By Daniel Guerra, Class of 2027

Although the send-off was the most difficult part of the process, I am now finding myself safely sailing and enjoying the view. In reality, nothing major changed from my previous approach at this interview process: I persistently continued to knock on doors, send emails, and cold call, and I was faced with the same level of rejection as before. The only significant difference was my attitude: rejection began to mean nothing.

My professor and supervisor showed us a TEDTalk by Jia Jiang on Rejection Therapy. None of us knew what this video entailed, or at least I did not. The talk was about Jia getting rejected over 100 times for the most insignificant and smallest of reasons, such as asking a stranger for $100. It was a lighthearted yet emotional way to educate others on rejection: more times than not there is a reason beyond oneself when faced with rejection. Although I can attempt to say I already knew the lessons that were being taught, I had never actively employed them. I must admit I took some of the rejections personally and attempted to fix the smallest things about myself: Is my hair too long? Should I have not worn a mask? Did I intrude somewhere? Was I improper in speaking to them? And so on. But I began to ask why.

A simple question dissolved a lot of my stress; explanations began coming my way and all the points began to connect. You can’t interview? Do you care to tell me why? “Well, we are really short-staffed right now.” “I have two full-time jobs; this and my kids.” “You came during our busiest time of the day.” Rejection began to feel like part of the process, and only something to simply learn from and move on.

Aside from learning this valuable lesson, I also nitpicked on certain details surrounding these small businesses. In retrospect, my sample size is incredibly small compared to the quantity of businesses in the Rio Grande Valley, but a large percentage of my sample have benefited from disasters. One such business — a boutique cannabis store finding itself at the crossroads of a Texas Freeze, a flood, and a global pandemic — seemed to be booming each time these disasters occurred. The owner explained this trend to me: “These high stress situations naturally lead people to a business like mine, a stress reliever.” I could sense the owner felt almost guilty saying they benefited from something that damaged almost everyone across the community. The second business I interviewed was a water purifier store selling water purifier systems to the community. They initially had this as their only main source of income, but they recently decided to set up shop selling purified water and water bottles. Much like the boutique cannabis store, they found success in the face of disasters. With each high stress situation that would put at risk the livelihood of the community, the public would worry and hog essentials — water being the upmost important one.

 Both businesses provided an obvious yet largely ignored insight into the aftermath of a disaster: it will both positively and negatively affect the status quo of a community, simply depending on the business’s point in relation to the community. With this understanding, it becomes much easier to pinpoint the location of high stress areas that need help and action.

 Read Daniel’s first blog post here.

To learn more about this project and see more student and researcher’s blog posts, click here.