Four days before his son was born, 30-year-old Jia Jiang walked away from a six-figure job at a Fortune 100 company to pursue his startup.
Although entrepreneurs have a higher chance of succeeding if they keep their day job, Jiang had a huge investment opportunity waiting for him.
But something unexpected happened.
The investor changed his mind and told Jiang they were going to pass on his business. This crushed him.
Jiang thought he made a mistake by leaving his job without this investment. But he realized something deeper: his unconquered fear of rejection.
He knew that if he wanted to build a successful business, he’d have to overcome this fear to find success.
In November of 2012, Jiang found a game called Rejection Therapy that challenged people to seek out rejection in their everyday lives. Jiang loved the idea so much that he decided he would try 100 Days of Rejection Therapy. He would purposely try to get rejected by asking for outrageous requests and film it all to keep him accountable.
Jiang hoped that these rejections would help him grow a thicker skin and get used to people telling him “no.”
Jiang tried sending a present to Santa Claus through FedEx, making an announcement on a Southwest flight, and even asking to get his hair trimmed like a German Shepherd at PetSmart.
My favorite rejection attempt was when he asked for Olympic symbol donuts from Krispy Kreme. The donut shop didn’t even make Olympic donuts. But the employee got it done AND she gave them to Jiang for free. This act of kindness went viral on YouTube with over 5,000,000 views in the first two weeks.
Jiang started to receive emails from thousands of people who watched his videos and were inspired by his journey. What seemed like a personal issue to Jiang turned out to be a personal problem for all people.
Through these rejection experiments, Jiang became more and more fearless. In the beginning, Jiang thought he was going to receive a few yes’s but mostly no’s. But by the end of his 100-day journey, it actually became difficult for Jiang to receive a rejection.
1. Handling rejection is a muscle.
The more you get rejected, the less painful it becomes, and easier you are able to respond to rejection. Jiang challenges everyone to constantly work outside their comfort zone because, “when you are not afraid of rejection and it feels like you have nothing to lose, amazing things can happen.”
2. Rejection is never about you
People can reject you for many reasons: their mood, their upbringing, or the circumstances at that moment. You can’t change who they are or what they are going through.
So don’t be afraid to ask for something.
By putting yourself out there, the world can open up to you. If you fail, remember: it’s not about you.
3. Rejection is a numbers game.
Bestselling author Stephen King had his first work rejected 30 times before selling 350 million books. Walt Disney got fired by a newspaper for not being creative enough before starting his Disney empire. J.K Rowling faced 12 rejections before getting the Harry Potter series approved.
We have to fight through these rejections with thick skin and eventually we will find a yes.
4. Don’t avoid rejection.
If you avoid rejection entirely, you’ll never achieve what you really want because you’re playing it safe. When you shy away, you reject yourself and your ideas before the world has a chance to react.
By avoiding rejection, you’re assuming that what you’re asking for is an impossibility. You are preventing your own idea from becoming a reality.
“In the end, what we really need is not acceptance from others but acceptance from ourselves. In fact, being comfortable with who we are should be a prerequisite — not the result — of seeking others’ approval.”
5. Turn rejection into opportunity
Jiang writes in his book, “My goal is to turn rejection into opportunity. I always thought it was something to run away from, but if we can embrace it, we can turn it into a lot more than an obstacle.”
That means not running away from a no. That means finding the upsides in every rejection. That means seeing the opportunity this rejection can bring in our lives.
Rejection is painful. That’s why most people run away to lick their wounds when they are rejected. But if we learn how to accept rejection calmly and control our reactions, we can find valuable lessons in a “no” and maybe turn it into a “yes.”
“Any rejection can have hidden upsides, if only we are willing to look for them.”
The best way to overcome our fears is to tackle them head-on. Jiang had no idea what would happen through this Rejection Therapy challenge. But his adventure fundamentally changed his life and impacted millions of people.
Whether you have a fear of rejection, public speaking, or even spiders… go on a journey to conquer that fear.
You never know what you can do until you try.