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100 Days of Rejection

Rejection 102 – Singing in Public and the Spotlight Effect

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Rejection 101 | No Comments

Last month, I enrolled the first batch of attendees (there were 20) for the beta version of my newly designed online course – Rejection Gym. Along with 14 recorded lessons, the attendees received 100 daily rejection exercises, such as asking to take a selfie with a stranger or requesting to plant flower in a stranger’s backyard. Their goal was to use rejection exercises to strengthen their courage muscle in order to become more fearless. After signing up, they quickly started asking for crazy things that they never thought was possible before.

However, there was one rejection exercise that felt so tough that everyone had a hard time doing it. It was singing in public. So as the leader of the gym, I did it myself along with them.

What I learned from this exercise was how the “Spotlight Effect” could really mess with our perceptions of the world and limit our actions. Basically, we think people notice and care about us a lot more than they actually do.

The Spotlight Effect causes us to be afraid of taking unconventional actions or risks because we fear other people will notice our failure and peculiarity, and judge us accordingly. But in reality, no one cares about what we do, let along judging us. And even if they do notice and judge, what’s the point of us caring about their judgment anyway?

The world has billions of people with billions of opinions. If we constantly worry about what other people think of us, we will inevitably conform to their expectations, or worse, to our imagination of their expectations. We will live mediocre lives and have forgettable careers.

Let’s worry about us and focus on what we do, and help others when they are in need. It’s time to say “go to hell” to the Spotlight Effect.

Rejection 100 – Why I Want to Meet Obama

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Rejection Attempts | 4 Comments

“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.

Rejection 99 – Ask Strangers to Rate My Look

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Dating, Rejection Attempts | One Comment

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.

Rejection 98 – Take a Tour Underneath a Plane

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Rejection Attempts | No Comments

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

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Rejection Attempts, Speaking | One Comment

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.

Rejection 96 – Interview a Female Bodybuilder for a Reader

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Dating, Rejection Attempts | 4 Comments

Throughout my 100 rejections quite a few requests originated from my readers/viewers. In terms of strangeness, this one today is near the top. And in term of the requester’s persistence, this one beats number two by a mile… or 44 miles.

John, also known as Casino2004 on Youtube, sent me 44 messages asking me to interview a female bodybuilder. For me the most important question is never ‘what’, but ‘why’. He explained that he is attracted to female bodybuilders, but was often blown off by them. Fearing rejection, he asked me to interview one on his behalf.

I often think that every rejection has a number. If you meet that number, the rejection will turn into an acceptance. For this request, the number is 44. Today, I found a local female bodybuilder online named Melanie Daly and sat down with her for an interview. Oh, I didn’t forget about my own crazy request. Wait until the end.

 

After this episode I learned that not everyone can be Oprah Winfrey and Larry King. I might be there someday but today isn’t that day.

I also learned that people who pay the most attention to their appearance, whether as a model or as a bodybuilder are very sensitive or even insecure about how they look. People like John aren’t the only ones afraid of rejections, the rejectors are also afraid.

Learning: 1. Everyone is afraid of rejection. EVERYONE! To engage in genuine human connection we need to minimize the effect of fear as much as we can. When we aren’t afraid, we help others to be less afraid and we are all better for it.

2. Rejection is often a numbers game. If you want something bad enough and try it over and over again, you might just get it.

Rejection 95 – Borrow a Book from Barnes & Noble

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Rejection Attempts | No Comments

In the past few rejection attempts I have failed to get a rejection, even with the most ridiculous request (flying a plane). I almost felt as if the pain desensitization effect was wearing off. So this time, I again went to a big corporation – Barnes & Noble, to get some Rejection Therapy treatment. I tried to borrow a book from them as if they were a library.

I received the same answer after two tries. They even both provided good alternatives: buying a book then returning it in good condition or sitting in the coffee house and reading it there. Maybe it was the smiles, or the tones they used, but the rejections felt they felt very different. In the end, the rejections were given by two different people with very different personalities.

We often think customer service reps are cogs within giant corporate machines. While they are different across company lines (Apple Genius’ = cool, cable reps = not so much), they somehow should all have similar personalities within the same company. In reality, they are just regular people like you and me, and sometimes vastly different from each other.

Learning: They say beauty is in the eye of the beholders. I say rejection is in the tone of the rejectors. When you are already saying ‘no’ to someone, be nice. 🙂

Rejection 94 – Grow A Dollar 10 Times

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Rejection Attempts, Sales | No Comments

There are two emotions that drive me most – fear and curiosity (Okay, my love for Starbucks is up there too, but that’s another story). It was the fear of rejection and my curiosity about how humans behave that led me to do my 100 Days of Rejection Therapy.

Meanwhile, a lot of us have heard the story of One Red Paperclip, where a guy used social media to trade a red paper clip a few times up all the way to a house. I want to try the same thing, but with a twist of Rejection Therapy. Instead of using social media, I plan to knock on real doors 10 times in an unknown neighborhood and see what I can get with a dollar bill. I am afraid of knocking on stranger’s doors but I am curious to see the results. Fear and curiosity teamed up, yet again.

Would I end up with something worth more than a dollar, less than a dollar, or nothing but a bunch of rejections?

 

After the helmet, I would be lying to say I wasn’t fantasizing a little bit about receiving a house. If I knocked on 100 doors maybe I would get it, but getting a house wasn’t the game. In fact, it was never about getting things but seeing the power of trade and asks. Indeed, I felt better about giving away the helmet than getting it.

This brought along another thought – in sales, people focus on making the sale rather than giving the pitch. If someone goes through a perfect sales pitch, but the customer doesn’t buy it is considered a failure, or at least a non-success. However, in my experience it was giving the pitch that was the most fun, not the results. I could control what I said but couldn’t control people’s reactions. So why should I define success by something I can’t control?

Learning: 1. Try this attitude – ask and trade, prepare to be amazed.

2. Don’t focus on the results which you can’t control, but on the actions which you can control. In one of my favorite leadership books, Wooden on Leadership by UCLA’s legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, the old coach explained his philosophy of working on controllable actions rather than uncontrollable results. In fact, it was his relentless focus on actions that produced the results – 10 NCAA championships.

Rejection 93 – Play Pick-Up Line Tournament With Random Ladies

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Dating, Rejection Attempts | One Comment

As someone who is happily married, I never do any rejection attempts that might land me on the couch for the night. However, I understand romantic rejection is one of the most painful and personal forms of rejections. So to help people, I did some negotiation and collaboration with my wife, and came up with ideas that would delight and interest her, without hurting her feelings.

For example, if I gave pick-up line rejection requests to girls and they said yes, I would be staring at remorse, regret and possibly worse, with a burning magnifying glass. However, it would be safe and fun to see what happens if I ask girls to critique my pick-up lines. Today, I came up with a tournament game for eight bad pick-up lines. Would random ladies agree to hear them? Or would my pick-up lines, along with my request to share them, be rejected?

 

Rejection Therapy never ceases to surprise me and be fun. First of all, during my experiment, no ladies pepper sprayed me or threw a cold drink in my face. In fact, it seemed like some of the ladies couldn’t wait to hear my lines. This got me thinking, if the goal of pick-up lines is to be a conversation starter with a stranger, could asking someone to critique a line actually be a good pick-up line in itself?

Second, the winning line was one of my least favorite. Before the exercise, I couldn’t imagine picking up a rock on the sidewalk with that line. This proves one enduring business principle – what you like may not matter to your customers, especially if you and your customers have very different tastes and values. There was one example of a CEO forcing his fashion design advertising team to do a commercial for business attire centered on a suit clad man on a horse. His only reason was because he grew up wanting to be a cowboy. The CEO’s career didn’t last long, and the commercial was even shorter.

Learning: 1. Curiosity is a strong emotion we all share. If you want to get people’s interests, ask them a question that they want answered.

2. If you are in business learn from your customers. They are the ones paying your bills, not your ego. If you are an entrepreneur, read Eric Rie’s instant classic, the Lean Startup. It teaches people how to use customer feedback to make the best product.

Rejection 92 – Fly a Gyroplane

By | 100 Days of Rejection, Customer Service, Rejection Attempts | One Comment

When someone wants to be rejected with all their heart, it takes a strong imagination to come up with a request so impossible that it’s embarrassing to even try. Today, to demonstrate rejection to the visiting documentary crew – Wayward Nation, I came up with an idea – drive to an airfield and ask a random pilot if we can fly his plane. Considering everything that could go wrong with flying a plane, there is absolutely no way he would say ‘yes’ to this request… right?

There were times I was surprised, there were times I was shocked, and there was the one time I was speechless. This was that time.

As I was going in and out of clouds or skimming over cornfields, I asked myself: what if I had never asked? I would not have had the best flight of my life. I would not even have had regret, because I would not have known such thing was possible. My 100 Days of Rejection Therapy has demonstrated one principle over and over again – you will never get it if you don’t ask first.

Of course, when someone says ‘yes’ to my request, there is always some motivation. It could be intrinsic ones such as helping me and seeing the smile on my face, or extrinsic ones such as letting me know about what he is doing. In this case, I suspect there was a little of both and he admitted as such.

Learning:

1. The Bible says “Seek and ye shall find.” Rejection Therapy taught me “Ask and ye could receive.”

2. Don’t be embarrassed by your request, because the other person might be motivated to say ‘yes’. The best requests provide a win-win outcome for all parties involved.