“Rejection is constant. I have people writing emails saying, “I want to get to a certain place in life so I don’t get rejected anymore.” That’s not true; the higher you go, the more you will get rejected. In the latest presidential election, President Obama got 51% of the popular vote, he won. But we forget that he got rejected by half of the country. This is the leader of the free world, he got rejected sixty-one million times.” -Jia Jiang
Last Thursday, in my first post about this year’s World Domination Summit, I owned up to some deeply negative and counterproductive coping strategies for dealing with situations that take me outside of my comfort zone. Frankly, I had a bit of a panic attack after selecting the “publish” button. I had just publicly admitted to shutting in on myself when faced with uncertainty, I had owned up to the fact that I have a tendency to become critical and disengaged for fear of what would happen if I were to embrace the risks of uncertainty. All I could think was, “what were you thinking?”, “What have you done?”
What I had done was take the first step in following through on a promise I made to myself during the summit, right after hearing entrepreneur Jia Jiang’s brilliant talk on reframing rejection. I promised myself to be more open and honest about my fears, so that I may face and push past them. The point that Jia made about rejection which resonated most strongly with me was that rejection is inevitable, it is a constant in life. If we shy away from asking for or going after the things we want for fear of being rejected by others, we reject ourselves. We reject our own potential and dreams. When he said that, I realized that I was constantly rejecting myself and hiding this dreadful truth under the guise of my “comfort zone.” I was experiencing rejection every day, and it was not even the type of rejection that I could grow from, since it only included me, myself and I. If rejection is a constant in life, I want to experience the productive type. For that to happen, I have to stop rejecting myself and give others the chance to do it.
Jia’s story began in Beijing, China, where he was born and raised. When Jia was fourteen, he attended a lecture given by Bill Gates who was visiting Beijing. Deeply inspired by Gates’ speech, young Jia decided that he would grow up to become an entrepreneur. He wrote a letter to his parents, in which he laid out his goals and intentions: to become a world-famous entrepreneur and to build a company larger than Microsoft. A couple years after hearing Gates’ speech, Jia was given the opportunity to study in the United States, the first step in his achieving the American dream. And then he took off, he went to school, did very well, got a job, a house, a car, a white picket fence and a dog. He achieved the American dream, and in doing so he veered off course from his personal truth, the path that would create meaning and purpose in his life–to become an entrepreneur.
On his 30th birthday, Jia’s wife announced that she was pregnant, which prompted Jia to re-evaluate his life course and realize just how far off track he had gone. If he had not been able to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur as a single man and then as as husband, how would he be able to pull this off as a father? Jia shared his regret with his wife to which she responded that while they would always be able to get a new job, a new car or a new promotion, they would not be able to erase and undo regret. She gave him six months to quit his job and start a new venture. If after the six months were up, his business had not attracted any funding or traction, he would start looking for another job but at least he would have given his dream a real chance. Four days before the birth of their son, Jia quit his job to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Four months in, Jia had the possibility of getting serious funding, which would allow his venture to really take off. Unfortunately, when the call came, the answer was negative. Feeling devastated by this rejection and surprised at how deeply it had affected his sense of self, Jia was ready to fold, save himself and his family from another two months without a steady income and reenter the job market. His wife reminded him that she had given him six months, not four, to do this and told him that it was out of the question for him to give up until the full allotted time was up.
So Jia went online to learn more about rejection and coping strategies. This is when he encountered Jason Comely’s Rejection Therapy. Rejection Therapy is rather straightforward– it is framed as a game with one simple rule: get rejected. One goes out into the world and actively seek rejection by making absurd requests from people. Jia decided to try out Rejection Therapy for 100 days and blog about the experience. He was amazed to find so many people saying yes to the outlandish requests he made (getting customized doughnuts from Krispy Kreme representing the Olympic symbol–yes; flying someone’s private plane–yes; driving a police car–yes). And he was even more surprised to see how many people were engaging with his personal experiment and blog. Jia had found his way back to the path that held meaning and purpose for him. “Being an entrepreneur is about finding a problem and developing a solution for it.” And Jia had found a universal problem, people’s fear of rejection, and resolved not to stop until he finds a solution for it.
While the video of Jia’s talk at the World Domination Summit will not be made available for a couple more weeks, he shares many of the same ideas and insights in the talk embedded below which he gave at this year’s TEDxAustin conference.
Enjoy & rethink…*
“If I open up myself to the world, the world will open itself up to me.” –Jia Jiang
Surprising Lessons From 100 Days of Rejection: Jia Jiang at TEDxAustin | published February 19, 2013.