[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:10.6] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success; the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the internet with more than a million downloads and listeners in over a hundred countries.
In this episode we explore rejection in-depth. We talk about the incredible power of rejection. Go deep into rejection therapy. Look at the incredible results created by seeking out rejection and living beyond your comfort zone. Talk about the magic of asking why. Hear a few incredible stories from 100 days of rejection and much more with our guest, Jia Jiang.
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In our previous episode we explored what it takes to succeed at the highest possible levels. We got into the science and the data from years in the trenches with the world’s top performers including NFL teams, Red Bull athletes and much more to uncover the strategies that really work for achieving results. We dug deep in the lifelong quest of discovering your own personal philosophy and much more with Dr. Michael Gervais.
If you want to learn about the secrets of world-class performance and how you can use them in your own life, listen to that episode.
Now, for the show.
[0:03:02.0] MB: Today, we have another amazing guest on the show, Jia Jiang. Jia is the founder of 100 Days of Rejection and the author of Rejection Proof. In an effort to overcome his fear of rejection, Jia spent 100 days forcing himself into situation after situation where rejection was almost guaranteed. He’s been features on the TED Stage, Forbes, Business Insider and much more.
Jia, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:03:26.5] JJ: Hey Matt, thank you for having me here.
[0:03:28.5] MB: We’re super excited to have you on today. I know we’re talking about the preshow, me and Austin are both huge fans of rejection and rejection therapy and all these stuff you talk about. But before we get into the meat of that, I’d love for you to kind of share your personal story and kind of your personal experience with rejection and how that led that to the challenge to get rejected for 100 days in a row.
[0:03:50.2] JJ: Yeah. My relationship with rejection have been going back to when I was a kid. I just found out just throughout my life, I was really afraid of people’s opinions and specially their rejection. On the other side, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I want to be this fearless guy who goes out and changes the world and makes new things. Those two conflicting emotions have always bothered me for a long times. It took me a long time before I started my own company and partly it was because of this reason. I was really afraid that people will see me and rejection from family and friends and the possible failure.
So I started my company when I was 30, and then even after I started, quit my job and became an entrepreneur, also I found I was still afraid of rejection. So much so that I was rejected, it was the investment. Then I just wanted to quit right there. That’s where it dawned on me and I was like, “Wow! I can’t be this afraid anymore. If I want to be a great entrepreneur, I want to be successful at anything, I can’t that fear dictate my life.” That’s where I said, “You know what? I’m done with this. I’m done. I’m going to take rejection head on,” and that’s how I’ve discovered this concept of rejection therapy, where basically it just challenges you to do rejection. That’s what I did.
[0:05:19.3] MB: You set out to get rejected. Was it 100 days in a row or is just 100 times?
[0:05:25.8] JJ: It’s 100 times, hopefully in a row, but at the end it became a little bit impossible just because of all the obligations I had. Yeah, that was the original idea, that I would do 100 rejections, 100 consecutive days of rejection where I would go and look for rejections. But it’s more or less maybe 130 days or something like that.
[0:05:47.2] MB: And so tell me a little bit about some of the experiences from that and why was your solution to fear of rejection to say, “You know what? I’m going to go and I’m going to get rejected 100 times, basically 100 days in a row.”
[0:06:02.8] JJ: You mean what’s the motivation behind it? What kind of request that made?
[0:06:08.1] MB: Yeah. Start with kind of what was your motivation for doing that, and then tell me about one or two of the experiences you had when you started doing that. What was it like hopefully for you to go through that?
[0:06:20.0] JJ: Basically, the idea of rejection therapy is you go out and look for rejection. Most people, actually everyone runs away from rejection, they’ll try to minimize rejection. But the idea is you’re never going to cure your fear if you run away from something. The only way to overcome your fear is to embrace it, to meet it head on, and that’s what rejection therapy was about. That’s what I did. So I’m like, “Okay. I want to do this for 100 days.”
Rejection therapy asks you to do this for 30 days, but I’m like, “You know what? I’m doing this for 100 days. I’m just going to overdose on rejection. I want to see what kind of badass I can become, if I can desensitize my fear and just slowly become fearless.” That’s my incentive, and also I use my phone to film myself getting rejected, because I thought, “You know what? I’m going to make a video blog out of this thing, so maybe the world will hold me accountable.”
That’s what I set out to do, and I started out terrified. The first rejection request is I went out and talked to a stranger and see if I can borrow $100 from them. I was so scared. I still remember that day like it happened to yesterday. I just felt something is going to happen. That guy will start fighting me and maybe like a verbal altercation will happen and you’ll call the police. As it turned out, nothing happened. I just went out and ask him, he said, “No,” and off I went.
But I felt so scared throughout that encounter. That night I was looking at my video, the thing about video blog is you have to experience everything twice. Filmed myself, so I need to edit and upload that video and I saw how scared I was. I said, “Okay. Going forward, I’m not going to run at the first sign of rejection. When I get rejected, which for sure I will get rejected, I would stay engaged and make jokes, have fun and negotiate.” That’s how I started this whole thing.
[0:08:37.4] MB: I do want to dig in. Tell me about — I’ve heard a number of stories and I’ve watched your TED Talk and etc., and heard some of the experiences. Tell me about one of the kind of most profound rejection experiences that you had and maybe one that you haven’t talked a lot about in your various kind of speeches and TED Talks.
[0:08:55.6] JJ: Yeah. I’ll tell you a couple. The one is the most famous one that I did and a lot of people know about which is the Krispy Kreme video, Krispy Kreme donuts. One day I went to this donut shop and I asked them to make me donuts that looks like Olympic rings. Basically, you name those five donuts. There’s no way they were going to do it. No way. Who’s going to do that? Guess what? The person did it. The donut maker could not let me walk away with the rejection. At the time I was looking for rejection. No matter what I tried, he was like, “I think I can do this. Maybe I can do that.”
So 15 minutes later, he gave me a box of donuts that looked like Olympic rings, and I was floored. That’s really kind of — It put the whole rejection, 100 days of rejection experiment on the map, because that video went viral. There are over 5 million views for that video and it was really — It was something that I would never forget.
I have a lot of these examples and some of them are pretty fun. For example, one day I said, I went to Costco and I said I want to speak over through the Intercom. I want to say hi to the customers. The manager said, “No. No way.” But I said that’s where I learned how to negotiate. This is like 10 days into this, I become so good at negotiating. I’m like, “Hey, I’m a member. I’m a Costco member. I’ve spent thousands of dollars here. Everything I say will be [inaudible 0:10:31.3]. I really love your store. I’m going to just say hi to your customers and tell them how wonderful your store is.”
Then the manager said, “Actually, if you wanted to say nice things about Costco, why don’t you write an article for our membership magazine? I’m sure they’re going to love your article.” I’m like, “You know what? I just want to speak over your Intercom. That’s all I want.” He’s like, “Well, sorry. I can’t let you do this. But you know what? I’ll buy you dinner.” How about you go to the pizza and hotdog stand and get whatever you want? Make you and your family happy. I’m so happy that you are a good customer, but sorry we can’t say this to you.”
I mean, how can you not be a fan of Costco after that? I was a fan before already, but I’m a bigger fan afterward. I’ll probably spend thousands of dollars more in Costco. The thing is I also learned that people can say no to you, and you can say no to other people, but if you — There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to say no, right?
So I basically went to the other side table and looked from their lens. If you say no the wrong way, like if you’re sarcastic, if you’re trying to be rude that usually doesn’t make the other person feel good. But if you can be — Like say no the right way, like this Costco manager did, he was actually showing me alternatives. He actually cared about my request. In the end, he still couldn’t say yes, but he gave me something else. He made me a fan of this guy. That’s another example that I can talk about. That really left a profound impact to me.
Now, when I say no to other people, I try to do that. I try to throw them or show them alternatives and try to help them to get a yes even though I cannot say yes to them myself.
[0:12:22.3] MB: Yeah, I think that’s so important and saying with no with grace and being able to say no, but at the same time do it in a way that doesn’t necessarily leave the other person kind of feeling dejected or let down. As somebody who — I kind of call myself sort of a people pleaser, I never want to say no to anybody and I never want to let anybody down. To me, trying to figure out how to do that and how to say no people, especially the busier you get the harder it becomes, but the more necessary it becomes. I think that’s a really valuable skillset and a really interesting kind of takeaway that you learn from that experience.
[0:13:00.0] JJ: Yeah. I think most of us are people pleasers, right? Because our fear of rejection, the flip side of that is the fear of rejecting other people, right? Because if you fear you’re rejecting other people, you feel like a jerk, you feel they’re going to reject you because you’re rejecting them. If you know what I mean? That’s why the skill, having the skills of saying no to people is actually pretty important. But you can say it in the right way that you don’t have to feel bad. In fact, you can make them fans of you, just like this Costco manager did.
[0:13:33.1] MB: In fact, you ended up being probably a bigger fan of Costco as a result of that experience than if he had just said no and kind of moved on.
[0:13:42.3] JJ: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, even if the guy says no, I would not have any — I wouldn’t hold any grudge, because I’m looking for rejection, right? I wasn’t afraid of any rejection. I was expecting a rejection. But that rejection kind of made me a fan, just because how well it was given. How much respect the guy gave me.
A lot of times when we say no to people, we just want to finish it, or we end up having to say yes, because we want to please them. If we say no, we’re like, “No.” Then we just leave, right? Think about this, help them. If we need to say no to them, help them to get a yes. Show them, “Maybe you can try this? Maybe we can try that? I’ll think different ways that you can get a yes. Maybe it’s not through me, but someone else might be able to help you.” It’s tough to be mad at you when you do that to others.
[0:14:36.2] MB: I think that that is a great example, the kind of lesson of how to say no gracefully. Coming back even to the story you told before about the Krispy Kreme donuts, the interesting thing is — And I know this personally because I am a very naturally sort of introverted person, and through essentially things like kind of rejection therapy and another kind of related learning toolkit called Social Skydiving, I really was able to get out of my shell and understand how to interact with people and realize that there’s really nothing to be afraid of once you kind of get in there.
The amazing thing about this in the Krispy Kreme donut store, it really demonstrates it, is that people — When somebody thinks about a rejection challenge, they say, “Ooh! I would never want to do that. Oh! That sounds terrible.” Like, “Oh! I don’t want to get rejected.” In many, many instances through your 100 days of rejection and you’ve written about and spoken about, these amazing experiences come out of it and you end up building these relationships with people. You end up creating these really authentic bonds and relationships and it all starts from almost kind of a magic or an audacity of just putting yourself out there and not being afraid to look foolish and get rejected.
[0:15:47.2] JJ: Absolutely. I think everything — I just have a theory that everything amazing and beautiful happens outside of your comfort zone. We all develop these routines, daily routines and comfort zones where we get up, go to work we go through certain emotions, hopefully get some joy and excitement out of it then go home and have our social life and whatnot, right? Doing that, we develop a comfort zone. We’re comfortable with that, but the thing is just like entrepreneurship, these type of social — You mentioned Social Skydiving or rejection therapy. These type of things where you are basically challenging yourself to go out of your comfort zone. A lot of times just amazing things happen.
It’s just like you — Most people want to start — A lot of people want to start their own business. I live in Silicon Valley now. I’ve heard so many people telling me, “Hey, I want to be an entrepreneur.” Guess what? They this paycheck from the big company and they feel somehow they’re holding on to it, be it’s comfortable, because that’s their routine, because that’s something they want to hold on to. Real amazing things happen when you give it up, when you just walk out of that comfort zone and see what’s out there.
A lot of times personal breakthroughs — A lot of times the breakthroughs happens in your personal life or in a business world because you get out of that comfort zone. I recommend everyone who wants to find something amazing, want to do something amazing, constantly challenge them self to go out of their comfort zone.
[0:17:23.2] MB: I think that’s why I think rejection therapy is such a beautiful tool, is because it’s such a concrete and practical way to blow apart your comfort zone and force yourself into a bunch of uncomfortable situations. As you experience and as I experience as well, like it doesn’t take very long for you to realize, “Hey, it’s not that scary out there.” On your third attempt, basically, you already had like an incredible experience where you built a bond with this women where you had like a life-changing memory basically just from going out and trying to get her to reject you.
[0:18:00.4] JJ: Absolutely. This is not my story, I just heard stories almost every day from people all over the world try this. I know people who fell in love with their lives because they did this. I found people who started their new business. I found people who started new podcasts. Actually, I’ve known people who actually double their business, because they constantly try to do this now. They constantly force themselves to talk to customers who rejected them in the past or maybe talk to other, just cold emailing or cold talking to other people.
This really works, because when you do that, what you’ll find is — I’m not saying everyone will say yes to you. In fact, I would say the vast majority of people, when you do this type of thing, will still say no to you, right? But what you find are, one, it’s not really bad. Our brain somehow tricks us into thinking it’s life and death. If we go out there and we’re going to be rejected and my life will be in ruins, right? Everyone in the world will laugh at me. I will just have no self-respect, self-esteem. None of that happens. When someone rejects you, you just move on and you’re like, “Wow! That’s actually not that bad.”
But the fact that you didn’t die or nothing happened, you become more courageous. Then sometimes people say yes to you, and that’s where you get a real break through. You’ll start to find out, “Wow! If I can get a yes when I’m looking for no, what else — how many yeses have I missed in my life just because I think for sure I’d get a no?” Then you start becoming this guy at work, you’ll try everything. You start seeing everything is a possibility and that’s where a lot of amazing things will happen.
[0:19:51.4] MB: I love that quote, “How many yeses have I missed in my life.” It’s a great way to kind of really think about it, because once you — I almost think that it’s like everybody is in this slumber, and as soon as you pull the wool off your eyes and realize that all of these kind of social rules and norms are — There’s no law of physics that makes those the case. You could go out, you can create all kind of unique and interesting experiences for yourself. You can push the boundaries of what’s possible. You can ask for things that are preposterous.
In many cases, yeah, you might get rejected, but the few instances that it happens to pan out, you end up creating these incredible and amazing experiences. I think you brought up a really, really important point, which is that it’s not about getting a yes every time, and you have to go into this understanding the vast majority of people will say no, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they say no, because the few people that do say yes, the few yeses that you get are these incredible experiences, outcomes, etc. It’s something I think is really, really important.
[0:21:00.2] JJ: Yes, absolutely. It’s like people talk about — There’s this saying in basketball, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? In basketball, there is opportunity cost for that, right? If you’re not taking a shot, maybe someone else is taking the shot or maybe someone takes a better shot. But in life that’s actually, that’s even true in life, that there are lot of times we’re just like, “Oh, I’m not going to ask. I’m just going to be lazy. Let me just watch TV or let me just do my thing and be with myself, right?”
It’s not like you’re missing out by you asking, by you making these requests, by you going out and exploring, you’re missing out on something else that’s important. A lot of times we just miss out. It’s not about getting the yes. It’s about you, the fact that you are out there exploring, that you are trying to create something.
People often say — There’s this saying, “The worst they can say is no.” We hear that all the time in sales and in career and whatnot, but I would tell people, the worst thing that had happened is not people say no to you. It’s actually you saying no to yourself. We do that constantly, on a daily basis, everything. So I tell people, “Don’t say no to yourself.” If there’s — if you’re going to be rejected, let other people. Let the world reject you. Don’t reject yourself.
[0:22:25.2] MB: I think you made another great point, which is that it’s not about getting the yes. The yes is almost like an ancillary benefit. It’s about exploring. It’s about creating something. Being someone who’s kind of gone through similar — Probably not as intense as 100 days of rejection, but I’ve experimented with things like Social Skydiving and trying to get rejected, and it’s almost like once you — I started out being an introvert, being terrified of it, and once you start to get in there and do it, it almost becomes addictive. It’s so much fun. It’s so exciting. I was joking around with producer, Austin, before this interview. I was like, “Man! I kind of want to go out and just do 100 day rejection challenge just because I think it’d be so much fun to do it.
[0:23:06.4] JJ: It is a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun. Also, it becomes an excuse for you to do and ask for everything that you thought was cool but you’re afraid of doing or maybe you want to put up doing later. One example I give in my TED Talk is I walk into a professor’s room, a professor’s office and just ask him, “Hey, can I be a teacher? Can I teach your class?” I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I want to feel like someday I can be able to become famous or maybe accomplish enough so I can teach a college class.
Then in that 100 days, I’m like, “You know what? I’m just going to do it. I’m just going to ask them straight up, “Can I teach your class now? Can you make me a guest lecturer or something?” I came in very prepared, put up a lot of stuff on my iPad and the professor was looking at me and he saw what I was doing. He’s like, “That actually looks pretty good. I can use you in my curriculum. Yeah, maybe you can come to teach my class for a lesson or something.” Then I did.
It was really fun and I’m like, “Wow! I was a guest lecturer in college and I felt like a teacher at that moment.” I just felt like, “Wow! There’s 100 days, I could just ask.” By the end I’m like, “I can ask anything I want. I can ask anything I want. There’s a good chance I will get it. If I don’t get it, that’s fine. That’s totally fine.”
I challenge everyone to do this, because by the end, it’s not about going out and getting rejected anymore. It’s just you having fun. You trying to see what’s possible and you challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone.
[0:24:54.7] MB: I think the hardest step to take is always that first step. I think back to people I know that are shy or even I’ve had listeners write in or reach out to me that struggle to make friends or kind of get into social situations, and I know you were terrified when you did your very first of the 100 rejection challenges. What would you say or what kind of advice would you offer to somebody offer to somebody who — “Here is all the stuff and says, “Yeah, that’s great, but I can’t do it, or I’m not ready to do it,” or “It’s just not right for me or it wouldn’t work for me.”
[0:25:29.0] JJ: Yeah, that’s a very good point, because there are — Taking that initial step is the hardest thing. To me, it took me saying, “I’m going to do a video blog,” to actually get myself to do this. I have to make that hard commitment. Before doing this, I talked to my wife. I was like, “Do you think this is stupid and do you think I’ll get in trouble doing this?” There are all kind of those, “I’m going to stay in my lane. I’m going to be a good citizen. Does this look stupid?”
Even for someone like me who’s set out so determined to do this, I still have to face that inertia. It’s basic law of physics. If the object is still, it takes a lot of energy to actually start moving it, but once you start moving it, the energy it takes to keep it moving is a lot lower.
So how do you get that initial energy to get yourself moving? You do that by doing something pretty close to you or just a little bit outside of your comfort zone. Don’t go crazy. I asked someone to borrow $100. That was tough. That was actually pretty tough. To do this all over again, I would probably start with something easy, something you don’t normally do. For example, maybe pull out your phone and just message a long lost friends. Someone maybe in college, a high school friend. Just say, “Hi.” Just say, “Hey, I haven’t talked to you for a while. I haven’t seen you in a long time. How are you doing?” You can do that every day.
You could feel there’s a little bit of awkwardness to reach out to someone who you used to know. But guess what? It’s really usually not that awkward. The awkwardness is in your head. Usually you get pretty good response. Or if you don’t get a response, so what? It’s not like — You don’t have this relationship with that person anyway anymore. It’s not like you’re ruining your relationship by doing something like this.
So start small, or maybe write a quick email to your high school teacher or maybe your college professor telling them about your whereabouts. Just start something small and see what happens. Then once you do the first and second one, you can expand your comfort zone a little bit, go walk out, be on the street. When you see people, just say hi to them. Say hi to them. These are not that hard. These are pretty easy.
Then you build it up and you’re like maybe you talk to someone, you shake their hand. Maybe ask to borrow $100, maybe ask to borrow a dollar. Maybe ask for a ride. You build it up. Eventually you’ll be like, “Hey, can I get a piggyback ride of you? Can untie your shoes?” You’ll get crazier and crazier, but you do it gradually.
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[0:29:24.3] MB: I love that. Even some of those examples are hilarious, right? Like asking a stranger for a piggyback ride. Until you start doing stuff like that, sometimes it works out and you end up having these like crazy, funny, ridiculous experiences that really kind of make life interesting.
[0:29:43.6] JJ: Absolutely. Also, you can actually blend it with your work. I mean who says you have to do it on a street to strangers? What about if you’re in sales? Maybe ask for something — Maybe call your old customer. Maybe ask someone to buy — When they buy something, ask them to buy something else. Maybe get rejected, come back again the next day. Or if you’re a buyer, ask for a bigger discount. Start it with going — If you’re at a coffee shop, ask for, “Hey, can I get 10% off of this coffee?” They may ask you why. You’re like, “Hey, maybe you should offer a good guy a discount. I’m a good guy.” Something like that.
It’s pretty harmless, but soon you’re going to start to learn, “I can negotiate off anything.” If you’re an author, if you want to be an author, if you want to be a writer, maybe just craft the email, quick email and, say, find a book agent and saying, “Hey, I’d just like to talk. What do you think about this idea?” These type of things can be related to your work as well. In that way when you do that not only you’re learning more to be fearless, but also you’re getting closer to your goals. You’re actually advancing in your careers. Try this everywhere.
[0:31:10.1] MB: That’s great. Yeah. That makes a ton of sense. It doesn’t just have to be in your personal life. In fact, you might see huge rewards from kind of integrating it into your career as well.
[0:31:19.6] JJ: Yeah. I met this musician. He lives in Nashville. Every musician lives in Nashville, right?
[0:31:25.7] MB: I live in Nashville.
[0:31:27.1] JJ: Oh, you do? Okay!
[0:31:28.4] MB: That’s right.
[0:31:29.3] JJ: Yeah. It’s a great town, by the way. I’ve been there multiple times. It’s such a hip town now in Tennessee. Anyway, I have this guy, he’s an independent musician and he’s like he had this album he’s working on and he’s like, “I’m going to try this rejection therapy thing.” One of his rejection requests is to ask his music heroes to appear in his album. The guy said, “Yes.”
So he has an album where one of the songs has a feature from his music hero. To him, I don’t know — He said, “I don’t know if this album become big or not,” but just doing that fulfilled one of the biggest dreams he ever had is to be in the same song with his music hero. It just happened. I’m sure it helps. The credibility will help his music career, or just fulfill his dream. So just for ask for it. Maybe you’ll probably get a no, but so what?
Actually, what I found is if you ask enough, there’s no request that you’ll get rejected by everyone. It’s not going to happen. You will always get a no. No matter kind of crazy ideas, what kind of bad ideas you can think about. I challenge your listeners to do this. Think about one thing that will get rejected by everyone on earth, one request. Think about, if you use your imagination to find how crazy, how evil, how bad it is. Guess what? Someone will say yes to that.
[0:33:10.5] MB: That’s great. I love it. We always like to challenge the audience on the show — And I think rejection therapy, one of the beauties of this whole concept is that it takes a lot of these kind of platitudes that you hear all the time. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The worst they can say is no. All these things that people have heard 100%, rejection therapy is the concrete strategy that you can implement literally today starting right now to move yourself down that path to start getting uncomfortable to make yourself face some of these fears and push through and realize that on the other side it’s not scary anymore. In fact, it’s actually really fun and exciting.
[0:33:52.9] JJ: Absolutely. I just have a thinking that nothing is that new. The idea, the self-improvement ideas or any ideas, I don’t think any of them are new. It’s just you have to implement it. I definitely agree with you, rejection therapy is an easy and concrete way for you to experience all these things. You don’t have to be an inspiration speaker or like a sales guru or rara kind of guy, like a Tony Robbins to experience this. You don’t have to be like a hero to have accomplish a whole lot to experience this. Start small. Start with these little rejection requests and see what happens.
One more thing I want to add is sometimes people tell me, “Hey, I’m just not comfortable asking people things. I feel like I’m bothering them.” Now, what if you can offer to help someone something, right? What if you just, “Hey, I mean you’re in a grocery store. Can I help you to push your cart for a bit and so you can rest and you can go do shopping. I’ll push your cart.” What about maybe you offer — You’re in a store saying, “Hey, can I buy you a coffee? There’s no string attached. I just want to buy you a coffee.” Something like that, right?
In that way you’re offering to help people instead of just asking for things. You also get out of your comfort zone. I think just keeping your balance of giving and asking while getting out of your comfort zone, you can get a lot from it.
[0:35:25.0] MB: How does somebody who — Circling back to this idea of someone who is afraid to take that first step or has had some traumatic rejections in the past, rejections that they feel like are traumatic. How do you get past that kind of taking rejection personally and feeling like it’s about you when somebody says no?
[0:35:45.4] JJ: Yeah. First of all, when you’d start doing this, you will find out that a lot of times — The whole thing about rejection therapy is you do it with a stranger, right? Then you’ll find out it really is not about you, because these people don’t know you. They reject you just because they don’t think they should say yes. They don’t think they should say yes to a stranger like that or they don’t — Rejection is really not about you. It says more about the rejection than the rejected.
Another thing you can do is make the same request 10 different times or five different times. What you’ll find is someone will say yes to you usually if you do it 5 or 10 times. The law of large number will say maybe there’s 20% of people will actually be open to that. Then what you’ll find is, “Okay. Some people will say yes to that. Some people will say no to that. I’m the same person. The fact that there are different answers, that shows those people are different. I’m the same. They are different. They are different in terms of the way they think, the way their risk powers, their preference, how they view this situation. Maybe they’re moved of the moment, right? It doesn’t say anything about. It says everything about them.
Marketers have this for a long time. You cannot develop a product that everyone would have. The best product, you will get rejected by a lot of people, but you would develop rabid fans, a fan-based of maybe a small group of people who love your product. It’s the same thing. It says about that fan-base. It says about that those people will buy your product pretty much as much as about your product itself.
Yeah, try different ones. Just be curious. Don’t set your goal to be like, “I’m going to get a yes. That’s my goal.” No. Just say, “My goal is to ask 10 people. I want to see how many will say yes to me or how many will say to me.
[0:37:52.3] MB: I know one of the stories and experiences that you had was around kind of a lesson of how to turn a no into a yes. Can you talk about that and how that kind of learning came from all of the rejections that you’ve faced?
[0:38:06.9] JJ: Yeah. When we get rejected, our natural human tendency is to do one of two things, to fight or flight. You’ll fight, you start arguing with this other person and trying to turn their head. Their no into a yes. They’re trying to say, “If I convince you, do I actually change your mind?” Your flight is you’re running away. You’re just like, “Oh! That’s okay. Thank you.” Just leave.
None of those is actually a good option, because if you fight, if you try to argue, if you try to outsmart or whatever, usually it doesn’t work, because when you start arguing, you’re asking someone to change their mind. A lot of times emotions and egos get involved. People start to dig in. It’s really tough to actually turn no into a yes.
Another way is if you run, it’s even worse, because you’re at the mercy of your own judgment. You lose confidence when you just run without actually doing anything. I tell people, “If you really want to turn no into a yes, okay, you can start by asking why.” When people say no to you, ask why. Basically, try to find out what’s the underlying reason for them to say no to you. Try to solve that problem for them. Help you, help me, right?
Also, when you say why, you stay engaged. You’re buying yourself more time. You’re not arguing, you’re not running away, but you’re buying yourself time. You’re trying to find out if you can find different ways to get a yes. There are so many things you can do to turn no into a yes. If you fight or flight, you’re going to — Those are two of the worst options and those are two things we do normally.
[0:40:02.5] MB: Would you share really briefly, because I know you talked about in your TED Talk and other place, but would you share the story of the flower? How that kind of demonstrates this lesson really beautifully?
[0:40:14.9] JJ: One day one of my rejection request was I’m going to have bought some flower from a store and I want to talk — Knock on a stranger’s house, door and say, “Can I plant this flower in your backyard?” They guy opened the door and he was like, “Oh, okay. That’s pretty interesting. I thought you were a sales guy. No. Sorry. I cannot do this for you.” I asked, “Why?” He’s like, “I have a dog that will dig up anything I put in the backyard. I don’t want you to waste your flowers. Actually my neighbor love flower, why don’t you go talk to her.”
I was very happy, because, one, I just got some information. First thing I learned is not about me. If I just leave, probably I’ll thought, “Okay. Maybe I didn’t dress up well. Maybe the guy didn’t like me or for whatever reason.” It turned out to be none of those reasons. He told me about his neighbor. Two, I gained some very crucial information. I got my referral. If you come in and say, “Hey, your neighbor or your friend recommended me to talk to you.” The chance of you saying yes to me actually goes a lot higher. I did go and I go talk to his neighbor. She was very happy to see me and she let me plant the flower in her yard and she’s like, “Oh! Thank you. This is so nice. This is very interesting. Go ahead and maybe do it here.” As it turned out, he was right. She loves flowers. This is few years ago that happened, and I hope that flower is still there.
[0:41:52.0] MB: It’s just another beautiful example of how all of these magic is on the other side of doing things like this, but you can’t uncover it and you can’t discover it until you’re willing to push through that fear and push through that little voice in your head that’s telling you, “You can’t do it.” That shouldn’t do it or that something terrible is going to happen when you do.
[0:42:12.2] JJ: Absolutely.
[0:42:15.0] MB: So kind of a corollary of that, another strategy you’ve talked about uncovering was doubt and how doubt can be a really powerful tool for kind of helping people accept some of your request. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[0:42:28.1] JJ: A better word for doubt is empathy. You want to empathize with the other person whether maybe — Anytime you make some big request, they probably have some sort of objection or some doubt that they have about you. If you can actually mention some doubts, especially if you have a good answer for, right? If you answer a doubt and you have no good answer for it, it’s not good.
Talk about a doubt or objection that you actually do have a good answer for, mention that, and that becomes your advantage instead of a disadvantage. If you try to hide, if you are just like, “I hope none of that conversation about doubt doesn’t happen. I hope everything is smooth sailing.”
A lot of times that won’t happen, because people always have doubt and they won’t necessarily mention it to you. They won’t be like — They’re like, “Okay. I’m going to say no to you, because all these reasons.” Sometimes it’s subconscious. Sometimes they have that reason. They can’t even articulate it. If you mention it and if you’re like, “Actually, you know what? I can solve this problem.” If you do it before they do, statistically speaking, the chance of you getting a yes actually goes up just because you demonstrate that you’re honest, you can solve people’s problems. If you can have your doubt or people — What they think about straight up, you actually increase how much they trust you.
[0:44:01.1] MB: We talk a ton on the show about the power of empathy and we had a recent interview with a spy recruiter for the government who core kind of lessons and strategies was focusing on other people and understanding what they need and what they want, and it’s so simple. When you put yourself in someone’s else shoes, when you make it about them and not just about you, it’s amazing how effective it can be in terms of getting them on the same page.
[0:44:30.2] JJ: Yeah, absolutely. Empathy is — I totally agree. I think you put it beautifully. Make people understand it’s really about them. If you’re empathizing with them even with their doubt, and then people want to be returning kind. That’s what we normally do. If you do something nice for me, my natural tendency is do something nice for you. Even the nice thing is you’re empathizing with me, knowing my pain, my doubt, and it’s like, “I understand that. I’m trying to solve that for you.” Then you’d be like, “You know what? This guy, this person is nice. I’m going to do something nice for this person as well.”
[0:45:11.2] MB: I’m really curious. You seem like a very creative guy. How did you come up with all of these different challenges for yourself and all these different ways to get rejected?
[0:45:22.6] JJ: When I started, what’s funny is after the first one — The first is like me borrow $100 from a stranger. That’s my first request. I found that was like daunting and also pretty boring asking money from someone. Then I thought, “What are some of the funny things I can do?” I started trying to have fun. What are some of the things I’d get rejected but also just — I want to entertain myself in a way, because actually it’s such a — When you think about it from a normal lens, it’s such a dry, it’s such a painful experience. It’s such a subject that you are desperately trying to avoid. How can I have that in my mind which I can face it head on on a daily basis and be able to endure this? I’m like, “How about if I just try to be funny myself? I’m just going to have some fun. I’ll get rejected, I’ll just amuse myself.”
That’s why you’ve got like all these pretty funny requests where I would ask for a burger refill after lunch. I would walk into like a pet store trying to get a haircut, like I were a dog. I would try to walk into a shipping store and try to send something to Santa Claus. I just want to have fun.
What I found is somehow this turned into — The idea of I’m not taking myself too seriously and I’m having fun. Wow! That translates to how people kind of relate to you, not just my readers, but people I’m making request to. They thought it’s funny sometimes. When I think it’s funny, when I don’t take myself too seriously, when they reject me, the conversation never turns nasty. It doesn’t turn like — It’s always pretty pleasant, because people are going to feel the positive energy in you even they say no to you.
I want to say that keep that type of humor and positivity in your daily work. It’s okay. It’s okay to have some fun when you make requests even at work, even try to make a sale, even entrepreneurship. I think that’s important.
[0:47:30.9] MB: What would be as a starting point? Obviously you’ve got tons of examples, but for somebody who’s listening, we’ve challenges them to go out and get rejected. What’s a really simple maybe one to three kind of rejection challenges they can implement as soon as they finish listening to this episode?
[0:47:50.4] JJ: Yeah. Like I mentioned this before. The number one thing, try to do something comfortable. Try something a little bit uncomfortable, but not outrageous. Text an old friend just to get back to them, just to get back and say, “Hi. How are you? I haven’t talked to you for a while. How are you doing? I’m doing this right now. Hopefully we can keep in touch.” Just do something like that. That’s the starting point. Then talk to a stranger. Say hi to someone. Give someone a high five. Be very happy. Smile at someone. Then buy something and ask for discount at a store. If you go to a store, say, “Hey, can I get a discount,” or maybe you’re like, “Hey, can I see your warehouse? Can I see what is out there? I’ve always wanted to — I’m always curious and I’m just wondering what’s out there. Can you let me take a peek?”
These are the things that they’re not — They’re something you don’t normally do that’s not that 100% comfortable. Guess what? When you do that, it gets you out of the comfort zone and start getting you on the path of looking for rejection.
[0:49:02.6] MB: I think a kind of an important corollary of that is everyone has a different comfort level. So if texting an old friend is something that seems really kind of easy and seamless for you, don’t do that, and then say, “Oh! I did my rejection challenge for today.” You kind of have to tailor it to something that you feel a little twinge of fear. It has to be something where you say — You have to be at the edge of your comfort zone, and if you don’t feel that inside of yourself, then it’s too easy and you need to find a challenge that’s going to make you have a little bit that doubt, a little bit of that second thinking, “Oh, I don’t know if I should do this,” because when you’re there, that’s really where the magic happens.
[0:49:42.5] JJ: Absolutely. I think In the end, I will recommend people blend in these rejection requests that you can get rejection therapy, or something on your own. Invent your own thing. I just met this guy the other day and he just told me this amazing story that after hearing my talk, he did his own rejection challenge. He would go — He sat down in a coffee shop. He just write down, what are the 100 things that would take him out of his comfort zone, but also toward his goals? He wants to expand his business. He wants to find love. He wants to — He just want to get out of the rut.
He wrote down his own challenges and he just did that once per day and a year later he’s like — He just doubled his business. He’s about to get married and he’s inviting me to his wedding. He was near depression. He was like in such a rut and he got this out of him, because he listed the things that will motivate him to keeping going. You don’t have to take suggestions from other people. Maybe you can list your own things.
[0:50:55.5] MB: I think that’s great, and I love — We’ve talked about it already in this conversation, but you can do this as kind of a fun adventure, something crazy to kind of do in your free time, or you can align it with the goals that you have for your life, and that’s just as powerful and can end up creating some really amazing results.
[0:51:15.1] JJ: Yeah, absolutely.
[0:51:17.3] MB: You shared another lesson, which is that if you look at some of the most impactful people in the history of last 100 years, people like Martin Luther King, people like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc. All of these people achieve what they achieved because they had a powerful relationship with rejection and they were able to power through it and use it as fuel to accomplish their goals.
[0:51:44.0] JJ: Yeah, absolutely. If you think this is where the ultimate level with rejection, whereas you embrace rejection. You know rejection actually means something good rather than doing something bad. We, in life, we’ll think rejection is something bad, something that we should avoid, and if you can just avoid rejection or minimize rejection you’re way into success, you’re are fooling yourself, because a real success that the people who really are not only successful in their own life, but also can change lives of other people, these folks didn’t do it by avoiding rejection, by trying to go through the easy route. The thing they are doing, the idea is they’re spreading they’re building. Some of the people hate them. Some of the people not only hate them, they violently hate them.
In fact, the example of Nelson Mandela, he was put in jail for a long time. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, those people were assassinated. You cannot get any worst rejection than those, but that’s because they understand rejection doesn’t mean they’re wrong, because especially the stronger the rejection, that means the stronger the acceptance from the other side. If you can start up strong emotions from someone, that can mean you’ve got something. That means there’s the upset of those people, that people who strongly embrace you.
Don’t be afraid of rejection. Don’t be like, “Oh, man. People hate this. I must be doing something wrong, or maybe I’m stupid. I shouldn’t do this.” Think about the people you are serving. Think that people will equally — Will embrace you with equal fervor. Think about those people. If they can find those people, if they can find your own tribe, you’re doing some amazing things for them.
[0:53:40.7] MB: For listeners who want to learn more, who want to dive in, who want to get some advice and start with things like rejection therapy, where they can find you and all of these resources?
[0:53:52.2] JJ: Yeah, you can go to rejectiontherapy.com. Since last year, I bought rejection therapy, I bought a domain, an intellectual property from the original owner, and now I own this. My goal and my life’s mission now is to make this — I want to make a lot more people use it. I want to turn this into a bigger movement so a lot of the people will share their stories with me, like this guy that I just met the other day.
If you want to learn more, if you want to go experience this, go to rejectiontherapy.com, sign up with my blog. More important, I’m working on digitizing rejection therapy. I’m working on making this a mobile app, an interactive social mobile app where you could be challenged constantly with rejections, but also you will learn things from this app.
I’m looking for testers. If you want to be a beta tester when I’m done with this app, you can test things out. You’d be one of the first users of this, go to my website and sign up. I think I have a popup where you can put in your name and email, then I will keep you updated with this new app I’m building.
[0:55:07.8] MB: Awesome. Jia, I’m a huge fan of rejection therapy. I love the work you’re doing. I really can’t emphasize enough how excited this kind of stuff makes me. I’ve done it in my own life. I know how powerful it can be. For anybody out there who’s scared, who is shy, introverted, has trouble making friends or being social, or who just wants to push their life to the next level, this is such an accessible, easy, simple way to get started with that, and I guarantee you, it changed Jia’s life, it changed my life. It’s something that you will find magic on the other side of it if you do it.
Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of these wisdom.
[0:55:50.6] JJ: Yeah, thank you, Matt. Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for inspiring people, I guess, to be more successful to do better and to be more courageous in their lives. This is very important. I really appreciate you having me on here.
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