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From Rejection to Magic

By February 11, 2013Speaking, Thoughts

Yesterday, I gave a talk at TEDxAustin, sharing my story and learning about my 100 Days of Rejection Therapy. I had experiences in giving talks at meetups, companies, small conferences and churches. Also, coming from a family of teachers (my father, grandparents, uncle are all teachers), I have had the influence of public speakers since I was little.

However, I had never given a talk at a stage on the level of TEDxAustin, which is probably the most highly regarded idea conference after SXSW. In attendance were the most accomplished and brightest minds in the city. During the day, the 13 speakers went before me were talking about saving the world through technology, education and art. Some of them invented things such as XBox Kinect and the Ethernet. They had titles with the words ‘PhD’ or ‘Professor’ in them. And me? I am a guy who looked for rejections after failing to land investment for my startup.

As my time slot was inching closer, my mouth started to dry up, my nose started to hurt (no idea why), and I couldn’t come up with one coherent sentence when talking to my wife. Saying ‘I was nervous’ was the biggest understatement of 2013. I thought about fleeing the scene, mentioning my accent as an excuse, or starting my talk with a joke about the stage carpet and playing mini golf. Thank goodness, none of those happened. One thought came to my mind – hey, I am the “Rejection Guy”. If I had the guts to knock on stranger’s door, to give a flight safety announcement, or to dance with a waitress in the public, I can now use my teacher genes to do what I am really good at – communicating ideas. If anything, I should be the most fearless speaker of the day.

As 5:00pm hits, my time has come, and the host introduced me. I stepped on the beautifully crafted stage, and walked into the limelight and cameras. As I glanced down into the crowd, I saw a thousand faces I had never seen before. What immediately came to my mind were you guys – my dear readers and followers.

You read my blog, watch my videos and write me emails because you also share my fear of rejection. You are inspired by my journey and the people like Jackie from Krispy Kreme, Scott from Costco, and Jeff and Dana from Southwest. The people in the audience were also like you and me, governed by both pride and fear, hope and doubt. It was my duty to share this story and let them know that rejection is nothing to be feared about. It ain’t about me anymore.

Then, I had an out-of-body experience. It was as if I left my body in the form of a spirit, watching this guy talking about his story. In the next 10 minutes, he was smiling, joking, pausing, nodding, and hand-gesturing. He was not fazed by the timer countdown, verbal mistakes, or anything. He knew what he was talking about, and knew exactly what to say. Ten minutes and many laughters and applauds later, it was over, and I went back into this guy’s body. What I saw in front of me was a long standing ovation. I smiled, blushed, and became this incoherent and nervous guy again.

Back in November, when the investor turned me down, I could have never imagined that I would be giving a TED talk three months later. My 100 Days of Rejection Therapy has taught me hundreds of things. But if I had to pick just one thing, it was that when bad things happen, if you treat them like good things and fight forward, magic will happen later.

  • marla

    awesome! thanks for sharing … you are an inspiration to a lot of people … look forward to hearing more about you and your “Rejection Therapy” adventures! ~ peace ~

  • Suzy

    Great post! Your tenacity and ability to change your thinking are incredible skills (Notice I did not say “gifts”.) You are working hard to increase your skills. You are achieving more by changing your mindset and your thinking patterns. You are a great inspiration to those who understand that if you want things (life) to change, you can’t keep doing the same old thing. Congratulations on your speaking opportunity at TEDxAustin!

    • Jia

      Suzy, I haven’t thought about it from this angle. I have heard about the power of changing context of thoughts. Maybe my whole rejection therapy is constantly changing the context of rejection for me.

  • K

    Your talk at TEDxAustin was fantastic! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. <3

    [I hope it's picked up by TED.]

    • Jia

      Thanks, K! I sure hope so too. However, I have done my job to share the story, and now I’m moving on to the next rejection. What will come next will be a blessing, no matter what it is.

  • Martin

    Great job Jia!

  • rojopaul

    Loved this post. Good job speaking. Who would have known you would have learned so much on your journey, or that we would either?!

  • Joel

    Is there a video link?

    • Jia

      Not yet. TEDxAustin is producing them now and will put them on Youtube next week. I really can’t wait to share it with everyone.

  • Terry

    Jia – you did a great job! It was my favorite presentation of the day and one that fit perfectly with the Fearless theme.

    • Jia

      Terry, I really appreciate it. Many speakers did a great job, and they are all amazing. I feel blessed to be associated with such a quality group of people.

  • hypnokeka


  • khairdin

    Man its more than a week, where is the link?