One of the common threads observed among billionaires is becoming immune to rejection.  Famous billionaires like Sara Blakely says that she experienced so much rejection early in her career that it provided the key ingredients to her success later in life.  In fact, Blakely tried to be a standup comedian and failed.  She tried to become a lawyer like her father but failed the LSAT – twice.  She even auditioned to play Goofy at Disney World, but she was too short.  After selling fax machines for 7 years and being rejected almost daily, she finally started to have her breakout moment.  Blakely said, “It was great life training.” By hearing, “no,” so many times, she started to learn how to get to yes.  This is what this week’s podcast is all about.

A person that had a similar experience to Blakely was the author of this week’s book review, Jia Jiang.  Jia learned that his fear of rejection was so strong that it was inhibiting his ability to pursue many of the dreams in his life.  As a result, Jia went on an inspirational journey to fight his own fear of rejection while blogging about the experience.  His book, Rejection Proof, captures the key learning points from that journey.  Jia’s book and speeches were so good, that billionaire Tony Hsieh, hired Jia to address the employee’s of Zappos.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why 100 days of rejections is the best thing that could ever happen to you
  • Why the smartest people always ask “why” before they say goodbye
  • How and why you should also ask for a small favor after every rejection
  • Why rejections are a numbers game, and often have nothing to do with you

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Books and Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

Jia Jiang’s book, Rejection Proof – Read reviews of this book

Scotty Smiley’s book, Hope Unseen – Read reviews of this book

Summary of Rejection Proof

If you would like to download the below summary of Rejection Proof in .pdf format, follow the link.

Chapter 1: Meeting Rejection

Jiang held a high position in a reputed Fortune 500 company and comfortably drew a six-figure income. Things were great in his personal life too as his wife Tracy was pregnant with their first child. However, despite all the happy events happening around him, Jiang felt miserable. Throughout his life, Jiang only had one dream – to become an entrepreneur – but social pressure and the fear of deviating from a comfortable job prevented him from following his dreams.

Jiang had many ideas that went on to become huge successes, but his fear of being rejected by others was so intense that he rejected his own ideas before presenting them to anyone else. The opportunities were there, but Jiang never capitalized on them. Days extended to months and years, and his dream of becoming an entrepreneur was fading away. But, Tracy, noticing his plight, challenged him to quit his secure job for six months and start his own company.

Jiang worked fiercely and assembled a team to build an app called Promises. The app received good feedback and Jiang was ready to move forward, but his fear came rushing back as soon as an investor rejected his proposal.

Chapter 2: Fighting Rejection

Rejection, as always, is painful and Jiang decided that he would face rejection at least a hundred times to become immune to it. He wanted to be rejection proof and thus began his “100 days of Rejection” – a video blog that documented his experiments of facing rejection. Jiang approached people with crazy requests, and with each passing day, his fear reduced.

During one such experiment, Jiang requested a lady working her shift in Krispy Kreme to make him donuts that resembled the Olympics logo! He obliviously expected her to decline, but much to his surprise, she even drew rough sketches of how her donuts would look! Jiang, taken aback by this incident, learned an important lesson that sometimes you just had to ask. Of course, you might not hear a “yes” every time, but your rejection won’t be all that painful.

It was the moment of truth for Jiang. He realized that the way he communicated influenced the outcome of his experiments every time. Most importantly, he was learning way more than he’d ever imagined in his entire life. Jiang continued with his experiments, but even he had no clue of the surprise that was in store for him.

Chapter 3: Tasting Fame

Eager to share his experiments with his viewers, Jiang uploaded the video, and unbeknownst to him, it went viral. Suddenly, everybody was interested in his social experiments and while some praised Jackie from Krispy Kreme, others were impressed with Jiang’s method of handling rejection. As more people shared the video on social media, Jiang became a media sensation overnight.

A movie producer even approached him to make a movie on him! But, what was incredible was that Tony Hsieh from Zappos invited him to inspire people. Now, Jiang couldn’t believe that Hsieh wanted to meet him, but he was completely stunned when Hsieh offered him a position as an inspirational speaker in his company.

Jiang was tempted to accept the offer, but the idea of working for someone else didn’t hold much appeal. Also, he had his own struggling startup to take care of. There were too many things happening all at once, and Jiang had to decide whether he wanted to go back to where he was or capitalize on the fame that had suddenly found him.

He had tried to alleviate his own fear, but the emails from people he received from all across the globe made him realize that the fear of rejection wasn’t all that rare. In fact, it was so common that almost everyone on the planet suffered from it. Overwhelmed by the reactions he received, Jiang finally made his decision.

Chapter 4: Battling Evolution

Now that he had made the decision to quit his startup and explore the new opportunities he was seeing every day, Jiang dove into researching rejection. Interestingly, the internet was filled with a lot of information regarding success, failure, and a lot more, but there was nothing about rejection. Also, many people perceived failure as rejection although they are not the same thing.

Failure, although hurtful, often acts as the stepping stone to success and many people are happy to fail as it provides more opportunities to learn. However, rejection, on the other hand, is more intense and personal. No matter how hard you try to rein in your emotions, you are bound to get hurt when someone rejects you. Whether it’s the love of your life or your boss or your friend rejecting you, your brain releases opioids to help you cope, and therefore, a rejection must not be simply brushed off.

Rejection is something that can render a person completely incapable of taking risks, making it an enormous disadvantage for anyone. The visceral fears we develop in our brain stop us from asking questions and limit our growth. Ever felt your stomach knotting when asking for something trivial? Have you ever avoided people just because you felt that they would reject you? Yes, that’s the fear that retards the progress of millions of people, and you’re not alone.

Chapter 5: Rethinking Rejection

While working on his experiments, Jiang experienced quite a few rejections, especially when his requests were as bizarre as offering apples to strangers on the street. Jiang was absolutely certain that nobody would accept the apples from a stranger, but he was shocked when a woman accepted it and ate it without a second thought.

This incident explained several things, and Jiang concluded that rejection was usually based on a multitude of factors that included mood swings, cultural differences, upbringing and a lot more. It is essential to understand that a rejection has nothing to do with you and has a lot to do with the person who is rejecting you. After all, rejection is nothing but a human interaction that has two sides.

Also, a rejection should be viewed as one’s opinion because that’s what it really is. If you allow everybody to change the way you think, then you could eventually lose your mind. A rejector is influenced by many factors, and since even rejection has a number, your persistence can pay off at the end of it all.

Chapter 6: Taking a No

After so many experiments, Jiang had become an expert at handling rejection, but he wanted to find out what happened after a rejection. So, when he asked if he could plant a rose bush in a stranger’s garden, he wasn’t disappointed when he rejected the offer; however, Jiang wanted to know why. The stranger not only explained why but he also referred Jiang to another lady who would be very happy with the plant.

It’s very important to not take things personally, especially when someone rejects you. Also, it might do a world of good for you if you know why you were rejected in the first place. Asking why needs courage but it will hopefully make you realize that most people rejecting you aren’t doing so because there’s something wrong with you.

Chapter 7: Positioning for Yes

As Jiang demonstrated, asking a person why he rejected you can give you more insight than simply walking away. But, Jiang made another important discovery. When he asked random New Yorkers to pose with him for a photo, he explained that he wanted pictures as people were an intrinsic part of the city.

What surprised Jiang was that nobody rejected him even with his unusual request; however when he attempted to hand out $5 bills to people, three out of five people rejected him! So, why were people rejecting money but complying to take pictures? Well, the answer again lies in the “why”. If you explain why you need something even with a ridiculous reason, your chances of acceptance are higher as opposed to asking something without any explanation.

Chapter 8: Giving a No

Whether someone’s rejecting you or vice versa, it’s always a hard process. Many people find it hard to reject others since the rejectee often tends to take the message personally. No matter how hard you try, the person you reject will have a hard time. To avoid this problem, many people even delay the process.

We have all met managers of companies who don’t want to hire you but won’t tell you straight. Instead of being clear and direct about the rejection, they painfully extend the process because they can’t handle it. They aren’t doing it intentionally to hurt you, but you end up getting hurt anyway since it seems like they are only looking for excuses. The next time you want to say no to someone, be quick to explain why. Additionally, offering an alternative solution to the rejectee will soften the blow to a large extent.

Chapter 9: Finding Upside

We often avoid rejection because it’s so hurtful; however, it’s important to understand that only your perception needs to change. You can either let rejection destroy you or fuel your fire to achieve something greater. Take the example of Michael Jordan for instance. He was rejected a countless number of times but instead of letting it break his spirit, he used it as ammunition to become a better basketball player. If you look at rejection in a positive manner and learn something from your mistakes, you become immune to rejection.

Chapter 10: Finding Meaning

As mentioned already, even rejection has an upside, but what about situations where there’s absolutely no upside? Imagine the plight of homeless people all over the world. They get rejected day in and day out, and while some people show their sympathy, others empathize with them. There’s a big difference between empathy and sympathy since empathy makes more connections as opposed to sympathy that causes disconnections.

Also, many of these people face rejection every day, but they hang in there because they believe that they will make it one day. At the end of it all, change the way you think about rejection. You can find something positive even in a rejection where your life can take on a new meaning, but it’s up to you to find it.

Chapter 11: Finding Freedom

Rejection is such an important event for many of us that we enter a stage where we hesitate to ask even the simplest of questions. Fear of judgment and rejection can really cripple you until you realize that it’s too late. But, stop for a second and look at rejection in a new light. You will be amazed to find that the world is not such a cruel place after all. There’s no harm in asking, and before you ask, learn to accept yourself the way you are. If you get rid of all the baggage pulling you down, you will experience the greatest freedom that allows you to enjoy all the beautiful experiences in life.

Chapter 12: Finding Power

People working in sales will understand how tough it is to face rejection. While some people may be genuinely interested in what you’re selling, others can’t seem to get away fast enough, and that could be gut wrenching in sales. But, you can overcome rejection even if you’re a salesman. Instead of going about it the same way you’ve been doing until now, switch tactics a bit and try to learn as much as you can.

Also, if it looks like you’re having fun while doing it, people will pay heed sooner or later. The most important thing to understand here is that if you stop worrying about rejection or acceptance and simply teach yourself and become better, you’re more likely to enjoy success. Some people will accept you and some people will reject you, but once you realize that you can’t control the outcome, your work automatically picks up its pace.

Chapter 13: Living a New Mission

When Jiang began his experiments, he did so only to alleviate his fears, but he had never imagined that it would give him a new course of life. After experiencing so many rejections, Jiang was finally able to shed away any doubts he harbored in his heart. He also asserts that it’s essential to be more courageous. You’re not born courageous, but instead, it’s a skill that needs to be honed.

If every one of us could get rid of our fear of rejection, we will ultimately see more people becoming successful, falling in love, and doing many other things we initially wouldn’t have. Rejection is painful, yes, but it can teach you many things that will push you forward in life.


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