Rejection Attempts

Rejection 85 - Rejections in a New York Minute

I stayed in New York City for two days. By day two, I have experienced a full-set of casual rejections, from restaurants refusing to let me charge my phone on their premise, to ferry boats not allowing me to take pictures on deck. I realized that in a big city where people from all over the world visit and ask for resources and opportunities, rejection is a much more common occurrence than in Austin. Before I got dispirited and started disliking New York City as a whole, I thought about applying the principle of Rejection Therapy and take a negative part about life and have fun with it. Therefore, I came up with this challenge for myself – how many rejections can I fit in a New York minute?

In Triumph of the City, author Edward Glaeser found that cities’ population density is positively correlated with per capita productivity and wage growth. In another word, the more people a city holds, the richer each person in that city gets. The hypothesis is that more people lead to more innovation and collaboration. Then I had this thought come to my mind – what about rejection? My New York City experience told me that having more people might lead to having more rejections. Does having more rejections make people tougher and more innovative, since getting an acceptance now requires more work and better ideas? I don’t know the answer, but it is an idea worth exploring.

Learning: 1. When feeling down with a negative part about life, try turning the table and have fun with it. It might be the medicine needed.

2. If you live in a big city or work in a tough profession, where rejections are more common, consider it a blessing rather than curse, since it raises the barrier of entry and force you to work harder. Once you get an acceptance, it would be easier to thrive.

Rejection 84 - Draw Portrait of Strangers (with Dom Rabrun)

On streets filled with strangers, I have learned that people don't always accept money or trivial services from others. However, what if the services offered are artistic and personal in nature, such as drawing their portraits. Would people more likely to accept or reject it? To find out, an emerging artist - Dominick Rabrun and I set out to do this rejection request. For background, Dominick is a DC based artist who has reached out to me to interview and draw me at the same time. He has also experienced many rejections in his project to interview people and was looking for some advice. In this video, prepare to be amazed by what Dominick did:

Looking back, I don't know how many of us would say 'no' to his request, since having one's portrait drawn feels like an enormous honor, in both modern and ancient times. There is a reason royalties and politicians from the past all entertained paintings and sculptures of themselves.

In a way, because of his artistic skills, Dominick possesses the persuasive power that 99% of us don't have. However, why did he still receive many rejections with his interview request? What can he do to increase his success rate?

Based on my learning from 100 Days of Rejection Therapy, here are three suggestions for Dominick to try:

1. Focus actions over outcomes, as described at 2'07 of the above video.

2. Start with why, as described at 2'25 of the above video.

3. Find a picture of the potential interviewee using Google Image, draw an unfinished version of the portait, and send it to him/her along with the interview request. Make it clear that the interview would be to complete the unfinished portrait, rather than to start a new one. Studies have shown that people are much more willing to continue and finish an existing effort than to start a new one.

Just like Dominick, we all have something special about us. It might not be artistic skills, but could be cooking, humor, swimming, talking to people, honesty, diligence, creativity... or rejection. We can all draw inspiration from this video:

Rejection 83 - Exchange Rejection for Smile in DC

Many times people write me suggesting how I would experience rejections differently in various parts of the world, or even in different areas within the United States. My Brazilian friends told me that there is no way I could carry out this project in Brazil, because people would say 'yes' to everything, while my NYC friends would draw the same conclusion, but reasoning that New Yorkers would deny every request I throw their way. To test out the hypothesis that Rejection Therapy would induce different results in different parts of the US, I took a trip to the East Coast, aiming to experience it myself.

My first stop - Washington DC, where I met Massoud Adibpour, the founder of the remarkable project - Make DC Smile. Our goal was to recruit strangers to hold up signs in order to cheer up DC commuters. Would people join our quest?

When people reject me when I try to make them happy without ulterior motive, it would be easy to take the rejection personally. However, by focusing on my own actions (waving signs with enthusiasm) rather than the outcome (getting a honk), I could care less about how others react. I was trying to make people happy, and therefore I was happy. By my action, the total happiness index of Washington DC went up, and that's all it mattered.

Also, when I recruited strangers to join, most said no. I could relate to people fundraising for non-profit organizations who are frustrated by the lack of interests, especially if they believe deeply in their causes. However, I learned that no matter how noble the cause, not everyone shares my passion and belief. Even if they do, they have the right to say 'no' because of their own circumstances and reasons. All I need is to find those who do share my belief and are willing to help me.

Lastly, Massoud offered to help a walking-by family to locate their destination before asking for a favor. And he got it. Sometimes by helping others, we are more likely to receive help in return.


1. No matter how noble your cause is, focus on your own actions rather than the outcome.

2. Allow others to reject you. In fact, most people will reject you. There will eventually be people sharing your belief and therefore joining your cause.

3. Offer to help others first.

Rejection 82 - Sit On Lincoln's Lap... and More

One of the principles for my version of rejection therapy is that if I get a 'yes', my request has to be something I want to do. While in Washington DC, a few folks suggested that I ask to sit on the lap of the Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial. It sounded simple, but was really hard to execute. First of all, I can't ask Mr. Lincoln himself since the statue itself probably won't answer my request. Secondly, even if I get a 'yes' from a park ranger, would climbing on Mr. Lincoln land me in jail? Lastly, do I really want to sit on one of my favorite Presidents as if he were Santa Claus at a mall?

Just like all well-planned adventures, I wanted to have a plan B. Would I get rejections for both plan A and plan B?

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.


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.


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.

Guest Rejection by Claire Vo: Ask Someone You Professionally Admire to Coffee

I know rejection is a reality of entrepreneurship, and I am pretty well-adapted to the impersonal rejections of starting a business. However, when it comes to being personally vulnerable in learning new skills or meeting new people, I, probably like a lot of you, fear rejection. Like most fears, this one is at odds with one of my goals--to meet and collaborate with successful innovators I admire. In particular, I keep a short list of female entrepreneurs to watch and learn from; to discuss business (however briefly) with these women would be a dream.

I know Sheryl Sandberg says I shouldn’t ask these women to be my mentor, but what about a business coffee? With sxsw coming up, I thought I’d email 3 successful businesswomen and ask them to meet while they are in town.

With no email address, phone number, or friend-of-a-friend to introduce me, I figured LinkedIn would give me my best shot at a response. I cashed in my InMail credits and sent three quick notes that went something like this:

Request for expertise

Dear [fabulous entrepreneur],

I’m the founder of an Austin-based startup,, and saw that you were on the RSVP list for [this sxsw event]. I really admire what you’ve done with [your awesome company] and would love to buy you coffee when you’re in town to learn more about your experience. It’s rare to get the chance to meet a fellow female entrepreneur who has had such amazing success, and I’d be delighted if you had 30 minutes while you’re in town to chat. Also--happy to give advice on what to eat/do while you’re in town!



Response so far? Nada. Though who knows? Maybe I’ll spy a name on a badge or a nametag and get to buy them coffee or a cocktail anyway. My learnings:

1      Focus on what you did, instead of what they didn’t - Maybe I didn’t get any responses, but I took a risk and reached out in a way that felt authentic. Nothing to be ashamed of here.

2      A quick and honest “no” is a great personal and professional courtesy - This experience reminds me the importance of responding to people, even if your answer isn’t what they want to hear. Yes, even sales reps.

3      Rejection can lead to new opportunities - When I told Jia this story, he asked me to share it on his blog the very same day. If I hadn’t taken the risk, I would have never had the opportunity to share my experience with you all.


Claire Vo is the founder and CEO of Trainca.sethe only beauty community with reviews & recommendations exclusively from your friends.

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.