Archive for December, 2014

5 Harsh Reasons You Don’t Seize Opportunities

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

As a child, I loved taking risks. Growing up around rattlesnakes, barbed wire fences, and frisky horses that liked to kick the saddle out of my hands, there was very little I thought I couldn’t do.

The key was putting my mind to it.

With age comes wisdom—or so I thought. As an adult, I was less amenable to taking risk. I was very strategic about relationships, careers, and spiritual formation. And I realize that there is a place for strategy, as long as it does not make your thinking soft.

Soft thinking is the opposite of mental toughness. If you suffer from soft thinking, you are afraid of seizing opportunities because you are afraid that your emotions, thoughts, or behavior might spin out of control. Or, you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone.

As it turns out, the key to managing risk is still in our mind.

There is no way to sugar-coat it—you’re afraid of risk and don’t seize the opportunities in your life because you don’t:


Strong minds seize opportunities because they allow themselves to be terrified—quite often. As a result, terror is a feeling that they are familiar with.

If you continually place yourself in situations where there is a little risk involved and the outcome is not known, your comfort zone is not stretched. Our brain likes to feel comfortable and seeks pleasure over pain. That’s why we’re tempted to abandon ship at the first sign of distress.

Our desire to avoid losses is almost twice as powerful as our desire to take a risk. This explains why we often walk away or fail to recognize new opportunities.

If you start your day without feeling a little terror from the challenges before you, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.


Strong minds seize opportunities because their minds are agile and flexible.

Thinking fast is automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious. It means we can throw out long debates in favor of snap judgments and hard-wired rules of thumb that have served us well in the past.

Thinking fast is driven by your past experiences and memories. If you move into your discomfort zone on a regular basis, you frequently experience doses of terror and uncertainty. As a result, your mind does not get mired down with fear when new opportunities present themselves.

Fast thinking is efficient and effective, and essential if we want to seize opportunities in the fast-moving world of life and business.


Strong minds seize opportunities because they do not allow themselves to get stuck in a rut.

In business and life, the comfort zone has never been a good place to be. It may feel comfortable but then we face another kind of risk: one of being irrelevant, obsolete—and extinct.

If you plan to think forward, you will need to continually question conventional wisdom, reinvent your approach to work, and welcome disruptive innovation.

In short, you will need to live in a petri dish in which you are continually experimenting with new ideas and maneuvering in a perpetual zone of distress and uncertainty—and sometimes, even embarrassment.


Strong minds seize opportunities because they learn from their past mistakes so they don’t repeat them.

Our ability to think fast and think forward is determined by our brain, and our past behavior.

As children, our brains were flexible, creative, and unpredictable. As adults, however, our brain becomes more rigid—anything with unvaried repetition like careers, cultural activities, and skills all lead to rigidity.

Once we make the same decision a second or third time, a habit is formed, and one that becomes quite inflexible.

Rigid patterns of thinking tend to become self-sustaining over time. Habits of behavior produced from past failure is not the same thing as learning from a mistake.

Habits are often a default reaction that leads to rigid thinking; learning, on the other hand, requires a flexible mindset that is always collecting and processing new information.

Often, we are not aware of these rigid patterns of thinking until we pinpoint their genesis in our memory. At that point, we recognize them for what they are and are able to move on from them.


Strong minds seize opportunities because they are always looking for new things to do, and once they are engaged, they turn their full attention to it.

Researchers have found that curiosity is the single necessary condition for creating a flexible and agile mind.

When we are curious, we are engaged. Giving a subject our full attention and concentration is important if we want our brain to be more flexible and agile. It’s also important that, once we thoroughly understand a subject, we move on to something else.

To keep the brain fit, we must learn something new, rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity—Albert Einstein

How have you taken a risk and seized an opportunity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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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7 Ways Smart Leaders Embrace Risk

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

To embrace risk means to move into a situation that involves exposure to danger. In the case of an FBI investigation, it could mean a drawn weapon. For entrepreneurs, startups, and business owners, it could mean how to evaluate the competition or start a new business.

Risk - mouse in mug

Like many others, I tend to fear what I don’t understand. I have never liked to take risks and I bet most of you don’t either. But the reality is this: if you want to break out of the pack, you have got to make yourself visible, and visibility and risk often go hand-in-hand.

Our ability to achieve goals is related to how we embrace risk in all areas of our life. When we engage in any action where the outcome is unknown, we take a risk. We become smart at taking a risk when we learn how to analyze and assess the situation. Some risk is worth it, and some is not. The more competent and capable we are at making those distinctions, the more successful we will become.

Intelligent risk-taking is important as we start a new businesses but equally important as we grow established ones. Our ability to make our own luck is closely woven into our ability to be smart about the way we embrace risk.

As leaders, we not only need to be smart about the way in which we embrace risk, we need to be smart about the way we guide and direct our team. We need to help them embrace risk in a way that is productive and efficient.

Here are 7 ways smart leaders embrace risk themselves and help their team:

1. Listen To Gut Feelings

Research at the Brain and Creativity Institute has shown that gut-thinking is a good idea because there is a relationship between emotions, rational thinking, and our physical body. When we accurately process our emotions, they often accelerate our decision making process in the form of intuitions, hunches, and gut feelings.

For example, your brain can predict an outcome based on your perceptions (outside information) and your emotions (inside information). This combination of information results in a physical sensation—a gut feeling.

The quicker we get in touch with our emotions, the quicker we make our decisions. A good rule of thumb is not to just remember facts about past situations and their subsequent outcome—but also recall how you felt at the time.

Tip: You will never develop and trust your gut feelings, hunches, and intuition until you can associate 1) facts about past situation with 2) the feelings you also experienced at the time. Threading the two together can give you invaluable insight but it takes hard work. It’s not too late to start. Take notes on events throughout your day and then reflect on the emotions you experienced. What was the correlation?

2. Rewire Your Brain

Until recently, the brain was regarded as an immutable organ that did not change after early childhood.

Researchers Mike Merzenich and Norman Doidge have demonstrated that the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections—and this continues throughout life.

When we embrace risk, we no longer need to revert to the same negative feelings that we once felt. If we take charge of our brain, we can train it to change its response to new situations and changes in our environment.

Tip: This research reminds us we are no longer captive to the way we once thought about risk. Remember that our memories, behaviors, responses, and habits are not our destiny. We have more control over the way our brain thinks than we once believed.

3. Change The Way Your Brain Looks At Risk

Since we now know that the brain constantly seeks stimulation and rewards, it’s easier to understand how our fear of risk and avoidance of failure impacts what captures our attention. A continuous molding of the brain is essential if we to learn how to take a smarter risk. As with any skill, the more you practice and do it, the more natural it becomes.

Smart risk-taking can become a habit, like anything else. The simple practice of noticing where our attention is and bringing it back to where we want it to be plays a vital role in rewiring the way our brain looks at risk and uncertainty.

Tip: Intentionally notice where your attention is at any given moment. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. What happens in your body at that same moment? Do you feel calm or a sense of panic?
  2. What is it about where your attention is focused that makes you feel this way? Is it a thought from your past that plays in your head like a broken record? Or, is it exactly where you want to be?
  3. What do you need to do to shift your attention in a different direction?

Repeat the three steps above and you will begin to develop the habits necessary to take small, smart risks. Once we identify habits that add value to our decision-making process, we can take a closer look at the ones we struggle with, and the ones that are holding us back from having the life we want.

4. Go Public So Everyone Is On The Same Page

Smart leaders distinguish the areas in their company or organization where risk is encouraged from the areas where it is not.  There will most likely be specific areas, such as customer service or financial commitments, where it’s not a good idea to embrace risk. If these areas run smooth and do not need to be tweaked, make sure everyone knows.

Tip: Draw clear boundaries around those areas where innovation is not needed (at this time) and those areas where new solutions or approaches are welcome.

5. Use The Right Words

Language drives behavior and creates a mindset about what is acceptable and what is not. Risk implies the potential for failure. When we focus on words like failure and unsuccessful, we look at the situation in the wrong context. Failure and mistakes do not lead to success—smart choices in the way we embrace risk leads to success.

Tip: Use words like experiment or explore to describe the way you want your team to embrace risk. It will create a more open attitude toward risk and innovation. When you use words like failure and unsuccessful, you imply a correlation between risk and mistakes.

6. Make Sure Risk Is Small And Nimble

When it comes to innovation, it needs to move fast. It has a better chance of success if the risk is small and nimble. It can be shut down, or, amped up sooner. Small teams are faster than big ones because there is less bureaucracy and layers of management.

Tip: Create teams that can move ideas and decisions with speed and accuracy. A sense of urgency tends to encourage smarter ideas.

7. Establish Clear Criteria For Funding Projects

There is nothing more disruptive to a team’s moral than a lack of clear communication from leadership. Everyone gets pumped up about a project only to learn later than there is no funding to take it to the next level.

Tip: Fund each defined phase for the project so every team member knows the terms of the deadline. If the idea doesn’t pan out in the designated timeframe, the team is disbanded. There are no surprises for the team.

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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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5 Powerful Ways You Can Create A Strong Mind

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

FBI agents need a strong mind to work away at messy cases that can last for years. I learned early that to ignore a problem case won’t make it go away, either. Instead, I worked through the problems and learned to never give up. Innocent people relied on agents like myself to arrest criminals and take them to court.

We all have problems that cannot be ignored just because they are difficult and inconvenient. To break through the barriers that show up in business and life takes a strong mind. We need to look our challenges straight in the eye if we hope to overcome them.

In our society, barriers have become things to be avoided so we can move toward our goal. However, contrary to how we think about problems and barriers, they are not the problem—it is the way in which we respond to them that holds us back. 

The way in which we look at barriers is important if we want to live a full life. No matter our age, a strong mind created by our ability to cope with the challenges of life.

Here are 5 powerful ways you can use a strong mind to break through your barriers:

1. Acknowledge The Junk That’s Showing Up In Your Life  

Create a strong mind and be honest about the problems, barriers, and other junk in your life.

It does no good to pretend that your life is great. Every aspect of physical and emotional growth arrives outside of your comfort zone. Have the courage to move forward if the risks feel right. Stretch yourself even if it feels uncomfortable. 

Barriers are things to push against to grow stronger. 

TIP: If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable on a daily basis it means you’re not growing. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

2. Create The Will To Move Forward

Create a strong mind and light a fire in your belly—fight back!

How you handle your fears will ultimately determine where you go and what you do with your life. It is your choice to live fully—or be incapacitated by the fear of the challenges and barriers that are inevitable if you plan to move forward. 

TIP: A desire to fight back keeps you in control. The key is to acknowledge your fear by confronting it face to face. This tactic robs fear of its power. 

3. Stop Pretending It Doesn’t Matter

Create a strong mind and admit you have to move through a barrier to reach a goal is important to you!

Admitting defeat to a barrier means we are acknowledging limitations, but more often than not, barriers are those things in life we come across that are simply self-limiting beliefs about what we can or cannot do. 

Our first reaction is to pretend crashing through the barrier isn’t important—we make up excuses for our failure. We maintain the illusion that the walls surrounding us are not really keeping us imprisoned or in a rut. 

TIP: Remember, the only difference between a coffin and a rut are the dimensions.

4. Learn To Be A Bad Ass

Create a strong mind and build the confidence you need to kick butt!

Many people never break through barriers to live a fuller life because they lack the confidence to do so. Lack of confidence holds many people back simply because they don’t think they’re ready. 

The truth is that nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. 

Opportunities and barriers are two sides of the same coin: they force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we may not always feel confident at first. 

TIP: Confidence is the difference between feeling unstoppable and being too scared to move forward. The more confidence you have in yourself, the more likely you’ll succeed.

5. Embrace The Life That God Has Given You

Create a strong mind and find the positive aspects of your situation! Sometimes:

  • things must change so you can change. 
  • you must break a little so you can peek inside to see the power of your own life and story.
  • mistakes must be made so wisdom can be earned.
  • to reject barriers and obstacles is to reject life itself.

How have you broken through the barriers you faced in life and business?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training 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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