There are a lot of books and how-to guides telling you how to deal with rejection. Some suggest positive thinking, coping strategies and visualizing for a better tomorrow. Others tell you about the serial phases like “denial”, “bargaining”, “acceptance” you’ll inevitably go through when rejected. But these are just ideas; strategies packed together by well-meaning coaches. What you do with them is entirely up to you. Jason Comely, wonderful guy and the founder of Rejection Therapy, expains how to get real with rejection — by actively seeking it. In this interview, Jason shows us how to embrace rejection so we’re more equipped for it’s sting next time. Because there will be a next time.
JASON COMELY IN FEAR.LESS
I used to avoid going out and meeting new people. I spent a lot of time working in front of the computer, wondering why I was so unhappy with my life. At that time, I was really frustrated with my inability to meet people – I couldn’t even ask a stranger for directions or talk to somebody I didn’t know at the gym. It was really difficult.
I did a lot of work alone in my home office. I have another office I share with people which gave me a little bit of a social element, but not a lot. Basically, I was one of those cubicle knowledge workers. I’d look at my Twitter following and think “Gee, I am so popular.” But deep down, I knew it was all fake.
Social networks were a replacement for meeting real people. It’s okay to be using Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook at six o’clock in the morning when you’re catching up on things, but not at six o’clock in the evening. You should actually be going out and having face-to-face conversations with people.
With some introspection, I realized the reason I was so dependent on the Internet for my social life was that I was afraid of rejection. I had two options: One, I continue to avoid rejection at all costs, which I was already doing, but it had never worked. And two, get used to getting rejected; become comfortable with it.
They say the easiest way is the hardest way, right? I picked option two. I challenged myself to get rejected every single day. And that’s how Rejection therapy — a card game that builds confidence through rejection — was born. The aim was to become aware of how irrational social fears restrict us from exploring so much more. To win, you had to lose. In other words, you had to get rejected once before you could stop playing for the day.
During this process of going out and trying to get rejected, I realized “earning rejection” was a lot harder than I thought. People wouldn’t reject me easily when I expected them to. A lot of these situations on the cards seemed like they would win me a rejection, but it hardly ever happened.
There wasn’t the drama that I had conjured up in my head. There wasn’t a resistance to anything that I expected. It was then that I knew I had really been writing off a lot of opportunities in my life. After struggling to get a “no” from a stranger, I knew it wasn’t so bad after all. It completely opened up my world to all these new opportunities.
HOW I BUSTED THE REJECTION CULPRIT
Before playing the game, I thought about it a lot: Why was I not happy? Was I always in my comfort zone? All that introspection and pondering pointed to one thing: Rejection. I knew the fear from rejection was handcuffing my life. It was crippling. But what gave power to this fear? The answer was my comfort zone. That’s what it was. Go home on a weekend and be comfortable. At the most, call up an old friend, go out and get something to eat or whatever. Stay comfortable. Opt for the comfort factor.
Opportunities presented themselves but I chose the comfortable, boring route. But as I began to look for rejection, I discovered a unique thing about my comfort zone: It was elastic. The more I pushed past the boundaries, the more it would expand.
Everyone has a different comfort zone. Some have bigger ones, while others have tighter, smaller ones. It all depends on how often and how willingly you let yourself push past the comfortable gates. If you keep at it, your zone will grow bigger to accumulate more stimulating experiences.
Jason Shen looked at the cards from Rejection therapy, and said, “Some of this stuff is easy. I can do this!” That’s because some of the cards presented a challenge he’d already taken many times. They were no longer a challenge to him. He’s got a bigger comfort zone and so striking up a conversation with a stranger is not too difficult for him. But for someone like me, such a card can send chills down the spine.
Before going up to a stranger, I’d have the whole scene playing in my head. “This guy is going to think I’m nuts. He’s going to dial the police while I’m talking to him because he’ll find me so weird.” I had all this fictionalizing, all this thinking and fear building up, even before I’d try it.
PLAYING YOUR CARDS RIGHT
Some of the cards call for working up to bigger things and conditioning for them. You don’t get into the ring with the champ right away. You’ve got to throw a jab first. Get your card out and act now. What does it say? Act on it and don’t hesitate. That’s the first thing to do: Stop thinking and just do it because thoughts and time create fear. Thoughts and time equal fear. They are the ingredients for fear. So if you take away the ingredients, you do not have fear. You just go in there and do it. That’s the easiest way, if you really want to execute and idea, just do it.
After playing for over a year, I realized that the game hardwires your mind to just go do it. Your default state becomes “do it” instead of “stop dead in your tracks”. And that’s an amazing change. The people who play the cards really get it; they see the magic of it and learn a lot about themselves.
The game is really popular with the 18-25 demographic, the college and university students and some high school students because it has a self discovery component to it. Although the game works for anyone, the 18 to 25 year-olds are the best audience. They don’t know where they stand in the world and what their capabilities are, what their potential is yet. So there’s still some groping around in their life. But even at my age, I continue to grope around.
Thomas S. Monson said, “We’re all explorers of mortality.”. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing in life: exploring and testing.
JUST ADD WATER, RIGHT?
The world seeks instant happiness, instant money, instant coffee. Well, learning from rejection is not instant. This is not a magic pill. This is not something where one day you are completely crippled with fear and the next day you’re Mister Outgoing. No; it is a process. It is a thirty day plan and as you play it, you notice that you have a momentum going, the fear becomes less and your comfort zone gets elastic and extends outwards. It’s an ongoing process. I mean, there are still times where I’m going to go for a rejection and I feel almost physically sick even after playing the game for so long. I keep reminding myself I’m getting better and better.
So, it’s gradual.
GET STRONGER WITH FAILURE
There’s a thing with Rejection therapy: You are permitted to fail. You might think, “If I ask a stranger for a ride, they will say no”. But in the therapy that’s a good thing. Get your “no” and condition yourself that you’re going to be stronger because you got that “no”. You saw whether or not something is possible. Then you’re going to have a definitive answer.
We don’t give ourselves enough permission to fail. We do not permit ourselves to experiment much. We can’t get things right all the time. Rejection therapy allows you to go in there and be in control. You’re the one out of your comfort zone. You know the different outcomes and you’re not being attached to any of them. It’s liberating on a lot of fronts and I think when people play it, things become more vibrant in their life. You feel more alive.
You can make rejection a complete triumph. You’re not attached to the outcome and you know that you’ve tried. You can’t take every opportunity that’s available to you. You’ve just got to be aware of how much opportunity there is in your life at any given time. I think there’s an element of hope there.
I don’t claim that Rejection therapy is entirely my idea. There was external inspiration involved too. But I was prepared to deliver the message. I had the web skills, the personal experience and was able to think through the whole thing. I was the one to bring forth the idea. But I don’t think I’m clever enough to do something like this on my own. It also relates to doing the work, and digging the well before you need water. When the opportunity came, I was ready for it.
I didn’t make Rejection therapy into a book, a blog or something else because a card game has an immediacy to it. It has an emotional charge to it. There’s something different when you’re reading a book about rejections and how you need to get out of your comfort zones passively on the bus. But it’s another thing to when you’re actually holding the card and it says “borrow a shirt from a stranger”. You’re holding a card and you’re in a parking lot and you’re staring at this person. You know what I mean? And you feel the fear. I think the message has really carried itself. This is a social product and the message is delivered differently than by using pen and paper; this is something that people can really live. Ultimately I designed it for me because I needed to help myself.
When you first start off, there are no plans. You’ve got your card out and you’ve got to do what it says. It could be anything. You can’t plan it. There is nothing that will work without action. Rejection therapy is only good if people actually act.
I think people know it’s out there and it gives them a hope. They say, “If things get really bad, then I’m going to get this game.” I remember there was a guy I used to work with, and he was having certain personal problems. So I mentioned a helpful book to him, “I’ll lend it to you.” He immediately picked up and was a lot happier and content. He said, “No, no. That’s all right. If things get really bad I’ll get it off you.” But just the fact that he knew that there was something out there that gave him hope made him cheer up. Sometimes hope is all people need.
COMFORT, A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
There are times when it’s okay to be comfortable. Then there are other times when you know you should be out there in the wild. You should be out mixing up with people and pushing the elastic boundary of your zone. It’s up to you to decide when it’s time to take it easy, and when you’ve got to face failure as a teacher.
The first question you must ask is, “Am I comfortable?” And if the answer is yes, then “Overall, am I happy and content with my life? Do I have everything? Because if I don’t, maybe I need to get out of my comfort zone and start tackling these things.”
Comfortable is a default state that I need to get out of, and maybe other people need to get out of it too.
LIFE GIVES CHOICES
I can choose to be destroyed by rejection. I can choose to become an alcoholic or get hooked on heroin. I can choose to live in the gutters and go down that route. There’s always choice in life and for me the story isn’t over. I think there’s still more discovery left to be done and if there’s a way I can share it with others and help them, then I will do so.
I was playing one card the other day and I had to convince a stranger I knew them. I didn’t think much (remember: time + thoughts = fear) and went up to the first stranger I could spot. It was a lady putting grocery bags in her car.
I said, “Beth! Beth, is that you?”
And she looked at me and she said, “No, it’s Barb.”
“Barb, are you sure?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Beth was my schoolmate. You really look a lot like her.”
It was a little weird, but we ended up with big smiles. At times, it’s going to be weirder than this. But like I said, we have a choice what to make out of it.
I remember a couple years ago there was a billboard in my city and it said, “Say hi for safer communities.” It’s so true. If we just said hello more often, things would be different. A lot of people, however, prefer to be in their own comfort zones.
Especially when I’m playing Rejection therapy and looking for a rejection, I’m open. Even my posture opens up, my shoulders broaden. The look on my face, my aura, everything is different and people detect that. It’s amazing. But people who want to stay in their comfort zones tighten up. It’s become their choice.
Even if you go and ask them if they need a hand with their shopping, a lot of people will give you that look which says, “You’re going to run away with my groceries, right?” People have the walls up. I’m like that too, mostly when my mind is adrift and I am thinking about something else. I am not in the present moment and I miss an opportunity to say “hello”.
It’s hard but Rejection therapy helps you take those small steps. It feels amazing to have done everything in a deck. You have to train on the little things and then get into that mindset.
You can’t play Rejection therapy when you’re just in front of the computer. You actually need to go out. Create new situations and become available for things to happen. Put yourself into a situation where there’s a high likelihood of success but do not get attached to the outcome. You’re keeping your expectations low or being cool about it, but always giving yourself the best chance to meet new people, to have new experiences and to make the connections you want and need.
There are times when I would just rather stay home and study French. But then I ask myself: “Is this what I would do if I were comfortable going out?” You have to get your butt out there. There’s something else that you could be doing right now! Just be aware of the game and the avoidance trick that your mind plays on you. Know where the pain and fear is and keep moving toward it. As the old Buddhist philosophy goes, “row towards the pain.”
Pain and fear are what we need. They point in the direction we need to go because really they’re hiding something. There’s something behind them waiting to be discovered.
Featured image by Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden.