The best rejection letter ever

Next Monday, Seth Godin (marketing guru, innovator and all-around fabulous guy) is starting his alternative MBA, so I was curious to learn how the unorthodox application process had played out.

The online applications (mostly Squidoo pages) are amazing – energetic, personal, compelling.  I was more amazed still by what one candidate described as “The World’s Greatest Rejection Letter” from Seth, which reads:

You are amazing.

I’m stunned.

Bowled over.


And optimistic about our future (and yours).

The applications I received were astonishingly good. Thorough and honest and clear and direct. They were motivating and demonstrated just how much people can do when they put their minds to it. I read every word of every application and I learned a lot.

If I had 60 seats, I still would have had too many people awe-inspiring applying. Unfortunately, I have nowhere near that, and so I had to make difficult, irrational and not particularly fair choices. Alas, I’m going to be unable to work with you in 2009. There are still interviews and such to go through, so I don’t have the final group selected, but I thought the fairest thing to do was let you know as soon as possible.

The good news, and I hope you think it’s good news, is that you don’t need me. As I said before, I have no magic wand, no secret recipe. Your decision to just make it happen, to push forward, to change… that was the hard part.

Go. Do that. Blow them away. I fully expect it will happen.

Thanks for taking the time and thanks for understanding.


PS I’m going to post on my blog about how stellar each of you are… and I’m linking to a Google listing of applications (all of them, accepted and not). If you don’t want to be seen by others, you should delete your lens (if you made one). But I think you should be extraordinarily proud of what you’ve built and what you’ve done… and you might even get a new gig because of it.

Since I’m proud to take (and share) heaps of advice from Seth, here’s some more: suggestion #6 from his recent blog post How to send a personal email:

6. Don’t talk like a press release. Talk like a person. A person is reading this, so why are you talking like that?

This is a trap we ALL risk falling in to, and it’s one of the easiest things to change about how you communicate with people.  Why in the world would you send out an email that includes a sentence like: “Due to the overwhelming quality of the applicants this year, we had to make some very tough decisions and we regret that we won’t be able to invite you to interview at this time?”

I think it’s because people (and organizations) worry that personal will become informal, and between the relative risks of seeming too boring vs. too unprofessional, boring is a lot safer.

Fair enough, but recognize what a huge opportunity you’re missing.  Think about how many emails you personally send out a day.  Add to that the emails your organization sends out, the content from your website and your Facebook page….you get the idea.

Your opportunity is to make it personal, to treat the person on the other end like a human being.  They’ll be so surprised that already you’ll have distinguished yourself from the pack.

And if you missed it, here are my 10 Obvious Tips about Email (that most people don’t follow).

One thought on “The best rejection letter ever

  1. Hi Sasha,

    The application process was indeed unorthodox, as a wrote in the post you linked to, it was also an awesome experience.

    While applying and getting in would have been the ultimate expereince, being able to sit back and watch Seth unravel his plan will be something to keep an eye on.

    His mantra today is leadership and community. He’s shown amazing foresight into projects like and (an invite only community focused on leaders)

    This project along with Seth’s others are worth watching. I always try to ask myself, “why did he do it that way?” which leads to some great insights.


    ps – i LOVE what the Acumen fund does. I wish you all the best.

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