The surprising truth about rejection | Cam Adair | TEDxFargo

Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Mile Živković Growing up, I was
a fairly normal Canadian kid. (Laughter) My day consisted of me
going to school, playing hockey, and then going home to play video games. I was a talented hockey player, I had friends, and I was even able
to flirt with girls a little bit. (Laughter) I was happy. In fact, I was so happy that my nickname growing up was “Smiley,” as you can see. But then, that all changed, and it changed when I began
to experience rejection in my life. The first time I was rejected
by a girl, I was 11 years old – (Laughter) in the 6th grade. It was by a girl named Amanda,
who I had a crush on. My family lived in a home by a lake,
in Calgary, Canada. So, naturally, being in Canada, the lake would freeze over
during the winter, or, as we like to call it,
nine months of the year. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I decided I was going to ask Amanda
to be my Valentine. So, I conjured up a plan with her friends
to leave her at the other end of the lake, so I could skate over like the knight
in shining hockey gear I was, and ask her that all-important question
when you’re 11 years old. Nervous, yet excited, I skated over and, when I got there,
I told her I had a question to ask and, even though I could
have waited four more days, so she had to say yes, I wanted to know the real answer, “Will you be my Valentine?” She looked over at me,
and with confidence said, “No. Sorry.” And she skated off. (Laughter) Instant pain shot to my chest
as my heart broke for the first time. And I remember standing there
in shock for a few minutes, and I remember thinking that this – this would be a night
I would never forget. I had been rejected. Two years later, I was in the 8th grade. There was a new hockey
program starting up where all the top hockey players
in my city would go to a school together. During the day, we’d go to class
with all the other school kids and, after the class, we’d have extra ice time
with top-level coaches and trainers. That sounds amazing, right? It wasn’t. Because I played hockey
with a lot of kids, the year started off well. Hockey is such
an important sport in Canada, and that allowed me to become
a member of the “popular kids.” Unfortunately, this didn’t work out
how I thought it would. Although I was a member
of the popular kids, as the year went on, I began to notice
that I was the one who was the outcast. I was the one not invited to parties, the one who began to be picked on. It was weird because on my hockey teams,
all of these kids were friends with me, but, at school, it was as if
I didn’t even matter. And it only got worse. Eventually, the bullying got so bad that the fun game to play was,
“Can we put Cam in a garbage can?” Every day at lunch time, a group of 9th graders would gang up
and chase me around the school, trying to put me in a garbage can. I would kick, and scream, and squirm,
and do everything in my power because every ounce
of self-worth that I had left depended on me not being put
in that garbage can. I was in the 8th grade,
and still, I was rejected. Two years later, I was 15, and I had just made the hockey
I had always dreamed of. Shortly after making the team,
we had a game in Red Deer, Alberta, two hours from my hometown. After the game, we got on
the team bus to head back home. And, tired from the game, I was lying down in the back seat,
listening to music, when one of the assistant coach’s sons,
who had accompanied us on the trip, came and started poking fun of me. Tired from the game and exhausted from years
of dealing with this type of stuff, I decided to just ignore him. As he noticed that he wasn’t getting
a reaction from me, he escalated it further. “Just keep ignoring him,
just keep ignoring him.” So, he escalated it further to the point
where he began to spit on me. He started to spit on me. I didn’t know what to do. Part of me wanted
to go beast-mode on this kid, but instead – instead, I froze, and for the next hour,
I laid crouched in fetal position, holding on to a picture of a girl
I had a crush on, named Lindsay, because I knew the only thing that was
going to get me through that experience was the strength
her picture could give me. I made the hockey team
and, still, I was rejected. I was rejected by a girl, by a classroom,
and by my hockey team, but to me, it was bigger than that because I felt rejected
by people in general. I felt unaccepted, unwelcome,
and I felt unsafe. I felt like I didn’t matter. All I wanted was to be accepted,
but here I was – not. Most importantly, I felt confused. Why was I the one being rejected? Why was I the one being bullied? Why me? Here I was, a talented hockey player,
an important member of the team – why me? Here I was, a smart kid, a loyal friend – why me? Here I was, a nice kid who would treat
any girl like a princess – why me? And, for years, that’s the question
I struggled to answer, “Why me?” Having these experiences
and so many others caused me to isolate myself away. I decided to just try
and ignore it, to escape. So, I would play video games
up to 16 hours a day. I dropped out of high school twice, and I retired from hockey,
the game I loved more than anything else. I just wanted to be accepted. I knew I had so much more
potential inside, but I felt paralyzed,
and I felt apathetic. Nobody else seemed to care about me,
so why would I care about me? I was 18, with no real sense of direction. So, after two years of struggling
to figure out why me, I decided I had to make a change. I had to change the way this was going.
I just couldn’t do it anymore. And, in a moment of inspiration, I decided to ask myself
a different question, “If I could change this circumstance,
if I could change my situation, would I? If I could learn how to make
new friends, would I? If this was actually possible,
if I could actually do it, would I do it?” And, with every ounce of my being,
I knew that, yes, I would. So, I made a commitment to myself: I was going to change this situation, I was going to learn to make new friends, I was going to learn to be happy again, to smile again. So, I set off on a journey. I didn’t really know what I was doing,
so I approached it like a big experiment. I would experiment until I learned
what I needed to learn. To make friends,
I needed to meet more people. So, I started going out, which led me to go out
every single night for three years. It wasn’t to party, though. So, I did it sober and I kept a journal
of lessons I was learning. I made significant progress and I felt more comfortable
talking to people, but there was still one problem. Even after going out for three years,
I was still lonely, and that’s when I learned that loneliness
doesn’t come from knowing a lot of people; it comes from a lack
of intimate connections. Even though I knew more people,
I didn’t really know anyone. Sure, I could give them
a high five at a night club, but that was the extent
of our relationship. I needed to take these connections deeper. So, I spent the next
two years learning that, and that happened by being curious
and asking better questions. It happened by being vulnerable
and asking for help, because that created an opportunity
for us to bond together. And it happened by getting to know
other people’s stories and being willing to let them
get to know mine. To be happy, I started
doing things I was proud of. I always wanted to learn
how to DJ, so I did. A few friends and I bought equipment,
and it became a passion. I always knew I wanted to learn how to DJ,
but I’d simply never taken a leap to try. Taking a leap made feel proud,
and I was happier because of it. At my job, I hated asking for permission
to take the weekend off. I wanted to be spontaneous
and set my own schedule. So, I quit and I launched my own business. I didn’t know what I was doing,
I didn’t have a college degree, I didn’t have any mentors, so I focused on learning
what I needed to learn. It wasn’t easy, though,
and I failed a lot. In the fall of 2012,
I took a trip to Bolder, Colorado, to meet other entrepreneurs
who were pursuing their dreams. As soon as I got there, I knew
this was exactly where I wanted to be, but, if I was to move to Colorado, that would mean that my girlfriend and I
would have to do long-distance. So, I got scared and I went
back home for a few months to figure out what I really wanted to do, but, truthfully, I was just terrified. The day after I got home,
there was a blizzard. It was cold, and I was miserable. So, I got on a plane
and flew to Costa Rica. (Laughter) What else was I supposed to do? (Laughter) I’ll never forget it: I was sitting at this cafe in San José,
having a morning coffee, and I was reading a book, and the first line of a chapter said, “Oh, so you thought by traveling
you could run away from your problems?” (Laughter) What else was I supposed to do? (Laughter) “Oh, so you thought by traveling
you could run away from your problems? But you realized that
your problems are within you, so they come with you wherever you go.” That’s exactly what I was doing. I was in Costa Rica,
running away from my problems. The trip was supposed to last
for 40 days, and it lasted 12, and those 12 days were full
of stress and anxiety, and I spent the last week of it
in a hotel room in Dominical, waiting to go home. I was terrified. So, I flew back to Canada
and felt like a failure. Five days later, my girlfriend
broke up with me. It’s funny how these things
work sometimes. Here I was, my business is failing – my trip to Costa Rica, a disaster – and now, my girlfriend leaves. I felt like a total loser
and like I was back to square one. So, I spent the next four months
developing courage, and finally moved to Bolder, Colorado,
in April of last year, and it was one of the best
decisions I ever made. Yes, the environment was fantastic; yes, the friends I made were great; but truthfully it was the decision to take
the leap and have the courage to do it that made the difference, to honor something inside
I knew I wanted to do, but had ever done. Your passions may not be DJ’ing,
or traveling, or working for yourself. Whatever they are, pursue them. It will make you feel proud
and it will make you feel happier. My friend Alexi Panos says, “Don’t follow your bliss.
Be your own bliss.” Finally, I learned
that rejection is a compass. It teaches you what you don’t want
so you can learn what you do. My friend Preston Smiles says, “Out of our biggest rejection
comes our biggest sense of direction.” Six months after moving to Colorado,
I booked a plane ticket to Europe. I had always wanted to go to Europe,
but I’d simply never booked a ticket. So, I did and I traveled for two months,
and it was incredible. But, truthfully, I just felt proud with the fact that I pursued
something I wanted to do. I went after a goal. When we get rejected,
it’s so easy to view it as validation. It’s so easy to try and identify with it. Don’t identify with it. Rejection is not you, it is not you, and it doesn’t define you. You define you. Viktor Frankl says the last human freedom is our ability
to get meaning to our circumstances, and I believe that to be true. I was rejected, I was bullied,
and I felt depressed, but it was only up to me
to change my circumstances. Nobody could do it for me. So, why me? Why are these my stories? Honestly, I may never know, and you may never know your answer either. Sometimes, that’s just the way it is; the answers simply don’t exist. The truth is there wasn’t a reason why me. It just was me. It’s part of my story, and that’s okay. It sucked, and that’s okay. Rejection is okay. But what I want you to know
is that I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for it
because it gave me a choice. It gave me a chance to start again. What I want you to know
is that you are not alone. You are not alone. You, and me, and so many others
experience this exact the same thing every single day, and that’s okay. Rejection is okay. Reach out and ask for help. Be brave. You don’t have to do this alone. Finally, my challenge to you is this: what’s your turning point going to be? Mine was when I realized that, if I could change
the circumstances, I would, and when that light bulb went off, I knew I had to take
responsibility for my life. So, what’s your turning point going to be? Because, ultimately,
you’ve got to make that choice. You’ve got to make
that choice for yourself. So, choose, choose yourself. Thank you. (Applause)

About the author


  1. I am not an actor not a star, neither I have my own car, that's the cause of my rejection everywhere!! it's insane!!

  2. it can depend on what your circumstances are? in my case I went through my early years…ie school leaving age to late 20's and had no luck finding a Girlfriend. My reputation being a loner/weirdo..but living in a tiny population it wasnt suprising. The best thing ever was getting away to a trade college in the UK. It totally changed my life. Girls were interested, took me at face value…none of the typical BS of being back in my home area. Life was good. Another point I can make that if you are rejected socially, then at least strive to learn something. I learnt loads of good things since, which I wouldnt if I had got stuck in the local Bars..wasting time and money.

  3. Sometimes, this is why farmers choose farming. They don't have to deal with other people as much. So, you don't have the potential of running into all that *#$%?%, you know. Not a bad reason. Humanity, is not very psychologically healthy in general.

  4. Step 1. Inciting incident
    Step 2. Incident causes a bunch of personal problems
    Step 3. Loneliness
    Step 4. Figuring out you to cope
    Step 5. Figuring out how to thrive
    Step 6. You’re old and everything that mattered before doesn’t matter anymore and everything that didn’t matter is the most important thing

    Everyone is living their own lives, you’re not the only one here, life is scary and it sucks, but you have the power to either ask for professional help, or make yourself a map and try different things

  5. Ahaha 😁 the Speaker is Nerd.. 🤓 OK I am gonna Share my Story When I was in High School. I been bully because of my Skin tone and I've been rejected of My Crush.. In that Moment I start to Investigate The "Social Structure "of People Around me and Soon I found that White is Dominant color in Many things. Specially in Social lifestyle and Love. So me I Exercise myself That every Beautiful Girl that are Very Attractive. I will look around so I cant See him.. And I Start not to Watch a love Story.. Everytime I take Coffee I Exercise my Mind and Heart that Love is not Allow to me.. And Soon I start playing War Games on Computer. I found that it helps me.. Like a High Drug Medicine.. Every player I kill is a Delightful to me.. 5 years I repeat This kind Of Method. Now I feel free I never been attracted to lady's and I never fall in love even if I hear some love story.. Now I never experience Rejection. Just twist something.

  6. This one hits me hard tho because I can relate to him starting elementary school my “friends” invited me to a party and me not knowing it was about to get hazed almost to death. Then after that I haven’t been invited to a single party since that happend in the 2nd grade I’m a freshmen in highschool now I’ve always been the one left out rejected and cheated

  7. he sounds like hes reading a memorized essay he had written for himself to know exactly what to say

  8. thanks for not panning to the projecter screen when he showed the picture proving his nickname smiley

  9. I hate myself. I’m obsessing over a girl who doesn’t want me back. I try to make conversation but she keeps it surface level and short. Idk why I even bother.

  10. Speaker said, " part of me wanted to go beast mode on this kid" . How can anyone take this seriously?

  11. @Cam ….Greetings from the U.S.A. 🇺🇸 Your presentation was bold, informative , straight forward and I enjoyed your Ted Talk .. You done well Cam . Takes courage to stand up in front of an audience and to express what you went through , where you are going and how to achieve it. Never own rejection … very encouraging.

  12. oh its the 'well what else was i supposed to do kid!', "woozlewazzle? thats that passes for entertainingment these days?"

  13. This is super late but I like this girl, but I'm terrified out of my mind to ask her out. Should I ask and probably get rejected or don't say anything, still be friends, and possibly regret it.

  14. What types of people would laugh when he said he was rejected at 11 years old boy? That's sort of mean. 🙁

  15. Am I the only one that is here because they are getting ready for rejection because I know I'm going to get rejected and I'm getting myself ready

  16. This made me cry.. I was rejected by my parents who neglected me, middle schoolers and high schoolers where I sat by myself throughout 9 grades, was always picked last… every time I made an attempt to sit by someone. I "stole" someone's seat or continued to sit there with my heart and head low while the kids around me would make comments towards each other or me until they moved and I pretended to ignore them. I dropped out of everything even sports, band, etc because everytime someone in class would see me or heard me doing something I wanted to do, countless of kids… ( 2 grades worth ) would just bully me constantly until I just got hardened and thought it was easier to drop out because of my lack of emotions and interest… it still affects me today. I tried to go for Nursing and thought college would be different. Gave several kids my phone number for their study group but I never got a phone call and the next day I would hear how fun and helpful it was.. I dropped out. It's an neverending cycle.. honestly.

  17. I came upon this video by autoplay. I liked the video however I hope you do not think your girlfriend rejected you by breaking up with you. It may have been the opposite that she may have felt rejected by you. You left to travel for an extended period of time without her. Some people may not be able to handle that in a relationship and take it personally. She could probably sense how unhappy you were and internalized it. Think about how your actions could be perceived as rejection as well : ) It sounds like it was for the best though since you were figuring out what you wanted in life to make you happy. I'm glad you found your way along in life. Great video, its nice to help others by sharing your experience.

  18. I was rejected, dated people here and there, got my heart broken yada yada yada…then I decided that investing in myself was more beneficial and haven't looked back since.

  19. I used to be broken by rejection. I didn't fit in. I was the misfit. I was the one who was made sport of. I asked the questions of why my kindness wasn't appreciated. Why I couldn't gain the relationships I desired? Why the inter-relationships I wanted to reach were good as stars in outer space. I still endure loneliness. I started to take rejection as a gift. It allowed me to look inside of myself and appreciate where I came from and where I'm going. It deepened my relationship with Christ to make me know that I belonged to him. Even when people close to me fell apart, he was still there for me.

  20. Naw I don’t care enough to worried myself with being rejected I juts except that not not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay 🤷🏿‍♂️

  21. Wow this is a good subject. Sorry for venting, but I was more ignored than bullied. Some people even sees me as lower than them and even taking advantage of me, thinking that I don't know they did. It hurts being ignored, makes you feel like a ghost passing through this life. But hey, I've made a pact with myself that if I don't really get comfortable with other people again ever in my life, I'll go and live in the woods, trying to get self sufficient. But I hope I can integrate myself in the society more than living alone in the future.
    The stories talked in here makes me hurt because I can empathize with that. Such a confusing place where everywhere you go is not welcoming to you, but fortunately he can climb out of that situation and make a better life for himself. Congrats to you man

  22. Gym is the only escape from rejection….gym and books are the only loyal friends that make us powerful both mentally and physically

  23. I thought everyone already knew that…. just don't be pretentious. Be sincere about your feelings and spit out the curious question you have in mind (without being rude). Circle yourself with people who open themselves up to you.

  24. It’s easy to get women just get money they are gold digging shallow whores! Pump them and dump them

  25. I’ve watched videos like this I don’t know how many times already, and I’m still terrified of asking women out from a bad history of rejection. I may have let this fear root deep into my self-esteem for so long that it’s already too late to change it.

  26. I've rejected all kinds of women except the east Asian type of women. I think one Filipino girl would like me, she would talk to me a lot, we would go on the train to go to uni and back home. We had a nice conversation on the way home once sitting next to each other. A nice talkative happy girl. I just noticed for the first time that the evian water bottle in front of me has an east Asian girl on it like that Filipino nice girl. I wonder if that means God wants me to get an East Asian girl.

  27. I have the coolest psych teacher in college. On the last day of class he told us to remember this the one thing people want more than anything else is to be accepted or part of a group.

  28. Rejection shot us like a bullet.
    Sometimes we’re lucky enough that the bullet had an exit wound.
    But sometimes…
    Just sometimes..
    The bullet doesn’t leave.

  29. i know this is quite an old video, but i got a big message from it. originally, coming into this, i only thought i was only going to hear about cam's story and the experiences through dealing with it. but in the end, cam taught me a much more valuable lesson than that. sometimes, i think we all need to be reminded of who we are and how we want to be better, and that's what i came out with from this video, and even more.

  30. I know exactly what you are talking about
    Started in 3rd grade and I'm suffering from it until now
    I'm having at least one panic attack a day
    I lost weight and now everyone calls me beautiful and they tell me what a wonderful person I am….but I just can't believe them
    I spend every day crying and anxious, making myself an outcast

  31. Sorry! I don't take advice from grown men who allow themselves to be bullied by an individual. To me you are just weak, a weakling to me. i don't want to be like you, so why would I take advice from you?

  32. I can fully relate to his story, but basically he stated that he took notes and seen the things he needed to change to not get rejected from the beginning he was a nice and loveable guy and his friends still treated him badly. Which is how I am as well and it just seems like you had to change yourself so the world can accept you and it worked and that's not how it should be. You were ALREADY a great person, so that's what I am battling with should I adopt other ppl characteristics to be accepted in life and to make my life easier, b/c rejection is very close to feeling your heart is no longer in your chest. Sometimes I wish I was a naturally cruel person I would have many friends

  33. Others destiny are not always our own! Come to realization accept your not that one in their lives and move on, make your own with someone who is! And take it from there it isn't a bad move either!

  34. I almost killed myself because the girl I liked is no longer single after I took her to the movies 😥😥😥 I liked her for years and finally talk to her and then shes taken 💔

  35. Its because women only want the perceived best of everything…& couldn't give a flying toss for any lesser. Men seek growth in solution, women don't see the point.

  36. Imagine you can't even go out every night. Or every weekend or even once a month. Because you're stuck under the roof of the world's most overprotective parents who don't even let you socialize when its for your own good.

  37. Here I am finished High School where I never had a girlfriend. Always rejected there. Here I am finished Collage where I was told I was undesirable. And now, here I am, stuck going in and out of the hospital for a chronic illness and being in constant pain 24/7, and all I have is my grandfather to help me as my dad is busy with work, and my mom is pissed off at me for not being able to handle the pain, and my friends cant drive to visit me. At least I have my cat, all the Gingerale I could ask for, and video games in a cold dark basement where I try to distract myself all alone. 

    And yet, somehow through all that, I am still happy and don't know why.

  38. I will say, quitting your job and pursuing a career as an "entrepreneur" IS NOT reality for 95% of the people on this planet. Most people HAVE to work and don't have the luxury of simply quitting a job and trying to start a company or their own business. So hopefully, people don't "get inspired" by stories such as this and lose everything they have, because "they too can make it!"

  39. If you’re an outsider I feel like the universe is trying to tell you you’re made for bigger and better things

  40. I was 18 when I moved to the Carolinas I lived there for a year and ten months and things didn’t go well, I was going to be homeless and so as heartbroken as I was I moved back to Indiana for 2 months. Made all new friends, did things I never thought I would. I just about a month ago moved to Pennsylvania. I feel like now I’m not attached to anything, I know I’ll deal with rough things but I feel like I can be happy anywhere

  41. I’ve been rejected from girls my whole life and I just turned 18. I feel so lonely and feel like I have no hope of ever having a special someone. 😰😥

  42. I relate a lot to what he said about when he was 13. To my best friend outside school, I basically didn't exist during school hours at best or got picked on by his friends at worst because I was weird and social status is the end of the world for teenagers

  43. Did you ever ask your schoolmates why they treated you the way they did? This happened to me but my temper was too hot and I hit one in the nose. That stopped it.

  44. My friend’s girlfriend said that she liked me and started talking to me, and I felt really flattered, but I suspected that it was a prank, considering that I was talking to her boyfriend about it. She called me “cute” and “adorable”, and it was awesome. For the first time in my life, someone liked me, and she told me that she did, and it was just amazing. Eventually, my jaw dropped when she texted me: “it was a prank 😎”. Then a wave of depression swept over me. I was so crushed, and so angry. I have never had a girlfriend before, and that just had to happen. She blocked me on Instagram, so I told my friend to tell her that I was mad and that I was crushed. What she did wasn’t even funny. I felt suicidal, and lonely. She’s a horrible person for doing that. I hope she thinks twice about ever doing that again.

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