100 Days of Rejection

Rejection 81 - Be a Tour Guide at Museum

We are all good at something in life, and we all imagine turning our hobbies into careers. If we are good at cooking, we think about becoming chefs. If we like play basketball, we imagine what it is like to play in the NBA. Who doesn't want to combine our passion and income generation? For me, I love learning about American history, from the country's founding to the Civil War, from the Gilded Age to WWII. Now, can I turn my interest in history into a job, even just for one day? Today, as I am visiting the National Museum of American History, I volunteered myself to be a tour-guide as part of my Rejection Therapy. Would people accept my offer?

Rejection 80 - Test Drive an Expensive Car

Of all the commercial places, I don't know where car dealerships would be ranked in term of the least desirable places to visit. My guess is that it is pretty low, comparable to pharmacies and tax offices. One of the reasons is the constant pushing and prodding from car salesmen. Today, I wanted to see if I could go into a BMW dealership requesting a test-drive, while making it very clear I wouldn't buy a car from them that day. Although for his time, I would promise I will visit him again when I do decide to buy a car. Will this promise be enough for the salesman to grant my wish?

Rejection 79 - McDonald's Challenge (Afternoon McGriddle)

A young poster kept asking me to do this McDonald's Challenge, which is to get a McGriddle in the afternoon. Apparently, fast-food restaurants like McDonalds would not cook breakfast after 12:00pm, especially for food associated with eggs due to cross-contamination issues. Therefore, it's impossible to get a McGriddle in the afternoon, according to the poster's logic. I love challenges, especially those that seem impossible. So, I went to a McDonald at 2:00pm today ask for a McGriddle. Would I succeed in getting the breakfast, or succeed in getting a rejection?

Rejection 78 - What Happens When Trying to Feed a Lion

I have many readers sending me requests, and one of the interesting ones is to feed the big cats at the zoo. One of my criteria for a rejection request is that if I get accepted, it would be something I really want to do. And feeding a big cat is definitely something I would remember for the rest of my life. Armed with curiosity and sense of adventure, I went to the Austin Zoo today, asking to feed their lion. What happened is extremely surprising, if not amazing.

Rejection 77 - Fix a PC at the Apple Store

Commercial rivalries are some of the most intense rivalries in the world. We have Coke vs Pepsi, McDonald's vs Berger King, and Intel vs AMD. Of course, in the past decade, you can't mention business rivalry without mentioning Mac vs PC, whose TV ads turned personal with frontal attacks on each other. Personally, I use many products from both Mac and PC worlds. I have always wondered if I take a product from one company, and take it to the store that belongs to another, how would the store employees react? Today, I decided to try it by taking my PC ultra-book to an Apple store, asking for a repair.

To my surprise, Patrick from the Apple Genius Bar didn't seem to be surprised/upset by my requests at all. He did trouble-shooting with me, while making it clear that his store can't support non-Mac hardware in term of actual repair. He even mentioned that he learned something new as well. It would be very easy to say 'no' up front. His effort and attitude were really impressive.

One of comments by James Ham on Facebook page said "that goes to show that some people really enjoy their work." I completely agree. I feel companies need to focus 50% of their customer support effort on making their employees happy, instead of focusing purely on customers. Because the best and most genuine supports come from happy employees wanting to help customers, not unhappy employees pretending or trained to be helpful.

Learning:

1. Ask a paid customer, don't be afraid to make requests in a reasonable and respectful manner. You can find out the quality of customer service from the company in a hurry.

2. Happy employees give great customer service. Make your employees happy.

Rejection 76 - Get a Live Interview on Radio

My virtual friend, kindred spirit, and the author of the highly recommended book - Go for No!, Andrea Waltz, sent me a list of suggested rejections. I liked one in particular - asking for a live interview at a radio station. I liked it because I know I can inject more color and variety into their show with my story.

I was not surprised that I didn’t get through, but I was very surprised by how hard the receptionist worked on my behalf. Very similar to Jackie at Krispy Kreme, she took my request seriously and immediately started trying to find solutions. Her actions included trying to schedule me, calling a colleague for directions, giving me the contact info for the responsible party, and suggesting an alternative – calling into the listener line. She is a model receptionist and made me a fan.

Moreover, because I was able to see her hard work in front of me, I was able to appreciate for her effort. However, if I called her over the phone, and she put me on hold while working feverishly behind the scene, I wondered if I would appreciate her as much. This probably happens a lot during over-the-phone customer support, when representatives work hard but don’t receive the appreciation from customers, because the customers were put on hold, got annoyed by the wait, and didn’t realize the work.

As for me, I again experienced how tough it is to negotiate with a non-decision maker. No matter how hard she worked, a simple no from the decision-maker would completely negate her effort. What I should have done is to ask for the decision-maker, and discuss with him/her one-on-one.

Learning:

1. Effort and attitude can satisfy a customer regardless of the outcome.

2. If the customer can’t see the customer support’s effort, he/she won’t appreciate the work as much. In that case, the representative could list her actions in a non-bragging fashion before and after she does the work.

3. Always negotiate with the decision-maker.

Rejection 75 - Make Pie With My Own Ingredients

3/14 is the National Pie Day, so I wanted to do a rejection session that has something to do with pizza/pies. Therefore, I brought my own ingredients to the Brooklyn Pie Company, asking to use them to make my own pie. On a pure economic perspective, this should be a no-brainer, since the company would be getting my business, saving money on raw material, and making me happy. Would they do it?

Among all my encounters with restaurants, one trend is clear – they don’t want to do anything with a slight chance of affecting other customers’ food. For that reason, Dominos wouldn’t allow me to deliver pizza, and Subway wouldn’t want me to make my own sandwich. Although Whataburger not wanting me to even get behind counter, and a pizzeria not allowing me to use my ingredients seem superfluous, it demonstrates that either restaurants see food sanitation and safety as high-priority, or the fear of lawsuits or being fired is too high.

Learning: Attempting to do things that touches upon food safety or other high-sensitivity topics is a magnet for rejections.

Rejection 74 - Hire A Job Seeker On the Spot

I like sign-holders, and even tried to be one myself once. People hold signs for many reasons, but they share one thing in common - they are not afraid of being judged by the opinions of others in public. At SXSW, which is the biggest conference for geeks, I met one sign-holder who got my attention. He was a man in his 20s, holding a sign saying "drop your business card for a chance to employ me".

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more unemployed people in American than the population of Louisiana, Oregon and Oklahoma combined. Getting an interview itself is like rejection therapy, let alone a job-offer.

While job-seeking could be soul-draining, I wonder how many have tried the out-of-box tactics Anup employed. I don't know how many jobs he can land this way, but I do know he turned the table and gathered more than 20 applications/connections in one day. And, he got a temporary job deal from me. I will follow up on this adventure.

I often think about things in term of upside/downside. For what Anup was trying, the downside (I can't think of any) was so low, and upside (finding a job) is so high, I wonder why don't every job-seeker try this? Why didn't I try it?

Learning: 1. Many people look for jobs. One sure way to differentiate yourself from the herd is creativity. 2. When you bid for a position, you are the weaker party. When people bid for your service, you are the stronger party. Try be the stronger party, even by rewriting the rules of the game. 3. If project gives you limited downside, and upmost upside, you are doing yourself a diservice by not doing it.

Rejection 73 - Learn Spanish at Supermarket

In college, I chose learning French over Spanish. Looking back, I should have given Spanish more consideration, as there are far more Spanish speakers than French speakers in the US. Now, I have another chance. Today, I stopped by Fiesta supermarket here in Austin trying to get a Spanish lesson from a store owner.

After some struggle, I finally got it. I don't know how well I sounded... probably like someone from western Honduras.

Also, as a 31 years old, I won't learn language the same way a 10 years old could. However, it didn't stop me from having some fun. If I can learn one phrase every time I talk to a Spanish speaker and not afraid of rejection, I can carry out a very short conversation in one year.

Learning: 1. El español es un buen idioma! 2. Rejectioñ no fearino!

Rejection 72 - What The Worst Salesman Looks Like

"Whatever you are, be a good one." - Abraham Lincoln "Whatever your life's work is, do it well." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart." - Colossians 3:23

The "whatever you" quotes have been serving the perfectionists in us very well. However, the curious part of my mind has always been wondering - what if I take this wisdom and do the complete opposite, and try to be as bad as possible in what I do?

Fortunately, rejection therapy gave me the opportunity in doing just that. At SXSW, I tried to be the worst promotion salesman possible. Would people reject my pitch?

I had a plan, and it worked, but only briefly. During my third encounter, the person wanted the product/service no matter how bad I was. Once it happened, my mentality switched. My desire to be successful took over, and there was no turning back. I started trying to promote and sell.

Also, since I was as honest as possible in explaining that I didn't know much about the product, it might have helped my pitch. In the world of everyone trying to assure everyone and sugarcoat everything, a little honesty could be refreshing, if not effective.

Learning: 1. Sometimes no matter how bad the sales person is, the prospect might really need the product/service. This ought to give those in sales some hope.

2. Be honest in our pitches. There is the famous example of Avis' using "We are #2 but we try harder" as a campaign motto. Its honesty help to build the long-term trust between the company and its customers.

Rejection 71 - Change Coffee Shop's WI-FI Password

"Stupidity talks, vanity acts" - Victor Hugo

"Stupid vanity sells" - Jia Jiang (just made up)

If people and corporations are willing to spend money buying vanity license plates or stadium naming rights, I wondered why coffee shops don't sell Internet passcode to vain individuals or businesses with mis-allocated marketing budgets? Think about it, you walk into Starbucks, log in to WI-FI network, and are forced to type the passcode "JustDoIt". Guess when next time your tennis shoes are worn out, which store will you go?

Before I sell this idea to Starbucks for $50 million, I went to a famous local coffee shop called Dominican Joe, trying to convince the barista to reset their WI-FI passcode for me as a rejection session.

As I mentioned in the video, Dominican Joe's owner contacted me a couple of months ago on a sports message board call Clutchfans, asking if I could do a rejection session in his store. So I did.

This was probably the most confident feeling I had for a rejection session, mainly because I had the permission from the owner. Also, the barita lady was fantastic to chat with. She was engaging and curious. When she heard my request, she gave a big smile and asked why.

Being a huge fan of the word 'why', I always use the word when people reject my requests. It let's me understand the underlying reason for a rejection, so I can negotiate  and address that reason.

Moreover, when people ask me 'why' before saying 'yes' or 'no' to my request, I feel being respected, and I always enjoy having the opportunity to explain myself.

Learning: 1. Confidence comes easily when I have an ally from the other side. 2. Using the title of Simon Sinek's famous book, always Start with Why.

Rejection 70 - Get a Discount at Target

Yesterday, I tried to buy fresh oranges from Jamba Juice. Not only the manager agreed to sell me for $0.25 each, he quickly consented to $0.20 after negotiation, and then gave them to me for free after failing to use my credit card due to a power outage. Other than again demonstrating great customer service, this episode also prompted me to ask two questions: 1. The manager set the initial price to be $0.25. Did he simply come up with a number or is it based on market value? What is the value for an orange at a grocery store?

2. I negotiated $0.05 (20%) off his asking price of $0.25. If I do that at a grocery store, will I be rejected?

To answer these questions, I tried to replicate my Jamba Juice experience at Target by asking Target employees for a discount on oranges.

The result wasn't surprising - my negotiation session quickly became a rejection session. Trying to find out why, I came up with a few theories:

1. At Jamba Juice, neither the manager nor I knew market price of an orange. Without any benchmark, he priced it at $0.25 and settled at $0.20. We both came away happy.

2. My experiences of working at Dell told me that Target, on the other hand, prices products based on either cost, profit margin or competitive analysis. The price of an orange came out at $0.69, almost three times that of Jamba Juice.

3. There is usually less negotiation room at places that are: a. specialized in selling the particular product b. not known for allowing negotiation. That's why I hit open arms at Jamba Juice and a wall at Target. I wonder what would have happened had I tried to negotiate smoothie prices at Jamba Juice.

4. On a personal level, Jessica and Daniel from Jamba Juice laughed at my jokes, while Lakeisha and Joel from Target didn't... Maybe I simply weren't as funny, or they perceived my jokes differently. Either way, my humor had different effects on two sets of employees.

Learning: Rejection could happen for a myriad of reasons. Just because one place or one person says no to a request, it doesn't permanently invalidate the request or the requestor. Sometimes, we simply need to try somewhere else, or ask a different person. We might, and probably will, get very different answers.

Rejection 69 - Buy Fresh Fruit From Jamba Juice

When we go to a restaurant, we don't buy poultry and ground beef, but fried chicken and burgers instead. When we go to a liquor store, we don't buy grape and barley, but wine and whiskey instead. Can I buy raw ingredient at places that sell prepared food? To get the answer, I went to a local Jamba Juice store and asked to buy fresh fruit, looking to get rejected.

Not only I walked into a store without power, I walked into one that offers what I requested - $0.75 a banana. As a competitive guy, who never wants to be rejected or accepted with ease, I moved the goal post, again and again. My request progressed like this:

Buy fresh fruit -> Buy orange -> Buy orange at 20% discount (from $0.25 to $0.2)

The results: I got five oranges at Jamba Juice for free, because the register had no power.

Much credit to the Daniel and Jessica, who wouldn't reject me no matter what I tried. That's great customer service from a company with great product (again, I love the their juice). It never ceases to amaze me how eager some companies want to please their customers, and some don't.

Moreover, I wonder if I could negotiate a 20% price reduction this easily at a grocery store, and I want to follow up with this request tomorrow.

Learning: Nothing new today. I already know that great customer service can make me extremely happy and make rejection requests extremely hard.

Rejection 68 - Exchange Secrets with Strangers

The word 'secret' has a latin root - sēcrētus, meaning hidden. Can I walk up to strangers asking them to reveal something they have hidden? To make it fair, I offerred to reveal my secrets to them as well.

I am not surprised that I got more rejections than acceptances. In fact, I am extremely surprised that anyone was willing to take up my offer at all. Looking back, I can only guess what would have happened had I not offered to reveal my secret to them first. Analyzing the video, I would bet that the gentleman in UPS uniform was willing to reveal his secret of once being a bad kid, partly because I first offered my secret of once being a bad student.

In one of my all-time favorite books - Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the author Rober Cialdini described the first rule of influence as 'Reciprocity', meaning giving something to someone before asking for a favor in return. People are more likely to return the favor.

Learning: When asking something audacious, try offer something similar first. It is a great way to treat people and make friends, to ease the uncertainty for the other party, and to invoke the influence of 'reciprocity'.

Rejection 66 - Rejection for Everyone

I was invited to host a workshop on rejection for the Las Vegas Downtown Speakers Series, during which I shared my experience and learnings, and challenged everyone to do what I am doing - rejection therapy, at the end of the workshop. My challenge was simple - in 15 minutes, get as many rejections as possible in downtown Las Vegas. This was my first rejection workshop, and I was debating whether to have this challenge. I questioned in my head - "would people feel comfortable going into public and make crazy requests to strangers? What if they reject my challenge?"

Something strange happened. Whenever the word 'rejection' appears in my mind, it's almost like I were Popeye and I just ate spinach. I somehow force myself into the super fearless mode to make these outrageous requests. It's funny how a word that is normally associated with negative feelings can now be my power.

To my surprise, not only everyone did it, they all had fun and were thankful that I challenged them. The consensus was that while learning about rejection in a classroom is good, you only learn by going out of your comfort zone and put the knowledge into practice. Moreover, a few attendees also told me they were hesitant, but seeing how everyone else stood up and went out for the challenge encouraged them to follow suit.

Learning: 1. Switching mindset and associating smaller tasks with larger context can be a power tool in our daily tasks. In my case, challenging a group could be intimidating, but making a "rejection attempt" felt much easier. After all, I do this everyday.

2. When taking on a daunting challenge, consider doing so in a group. The support and encouragement from our peers sometimes can be much more effective than any courage we can muster by ourselves.

3. We can gain knowledge about life skills in a book, workshop or classroom. It's only when we practice what we learned, we would benefit the most. Renowned psychiatrist William Glasser famously described:

“We Learn . . . 10% of what we read 20% of what we hear 30% of what we see 50% of what we see and hear 70% of what we discuss 80% of what we experience 95% of what we teach others.”

I couldn't ask the attendees to teach others, but at least they experience it. If you enjoy the idea of using rejection therapy to gain confidence and communication skills, you should make a commitment to practice it too.

Rejection 65 - Sleep at Mattress Firm

Before we buy cars, we do test-drives. Before we buy sunglasses, we stare at ourselves in mirrors. Before we marry someone, we date, fight, make up and go to Disney World. Our lives are filled with examples of trying something out before making a final commitment. However, there is one important and expensive item we never try adequately before buying - mattresses. Yes, we lay on them for 5 minutes trying to see if our spines are still straight afterward. However, no one buys a mattress to stare at the ceiling. We buy it so we can spend 1/3 of our day on it in a blissful slumber. If we really want to see how a mattress would fit our lives, we should take a real nap on it. Will a mattress store allow me to do a full test-drive?

Teresa said 'absolutely' without any hesitation, and agreed to wake me up in 10 minutes. However, just like in movies, the man wakes up, the woman is gone.

When asked, the other sales person confirmed that I was the only one who has ever asked to sleep in his mattress store. Moreover, he was also surprised that no one else has ever made that request.

This made me ask the question - why not? We eat in restaurants, we read in bookstores, but we never sleep in mattress stores. Is the idea of losing conscious in a public place the reason? Or is it the fear of being rejected for making a self-perceived 'outrageous' request? I don't know. But what I do know is that I don't want to purchase then haul a $4,000 mattress home, sleep and wake up in neck pain, and have to return that mattress. I think we should all sleep at mattress stores. Or, the mattress store should host after-lunch nap hours or lock in parties. We could all benefit.

Learning - Some requests are extremely rare but also very legitimate, that even the requestees wonder why no one makes those requests. This reminds me of a quote from Robert Kennedy - "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?". Let's all ask more why-nots.

Rejection 64 - Work at a Whataburger Drive-Through

The manager smiled, said no with courtesy, and gave good reasons to both of my requests. That's the essence of good customer service - gaining fans regardless of the outcome.

Also, watching this video, I found that the manager only mentioned they weren't allowed to have people behind the counter. He didn't say the source of that rule. However, while in the restaurant, I remember him mentioning the food law as the reason for the refusal, which was the reason when I was refused to make my own sandwich.

I believe the discrepancy between my memory and reality was due to my associating the reason for the current refusal to an earlier one. In another word, at that moment, I didn't hear the Whataburger manager's voice, I heard the Subway employee's words in my head - "no, the food law and government won't allow this". So, did Whataburger refused me because of the government, the company, the store, or the manager himself? Too bad I didn't find out.

Learning:

1. Great customer services is more about attitude and respect than outcome. If we have to say 'no', say so with genuine smile and a good reason.

2. In negotiation and conversation, the ghost of the past often creeps up without us knowing, causing an automatic association that could be inaccurate, if not detrimental to our success. We need to listen to the other person, not the voice in our own head.

Rejection 63 - Evil Queen and the Six Snow Whites

No matter where you are from, you were probably taught not to take snacks from strangers at a young age. It doesn't help that poisoned candy myths are very prevalent in the world. Moreover, apples have very special meaning in our culture, whether it's Adam and Eve's temptation, Isaac Newton's inspiration, or the popular computer company that is richer than the US government. One of the favorite fairy tale in the world is Snow White, whose experience with apple didn't go too well.

I wanted to see if I could combine all these emotions and re-enact the Snow White scene, by offering apples to random adults.

I became hopeful after the first encounter, then felt disappointed after four consecutive rejections. I shouldn't have, since in rejection therapy, a rejection is a win. However, after an initial acceptance, my expectation changed and thus the feeling after a rejection.

In the end, acceptance or rejection, I wanted to engage in a conversation so I could understand the underlying reason. Fortunately, the last lady crammed more words in a two-minutes conversation than the population of Vatican City. Because of that explanation, it confirmed my hypothesis that grownups don't want to take food from strangers for the same reason that children do. For that, I really appreciate her honesty.

Learning: 1. The feeling after a rejection often has a lot to do with expectations. Rejection blended with disappointment could be a nasty drink to swallow. That's why rejection therapy is a great tool for life, because it get you used to the taste with non-critical requests, so you aren't afraid to make critical requests despite the emotional aftermath. 2. Getting to know the non-BS reason for a rejection is often liberating, because it lights a path for future improvement for the rejectee. That's why I often advocate that we need to be both kind and honest when giving rejections. The "it's not you, it's me" line is more a cop out than kindness.

Rejection 62 - Sell Cookies For the Girl Scouts

Like many people, I am very uncomfortable when someone is trying to sell me something. However, when it comes the Girl Scouts, my guard automatically dissipates, because the sales people are none other than young girls. Even if they do charge me $4 for a box of cookies, I am sure it is for a good cause. Now, can I be a girl scout? Would they allow a 31-years-old guy, rather than young girls to sell cookies? If they do, would people buy from me? To find out, I volunteered to be that salesman for the Girl Scouts.

I always try to learn something new from every rejection, whether it's food sanitation rules or the honesty of computers. Today, I again learned something new - I don't have to be a young girl, or a female at all, to be a girl scout!

Had I not forced myself to ask that question for my rejection attempt, I probably would have never known that fact. I should have learned not to be surprised by now, since I already learned things such as sitting in the driver seat of a police car doesn't necessarily lead me to handcuffs, and Starbucks allows me to set up private printer stand. Does that mean I can also meet the governor or sit in random high school classes? Well, I can never find out if I put the limitation in my mind and don't ask.

Learning: Bruce Lee once said "If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them..." I can't believe I am learning these things through rejection therapy.

Rejection 61 - Plant a Flower In Someone's Yard

Whether you are a door-to-door sales person, a Mormon missionary, or a campaign fund-raiser, knocking on strangers' doors is a required skill. It could also be very scary for the non-professionals, because you don't know what will show up when the door opens, whether it's a smiley face, or something unpleasant if not downright scary. Then I wondered, instead of knocking to ask for something, what if I simply offer something that's almost universally welcomed, such as planting a flower in their yard? It also defies their expectation of a solicitor. Will people welcome me with open-arms, or reject me with stiff-arms?

This is the first time that I do garden work for strangers for free, and be this happy... In fact, this is the first time I am happy about doing garden work, period. It simply is not my cup of tea. However, I learned that Connie loves roses, and what I did really made a contribution to their yard.

Also, this is my third time knocking on doors. Previously, I tried to play soccer in someone's backyard, and to join a random Superbowl party. I didn't get shot or even rudely rejected in any of these attempts. Again, we often think of the sensational worst outcomes, but reality is often much more benevolent. In her famous TED talk on fear, Karen Thompson Walker explained how fear can force us into wrong decisions... very wrong decisions.

Learning: 1. With the right attitude and intention, knocking on doors isn't as scary as we think. That's why it's happening everyday and everywhere. 2. Fear often makes us reject ourselves before someone else can reject us. Just like how suicide rate dwarfs homicide rate, self-rejection happens much more often then rejection from others.