Projecting Rejection


As a human, each of us are currently existing not only within a single point in time, but also in a perceived past and a projected future. Our own individual understanding of these three times is colored by the “glasses’ each of us wears, constructed by our own hands through our thoughts and experiences. Today, I’m not going to deal with the past and the present, but I do want to explore the future.

But, that’s the one over which we have the least control and knowledge.

True. However, it’s the one that’s open to the most possibilities. Additionally (and consequently), it’s the one most heavily colored by our perceptions, right or wrong.

At the recent World Domination Summit, all the talks given in the general sessions were amazing. But, the one I think touched me the most was given by Jia Jiang, who talked about rejection, fear of rejection and rejection therapy.

Earlier this year, Jia related his experience of going out day after day intending to get rejected at TEDxAustin where the conference theme was FearLess. That’s right. Jia had decided to get rejected 100 times on purpose.

It’s a great story and an excellent TEDx presentation. At that point, he was in the midst of the experiment (about 60 of the 100 rejection attempts completed). Still, a change had already started to take place. He was learning a lot about people and society… they weren’t nearly so uncaring as he had previously thought.

As he described it, the turning point in his thinking was the “Doughnut’ experience, which happened to occur fairly early in the experiment: Day 3, in fact. He showed a shortened version of the experience in the TEDx talk. Here’s the full-length video:

Near the end, one will notice in the stream-of-conscience subtitles Jia thinks, “At this very moment, I knew why Gandhi ever lived because with people like Jackie, mankind is worth saving afterall’.

About a week and a half later (and just a couple days after the video exploded on YouTube), Jia returned to the Austin Krispy Kreme to thank Jackie, now an Internet celebrity for being a kind, decent human being. Her response was just as amazing:

Mike Rohde's excellent sketchnote from WDS 2013

Mike Rohde‘s excellent sketchnote from WDS 2013
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Now, when I listened to him talk, Jia was much farther through the experiment. Had everyone said “Yes’ to him? No. He had been rejected–many times, in fact. But, and this is a big “but’, some had said “Yes’ to his requests. Some notable non-rejections include:

Jia realized rejection really isn’t the problem. Our fear of it is.

Fear is a very powerful emotion, and it has this uncanny ability to paralyze us in that critical moment when action is required. Thinking about fear and its effect on us, I often return to the Bene Gesserit‘s litany against fear from Frank Herbert‘s Dune series, which I mentioned in a previous post specifically on the topic of fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

There it is… right at the beginning… fear is the mind-killer. All of us are going to face rejection. More importantly, all of us are going to face the fear of rejection. Rejection is a normal part of life. It is unavoidable. As Jia points out in his presentations, the “higher’ one ascends, the more common rejection becomes. We can’t escape it. It will always be there waiting to pounce on us unawares. We can’t stop or avoid it.

But again, rejection isn’t the problem–it’s really just someone’s opinion. It may change from rejection to approval in the next minute, hour, day or year. One never knows.

The enemy is fear, and by giving into fear one rejects oneself.

Jia’s WDS talk gave me a great deal to think about–an opportunity to do introspection (as many of the talks at WDS did). What I found I wasn’t necessarily pleased with.

Have I been limiting myself because of fear of rejection? Probably.

Can I do something about it? Absolutely.

Am I ready to go off and try some of Jia’s “crazy stunts’? No… not yet, at least.

But, I have already started trying a few small experiments of my own. The results have been encouraging.

That’s at least one step towards conquering the fear of rejection.

Now on to the next step: Don’t project fear where it should never be–embrace rejection.


A life lived in fear is a life half lived.
Strictly Ballroom

Jul 15, 2013 09:55

The video clip from Day 3 is just awesome. I almost teared up. I totally get why he’d say the human race is worth saving. Not only can we learn something about fear and rejection–we can learn something about generosity and kindness.

Trev Harmon
Jul 15, 2013 23:29

I completely agree. I think one of the reasons we fear rejection is we don’t have enough faith in the generosity and kindness to others. On the flip side of that same coin, are we providing that same generosity and kindness to others to alleviate their fears?

Trev Harmon
Jul 26, 2013 08:01

Jia Jiang’s WDS 2013 talk has now been posted for viewing at: