Reviewed by Linda Sladkey | December 6, 2017
Jia Jiang walked into a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop seeking rejection. With video cameras rolling, he approached the counter and asked for Olympic doughnuts—five interlinked doughnuts decorated like the Olympic rings symbol. He figured there was no way they could fulfill his outrageous request. When a tenacious employee named Jackie went the extra mile to accommodate him, the trajectory of his self-imposed rejection project spun in an unexpected direction.
I first learned of Jiang’s story on NPR’s Ted Radio Hour. Jiang had been unable to accomplish his lifelong goal of becoming an entrepreneur, and he traced his failure to his fear of taking risks. So he Googled “How to get rid of the fear of rejection.” A site called Rejection Therapy caught his attention with its plan to help people desensitize the pain of rejection by experiencing it multitude times. Jiang decided to create a video blog of his experience and called it “100 Days of Rejection.”
Since his goal was to overcome rejection by repeatedly having his requests refused, Jiang devised preposterous scenarios in order to help him get used to being turned down.
His journey is insightful, poignant, and often just plain funny. On day two he went to a burger joint and asked for a burger refill. “It’s like a drink refill, only with a burger,” he explained. The kind but confused cashier apologetically denied his request.
On day three he was surprised by a yes from Jackie, the Krispy Kreme employee. He began to realize that people might actually go out of their way to meet his far-fetched requests. His Krispy Kreme video blog went viral. He and Jackie even appeared on national television, interviewed on the Jeff Probst Show (Probst may be best known as the host of Survivor). People started recognizing Jiang as the rejection guy.
With ninety-seven days still to go, he had a lot of rejection attempts ahead of him. He asked to make the inflight welcome announcement on Southwest Airlines. He asked if he could get a hair trim from a PetSmart dog groomer. He asked to plant a flower in someone’s backyard. He asked to be a greeter at Starbucks, like the greeters at Walmart.
Sometimes people said yes and sometimes they did not. Over the course of one hundred outlandish requests, Jiang received fifty-one yes responses. He used the experience to analyze the secret of getting someone to say yes.
After discovering that a candid dialogue could change how these interactions played out, Jiang began to genuinely engage people with comedy, honesty, and vulnerability. Instead of running away from rejection, he began to embrace it. In doing so, he found the idea of rejection changing from a lifelong curse into a gift of confidence and freedom.
Sprinkled throughout his charming story are statistics and studies on the psychology of rejection and examples of real people who kept moving forward even in the face of significant deterrents—J.K. Rowling, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Kathryn Stockett (whose book The Help was rejected by publishers sixty times), and even Jesus.
Jiang’s experience taught him how to ask questions, how to relate to others, how to say no, and how to move on when someone else says no. Now he is teaching others how to turn their rejections into opportunities.