The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

Meet Nelson, Coupland, and Alice — the faces of tomorrow’s book. Watch global design and innovation consultancy IDEO’s vision for the future of the book. What new experiences might be created by linking diverse discussions, what additional value could be created by connected readers to one another, and what innovative ways we might use to tell our favorite stories and build community around books?

I find these explorations into the future of things both fascinating and saddening. Because they never come true. They are at once a thoughtful exploration of what could be – based on what we know of current desires, interests and trends. At the same time, they are often not “out there” enough or require large changes in people’s behaviors to be successful.

For instance, does anyone really thing that fiction writers (besides Cory Doctrow and Rick Rordian) are going to adopt “non-linear” narratives? It’s hard enough to write compelling regular narratives, much less something that requires clues, text messages, photos, etc.

But anyway, they are still fun to watch and interesting to think about, especially when it comes out of a design shop as awesome as IDEO.

NOTE: The Rejection Therapy iPhone app just came out. Now you can access a plethora of rejection ideas and stay on track with your challenge with your phone! Get it here.

Today marks the end of the 30 day Rejection Therapy Challenge that I, rather abruptly, decided to embark upon a little over 4 weeks ago [1].  It’s been a pretty epic journey.

In Week 1, I got my feet wet with some silly and meaningless rejections. In Week 2, I was more bold and asked for some rather unorthodox things – some of which I got, many I didn’t. In Week 3, I got serious. I didn’t want this turning into “what kind of crazy things will Jason ask for next?”

This week, I want to be reflective. I’ll recap some more of my rejection & rejection attempts, share what’s happened since I started all this and offer some lessons I’ve learned. And plug the seriously awesome Rejection Therapy Cards.


The last two weeks I’ve focused on getting more “meaningful” rejections, aka rejections for things I really wanted or wanted to offer. This means that there are less “silly” rejections (though still a few) but I think they better served the goal of this challenge.

  • I walked down my street a couple days and said “Good Morning!” to everyone I walked passed. A lot of people totally blew me off.
  • One time I even carried a bucket of candy and offered it to people – which very few people took me up on. [2]
  • I met a guy on Caltrain who worked on the freight trains that ran from South San Francisco and asked if he’d let me ride in one of the box cars sometime. Nope
  • Someone asked me for directions and I offered to walk them there – but they didn’t need it.
  • I asked a coffee shop if I could get a photo of myself pretending to make coffee and they let me do it! Then I asked if I could check out their upstairs office – and they turned me down.
  • I offered the seat next to mine to a guy who was squatting on the stairs on Caltrain but he didn’t want it.
  • I was playing undercover capture the flag and I asked some of the opposing players if they could NOT tag me. Nope.
  • I asked the bartender at Chevy’s if he could personally make me the “Guac-My-Way” gucamole. Apparently it wasn’t in his job description.
  • I told a few friends about a web app idea I had – and they both flat out rejected it. They didn’t think it was helpful or that anyone would use it. [3]


I originally called these “rejection attempts” but really they’re more like places where I was maybe apprehensive and could have gotten rejected. The list is as important, if not more, as the list of rejections. You learn to get more comfortable requesting help and doing things that you normally would shy away from. Sometimes you can be surprised by what people are willing to offer up.

  • On various occasions, I asked people to help me do things in the gym like move weights, work in on a piece of equipment, etc
  • I asked if I could borrow my friend’s brand new car and he was cool with it.
  • I invited someone I had recently met to a house party.
  • Even though I’m not signed up for the special treatment, I got free towels from the gym on several occasions.
  • I put my arm around a girl I like and she leaned in.
  • I asked the waitress for the pepper grinder after she “peppered” our table and she let me keep it.
  • I asked if I could get a ride down to LA for Thanksgiving and I got the thumbs up.


Rejection Therapy has really captured a lot of people’s interest – it certainly got mine. As some of you have noticed, these posts have gotten traction and sparked discussion on Hacker News. A lot of people have emailed me saying they want to do the challenge. The Facebook group is getting pretty interesting. I was put in touch with a reporter from SF Chronicle who is doing a story on it. Jason Comely (the creator of Rejection Therapy) and I are even starting a podcast (episode 1 here).

The whole thing has been really awesome and aside from a few people who now think I’m a total nutcase, it’s been really positive. I’m glad I gave it a shot and I only hope my experiences can inspire more people to push their boundaries and try things they otherwise wouldn’t.


Fear of rejection was once very important to our well-being. Human beings lived for hundreds of thousands of years as tribes of hunter-gatherers.  If you found yourself rejected by your tribe/village, you were most likely going to freeze or starve to death. There was a good reason to be afraid of it.

Rejection today is much more benign. If a girl decides not to give you her number, if a college doesn’t admit you, if your raise request isn’t granted, so what? Nothing dramatically bad will happen to you. Your ability to live a happy and successful life is virtually unimpeded.

The idea behind the Rejection Therapy is that life much more open-ended that many people think. If you have an idea – try it. If you have a question – ask it. If you have a desire – pursue it. [4] The downside is relatively low, but the upside could be massive.

I’m also more ok about asking for help.

I love to help others but I often avoid asking for help. This isn’t really due to a fear of rejection, but the challenge has made me more comfortable with asking for things I need. People get satisfaction from helping others – so why not give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves?

Ultimately the challenge has helped me take things less personally.

I realized that people rejected me not because there was something fundamentally wrong with me as a human being, but because they just weren’t interested in the offer I presented them. The rejection is probably 20% about the content of my offer and 80% about their mindset, current situation, and other factors way outside of my control.

So go ahead and get rejected. I dare you. Some awesome things just might happen.


[1] (started the Challenge rather abruptly) I have to give a shout out to my friend Christine, who is the reason I first discovered and thought to try Rejection Therapy in the first place.

[2] (giving away candy) Though I ended up giving most of it away to a homeless guy towards the end.

[3] (rejecting my web app idea) You might say that they didn’t reject ME, they rejected MY IDEA. But really, part of the lesson here is that people are almost never rejecting you as a person – as a human being. They are rejecting your offer/actions/request. And you don’t have to take that personally.

[4] (if you have a desire – pursue it) And if you want help doing Rejection Therapy, let me know. I’m not going to reject you. =) Email me (jasonyshen[at]gmail[dot]com) and let’s talk. Oh – and get the cards too.

I’ve got some sets of names I’d name my sons as they’re born. They’re unconventional names – Cosimo Marshall or Aurelius Marshall if the boy’s mother was Italian, Zhuge Marshall if he was Chinese. The boy will likely get teased.

That’s fine, tease back.

But son, as soon as someone puts their hands on you, they’ve crossed a line. Fuck them up. It’s the only thing these vicious freaks understand. They’re wild animals. They make violence on you, you need to show them that you’re the stronger, bigger animal. When someone attacks you maliciously for no reason, you need to impose your will on them.

Sebastian Marshall – Blogger, Strategist

This weekend I was part of a covert operation. Our mission? To infiltrate the Westfield Mall and play a secret game of Capture the Flag (CTF). Hosted by the awesome guys at Big New Ideas & some of their friends, this game involved custom blue/red CTF hand stamps, a ton of mass-texting to coordinate plans, 3 red and blue triangular stickers (the “flags”), jails and guards to watch prisoners and referees to watch for running or shouting.

The operation was a success.

Blue team was at one point ahead 2 flags to 0 but got greedy and mass rushed the last flag too early. Almost everyone got tagged out and had to wait in jail for next auto-jailbreak (which were every 30 mins). The remaining Blue team members couldn’t defend against the rest of the Red team and lost it. Everyone then went out for beers.

Besides being a fun activity, it was an educational one too. Here are a couple things to take from it.

Creation-based fun > Consumption-based fun

Playing undercover CTF cost me nothing – the only thing I had to pay for were all the texts we’d get from other team members. Organizing the whole thing and getting all the materials cost less than $50 total.

Using your imagination and creating a fun time for yourself is much more rewarding than just trading money for entertainment. It was ironic that we were at a mall as we were spending less money than everyone else there while likely having a much better time. Try to make your fun, and buy less of it.

Offbeat activities are great ways to meet new friends

This is a pretty random game, but it attracts the right people. It was marketed mostly online through social networking sites and so it got the attention of techie folks who loosely knew each other and were willing to try something new and perhaps slightly disruptive(as mall security is always something to watch out for). I didn’t know most of the people who played but they are all cool people that I’d want to be friends with.

When you bring a group of strangers together to do something a little off-beat, chances are they’re more likely to get along with each other than if the activity was generic. Firstly, because more people like “regular things” and that dilutes/broadens the group while weird things narrows the kind of people that come – in a good way. Secondly, the act of doing something off-beat brings people closer together because outsiders can’t really relate to those experiences.

Sometimes the best defense is no defense

This was the Blue team’s strategy this game. Last time we had people defending each flag and we realized that having guards actually tips off the other team on where to look. This year we only guarded one flag and let obscurity hide the other flags in plain sight.

Are you trying to protect something? Your ego, a new feature, a relationship? Sometimes the best way to protect something is to leave it alone and not draw any attention to it. It can slip right by any threats unharmed. Which brings me to my next point…

If you act like you know what you’re doing…

… people will often let you do your thing. There must have been security guards who saw us hovering over certain areas, texting like mad, “tagging out” people, and peeling flags of walls and walking really fast. But we didn’t act guilty or pretend we were sneaking around, so we weren’t questioned. This technique of looking totally sure of oneself was also frequently employed by successful flag stealers.

This advice applies to pretty much anything in life. I’m not saying that domain expertise isn’t important or that you can succeed in spite of poor judgement. But I am saying that once you decide to do something, acting very sure of yourself and carrying on like you know what you’re doing is a “force multiplier” (as Colin Powell would put it) for achieving your objectives.