Four days before my son was to be born, I walked away from my job at a Fortune 100 company to begin building my startup.
I built a team of engineers and we were four months into our venture when I was approached with a major investment opportunity. It was an investment that was going to take our company to the next level and allow me to live the life I had always dreamed of.
Then something unexpected happened.
While at dinner for a friend’s birthday, I received an email from the investor that read: “We’re going to pass.”
I was crushed. I had to excuse myself from the table so my friends didn’t see me cry. The next few days I mulled over this defeat and realized just how discouraged I truly was. I thought I had made a mistake by leaving my job, and maybe it was time to count my losses and get another “real job.” Luckily, I realized that having that thought meant I had a problem–my fear of rejection. If I was going to keep moving forward with my company I’d have to shake this fear of being rejected again. Whether it was rejection by customers or another investor, to succeed as an entrepreneur I knew that I would need to become invincible to find success.
So, in the spirit of the 21st-century entrepreneur I turned to Google to help solve my problem. I Googled: “How to overcome the fear of rejection?”
I found a game called Rejection Therapy. The purpose of the game is to help you overcome your fear of rejection by intentionally seeking out rejection. I loved it. I decided I would try “100 Days of Rejection Therapy” to help me overcome this fear. The game only recommended 30 days, but I needed a higher dosage. I would also film my rejection attempts and upload them to my blog so that the world would keep me accountable.
What came next was something I could have never imagined.
The first day I approached a security officer and asked him for $100. He said no. I was terrified and ran away quickly after the rejection.
The second day I asked Five Guys to give me a burger refill. The cashier said no. I had fun with this one and stuck around to joke with the employee. It felt better than my first attempt.
The third day I asked a manager at Krispy Kreme to rearrange my donuts into the shape of the Olympic Rings. She said yes. Not only did she say yes, but she gave them to me for free!
I was amazed at the human kindness and customer service, and apparently, so was the rest of the world. My video went viral on Youtube with over 5,000,000 views and I began to receive emails from people all over the world, telling me that my story of intentionally fighting my fear of rejection was somehow inspiring to them. What I thought was a personal issue wasn’t a personal problem after all. It was something I shared with millions of people all over the world.
As my rejection journey continued, I began to feel more and more fearless when asking for things. I realized I could focus on the controllable factors, and by the end of my 100-day journey it actually became difficult for me to receive a “no.” I even intentionally made outrageous requests such as asking a stranger if I could fly his airplane (with no experience), knocking on a stranger’s front door to ask if I could play soccer in his backyard, and pulling over a police officer to ask if I can sit in his front seat and act like I’m driving his car.
The crazy thing? They all said yes.
In the end, my 100-day journey concluded with 51 yeses and 49 nos.
In the process of my rejection journey, here is what I learned about rejection:
1. Handling rejection is a muscle.
If you don’t constantly work outside your comfort zone, you’ll lose it and you’ll become weak and timid.
2. Rejection is a numbers game.
Fight through enough nos and you will eventually find a yes.
3. Avoiding rejection doesn’t mean you avoid failure.
Most people believe avoiding rejection is a good thing, by avoiding something bad we’ve dodged a bullet and we are somehow net positive. That’s not true. When we shy away from rejection we reject ourselves and our ideas before the world ever has a chance to reject them. This is the worst form of rejection and, as default, we are ignored by the world.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from rejection is no matter what, don’t be ignored by the world.
As for me? The initial investment rejection turned into me sharing my message, first on the street, and then on stage at TEDx and now in my new book Rejection Proof. As people began to follow my journey and email me during the 100 days of rejection I realized I had found the answer to one of the world’s greatest problems: How do we conquer the fear of rejection?
Jia Jiang is the founder of 100 Days Of Rejection, a well-known speaker and author of Rejection Proof, a new book about how to overcome rejection. More information on Jia and the book can be found at www.Fearbuster.com