Jia Jiang wants to write for Bloomberg Businessweek. He has never written for a magazine and doesn’t have an idea for an article, but he still wants to see if we’ll give him a shot. After I tell him “no,” he drives to the University of Texas, Austin, where he plans to pester a professor into letting him lecture a class. In the past month, Jiang has asked a Southwest Airlines flight attendant if he could give the on-board safety announcement and a Domino’s employee if he could deliver pizzas, and he also urged an ice cream shop to invent a flavor just for him. 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. His project, 100 Days of Rejection Therapy, is based on the idea that once you’re used to the strange looks, rude comments, and outright dismissal of every thing you’re trying to achieve, you’ll be able to overcome whatever makes you nervous: speaking in public, asking a woman out, or—in Jiang’s case—seeking funding for your tech startup.
“Everybody has failures periodically,” says career coach Marty Nemko. “The people who are generally successful are the ones who bounce right back.” That applies to everyone from the intern who can’t get hired full-time to Steve Jobs, who was once ousted from his own company. “You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn,” Jobs told the Silicon Valley Historical Association in 1994. “If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.” Jiang, a particularly sensitive entrepreneur, used to be very, very afraid.