Rejection Remedy

Rejection Remedy 2 – Fear of Public Speaking

It is often said that people fear public speaking more than death. But if there is one person who can attest that the fear of public speaking can be conquered, it would be me. Two years ago, I was a shy guy who was self-conscious about his accent and was extremely fearful being in front of a crowd. Failure had a lot to do with it: I bombed most of my speeches as a student and an employee. Even when I became an entrepreneur, I still had a really tough time with speaking in public.

Fast forward two years – now, not only do I speak all the time with ease, composure and humor, I actually do it for a living. I frequently talk at companies like Google, and conferences like the World Domination Summit. My TEDxAustin speech became one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.

Of course, I do have something to talk about now days. I lived through an unusual story, and people love to hear inspiring stories. But plenty of people with good stories and great content are still crippled by fear when delivering them. So what happened to me - the shy dude who got rejected a lot?

Well, a lot of rejection happened. More precisely, rejection training happened, especially with these two:

2. Speaking on the street

In each one of these episodes, I was honestly scared beyond my imagination. When making an announcement in front of a plane full of passengers, I thought someone was going to mistake me as a terrorist and tackle me. When doing unsolicited speaking on a street corner, I had no idea how I was going to be treated by people walking by.

However, by not retreating from these types of mentally challenging environments, and actually carrying through with my speeches, I gained the toughness and confidence that I would not have been able to obtain under any other circumstances. When I finally went on real stages with a real audience, I relied heavily on these tough experiences.

This was my speech at World Domination Summit one week after my street practice.

In his book The Obstacle Is the Way, author Ryan Holiday discussed that obstacles not only don't inhibit success, but actually create it if we respond to obstacles the right way. The same goes for public speaking, when we are put in the least welcoming environment and endure the situation with our actions, we gain enormous courage and confidence as the result.

Since you might not always have the challenging environment at your disposal, such as company presentations in front executives or startup pitches in front of investors, what you can do is to create these environments, like I did on the plane and the street. In other words, you can manufacture obstacles.

I can’t promise that you will become a professional speaker afterward, nor can I guarantee you success on Youtube. What I do know is that you will become a better public speaker in whatever you do by facing rejections head on, and use them as your tools.

Rejection Remedy 1 - Fear of Judgment

Of all the fears that affected people, the fear of judgment had both stung and stunk the most for me. This is the fear of what others will think of you, especially in a negative light. Am I portraying a lack of knowledge by asking this question at work? Am I making a bad impression by not working at night (while leaving my IM on so my coworkers can see me working)? Do I look bad in public wearing shorts to this event? If I take on this new venture, will my friends and in-laws lose respect for me?

These questions used to constantly put the fear of judgment in me, so much so that I worried about what others think of me all the time. They sapped my energy and creativity, and enslaved me to other’s opinions. This is why when I first started the 100 Days of Rejection, I was so scared and I almost threw up before I went up to the security guard asking for $100:

Link to me asking $100 from stranger

It wasn’t all about fearing to be rejected, but I feared the judgment from this guy – a stranger whom I’ll probably never meet again. I was terrified what he thought of me. Would he laugh at me? Would he call security (in this case, himself)? Would he check the nearest mental hospital to see if an Asian patient had just escaped?

These questions sounded silly, but they indeed ran through my mind. If the fear of judgment could actually make a guy sick when he was looking for rejection in the first place; if it made him almost quit in an environment where there was little risk or danger, think about what this fear can prohibit you from doing in real life situations.

Then this rejection attempt changed me:

Link to me panhandling

After panhandling on the street, I put myself in the middle of all kinds of judgment from thousands of strangers. Some people gave me money, others didn’t. It was scary at first, but liberating afterward. I learned that if I knew what I was doing, if I had a good reason, I could do anything I want without worrying about judgment. It made me brave and cool under pressure.

Why you should try it too: asking for money like a panhandler sounds crazy, but it forces you to go out of your comfortzone and develop a thick skin. You will learn that what people think of you really doesn’t matter. You are still the same person before and after. It’s what you think of yourself and what you do that really matters.

Go out and try this: ask $10 from people, and tell them why (prepare for a good and authentic reason, i.e. donating to charity). If they say NO, ask if there is anyway they would give you the money (i.e. let them decide where the money should go). Collaborate with them to make this happen. If their answer is still NO, shake their hands and say goodbye. Hold your head high and know you just kicked the trash out of your fear.

Rejection Remedy - How To Become Fearless

After 100 Days of Rejection and writing a book, I am starting a new blog series called Rejection Remedy.


Because I’ve discovered a strategy for beating all fears. It comes in the form of "rejection attempt".

This wasn't easy for me. As someone who grew up wanting to be an entrepreneur, I never believed in any sort of self-help or even business training. I thought worrying about my emotions were for the weak. Instead, I should worry about real world achievements, such as making great products that people use or inventing awesome technologies that change the world.

My mindset changed when:

1. I witnessed how much fear of failure and rejection had held me back in the first 30 years of my life. I didn’t put myself out there and stayed in the cozy comfort zone. When I had good ideas, I quickly abandoned them after someone I trusted told me how dumb they were, only to see someone else made it a wild success later.

2. I eventually went all in trying to pursue my entrepreneurial dream and rejection from an investor made me cry and almost abandon everything. It was then I realized how fragile I was in that moment.

It was apparent that fear had made a direct impact on my business and personal life. If I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur or business person I would have to develop “emotional intelligence”.

I did so by having people reject me for a hundred straight days (thanks again to my friend Jason Comely’s inspiration). After my rejection journey, I made a breakthrough. I realized that rejection isn’t something I should shy away from, but something I could use to my advantage.

By getting rejected, I learned not to give a damn about people’s opinions and judgment, and became relentless in going toward my goals. I learned that I can’t control and don't want to manipulate others’ feelings and attitude toward me, and the only thing that mattered was what I can control – my own actions, emotions and reactions.

Lastly, I learned that courage is not like height or even intelligence, which are mostly genetic. Instead, it’s like muscle, and much of which can be gained through exercise. In this case, repeatedly seeking rejection is the exercise.

This past month, I designed and hosted my first ever product – The Rejection Gym. Six brave souls took the challenge to be rejected everyday together with me for 30 days. The results were nothing short of astonishing (I will go into Rejection Gym later). I learned that I was helping people to not only overcome their fear of rejection, but fear of a lot of things – judgment, networking, failure, saying NO, public speaking… It’s like finding a remedy… or exercise to overcome fear.

As part of this series, I will tackle the most common fears and how you can use rejection attempts to overcome them. I call this series “Rejection Remedy”. Stay tuned!

Also, let me know what your biggest fear is. I will help you to beat it.