TED Talk Transcript
Jia Jiang:  Surprising Lessons From
100 Days of Rejection

The transcript of this TEDx Talk is provided below. Usually there is a transcript and subtitles that you can turn on for Ted Talks but this was an independently organized TED event so unfortunately there's just this transcript that I transcribed myself.

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Jia Jiang

So how many of you believe in purpose in life, that you’re put on this earth for a reason? Raise your hand.

A lot of you. Good.

How many of you in the pursuit of that purpose see your dream dashed in front of your eyes? Raise your hand.

I see some hands, getting personal, thank you.

And how many of your lives got changed by a box of donuts? Raise your hand.

I see one, two, let’s have dinner together afterwards I want to hear your story. That’s awesome.

But my life also got changed by a box of donuts. Here it is.

It changed my life so much that it can be divided into before donuts and after donuts. BD and AD.

Growing up in Beijing, China, I did not want to be a revolutionary leader or a model worker. I wanted to be Bill Gates. He came to my hometown to speak when I was 14 years old.

I loved his story.

I loved the fact that he blazed his own trail and made the world a better place.

For those of you who are Mac users you might dispute that. But I love his story. I said actually I like him so much I said I’ll go where he lives.

So I came to the States when I was 16, dreaming to become a world-class entrepreneur.

Then I did all the wrong things.

I fulfilled my American Dream. I got, I got degrees, a job, a house, cars, and dogs, you name it. I got a lot…life was comfortable but deep down inside I wasn’t happy. Because I didn’t pursue my original dream.

And, when I was 30 years old and my wife was pregnant, and I felt old. And I felt I missed the boat. And this is over.

If I couldn’t become an entrepreneur when I was a single guy or a husband, how could I become an entrepreneur when I’m a father? 

But then when you marry someone courageous, amazing things happen. My wife came to me and she saw how unhappy I was.

So she came to me, saying, “We can have another house, another car, another promotion, but we cannot have any regrets.

So why don’t you go out and build your company for six months. And by the end of it, if you have no investment or traction, come to look for a job again.”

So, I said, great idea!

This is the day my son was born. Just last year. And four days before that, I quit my job to become a full-time entrepreneur.

And, I was excited. I was going to pursue my dream.

I hit the ground running, I started building a team, found a business idea we liked and I built a prototype.

Then I started looking for investment. So four months into my venture I was presented with a major investment opportunity I thought was going to take the company to the next level. And, I really, really wanted it.

I thought I was sure I was going to get it. I mean how could I not get it? I believe in destiny, dream and purpose and all that. I wanted it so bad I dreamed about it five different times.

Each time waking up thinking, “I got it!”

But uh, then reality hit.

That day came when I received an email that said, “No.” It did not tell me why I did not get it. It didn’t say how you can get a yes; just “No.” 

That rejection felt incredibly impersonal and personal at the same time. I was crushed.

One, because I wanted something so bad.

When you get rejected it really hurts.

And secondly, I was running out of time. I thought, maybe this was not meant to be. Maybe I should look for a job now instead of waiting for a couple more months.

Then, again, when you’re married to someone amazing, great things happen.

My wife came to me… she’s like a quarterback ripping the face mask off a linebacker, of an offensive linebacker who gave up a sack, saying I give you six months, I didn’t give you four. You have two months left!

Do your best and leave no regrets.

I wanted to do it but rejection really hurt and I did not want to go through the same process and get rejected again. It really crippled me.

So what did I do?

I Googled. I searched for help and I found this thing called Rejection Therapy.

It’s a game developed by this Canadian gentleman by the name of Jason Comely. We’re friends now. Where you actually go out and look for rejection.

I loved that idea. I loved it so much I said, “Oh, I’ll do this for a hundred days.”

And, I will film the process and I’ll blog about it so the world can keep me accountable to finish all of these rejections.

So I started going out and asking for some crazy stuff to get rejected.

For example, I went into a burger joint and after eating I said, “Can I get a burger refill?” instead of a drink refill.

And then one day I went to PetSmart and said, “Hey, can I get my hair trimmed like a German Sheppard?”

And just last weekend, I went to a random Super Bowl party and said, “Can I join you guys, I brought chips!

And, of course, I got rejected. But, amazing things happened. I started getting yeses. A lot more than I thought. And here are some of the yeses I got.

One day I tried to knock on a stranger’s door saying “Can I play soccer in your back yard?”

He said, “Come on in!” I’m like, “Okay!”

And one day I tracked down a police officer driving his car and I said, “Hey can I pretend to be you and drive in your car and sit there?” And he’s like, “Do it!” Alright.

And then, one day I was flying and before my flight took off I said, “Can I give the safety announcement instead of you?

They’re going to pay a lot more attention to me, trust me.” 

And he said, “Go ahead.” And of course, not everyone was happy. A couple of passengers thought, “Is he a terrorist? You know, should I tackle him now?”

But I was blown away by how kind the society was to me. I did not know that before. And then, there’s the donut. And here’s what happened.


(In car): I’m driving toward Krispy Kreme. I’m going to ask them to make me some specialized donuts and uh, we’ll see what happens.

(In Krispy Kremes).

Donut employee: What kind of specialized donuts are we talking about?

Jia:    Uh, I’d like to have uh, getting a… uh.. link the five rings together  to make them look like all the Olympic symbols.

Krispy Kreme employee: When are you looking to get these?

Jia:  Huh?

Krispy Kreme employee: When?

Jia: Uhh…  uh, the next 50 minutes?

Krispy Kreme employee: Let me see what I can do.

Jia: Okay.

Krispy Kreme employee: I tried but what do you think?

Jia: Wow. That is really good. That’s really good. Yes, alright so uh, do I pay there?

Krispy Kreme employee: Don’t you worry about it. That one’s on me.

Jia: Are you serious?

Krispy Kreme employee: Yeah.  Yeah.

Jia: Are you serious?

Krispy Kreme employee: Very. Extremely.

Jia: Wow.

Krispy Kreme employee: Extremely.

Jia: Alright. Thank you. Alright. See ya. Give me a hug. Okay.

Krispy Kreme employee: Enjoy.

Jia: Alright, thank you. See you

Krispy Kreme employee: You’re welcome.

And, so that was before donuts and now it’s after donuts.

And her name is Jackie by the way and I was blown away by the customer service but also just the human kindness she showed me.

And a lot of people shared my feeling. That video got 5 million views in a span of two weeks. And but the story did not stop at a viral video.

People started following my blog and sending me emails after emails thanking me for doing this because they all share this fear of rejection.

And, for example, there’s this actress in New York, and she told me her life’s miserable because every audition to her is almost like rejection therapy. She’s so afraid that someone else will be better than her, her life is not happy.

And then there’s this French young man, and he said, “I see the same girl at the gym for a month and I think she likes me too but I’m so afraid to ask her out because I don’t want to get rejected.”

And of course there are people sending me emails asking me to ask things for them to fulfill their lifelong dreams. I know about 6 degrees of separation and about 2 degrees of rejection, I’m not sure that works.

So, but this got me thinking. I saw rejection face-to-face. I started thinking, “What is rejection?” What is this monster that cripples us? And we all have this irrational fear about.

So I started researching, I started reading, I started talking to successful people on how… on their rejection stories. And I want to share these couple things.

One is, rejection is actually constant. I got people writing me emails saying, “I want to get a certain place in life so I won’t get rejected anymore.” That’s not true. The higher you go, the more you will get rejected.

In the lasted presidential election, President Obama got 51 percent of the popular vote. He won. But we forgot, he got rejected by half of the country. This leader of the free world; he got rejected 61 million times.

And also, rejection is just a number. And once you reach that number, a “no” will become a “yes” and you’ll become much better for it.

There’s the story of C.S. Lewis; he got rejected 800 times before he was able to sell his first manuscript. And he made himself better in the meantime. Had he given up, there would be no Chronicles of Narnia.

And then there’s Lincoln.

We’ve all heard the story of how Lincoln was rejected many times before he went through to become the president, but I’m talking about the movie Lincoln here.

The director, Steven Spielberg, he got rejected by Daniel Day Lewis three times before he was able to persuade him to become the main actor. And each time, he completely re-wrote the script. And made it better.

Now that it’s become a masterpiece, it has a good chance to win the Oscars. I might start a pool and then start betting on it … but let’s just think about it. We’re not talking about an up and comer who’s trying to become known.

Steven Spielberg. The name in Hollywood.

Coming back to my story, it’s not over yet. Actually, it just got started. I’m only 68 through my journey and there are a lot more rejections to come.

But more importantly, I’m an entrepreneur. And being an entrepreneur is about finding a problem and developing a solution for it. And I found this problem. This universal problem of people’s fear of rejection.

And I will not stop until I find a solution for it.

And whether that is through traditional media or it’s through some new technology … also you can help me, you can let me know if you have any ideas.

But, lastly, had I not, had I not put myself out there constantly, I wouldn’t have learned these two things.

One, if I open up myself to the world, the world will open itself to me. I didn’t have to do this alone.

And secondly, rejection, it could be constant, it could be painful, it could be very, very fear. But it could also be delicious and very useful.

It’s nothing but a number.

And for that, I want to thank Bill Gates and my courageous wife and also of course Jackie and her box of donuts. Thank you.

Thank you. (Applause)

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