Monday, July 3, 2017

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

Review by David Wineberg

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

Rejection is a subset of fear. I took the training at Landmark and learned to my own astonishment that the vast majority of North Americans are afraid of people. That’s why they were there. They actually cried at the prospect of dealing with strangers. They dream of being chased and hunted down. People mask their fear by being loud or boisterous, by quickly saying No to everything without thinking about it, or by just avoiding contact with strangers and living behind locked doors, with a gun at the ready. Jiang’s fear of rejection was directly related to being afraid of people and what they might say or do or think of him. In his case, his parents and uncle. His method was to vaccinate himself by approaching strangers with odd requests of no consequence. This desensitized him and made him a much more open person. He has become a national celebrity as a result.

He had wanted his own high tech company, and was so distraught when the one entrepreneur he was working with turned him down, he never even thought to ask why, and adapt his pitch for another go – even with that same investor. I found that bizarre, but it led him to a new mission and a fortuitous chain of events culminating (so far) in this short, easy reading book. It is destined to be a corporate classic like The 10 Minute Manager and the others of that ilk: short enough that everyone will read it, simple enough that everyone will get it, and cheap enough to give to everybody.

The problem with his “system” is he never puts himself at risk. He never asks people he knows for things that make a difference (like investing in his company). So he can ask an animal shelter to borrow a dog for a day, or ask the donut place to make him Olympic Rings donuts, and it doesn’t matter if they say No. At SXSW (where thousands gather to collect data on new products and companies), he had little difficulty handing out pamphlets and having attendees check out the website. In the “capital of live music” he asked someone to perform some music - live. It reminded me of James Thurber bringing an armful of corn into the Corn Exchange Bank and asking for an exchange. No is practically beside the point.

Remarkably for a small empire built on social media, Jiang doesn’t provide links to any of the youtube videos or blog posts he created to document his 100 days of rejection. He describes them in great detail, but especially for the e-book, the absence links to his videos to see him in action is surprising. And it’s too bad he videoed all his attempts, because that must have intimidated people from saying anything stronger than No. It definitely colors the results. It’s also too bad he did this all by himself and didn’t ask any experts. They could have told him – and us – that depending on the circumstances, it is easy to predict when rejections will be few or many. Handing out pamphlets at a tradeshow is very different from asking a mugger if you could have your wallet back.

The deeper he gets into it, the more it resembles the principles of marketing. The best source, which Jiang references too, is Influence. Cialdini divides influencing people into five principle approaches. They are largely intuitive, but knowing them allows you to control and adapt them – and help avoid rejection.

If self desensitization allows people build up an immunity for the real, personal rejection situations, terrific. Certainly worth a try, because the worst they’ll get is a No, and get used to it. And that’s a genuine life lesson we all do need to learn.

Oh. And rejection? Happens less often than we fear.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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