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Show HN: Rejection Conditioner for YC Applications (rejectionconditioner.com)
177 points by davidlee1435 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

My old friend H. Pringle scripted a rejection letter that looked a little like (please forgive my liberal re-interpretation):

Dear _,

Thank you for your rejection letter dated ___. As you may imagine, I have received a lot of fine rejection letters, and you will appreciate that it is impossible for me to accept them all. I will therefore be starting employment with you on ____.

Regards and best wishes, H. Pringle

I once had an idea for a non-profit[1]. Started to fill out an application, got about 1/5 of the way through, abandoned it because I decided it wasn't something I'd commit to, and never submitted it.[2]

Then about a month later, a rejection still floated its way into my inbox. It really stung even though I hadn't applied that round :).

P.S. - if that rejection came from someone actually viewing it, and not some autosender, that's kind of a lightweight privacy violation, at least from a usability standpoint. Most would think that an unsubmitted application would automatically be an unread one as well. But since it was in the non-profit category maybe the screener had extra time on his/her hands.

1 - chronic disease studies for multiple blue-color workplaces 2 - never did video, so couldn't have been accidentally submitted

I had the reverse happen to me with a recruiting company that shows up occasionally on HN. I had started filling out a profile in the evening, and when I returned to finish it the next morning I already had a rejection email sitting in my inbox.

I probably submitted something on accident and just didn't notice it, but it still hurt when I sat down at my desk that morning and discovered I'd been rejected before I'd even managed to fill in all of my personal information.

Maybe they rejected you due to incomplete information? I think you are worth it. :)

I know you didn't fill out the required forms but I've pre approved you for a hug.

The lesson is I guess to write faster.

Sorry about that. It must have been a bug on our side.

nbd - assumed as much. remember it had reminded me of Kramer getting fired from a job he didn't have.

Reminds me of the Journal of Universal Rejection.


I was wondering why one of the editors' links was already purple despite having never seen this site before and despite not knowing anything at all about the editor in question. I inevitably ended up clicking it out of curiosity.

Well played, Lois A. Butcher-Poffley. Well played.

This is hillarious! And by real researchers makes it even more.

This is the Internet I want

Hey all,

This is a weekend project that drew inspiration from my own experiences of getting rejected from various applications. Although I personally haven't applied this time around, I know the sinking feeling of seeing a rejection email pop into your inbox and reading the lines "We're sorry to inform you..." I hope you find this useful and welcome feedback to improve on this.

FYI your callback link on MailChimp goes to www.rejectionconditioner.com which has no DNS entry, when it should go to rejectionconditioner.com

Good catch! Thanks for the heads up :)

Instantly signed up. Love it. Would love to contribute some variety of rejections if you're interested

I'd love that! My email is at the bottom of the page.

Ah didn't spot it

I would like to see a variation on this that

1. requires you to fill out the YC application form to start the process; and

2. takes 7-10 days to get back to you with the inevitable rejection.

There's a whole separate psychology involved in getting over the hump of submitting the application, when you know that not only might you be rejected, but you'll have to spend a lot of effort to get rejected, and won't find out whether you have been for quite a while. That, in my mind, is the feeling you have to "get used to."

(For a bonus, let the applicant respond to the rejection email with special pleading. Auto-reject that after 7-10 days as well.)

Your MVP could be applying to YC with an intentionally bad idea.

This is hilarious. Any chance of expanding this to other institutions? E.g. maybe you can charge parents $20 a month to send their kids a rejection letter from Harvard every day.

Yeah I like it. How about just rejection in general.

Manuscripts, jobs, medical diagnoses.

Receiving regular rejections for dates, might have a chance to reduce poor handling of real rejections, perhaps even reduce violence towards women.

Either you'll end up being a tank that can handle any negative outcome with grace, or the sheer depression of all the rejection will force you to cancel the service at which point your normal life will feel like a fantasy land where anything is possible.

Definitely will work on expanding to other organizations! Universities are definitely at the top of the list as early admission applications are nearly due, as well as job/internship application rejections

The only issue I see with this is that it could affect the delivery of the actual senders, especially if people get tired of receiving them and start marking them as spam instead of unsubscribing.

I've got an idea for you. Set up an account to receive a forwarded rejection email, and then send that rejection letter back to the sender every month/week or whatever cadence they choose, with a different motivational lede every time you send it back.

I prefer a straight "You we're not accepted." Rather than all the platitudes about how you're awesome but everyone is awesome so it's hard to choose from all the awesome but don't feel too bad etc etc.

I'm a big boy now, just "Sorry you didn't get in." Is less patronizing somehow.

That seems to be a trick that all these hot startups use to make you think they actually care about you.

Like how Slack always says stuff along the lines of "we like you" and "I hope you have a great time at work today" every single time you log in.

Or how npm says "we love your boss" - Yeah of course you love my boss because he's the one who's paying for the enterprise license.

In npm's case it's probably more tongue-in-cheek but still, it's a bit disturbing that these services keep telling me that they love me when in fact they wouldn't care if I dropped dead tomorrow... Except maybe for the lost revenue.

"Welcome to Costco. I love you."

> Like how Slack always says stuff along the lines of "we like you" and "I hope you have a great time at work today" every single time you log in.

And they're only doing that to cover for their atrocious first load times ;)

I think it's easier to say, than to experience. I do think the initial rejection should be in the first 3 words spoken, but some context/appreciation of the effort is important so the receiver understands a) why and b) next steps (reapply?).

They do this to keep the door open. ProductHunt uses: We decided to take a different path.

As someone who has been rejected from YC after interviewing a few times now, nothing builds confidence like repeated rejection. I love this. (p.s. you should build your company anyways, YC isn't God).

Re your last point, as Seth Godin says: "Pick yourself" - I love it!

I might clone this and adapt it for break-ups

Random frequency, "hey...we need to talk" (recipe for heart attack)

Absolutely devious :) I love it!

This is a really fun, clever idea for a weekend project. I'd be very curious to hear what your experiences are in a month or so, or after some future rejection email, to see whether it really conditions you.

It might be interesting to send the email at random times on random days so you can't get used to it, which I believe is a similar method to how games will increase your response to rewards by making them irregularly timed.

Either way, nice job!

Yeah absolutely! This was based off of a small experiment that I did (albeit with job rejection letters) over the course of a week, and I felt a lot more numb to the rejection than I had before. It's anecdotal and only one data point, but I thought to make a weekend project out of it to get something shipped.

Re: timing the email, Mailchimp allows you to specify a time range, which I believe sends the emails at a random time between that time range. I set the time to between 8AM and 8PM EST, so people should be receiving emails between that time.

Oh that's sweet, so you already have randomness built in.

It'd be nice to have standard rejection emails from popular companies: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.

I have these in my inbox alongside many other rejection letters. It is not very nice to have.

After 6 real rejections I don't really feel them anymore. This year however we have a comeback - some really nice growth curves. If needed we plan to reply back with a beautiful steeply curved chart screenshot. Maybe tweet it? Autoresponder?

This is horrible, and beautiful. I love it!

Another way of extending it (besides the suggestions) could be making a collection of nasty HN comments. Try to match the topics and you might be into something! Mandatory xkcd reference: https://xkcd.com/810/

Thanks for the feedback! I also briefly toyed with the idea of letting users OAuth in via their Gmail accounts to compile a list of applications that they've sent in, but I really wanted to get something out quickly.

Is it the same every day? I feel you should randomise it a bit.

On the general topic, there is something called "rejection therapy". While I haven't exactly practiced it myself, I've had my fair share of rejection and I can definitely feel it is something to try out. Be it social or work-related things.

This needs an equivalent for writers, in response to their query letters. In my experience, writers are way too sensitive to this and they need to get used to seeing the rejections before they start submitting (it often cripples them from even starting to make submissions).

In my experience, rejection letters don't ever feel better. I've had plenty.

This also looks like you are doing it wrong. The mass of rejection letters have many grammar and spelling mistakes. They tend to be poorly written.

I don't even open them. The preview is all the information I need.

How I Learned to Handle Rejection

I got a lot of rejection in grades 1-8. The teachers believed that I was a poor student. In some ways, I was.

If only from teacher lounge gossip, grade by grade the teachers assumed I was a poor student.

Then in grades 9-12 I learned my main way to defend myself from rejection:

Main Way: Know what the heck I'm doing, have some solid ways to know I'm right, and otherwise stay out of sight so that I won't be a target.

So, right, in the 9th grade I discovered high school math. So, I did well: (A) As some aptitude tests showed, I have some math talent. (B) I found that when my math was correct, I was 100% immune from criticism or rejection. So, I made sure my math was correct. It worked great!

Did the same in high school chemistry and physics. Worked great again!

So, when I was right, the teachers were forced to give me credit and just swallow their surprise, disgust, the evidence that they were wrong about my work, whatever. They didn't like to swallow that, but they had to and did.

I still couldn't expect to please the English literature teachers so gave up on them and English literature and settled for grades of gentleman C.

Lesson for Employees: As an employee, the Main Way can be dangerous because having such solid evidence of being right can be threatening to others. Others don't like to have swallow that there is solid evidence that they are wrong. So, as an employee, might have to back off on having such solid evidence; or if have the evidence, then don't let it be known unless it is needed in some unusual situation.

In grad school, my department Chair was a straight A, rigid type of guy. His research wasn't much, but no doubt in courses he made lots of As.

Well, soon he didn't like me. Sorry guy: In a course I found a question, got a reading course to study it, and in two weeks had a solid solution with a nice, surprising, new theorem. The work definitely looked publishable and was -- later I published the work with no problems. From then on in grad school, I had a halo -- could do no wrong. Why? I'd done some rock solid, original research that any of the faculty members would have been thrilled to have done. So, the Chair had to swallow.

For entrepreneurship, try to use the Main Way again: So, have some relatively solid reasons to know you are right.

Next, don't expect anyone in business writing equity checks to accept, understand, or even consider your solid reasons. Why not: Because in all their experience, they've nearly never seen or at least have never accepted any solid reasons as relevant.

Elsewhere in our civilization, such solid reasons are both necessary and nearly sufficient.

E.g., at one time before spy satellites, the US wanted an airplane that would fly about 2000 miles without refueling across the USSR high enough (80,000+ feet) and fast enough (Mach 3+) not to get shot down and take lots of high resolution pictures. So, Kelly Johnson at Lockheed's Skunk Works came to the CIA with an armload of blueprints of solid reasons. He was right, and he, Lockheed, and the CIA all knew he was right. The result was the SR-71, as at


and it worked just as planned and never got shot down. No doubt.

Same for GPS and a lot of other US national security projects.

Indeed, given the solid presentations on paper, nearly always the rest of the projects were low risk and high payoff.

So, for entrepreneurship, use the Main Way. As Kelly Johnson did, have some solid reasons to know you are right.

Then accept that none of the equity funders will pay any attention at all to your solid evidence.

So, then, also, you should pay no serious attention to their rejections. Bluntly, they don't know what the heck they are doing. Instead, they are essentially just throwing darts, in a poorly lit bar, after several beers, and occasionally hit the bull's eye.

And there's a much bigger reason to f'get about the equity funders: It has become fully clear that for a successful project, say, building another Google, that the equity funders have no idea at all just how to do that. E.g., it happens only about once each 10 years, and to the equity funders it's all just luck and never by solid design like the SR-71.

So, if your project could be as successful as Google, or even worth $10+ B, then you have to accept that none of the equity funders have even as much as a weak little hollow hint of a tiny clue how to do that or how evaluate your project to do that. So, their rejection means nothing very solid about your project, is just noise from incompetents.

"Incompetents"? Sure: Could count with shoes on all the information technology VCs (bio-medial VCs are commonly very different) who are qualified for a technical slot in a startup, for CTO or CIO, for a tenure track slot in a STEM field in a good research university, for an NSF grant, as an NSF problem sponsor, who as sole author have published a STEM field research paper in a good journal, etc. Bluntly, in technology, they incompetent. So, their opinion or rejection of a technology project means no more than the outcome of a dice roll.

So, pick a project you can bring to nice profitability with just your own checkbook, and then do that. Millions of US Main Street businesses -- auto repair, auto body repair, grass mowing, pizza carry-out, etc. -- do that and where there is more capex then needed for, say, a first Web server and router.

Incredible story, thanks!

Suggest a tweaked version that sends rejections from major publishing houses to aspiring novelists.

Hmm, this is a nightmare. Why would I expect to receive a "Rejection Email" everyday in order to improve myself or accept a fact in real life?

This looks like a email collecting tool. No Privacy Policy, no Terms page. A giant input box to add email to a Mailchimp list?

This is wonderful! And the best thing is that a freemium model immediately suggests itself, for a fee we can receive personalised rejection letters for the case if we would get to interviews. I feel that’s when we need this service the most.

The formatting makes it difficult to read the message you are trying to convey.

So many people fall in love with this idea. I just can't believe it.

If you don't feel the pain of rejection, how would you want to chage your action for a better outcome? Desensitized of rejection doesn't mean you need to actively seek for rejection, right? It will only make you feel like a loser and okay with that.

I don't think the conditioning process advised here is sound if considering the subject's psychological health.

Or you can just use a monthly reminder in Google Calendar. Update this reminder with all the rejections you receive.

I would like to see this applied to a dating app. Some people turn into complete monsters when faced with rejection.

This is amazing

OMG, what a dumb idea!

How about receiving acceptance emails? Am I the only one to think that positive reinforcement is a way better tool? How would it possibly help you to tune yourself to a negative outcome on daily basis?!

Hate to break it to you, but the most frequent phrase you hear as a founding CEO is "no." Often masked as positive feedback, which is the real one-two punch to the gut. Yes, positive outlooks are a requirement but you're going to get "no" conditioning training at some point.

You calling this a dumb idea is a perfect example, so I'm sure the creators here thank you for that!

Or the 'california no': "yes, but now isn't the right time [and will never be]" or "no, not today [nor tomorrow, nor ever]". Gives you false hope for no reason.

> How would it possibly help you to tune yourself to a negative outcome on daily basis?!

Success often requires overcoming adversity. Overcoming failure and rejection.

Some will let fear of failure cripple their ability to get things done - not starting projects because they fear they'll fail, or not finishing projects because they've been discouraged by failures along the way.

Others will adopt failure as their constant companion and friend - a sign that they're attempting things difficult enough to be worth doing, things difficult enough to be educational, things that still push their boundaries. Perhaps even a positive thing in it's own right - if failure is how you learn, if constant and repeated failure to disprove is how you science, then just how negative a thing is failure, exactly? Just how negative is a fake rejection letter you signed yourself up for?

There's a place for positive reinforcement, but there's a place for conditioning as well, for those wishing to move the needle.

>How would it possibly help you to tune yourself to a negative outcome on daily basis?!

The Stoic fathers thought it was a good idea.

Yeah, my personal philosophy based on quantum physics and manifestation spirituality is that it would be better to receive "you've been accepted" emails, if that's really what you want in the end.

OMG, what a dumb idea!

Please don't do this on Show HNs :)

(Not the being critical part, just the part I quoted)

That one is true ;-) Thank you for reminding.

Brilliant self-referential irony!

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