Rejection Proof (Jia Jiang) — bullet points

  • When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw an ambitious guy who couldn’t handle rejection. I’d spent years working in a safe corporate environment and hiding from risks inside a team. I wasn’t used to putting myself out there. If I really wanted to be an entrepreneur, I needed to get better at dealing with no. I needed not just to overcome my fear of no but to learn how to thrive in the face of it.
  • I stumbled upon a website devoted to something called Rejection Therapy—a game of sorts developed by a Canadian entrepreneur named Jason Comely, in which you purposely and repeatedly seek out rejection to desensitize yourself to the pain of the word no. For some reason, I fell in love with the idea. I made a vow not only to try rejection therapy but to do it one hundred times, video-record the entire experience, and start a blog on the topic. I found a domain name called FearBuster.com. There I would start my blog, which I called “100 Days of Rejection.” I had never blogged before. But I liked the built-in accountability that blogging seemed to promise. If I managed to get any followers, then it would be hard to quit halfway.
  • I went into a Domino’s pizza shop and asked if I could deliver a pizza for them as a volunteer deliveryman. The day after, I asked a grocery store clerk if he could give me a tour of their warehouse. The answer to both requests was no—but I didn’t take it personally. I felt confident and relaxed, and I was having fun.
  • Jason Comely’s original rejection game is about pain desensitization. But my 100 Days of Rejection experiment was quickly turning into something very different—a crash course on life and business. I was starting to see just how important my communication style was to the outcomes I was getting. When I was confident, friendly, and open, people seemed more inclined to go along with my request; even if they said no, they at least stayed engaged longer to ask questions. If I could just figure out the right way to communicate in each situation, I might increase my chance of being accepted—and also decrease my fears about a possible rejection.
  • I’d always viewed my fear of rejection as some sort of rare disease, like guinea worm, that inflicts terrible pain but affects only a tiny segment of the overall population. I figured that I was simply unlucky, or that my innate shyness, my upbringing in a superprotective family, or the fact that I came from a foreign country with a reserved culture were somehow responsible for my fear. Before the e-mails and comments started pouring in, I’d never really thought about other people’s fear of rejection. But the more people told me how much they could relate to my experience, the more I realized that fear of rejection wasn’t a rare disease at all. It was a normal human condition. I knew from experience that this fear can have enormous, debilitating consequences. Now I was hearing from people who, like me, viewed rejection as something so painful, so personal, and so negative that they would rather not ask for things, rather conform to the norm, and rather not take risks just to avoid the possibility of rejection. Like me, they had spent much of their lives rejecting themselves before others could get the chance. As a result, they had heartbreaking stories of ambitions that weren’t fulfilled, job opportunities that were missed, love that was never realized—and inventions that were never made or were made by someone else.
  • If a person who fears rejection were suddenly unafraid of it, what might she be capable of? Wouldn’t she be better at everything she does? If she were an artist or musician and didn’t fear how people received her work, wouldn’t she be able to search deep into her soul and make pieces that truly reflect who she is?
  • All my life, I’d wanted to be an entrepreneur. I’d wanted to invent something that millions of people would find useful. Yet by tackling one of my own needs head-on, I’d accidentally stumbled on a need so great that it was shared by most of the planet. Paul Graham, the entrepreneur and founder of the famous start-up accelerator Y Combinator, once wrote: “The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.” All this time, I’d been focused on launching an app based on a cool idea in my head. But now, I saw far more meaning in helping people overcome their fear of rejection. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like—or what it would mean for my own future—but the rest of my 100 Days of Rejection would be the perfect lab for me to experiment with a new kind of invention: a way to overcome the fear of rejection.
  • Rejection vs. Failure: entrepreneurs love to tell and hear stories about failure—because those letdowns are often stepping-stones toward eventual success. Rejection, on the other hand, is not cool at all. It involves another person saying no to us, often in favor of someone else, and often face-to-face. Rejection means that we wanted someone to believe in us but they didn’t; that we wanted someone to like us but they didn’t; we wanted them to see what we see and to think how we think—and instead they disagreed and judged our way of looking at the world as inferior. That feels deeply personal to a lot of us. It doesn’t just feel like a rejection of our request, but also of our character, looks, ability, intelligence, personality, culture, or beliefs.When we experience rejection, we can’t easily blame the economy, the market, or other people. If we can’t deal with it in a healthy manner, we are left with two unhealthy choices. If we believe we deserved the rejection, we blame ourselves and get flooded with feelings of shame and ineptitude. If we believe the rejection is unjust or undeserved, we blame the other person and get consumed by feelings of anger and revenge.
  • In my case, my fear of rejection had silently held me back, for more than a decade, from taking a step toward entrepreneurship. I can’t help but wonder what this fear has done to millions of other lives. The list of regrets must be massive and heartbreaking. What exciting, interesting, and potentially life-changing ideas have people not pursued for fear of getting kicked out of the pack?
  • If something can’t hurt me, then why should it scare me? It turned out it’s this question that proved to be pivotal in my fight with rejection.
  • The “universe” is made up of people with diverse and often polar-opposite personalities, incentives, and backgrounds. Their reactions to a certain request reveal much more about them than about the request itself. I started to realize that rejection is a human interaction, with at least two parties involved in every decision. When we forget this—and see the people who say yes or no to us as faceless machines—every rejection can feel like an indictment, and every acceptance like a validation. But that’s just not the case.
  • Rejection seemed less like “the truth” and more like an opinion. Other people were simply processing my requests, then giving me their opinions. That opinion could be based on their mood, their needs and circumstances at that moment, or their knowledge, experience, education, culture, and upbringing over a lifetime. Whatever was guiding them at the time I entered their lives, these forces were usually much stronger than my presentation, my personality, or my request itself.
  • If I accepted every opinion equally and used it to judge the merit of something, not only would I change my mind constantly but I would probably eventually lose it. Throughout history, many great ideas that ultimately propelled humanity forward were initially met with vocal, violent, and even gruesome rejection by society at large. They include the movements led by Socrates, Galileo, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. Even the foundation of Christianity was formed by the rejection of Jesus by his own people.
  • Outside influences have an enormous impact on the way people see a situation—and those influences can change over time. The way someone feels about me, or about a request I’m making, can be impacted by factors that have nothing to do with me. If people’s opinions and behaviors can change so drastically based on so many different factors, why should I take everything about a rejection so personally? This simple but profound realization helped me to start taking the emotion out of rejection—and to look with new eyes at the decisions people make.
  • Rejection is human, is an opinion, and has a number. If I viewed other people’s opinions as the main judgment of merit—which is what I was doing when I took every rejection to heart—then my life would be a miserable mess. I’d be basing my self-worth, and even the course of my life, on the whims and judgments of other people.
  • Rejection Is Human: Rejection is a human interaction with two sides. It often says more about the rejector than the rejectee, and should never be used as the universal truth and sole judgment of merit.
  • Rejection Is an Opinion: Rejection is an opinion of the rejector. It is heavily influenced by historical context, cultural differences, and psychological factors. There is no universal rejection or acceptance.
  • Rejection Has a Number: Every rejection has a number. If the rejectee goes through enough rejections, a no could turn into a yes.
  • In most cases, I would run away—sometimes literally—after hearing a no, ending the conversation as quickly as possible. Now, I wanted to see what would happen if instead of fleeing the scene of a rejection, I would stick around to find out what would happen next. Little did I know how much I would learn by simply not running away.
  • Asking why tended to clear up any misunderstanding on my part about the other person’s motivations. In the past, when I was rejected, I had automatically assumed that I’d done something wrong. But by spending a little more time with the man who initially turned me down, I’d discovered that what I was offering simply didn’t fit his situation.
  • There is a reason behind every decision that people make, whether it’s logical and well thought out or emotional and spur of the moment. Knowing the reason behind a rejection can help dissipate, or even dissolve, any of the pain one might feel otherwise. Many of the people who rejected me did so not because of the merit of my request, or because of anything about me, but for a completely different reason—sometimes one that was easily addressable. Once I understood that, I realized I was able to cope with the rejection much more easily. I even learned to use rejections as learning experiences to make my requests even better the next time. There’s only an upside to asking “why.” After all, you have been rejected already. And the insight you might glean from the response you get could prove valuable. Indeed, asking “why” can even be a tool for turning a rejection into an acceptance.
  • Asking why can open up a whole new channel of understanding and possibility between a requester and a requestee. But so can retreating to ask, “If you can’t do this, can you do something else?” In asking these questions again and again, it became obvious to me that there is often a lot more room to maneuver around a no than I’d ever realized. Every no is actually surrounded by a whole bunch of interesting but invisible yeses that it was up to me to uncover. By having a position to retreat to—and keeping an open mind—you can often avoid being routed by rejection.
  • When I feared rejection, it felt natural to view the people who hold the power to grant me a yes or a no as adversaries. But after I shifted that thinking and started viewing them as collaborators, I suddenly found myself in whole new territory.
  • The opposite of collaboration—argument—is a magnet for rejection. Arguing with a person who turns you down is probably the least effective way to change the individual’s response. In fact, it’s almost a sure way to get a rejection, because arguing always turns potential collaborators into enemies.
  • Though it sounds easy, preemptively acknowledging another person’s doubts can be very hard to do in the heat of the moment. Before launching my rejection journey, whenever I’d ask other people for something—whether it was a job, venture funding, or to buy something that I was selling—I never wanted to bring up or discuss any underlying doubts and questions they might have. I thought doing so would undermine my cause and actually hand them a reason to say no to me. I hoped that by not mentioning their doubts, those doubts would simply go away, or at least remain hidden. But in most cases, other people’s doubts do not disappear by themselves. Instead, they can linger and are more likely to become the very reason for a rejection if you don’t take control of them. By being “real” and acknowledging the skepticism that other people might feel, you can help put them at ease, yourself at ease, and boost your credibility at the same time.
  • It doesn’t matter how amazing your performance or products are, if you target the wrong audience, who don’t recognize, appreciate, or need your value, your effort will be both wasted and rejected.
  • By default, rejection is painful. If you treat it as a setback, a soul crusher, or a reason to quit, then that’s what it will be. But if you can find the courage to step back and look at it differently, what you’ll find is remarkable. Because what you’ll find is that there is no bad rejection anymore.
  • Dostoevsky once said, “The only thing I dread [is] not to be worthy of my sufferings.” The same goes for rejection. Is your dream bigger than your rejections? If it is, maybe it’s time to keep going, instead of giving up.
  • Repeated rejections can serve as the measuring stick for one’s resolve and belief. Some of the greatest triumphant stories come only after gut-wrenching rejections.
  • Sometimes the most brutal rejections in life signal a new beginning and mission for the rejectee.
  • Whatever the source, constant approval-seeking causes us to bend ourselves in ways that are not authentic. We feel compelled to put on a façade to appear happy, competent, sophisticated, and worthy so we might be accepted by other people. Then, as we act and conform in different ways, over the long haul, we become someone very different from whom we were meant to be.
  • Freedom to Accept Yourself: Our inner need for approval-seeking forces us to constantly look for acceptance from other people. Yet the people from whom we need acceptance the most is ourselves.
  • Detachment from results: I’ve learned that being solely “results oriented” is more than shortsighted. It actually leads to worse results in the long run because it leaves you unprepared to get feedback that might help you along your way. During my journey, I started to see a clear distinction between things I could control and things I couldn’t. At first, I worried about the things I couldn’t control, such as people’s reactions and their perceptions of me. I would be extremely nervous and often gave out negative energy. Later on, when I started to give my full focus to what I could control, such as making eye contact, asking “why,” listening, not running after a no, I found myself becoming more effective and confident in everything I did. I became more fearless in approaching strangers and venturing into the unknown. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach who took UCLA to a record ten NCAA championships in a span of eleven years, never mentioned winning and losing to his team. If there was anyone who knew about winning, it was he. Yet his measurement of success for his players was effort based, not results based. It was whether they had prepared thoroughly and played their best game, not beaten their opponent. That’s what my rejection journey taught me: to play my best, and not worry about the results—even when the stakes seem impossibly high.
  • Never waste any rejection. Use each rejection as feedback, as a learning tool, and as motivation to keep on trying.
  • Contrary to popular belief, courage—the ability to do something that’s frightening, such as asking for what you need or want, or do the right thing amid rejection and disapproval—is not born but gained. It’s like a muscle. You need to keep exercising it to keep it strong. Otherwise, it might weaken or even atrophy. So I use rejection attempts to continue to exercise my courage muscle, stay mentally strong, and keep my confidence flowing.

 

admin