Archive for October, 2010

4 Secrets For a Strong Mind

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Mental toughness is an important characteristic in our heroes. The reality is, you and I must also be strong-minded if we are to overcome the obstacles we meet every day.

Strong Mind - barbells

Jim Rockford was a hero who pushed the limits. He was mentally tough in order to do what he did, day after day. His exploits had a huge following in The Rockford Files, an American TV drama that followed the misadventures of an ex-con private investigator played by the late actor James Garner.

Heroes and tough guys on TV and in movies let us feel what it is like to have the mental toughness to break out of a seemingly boring existence, and enter into a much bigger world—one that is full of possibility.

Four Important Characteristics

What secret characteristics do heroes possess? They embody these elements:

  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Dedication
  • Control

Ok—so maybe the characteristics of a hero are not-so-secret after all. But how can you and I harness their power? How can we create the strong mind that is the trademark of those who live large in a world full of possibilities?


When I took the physical fitness (FIT) test at the FBI Academy, I was the bottom 1% that made the top 99% feel better about themselves. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold: maintaining confidence in myself, while training to pass the rigid FIT test. I worked with a coach at the Academy, who taught me the secret to building confidence.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually bigger things will come. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t worry about short, quick improvements. Seek out the small improvements, one day at a time. And when it happens—it lasts.”

The result? I passed the FIT test and worked as an FBI agent for twenty-four years.


Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals.


Every day at the FBI Academy involved some kind of physical activity. As a trainee, I put in extra training for the FIT test. On top of that, as a class, we boxed each other, engaged in arrest scenarios, and ran around the basketball court holding 5 lb medicine balls. I was tireddepressed, and under pressure. Yet I knew that if I gave up, I would regret it the rest of my life. So I straightened my back and dug deeper. A strong mind is not built on something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock.

Like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.


Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats.


In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It was not a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my owndeep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes,

“If you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within.”


Strong-minded people have a dedication that comes from a purpose in alignment with their deepest values.


Push-ups were the most difficult aspect of the physical fitness test for me. After several of them failed to be counted, I began to “psyche myself out,” worrying whether I could do at all!

A strong mind shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy, focused on reaching the goal.


Control is having a certainty that you are able to shape your destiny and not passively accepting events as fate.

How do you approach difficult situations? What has been most helpful to you in developing a strong mind? I would love to hear your thoughts!

This article was first published on Linked2Leadership.

© 2010 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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3 Ways A Successful Leader Prepares for the Unknown

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Swimming Pool

When I was going through the FBI Academy at the age of twenty-five, one of the physical fitness requirements was to dive off a 50-foot diving board while holding an M16 rifle, and then swim to the other side of the pool with the gun.

I had two problems: I was afraid of heights and I couldn’t swim.

As my training class and instructors waited for me to jump, I seriously doubted that in real life I would ever need to jump into a pool of water with an M16 while chasing a suspect. This was something I had to do, however, to graduate from the Academy. So I plunged in and bounced back up to the surface—still holding the gun. I floundered until I made it to the other side.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the swimming pool test had nothing to do with superior law enforcement techniques. Instead, it taught me that those who keep their back straight when confronted with uncomfortable challenges or conflict will inspire others around them. Everyone knew I was afraid of the jump, but it was something that I needed to do. Once I took the plunge, the by-product was two-fold.

I had earned respect from my classmates. And I built confidence in myself.

The lesson I learned about uncomfortable challenges and conflicts: to increase safety, move toward them.

This may sound counterintuitive, since we often have a physiological reaction as our forehead starts to sweat and our stomach gets knotted. No one wants to step into a situation where the outcome is unknown

Is there another option? Oh yes—there is one, and its called avoidance. We can always pretend the conflicts do not exist or hope they will go away. We can choose to never explore our truest potential because we are afraid of difficult and uncomfortable challenges. If we are to handle them effectively, we need to develop the confidence in ourselves that we can accomplish our goals and overcome the difficult and unexpected obstacles presented by the unknown.

It takes a strong mind to find the leader you truly were meant to become.

Believe in Your Competence

Here are three ways the FBI developed the mental toughness in me that I would need to move toward the unknown.


Training in the FBI never stops. It began the day I entered the Academy in Quantico, and continued until the day I retired. After firing over 3,000 rounds to get qualified as a new agent, I then re-qualified 4-6 times a year over the next 24 years. After hitting the bull’s eye target enough times, I built confidence in my ability to shoot my Glock with accuracy.


Train enough and you won’t have to stop and think about how you will respond when confronted with resistance—it will come automatically.


As a counterintelligence agent, my job was to recruit spies to work for the U.S government. I began fine-tuning my persuasion skills by recruiting neighbors to volunteer at community fundraisers. I started off small and worked up to bigger commitments. As my abilities grew, I was to enlist the cooperation of people who knew the targets of my investigations and persuade them to provide me with information for my investigation.

Each success was a building block.

I worked my way up to the real thing, and guess what—it worked!


Build your confidence by starting small and adding to your success experiences.


The more that is learned about a situation or person, the easier it is to think on your feet and choose a better response. There is an old saying I abide by, and it goes like this: “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” The more we learn about any challenge or conflict we are confronting, the more prepared we are in moving toward the unknown.


Move closer to observe that which threatens or challenges you.

How has moving toward a challenge or conflict moved you to a greater place of security? 

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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