What would you do if a complete stranger asked you for $100, or offered you an apple in a parking lot without explanation?
These are only two of the 100 challenges Chinese-born, American-based Jia Jiang put himself up to when he decided to blog about “100 Days of Rejection”, a project he launched after he quit his comfortable six-figure job to follow his dreams of being an entrepreneur at the age of 30, just weeks before his first child was born.
After his tech start-up was declined investment, Jiang decided to confront his fear of rejection head-on. This led to his writing his book called Rejection Proof, part self-help and part motivational/autobiography, which is being released this week.
Famously, in 2012 on his third day of the project, Jiang asked Austin, Texas, Krispy Kreme manager (Jackie Braun) to make him five interlinked donuts to mimic the Olympic symbol. To his surprise, she rose to the challenge and his rejection request faltered. He shared his video and it went viral on Reddit. Before long, Jiang (and Braun) were invited on talk shows and Jiang was being asked to speak at events across the US. Jiang was even offered jobs as his project continued and his fame grew.
That wasn’t the goal of the project though. “I’m really just a person trying to overcome my own fears,” explained Jiang. The project started out to help “fix my own problems, and now I’m helping others fix theirs,” he said. “The fear of rejection really holds people back. I’m trying to demystify the idea of rejection.”
Jiang, who as a child dreamed of being Bill Gates and has been viewed 7 million times on YouTube, has found his entrepreneurial dream in a different role for the moment. “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.”
8 top tips in making rejection work for you:
1 – The fear of rejection holds us back a lot more than actual rejection. By putting ourselves out there, the world will usually open itself up to you. Though the world can seem cruel and cold, actually humans have a hard time saying no. So open yourself up, don’t be afraid to ask for something. If you fail, remember it’s not about you.
2 – Rejection is more or less a numbers game. Sometimes the most far-fetched idea gets a yes. If you talk to enough people, somebody will say yes to you. J.K. Rowling went through 12 rejections to get her yes for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
3 – You cannot use rejection to measure the merit of an idea. Sometimes if you really want to change the world, getting rejection is a must. 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.
4 – Don’t run away after a no. The most common thing we do when we’re rejected is we want to run because rejection is painful – you’re hurt, angry and you lose confidence. But actually if we know how to handle it, we can often minimize the chance of rejection. Be confident, engaging, collaborate. I used all of these traits to maximise getting a yes.
5 – Ask why? When you get rejected you have to find out why. Then spend time to find solutions to solve that why. Sometimes through this process you learn there is something else you can ask for. Ask for an intermediate position rather than the top position.
6 – Set a number of how many no’s you can take. In his book, Jiang helps his wife set out to get her dream job at Google. He tells her that instead of thinking about getting a job, she needs to prepare herself for how many no’s she can take. In the end, she was offered a job at Google.
7 – Be invincible. By the end of his project, Jiang said he felt he could ask anything from anyone and not have the pain of rejection. It was a gradual process – gradually my comfort zone expanded. It’s like a muscle, I could become stronger and stronger.
8 – Stand tall and remember rejection is an opinion. People are who they are. A lot of people will reject you because of their mood, their education, their upbringing, and you can’t change who they are. But you can stand confidently. Innate confidence comes across.