Archive for October, 2016

What You Should Know About Following Your Passion

Monday, October 31st, 2016

When I graduated from Business school I knew how I would follow my passion —I loved clothes and shopping so I went into the executive management program at a department store. Surely, being around beautiful clothes all day would be my dream job!

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But I soon learned the reason work is not called fun or a hobby—it is hard and there was nothing fun about my long days working retail. Even after I became a buyer, I found it more suited to the talents of an accountant because I worked with numbers all day. Every day. Day after day.

I truly hated the job.

“Follow your passion” was the worst advice I’d ever received. I thought about my epitaph: LaRae’s goal in life was to persuade women to buy striped blouses instead of polka dots. That would be the sum of my contribution to society.

Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” rears its ugly head regularly—most notably at the Oscars when movie stars spew out the inevitable cliche. I learned the hard way that just because I was passionate about something didn’t mean I wouldn’t suck at it.

If you are passionate about something, of course you should pursue it; but here is the question: to what end? Because at some point in life you will need to see yourself in the flow of history. What did you put back into your community to help other people? It’s not about having a passion, it’s about doing something with your life that will benefit others.

Entrepreneurs and startups must be passionate about their customers and the business opportunity, but they do not need their’s life passion to be the starting point. Tony Hsieh did not have to be passionate about shoes to start Zappos, but he did need to be passionate about customer service.

For startups to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.

Passions are magical; business is grounded in reality.

Mental toughness starts with the “why” because if you are not on the right course for you, all the persistence, grit, attitude, and willpower in the world will get you nowhere. Always bring your passion with you, but cultivate enough self-awareness so that big dreams do not harden into pockets of resentment, entitlement, and unrealistic expectations.

We are living in a world where everyone expects a trophy just for showing up. Mental toughness is being strong enough to take the blame when things go wrong and accept responsibility for our actions.

You want to follow your passion? Here are some things you should know:

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #1: Pursue A Career That Fits Your Personal Interests

Frustration

If you enjoy thinking about abstract ideas, you will not be happy in a job managing minutia and logistics. If you are a person who likes being around people, you will not be happy sitting behind a computer all day.

Develop enough self-awareness to know which jobs to avoid and which ones to pursue. As a general rule, people whose jobs match their personal interests are happier with their lives.

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #2: Pursue Work That Interests You

Missing the deadlines. Thoughtful young woman in suit looking at the stack of paperwork and holding head on chin while sitting at her working place

If you like being around people, try sales or HR. Once you’ve found a career that matches your personal interests, drill down to pursue which aspects of that career are most interesting to you.

There are no boring jobs, only boring  ways to look at them. You may look at a job as a way to pay the bills or as a path toward something better—it’s your choice.

Passion for your work is like an FBI investigation: there is a bit of discovery, a follow up on leads uncovered, a lot of development, and then a deepening of understanding the truth.

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #3: Experiment With Your Interests

Success - wall climbing

Your interests in life are not discovered by introspection and meditation. They are sparked by getting out in the real world and trying different things. This part can be messy—only by spending 3 years in retail did I truly see why this was not the right job for me.

It is difficult to predict what will catch your attention. Trial and error is often the best way and this can take time. Without experimenting you won’t know what catches your interests and matches your talents.

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #4: Adopt A Craftsman’s Mindset

Women leaders

In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport warns that a passion mindset is always asking, ”What do I really want?” which can be harmful because it breeds an obsession with whether or not a job is “right” for them.

When you focus on everything you dislike about your work, your job satisfaction level drops. By contrast, the craftsman’s mindset acknowledges that no matter what field you’re in, success is always about quality. Once you start focusing on the quality of work you’re doing, rather than whether or not it’s right for you, you won’t hesitate to do what is necessary to improve it.

Make the quality of what you do become your primary focus.

You absolutely need to be passionate about making your business or carer a success, so find the opportunities that ignite that passion in you—and you will be successful!

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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Why Curiosity Makes People More Successful

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Curiosity is an indicator of success, both in business and life. As an FBI agent, I found that curiosity about people was my best tool to become a successful investigator. The more I knew about the people I was investigating, the more reliable the information I acquired.

As a business owner, entrepreneur, or leader, you know that curiosity about your competition, the market, and the people surrounding you is what pulls you to the front of the pack.

Curiosity is a thirst for knowledge and the need to hunt for answers to these questions: “What is this?” and “How does it work?” It’s an exercise in mental toughness because it requires a mindset that keeps people moving forward and doing new things that starts them on the path to new discoveries.

Curiosity does not have to be a natural strength in order for you to be successful. Even if you do not see yourself as a perpetual learner, you can learn tricks from the trade by following these three tips:

1. ASK POWERFUL QUESTIONS OF OTHERS

You will always achieve better results if you have the curiosity to probe deeper into the needs of the market, clients, or team members. Make each question an open-ended one that start with “Why, How, When, or Where?” These questions invite reflection and start a discussion.

Always avoid questions that can be answered with either a “Yes” or “No.” They do not invite additional discussion and rarely yield any insight.

Tip For You:

Effective Questions To Use are:

  • Specific. Focus on the area of concern by asking specific questions, not vague ones. Notice words that are freighted with feeling or energy because they have more meaning to the person who is talking. Once you hear one of those words, follow up with an open-ended question.
  • Paced. When we’re accustomed to having all the answers, we can get uncomfortable with periods of silence. Rapid-fire questions are exhausting—for everyone. Don’t try to comment on every remark after you’ve asked a question. It is amazing what you can learn by letting people move at their own pace. The more you listen, the more informed your comments will become. Often, the real issue is not touched upon until you’ve gone several questions deep.
  • Polite. Good manners matter. Showing respect for the other person is the single most important thing you can do for them.
  • Focused. Good questions are goal-oriented. Be clear about your goals before you begin because it will be easier to frame your question. Understand why you’re asking a question before you ask it.
  • Honest. Manipulation is akin to extortion—it may get you what you want, once, but it doesn’t build long-term relationships.

Ineffective Questions To Avoid are:

  • Vague. Asking vague and useless questions make you seem unskilled and/or unprepared. And why waste the time? They tip off your audience that you have no genuine curiosity about them at all:
  • Judgmental. If you want honest answers, make certain you don’t come across as confrontational or judgmental. Let the other person feel that they’ve been heard.

2. DIVE IN

Struggles - tiger in water

In his 1994 paper, The Psychology of Curiosity, George Loewenstein found that curiosity requires some amount of initial knowledge. His research determined that we are not curious about those things we know absolutely nothing about.

This changes, however, when we start to learn even a little bit about a topic or subject; our curiosity is piqued and we want to learn more.

It turns out that the more we know, the more we want to know.

Tip For You:

Research shows that when you are curious, the limbic reward system of the brain is active. This is why it is important that teachers spark curiosity in the classroom and use curiosity as a teaching method.

3. DEMONSTRATE YOUR CURIOSITY TO OTHERS

As a team leader, you will constantly need to send the message to others that you are leading an organization more interested in asking questions than knowing all the answers. Too often, this becomes flip-flopped and the emphasis is on knowing all the answers—a sure path to stagnation.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, 65% of workplace employees surveyed felt unable to ask questions at work. Even more ironic, while 84% indicated that their employers encouraged curiosity, 60% said they also encountered barriers to it at work.

Tip For You:

It’s important to model curious behavior for those around you by showing a willingness to ask questions and admitting you don’t know the answer.

Collect wisdom where you find it. In your circle, have:

  • One person older than you who is where you want to be in the future
  • One peer who possesses strengths and accomplishments that you don’t
  • One person younger than you who is further along than you were at that age

Curiosity is important to every business owner, entrepreneur, and leader. If it wasn’t then new ventures would have no appeal. Asking questions and maintaining a strong sense of curiosity is also necessary to see a company or market trend for what it truly is. Remember, curiosity can wane over time so use the above tips to stay curious and maintain your competitive edge.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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 Mental Hacks To Be More Confident In Yourself

Monday, October 17th, 2016

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I built the self-confidence necessary for my career. Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

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There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

On the first day, I was filled with doubt. I had never shot a gun, made an arrest or investigated a foreign spy—these challenges pushed me outside my comfort zone. I felt like I was at the mercy of the unknown, not knowing how I would land on my feet. But I held onto my dream of becoming an agent and plodded forward.

I’d venture to guess entrepreneurs, leaders and business owners might share some of the same fears I faced at the FBI Academy: How can I pull this off? But in my 24 years in the FBI, the only four-letter word I didn’t hear was “can’t.”

To be confident in our abilities is the cornerstone of leadership. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? Here are seven ways FBI agents learn to boost their confidence—mental hacks you can use to be more confident in yourself, too:

1. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY PUSHING THROUGH SELF-LIMITING BELIEFS

As children we think we can conquer the world, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our enthusiasm and natural inclinations to dream big are squashed. Parents and teachers start imposing their own beliefs—about what we can and can’t do in life—upon us.

If the instructors at the FBI Academy were not pushing us past our self-limiting beliefs, they weren’t doing their job.

How to make it work for you:

Find your limits by exposing yourself to different situations and pushing through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY NEVER CONFUSING MEMORY WITH FACTS

Adversity - give up!

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

Your brain has a built-in confirmation bias. That means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.

So recognize that your memory does not always provide you with accurate information. For example if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information that confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

How to make it work for you:

Revisit the facts of a memory loaded with self-limiting beliefs and try to gain a more accurate perspective on the event. Talk with others that might have a different perspective.

3. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY TALKING TO YOURSELF

This might seem crazy, but it works. Talking to yourself can make you smarter, improve your memory, help you focus and even increase athletic performance. The documentary The Human Brain claims we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves per minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they can learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

How to make it work for you:

Be positive, because the way you talk to yourself influences your neurobiological response to it. When you say, I know what to do here or see things as a challenge rather than a problem, you’ve turned your response into a positive one.

4. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY THINKING POSITIVELY TO OVERCOME YOUR NEGATIVITY BIAS

Willpower - rough road ahead

Since the early days, humans learned to get lunch or be lunch. Our natural negativity bias has kept us safe from danger for thousands of years. But not every new or different thing is a threat to our survival. This negativity bias can chisel away at our confidence because we’re hardwired to pay attention to all that we’ve done wrong.

FBI agents are taught to hunt the good stuff. It can be hard at times because positive information is like Teflon and easily falls away. But negative information, like Velcro, sticks.

How to make it work for you:

  1. Come up with five positive thoughts to counter every one negative thought.
  2. Let every positive thought sit for 20 seconds before moving to the next positive thought.
  3. Acknowledge both good and bad emotions.
  4. Do not try to suppress negative ones.
  5. Label the emotions for what they truly are and move on. Do not enter into inner dialogue about the negative emotion because then it becomes more powerful.

5. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY RAISING YOUR CURIOSITY LEVELS

Curiosity is an important trait for FBI agents working investigations and anyone who wants to be confident and successful.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable and our minds and hearts grow larger every day.11 We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

How to make it work for you:

Ask questions and be curious because:

  1. It makes your mind active instead of passive.
  2. It encourages you to be more observant of new ideas.
  3. It opens up new worlds and possibilities.
  4. It creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction.

6. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY OVERCOMING SELF-DOUBT

Courage - take the path

If you lack self-confidence, you will always feel like you’re at the mercy of other people. When you assume a victim mentality, you are no longer resilient to life’s inevitable obstacles and roadblocks.

FBI agents go where they are needed, not to where they feel most comfortable. I was assigned investigations I had no idea how to solve. But my thinking was this: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared because I am confident and I will succeed wherever I am.

How to make it work for you:

No one but you is stopping you from achieving what you want to accomplish. It’s time to identify the areas in which you doubt yourself and remove those barriers.

7. BUILD CONFIDENCE BY FACING YOUR FEARS

When we feel in control, we’re not afraid. When we have a level of comfort with something, it’s not scary. When we don’t feel in control, we don’t think clearly because our emotional brain is in the driver’s seat and takes over. This is why fear often seems random and irrational—our emotions are in control.

To increase safety, FBI agents are taught to move closer to the threat. It does no good to avoid, deny or ignore the fear.

How to make it work for you:

Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Siegel recommends this in his book, The Mindfulness Solution:

  1. Think about your worst fear.
  2. Spend time with it.
  3. Now make your fear worse by getting closer to it.
  4. Imagine the worst that could happen.
  5. Now focus on your breathing.
  6. Feel your body relax.
  7. See, you didn’t die, did you? You’re on your way to conquering your fear.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anybody else to? Start today.

This article first appeared on Success.com

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Do

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Working undercover to recruit foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government was always a gamble: the failure rate was high, the emotional toll was hard, and it took a lot of hard work.

entrepreneur-getty

I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.

Sounds a lot like starting a new business! Entrepreneurs know that the failure rate is high, the emotional toll on them will be hard, and that it will take a lot of hard work.

So what makes one entrepreneur succeed when so many small businesses fail? Whether working undercover or starting a new business, there are choices we make that lead to a higher likelihood of success.

Here are 7 things successful entrepreneurs never do:

1. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER GIVE UP

As an undercover agent, it was often difficult to get introduced to the subject of an undercover investigation—most foreign spies do not want to meet an FBI agent in person!

Grit, however, kept me moving forward—especially when things didn’t go according to plan. I never made the mistake of believing that just because a way out, or through, a situation was not obvious that there weren’t ways around those roadblocks. What I needed was mental toughness to push through the barriers I encountered.

According to Harvard researchers, persistence and grit is essential for entrepreneurs—they need to be able to deal with obstacles and roadblocks.

Prospective clients might present a lot of excuses for not getting back in touch with you; yet, if you are persistent in trying to make things happen, your chances for success vastly improve.

2. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH FAILURE

grit-training

If I whined and cried every time one of my undercover operations failed, I would have ended up on Team B running leads for other agents instead of calling my own shots on Team A. I did a postmortem on each failed operation and explored why the operation failed so I could learn from the experience.

Making a mistake is not the problem. What is not acceptable is making the same mistakes over and over—if you do, you’re either stupid or incompetent.

Look at your mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. Be willing to keep trying until you get it right. Learn from past mistakes so you can make better decisions in the future.

“Life is hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid”—John Wayne

3. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BACK AWAY FROM CHALLENGES

FBI agents know that emotions like fear and anger are OK; it’s complacency that will kill them. Awareness of their fear doesn’t mean they back away from the unknown; instead, they move through it with a sound strategy and a resilient mindset.

It takes resilience to deal with constant challenges, some of those you anticipated and some that come at you from left field.

You’ll face complex financial problems, long hours, sudden changes, and market predictions that are never reliable. Success is not so much a matter of how many obstacles in your path but how you respond to them.

Successful entrepreneurs are resilient and are able to face constant challenges without ever weakening their determination to keep moving forward.

4. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER SPIN THEIR WHEELS IN A RUT

Struggles - tiger in water

I learned early that our comfort zone is a dangerous place—it can be a dark and deep abyss where it’s possible to lose yourself entirely in mediocrity. Staying in your comfort zone is giving up on life.

Get out of your rut and experience breakthroughs by pushing through the discomfort and uncertainty you are feeling. Strong minds continually expand their boundaries and enlarge their territory, both personally and professionally.

Entrepreneurs with mental toughness always do something that they’re not ready to do because they know that’s how they grow.

5. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER LEAVE THEIR “WHY” BEHIND

It was my passion for the job that what got me through the FBI Academy. It was hard for me and I was almost washed out. But I had found a career that gave me both value and meaning, and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away.

It is impossible to be a successful entrepreneur if you aren’t passionate about your work. You must understand why you are excited to come to work everyday. And if you can’t find that sort of excitement, you owe it to yourself to pack up and find something that does.

You don’t have to like every task you have to perform or every person you have to work with, but at the end of the day, you must be in touch with your passion and find a career that provides you with both value and meaning.

6. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER BLAME OTHERS FOR THEIR SITUATION IN LIFE

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No one is owed anything in life. We were born, and at some point, we must take responsibility for where we end up. If we want something, it’s up to us to make it happen.

This may come as a big shock to lots of people, but there are no handouts in life. So stop whining, pointing fingers, or blaming others when things don’t work out.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness rely on backbones rather than wishbones to make their success happen.

7. SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS NEVER CONSIDER THEMSELVES A VICTIM

One of the most important lessons I learned while working undercover is the importance of always maintaining a positive attitude. I found that mental toughness becomes most apparent in the midst of adversity.

Be smart—learn how to identify your negative thoughts when they arise and replace them with  positive ones.

Often, life is not what is happening to you; rather, it is your attitude about your situation. Studies show that positive thinkers are more likely to listen to negative information about their business or competition than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it.

Successful entrepreneurs with mental toughness always find the positive and run with it.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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