by Carl Kruse
Some years ago I was in a darkened theater in Portland, Oregon, as part of a conference whimsically called The World Domination Summit. The advertised aim was to wrestle with the question, “How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” A friend had spoken well of the summit, so I decided to go, traversing the USA from Miami to Portland, all the while thinking if the conference was a bust I would connect with other Pacific Northwest goodness. Portland and Miami are as far apart geographically as they are in vibe, which made the decision easy, as I’m always happy to go far, get turned upside down and in the tumult see the world (and perhaps my place in it) with different eyes.
The yearly summit is organized by a fellow named Chris Guillebeau, who has carved out a niche in the self-improvement milieu having written books such as The Art of Nonconformity, The $100 Startup and Born for This. He also maintains a blog tackling issues from what to do with your life to how to be remarkable (see https://chrisguillebeau.com).
(Side note: the 2020 WDS gathering, which was to be the last one, was postponed because of Covid, then postponed again in 2021 and finally took place June 21-26, 2022. See the WDS homepage for details).
Back to the summit. So, the conference attracted 3,000 people and featured presentations by Gretchen Rubin on happiness, Nancy Duarte on what great speeches have in common, Clare Bowditch sang “Amazing Life,” and Don Miller gave a memorable account of living a life you are proud of.
Then there was Jia Jiang, a fellow who came to discuss an experiment in fear and rejection. Jia said he was shy and that the fear of being rejected oppressed him, making him unhappy and stressed. With the idea of improving his situation, he hatched a plan to undergo 100 days of "rejection therapy” in which he would make outlandish requests to total strangers, requests sure to elicit absolute rejection, all with the aim of being laughed at, chased away, and receive an avalanche of no’s and scorn, and by so doing fortify himself to rejection. What where some of the requests? Stopping policemen and asking if he could drive their patrol cars. Knocking on strangers’ doors requesting to play soccer in their backyard. Going to a private airport and seeing if he could fly someone's plane.
And so he did just that. He went about asking policemen if he could drive their patrol cars or if he could play soccer in someone’s backyard. And something strange happened as Jia went about his “therapy.” Instead of getting lampooned, people often said yes to his crazy requests. And he discovered something unexpected - if you ask for something, just ask, chances are you might get it.
Here's Jia as he told his story at the World Domination Summit:
How much does fear weigh on you? Might you find like Jia did that people will help if you just ask?