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.

 

NewImage

 

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.

Hope 2 570x379

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?

Rejection 99 – Ask Strangers to Rate My Look

How good do I look to the public eye? What would happen if I ask strangers to rate my looks, from 1-10? As a happily married man, I care much less about looking attractive in front of others now than I did when I was single. However, I would be lying to say that I’ve never considered the first question. And the second question? It would be a very scary proposition, both asking the question and hearing the answers.

This is rejection seeking, doing something scary and understanding just how scary it could be.

Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQzoyxwplWM

This experiment turned out to be much easier than I originally imagined. People are nice and more than willing to give me high scores. And yes, it helped that I showered, put on a clean shirt, and took off the old-man socks as requested. Yet, it again showed how much scarier our imagination is than the real world. I couldn’t get a low score when tried. I was in fact secretly hoping for a 2 just to get a taste of rejection, but it didn’t happen.

Learning:

1. Our imagination often takes us to the worst possible outcome, causing us to be much less likely to take that action. We are really our own worst rejectors.

2. People are rarely mean, or brutally honest to others in personal settings. When you ask for feedback, understand that the answer could be skewed.

3 Ways to Come Up With Rejection Ideas

“How do you come up with all these creative rejection ideas?” This is one of the most common questions my readers ask me. It would be fun to say I am a creative genius because I’m a secret child of Steve Jobs and Lucy Liu, but it wouldn’t be true… actually, that would be so wrong, but I digress. Although I love to think outside of the box, but imagination alone wouldn’t be enough for me to come up with hundreds of ideas. If you want to try this on your own, here are three ways you can come up with rejection ideas that fit your own personality, lifestyle and preference.

1. Do Really Cool Things

Fill in the blank: It would be really cool if they can let me _________ (a cool activity) at _________ (a place manned by people).

For example, if you have always wanted to fly a plane, ask a pilot for it. If you would love to feed the big cat at a zoo, ask the zookeeper for ways to do it. Make sure you ask with respect, and if they say yes, you will have a great experience. (But make sure you follow their lead. I don’t want to see your name under CNN’s headline – Californian Man Under Critical Condition After Attempting to Arm Wrestle a Liger.)

2. Go for Your Big Dream

What do you really want to do? Is there anything on your bucket list that involves permission from others? If there is nothing involves permission, you just need to start doing them now. No one is stopping it but you. If something does involve permission, just ask for it. For example, it has been my dream to give a lecture in college. I asked for it and got it.

I have a reader whose dream is to be involved in research on alternative universe and time travel. Though not a scientist, he wants to be a pioneer in the research subject and asked me for advice. Sounds crazy and far-fetched? I told him to google the science research papers on the subject, and email the authors to express interest. He took my advice. After a few referrals, he’s now in touch with a leading scientist at Cal-Tech. A couple decades into the future, he might be sitting on the first-ever time machine. The odds of that happening are still very low, but it was 0% before he asked.

Of course, if your dream is to become the President, calling the White House for permission isn’t the best idea. You can break down your big goal into smaller rejection attempts. For example, calling your governor’s office and asking to be on the campaign staff might be good starting points.

3. Ask for Other’s Ideas

Many of my rejection ideas come from my readers. Some of them made my best episodes. For example, I took someone’s advice and asked to be a Live Mannequin at Abercrombie.

No matter how cool your project sounds, you can’t do it alone. Even if you could, it would be a lonely road to walk. Ask for ideas from your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to be judged and rejected. If you really believe in something, go for it and involve others.

Rejection attempts are not about getting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but about putting yourself in the awkward situation to ask for something you really want. If others let you do it, you need to be very happy to carry through. If not, congratulate yourself on having the courage to ask. You will improve yourself either way.

Feel free to share your experience publicly using comments or privately through email at jia at fearbuster.com.

Rejection 98 – Take a Tour Underneath a Plane

Seeing your flight get delayed over and over again without end is one of my greatest fears. In fact, maybe I should do 100 Days of Being Stuck in Airports – flying all around the world without ever stepping out of airports. That would be cruel and character-building to the extreme.

When unpleasantness happens, seeking rejection has become my go-to move to lighten things up. If you told me I could improve my mood by hearing ‘NO’ a few months ago, I would say you were crazy. Now, it works better than Cheezburger.com and a self-tickling machine combined.

Would the airline give me a tour underneath the plane? I would love to get a group picture with suitcases.

 

You might be curious how I could have fun while getting rejected. I’ve learned not to care too much about a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and how others perceive me. That has translated into an increase in my confidence, communications skills, and entrepreneurial drive. Just look at my first video and this one to see the difference.

Learning: Rejection itself is not inherently hurtful, especially if you detach yourself from the outcome and practice it over and over again.

Rejection 97 – Give a Speech on the Street

Based on my Google keyword search, there are 10 things people fear the most.

On that list, I’ve already tried:
#1 Fear of Flying and
#3 Fear of Heights,

this entire blog is about tackling
#8 Fear of Rejection,

and for now at least, I have no interest in confronting
#6 Fear of Death
#9 Fear of Spiders…

I want to take a shot at #2: Fear of Public Speaking.

Of course, I have done public speaking before and I have a great passion for it. However, my previous speeches were in places where people expected me to speak and were receptive to my message. What would happen I held up a sign on the street and give a speech there instead of in the auditoriums? Would people still welcome my message? The thought of that makes me want to throw up already. In fact, I might have to reconsider which is worse: public storytelling or spiders.

On my 97th rejection attempt, I made a sign and went to the streets of Austin, attempting to tell strangers my story.

As you can tell in my video, the toughest part was not the speech but the time leading up to it.

I keep shaking my head at how purely psychological fear can be. Even knowing that I shouldn’t care about how others perceive me, and understanding that the worst that could happen is being ignored, the fear of being judged and rejected by strangers is still there. There was a classic book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and that was the exact approach I took with this request. As soon as I opened my mouth and people stopped to listen, the rest was smooth sailing.

In the end, I am so glad I did it.

Learning: Sometimes no matter how hard you train yourself, the fear of rejection will still be there. However, you’ve strengthened yourself and minimized your enemy – fear. If you rely on the strength, and “feel the fear and do it anyway,” you will always be glad you did.