My 2014 Rejection Resolution

We love to find the defining moments or turning points in a growing process, whether it’s about a person’s life, a business or a movement. As I am writing my book, I was required to reminisce over past events to find these moments. No matter how I cut it, 2013 was an important year filled with them. I don’t know which one was defining, but I think they all led to where I am today and where I am going tomorrow.

• Completed my 100 Days of Rejection, which transformed me from just a regular guy into a person who is no longer afraid in interpersonal relationships, and led me to find the truth about rejection.

• Spoke at Tony’s Hsieh’s Downtown Project in Las Vegas. I even met my entrepreneurial hero and draw inspiration from him in person.

• Gave my first ever TED talk at TEDxAustin. The talk was viewed over 100K times online. It helped me to connect with many people and to spread the message on overcoming the fear of rejection.

• Was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, one of my favorite magazines. I always dreamt about appearing there as the next great entrepreneur, and never imagined that I would get on as the Rejection Guy.

• Spoke at the World Domination Summit, which led me to connect with a lot more people in person, including Chris Guillebeau, Andrew Warner, Nancy Duarte and Tess Vigeland.

• Inked a book deal with Crown Publishing, who will publish my book on Rejection in 2015. This book will include stories, research and lessons, as well as my heart and soul.

Spoke at Google, and understood the needs to overcome fear in the high-tech and corporate world.

For 2014, I believe this is the year I will take this rejection idea from a good concept to the onset of a great business that would benefit many more people. To make sure I get there, here is my new-year resolution I want to share with you:

1. To complete my book on rejection

2. To continue to get rejected in new ways

3. To help at least 5 people to step toward in achieving their dreams

4. To write articles for one of the major publications

5. To shake hands with Bill Gates (or get rejected trying)

6. To host my first ever class on overcoming rejection, to share what has transformed me with the world (if you live in Austin and want to be considered to participate, email me)

7. To hire at least one person to help me build this business (I am looking for product management, instructional design, software engineering and writing/editing talents. If you know anyone, email me)

If I don’t finish these goals, please hold me accountable.

Now what’s your new-year resolution? If you share with me, I will check up on you throughout 2014.

To 100 Days and Beyond

It’s been a few months since I concluded my 100 Days of Rejection project. It was an amazing journey, filled with adventure, surprises and inspiration. More importantly, I learned so much about fear, communication and even business, I feel like a completely new person.

Here is what I am doing next:

1. Book: I have signed a book deal with Crown Publishing, and have been feverishly working on my book on rejection. It will be a great book, with real stories, learning and applications on how to turn rejection on its head.

2. Blog: I have moved my website to a new domain: FearBuster.com. I will make it a new hub for all future videos and blogs. If you haven’t subscribed, do so. I would love to keep you in the loop.

3. Speaking: I have been giving talks and sharing my stories and learning with many organizations and conferences. Most recently, I stopped by Google and gave a “Google Talk”. It was great to see the smartest people on Earth also want to kick rejection fear’s butt.

It was crazy that a year ago, I was a struggling entrepreneur being turned down by investors. Now because of inspiration from you guys, I am doing something completely different and more meaningful – busting the fear of rejection for people and organizations. I love my new mission and am having the best time of my life.

Now, here is my invitation to you:

1. Share with me something you have always wanted to ask/do, but are afraid to do so due to fear. I will help you strategize and ask, so you won’t regret not asking.

2. Let me know your ideas on how to use technology to help people overcome the fear of rejection.

3. Again, subscribe to my blog and connect with me.

Happy Holidays!

My Talk at Google – Why Rejection Is Awesome

 

They say Google has the highest concentration of smart people on Earth. People there are busy organizing online information, building self-driving cars, defying death, and designing smart glasses that record video while making everyone looks like Jeff Goldblum.

So when I was invited to speak there on my learning on the topic of rejections, part of me wondered if they could relate to rejection as well as the common folks. After all, being a Googler means having been accepted to work at the mega of corporate America.

Then I thought about the fact that:

1. the more influential you become, the more likely you’ll be rejected (e.g. Barack Obama)

2. people succeed because of rejection, not in spite of rejection (e.g. Michael Jordan in high school)

3. the most influential ideas were often met with the most violent rejections (e.g. Nelson Mandela and MLK Jr.)

I told myself, “yeah, these people know rejection as well as anyone”.

In front of an audience jam-packed with brainpower, I gave my talk. After a great reception and lively Q&A session (you can fast forward to 38’. Great questions) after my talk, I knew I was right – everyone knew rejection.

Link: http://youtu.be/w_W2LeWe-RU

Rejection 100 – Why I Want to Meet Obama

“Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth,” said Archimedes when explaining the principle of leverage to lift heavy objects. Before my 100 Days of Rejection, I would have never learned to use this principle outside of a physics class, the playground, or when I have to move furniture. But after making outrageous request after outrageous request, I have discovered my own principle – “give me a reason to ask, and I will ask for anything.”

My rejection therapy taught me that “the worst they can say is no” is actually not true. In fact, the worst they can say is “you didn’t even ask.” It implies I said “no” to myself before others could reject me. If I have a good reason, it is my duty to step out of my own comfort zone to ask, no matter how difficult and impossible the request is.

Therefore, for my 100th rejection attempt, I want to go for the impossible – interview President Obama on his views and personal experience of rejection.

Now that the request is made, will I actually be able to get a meeting with Obama? The odds are overwhelmingly against me. For one, he is a very busy person, working on military responses to the Syria chemical weapons situation and trying to avoid a government shutdown in a couple of months. Also, as the most powerful person on Earth, he also has politicians, lobbyists, business owners, and all type of interests groups vying for his attention. Getting a “yes” from the President of the United States might affect billions of dollars in business and change political landscapes in some parts of the world.

On the other hand, it is not unheard of for the President to do an interview on a topic that’s relevant to people or his policies. For example, the CEO of Zillow conducted an Interview of him answering questions on housing.

History is also not bereft of examples of citizens meeting the ruler of the country. For example, Marco Polo met Kublai Khan when he traveled to China; Diogenes of Sinope had a meeting with Alexander the Great; and Bill Clinton got to shake hands with John F. Kennedy. The results: Marco Polo brought pasta back to Italy and we now have Olive Garden in America; Diogenes said the famous words “stand out of my light”; and JFK inspired Clinton to become the last President of the 20th century.

Now, think about a regular guy being able to interview the President on how to overcome rejection and achieve success. Think about average citizens asking their leader on things that are relevant to them. Wouldn’t that be a great example of democracy and openness? Wouldn’t that inspire a lot of people like you and me?

Can this be done? I don’t know. But I do know what I am doing is for a good cause. And if I don’t ask, I would have regret for the rest of my life.

Now you can help me by sharing the video and this blog post. If you have any idea on how I can get an interview with the President without changing my name to Jatie Jouric or Joprah Jinfrey, let me know.

Dream, Racial Equality and Fear of Rejection

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His speech still hangs on my wall as inspiration

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, the Internet is filled with articles and tributes about the “I Have a Dream” speech and the Civil Rights Movement. The speech also profoundly impacted me. Yet it didn’t do so in the sense of teaching me about racial equality, but in the sense of pursuing a dream and overcoming rejections.

So what does his speech have anything to do with rejection therapy? What do racial injustice and the fear of rejections have in common?

I still remember that the first time I heard the speech I couldn’t even speak English properly. I crawled through the entire transcript with a dictionary, and even tried to imitate his accent at school the next day. (A Chinese kid trying to speak like a Black Southern Baptist preacher is surefire comedy). One thing that blew my mind was how powerful one man’s dream, if shared, articulated and executed fully, can become.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was based on the prospect of curing a common suffering among a group of people. It was based on the premise that a civilized society was not where it should be. It was based on the potential that if we could overcome our own fear and prejudice, we would be a better people and the world would be a better place. Those were the seeds of ideas that inspired me so much that I am willing to turn my 100 Days of Rejection Therapy into a life long goal.

Babies are neither racists or fearful

Our fear of rejection, in a way, is very similar to racial injustice. We didn’t have it as infants, but as we grew up it started to occur in our own minds. Then, by the constant reinforcement from society, we let it become a dominant force in our behaviors. However, unlike racial injustice which was done by one people onto another, the fear of rejection is something we inflict upon ourselves.  The results are equally devastating. We stopped trying new things and making new connections; we strangle and suffocate our own dreams and ideas; and we later look back on our lives with regret because we lived someone else’s life rather than our own.

Even more dangerously, the fear of rejection is subtle and overlooked. There is no police brutality, no jail in Birmingham, and no KKK. The only thing that’s out there is the two letter word ‘no’, which is enough to scare all of us.

Dr. King help created a world which I appreciate and benefit from. But more importantly, he inspired me to have my own dreams of building a better world, one where our destinies and aspirations will no longer be suppressed by the tear gas of self-doubt, the jail walls of self-isolation, and the police batons of self-rejection. This is a world worth building.

Will you want to live in a world without the fear of rejection? Also, did Dr. King or someone else inspire you to pursue your own dream?

3 Things I Learned From World’s Best Salesman

Before I discuss what I learned from this man, let me introduce him first.

His name is Brian Jiang, and he happened to live in my house. He’s 13 months old and looks a lot like me. Although he can’t fully walk yet, his mesmerizing gaze and smile would trump anything Steve Jobs puts on a picture. And his sales pitch, which is mostly composed of pointing and ‘da da’ sound, would put anything Alec Baldwin could come up with to shame. I would buy anything Brian tries to sell me. I am sure in 10 years he will drive me crazy. But for now he is absolutely world’s best salesman to me.

 

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Here are three things I learned from him on sales:

1. Likability – this man likes me more than anything in the world. Every time he sees me, he would give me a big Duchenne smile (one that involves both the eyes and lips). When he is with me, his body language constantly reminds me how happy he is. As the result, I really like Brian too. In his classic book on the psychology of persuasion – Influence, Robert Cialdini puts ‘liking’ as a major principle of influence. No one does it better than Brian. In fact, I would do anything for this man.

2.  Trust – it’s no secret that we buy from people we trust. For Brian, although I do question his ability from time to time, I’ve never questioned his intention and sincerity. When he wants another bowl of soup, it means that he really likes it, not that he is trying to make his mother feel better. People say a man is only as good as his word. For Brian, I know I can trust this man’s word regardless of its intelligibility.

3. Fearlessness – I have learned not to be afraid of rejection. However, no matter how much I try in this category, Brian has me beat by a mile. Some times he wants his toy, and sometimes he wants me to have his toy. No matter what he wants, he asks me with the fearlessness that commands respect and often cooperation. The unfair thing is, he didn’t have to ask Olympic ring donuts to train for this ability. He was born with it.

What is the world like if we have companies whose salespeople are 100% likable, trustworthy and fearless. I would find those companies and buy their stock no matter what industries they are in.

What have you learned from your own best salesman or saleswoman?

Five Things I Did to Get a Standing Ovation at WDS

A month ago, I gave a keynote speech at the World Domination Summit (WDS). Standing in front of an audience of 3,000, I spoke with my heart to share my story, learning and the vision for a world without the fear of rejection. It was a magical moment. After receiving a long and emotional standing ovation, I kept getting this question from the people I subsequently met – your talk was so great, were you nervous at all?

My talk at WDS

The truth was, I was as nervous as a I could be. The stage was shared by all-star speakers and bestselling authors such as Gretchen Rubin, Nancy Duarte and Donald Miller. It was going to be tough to measure up. Before my talk, I paced back and forth in the preparation room. I tweeted that it felt like the opening scene of 8 Miles. A staff member even took pity on me and offered to teach me how to stretch, so I could calm my nerves. How could a guy this nervous looked so calm on stage?

Here are five things I did:

1. Prepare hard – nothing can substitute hardcore preparation and rehearsal, both physically and mentally. Physically, I rehearsed this talk for about 25 times. Mentally, to toughen myself up I even did a rejection session to give my talk on the street in from of strangers. At WDS, I kept telling myself, if I could connect with strangers on the street, I can connect with these people who paid to be here. If you prepare through tireless practice, you can always fall back on your experience.

2. Accept fear – The nerve kept me focused and prepared. I found that if I were too relaxed and start to feel cocky, that’s when I get in trouble. So I conquered the fear by embracing it, just like what I did with rejection therapy. When you accept the fear and still do it because it is a worthy cause, that’s when you are at your best.

3. Control self-talk – before a speech, what really messes people up is the negative self-talk they have in their head. I steered away from negative ones such as “what if they don’t like me?” Also, I avoid any traditional positive thinking or “declarative self-talks” such as “I can do it”. “I am gonna rock the audience”. In his latest book To Sell Is Human, bestselling author Dan Pink talked about the power of “interrogative self-talk”. So I asked myself “will I connect with the audience with my story?” The answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’.

4. Love the audience – this sounds corny, but it is very powerful. Love is one of the strongest emotions in the universe. Before my speech, I talked to many attendees, learning their struggles and aspirations. I loved each one of them, and knew my message of overcoming the fear of rejection would help them. It was my duty to deliver the message in the most loving and caring way. When you love someone, it will show through the way you talk.

5. Start with ‘I’ - I love great speeches. One of the things that turns me off the most about a speech is when speakers start too many sentences with the word ‘you’. While conventional thinking encourages us to say ‘you’ to make sentences meaningful to the listener, those talks would always feel like lectures and even authorities talking down on people. For me, I always like the word ‘I’, because I don’t want to speak for others. I want to share my story and learning from my perspective, and leave it to the audience to judge. I always tell myself to remember: ‘inspiration’ starts with ‘I’.

Is this helpful to you to overcome the fear of public speaking? Also, what is your experience with speaking?

Bonus: my hangout with speech coach Dr. Michelle Mazur:

What AOL’s Public Firing Taught Us About Workplace Rejection

For some, being fired at work is the ultimate form of rejection in one’s professional life. The emotional pain, the humiliation, and the loss of income would scare many people into doing whatever it takes to hang onto their job, even if they hate it. Now, what about being fired by your multi-billion dollar company CEO in a conference call with 1,000 colleagues? This kind of rejection might be too strong to be called rejection. There needs to be a new word for it – something like ‘repumiliation’ (rejection with public humiliation).

Meet AOL’s creative director Abel Lenz, who got repumiliated by CEO Tim Armstrong in exactly that way. Worse, the news lit up social media, with audio clips on the web everywhere. So what did Lenz do to warrant having his name be forever associated with one of the most infamous public firings in corporate history? Lenz took a picture with his phone, after Armstrong claimed that he didn’t care for such thing.

 

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History is filled with mismatches between crimes and punishment, illustrated by this gif. But this AOL firing might reach its own legendary status in corporate America.

I have always maintained that rejection says much more about the rejector than the rejected. It can’t be truer in this case. However, the rejection’s impact is much more profound on the rejected. For Armstrong, he might be chided by media and lose some respect as a CEO. But for Lenz, he lost his livelihood (at least temporarily) and is in danger of having his once promising career derailed.

Moreover, the emotional impact could be much worse if not managed correctly. I don’t know what is more difficult – Frodo Baggins’ climbing of Mount Doom with one big eye watching him, or Abel Lenz’ walking out of the executive conference room with a thousand different eyes watching him. How did he feel when he was driving home that day? What about when he opened his door and saw his wife and kids (assuming he has both)? One of the greatest fears for any father is the fear of being rejected by his children due to perceived failures. How will he explain this to his kids when they hear from their friends and classmates?

Yet, Lenz did nothing wrong, at least nothing close to justify what he received in such a public and humiliating manner. And now, he has a choice to make. He can let this ‘repumiliation’ affect his own emotional and relationship well-being, as many people would and have a good excuse to. Or he can use this as an opportunity to strengthen what the rejection is threatening to undermine.

Indeed, it is up to the rejected to make the most of a rejection. I want to ask Mr. Lenz to hold his head high, and use this crisis to install rejection-handling into his own character. I want to ask him to tell his wife, that this could be the lowest point of his career, or the highest point, depending on how they handle it together. I want to ask him to look into his children’s eyes and say something like “dad got fired today and it was unfair. You will hear about this a lot going forward. And you will probably experience this yourself someday. I want you to know that dad will not be hurt by other people’s rejections and opinions, and neither should you. I want to be an example to you.”

I still remember when I was 7 years old, my teacher lost her cool over a trivial mistake I made, and yelled at me like a maniac in front of the whole class. She followed it up by throwing my pencil box (something all Chinese kids use in school) against the wall, as I watched my favorite pens and sharpener broke into pieces in horror. She stayed as the teacher of my class for the next 5 years and never stopped tormenting me and other students. I used to be angry at her and feel sorry for myself. But as I grew older, I started to use my experience with her as an opportunity to learn forgiveness. I even made forgiving her in-person one of my life goals.

Sometimes life can throw a brutal rejection/punch/pencil box at us. It is how we handle and react that make who we are, not the rejection.

What Rejection Is, Isn’t, and Could Be

We have all had the experience of being rejected, and none of us liked it. Applied for a job and got the “thank you for your interest” letter? Saw an attractive girl at bookstore, so you mustered all your courage to ask her for a cup of coffee, only to hear the words “nah that’s ok”? Or in my case, prepared an investment pitch for months but only to get a cold and impersonal rejection through email? These experiences can sting us for a long time and make us less likely to try things again. As the result, we reject ourselves and lose opportunities.

But does it have to be this way? Is rejection some sort of unavoidable and incurable disease that will bring pain to us every time we face it? If you have followed me a for while, you know my answer will be a resounding no. In fact, I am rejecting the notion that rejection has to be feared. To tell you why, let us exam what rejection is, isn’t and could be.

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What rejection is:

1. A constant figure in life – Ben Franklin famously said there were only two things certain in life: death and taxes. Let’s welcome the third member – rejection. From the President to the CEO, from the secretaries to the donut makers, everyone gets rejected in their lives.

2. An opinion of others – someone rejected us because in their opinion, it is the best course of action for them. The world is filled with an overabundance of free opinions, and rejections are no excerption. Rejection says more about the rejector than the rejected.

3. A fluid number  – there is no such thing as a permanent rejection. In fact, it is impossible for the entire world to reject us. Every rejection has a number. If we talk to enough people without giving up, a rejection will become an acceptance.

What rejection isn’t:

1. A problem can be avoided or outgrown – often the more responsibility and influence a person has, the more likelihood that she will be rejected by more people. A middle manager’s marketing plan might get rejected by 5 executives, whereas the President’s healthcare plan could get rejected by half of the country. Hoping to avoid rejection is rather a foolish attempt.

2. An objective truth about us – just because people believed the world was flat didn’t mean it actually was. For the same reason, a company rejecting our job application says nothing about our ability to perform as an employee. Taking other’s opinion about you as truth is very counter-productive.

3. An end of our quest – unless we stop at a rejection, the rejection should never be the end of our quest. It took J K Rowling 12 tries to get Harry Potter published. If she stopped at any of the 11 rejections, the battle between Potter and Voldemort would have happened in a trashcan or shredder somewhere rather than in 500 million books, 1 billion movie showing and 7 billion minds.

What rejection could be:

1. A tool for motivation – Michael Jordan was famous for using boos from the opposing fans to motivate himself. Later in his career, he got so popular that everyone would cheer for him. Yet, he would pick out the one boo from a thousand cheers, and use it to fuel himself. The best in business always uses rejections as motivation.

2. A gauge for impact – there is a big difference between being rejected and being ignored. Being ignored often means our idea has no impact. But being actively rejected could mean our idea has the potential for large impact. History is filled with impactful figures overcoming violent rejections, from Jesus Christ to Nelson Mandala, from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr.

3. A necessity for worthiness – Just like a story without conflict isn’t worth telling, and like a hero without failure isn’t a real hero, a quest without rejection isn’t worth pursuing. When we keep going despite the nos, when we keep getting up after being stiff-armed, when we shed tears of victory after tears of defeat, we are the real hero, pursuing a worthy quest, and writing a great story.

Now let me hear from you. What is rejection to you?