Book notes: Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang

Rejection Proof book summary by Marlo Yonocruz

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


“Jia Jiang came to the United States with the dream of being the next Bill Gates. 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.

Jia learned that even the most preposterous wish may be granted if you ask in the right way, and here he 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.” -Amazon

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Opening thoughts:

If I’m not mistaken, I heard this guy’s story from his when someone posted his TED talk on my newsfeed. His presentation was fantastic, and I never knew he actually published a book about his story. I had actually seen the book cover pop up on my recommended reads, but never read the synopsis until recently.

My mom recently finished reading this book and absolutely loved it, so I’m sure I would enjoy it as a part of this month’s reading list. I always like to have a more narrative-type book grouped with a more business book, and maybe a more general personal development-type book.

Key notes/ideas:

  • Unlike other people in China, he dreamed to be an entrepreneur
  • His first exchange family were criminals and stole his money. His second family was wonderful
  • He study hard in school and practice English because he craved the approval of his family
  • He became miserable in his comfort zone as he sat on a corporate ladder collecting income
  • He was a non-tech founder and had to recruit software developers to develop his promise keeping app application
  • The problem with insecurity is that you start to feel like everyone will reject you, even your closest loved ones
  • He got rejected by investor, but his wife Tracy pushed him to keep going with his remaining two months left
  • He realized he needed to overcome his fear of rejection
  • Day two lesson: The way you ask a question and how you follow through in the conversation has an impact on the results you get
  • He got the Olympic donut rings and complemented the worker. She was so happy and she gave it to him for free
    • The world is much kinder and people are nicer than he had realized
    • What was possible if you just ask? Also, what is possible if you tried hard?
  • His third rejection attempt transformed his mindset
  • Instead of learning to deal with the pain of rejection, his focus shifted to having the courage to make big requests
    • He stopped caring so much whether he got a yes or no, and care a bit less about what other people thought of him, which was liberating
  • Playing soccer in someone’s backyard, he said the request was so off-the-wall, how could he say no?
  • Lesson: sometimes personal curiosity on the part of the person of the receiving end of the question could dictate the outcome
    • By piquing their interest with the way he made the request, he might have a higher probability of getting a yes
  • He learned how important his communication style was to the outcomes he was getting
    • When he was confident, friendly, and open people seemed more inclined to go along with his request
    • Even if they said no, then at least engaged longer to asked questions
  • For any rejection many variables were in play: Who is asking, who is being asked, what was being asked, how it was asked, how many times it was asked, and where it was asked
  • He went into business school to learn everything about business so he could eventually become a leader and entrepreneur
    • About $80,000 later, he learned a lot of business theories and became a master of spreadsheets and PowerPoint decks
    • After less than a week rejection journey, he learn more about Business and human psychology
  • He became a better leader and communicator and his company, and learn not to take criticism him personally
    • His demeanor and confidence improved and affected other parts of his life
  • His post reach thousands of people on Reddit and people loved it
    • Soon he started getting flooded with requests for interviews
    • Tony Shea, founder of Zappos, read his book delivering happiness and it was his inspiration
    • He gave a talk in downtown Las Vegas to inspire others
    • Tony Shea wanted to hire him to be a public speaker, a skill he didn’t know he had until today
    • He didn’t feel sure about chasing fame and working for someone else since his goal was entrepreneurship and making an impact. Though he didn’t want to capitalize on his 15 minutes of fame. He simply had a cool story and could tell it well, and he wasn’t an expert since his journey just started
  • People are inspired by and gain strength in his actions and journey
  • He realized that his fear of rejection was more common than he thought
  • What might someone be capable of if they weren’t afraid of rejection? The biggest regret don’t people have is not living a full life true to themselves
  • His team was very supportive in his new direction and knew it would be more meaningful
  • Three questions:
    • Why don’t we talk about rejection?
    • Why do we fear rejection?
    • Why does rejection hurts so much?
  • Rejection and failure or not the same things. Failure can be logical and understandable.
    • Failure almost seems to become a prerequisite to success
    • Rejection hurts more because it feels personal, like they are rejecting us
    • People naturally want revenge after they’ve been rejected, perhaps thinking they will feel better showing the rejecter how wrong they were. However, those who do actually feel worse afterwards
    • Social rejection causes your brain to react similarly to physical pain by releasing opioids
    • Mammals evolved and innate fear and alertness towards these harms in order to avoid and escape them faster. Fear was required for our survival
      • Back then, social rejection could mean death
  • He gave a welcome speech to Southwest passengers and got them all to applaud
  • Could humor be an effective way to neutralize rejection pain?
    • Research has shown that laughter has been linked to killing pain
    • Pain threshold significantly increased when participants of the study were laughing
    • Laughing, singing, and dancing have evolutionary roots of bringing people together and release endorphins
  • If something can’t hurt me, then why should it scare me?
    • When you’re not afraid of rejection end it feels like you have nothing to lose, amazing things can happen
  • People could react to the same request very differently and it said nothing about him
    • Rejection is less like a truth, and more like an opinion
    • He offered apples to complete strangers and thought nobody would eat one, until a well-dressed lady did
    • Many famous authors with great works got rejected many times
    • It is as if becoming a master of a craft requires not just great skills but also the ability to weather rejection and get to an acceptance, not to mention an unfailing believe in themselves and their own work
  • Lesson one: rejection is a human interaction with two sides, often say more about the rejecter then the rejectee
  • Lesson two: rejection is an opinion of the rejecter and heavily influenced by historical context, cultural differences, and psychological factors
  • Lesson three: every rejection has a number
  • Ask “why” before goodbye
    • Asking why gave him an explanation and a referral for planting the rose
    • Knowing the reason behind a rejection can help dissipate or even dissolve any of the pain one might feel otherwise.
    • By asking for something like a McGriddles, he learned about the negotiation tactic of making and getting concessions
  • A third strategy is to retreat and re-approach with the different angle or perspective or request
  • Collaborate, don’t contend
    • Instead of seeing someone who can reject you as an adversary, start seeing them as collaborators to help you solve a problem
    • Arguing with the person who turned you away is a surefire way to get a rejection
    • Story about basketball player who moves to Beijing and becomes a hero. There is a possibility after rejection and that rejection is not always the end of the story
  • Lesson: retreat, don’t run. Higher chance of landing a yes when you retreat to a lesser request
  • Lesson: switch, don’t give up. Step back and ask a different person or under different circumstances or in a different environment
    • He offered five dollar bills to five different people and only two said yes
    • Giving a reason for a request is far more likely to get a yes
  • Question: If he added a “why” to his request that involved meeting the other person’s needs, would that increase his chances of getting a yes?
    • His request to cut a hairdresser’s hair went wrong really fast because he gave a bad why
    • He made some guesses and assumptions about the hairdresser that were way off the mark and ended up offending her
  • A study regarding use of pronouns in emails illustrated that the use of “I” gave a greater perception of truth. The more pronouns “he, she, you, they” pronouns, the less perceived truthfulness
  • Although it may seem counterintuitive, acknowledging other peoples doubts can help rather than hurt your cause
    • Admitting his request was weird proved to the other person that he wasn’t crazy and they were on the same page
    • It also revealed both honesty and empathy on his own part, to feelings that are crucial to evoking trust
  • Other people doubts can be the reason for a rejection if you don’t take control of them
    • Domino’s pizza and their honesty campaign regarding their revamp resulted in a huge increase
  • You can’t change people, but you can select the person wisely, or target your audience
  • For his giving a college lecture rejection attempt, he targeted his audience and did a lot of preparation
    • Experiment where if he missed concert violinist played to Subway passerby’s, and got hardly any attention. The lesson is having the right audience to target
    • Principle of targeting: it doesn’t matter how amazing your performance or products are, if you target the wrong audience who don’t recognize, appreciate, or need your value, your effort will be both wasted and rejected
  • Lessons: give a why, start with I, never pretend to think in the other person’s interests without genuinely knowing them, acknowledge doubts, target the audience
  • While they was still fear here and there, he was learning a tremendous amount about psychology, negotiation, and persuasion
    • The challenge of constantly experimenting and testing out his growing knowledge then sharing it with readers still felt exhilarating
  • He soon realized that he had to start saying no to people’s requests in order to restore balance to his life
    • The root of the problem was he was still afraid of rejection if he rejected other people
    • He started to learn the strategies and finesse of good rejectors he has come across in his journey
    • The personal trainer made him feel valued by pulling out his problem solving skills during the rejection
    • It’s hard to be unhappy when the other person is being nice all the time
    • When rejecting, be direct, quick, and genuine
  • Lesson: offer an alternative to the person you’re rejecting
  • Lessons: patience and respect, be direct, provide the reason after the rejection, offer alternatives or simple concessions
  • Any rejection can have hidden upsides if only we are willing to look for them
  • Rejection can give you motivation
    • For Jia, his traumatic elementary school experience made him want to prove everyone wrong about him and show them who he really was
    • His experience also helped him see himself as special or unique
    • A rejection can be negative or positive, it all depends on how you spin it for yourself
    • Michael Jordan consistently used to rejection to motivate him during his career
    • Successful people convert rejection into personal fuel
    • Steve Jobs switching his perspective about being adopted from being rejected to being chosen because he was special
    • Sooner or later, other intrinsic motivation’s such as the love of the game or the desire to put a dent in the universe need to take over to sustain excellence
  • As the saying goes, when advertising fails don’t blame the customer, blame the message
    • Lessons from rejection attempt on soliciting donations to food bank: importance of good messaging, upside of being specific, element of surprise, not confusing people with bad humor, and how to use rejection to learn, adapt, and improve
  • Rejection could also be a sign of being ahead of the curve
    • Our society as a whole praises creativity and thinking outside of the box. However, when creativity actually happens, it is often met with rejection because it frequently disrupts order and rules
    • While we say we love creativity, we actually despise and fear it because it brings uncertainty
    • There has never been in history a world changing idea that was initially met with universal approval
    • If someone thinks your idea is incredibly stupid, consider the possibility that you might be onto something
      • Perhaps the question we should ask about an idea is not how do I avoid rejection, but “is my idea worthy of rejection?
  • His rejection attempt of giving a public speech on the sidewalk was his most frightening of them all
    • He told his story on the sidewalk and his crowd of six cheered for him. He had such a sense of pride
    • His experience with people passing him by on the street made him strong and fearless. It prepared him for his speech to thousands of people. He received a standing ovation
    • Turning rejection into a positive requires courage. It requires looking rejection in The face and seeing it for what it really is, an experience that can either hurt you or help you depending on how you look at it. The difference is attitude
  • Lessons: rejection can be used for
    • Motivation: motivations to fuel someone’s fire for achievement
    • Self-improvement: by taking the emotion out of rejection, one can use it as an effective way to improve an idea or product
    • Worthiness: sometimes being rejected is good since public opinion can be influenced by conventional thinking
    • Character building: by seeking rejection in tough environments one can build up The mental toughness to take on greater goals
  • Sometimes in rejection it’s not about a yes or no, it’s about being willing to endure rejection because there is a profound reason for doing so
    • His collaboration with a Middle Eastern guy in DC to help promote positivity by holding positive signs
    • The DC man example demonstrated that happiness doesn’t always come from money, comfort, or happiness. That’s why some of the most brilliant and influential people spend their time and effort on things that only have intrinsic reward
  • He started gaining empathy for panhandlers, of whom he used to have a huge divide with in his life
    • Empathy fuels connection while sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy is feeling with people
  • When you don’t know how much you want and value something, rejection can become almost a measuring stick. Some of the most successful people obtain their achievements only after going through the most gut wrenching rejection
    • Louis CK’s success wasn’t the result of a lucky break, but the result of being able to endure multiple devastating rejections over a long period of time
    • Scotty Smiley, a disabled blind military man, inspires people to shift their perspective on what rejection means, and how to turn adverse circumstances into strength, motivation, and mission in life
    • Instead of being defined by tragedy, he decided to be defined by his reaction to it
  • Lessons: find empathy for others through rejection, find value through rejection and your resolve, find mission as sometimes brutal rejections can signify new beginnings and mission for the rejectee
  • He asked a pilot if you could fly his plane knowing he would get rejected, but ended up having the best flight experience flying a gyroplane
  • By going on a rejection journey, you will get rejected at some point. But by not even asking, we are rejecting ourselves by default and probably missing out on opportunity as a result
    • Less than half of working Americans have ever asked for a raise, but those who do 85% get something
  • What we really need is not acceptance from others but acceptance from ourselves
    • Being comfortable with who we are should be a prerequisite, not the result of seeking others approval. Who we are is good enough to get a yes from ourselves
  • Lessons: freedom to ask, freedom to accept ourselves
  • Rejection attempt of trying to sell another company’s product at a convention
    • His experience reinforced that acceptance and rejection depend primarily on the other person’s situation
    • Rejection in sales is a good thing because it weeds out people who don’t need or want his service
    • He felt refreshed by his own directness and honesty about promoting that product
    • Being detached from the results is key
    • His rejection journey taught him to play his best and not worry about the results, even when the steaks seem impossibly high
  • For his one hundredth rejection, he wanted to do something meaningful
    • He decided  the perfect attempt would be to help his wife try and get a job at her dream company (Google) since he’s been so grateful that his wife has been so supportive of him
    • Google initially rejected her but then change their mind and offered her a job
    • Moral of the story: treat everyone nicely, even when they say no
      • The Google recruiter advocated for her because he really liked her
  • Lesson: detachment from results. By focusing on controllable factors such as our efforts and actions, and by detaching ourselves from uncontrollable outcomes such as acceptance and rejection, we can achieve greater success in the long run
  • He uses rejection attempts to exercise his courage muscle, stay mentally strong, and keep his confidence flowing

Rejection Lessons/Outline:

Rethinking Rejection
  • Rethinking Rejection
    1. Rejection is human
      1. Involves two sides, often says more about the rejector than the rejectee
      2. Should never be used as universal truth
    2. Rejection is an opinion
      1. Opinion of the rejector and heavily influenced by historical context, cultural differences, and psychological factors
      2. There is no universal rejection or acceptance
    3. Rejection has a number
      • If a rejectee goes through enough rejections, a “no” could turn into a “yes”
Taking a No
  • Taking a No
    1. Ask “Why” before Goodbye
      • Sustain the conversation after the rejection
      • Ask “why” which could reveal underlying reason for rejection and present an opportunity to overcome the issue
    2. Retreat, don’t run
      • By retreating to a lessor request, one increases chance of landing a yes
    3. Collaborate, don’t content
      • Never argue, try to collaborate with the other person
    4. Switch up, don’t give up
      • Step back and make the request to a different person, in a different environment, or under a different circumstance
Positioning for Yes
  • Positioning for Yes
    1. Give my “why”
      • By explaining reason for request, one increase chances of acceptance
    2. Start with “I”
      • Can give requestor more authentic control of the request
      • Never pretend think in the other person’s interest without genuinely knowing them
    3. Acknowledge doubts
      • By admitting obvious and possible objections before the other person, one can increase trust levels between the two parties
    4. Target the audience
      • Choosing a more receptive audience can enhance the chance of being accepted
Giving a No
  • Giving a No
    1. Patience and respect
      • Delivering the message with the right attitude can go a long way to soften the blow
      • Never belittle the rejectee
    2. Be direct
      • Present the reason after the rejection
      • Avoid long and convoluted set-ups and reasoning
    3. Offer alternatives
      • Alternatives and simple concessions can make the other person a fan even in rejection
Finding Upside
  • Finding Upside
    1. Motivation
      • Rejection can be used as one of the strongest motivations to fuel someone’s fire for achievement
    2. Self-improvement
      • By taking the emotion out of rejection, one can use it as an effective way to improve an idea or product
    3. Worthiness
      • Sometimes good to be rejected, especially if public opinion is heavily influenced by group and conventional thinking
    4. Character-building
      • By seeking rejection in tough environments, one can build mental toughness to achieve greater goals
Finding Meaning
  • Finding Meaning
    1. Find empathy
      • All rejections are shared by many, and can be used to obtain empathy and understanding of others
    2. Find value
      • Repeated rejections can serve as measuring stick for one’s resolve and belief
      • Some of the most triumphant stories come after gut-wrenching rejections
    3. Find mission
      • Sometimes the most brutal rejections signal a new beginning and mission for the rejectee
Finding Freedom
  • Finding Freedom
    1. Freedom to ask
      • We often deprive ourselves of the freedom to ask for what we want in fear of rejection and judgement
      • Amazing things often happen if we only take the first step
    2. Freedom to accept yourself
      • Our inner needs of approval seeking force us to constantly look for acceptance from others
      • The people we need acceptance from the most is ourselves
Finding Power
  • Finding Power
    • Detachment from results
      • By focusing on controllable factors like our efforts and actions, and detaching ourselves from uncontrollable outcomes, such as acceptance and rejection, we can achieve greater success in the long run

Closing thoughts:

One of the reasons this book was so good was because it touched one of those universal problems we all face: fear of rejection. While there wasn’t much new material in the subject, even Jia admitted, his story and perspective gave such a refreshing look on one of the biggest fears we have to face in our lives. From start to finish, it was such an easy book to read with lots of fun and laughs. Moreover, I’m inspired to start my own 100 days of rejection challenge someday. Seems like such a fun and memorable challenge to partake in, especially if one documents it with a blog of some sort.


Jia Jiang imparts the lessons he learned while on his 100 Days of Rejection about rejection and the opportunities we miss out on when we reject ourselves.

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