The first week of the new school year for Wisconsin MBA candidates was capped off Friday night with the first M. Keith Weikel Leadership Speaker of the year as the Wisconsin School of Business hosted Jia Jiang, a Texas based Entrepreneur from China, who shared his thoughts on confronting rejection and overcoming the fear that rejection often brings. The night started at 5pm with MBAs from both Full-time and Evening programs gathering in the atrium networking and enjoying food and drink hosted by M. Keith and Barbara Weikel. By 6pm everyone was settled into the Plenary Room where Jia was introduced.
During his presentation, Jia shared a story about how he learned to overcome his own fear of rejection by asking people for things he expected them to say no to for 100 straight days. At one point he asked a complete stranger for $100 with no additional context or background. The stranger said no and Jia immediately left, literally running away. His idea was that if he asked people for things, and they say no, rejection would become less scary. In essence, he would just get used to it. Throughout his experiment, however, Jia began to see people respond positively to questions he never expected anything but a no response to. Jia shared several examples of his rejection therapy stories, including day three of his experiment, when he asked a Krispy Kreme donut shop employee to make custom “Olympic Ring” donuts. To his surprise, the woman he asked obliged and gave him the donuts for free! Jia got a positive response that he never would have expected. This happened more and more, and as such, new lessons were taken from the experiment.
First, rejection is essentially a numbers game. If you ask enough people for something, someone along the way will say yes to you. If you don’t ask, you’re essentially rejecting yourself.
Second, rejection is an opinion. If someone says no, it’s not an indictment on you personally. It’s just that someone else has a different preference.
Third, rejection is a source of knowledge. If you ask something of someone and they say no, you can use that no as a way to get additional information by simply asking a follow up question of, “why?” This will give you further knowledge about what is driving that response.
As such, the main lesson from Jia is clear. Ask the question you have. There’s more good that can come from asking than not, and you might just be surprised by some of the answers you get.