is advice that EVERYONE needs to heed.

  51. Edward Lie July 5, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    It’s a good one, chase… a really good reminder :) thank’s, mate.

  52. Josue C. - mal olor vaginal July 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    no importa cuantos no puedas escuchas lo que importa es cada vez que escuches un no estaras mas serca de un si.

  53. mariano sick - controlar la eyaculacion July 5, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    puedes escuchar muchos no, pero para muchas personas los no solo son un para motivarlos a conserguir un si.

  54. Calvin Pennick JR July 5, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    Damn Chase, that is why I love you site. I get the advice I need to hear at the right time. Thanks!

  55. Costas July 7, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    The japanese say: “Nana korobi, ya oki”

    (seven times fall, eight times get up).

    I have printed this on a t-shirt as a constant reminder.

    • Chris Nemes August 2, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      Where is the +1 button? :)

  56. Nomadic Samuel July 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    A very motivating post! I think that learning to have thick skin, retooling & revamping your approach are vital towards moving forward in the direction of your dreams. As you mention far too many individuals simply give up after not hearing exactly what they want. It’s the willingness to go that extra mile that’s going to separate those who are serious from simply the amateurs.

  57. Simon K July 11, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    I don’t mind “no”‘s, as long as they are followed by constructive advice. Otherwise they just pass through one ear and leave through the other :)

  58. john hildebrand July 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    this is for sure if your going to loosing it on hearing no a lot that get a different job. this was a good blog

  59. Chris Nemes August 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Indeedo. Nice motivator.

    “NO” is the land of big boys.
    There is no map and no way to avoid blame now and then.

    Give yourself a D. Assume people will dislike what you do, because you change the status quo and not pleasing.

    And then wait for it.

  60. Bong August 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    thank you for the reminder Chase.

  61. Kris Hinh August 7, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Thank You! Chase, you totally made all of us photographers understand NO isn’t a bad thing anymore =)

  62. Pradeep August 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Thank you! :-)

  63. Brian M Hays August 8, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Cool post. I am going to go out and try and friend more no’s. It is too hard to act only when you’re sure of a yes.

    Thanks for the post.

  64. filmmaking resources August 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    Honestly, in my opinion, the occasional “no” is necessary to keep people into check. People sometimes can get an overinflated ego because nobody wants to say no to them and that can lead to a hit to the quality of their work. I read that the author of the book “The Help” was rejected almost 45 times before her book was accepted. By hearing no, it only motivates people to hone their craft if they are truly serious about what they are doing.

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  66. Ashley Ferreira - Dragonflight Photography December 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    I read this back in June and this back week – this seriously hit home. Thank you so much for everything you do. This article was such an inspiration and a literal kick in the ass. Much appreciated!

    • Erin January 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      Couldn’t agree with you more Ashley. Great comment.

  67. Maciej January 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Sometimes saying “no” is equaly important…

  68. Erin January 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Like others have said, thank you so much for the reminder. I am a student fine art photographer and hear NO a lot. It gets discouraging sometimes but I am getting used to it and it does make me try harder to make my images mean more to myself and to anybody else who might see them. I submit to anywhere from 5 to 10 calls a year and get 1 or 2 positive responses. I consider myself lucky in that getting a yes response spurs me onward as much as, or maybe even more than, the no’s do.

  69. Anton Rehrl January 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Thanks for this. Your posts are a great inspiration when things feel a bit crap in trying to win work. :)

  70. Elis Alves January 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    thanks Chase, I needed to hear that today. Been thinking a lot about this and the fact that I still want it bad enough. Still, the bad days creep in. Thank you for the reminder. You lifted my spirits a bit! :c)

  71. Peter Koriath January 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm #

    Don’t ask the question that gives the opportunity for someone to say “no”.
    There is always opportunities available. Try and help someone see that you may not be the “right” fit for this project but you have a lot to offer that can fit with other projects.

  72. Pat - Inner Beauty PHotography January 13, 2012 at 1:30 am #

    Great post and a great reminder to keep bouncing back from noes. But we should also take a moment to enjoy our successes too :-)

  73. Jiri Malcharek January 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Love the Andretti’s quote :)

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