Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection

Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection

by Jia Jiang


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Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection by Jia Jiang

An entertaining and inspiring account of conquering the fear of rejection, offering a completely new perspective on how to turn a no into a yes.

Jia Jiang came to the United States with the dream of being the next Bill Gates. But despite early success in the corporate world, his first attempt to pursue his entrepreneurial dream ended in rejection. Jia was crushed, and spiraled into a period of deep self doubt. But he realized that his fear of rejection was a bigger obstacle than any single rejection would ever be, and he needed to find a way to cope with being told no without letting it destroy him. Thus was born his "100 days of rejection" experiment, during which he willfully sought rejection on a daily basis--from requesting a lesson in sales from a car salesman (no) to asking a flight attendant if he could make an announcement on the loud speaker (yes) to his famous request to get Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the shape of Olympic rings (yes, with a viral video to prove it).

Jia learned that even the most preposterous wish may be granted if you ask in the right way, and shares the secret of successful asking, how to pick targets, and how to tell when an initial no can be converted into something positive. But more important, he learned techniques for steeling himself against rejection and ways to develop his own confidence--a plan that can't be derailed by a single setback. Filled with great stories and valuable insight, Rejection Proof is a fun and thoughtful examination of how to overcome fear and dare to live more boldly.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804141383
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 168,291
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JIA JIANG is founder of the popular blog and video series 100 Days of Rejection. His story has been covered by dozens of news outlets, including Bloomberg Businessweek, Yahoo News, the Huffington Post, Forbes,, MTV, Gawker, the Daily Mail, Fox News, and CBS's The Jeff Probst Show. A native of Beijing, China, Jiang came to the U.S. as a teenager to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Jiang holds an MBA from Duke University and a bachelor's degree in computer science from Brigham Young University.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Meeting Rejection

You’re probably wondering why I was standing at this man’s front door and what I meant by “special project.” Was this a new sales strategy I was practicing? A dare? A social experiment? Actually, it was a little bit of each. It was part of a one-hundred-day journey to overcome my fear of rejection--a journey that gave me a new perspective on business and humanity, and gave me tools to be better at almost everything. By challenging myself to seek out rejection again and again, I came to see rejection--and even the world around me--very differently. It changed my life--and I hope that by reading about my journey, it might change yours as well.

But before I tell you what happened next, maybe I should go back a bit--back to the start.

It was July 4, 2012, just after sunset. Thousands of people were gathered at our local community park, waiting for the Independence Day fireworks to start. My wife, Tracy, sat next to me on our blanket, rubbing her belly. She was eight months pregnant with our first child. All around us, kids were running with Frisbees and ice cream cones, families were unpacking picnic baskets, beer bottles clinked, and laughter filled the air. Everyone seemed so happy, so filled with summertime joy.

Everyone but me.

In many ways, I was living the American dream. At just thirty years old, I had a secure six-figure job at a Fortune 500 company. Tracy and I owned a 3,700-square-foot house with a pond view. We even had a golden retriever named Jumbo--the quintessential suburban American dog--and now we were weeks away from the birth of our son. Best of all, my wife and I had an incredible relationship, and not a day went by that I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be loved by such an amazing woman. In other words, I should have been overjoyed with my circumstances. But the truth was, I was as depressed as I could be. My misery wasn’t personal, though--it was professional.

I grew up in Beijing, China, at a time when every school-age child was taught to be a model worker and a building block for the growth of the nation. But being a model worker--in China or anywhere--had never been my dream. Instead, ever since I was little, I had fantasized about being an entrepreneur. While other kids played sports or video games, I devoured the biographies of Thomas Edison and Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita, looking for clues about how to become a great innovator. When I was fourteen, Bill Gates visited Beijing, his first-ever trip to my hometown. And I became obsessed with his story of founding Microsoft. I tore down all the sports memorabilia I had on my bedroom walls and made my fantasy about entrepreneurship a life goal. I vowed to become the next Bill Gates and invent an amazing technology product that would take the world by storm. I pestered my family into buying me a brand-new top-of-the-line computer and started teaching myself how to write programming code. I even wrote a letter to them (which I still have) promising that my company would be so successful that I would buy Microsoft by the time I was twenty-five. Drawn in by flashy Hollywood depictions of America and the fact that Bill Gates lived there, I also believed I would one day move to the United States to fulfill that destiny.

When I was sixteen, I was presented with an opportunity to become a high school exchange student in the United States and go to an American college afterward. I jumped on it. The transition was difficult, to say the least. The language and culture barriers were a struggle to overcome, and I was sad to leave my loving family. To make matters worse, the situation I walked into was not a good one. My first year in the United States was spent in rural Louisiana, of all places, and the exchange program did a lousy job background-checking my host family. As a result, my first “home away from home” was in the creepy house of a family of criminals. I learned that their older son had been convicted of murder a year prior to my arrival, and it was his bed that I slept in. Even worse, two days after my arrival, my host parents stole all my money.

Sleeping in the bed of a murderer and losing all my money was not the introduction to America that I’d been expecting. I’d left the protective, supportive bubble of my own family in China only to land with a family that immediately broke my trust. It scared me, and I didn’t know what to do. Ultimately, I reported their theft to my high school superintendent, who then reported it to the police. My host parents were arrested, and the mortified folks at the exchange program moved me to another home--luckily, the home of a wonderful family. There I not only re-experienced love and trust, gained spiritual faith, I also learned that there are good people and bad people in the world, and they would certainly not treat me the same way.

Throughout this shaky start, my dream of becoming an entrepreneur in America stayed as strong as ever. In fact, I didn’t believe there was any way that I could fail. Becoming an entrepreneur felt more like my fate or destiny than any sort of choice on my part. The goal was so deeply embedded in my heart that I don’t think I could have shaken it if I tried.

After one year in high school, and another six months at an English as a second language institute, my English had vastly improved. It was January 1999; I was ready for college. I still remember my first day at the University of Utah. I was just seventeen years old. There had been a snowstorm the night before, and the entire campus was covered in white. I can still hear the sounds my feet made--voo, voo, voo--as I walked through the snow to class that morning, leaving the first set of footprints of the day. The universe was a fresh snowfield in front of me, ready for me to blaze my own trail and become the next great immigrant entrepreneur in America. I had youth, hope, and energy on my side. Everything seemed possible.

My first real chance to launch my entrepreneurial dream came while I was still in college. For years, I’d constantly been thinking up cool new devices that I could invent. One day, as I was flipping through an old photo album, I saw a picture of myself roller-skating as a kid. Some of my happiest childhood memories were of roller-skating with my friends. Suddenly, I started thinking about how cool it would be to combine a tennis shoe with a Rollerblade. Kids and adults could be walking one moment and gliding around with their friends the next. The world would become a giant rink, and happiness would be widespread!

Excited, I pulled out my sketchbook and started drawing out various ideas for how to functionally embed wheels into a shoe. I loved the idea so much that I even drew a formal blueprint to submit with a future patent application. It took me an entire weekend. Afterward, I felt like I’d created the Mona Lisa.

Sure, it may not have been the most life-changing idea the world had ever seen. But it was my idea, and I thought it was awesome, and it could be the invention that launched my entrepreneurial career.

I have an uncle in San Diego--my father’s younger brother--whom I’ve always held in extremely high regard. While my parents were both very easygoing, my uncle was very strict and demanding, which somehow made me want his approval even more. To be honest, I was scared of him as a child. But I always knew that he cared about me and wanted me to succeed. After I moved to the United States, he and I became even closer, and I viewed him almost as another father, so much so that I would later name my son after him. I always felt much surer of myself when he liked my ideas and my choices. So I sent him a copy of my drawings, excited to get his reaction to the “shoes with wheels” idea and hoping for encouragement.

Imagine my disappointment when instead of support I received a verbal smackdown. My uncle thought my idea was silly, and he chastised me for focusing on something so far-fetched when I should be concentrating on school and improving my English.

I felt so dispirited that I tossed my sketches into a drawer and never moved forward with the idea. If my own uncle had rejected my idea, I felt sure that the world would hate it even more--and I wanted no part of being rejected in public by strangers. Instead, I focused on getting good grades and continuing to improve my English. Using thousands of flash cards, I spent many hours every day learning and memorizing new English words. Excelling at school was a surefire way to win the approval of my family, especially my uncle. And I didn’t just want their approval--I craved it. I told myself that straight A’s and an impressive vocabulary might also make me a better entrepreneur someday.

My good grades did pay off in some way. I landed a scholarship offer from Brigham Young University, where I transferred and completed college. Yet I felt like I’d missed something much bigger.

Two years later, a man named Roger Adams patented exactly the same idea (shoe-skates) and founded the company Heelys. In 2007, just after its IPO, Heelys was valued at almost $1 billion. Meanwhile, my blueprint sat in a drawer, gathering dust. Sadly, it’s not the only blueprint in there. Over the years, I’ve come up with dozens of new ideas that I thought had the potential to turn into successful products. But rather than pursuing them, I just added them to the pile--and then gently closed the drawer.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that my shoe-skate innovation would have succeeded the same way that Adams’s did--or that any of my other ideas would have become the foundation of a successful company. But I never even gave them--or myself--a chance to find out. I rejected my own ideas before they could be rejected by the world. Giving up at the first sign of rejection felt much safer than putting my ideas out there to be criticized. It was so much easier to do the rejecting all by myself.

But every time I saw kids skating on Heelys in malls, sidewalks, and playgrounds, every time I read an article about Adams turning his childhood passion into a pop culture craze, I thought about what could have been. The pain and regret were unbearable.

I thought that I’d feel the freedom to become an entrepreneur after I graduated from college, with my computer science degree fresh in hand. But the opposite happened. The family and social pressures didn’t fade away. If anything, they became stronger. Instead of winning others’ approval by being a star student, I now wanted to win their admiration by having a strong and stable career. I hadn’t started a company in college, and I didn’t start one after college either. Instead, I tried out job after job until I realized that being a computer programmer wasn’t my thing. Scared that I’d chosen the wrong path, I changed career tracks in a way that made me feel safe: I reentered the familiar comforts of school, this time pursuing an MBA at Duke University. Afterward, I took a marketing job at a Fortune 500 company. I thought the accolades and approval I would receive from my prestigious degree and my new six-figure income would satisfy my inner entrepreneur. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

On the first day of my new job, my boss asked me write a short self-introduction. One of the questions was “What would you do if you weren’t doing this?” Without hesitation, I wrote down “Being an entrepreneur.” Someone then asked me: “Then why aren’t you?” I didn’t know how to answer it.

It’s amazing how fast the years fly by--and how big the gap can grow between your vision for yourself and the reality of your life. Simply put, I’d sold out my dream. That teenager walking on snow hadn’t become the next Bill Gates. Instead, he became a marketing manager sitting quietly on his cozy little rung of the corporate ladder, miserably collecting good income. Once in a while, the envy of friends or the pride of my family would give me temporary but false assurance that I was doing well in life. But for me, the relentless ticking clock of life was like the sun, melting away the snowfield of my dreams and ambition. I remember one day, after coming back from work, I locked myself in my closet, sobbing for hours. I hadn’t cried for a long time.

Now, sitting on our July 4 blanket, I couldn’t help feeling that my entrepreneurial dream was over before it ever took off. If I hadn’t taken the leap to try building a start‑up as an eighteen-year-old college student, or as a twenty-two-year-old single guy, or as a twenty-eight-year-old MBA, how could I do it as a thirty-year-old middle manager just weeks from becoming a father? Being a parent brought with it a whole new set of responsibilities that I thought would require me to put my dream permanently to rest.

A loud explosion went off in the sky, and the darkness lit up with bright colors. Sitting there, contemplating my future, it was almost as if I could see in the sky an imaginary slide show of what the rest of my life would look like. At work, I’d continue to sell more products, train more employees, and establish more processes. At home, we’d have one or two more kids, sending them off to school and eventually to college. The slide show ended at my own funeral, with someone giving a touching but typical eulogy praising my loyalty and dependability. It was a eulogy for just another good guy--not the world-changing entrepreneur I had dreamed of becoming.

Tracy looked over at me. For weeks, she’d known that I was miserable, and she knew why. “You can have another car, house, promotion, or job. But you can’t live with this kind of regret,” she said. And then my wife--my very pregnant wife--did something amazing. She issued me a challenge. She told me to quit my job, take six months to start a company from scratch, and work as hard as I could to build it. If by the end of that time I still had no traction and no investment, I would hop back on the corporate ladder.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Meeting Rejection 5

Chapter 2 Fighting Rejection 20

Chapter 3 Tasting Fame 40

Chapter 4 Battling Evolution 57

Chapter 5 Rethinking Rejection 78

Chapter 6 Taking a No 93

Chapter 7 Positioning For Yes 109

Chapter 8 Giving a No 130

Chapter 9 Finding Upside 146

Chapter 10 Finding Meaning 167

Chapter 11 Finding Freedom 187

Chapter 12 Finding Power 200

Chapter 13 Living a New Mission 215

Appendix The Rejection Toolbox 219

Acknowledgments 225

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Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book! It breaks down rejection to the point where you start to see it in a different way. It gives you the courage to want to put yourself out there and see the "what if” of situations. If you get rejected, you learn not to take it so personally. If you don’t get rejected, then you see, through the experience of the author, that you can experience things you would not have otherwise experienced. I really liked this book and have slowly started making some requests of my own. Hope you enjoy the book, it really is a good read :)!