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Fear rejection? Ask for more

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Strong leaders can seem invulnerable. They negotiate from a position of strength and harness the power of their will to conquer challenge after challenge.

Yet they face fears like anyone else. Just ask Jia Jiang.

As a high school student in China, Jiang sat in awe as Bill Gates spoke to his class on a trip to Beijing. Jiang vowed to become an entrepreneur like Gates.

After Jiang immigrated to the United States, he quit a tech job in Austin, Texas, to launch a business. But when funding fell through, he was devastated. Shaken by the sudden rejection of his potential investor, he weighed whether to hunt for a new job.

Instead, he chose to embrace a new challenge: For 100 days, he dared himself to make outlandish demands and risk re­­jection. And he recorded the encounters on a hidden camera for his video blog.

Each day, he made an offbeat request of a stranger. Examples included asking a Costco manager to let him talk to shoppers over the retailer’s intercom and visiting a random company’s headquarters and asking the receptionist if he could meet with the CEO.

While many people said no, some agreed. More importantly, the experience led Jiang to sharpen his communication and negotiation skills.

As he grew accustomed to rejection, he actually gained confidence. He felt liberated to take increasingly bold risks because he no longer feared the sting of hearing no.

He’s still waiting for an answer to his 100th request: an interview with President Obama. But thanks to his video blog, he’s gained a following in social media and has written a book about his stunt.

— Adapted from Grit to Great, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, Crown Business.

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