This holiday season my firm distributed its nineteenth annual holiday book–Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection–to clients. I had an opportunity to listen to the author Jia Jiang speak in 2014. As an entrepreneur and app developer, Jiang’s confidence had been rocked when he was turned down by an investor. To conquer his fear of rejection, every day for 100 days, he challenged his fear of “no” by asking a stranger to say “yes” to an outside-the-box request. For example, he asked a stranger to borrow $100 (no), a homeowner if he could play soccer in his yard (yes), pleaded for a haircut at Petco (no) and asked a Krispy Kreme employee to make doughnuts in the colors and shape of Olympic rings (yes). That doughnut interaction went viral.
Jiang’s book chronicles the simple power lessons he learned during those 100 days. In fact, he closes each chapter with a summation of key points and actionable advice to inspire readers. Rather than turn and run from the “no” as he did after asking to borrow $100, Jiang insists it is better to engage with the person rejecting you and seek to understand their point of view. Above all, don’t take the “no” personally because it reflects only the opinion of the rejecter and is heavily influenced by historical, cultural and psychological factors.
He also insists that “every rejection has a number.” That is, a no could eventually turn into a yes. Also, simply asking “why” after you are rejected can sustain the conversation in a useful way and help you gain some information that could get you to “yes.” For example, in his 15-minute TED talk, Jiang describes asking a stranger if he could plant a flower in his backyard. The man says, “No,” but his answer to Jiang’s “Why” is illuminating. It turns out the man has a dog who digs up everything in his backyard. In fact, the man suggests Jiang ask his neighbor who loves flowers and she agrees. This illustrates Jiang’s belief that collaboration leads to success. As the TED promo reads, “Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends.”
Let’s all incorporate a little bit of that into 2017. Ask yourself: What would you do if you knew you would not fail? That question gets to our core goals and big dreams, but for many of us it also will illuminate the extent that fear of rejection and failure play a part in our decision-making.