Posts Tagged ‘adversity’

6 Practical Reasons Why You Are Not A Strong Leader

Monday, September 17th, 2018

A reporter once asked me whether the FBI provides textbooks for an agent to study so they can become a strong leader. The answer is no; FBI agents aren’t given instruction books. Instead, they’re taught how to face their challenges head-on.

My fellow agents and I learned that mental strength is not something you are born with. It is something you can learn. If I learned it, so can you, but only if you’re willing to put in the discipline and effort it takes.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you need to think big and act courageous. You need the fierce determination that comes from being a strong leader. Core beliefs about yourself and your abilities will guide your daily decisions.

6 practical reasons why you are not a strong leader:

1. Clueless About What Brings You Value and Meaning In Life

A strong leader lives their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going. They set overarching goals for the direction they want to go in life.

Most people agree that holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” is the preeminent authority on how to find meaning in life. After liberation from a concentration camp, he spent his life as an advocate for the importance of meaning as a salve against suffering, and the secret to joy.

Frankl believed that meaning cannot be pursued as a goal in itself. It must must be a side-effect in the pursuit of other goals. Value and meaning in life blossom not when we pursue them directly, but when we seek beauty, love, and justice.

How To Make It Work For You: Embrace activities that connect you with something greater than yourself. Connect with others in the pursuit of knowledge. Commit yourself to the care of others through volunteer work. Find ways to express love to people or animals.

2. Remain Ignorant About Your Blind Spots

A strong leader understands that they need to frequently and critically analyze their performance, especially their failures. When they do, they identity those patterns of behavior that are not productive and nip them in the bud. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless ways. That is the definition of a blind spot. Leaders like to avoid words like failure and defeat because they feel the need to appear invincible. Ironically, this need to appear strong is the very thing that holds them back.

How To Make It Work For You: Take a moment to think back to a situation that didn’t go so well for you. Notice what went on for you at this time. What were the circumstances? How did you respond? What skills might have been helpful? Have you been in similar circumstances before? Did they turn out well? If not, how would you respond in a different way next time?

3. Fail To Prepare For Setbacks

A strong leader accepts the fact that life evolves and is smart enough to plan for the downturns that are inevitable. Only fools think they’re immune to setbacks and fail to prepare for what can go wrong.

A strong leader always anticipates what can go wrong and then prepares for it. This is not negative thinking—it’s intelligent thinking.

FBI agents do not focus on what will go right in an arrest. They focus on what can go wrong so they are prepared.

How To Make It Work For You: Always ask these questions in every situation: What can go wrong? What if this doesn’t work? How can we stop it? What haven’t we thought about?

4. Feel The Need To Be An Expert

A strong leader has a beginner’s mind that does not need to prove or disprove anything. The leader has the humility to hold “what I do know” alongside “what I don’t know.” Holding this kind of tension leads to wisdom and not just easy answers.

When we allow ourselves the luxury of trial and error, like a child learning to walk, we experience a feel-good neurological response. Similarly, when we tackle new and difficult challenges, we experience a rush of adrenaline, a hormone that makes us feel confident and motivated.

A recent article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports a series of experiments that show experts are more likely to be closed-minded. An open mind is receptive to new ideas that knock loose previous beliefs and standards.

How To Make It Work For You: Let go of the idea that you need to be an expert. Instead, ask questions because they are at the heart of a beginner’s mind. Start a petri dish of things of which you know nothing. Force yourself to seek out the advice of those who are more experienced. Always be involved in a project or situation where you are a beginner.

5. Refuse To Keep Ego In Check

A strong leader must believe in themselves—otherwise no one else will. They must believe in their own abilities and they need to be resilient, but often this self-assurance leads to arrogance. Poor decisions are made when they allow their ego to speak louder than their voice of reason.

The ego is always asking “How will this make me look? How will I benefit?” When ego is not kept in check, it looks for ways to prove it’s right and others are wrong. When we remove ego, we’re left with humility and rock-hard confidence.

How To Make It Work For You:

  • Accept praise, but never believe it totally. While others may appreciate your work, you can always do better.
  • Things are never permanent. You might be in the news today, but tomorrow you’ll be forgotten.
  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes and try to understand what they’re thinking.
  • Spend time in nature to find perspective. It’s okay if other people think you’re God, but you’re in trouble if you start believing it, too.

6. Have A Coward’s Heart

A strong leader has the courage to move out of their comfort zone even though they may feel awkward, clumsy, and alone. The comfort zone is defined as an anxiety-neutral place that uses a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance.

When we get into a comfort zone, we often strive to stay right there—where we have found success. But it is the average leader who stops at success, because success and peak performance are often two different things. Whole lives are spent reinforcing mediocre performance.

“Mental toughness is believing you will prevail in your circumstances, rather than believing that your circumstances will change”—LaRae Quy

How To Make It Work For You: Take what worked for you in the past and modify it to match your new situation. Chances are good that this is not the first time you’ve adapted when you’ve moved into the unknown. Write down your survival tactics and why they worked. Mine your  experiences and let them guide you as you move out of a comfort zone in your current circumstances.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.” 

Take A Risk —The Odds Might Be Better Than You Think

Monday, August 20th, 2018

As I look back over my early career, I wish I’d taken more risks. I wish I’d been a little braver in my choices, perhaps had more confidence in my ability to land on my feet when confronted with the unknown.

If you’ve thought the same thing, you’re not alone. You don’t take a risk because you’re cautious and play it safe. In other words, you’ve settled for the status quo. 

If that sounds like the definition of a wimp, you might be right. To be fair, however, our brains are wired to be risk averse. Our aversion to risk kept us safe through the cave man years and probably saved our life a couple of times through our college years. What we forget, however, is that not every challenge is a risk to our life.

A History Lesson

The Old Testament of the Bible tells the story of a young man who decided to take a risk. His name was David, and he was a sheepherder who led a very predictable and ordinary life. He might never have discovered his greatness if he hadn’t taken a risk and stepped into the unknown.

The Philistine army had gathered their troops for war against Israel. The two armies camped on opposite sides of a steep valley.  Every day for forty days a Philistine warrior named Goliath broke out from the front line and challenged the Israelites to fight. Goliath was reported to be a giant of a man who wore full armor. The Israelites fell back in fear when they saw the huge form of Goliath. The odds were against them.

Described as a runt by his own father, David’s job was to run back and forth from his sheep herd to bring news to his father of his brothers who were on the Israelite battle line. As David approached the battle line, he asked, “What’s in it for the man who kills the big ugly Philistine?”

He learned that King Saul offered a huge financial reward. In addition, he would give his daughter in marriage to whoever killed Goliath. David decided to take a risk and beat the odds. He said, “I’m your man!”

The runt of the litter takes on the giant. We love stories about the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to find a way to beat the odds. Follow David’s example and take a risk—the odds might be better than you think:

1. Master A Skill Set

David took a risk because he had never fought in battle as a soldier. He had other experiences, however, and leaned into them to help him in this situation. David knew how to use a sling and perfectly weighted stones which he had used to protect lambs from large and strong predators like lions and bears. He was prepared to use those same skills to protect the Israelites. It took years of practice, but he never became distracted from learning the skills he needed to become a master of his trade.

From an outsider’s point of view, the skill set possessed by this young boy could not help him defeat the obstacle before him. David stuck with what he knew best and used those skills to help him beat the odds.

How To Make It Work For You: Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of intense focus applied to your area of expertise. Identify your area of expertise. Just because someone else doesn’t believe your skill set is needed to overcome an obstacle, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to apply those skills to help you beat the odds.

2. Acknowledge Weaknesses

The soldiers laughed at David because he wasn’t a trained soldier. The first thing they tried to do was turn David into one of them. They suited him up in their armor and gave him a sword. But David wasn’t a soldier, had never trained as one, and never wanted to be one. He said, “I can’t fight in this because I’m not used to it.” The techniques of a soldier were not his own, and he was wise enough to acknowledge what he didn’t know so he could focus on what he did.

Many of us focus all our attention on what could go wrong, and that’s not a bad thing. However, if we fail to focus on what can go right, we miss the opportunity to improve our odds. When we look at what we can bring to the situation, we take a risk that is smarter because we’ve put our strong foot forward.

How To Make It Work For You: You will excel only if you maximize your strengths and stop trying to fix your weaknesses. Don’t ignore your weaknesses but acknowledge them so you are better able to manage them. This allows you to free up time and focus on developing your strengths.

3. Start With Small Wins

David met Goliath on the battlefield with a sling and five smooth, carefully selected stones because those were the tools of his trade. He knew those stones had power because he’d used them before—to kill lions and bears. David might not have been a soldier, but he knew a thing or two about a strong arm and good aim.

While he hadn’t stood before an obstacle this big before, this was not the first time he’d dealt with a problem. He started with small wins as he protected his sheep from predators. Those small wins gave him the confidence to take a risk and defeat Goliath.

How To Make It Work For You: If you need to take a risk, you create better odds for yourself if you experiment beforehand. Intentionally place yourself in situations where there is risk involved so you know how it feels and won’t panic out of the gate. Experiment with how you’ll respond rather than rely on a knee-jerk reaction.

4. Adapt To Your Circumstances

While others considered David an underdog, he understood how to adapt to his circumstances. It meant he would need to take a risk, but since he had defeated other enemies, all he needed to do was remind himself of his past wins. David had mental toughness. One aspect of mental toughness is the belief that you can adapt to your circumstances rather than believing your circumstances will change.

If we don’t have confidence in ourselves, we will underestimate our ability to handle risk. When this happens, confidence devolves into self-doubt and the downward spiral doesn’t end until we reach the bottom. If we’re confident, we know that we’re able to accomplish the things we set out to do. 

How To Make It Work For You: If you’re confronted with a roadblock, adapt to your new circumstances. Re-evaluate your initial strategies. Keep your mindset flexible and agile as you look for new ways to move ahead. The key is to always move ahead.

5. Press Into The Unknown

According to the Biblical account, “David took off from the front line, running toward the Philistine.” David took leadership of the situation when he broke the pattern of the challenge. He moved toward the threat and pressed into the unknown.

The closer Goliath came, Davis found more ways to defeat the giant. He saw a small gap in Goliath’s armor that was not visible from a distance. David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at the gap in the helmet that protected Goliath’s head. Once struck on the forehead, the giant fell down on the ground. When the Philistine’s saw their hero was dead, they turned and ran.

How To Make It Work For You: To increase safety, move toward the unknown—only when David moved closer to the threat was he able to see where and how to strike. Often, opportunities that can not be seen from a distance are made visible only when we press forward. Our chances of success increase when we leave our place of safety and move toward our challenge.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

What To Do When You Think Your Life Sucks

Monday, July 16th, 2018

When life sucks, it’s hard to be around perpetually perky people. My college room mate had unrelenting positivity and I frequently responded with sharp-tongued barbs intended to wilt her enthusiasm. It never did though—no matter what obstacle or barrier I presented, she found a way around it.

As I growled and sniped, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the way she always came out on top of the situation. I’m an over-achiever so this was irritating to me—but it turned out to be a game-changer.

As I moved into the real world after graduating from college, the obstacles and barriers popping up in my life seemed to take on new, gigantic proportions. The sarcasm and negativity that had seemed clever in the old days no longer seemed so witty.

When I applied to the FBI as a new agent, I quickly discovered that, while no one could be called perky, most agents could be described as possessing unrelenting positivity. Even when life sucks, a case looks hopeless, or a barrier appears unsurmountable, there are differences between agents who just survive and those who thrive in their circumstances.

The game-changer for me came when I finally understood that mental toughness is unrelenting positivity in the midst of uncertainty and risk. The strong minded know how to look for the positive when life sucks. Follow these tips:

1. Swap Out One Emotion For Another

We’ve all heard that our well-being is increased when we turn our thoughts to gratitude. But gratitude is more than a platitude. It’s impossible to be negative and grateful at the same time.

A recent study brings us closer to understanding how gratitude can affect the way our brain works. Participants were asked to write simple, short notes of gratitude to other people for three weeks. An MRI scan measured the brain of the participants and found they showed greater neural sensitivity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning, judgment, and decision making.

When we feel that life sucks, it’s important to find things for which we can be grateful. We may need to force ourselves at first but our heart will soon catch up to what the brain already knows.

How To Make It Work For You: When you express gratitude, it has lasting effects on the brain. The study suggests that even months after a simple, short gratitude writing task, people’s brains were still wired to feel extra thankful. The implication is that gratitude has a self-perpetuating nature: The more you practice it, the more attuned you are to it.

2. Focus On What’s Next

Arrests are a mix of organized chaos. As much as an FBI agent prepares for an arrest, there is always the element of the unknown. Would the suspect shoot, grab a hostage, or go berserk? Unintended consequences to an arrest that goes bad immediately escalates from a when life sucks moment into a when the shit hits the fan moment. It does no good to moan or complain when life takes an unexpected turn of events.

Questions like, “Why me?” only weaken our mindset. When we blame others or make excuses for ourselves, we become victims. As a result, we often feel that we don’t have the strength to deal with our situation.

How To Make It Work For You: When you focus on your next steps, you empower yourself to organize your thoughts so you can plan what to do. If you can’t change your situation, plan next steps on how to mitigate the blowback for a better outcome.

3. Learn From Your Setbacks

Many people I know do their best to avoid setbacks and obstacles. They don’t want to surround themselves with anything negative. What these precious petunias refuse to acknowledge is that life is hard and pain is inevitable, but growth is optional.

If you run away from conflict and mistakes in life, you will die an ignorant person because you didn’t take the time to examine your life. The key is to learn from your mistakes so you don’t make the same ones over and over again.

How To Make It Work For You: As long as we learn, we grow. Before you move on from a difficult situation, ask yourself:

  • What is one thing I can learn from this experience?
  • How can I avoid this trap next time?

4. Sweat The Small Stuff

It’s a temptation to spend 80% of our time on the negative of our situation and only 20% looking for solutions. Switch those numbers around.

Your emotional, survival-driven brain will feel safer if you take the time to chart your plan or new reality with small and positive steps. With each success, you will train your brain to feel more comfortable with taking more, and eventually, bigger steps toward your new reality.

Be aware that most of us automatically look at change as a negative experience. As a result, you tend to look at your new situation as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Once you realize this negativity bias, you strengthen your mind to accept your new direction with a more positive attitude.

How To Make It Work For You: Spend more of your time on the the small and practical steps you can take to make things better. Even if things get better a little at a time, you’ve still moved in the right direction. Each step will make you feel more confident and in control of your situation.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

4 Secrets Of A Strong Mind

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Movies and television depict heroes who have a strong mind. We admire people who push the limits. Heroes and tough guys let us walk in their shoes, if only for a couple of hours. We feel what it’s like to have the mental toughness to break out of a seemingly boring existence, and enter into a much bigger world—one that is full of possibility.

The reality is this: you and I must also be strong-minded if we are to overcome the obstacles we meet every day. We know that it takes more than talent or skill to become a top performer. Research studies indicate that intelligence accounts for 30% of our achievement.

So what does make a good leader, athlete, or parent? The answer is a strong mind that pushes through adversity. It is an inner quality that enables people to work hard and stick to their goals.

The good news is that a strong mind is not something you were born with. It is something that can be developed.

What secret characteristics do heroes with a strong mind possess? They embody these elements:

  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Dedication
  • Control

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

Here are the secrets I learned from my own life:

1. Confidence

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

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

Helping new agents boost their confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge. 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—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

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

TIP: Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals. Push out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to different situations. Learn how to push through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. Persistence

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness. A hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming who had clawed her way through college. I sat in front of a panel of polished FBI agents and interviewed for a job as a special agent. If I wanted the job, I’d need to learn how to Grit Up!

I grew up as an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

Every day at the FBI Academy involved some kind of physical activity. As a trainee, I put in extra training for the FIT test. On top of that, as a class, we boxed each other, engaged in arrest scenarios, and ran around the basketball court holding 5 lb medicine balls. I was tired, depressed, and under pressure. Yet I knew that if I gave up, I would regret it the rest of my life.

So I straightened my back and dug deeper. A strong mind is not built on something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock.

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

TIP: Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats. Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You can be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

3. Dedication

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 felt I had what it takes to do the job.

In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It was not a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my own deep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes, “If you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within.”

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

4. Control

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

A strong mind shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy. Instead, it focuses on how to reach the goal. Control your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior, rather than trying to control other people.

The best way to control your situation is to invest energy into it so you understand all aspects. This allows you to pinpoint the soft underbelly of the challenge. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

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

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Anything worthwhile will require us to learn how to get through adversity. All of us will experience roadblocks in our careers, relationships, finances, and health at some point in our life.

If we want to get through adversity, we need to develop a mindset of mental toughness so we can keep on the move. Successful people understand that mindset beats strategy every time.

I learned at an early age that the way I thought about the problems before me would be way I would overcome them. When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles at a later time. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Target

This was not the first time my brother and I had to embrace the suck. Winters are harsh on a Wyoming cattle ranch. We leaned into misery and pushed through our discomfort zones on a daily basis. Water in the cattle tanks froze over and we swung axes to break through three-inches of ice. Bales of hay needed to be loaded onto trucks and fed to cattle. The worse the weather, the more our livestock depended upon us for food and water.

Summers were even worse because we fixed fences, greased bailers, trailed cattle, and put up hay instead of playing with the neighborhood kids. Ooops, did I mention there were no neighborhood kids because our ranch was so isolated?

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. I spent four months at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard, day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I knew I had what it took to get through adversity because I’d done it before.

How To Make It Work For You:  As entrepreneurs and business leaders, you also need ways to keep your team focused and fired up. High-performance companies provide a vision for a brighter future. This vision keeps employees focused and excited about the future. It prepares them to get through adversity because they can see beyond the current roadblock.

2. Grit Up

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. But we’d lost the trail! We hopped over rocks and fallen trees in an attempt to find it.

We developed a strategy: as long we were headed downhill, we were headed in the right direction. The draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon and we were tempted at times, but time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to grit up and remain persistent if I hoped to solve a case. FBI investigations do not come with a set of instructions on how to solve them. It can take many attempts, many failures, many iterations, before the answer is found.

How To Make It Work For You: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if your first, or tenth, approach doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

How To Make It Work For You: You can control your team’s emotions when you get their buy-in. As a leader, help everyone connect with the vision you have. This becomes even more important when things look tough.

4. Accept Responsibility

My brother and I had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

How To Make It Work For You: Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence—a better understanding of yourself and how you interact with others. A self-examination includes a regular review of values, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. This can happen in any area of our life; we move so fast that we fail to recognize what goes on around us. Whether we call it alertness or paranoia, it’s always prudent to look to the horizon for both threats and opportunities.

How To Make It Work For You: We can work hard, but we don’t always work smart. To be high-performers, we need to pace ourselves because it allows us the time to prioritize our values and what is important to us. To learn more, read the chapter called The 20 mile March in “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The concept of total team accountability as part of the culture is a core tenant of SEAL training and life in the “Teams.” From week one they are taught to hold themselves and their classmates to the highest standard. Peer reviews play a pivotal role in a student’s success. And they carry that concept over into the Teams as part of their peer-to-peer learning culture. Failure to execute is not an option.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

How To Make It Work For You: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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4 Ways To Handle Life’s Challenges

Monday, February 5th, 2018

As a kid, I helped trail hundreds of cows and calves from the shelter of the foothills to summer pasture in the high country near Laramie Peak. Early on, my life’s challenges were to saddle a horse on my own and push cows along the trail.

My Dad taught me to saddle and ride horses, rope steers, and herd cattle when I was in grade school. I never quite got the gist of how to dally a rope, however, so I never shined like a star as a roper.

As I got older, life’s challenges on the trail changed as well. I’d need a horse fast enough to catch up with a calf that cut back from the herd. Since I couldn’t lasso, the horse needed to get me close enough where I could, in a literal sense, drop the loop over the calf’s head. Calves may be young and small but they can run like hell. My other strategy was to keep my eyes glued to those who looked back. I made sure I stayed close behind them.

Challenges may morph, but they are unavoidable. If we can learn to accept them as children, the better our chance of success as adults. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Meg Jay, children who learn to handle their own problems are also the ones with exceptional achievement as adults.

The article cites a book called “Cradles of Eminence” which chronicles the childhood of over 400 famous men and women. Of the 400, 75% (almost 300) had grown up in a family with troubles. These included poverty, abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, serious illness, or loss of a parent. The study concludes that the normal person is not a likely candidate for the Hall of Fame.

To be truthful, many kids today are over-protected. They are not required to handle life’s challenges because parents or nannies take care of problems for them. Their only job is to play and have fun. But here is the truth: not everyone gets to play with the red ball in the playground. No matter how hard parents try to protect their child, trauma in the form of disappointments and rejection is part of growing up.

No one wants to see a child endure abuse, but there’s still a way to toughen up children so they can handle life’s challenges. According to Paul Tough, author of “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” there is a way. Kids who take their failures seriously, but analyze why they failed and how they can do it differently next time, tend to become successful as adults.

There’s something about learning how to leverage our strengths to handle life’s challenges at an early age that prepares us to overcome life’s challenges as adults. Once we focus on our shortcomings, we begin to think about what skills we do possess as well as what we’re missing, and how to overcome the gap.

Here are some suggestions on ways to handle life’s challenges in both business and life:

1. Move Toward The Challenge

If your strategy is to avoid life’s challenges, remember that the continual need for delusion will be huge. It will also suck up a great deal of your energy. It may seem easier at first to turn away, or pretend the problem is smaller than it really is. But, reality will rear its ugly head at some point in the future and you’ll be forced to deal with the problem.

The closer we get to our challenge, the more we can educate ourselves about it. If we can get close enough to analyze it, we can assess which of our strengths will be needed to overcome it. The steps to follow and actions to take may not reveal themselves to us until we have moved closer to the situation. Mountain climbers understand that it’s impossible to know where to place fingers and feet by looking at a mountain from the bottom. They find safety only when they get close enough to explore the cracks and crevices.

As a kid, I learned to analyze life’s challenges and obstacles so I could find a way around, over, or through them. My biggest challenge at eight years old was how to saddle my tall quarter horse. I couldn’t rely on Dad or Grandma to have the time to throw a forty-pound saddle onto my horse’s back. They made it clear—I needed to fix my own problem. I pulled my saddle into the back of our pickup and then tied my horse to the pickup as well. I remember my horse backed away once and my saddle ended up astride his neck. Still, it hadn’t fallen to the ground so I hopped down and drug it down his neck and onto his back. Voila!

TIP: Boldness comes from your head. It’s a cerebral activity that recognizes opportunities, creates plans, and assesses the danger. If you refuse to face your fear, it’s almost impossible to grow because, in its simplest form, all behavior is the product of either fear or desire. Fear is not something to be avoided. A strong mind recognizes fear for what it is—a sign that you need to face the issue or obstacle in front of you.

Fortune falls heavily on those for whom she’s unexpected. The one always on the lookout easily endures—Seneca

2. Prepare To Take Action

Life deals you a bad hand. What are you going to do? Move toward the challenge, cry like a baby, run away, or do nothing?

Our reaction is a test of character and it says a lot about us. Always remember that it doesn’t matter what you’ve been given, what matters is what you do with it. Since we have layers of fear, often our first response is to exaggerate the situation and interpret life’s challenges as a crisis. We become cautious, retreat, and hope for things to get better—all on their own. Parents who over-protect their kids from adversity reinforce that way of thinking. They swoop in and come to the rescue. As a result, their kids never have to analyze how to work it out for themselves. They do not have the opportunity to develop their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

People turn shit into sugar all the time. There are certain types of people who experience childhood struggles, like poverty and strife, and go on to incredible achievement. They learn to be resilient because what is in front of them is all they know, so they work with it.

If saddling a tall horse for an eight-year-old was hard, imagine how difficult it was to bridle him. Again, my Dad and Grandmother did not have the time and expected me to deal with the situation. My horse would stretch up his long neck and and I wasn’t tall enough to slip the bridle over the top of his head. So, I stood in the feed trough so I could reach him.

The damned horse then clenched his teeth so I couldn’t insert the bit. An old hired hand showed me a trick: run my thumb along the horse’s lower jaw and insert my thumb behind his back teeth. The horse couldn’t bite me and it irritated him enough to where he’d open his mouth. Voila!

When you make yourself aware of certain difficulties that are inevitable, you can prepare yourself mentally for confronting them head-on. Soldiers and athletes appreciate the preparation it takes to mentally and physically meet the challenges ahead of them. They know it can be ugly, daunting, and grueling, but they are equipped.

TIP: The middle of a crisis is not the time to learn how to handle life’s challenges and remove obstacles. Train ahead of time so that before they present themselves, you have cultivated courage, confidence, and discipline.

3. Move Past Self-Limiting Beliefs

Most barriers are internal, not external. We make certain assumptions about ourselves and how life’s challenges should be approached and solved. These thoughts produce self-limiting because they can trap us into an outmoded way of thinking about ourselves and our abilities.

The U.S. Army is using research that has shown most people, when confronted with adversity and the need to remove obstacles, will experience initial feelings of fear, frustration, and paralysis. Given sufficient amounts of time, however, they recover and continue to perform at the same level they were performing before the adversity.

At one end of the continuum there are a small percentage of people who do not bounce back and remain unable to cope with their circumstances without assistance. They often need counseling and can experience breakdowns.

On the other end of the continuum, however, are those with strong minds who not only survive adverse and traumatic situations, but also thrive and grow. The key is having the right attitude. People who have affirming thoughts about themselves and their abilities are more likely to survive the intense pressure of obstacles and adversity.

TIP: The most effective way of breaking through self-limiting barriers, either those in front of us or the artificial ones we’ve erected, is to make small shifts in thinking. If one thing does not work, try another. A truly daunting task can produce discouragement in the toughest person. The trick is to focus on the little piece that is right in front of you. If you are bogged down with a huge task, break it down into small enough pieces so that you can set goals or markers of achievement for yourself. Then focus your attention on that.

4. Change The Way You Interpret Your Circumstances

There is an old parable about a boy who was so discouraged by his experiences in school he told his grandfather he wanted to quit. His grandfather filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In the first, he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs and in the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let the water boil, without saying a word. In about twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out into a cup. Turning to the boy, he asked, “Tell me, what do you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the boy replied.

Then he asked the boy to feel the carrots, which he did and noted that they were soft and mushy. His grandfather then asked him to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the boy observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked the boy to sip the coffee. He smiled as he tasted the coffee with its rich aroma. The boy asked, “I don’t understand. What does this mean, if anything?”

His grandfather laughed and explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each had reacted differently. “Which are you?” the grandfather asked. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, becomes soft and loses strength? Are you the egg that appears not to change but whose heart is hardened? Or are you the coffee bean that changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the coffee bean, when things are at their worst, your very attitude will change your environment for the better, making it sweet and palatable.”

TIP: The moral of this story is that it matters how you look at life’s challenges. We all encounter obstacles. The Grandfather’s lesson is that when you can’t change your circumstances, you change yourself.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

4 FBI Tips On How To Handle Awkward Conversations

Monday, January 15th, 2018

I sat down in a room with thirty other new FBI agents for a training course on how to handle hostage negotiations and other awkward conversations. Since my job was to recruit foreign spies to work with the FBI, I sensed the potential for lots of awkward conversations in my future.

The lead instructor had a face that looked as though it was chiseled out of a block of wood. He told us, “Successful interrogators need need to be savvy about what the other person is feeling. Build a connection with them. Focus on trust.”

This is not the advice I had expected from a tough interrogation expert. But a little more background on the FBI’s hostage negotiation program created at Quantico enlightened me. I was told that approximately 70 percent of law enforcement negotiators are trained using FBI techniques. Statistics confirm that if negotiations escalate, shootouts tend to end badly for police  officers and the casualties are high.

Awkward conversations happen in our personal life as well. When discussions go to hell in a hand basket, they quickly turn into a fight. Psychologists say that our brain is wired for war; our point of view has been attacked if we disagree with someone. We feel threatened so we yell and scream. Go no further than family reunions over the holidays to see proof of concept.

We’ve all tried to shock and awe our relatives with the use of facts and logic. That does no more than set your opponent up to look stupid. When Uncle Henry admits he learned something new, he also admits he lost.

Furthermore, MRI scans indicate that the area of the brain associated with logic shuts down when the individual is presented with evidence that is in conflict with their belief system. The regions associated with aggression light up. So, as far as Uncle Henry’s brain is concerned, it’s not a rational discussion. It’s war.

The FBI’s instructor used words like emotions, feelings, and trust, and it went straight to the heart of this training program. His tips would work with barricaded criminals wielding assault rifles—they could also apply to almost any kind of situation where you need to change people’s minds, or influence their decisions.

Life is a series of awkward conversations: work through a divorce, negotiate a raise, haggle a business deal, or work out a partnership. The ability to handle an awkward conversation gives us all a competitive edge in any discussion.

As the week unfolded, we talked about empathy, rapport, active listening, and other aspects of emotional intelligence. I used the techniques I learned in that interrogation training program for the rest of my career as an FBI counterintelligence agent.

Here are 4 FBI tips on how to handle awkward conversations:

1. Stay Calm

Emotions are controlled by our limbic brain system. It is the seat of the value judgments that we make, which is why it exerts such a strong influence on our behaviour. The limbic brain is responsible for the “fight” or “flight” reaction we experience when we’re exposed to danger or negative situations. This warning has kept us safe for centuries, and when we’re in awkward conversations or a heated argument, the limbic brain starts to scream. It only understands “fight” or “flight” so you know nothing good is going to happen.

Behavior is contagious and it’s easy to respond in a manner that mimics the other person. With that in mind, stay calm. Slow it down. Often, the other person’s anger will subside if you don’t provoke it. When you rush a situation, it tends to intensify emotions. Resist the urge to open your mouth. Instead, listen and acknowledge.

The number one reason people leave their jobs? They didn’t feel their boss listened to them.

Tip: Dismiss the hysterics and try to pinpoint the underlying issue. It can help to say, “Please speak slower. I’d like to help. I need to understand.”

2. Proceed With Confidence

Back in the 1980s, Harvard researcher Stanley Rachman discovered something interesting about bomb-disposal operatives. Rachman wanted to know what quality made these people successful in this high-risk profession. Bomb-disposal operatives are good or they wouldn’t be alive to tell the story. But Rachman wanted to know what set them apart from their colleagues. To find out, he took a bunch of experienced bomb-disposal operatives with ten years or more in the business. He split them into two groups: those who’d been decorated for their work, and those who hadn’t. Then he compared their heart rates while they were in the field and on jobs that required high levels of focus and concentration.

What he discovered was unexpected. At the beginning, the heart rates of all the operatives remained stable, which was expected given their line of work. But, something incredible happened with the ones who’d been decorated—their heart rates went down. As soon as they entered the danger zone, they assumed a state of meditative focus: it was as if they became one with the device they worked on.

Rachman’s follow-up analysis probed deeper, and revealed the reason for their lowered heart rate—confidence. The operatives who’d been decorated were given subsequent tests and they all scored higher on confidence and self-belief than their non-decorated colleagues who took the same tests.

If your opponent perceives your point of view to mean war, you’ll need to think like a survivor. Survivors are confident positive thinkers who believe they will prevail in their circumstances. They have the ability to see how even a negative experience might lead to growth.

Tip: Confident people, who might even overestimate their powers, do particularly well in stressful situations. It’s intuitive reasoning: What creates a sense of fearlessness? “I’m confident I’ve got this covered. I’ve done it before.”

3. Reframe Your Situation

It’s very important how you talk to yourself in awkward conversations or stressful situations. The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when determining how to overcome adversity.

To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation and we need to overcome adversity. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to move toward success.

When you reframe your response to adversity or stress, you say to yourself, “I know what to do here.” You can move ahead with confidence and a new perspective.

If you reframe the content of your situation, it means you choose what you focus on. Nothing has changed, but instead of wallowing in what did not work, you intentionally choose to focus on what did, or might, work.

Tip: Rather than complain to everyone about a failure, reframe your situation so you can learn from the experience. Ask yourself what it taught you. Take the time to analyze why you failed—and then move on. No one wants to keep hearing about it…

4. Anticipate What Could Go Wrong

One of the best questions you can ask yourself in any situation is this: “What could go wrong?” This question is not an exercise in pessimism. It’s a great reality check because guess what? Shit happens. And the more prepared you are, the quicker you can adapt and move forward.

Don’t find yourself surprised when something goes wrong. Be prepared. When you anticipate what could go wrong, you take the knee-jerk anxiety out of the equation.

Ceaseless optimism about the future only makes for a greater shock when things go wrong. When we fight to maintain only positive beliefs about the future, we end up less prepared, and more distressed, when negative things happen.

When you anticipate all that can go wrong in difficult and awkward conversations, you remove the surprise and most of the fear. Ready yourself for the worst. As Seneca said, “The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.”

So, what can do you do to prepare yourself? What options do you have when the worst case happens? How can you prevent it from happening? What can you do today to reduce the chances of the worst happening? As best-selling author Tim Ferris explains, if it does happen, how can you bounce back? Write it all down on paper and think it through.

Tip: Try this the next time you anticipate awkward conversations: 1) What is the worst that can happen? Write it down. Feel it. 2) Ask how you can prevent it and write down the solutions. 3) Rehearse all the ways the conversation could go wrong. Practice your responses.   

© 2018 LaRae Quy. 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.”

4 Ways To Get Through Hard Times

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We love stories about underdogs who beat the odds and figure out how to get through hard times. They provide encouragement that, we too, can be victorious and achieve success.

We’d prefer to watch others get through hard times from the safety of our armchair.

A favorite inspirational story of mine is about a ruthless con-artist, liar, thief, and manipulator who was full of fear and anxieties. Divested of all earthly possessions, he runs from his father-in-law and into the waiting arms of a brother who hates him.

Homeless on a riverbank, he is attacked and the violence is so intense that he is left crippled for life. He faces darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

The ancient book of the Bible tells us the man’s name was Jacob and his riverbank opponent was an angel. The question that immediately surfaces is: “Why would God create such pain and adversity?”

The question is answered by Jacob himself, who was transformed through this experience. Jacob finally understood that in real life, naive optimism and the desire for glamour is a recipe for despair and discontent.

Jacob’s transformation earned him a new name— Israel, because he prevailed over his struggles and carved out a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence.

Struggles force us to find our deepest name.

Setbacks are rarely easy. Whether it’s dealing with unemployment, a difficult job, or personal tragedies, we need mental toughness to get through hard times. Like Jacob, we can be transformed but only if we confront our failures, hurts, and pain.

Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. Life’s struggles are essential to developing resilience and generating a sense of accomplishment.

Here are 4 ways to make get through hard times: 

1. Face Adversity Head On

It’s easy to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked.

Via Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why, the first thing to do when we are faced with an obstacle is to recognize and accept it as soon as possible. People who get through hard times move through the stages of denial to acceptance at a faster pace. When we live in denial, things only get worse.

How To Make It Work For You: Stay alert for what can go wrong so you can prepare ahead of time. Obstacles can come from any area of your life so don’t take anything for granted. Practice gratitude every day so you’re aware of those special areas that provide joy and peace.

2. Expect the Deepest Pain To Empower You To Your Fullest Potential 

It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change.

When we force ourselves to only look for good things, we deny life’s problems and struggles. When we deny our struggles, we also deny ourselves the opportunity to solve them and generate real satisfaction and joy. Struggles add a layer of meaning and value to our life.

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful—Sigmund Freud

How To Make It Work For You: Psychologists remind us that “we are not our problems or crisis.” You are not the divorce, illness, trauma, or bank account. Our true self is that deeper entity that is whole and well no matter how hard it is to get through hard times. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.

3. Rewrite Your Story

Some of life’s struggles will change our life. When this happens, we can reframe the situation and focus on the opportunity the setback presents us. Once we identify ourselves as a victim, it stays with us.

They way in which we reframe the situation allows us to choose our personal narrative. It’s our point of view that shapes our world and the place we hold in it. If we reframe our struggle as a growth opportunity, we’re less likely to see ourselves as a victim.

A Harvard study found that people who viewed stress as a way to fuel performance managed their stress better than those who ignored their stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Recognize the story you use to explain your life. Can your situation be looked at in a different way that you haven’t considered before? Your current interpretation of your situation will change as you grow and mature. Knowing that, you can have faith and hope that things will be better tomorrow.

4. Seek Out Discomfort Zones 

Don’t be reluctant to accept a new responsibility or challenge because you don’t think you’re ready. It’s OK to acknowledge that you need additional information, skill, or experience but remember that no one is 100% ready when an opportunity present itself. Most opportunities in life force us out of our comfort zone, and so it’s natural for many of them to feel like struggles at first.

That is the best reason to move into your discomfort zone! You won’t be surprised by your response when you need to get through hard times because you’ve already spent time in discomfort zones.

Your stress hormone systems become less responsive to stress the more they are used. So, if you live your life in a way that embraces challenges on a regular basis, you’ll develop the skills that enable you to handle the extra stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Intentionally place yourself in challenging situations. The advantage of this approach is that you get to choose the level of stress involved in each challenge. To develop the skills to get through hard times, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for them.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.”

Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness. A hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming who had clawed her way through college sat in front of a panel of polished FBI agents and interviewed for a job as a special agent.

Grit Up!

My working class background was worn like a badge of honor. There was pride in the fact that my family took showers at the end of a hard day instead of stepping out of a shower smelling like a petunia each morning.

I grew up an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. Educated elitists I met at universities ridiculed me because I wasn’t as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

The FBI liked that; when I was hired it was not because I was a female. They hired me because I was the best person for the job who happened to be female.

Entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business. Startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets. Leadership can get blindsided by investors. 

Here is why you need grit when life throws you a curveball:

1. GRIT UP & MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

body language

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch presented different types of adversity. Rattlesnakes in the summer and deadly snowstorms in the winter both presented life and death situations.

At an elevation of 7,000 feet, we were frequently snowed in for months at a time during the winter. My brother and I had a private tutor who lived on the ranch with us because we were hours from the nearest town. When I was in first grade, our first tutor’s vehicle got stuck in a snowdrift and she froze to death while trying to walk back to our house.

We worked hard and lived in poverty. While slick professionals in the cities discussed whether schools should teach bi-lingual classes, we were more interested in keeping our livestock alive.

I had no friends and started to stack hay bales when I was 8 years old. Believe me when I say that I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

Later, researchers noticed a connection between grit, success, and early adversity in life. Why would adversity when I was young give me an advantage?

The answer in this study suggests that adversity at a young age teaches us early in life how to deal with our emotions. The ability to regulate our emotions gives us an advantage in both business and life.

Emotional competence is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness. If we are emotionally intelligent and aware of our innermost emotions, we have a much better chance of dealing with them when a curveball comes our way as an adult.

What This Means For You:

No one gets through childhood without a few scrapes. We don’t all get to play with the red ball in the playground. Mine the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the way in which you dealt with blows in the past. They are an accurate predictor of how you deal with them now.

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

As I worked counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant I had to lean into the struggle when hit with a curveball or roadblock. I had one case that lasted 7 years before I was able to successfully close it. While I had other cases assigned to me during that time, this one case just reared its ugly head year after year.

There is a difference between persistence and stubbornness. The case demanded that I change my behavior, tactics, and mindset if I planned on solving it.

Sometimes productive behavior means leaning into a struggle in ways that you can’t anticipate. Mental toughness is knowing when to change your behavior or when to change your environment. There will be times when you do need to change the environment so you can be your best self. 

Positive thinking is another cornerstone of mental toughness. FBI agents survive because they are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. We don’t go into arrest situations assuming everything will work out OK.

What It Means For You:

Don’t run from adversity or struggles if they are lying in the path of what you want to do in life. That means you will need to adapt and be flexible. Keep an eye on micro quotas as you move toward your macro goal. Anticipate what could go wrong so you are better able to predict your response and land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

3. GRIT UP & STOP WHINING

 

whining-kid

The quickest way to be ostracized from an FBI squad is to whine, point fingers, or blame others. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better, because your words have power, both over yourself and others.

If something is wrong, save your mental energy for finding ways to make the situation better.

There are so many things over which we have no control—our parents, the country of our birth, the time in history into which we are born. Most of us do not have a choice of when or where we die, nor can we control the time and manner of our death.

But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless. It’s important to choose what makes us significant so we live according to our most deeply felt values.

Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

Take time to find out your core values because they drive your behavior. They move and inspire you. Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, find ways you’ll make it better.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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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How To Overcome Adversity —The Big Bounce Back

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Kidnapping cases present FBI agents with some of their most challenging investigations and opportunities to overcome adversity. More often than not, the choices that the agent makes has life and death consequences. The goal is always to recover the victim safely and put the kidnapper behind bars.

How To Overcome Adversity

Grit is the word that best describes the attitude that takes hold of an agent when they will not allow themselves to consider the possibility of failure. When someone’s life is at stake, you keep going—no matter how dark the path ahead.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when determining how to overcome adversity. As entrepreneurs and business owners, you will have several moments where lots of negative thoughts will be occupying your mind.

To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation and we need to overcome adversity. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

1. Reframe Your Situation To Overcome Adversity

Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you place limits around your goals and behaviors. If something sucks, the most logical thing in the world is to call it out for what it is. But, when you grit up to overcome adversity, it means you seek out new interpretations and perspectives that will help you keep moving forward.

Bad news will never keep a dedicated FBI agent from looking for a kidnapping victim. Instead, the agent will reframe the situation so they maintain a more positive and resourceful state of mind.

Reframing is not about pretending everything is perfect and positive! Instead, it’s about providing you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities to overcome adversity.

2. Reframe The Content

If you reframe the content of your situation, it means you choose what you focus on. Nothing has changed, but instead of wallowing in what did not work, you intentionally choose to focus on what did work.

For example, instead of spending time complaining to everyone that you’ve lost a contract, take the time to analyze why you lost it—learn from the incident. And then move on. No one wants to keep hearing about it…

Ask yourself:

  • Why did we lose the contract?
  • Could we have done something earlier to head it off? What?
  • What can losing this contract teach me about myself? My company?
  • Are there any negative behaviors that need to be addressed for the future?

Another example might include a mistake that you made. Ask yourself:

  • How can I find the positive in this situation?
  • What did I do well?
  • How can I learn about myself from this experience?
  • How can make this information useful for future behavior?

3. Reframe Context

In almost every situation where the interrogation of a kidnapper does not lead to a confession, the interviewing agent always kicks themselves by asking, “What should I have done differently? What could I have said that would have made them buckle and confess?”

Perhaps the evidence was overwhelming, and yet the kidnapper did not feel compelled to admit to the kidnapping. It’s even worse when the victim has still not been found.

Almost all behavior is appropriate in some context—maybe not the one in which you are currently in—but in another situation, your behavior or decision might be quite acceptable and helpful.

Just because your performance was not appreciated in this context, it does not mean it might not be appreciated in another time or place. This is important to remember so that you don’t come down too hard on yourself when you face adversity and things don’t work out the way you anticipated.

Let’s take the same example as above: you’ve lost a contract so you might ask yourself:

  • What different conversations would have been appropriate?
  • In what context would my choice of words have been the right one?
  • What behavior or words could have saved me in this situation?
  • Can I recognize that situation in the future?
  • When has my behavior helped me in the past?

Often there is no right or wrong way to overcome adversity. What might work in one situation or context may not work in another. Keep reframing things so you can look at all possibilities.

Grit is learning how to bounce back, no matter what your situation.

How have you bounced back from adversity?

© 2015 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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