Can You Handle Rejection?


Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible by Jia Jiang

I remember one of the first times I ever got rejected. I was in my semi-final year at University and it was for a job I thought I really wanted at Unilever. I don’t usually get rejected often for stuff (that changes drastically as you get older by the way), and so this was a big deal for me. It hurt. I felt like I wasn’t good enough even though I knew I could do the job. I cut off all of my hair in one go. Coping mechanism I called it. I soon came to terms with it, and realised rejection is something that we are all familiar with in some way or another – although it remains possibly the most uncomfortable thing ever, every time it happens.

Jia Jiang – author of Rejection Proof – aimed to tackle this feeling head on, by continuously putting himself ‘out there’ for a period of 100 days, a project which he masterminded in order to become comfortable with getting rejected – something up until the end of his experiment he was deeply uncomfortable with. Penguin Random House kindly sent me a copy of this book for an honest review – and I have tried to be as thorough as possible as I enjoyed it so much!

What is the book about?

It is almost impossible to live without having experienced rejection at some point in your life, unless, as J.K. Rowling said in her incredibly moving Harvard Commencement Speech in 2008, “…you live so cautiously you might have as well not lived at all.” Although she was referring to the notion of failure in her speech, this is something that is regularly confused, or synonymously used, when talking about rejection. Jia Jiang makes the important distinction between these two concepts very early on: “When we fail at something, it seems unfortunate but understandable and often tolerable, because it could be due to a host of factors.” Through logical reasoning or excuses, we can make sense of failure in a way that we can come to terms with it, turn it into a positive thing or remind ourselves of the other 100 things we are better at. There are many stories of people who have failed countless of times only to rise to great heights and success in the end. It is cool to fail and fight, especially as an entrepreneur.

Rejection however, is not cool at all. Jia rightly states: “[Rejection] involves another person saying no to us, often in favour of someone else, and often face-to-face. Rejection means that we wanted someone to believe in us but they didn’t; we wanted someone to like us but they didn’t; we wanted them to see what we see and to think how we think – and instead they disagreed and judged our way of looking at the world as inferior. That feels deeply personal to a lot of us. It doesn’t just feel like a rejection of our request, but also of our character, looks, ability, intelligence, personality, culture, or beliefs. Even if the person rejecting our request doesn’t mean for his or her no to feel personal, it’s going to. Rejection is an inherently unequal exchange between the rejector and the rejectee – and it affects the latter much more than the former.” It is something everyone has experienced to some degree at some point; and each rejection can bring us another pang of dismay and crush us a little bit more than the time before. Even the tiniest of ‘no’s’ still hurt.

One would think the more rejections we receive, the easier it would be for us to be more comfortable with it, right? (No!!) Well this is the premise on which the author, Jia Jiang, sets out to conquer his fear of rejection, documenting his efforts online so the world can witness and join him on his journey. In order to pursue his life-long dream of being an entrepreneur, in a dramatic fashion only familiar to us in TV shows and movies, he quits his six-figure sum job to start anew. He soon realised he needed to become accustomed to receiving ‘no’s’ however – because life as an entrepreneur is riddled with countless rejections and failures, and he didn’t want these bumps on the road to squash his determination and set him back. And so began the ‘100 Days of Rejection Therapy’ experiment!

Even if the person rejecting our request doesn’t mean for his or her no to feel personal, it’s going to. Rejection is an inherently unequal exchange between the rejector and the rejectee – and it affects the latter much more than the former.”

Jia writes in a deliciously easy-to-read fashion about his experience from quitting his job, to starting his app company, to being rejected by an investor, to coming up with this experiment to combat his fear of rejection, which was debilitating him more ways than he knew when it came to pursuing his aspirations. So many of us don’t pursue our dreams or ambitions due to the fear of rejection (and subsequently its evermore present cousin, failure). Jia references The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who interviewed dozens of terminally ill patients in hospice care. The most frequent response she received about their deepest regrets was: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Fear of rejection pervades our thoughts, from ourselves, those around us and society as a whole. We may not realise it initially, but it distinctly shapes our actions and our self-belief. A passage that really stood out for me in relation to this in Rejection Proof was: “Companies, organisations, parents, teachers, and society as a whole universally praise creativity and thinking outside of the box. However, when creativity actually happens, it is often met with rejection, because it frequently disrupts orders and rules.” It takes courage and resilience to break away from the mold; it’s so much easier to settle or live according to the norm, and so many of us do just exactly that. It’s more comfortable, predictable and ultimately stable. It’s the sensible thing to do.

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” – Bronnie Ware

Yet in the processing of doing so, we put our hopes and dreams in a shoe box under our bed. Do you remember growing up and people asking all the time: “What do you want to be when you’re older?” I sure do. I also remember alluding to statements of grandeur – of changing the world in some way or another, and leaving my mark for generations to come. But then you grow up, and life gets in the way, and all of a sudden a barrage of things appear to hold you back. But what Jia really taps into is that above and beyond, the fear of rejection has a way of coming out on top of all our other fears, especially when it comes to pursuing what we really want to pursue, and breaking away from expectations we hold of ourselves as well as those of others and society. It was his inability to digest rejection in a positive way and channel it to drive his entrepreneurial career forward that his ‘100 Days of Rejection’ started out and culminated in a way that he is now able to live a life true to himself. From attempts such as asking to borrow $100 from a stranger and to play soccer in someone’s backyard randomly, to finding a job in one day and asking for Krispy Kreme donuts in the shape of the Olympic Logo (the first ‘YES!’ that gave him hope and catapulted him to fame), Jia shares his doubts, mishaps and lessons learnt from his life-changing 100 Days of Rejection’ journey.

Key Takeaways?

Key takeaways for me were:

  • Rejection is human and it is an opinion. It often says a lot more about the rejector than the rejectee, and should never been seen as the universal truth. Although rejection feels highly personal, there’s so much more to it – it is influenced by a host of factors, including contextual, psychological and cultural differences.
  • Rejection is a numbers game. There’s a number to how many rejections you will receive, and if you keep persevering, at some point down the line that ‘NO’ can turn into a ‘YES!’
  • Always ask ‘Why?’ if you get a ‘NO’. This helps to understand the reasons behind the rejection and offers an opportunity to overcome the issue or pursue an alternative course of action.
  • Use rejection as a base to motivate yourself, build resilience and push yourself further.
  • The concept of detachment – of not taking anything that happens or doesn’t happen personally – inadvertently works. By focusing on everything you can do to contribute to a ‘YES’ outcome and detaching yourself from the end result, you are able to take control of the aspects that you can influence and have a positive focus, even if the outcome in the end is a ‘NO’, as this is something to a great degree remains beyond your control.

As rejection is not black and white however, there are many things you can do to influence and even change the outcome. Jia offers tips on how to ask to get more ‘YES’s!’, how to collaborate with rejectors, and discover meaning, freedom and power from rejection. He also reminds us that we often have to say ‘NO’ to people as well and offers great advice on how we can do this without coming across like a jerk.

What did I like about the book?

I found this book to be really helpful because it makes you realise you’re not the only one facing certain issues, and there’s someone out there whose pretty much gone through a similar thing and has also managed to write a book on it! It illuminates that rejection isn’t the be all and end all of everything, in fact, a dose of it here and again can even be healthy and conducive to building resilience. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From personal experience, I’ve also found that the more you put yourself out there the more likely you are to get rejected –  but also the more likely you are to get a YES! I also liked his suggestions on how to collaborate with rejectors.

I consumed this book in the course of a few hours and thought it was such a clever way to approach an issue that we all encounter at some point in our lives and which can emotionally disarm us time and time again. I loved all the references to psychology studies (naturally) ❤ and thought that the format of the book was great: at the end of each chapter, Jia summarises key lessons learnt for the reader to take away and apply in daily life. He turns rejection on its head and shows us how to be fearless. As Cheryl Sandberg said (or something along these lines rather), “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” And Jia Jiang proves exactly that.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Rating & Acknowledgements

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ – would highly recommend as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy.

You can follow Jia Jiang on Twitter and find more rejection proof tips.

You can find out more on Jia Jiang’s website and blog.

ISBN: 978-1-847-94144-2 – buy it here.


Images sourced from the author’s website:

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