Speaking

My Talk at Google - Why Rejection Is Awesome

They say Google has the highest concentration of smart people on Earth. People there are busy organizing online information, building self-driving cars, defying death, and designing smart glasses that record video while making everyone looks like Jeff Goldblum.

So when I was invited to speak there on my learning on the topic of rejections, part of me wondered if they could relate to rejection as well as the common folks. After all, being a Googler means having been accepted to work at the mega of corporate America.

Then I thought about the fact that:

1. the more influential you become, the more likely you’ll be rejected (e.g. Barack Obama)

2. people succeed because of rejection, not in spite of rejection (e.g. Michael Jordan in high school)

3. the most influential ideas were often met with the most violent rejections (e.g. Nelson Mandela and MLK Jr.)

I told myself, “yeah, these people know rejection as well as anyone”.

In front of an audience jam-packed with brainpower, I gave my talk. After a great reception and lively Q&A session (you can fast forward to 38’. Great questions) after my talk, I knew I was right - everyone knew rejection.

Five Things I Did to Get a Standing Ovation at WDS

A month ago, I gave a keynote speech at the World Domination Summit (WDS). Standing in front of an audience of 3,000, I spoke with my heart to share my story, learning and the vision for a world without the fear of rejection. It was a magical moment. After receiving a long and emotional standing ovation, I kept getting this question from the people I subsequently met - your talk was so great, were you nervous at all?

My talk at WDS

The truth was, I was as nervous as a I could be. The stage was shared by all-star speakers and bestselling authors such as Gretchen Rubin, Nancy Duarte and Donald Miller. It was going to be tough to measure up. Before my talk, I paced back and forth in the preparation room. I tweeted that it felt like the opening scene of 8 Miles. A staff member even took pity on me and offered to teach me how to stretch, so I could calm my nerves. How could a guy this nervous looked so calm on stage?

Here are five things I did:

1. Prepare hard - nothing can substitute hardcore preparation and rehearsal, both physically and mentally. Physically, I rehearsed this talk for about 25 times. Mentally, to toughen myself up I even did a rejection session to give my talk on the street in from of strangers. At WDS, I kept telling myself, if I could connect with strangers on the street, I can connect with these people who paid to be here. If you prepare through tireless practice, you can always fall back on your experience.

2. Accept fear - The nerve kept me focused and prepared. I found that if I were too relaxed and start to feel cocky, that's when I get in trouble. So I conquered the fear by embracing it, just like what I did with rejection therapy. When you accept the fear and still do it because it is a worthy cause, that's when you are at your best.

3. Control self-talk - before a speech, what really messes people up is the negative self-talk they have in their head. I steered away from negative ones such as "what if they don't like me?" Also, I avoid any traditional positive thinking or "declarative self-talks" such as "I can do it". "I am gonna rock the audience". In his latest book To Sell Is Human, bestselling author Dan Pink talked about the power of "interrogative self-talk". So I asked myself "will I connect with the audience with my story?" The answer was an unequivocal 'yes'.

4. Love the audience - this sounds corny, but it is very powerful. Love is one of the strongest emotions in the universe. Before my speech, I talked to many attendees, learning their struggles and aspirations. I loved each one of them, and knew my message of overcoming the fear of rejection would help them. It was my duty to deliver the message in the most loving and caring way. When you love someone, it will show through the way you talk.

5. Start with 'I' - I love great speeches. One of the things that turns me off the most about a speech is when speakers start too many sentences with the word 'you'. While conventional thinking encourages us to say 'you' to make sentences meaningful to the listener, those talks would always feel like lectures and even authorities talking down on people. For me, I always like the word 'I', because I don't want to speak for others. I want to share my story and learning from my perspective, and leave it to the audience to judge. I always tell myself to remember: 'inspiration' starts with 'I'.

Is this helpful to you to overcome the fear of public speaking? Also, what is your experience with speaking?

Bonus: my hangout with speech coach Dr. Michelle Mazur:

Rejection 97 - Give a Speech on the Street

Based on my Google keyword search, there are 10 things people fear the most. On that list, I’ve already tried: #1 Fear of Flying and #3 Fear of Heights,

this entire blog is about tackling #8 Fear of Rejection,

and for now at least, I have no interest in confronting #6 Fear of Death #9 Fear of Spiders…

I want to take a shot at #2: Fear of Public Speaking.

Of course, I have done public speaking before and I have a great passion for it. However, my previous speeches were in places where people expected me to speak and were receptive to my message. What would happen I held up a sign on the street and give a speech there instead of in the auditoriums? Would people still welcome my message? The thought of that makes me want to throw up already. In fact, I might have to reconsider which is worse: public storytelling or spiders.

On my 97th rejection attempt, I made a sign and went to the streets of Austin, attempting to tell strangers my story.

As you can tell in my video, the toughest part was not the speech but the time leading up to it.

I keep shaking my head at how purely psychological fear can be. Even knowing that I shouldn't care about how others perceive me, and understanding that the worst that could happen is being ignored, the fear of being judged and rejected by strangers is still there. There was a classic book called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and that was the exact approach I took with this request. As soon as I opened my mouth and people stopped to listen, the rest was smooth sailing.

In the end, I am so glad I did it.

Learning: Sometimes no matter how hard you train yourself, the fear of rejection will still be there. However, you've strengthened yourself and minimized your enemy - fear. If you rely on the strength, and "feel the fear and do it anyway,” you will always be glad you did.

Rejection 60 [Special] - My First College Lecture

When I stumbled upon this article on regrets, I couldn't help but imagine what my life would have been if I hadn't made the decision to pursue my dream to become an entrepreneur last year. I would still be collecting paychecks and live a life others expected of me... and I would still be filled with regrets. Now, after I embarked upon my entrepreneurial journey and fought rejection with rejection, I saw many miraculous things happening in my life which I will for sure smile upon when I get old. I got a box of Olympic symbol shaped donuts, found a job in one day, got Jeff Probst to sing a song to my son, and so many more. Now, I fulfilled another life-long dream - to give a lecture to college students (background episode).

Before class started, for rejection of the day, I asked the students a very personal question - what do you fear the most, and what are you going to do about it? I thought no one was going to answer that question to a stranger without any context.

When you are fulfilling a life-long dream, you take it seriously. After researching and pondering upon the topic, I decided to use the biblical story of Apostle Paul spreading Christianity as an example of communication and rejection in social change. Based on the feedback from both students and Professor Rollins, I have connected with them very well.

Oh, and the rejection, I didn't get one! I was very surprised that more than one students chimed in on their greatest fear. I don't know the exact reason, but my hypothesis is that young people like college students are much more open to expressing their feelings than older people. After all, they haven't had to put on the façade of invincibility workplace and society have forced upon them yet.

What do you think?

Learning: In her famous TED talk, Dr. Brene Brown described the power and necessity of vulnerability. Maybe in this sense, we can all learn something from college students.

From Rejection to Magic

Yesterday, I gave a talk at TEDxAustin, sharing my story and learning about my 100 Days of Rejection Therapy. I had experiences in giving talks at meetups, companies, small conferences and churches. Also, coming from a family of teachers (my father, grandparents, uncle are all teachers), I have had the influence of public speakers since I was little. However, I had never given a talk at a stage on the level of TEDxAustin, which is probably the most highly regarded idea conference after SXSW. In attendance were the most accomplished and brightest minds in the city. During the day, the 13 speakers went before me were talking about saving the world through technology, education and art. Some of them invented things such as XBox Kinect and the Ethernet. They had titles with the words 'PhD' or 'Professor' in them. And me? I am a guy who looked for rejections after failing to land investment for my startup.

As my time slot was inching closer, my mouth started to dry up, my nose started to hurt (no idea why), and I couldn't come up with one coherent sentence when talking to my wife. Saying 'I was nervous' was the biggest understatement of 2013. I thought about fleeing the scene, mentioning my accent as an excuse, or starting my talk with a joke about the stage carpet and playing mini golf. Thank goodness, none of those happened. One thought came to my mind - hey, I am the "Rejection Guy". If I had the guts to knock on stranger's door, to give a flight safety announcement, or to dance with a waitress in the public, I can now use my teacher genes to do what I am really good at - communicating ideas. If anything, I should be the most fearless speaker of the day.

As 5:00pm hits, my time has come, and the host introduced me. I stepped on the beautifully crafted stage, and walked into the limelight and cameras. As I glanced down into the crowd, I saw a thousand faces I had never seen before. What immediately came to my mind were you guys - my dear readers and followers.

You read my blog, watch my videos and write me emails because you also share my fear of rejection. You are inspired by my journey and the people like Jackie from Krispy Kreme, Scott from Costco, and Jeff and Dana from Southwest. The people in the audience were also like you and me, governed by both pride and fear, hope and doubt. It was my duty to share this story and let them know that rejection is nothing to be feared about. It ain't about me anymore.

Then, I had an out-of-body experience. It was as if I left my body in the form of a spirit, watching this guy talking about his story. In the next 10 minutes, he was smiling, joking, pausing, nodding, and hand-gesturing. He was not fazed by the timer countdown, verbal mistakes, or anything. He knew what he was talking about, and knew exactly what to say. Ten minutes and many laughters and applauds later, it was over, and I went back into this guy's body. What I saw in front of me was a long standing ovation. I smiled, blushed, and became this incoherent and nervous guy again.

Back in November, when the investor turned me down, I could have never imagined that I would be giving a TED talk three months later. My 100 Days of Rejection Therapy has taught me hundreds of things. But if I had to pick just one thing, it was that when bad things happen, if you treat them like good things and fight forward, magic will happen later.

Rejection 50 [Special] - My Only Day at New Job

On day 34 of my rejection therapy, I went out and looked for a job, and got it at BigCommerce, an Austin-based eCommerce and web hosting company. Today, I reported for duty and had my one day employment there.

My day at BigCommerce can be described as fun, engaging and surprisingly emotional. I knew the company is a good place to work just based on my interaction with the kind and gregarious Jennifer. What I didn't know was the company's family-like culture. People were extremely hospitable to me, chatting with me about my experience and sharing why they are proud to be a BigCommerce employee. As a proponent of strong company culture, illustrated in Tony Hsieh's book - Delivering Happiness, I was very delighted to witness the pride and mission BigCommerce employees showed. Yes they are a high-growth business whose goal is to make money, but they also possess a desire to empower their customers to make them successful.

At the end of the day, the company held a All-hands meeting, where all Austin-based employees shared their news and thoughts with each other. There was one employee talked about his family going through tough times due to his wife's illness. He held back tears while describing how the company is like his family in pulling him through the hardship. I have been to many company all-hands and culture-talks, but I haven't seen anything so human and so genuine like what I witnessed that day.

If you are a business owner and would like to build an online store, I would highly recommend BigCommerce. You will be in good hands.

About rejection therapy - at the end of the day, I gave a speech on my journey, the topic of 'rejection', and good customer service. It was very well received and we all shared insights and laughters together. I also requested to have my picture to appear on BigCommerce.com. The idea was from Cori Carroll from Florida, and it was ingenious. BigCommerce actually followed through on the request and put me on their homepage.

Learning: as a business, if you are generous and genuine to your employees, they will have exceptionally high morale and pride, and bring happiness to your customers. If not, don't be surprised to be rejected by both of them.