60: Overcoming Rejection

Jia Jiang on Overcoming Rejection | ADHD reWired


Interview with Jia Jiang, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Writer

Emigrating from China to the US at age 16, Jia Jiang set a goal of becoming an entrepreneur. However, after struggling through college with ADHD, leaving his job mere days after his son was born, and later starting his own business only to be rejected funding, Jia found himself intensely fearful of rejection and failure. Jia talks with Eric about the interesting steps he took to rid himself of that fear and how he turned it into a new direction for his life.

About Jia:

  • Inspired by a talk Bill Gates gave in Beijing, Jia  immigrated to the US at age 16 with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur.

  • After traveling to the US, he attended high school for a year before entering college and, later, the corporate work space. However, he ultimately felt unfulfilled toward his goal of entrepreneurship.

  • Feeling scared of rejection following a failed business endeavor, Jia embarked on a one-hundred-day challenge to overcome it.

  • Now, alongside his new book Rejection Proof, he wants to help people overcome their fear of rejection.

College and ADHD:

  • Soon after moving to the US, with all that was so new around him, Jia was actually able to remain relatively focused on the many different tasks at hand, building his confidence.

  • However, as he moved on to college, he hit a wall with his studies and struggled to even graduate.

  • In college, Jia was diagnosed with ADHD.

  • Jia picked Computer Science as his major, which he considers one of the worst majors for someone with ADHD, and also one where the work required was separate from his interests.

  • Frequently late for his classes, Jia would try cramming in late-night study sessions to catch up. Instead, he would end up spending the whole night distracted on the internet, sleep very little, and end up in a bad pattern that would lead to more struggles later on.

  • Jia: I tried really hard. I felt like I would spend ten hours to do someone else’s equivalent of one hour of work.

  • “It’s a miracle that I graduated.”

  • These struggles continued into graduate school, despite Jia enjoying the subjects and the overall experience more.

Entrepreneurship and Rejection:

  • The familial and social pressures to be on his own, have a stable job, and be financially independent held him back from his dream.

  • “By trying to live up to others’ expectations, I lost my own.”

  • After realizing he would soon become a father, he took the opportunity to leave his job and begin on his way to being an entrepreneur.

  • Jia: I didn’t want my son to be an excuse for me to give up my dream. I want to say to him “because you were born I went after my dream. So, I want you to do that too”.

  • After quitting his job, his wife gave him six months to start his venture, after which they would reevaluate whether to continue.

  • Jia felt this time was liberating because he now knew that within six months, after establishing certain milestones, he would be that much closer to his goals.

  • He started a company with a team of people to develop a mobile application centered around keeping track of promises.

  • Four months in, he was presented with an investment opportunity to further fund his company, which he thought was likely to work out. Unfortunately, he was rejected.

  • Not wanting to experience that feeling of rejection again, and not wanting to work so hard only to be disappointed, Jia was on the verge of quitting.

  • Jia: I was so afraid to fail again. I was so afraid to be seen as someone who was not competent. I was so afraid that my in-laws would say “See? I told you.” I was so afraid to have to try to excuse myself to my friends.

  • His wife convinced him to keep going and to endeavor to overcome this fear.

One Hundred Days of Rejection Therapy:

  • Researching online, Jia came across the idea of rejection therapy, the basis of which is to venture out to look for rejection.

  • Jia started a blog entitled “100 Days of Rejection” to document his attempts to have various requests rejected. Each day, he would record a video of his potential rejection.

  • On the first day, Jia asked a stranger if he could borrow $100. He was rejected.

  • On the second day, Jia ordered a burger from a restaurant and, after finishing it, asked for a free “burger refill” in the vein of free fountain drink refills. He was rejected.

  • Despite feeling as if these were stressful life-or-death situations at the time, upon analyzing his videos later on, Jia realized they really weren’t that bad.

  • On the third day, he visited a Krispy Kreme and requested a box of doughnuts made to look like the five Olympic rings. Amazingly, an employee took him seriously, spent extra time to create the special order, and even gave him the doughnuts for free.

  • Jia said that experience changed him. He began to wonder how many more requests he had decided not to make – how many more Olympic rings he had missed out on in his life because of his fear of rejection.

  • Before his hundred-day challenge, Jia wanted to always be told “yes”. Near its beginning, Jia wanted to always be told “no”. Now that it is over, Jia just wants to place himself in a position to ask.

  • “I hate the fact that I was saying ‘no’ to myself out of fear.”

  • As his blog gained popularity, Jia realized how many other people also had a fear of rejection and how his blog had helped them.

  • Eric: This sounds like exposure and response prevention therapy. In that type of therapy, you purposefully expose yourself to what makes you feel anxious in an attempt to gradually increase your anxiety to a point where it starts to decrease.

After the Therapy:

  • Jia found it had allowed him to stop seeing rejection and acceptance as measures of worth.

  • Some people said “yes” no matter how absurd his requests were.

  • If he’s humble, confidant, respectful, and establishes clearly that what he’s asking is a favor, not a forceful requirement, then his chances of receiving a “yes” go up substantially.

  • Eric: Feelings are not facts. We all have intrusive thoughts, but we deal with them in different ways.

  • Many people have a gut reaction to want to run away from the rejection immediately, but sometimes, by staying in the conversation and asking about why you were turned down, you can learn usefully information that otherwise you would have missed.

  • For instance, for one day, Jia asked a man for permission to plant a flower in his back yard. Upon being turned down, he asked why and was told that the man owned a dog who would most likely destroy the flower. Instead, the man referred Jia to someone else living nearby who enjoyed flowers and who later let Jia plant in their back yard.

  • Jia: He didn’t turn me down because of many of the standard negative assumptions I thought he could make; he turned me down because what I was offering didn’t match his needs. I never would have known that had I not asked “why”.

ADHD and Rejection:

  • We are often fearful of being rejected because of all of the struggles we’ve had at school and work, which are often compounded with a desire to prove ourselves.

  • Don’t let fear of rejection lead to you trying to constantly impress other people. When you do that, you might start doing things you’re not good at, that you don’t want to do, and trying to live up to others’ expectations.

  • You can end up impressing people by following your passions and pursuing tasks that better reflect who you are.

  • ADHD is a lot like rejection in that it’s not what defines someone, but it’s their decisions, actions, and reactions that define them. Don’t let your circumstances define you.

Jia’s Book, Rejection Proof:

  • Jia: One of my best decisions was to hire a developmental editor, someone who works with you to develop the book as a product.

  • Having a partner in the process of writing his book was important to keeping him on track. It gave him both a point of accountability and a second perspective to help offer suggestions, ideas, and motivation, while also handling basic copy editing duties.

  • Jia is going on the road with his book, but he doesn’t just want to promote the book; he wants to help people. He learned how much power rejection had over him, how much it had held him back, and now wants to see how much he can help others to realize their ideas and potential.

Random Question Round:

  • If you could invent something or improve on an existing invention, what would you invent?

  • “What’s that painting behind you?”

Relevant Links:

Find and Contact Jia Jiang:

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