There’s a lot of fear within entrepreneurship—and it’s no wonder. Ultimately, you’re responsible for everything that happens within your company, from sales and marketing to legal and tech support. Not to mention the big fear of going it alone into unchartered waters where you’re doing things out of your comfort zone.
So how do you deal with fear? One of my responsibilities when I was an editor for another business publication was to oversee the internship program. For many of the interns, if not most, it was their first post outside of the school paper; and I wanted to make sure they got real-world experience. One of the responsibilities I pushed a lot was having them get more information about businesses we may have been interested in. This required them to pick up the phone and make call after call to small and large business CEOs who could have sales in the tens of millions or more.
For someone who was green or not particularly gregarious, talking with corporate big wigs could be an intimidating assignment. Over the months of their internship, however, most soon figured out that on the other end of the phone were regular people just like them. They had to repeatedly tackle that fear head on, day after day, until they forgot what they feared in the first place.
I thought about this when I came across the blog of Jia Jiang, http://www.entresting.com. According to his blog, Jiang has a start-up technology company, Hooplus, and was rejected by an investor last November. He wrote that his fear of rejection was holding him back so he wanted to tackle fear head on. To do this he began Rejection Therapy. For 100 days Jiang is recording himself and posting video as he approaches strangers to make odd requests that have a high chance of rejection. For example, he has asked a Toys R Us employee to race him on a kids bike through the store, he asked a cop if he could sit in the driver’s seat, and he has requested a free room at a hotel.
Jiang is currently less than halfway through his 100 day quest, but he has already acknowledged that the sting of rejection has subsided. Ultimately, it is his goal to become desensitized to the fear of rejection. Part of what’s helping Jiang is the expectation or at least the strong likelihood of rejection and failure.
Not that anyone should strive for rejection and failure, but it’s important to get your mind right that being rejected isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. I remember when I was in journalism school that a professor once told the class that getting a rejection letter from an editor was a great sign—it meant you were close to acceptance and were interesting enough to have their attention. I remember how having that perspective changed my reaction when I received my first rejection letter from a major publisher after I had graduated.
Entrepreneurs run into uneasy challenges all the time, but it’s that process that breeds greatness. If launching a business were a simple task, everyone would be a success. The beauty of facing your fears is how it forces you to grow. Put best by American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”