x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

How a sensitive soul copes with rejection

Jia Jiang is a particularly sensitive entrepreneur who left his job at Dell in the United States last July to get his technology start-up, Hoopla, off the ground.

Jia Jiang embarked on a project he called
Jia Jiang embarked on a project he called "100 days of rejection therapy" so as to desensitise himself to rejection. Courtesy Jia Jiang

Jia Jiang is a particularly sensitive entrepreneur who left his job at Dell in the United States last July to get his technology start-up, Hoopla, off the ground. His wife gave him six months to make it work. In December, a major investor he had been courting opted out, leaving Mr Jiang crushed. Instead of despairing, he embarked on a project he calls "100 days of rejection therapy" - to desensitise himself to rejection.

 

No one likes rejection. This sounds painful.

The idea is that once you're used to the strange looks, rude comments, and outright dismissal of everything you're trying to achieve, you'll be able to overcome whatever makes you nervous - in Mr Jiang's case - seeking funding for your tech start-up. He makes at least one preposterous demand every day, records a video of himself doing it, and posts it on a blog at his website, Entresting.com.

 

What demands has he made?

Mr Jiang has asked a University of Texas professor to let him lecture a class; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant if he could give the on-board safety announcement; and a Domino's employee if he could deliver pizzas.

 

Is it working?

For his first rejection, Mr Jiang asked a hotel security guard if he could borrow US$100 (Dh367). The video of the exchange is uncomfortable to watch. When the guard says "no", Mr Jiang rushes away. He improves over subsequent videos and learns the art of the follow-up question. On Day 5, when he asked to tour a grocery store's warehouse, he did so several times, phrasing his questions in different ways. (The answer was still "no".) Mr Jiang has since got more confident and friendly. Now when he asks for crazy things, some people answer "yes". A Krispy Kreme employee agreed to link doughnuts in the shape of the Olympic rings.

 

Isn't this a distraction from his main goal?

It takes Mr Jiang two to three hours to complete a rejection and blog about it each day. More than 260,000 people visited his website in the first three weeks of the project. He has to make sure it doesn't cut into his real work. He still hopes to get his start-up off the ground, and his wife has agreed to let him extend the trial period.

 

And is he less sensitive?

Mr Jiang says he has new-found courage and he will find an investor. One career coach Marty Nemko suggests Mr Jiang should focus on what made the initial investor balk.

Mr Jiang has discovered that he can consistently come up with entertaining ideas - and that there may be more than one path forward. But after a month and a half of "no", "no way" and "never", Mr Jiang no longer feels the sting of that original investor's rejection. I feel like I have swagger now, he says.

 

* Bloomberg BusinessWeek