3 Smart Ways You Can Embrace Risk

December 14th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

Effective FBI counterintelligence agents know that a basic question to be answered before a foreign spy can be recruited to work for the U.S. government is this: what kind of risk taker is the spy?

Risk - mouse in mug

By definition, risk means a situation involving exposure to danger. In the case of a foreign spy, the danger was getting caught and ending up in jail for treason—or worse.

Like many others, I tend to fear what I don’t understand. Taking risks has never been easy for me, whether it was getting married or applying for a new job. 

Our avoidance of risk is rooted from negative experiences that bruised our ego and are still lodged in our memory. Avoiding risks to life and health are common sense—most of the time. 

However, there is no success without risk. Risk-aversion is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning.

A leader’s ability to make their own luck is closely woven into their ability to take smart risks, and their ability to take smart risks has a profound impact on happiness and life satisfaction. 

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark—Michelangelo

Here are 3 smart ways you can embrace risk and find true success:



Smart leaders embrace risk by listening to what their gut instinct is telling them.

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’ve accurately processed 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.

Associating fact and emotion is critical to cultivating intuition, hunches, and gut feelings.



Smart leaders embrace risk by rewiring their brain to learn new skills.

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 are faced with 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. 

We are no longer captive to the way we once thought about risk. Our memories, behaviors, responses, and habits are not our destiny! We have more control over the way our brain thinks than we once believed.



Smart leaders embrace risk by changing their brain to look at risk differently.

You can do this by focusing your attention on the things in life that are most important. Wherever your attention goes, energy follows.

Most importantly, what comes to the attention of your brain also molds your way of thinking. Mental toughness is controlling your thoughts to get the results you are after.

Start by intentionally noticing where your attention is at any given moment. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. What is happening in your body at that same moment? Are you feeling 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 keeps playing 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?

Since we now know that the brain is constantly seeking 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 to knowing how to take smart risks. 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. 

By repeating the three steps above, 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.

The risk not taken is the opportunity lost—LaRae Quy

What risks have you taken that have brought you satisfaction in life and business?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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5 Powerful Ways You Can Create A Strong Mind

December 7th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent working counterintelligence cases, I learned that ignoring problems in investigations will not make them go away. They must be worked through and not allowed to become a barrier in finding the answer.

Mental toughness - water buffalo

Working through problems is not limited to FBI investigations. Breaking through the barriers that show up in life and business takes mental toughness to look them straight in the eye so you can manage your emotions, behavior, and thoughts in a way that will set you up for success.

In our country, barriers are synonymous with failure and shame. Barriers are things to be avoided so we can keep moving 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 as important to living a full life as how we pursue meaningful activities and build healthy relationships. No matter our age, our mental toughness is 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 by being honest about the problems, barriers, and other junk in your life.

Pretending that your life is great is not doing you, or anyone else, any good. 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 means feeling uncomfortable. 

Barriers are things to push against to grow stronger. 

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 by lighting 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. 

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 by admitting 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. 

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


4. Learn To Be A Bad Ass

Create a strong mind by building the confidence you can 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. 

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 by finding the positive aspects of your situation!

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


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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 Mistakes Leaders With Mental Toughness Never Make

November 30th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

While in the FBI Academy, I learned that much of our physical ability is determined by the limitations of our body. Mental toughness, however, is something that can be learned and developed. 

Adversity - soaring above it

Whether it was working undercover or recruiting foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government, I was frequently confronted with the reality of physical limitations. For example—it’s often difficult to get introduced to the subject of an undercover investigation, and not every foreign spy wants 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.

Here are 7 mistakes that leaders with mental toughness never make:


Leaders with mental toughness never cede control of their future to others. 

Instead of focusing on what they can’t control, like traffic jams and delayed flights, they spend their energy on those things they can control. Sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.

Often, life is not what is happening to you; rather, it is life responding to your attitude about your situation.

Trying to control things takes up a lot of energy that could be put to better use. A strong mind can adapt and thrive—even when the going gets tough.


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

When you stop flirting with failure, you stop pushing the boundaries of your talents and skills. Always assume you don’t know enough—because you don’t. There is always more you can learn, about yourself and others.

Breakthroughs happen over time, one experiment and one failure at a time, as our understanding of the challenges we face broadens. Often our success comes by trial-and-error, false starts, and experimentation. In the process, we grow and learn a lot more about ourselves.


Leaders with mental toughness never confuse feeling fear with feeling gutless.

FBI agents know that emotions like fear and anger are OK. It’s complacency that will kill them.

A little emotion keeps them on their toes. Their awareness of the fear doesn’t mean they back away from the unknown because they don’t know what they’ll find; instead, they move through their fear with caution and strategy.

Fear is often associated with adventure precisely because we are so aware of our emotions at that moment. And guess what—we feel alive!

It’s fear that usually stops us from living a fulfilling life, but it’s also fear that shows us what really matters in life.


Leaders with mental toughness always push themselves outside their comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is a dangerous place—it can turn into 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.


Leaders with mental toughness do not waste time on yesterday’s mistakes.

Instead, they look at their mistakes as opportunities to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right. They learn from their past mistakes so they can make better decisions in the future.

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

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


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

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.


Leaders with mental toughness always find the positive and run with it.

It can be difficult, but strong minds identify and replace overly negative thoughts with ones that are more positive and productive. Studies show that positive thinkers are more likely to listen to negative information than pessimists, because they think they can do something about it.

To keep moving through storms, shed negativity like a raincoat sheds water. You may be discouraged, but never a victim.

Often mental toughness becomes most apparent in the midst of adversity. Be smart—develop skills now that will increase your mental strength when you do hit one of life’s inevitable obstacles.

What in this post resonated the most with you? What other mistakes do mentally tough leaders never make?

© 2014 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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How The Power Of Gratitude Can Lead You To Success

November 23rd, 2014 by LaRae Quy

Training as an FBI agent never stops—whether its firearms, physical fitness, or polishing investigative techniques. Sound exhausting? It is, and failure to perform can have serious impact on performance ratings and future success. 

Emotional Intelligence - blue leopard eyes

The Power of Gratitude Can Lead You To Success

The constant exercise of muscles, sharpening of thought patterns, and control of emotions that affect behavior were essential if we wanted to remain in peak shape as successful investigators.

Similarly, mental toughness is how you manage your thoughts, behavior, and emotions in ways that will set you up for success.

Whether you’re investigating the activities of a foreign spy, trying to navigate the politics of your work environment, or starting a new business—mental toughness requires keeping in shape to meet the challenges you will be facing.

While adding emotions as a component of mental toughness may seem at odds with the critical thinking that is required in the tough world of business today. But researchers are realizing that people who have little emotional intelligence are seriously disadvantaged in their overall well-being.

To ace life, you have to understand your emotions.

But this is the real secret: the key to lifelong success is the regular exercise of a single emotional muscle—gratitude.

Here is how the power of gratitude can lead you to success:



Gratitude can lead you to success because when you are grateful for all you have in life, your life will automatically attract more good into it. 

The Law of Attraction states: I attract whatever I give my focus, attention, or energy to. If your attitude is a cesspool of what’s wrong in your life, guess what? That is what you’re going to attract.

If, however, you make a conscious decision to appreciate and acknowledge all that you’ve been blessed with and you will continue to attract even more things to be grateful for through the law of attraction.



Gratitude can lead you to success because it is an antidote to stress and one of the best ways to counteract it. 

According to scientist Hans Seyle, being able to appreciate what is important to us is a valuable way of stepping back from the stresses we’re experiencing. When we do, we become more mentally tough because we are able to re-frame our thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances—The Bible, I Thessalonians 5:16



Gratitude can lead you to success because research has shown the happiest people are those who take the time to appreciate the small things in life.

When we are grateful, we make time to stop and smell the roses. By spending the effort to appreciate the beauty around us, we are able to experience more feelings of well being and this produces happiness.



Gratitude can lead you to success because it debunks the myth that we can multi-task and be more efficient.

Research has shown that the brain is incapable of multi-tasking. What really happens when we think we are multi-tasking is that are simply splitting our attention. We spin forward with the mistaken belief that getting more done will make us successful.

In truth, much of the quality of our life does not depend on getting more done; it comes from savoring those things we choose to pay attention to. Savoring is all about attention. Focus on the bad and you’ll feel bad. Focus on the good…and guess what?



Gratitude can lead you to success because it forces you to look for the positive elements of your situation.

Researcher Martin Seligman is working with U.S. Military drill sergeants on how to increase mental toughness in their troops. Those participating are taught how to hunt the good stuff—to look for and appreciate the ways in which they are fortunate.

Gratitude is appreciating what you have, and giving thanks for the big and small blessings in your life. Basically, you see what you look for. You can train yourself to find the joy waiting out there, instead of passively waiting for it to come to you.

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven—Johannes A. Gaertner

What in this post most resonated with you? What are you grateful for?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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3 Things to Remember When Good Performance Doesn’t Lead To Success

November 16th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

During my four months in the FBI Academy, I shot over 3,000 rounds of ammo in firearms training, spent untold hours in the gym building up enough muscle to pass the fitness test, and endured an endless number of mock interrogation sessions. 


We spent hundreds of hours practicing real life situations so that when we hit the streets with our badge and gun, we’d be successful as newly minted FBI agents.

It didn’t take me long in the real world of hard knocks to understand that practice doesn’t always make perfect. Just because I’d practiced how to be a federal law enforcement office in training, it didn’t mean I would be considered a success. Time alone was not enough if I lacked the other attributes I’d need to succeed. 

The “10,000 hour rule” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers really rankles me. Gladwell undoubtedly made a lot of money from that book, and subsequent speaking engagements, but he misled people about what it takes to succeed.

He seduced readers into thinking that practice does make perfect—if we just keep hammering away at it along enough. 

To begin with, there is a big difference between putting in 10,000 hours at doing something and deliberating practicing for 10,000 hours to become an expert. We all know people who have shuffled to work every day for 40 years, punched a time clock, and put in over 10,000 hours during a lifetime. They became neither successful nor an expert.

I spent my time in the FBI Academy in deliberate practice—activities designed with the goal of improving performance. Whether time spent was under or over 10,000 hours, there is no doubt that deliberate practice could help me become an expert.

But it wasn’t enough to make me successful!

I beat myself up because I thought I wasn’t good enough. How was I going to move forward? Turns out, I’m not the only one who asked these same questions.

Researcher Brooke MacNamara at Princeton University and her colleagues found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the success rate in games like chess, 21% in music, 18% in sports, 4% in education, and less than 1% in professions. 

Her team concluded that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.

Success does not always scale with performance. Here are 3 things to remember when your good performance doesn’t lead to success:



If you don’t believe likability is important to success, just remember how and why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential nomination to Barak Obama.

Likability is more than a popularity contest. It’s the way you come across to others as they size you up. Likable people are more apt to get hired, to get help at work, get useful information from others, and have their mistakes forgiven.

Likability can be taught, it isn’t something you were born with, like charisma. It’s something you can learn. Here are some tips:

  1. Be AUTHENTIC—to be likable, behave in ways that feel natural and comfortable to you. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
  2. Be CURIOUS—make sure it’s not all about you. Show interest in others by making eye contact and asking questions about others to open them up.
  3. Be EXPRESSIVE—no one likes a cold fish or a plastic smile. Vary your tones of voice and smile, show enthusiasm about what you’re saying. Fake it if you have to.
  4. LISTEN—don’t allow your thoughts to wander or get distracted. Focus on what the other person is saying.
  5. MIMIC—mirror the expressions and gestures of the person you’re talking to.
  6. SIMILARITY—make an effort to find topics of interest that you share, rather than just talking about what interests you.



Success requires the determination that comes from mental strength. Determination is a quiet strength that emanates from within; it’s a fortress that remains indifferent to everything that happens on the outside. 

When we have a strong mind, we control our emotions rather than let them control us. Mental toughness is the driving force behind the para-military mindset of the FBI—especially in its emphasis on endurance, self-control, and inner strength. 

Mental toughness teaches us that before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves first.  We may not be able to predict the way our supervisor will behave, but controlling our response to their decisions is something we can do 100% of the time.



It’s not that I don’t believe luck doesn’t exist; it’s just that I think it can be created and controlled. Luck happens when we seize opportunities to improve ourselves and our situation. It definitely doesn’t happen if we silently wait and hope for our lives to change.

When you are always looking for opportunities, luck happens because you’re motivated to take the steps necessary to succeed. You make it easier for luck to find you because you are more open to life’s forking paths, and see possibilities that others miss.

Don’t despair if your good performance doesn’t always lead to success.  The wisest people we know are those who have known misery, defeat, and lost something they truly wanted. They are also among the strongest people we know because they’ve gained an appreciation for what it truly takes to succeed in business and life.

What in this post most resonated with you?

© 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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7 Disadvantages You Need For Massive Success

November 9th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

Growing up in a rural area, going to a small college, and moving into the fast-paced business world, I felt at a disadvantage on many levels. Little did I know that these same disadvantages would give me the scrappiness I’d need to succeed.

Adversity - shining through

It takes mental toughness to develop the healthy habits we need to overcome the disadvantages we face in life. I quickly learned that while surviving in my circumstances may be considered success; thriving in them is massive success.

Check out this list to see how how your disadvantages in life have prepared you for massive success:



When you don’t have money, you are forced to use your imagination. Innovation becomes a way of life at a very early age—I discovered that sticks are excellent rifles and swords, and dried cow pies can be amazing frizbees. 

Buying what I wanted or needed was not an option for me as a kid, so creativity was the way I compensated. My early training to be creative and resourceful has served me well throughout life. 

Lesson Learned: If you want something, find a way to make it happen.



There were many times as a child when I felt very sorry for myself—I didn’t come from one of those warm and fuzzy families that coddled their offspring.

My grandmother had ammo on her Christmas list! There are three things you never say to a grandmother who is a crack shot with a shotgun: “You do it.” “It’s your fault.” “I quit.”

But in the process, I learned how to fend for myself. If I found myself in a tough situation, I had to rely on myself to get out of it. 

Lesson Learned: Take responsibility—stop whining, blaming others, and pointing fingers if you don’t get what you want.



I spent the better part of my early life as a hillbilly. I didn’t have the polish of a sophisticated upbringing and so I made a lot of mistakes, both social and professional. 

I learned from each one because I knew one thing: I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. It hurt too much the first time to not take the experience seriously and glean as much knowledge as I could from it.

As I look back and see the path I’ve traveled, I understand now that the past is nothing but training. It doesn’t define me. 

Lesson Learned: Mistakes are only stupid if you don’t take the time to learn from them. 



Since our cattle ranch was in a remote part of Wyoming, it was hard growing up without many friends. I was on a constant search to find other kids like me, but there just weren’t that many. At first, I wasn’t picky about with whom I chummed up but that was worse than having no friends at all.

I learned to be content with making friends and spending time with people who were very different from me. They stretched my thinking because they were so diverse.

We tend to spend time with people who are just like us, but when we do, we lack the feedback we need to force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us to question our beliefs.

Lesson Learned: Dump the loser friends and learn to be adept at picking the right strangers with ties to what you hope to accomplish and then ask them the right questions.



I had to work really hard to get good grades—they didn’t come easy. As a result, I knew I would need to develop other traits if I wanted massive success. In excavating those talents and abilities, I learned to tolerate discomfort, frustration, anger, failure, and rejection. 

Mental toughness requires you to become acutely aware of all emotions so you can make the best choice about how to respond when the pop up. Mental strength is about accepting your feelings without being controlled by them.

Lesson Learned: Stop expecting a handout; instead, develop the right attitude to make your own breaks in life.



I took several wrong turns in life during my early years. Hoping for a breakthrough, I picked myself and started down another road, and I continued until I finally found the right path for me.

Our breakthroughs come from stress. We place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to see how much we can take and how well we respond. It’s a form of training for life—we practice over and over again until we have a breakthrough and become someone we had no idea we could become. 

Lesson Learned: All the magic happens outside the comfort zone.



I spent several years trying to find the right job and the right relationship. During these gloomy times, I had to hunt to find the good stuff in my life. There wasn’t a lot, and yet I made a concerted effort to identify at least 3 positive experiences every day.

Catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control and influence your behavior. Replace your negative thoughts with productive ones and reflect on your progress daily.

Lesson Learned: Stop being a bore—instead, be grateful for your blessings.

Ironically, the disadvantages we’ve faced in the past were the ones that helped us develop the mental toughness we need to be a massive success.

© 2014 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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14 Promises To Make To Yourself When Life Gets Tough

November 2nd, 2014 by LaRae Quy

When life gets tough, it’s hard to look truth in the eye. We’ve all paid a heavy price to get where we are today, and we need mental toughness to keep this important promise to ourselves—that if we keep looking for positive alternatives in our life, we will find them. 

Self-awareness - eyes

Looking truth in the eye, and recognizing it when we see it, has always been a challenge. One of history’s most reviled characters is Pontius Pilate, the judge at the trial of Jesus over two thousand years ago. Pilate asked a fascinating question, “What is truth?”

The scene on that Passover night would have been one of chaos as Pilate looked at the prisoner in front of him and felt the deep unease about what he was getting into. His wife had warned him against putting Jesus to death, and he was desperately seeking an answer out of the space between himself and the condemned man whose life depended upon Pilate’s decision.

The clarity of Pilate’s heart spoke over the clamor in his brain. “What is truth?”

We all live out those similar tensions as we pick up the same question and try to make sense of it. Often, that answer can be found in the gap we live in between reality and the illusion of ourselves that is formed by our ego. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The good news is: If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves.”

One of the best ways we can free ourselves from the tether of our ego so we can more accurately gage between fantasy and reality when we hit tough times, is to come to terms with the negative ways we look at our life.

For example, not dwelling on:

  • Where you should have been if you had made all the right choices in life.
  • Where you could have been if you had taken every opportunity offered to you.
  • Where you wish you were if you didn’t have to be in the place where you find yourself.
  • Where you think you are because your mind is out of sync with your heart.
  • Where other people think you are or think you ought to be when they are busy with their own agendas.

Living a life of truth is taking responsibility for your own choices in life and realizing exactly where you are. Once you do, you are empowered to move forward because there is no longer confusion or lack of clarity. When you live life with a deep sense of inner strength, you feel as if you are in touch with a source of energy far beyond your own. 


When both your mind and heart are aligned with reality, the power is liberating. When you do something out of duty, you need to muster all of your energies to get the task done. When you do something that gives you meaning and value, you hardly notice the demands on your energy—in fact, it seems to generate new energy.


Leaders like us ask the same question as Pontius Pilate. We ask, What does truth look like for me? Where is my heart leading me to go? 

The only thing stopping you from pursuing what is true for you is fear; the only thing that will get you past this fear is courage

What you do with your life isn’t up to your parents, your boss, or your spouse. It’s up to you and you alone. You are the only one who can push past the illusion and embrace your own truth. 

To be mentally tough, you need to promise yourself that you will keep fighting, slap adversity in the face, and become a fearsome force to be reckoned with!


Here are 14 promises to make to yourself when you hit tough times:

  1. Identify an opportunity that you know is worthwhile but that you’ve been afraid to pursue, and go for it anyway.
  2. Make a commitment to a specific course of action that makes facing one of your fears unavoidable.
  3. Do one thing today that scares you.
  4. Discover a path that has heart for you and find a way you can honor that path right now.
  5. List five things you’ve been procrastinating about and plan to take some action on all five this week.
  6. Identify five people who can help you achieve your dreams and goals and find ways to bring them into your life.
  7. Using details, describe something that you will make you very happy.
  8. Write down your definition of success.
  9. Make a list of causes you are passionate about and then get involved.
  10. Identify something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done.
  11. Keep your word.
  12. Forgive everyone, especially yourself.
  13. Move forward.
  14. Brainstorm a list of 20 new ideas on ways to improve your life.

Finding your own truth will lead to your true nature, not the illusion that the ego represents. Fear can keep you from shattering that illusion but if you have the mental toughness to be courageous, you will have answered the greatest question of all: What is your truth?

What promises have you made to yourself when life gets tough?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


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52 Tips cover smallAuthor of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths

SSecrets of a Strong Mind.”

The Secret To A Successful Mindset

October 12th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

FBI agents are required to qualify at firearms at least four times a year throughout their career. Years of training in mock arrest scenarios and target practice prepare agents to respond to threats automatically. When confronted with fast-moving situations, there is no time for decision making—they must rely on instinct to survive. 

Voice heard - leopard

Training is an important component of mental toughness because it builds confidence, produces a sense of control, and provides insights into our behavior when we’re pushed to our limits. These traits help successful leaders make good decisions in life.

Let’s take a closer look at the secrets to a successful mindset:


1. Prepare to Win

It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters—Bear Bryant

As an FBI agent I dreaded Firearms Training. I shot over 3,000 rounds from my Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver before graduating from the FBI Academy. The soft flesh between my thumb and forefinger was bruised from the recoil. During the next 24 years I transitioned from a Sig Sauer automatic to a Glock, each gun requiring the same level of expertise and familiarity.

If confronted with the stress of a gunfight or arrest situation, it would be too late to stop and think about when and how to use my weapon. My training prepared a mindset that could make good decisions quickly. 

Training so many times over the years etched a pattern of thinking into my subconscious mind that led to incredibly solid instincts. The power of repetition allowed me not only to anticipate my reactions, but also to review my performance in a timely manner. 

Training creates a mindset that understands each failure brings you closer to being successful.

Most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers because they have made decisions so many times before in their career. They become immune to the pressure associated with decision making because they have a mindset that can anticipate their patterns of behavior, find opportunities in stressful situations, and overcome obstacles.

You can prepare mindset for success if you:

  1. Visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future.
  2. Use the power of repetition by rehearsing situations that might logically come up in a meeting or conversation with your boss.
  3. Survive a stressful encounter by noticing how you responded in the past to similar encounters; evaluate your response by picking it apart to see where you could have reacted with greater strength or more compassion.
  4. Practice your responses ahead of time so you can spend your energy evaluating what else is going on around you.


2. Move Ahead with Fearlessness

Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out. And it was this fearlessness that contributed to his remarkable career—Simon Sinek

Yale psychiatrist Andy Morgan has studied Special Forces soldiers for over a decade. Their training is meant to create the same fear that would be experienced in capture, interrogation, and torture. The fear produced by these exercises causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike about as much as in a patient undergoing heart surgery—about 20 times the normal rate. 

Morgan’s research has shown that those who successfully finish the training were found to have elevated levels of another hormone, called neuropeptide Y, which is believed to be a natural relaxant. 

Morgan states that the way in which we talk to ourselves about stress and threatening situations influences our neurobiological response to it. Once you begin to express fear to yourself—Oh my God, this is awful—you begin releasing more cortisol. When you say, I know what to do here, this turns into a positive response and produces more neuropeptide Y.


3. If You Can’t Stay Positive, You’re Dead In The Water

Positivity is a critical mindset if you want to develop the mental toughness to keep going when the going gets tough—LaRae Quy

Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute. By teaching ourselves to react positively to our circumstances, we can override the amygdala, the emotional part of our brain regulating anxiety. 

With the right self-talk, we can shift the way we see our stressors and become more flexible in the face of change and uncertainty. Fearlessness is a mindset that recognizes even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless. 

Mental toughness is believing that while you may have only some control over your external circumstances, you have total control over your response to them. You understand the importance of preparing to win so you can be successful by knowing how to move ahead with a sense of fearlessness.

What others tips for a successful mindset would you add?

© 2014 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.”52 Tips cover smallS

4 Secrets Of Mental Toughness

October 5th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

The FBI made its reputation hunting down mobsters like John Dillinger and Al Capone. But times have changed, and as the world has become more complex, the FBI has changed its focus to knottier and more sophisticated cases such as terrorism, cybercrime, and counterintelligence.


It’s no secret the world has become more complex. Neither life nor business are as simple as they were—even a few years ago. It is no longer a matter of knowledge, ability, and skill.

We also need to be psychologically prepared to deal with strong competition, recover from mistakes and failure quickly, tackle tough situations, devise strategies, and collaborate with others.

In other words, we need mental toughness to manage the emotions, behavior, and attitudes that will set us up for success in business and life.

Mental toughness allows us to push past hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

Here are 4 secrets of mental toughness:


1. Mental Toughness Is The Opposite Of Aggression

Being the loudest, or toughest, or meanest is not being mentally tough—it is being a bully. 

People act aggressively out of defense. Only when we do not feel strong enough to resolve a situation do we rely upon aggression as a means of dealing with the conflict.

The strongest leaders you know do not need to act aggressively because they already have power. Instead, aggression is simply a way of covering up their weaknesses. 


2. Mental Toughness Is Finding Your Courage

It takes courage to push your boundaries and self-limiting beliefs to the point of failure. This is the essence of training—pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion where the only option is either to give up, or to continue even when you have no strength to do so.

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”

No one likes to fail, but since our need to foil the obstacles and adversity that get in our way is essential for our success, we need to be able to predict our reaction to failure so we’re not surprised when it does happen.

Our mistakes and failures are simply training for the future. They do not define us. Think about what went wrong, but only in terms of how to do it differently next time.


3. Mental Toughness Is Being Confident In Our Abilities

Reading a book on how to develop confidence might be entertaining, and a weekend workshop might give you temporary confidence, but these approaches are nothing but bandaids.

Developing confidence requires a deeper healing. You will need to do several things:


  1. Identify your natural strengths. There are many reliable tests and questionnaires to help you pinpoint them.
  2. Build up each strength by training until you reach the point of failure. You need to know your boundaries and know how hard to push against them.
  3. Analyze your failures—don’t ignore them. They hold a mother-lode of information about whether this is truly a natural strength or a skill you “wish” you had.
  4. Monitor the progress of your strength and how you can continue to develop it.
  5. Road-test your strengths on smaller goals so you can take full “ownership” of them when you apply them to more important ones.
  6. Develop one skill or strength at a time so you are fully prepared with a full arsenal.
  7. Forget trying to grow your weaknesses; instead, learn to manage them so they don’t hold you back.


Developing confidence in our abilities only comes when we open ourselves up enough to experience the humiliation of defeat and the determination of getting back up. If you cower and shrink into the shadows, you will never be mentally tough.


4. Mental Toughness Is Learning How To Use Our Mind As A Tool

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 27:7, The Bible

We’ve always known that our thoughts are incredibly powerful, but now neuroscience is backing it up with scientific research. Psychologist Martin Seligman writes that “learned helplessness” is a common response to adverse situations. His research with U.S. Special Forces indicates that if we change the way we think about our circumstances we have the power to change their effect on us.

Our thoughts frame the events that happen in our life. It’s not the events themselves that affect us—it’s the thoughts we have about them.

Whining about our problems always makes us feel worse, not better. So if something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put your significant mental energy into making the situation better.

Mental toughness is believing we can prevail in our circumstances rather than believing our circumstances will change. As our world becomes more and more complex, this will become an essential mindset.

Building mental toughness is a life long task, but here is the good news: Mental toughness is not something we were born with—it is something we can learn.

How have you learned mental toughness?

© 2014 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.52 Tips cover smallS


4 Ways To Increase Your Odds of Success

September 28th, 2014 by LaRae Quy

My first job out of college was a dead-end position as a Buyer at a fancy retail store in Arizona. I thought this would be the perfect position for me because—surprise, I loved to shop! Although I dreaded going to work everyday, I found myself wooed by the glamour of the position and the great discount on very expensive clothes.


Success - mouse on a flower

At first, I was enamored with the idea of being a fashion buyer—and I was successful by most people’s standards. But I came to be miserable, because I was in a job that, ultimately, did not leave me feeling my life had either meaning or value.

There was a voice inside that reminded me of the regret I would feel from living a life of mediocrity and it challenged me to uncover my full potential.

In listening to that voice, I became an FBI agent and was continually placed in situations that stretched my abilities, but I also knew these challenges were moving me closer to a purpose that held both success and fulfillment for me. 

Peak performance and success are two sides of the same coin. Peak performance is linked to a concept known as “flow.” Flow is a state of mind during which we become so involved in what we’re doing that the world seems to fade away and nothing else matters. When we’re in a state of flow, times flies by, our focus becomes sharp, and we experience a loss of self-consciousness.

We experience the flow of peak performance when we achieve a personal goal we’ve set for ourselves. It’s a “runner’s high” that we feel when we are following our heart’s calling and truly engaged in activities that give us meaning and purpose.

Peak performance is having the mental toughness to be our best so we can be successful. 

The ultimate definition of success is to realize our fullest potential so we can accomplish what we desire to accomplish. 

Let’s take a look at how you can increase your odds of success:



Successful people are emotionally intelligent. They can not only accurately perceive the emotions of others, they are also adept at identifying and understanding their own emotions as well. They have a high level of self-awareness and are able to accurately assess information about their abilities, even when it is unflattering. 

Once you know yourself and your limits, you know exactly what you’re afraid of and exactly how hard to push against it.

If you are not willing to take a honest look at your abilities and identify where you need to improve, you will never move past your current circumstances. Those with self-knowledge do not worry when their radar comes up with something about themselves that is unflattering. The reason is because they are also acutely aware of their strengths.

To become successful, it is essential to have accurate information about your abilities so you can learn more efficiently and effectively.



Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, it’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.



This is the same whatever the learning cycle: we begin by overloading our brain with information. If you’re an athlete, you will engage in serious physical training. If you’re in marketing, you may begin with fact gathering. If you’re a CEO, you may begin with a concentrated problem analysis.

An important chemical change takes place in our brain during struggle. Tensions rise, and frustrations, too. Adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are pumped into our system.

How we handle negative feelings during this stage is critical. We’re struggling to identify patterns and then repeating those patterns so our brain eventually no longer sees them as a series of steps to be taken but as a chunk of activity. Chunks simplify activities for the brain so it takes a very small bit of information and then predicts the outcome. 

Until this happens, however, we are awkward and uncomfortable. This is where many people give up and settle for mediocrity.



Researchers have found that to move out of the struggle phase, it’s important to move into a state of mind where you take your thoughts off the problem. Once you can find a way to relax in the midst of your struggle, the stress hormones in your brain start to decrease and the feel-good chemicals like dopamine start to kick in.

This is why humor is so important in high-stress jobs. It can defuse an intense situation by letting the brain relax.

Success is not a measure of how much money you make or the size of your house. It is knowing that, at the end of it, you have been brave enough to become the person you were truly meant to be.

What we are is God’s gift to us. what we become is our gift to God—Eleanor Powell

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.


You can follow me on Twitter

Sign up for 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.” 52 Tips cover smallS