Posts Tagged ‘mental toughness’

Why Some People Succeed Almost All The Time

Monday, October 16th, 2017

I was never the smartest student in my classes. I had to really work hard to earn an A. But, I thought I knew why some people succeed almost all the time. Because they are smart!

When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people who are blessed with brains are the ones who will make it to the top. Common sense suggests that being smart inspires confidence. It does for awhile, but only while the going is easy.

The deciding factor in success is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People who are convivial and pleasant even in hard times tend to attract the right people around them. With the right people come the right opportunities.

There is a reason why some people succeed almost all the time, and it has little to do with being smart. Instead, they develop personal habits that carry them through setbacks and challenges. They use mental toughness to master the art of discipline and become the right person at the right time.

Here is a list of personal habits for you to cultivate as well:

1. Forget Self-Improvement

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they understand their core strengths. They don’t waste precious time trying to fix their weaknesses. Too much popular self-improvement tries to build up a skill set or talent that is lacking.

Identify your strong character strengths and skill sets. Think about how you might use those strengths at work, in relationships, and at home. You’re also less likely to experience depression and other anxiety.

TIP: Bask in what is already great about yourself rather than try to fix what is not.

2. Savor “Me” Time

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they understand the value of time. They direct their efforts toward the most important things in their life. It is important that they impose effective time management skills and learn how to say no.

They prioritize what needs to be done from what would be nice to get done. People who savor “me” time are very good at cutting out toxic relationships that add no value. Small acts of self-care do not need to take up giant blocks of time. But it is important to allow yourself to indulge in the stuff that brings you joy.

TIP: Spend a little time and write down the things that bring a smile to your face. Find ways to incorporate these small acts of joy into your daily life.

3. Develop A Back-Up Plan

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they don’t leave things to chance. They have a back-up plan—for just about everything. From electrical outages to failed business plans, they create strategies that will help them move forward.

One of my favorite lines comes from The Eiger Sanction, a movie starring Clint Eastwood in which 5 men plan to climb the Eiger in Switzerland. Eastwood asks one of the climbers about the back-up plan in case they need to retreat. The climber replies, “I consider it self-defeating to plan in terms of retreat.” Eastwood’s character responds with, “I consider it stupid not to.”

Have a Plan B, because if Plan A is derailed, you can land on your feet and move right into Plan B. You might get blindsided by new competition, new regulations, or a turn in the economy.

TIP: Always have a Plan B to fall back on when things go wrong. And have other people available to help you execute it when the time comes.

4. Know What Makes Them Tick

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because they pursue things that bring them value and meaning. They’ve figured out what makes them tick and they go for it. They edit the stuff that detracts from their pursuit.

Often, they make an extra effort to educate themselves about different issues and topics. This doesn’t mean they have loads of formal education, but they are curious.  Most likely, curiosity is what alerted them to their passion in the first place.

TIP: Find something that provides you with value and meaning. It might be related to your job, or it might not. It isn’t always important to get paid. But do put your gift to use.

5. Unafraid Of The Unknown

There was a shepherd boy named David. He was not a warrior and he was small in size. David looked at a giant named Goliath and said “I will strike you down and cut off your head. ” That is exactly what he did. Challenges are only as big as we make them.

The runt of the litter takes on the giant. We love stories of the underdog who musters the courage and confidence to find ways of beating the odds!

According to the story, David ran toward the giant. As Goliath moved in for the kill, David noticed a gap in the armor that protected Goliath’s head. David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones. It struck on the forehead, the giant fell down on the ground.

TIP: To increase safety, move toward the unknown. When David moved closer to the threat, he was able to see where and how to strike. Opportunities not seen from a distance were made visible as he pressed forward.

6. Cultivate Kindness

The reason why some people succeed almost all the time is because other people like being around them. They attract other people who succeed almost all the time!

Being a do-gooder can increase your level of contentment. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but small acts of kindness can change your mental outlook. If the man standing behind you in the grocery line looks hungry and is buying one item, let him go ahead of you. Give someone a compliment.

What goes around comes around. If you are kind to others, there’s a decent chance you’re kind to yourself as well.

TIP: Try this 10-second exercise from Chade-Meng Tan. Identify two people in your office and think, “I wish for these two people to be happy and content.” Don’t say or do anything else. Since no one else knows what you’re doing, there’s no risk of embarrassment. It turns out that being on the giving end of a kind thought is rewarding in and of itself.

© 2017 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.” 

How To Get Along With Negative People

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Negative people show up in all walks of life. As an undercover FBI agent, I couldn’t pick and choose the people I met. So, I learned to get along with everyone, even negative people who were downright toxic. Often I was forced to spend time with people who felt trapped by their life and blamed others for their situation.

What are the characteristics of negative people?  They are soul-sucking individuals who take but never give back. Often, they refuse to accept responsibility for their failures. Blame others for their hardships. Possess no desire to improve themselves. Search out and find the negative in everything they see. They then pass on those observations to everyone around them. Have I missed anything?

I’m picky about the friends with whom I spend time. It’s important to be surrounded who uplift, energize, and encourage those around them. I’ve always believed that the people with whom I surround myself will either make or break my success.

My undercover experiences made me realize that many people go to work everyday and find themselves surrounded by colleagues and associates who are losers. Losers are people who are depressed, unhappy, frustrated, or angry about their situation in life.

Negative people often become toxic.

It takes mental toughness to walk into the same situation day after day and face the negative attitudes of others. And, not let it rub off on you. That negative shit can be catching! We need to find ways to get along with the people without becoming depressed or frustrated ourselves.

Here are 4 things to understand if you want to get along with negative people:

1. Catch the Right Attitude

Negative attitudes catch on more easily than positive ones. The reason is our survival-driven, limbic system in the brain is powerful. It has kept us safe for centuries by alerting us to negative information that warns us of danger. Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than positive stimuli. Social psychologists explain that negative information is like velcro while positive information is like teflon. Negativity is stickier; we take it more seriously and pay more attention to it.

Tip: We don’t need to run from negative information because it creates anxiety or fear in us. Do not let the negativity of others affect your well-being. Instead, handle negative information and do one of the following:

  • write in a journal
  • focus on a positive thought for 20 seconds or more
  • talk it through with a trusted friend

These activities will move you from the emotional brain to the part of the brain that thinks.

2. Groupthink is Strong

Once a negative synergy develops within a work environment, it’s tough to break the culture that’s been established. Groupthink is strongly associated with survival. To express a contrary view places us at risk of being ostracized. Negative behavior is sometimes encouraged by leadership so watch your step. Make sure you understand your organization’s culture and groupthink.

Tip: Walk into work everyday and understand that your co-workers and colleagues are heavily influenced by the message sent from leadership. We tend to give more heft to messages delivered from people in authority.  If you’re trying to bring positivity into the conversation, you must be seen as a person of influence.

3. Keep Your Mental Chatter Positive

The way in which we speak to ourselves is one of the best indicators of our chances of success. Because of our negativity bias, our mental chatter is up to 70% negative.

We often assume that a when a person uses positive language, it’s an accurate indication of their attitude. However, studies have shown that behavior is a far more reliable predictor of what a person really thinks than the words they speak. People can appear positive on a superficial level when they use the right words. But their loser behavior is a far better indicator of what is going on inside their head.

Tip: When negative people surround us, we need to recognize when their negativity affects our own mental chatter. Research shows that we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves every minute. Train yourself to speak and think in positive terms. You can “override fears” that are stimulated by the continual negativity of others.

4. Maintain a Positive and Realistic Attitude

Researchers have drilled down into the science of positivity. The positivity of Normal Vincent Peale quotes may seem trite to some. However, there is ample evidence to suggest that a positive attitude makes a difference. You can either survive your circumstances or thrive in a world that you create.

When we are positive, we are able to look reality in the face and not flinch. Positive thinking is not sugar-coated phrases or optimism that insists circumstances will change.

Tip: Often, your circumstances will not change and you must decide how you will continue to move forward anyway. Be positive and believe your destiny is in your hands.

Be an example to the negative people around you. Help them identify what they are good at. Encourage them to focus on those positive qualities. Once they do, they may believe they are more than passive observers in their own life.

“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude toward us.”~John N. Mitchell

© 2017 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.” 

8 Ways To Become More Resilient

Monday, September 18th, 2017

FBI agents need to be resilient so they can solve cases that have no easy or obvious solution. They go to where they are needed, not to where they feel comfortable.

As an FBI agent, I was assigned investigations where I had no idea how to solve them. But this was my thinking: Drop me in the middle of any squad or any situation; anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared, nor will I give up. If I’m knocked down, I’ll drag myself back up and keep at it until I solve the case.

This is the mindset of a survivor—a person who is resilient enough to bounce back from the trauma of everyday life.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, you will be required to be resilient when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. You have a willingness to swim upstream and not give up simply because the tide is against you.

Resilient people are successful because they possess certain qualities. Here are 8 ways you can become more resilient:

1. Take Responsibility For Your Actions

I quickly learned that the FBI would not tolerate whining and complaining when my circumstances were less than ideal. Instead, they drilled into me the need to take personal control and responsibility for the direction life was taking me.

Resilient leaders do not seek out happiness by relying on others, nor do they blame others for their situation.

How To Make It Work For You: Don’t whine, blame others, or point fingers if you don’t get what you want.

2. Focus On Possibilities

Resilient people are always asking this question: what can I do to change my situation? When they focus on the possibilities that lie before them, they make their own luck. They do what they can with the hand they’ve been dealt, and in doing so, they take control of their life.

In his book, The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Michael Marmot explains how clerks and secretaries are more likely to die of heart attacks than senior executives.

His team took into consideration on variables such as smoking and poor nutrition. His research team concluded that those in lower category jobs had less control over their life. That is why they were more likely to suffer from heart disease.

How To Make It Work For You: Believe you can control the important events in your life. Often this will mean you will need to be flexible in the way that you approach your goals. And agile in the way in which you overcome obstacles.

3. Become A Positive Thinker

There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker. Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic.

Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye and confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

As FBI agents, we planned arrests by giving priority to what could go wrong. We were not optimists who hoped everything would go according to plan. We weighed the possibility of a negative outcome with equal heft as the possibility of a positive outcome.

How To Make It Work For You: Hunt the good stuff and find 5 positive thoughts to counter each negative thought. When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind.

4. Prioritize What Is Important

Squad briefings were a great way to help agents get over a hurdle in one of their investigations. When an agent briefed the squad on a case, white boards were created with priorities listed—from most important to least.

Prioritizing information is a useful resilience tool because forces your brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. Lists are an excellent way of forcing different parts of the brain to interact with each other. This also prevents different parts of our brain from fighting against each another for attention and energy.

How To Make It Work For You: Writing down your priority list helps you to visualize, so keep paper and pen handy. Typing your list out on a computer does not satisfy the brain’s need for visualization.

5. Manage Emotions

You are a wimp if you run away from a negative emotion or deny unpleasant thoughts and feelings. You don’t think you’re mentally tough enough to handle the hard stuff.

Too often, people pretend negative emotions and feelings don’t exist. Ignoring negative feelings is not healthy; nor is wallowing in them. Resilient people hurt when life hands them a rough time, but they never forget that they still have control over their attitude.

How To Make It Work For You: Identify your emotions, and then call them, or label them, for what they really are. If the emotion is pride, envy, or anger—own up to it. Although most people expect labeling emotions to increase them, when you label your fear or anxiety you actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotion.

6. Reframe Negative Events

Setbacks are a natural part of life. Resilience requires mental toughness because it is the ability to recover quickly from adversity, no matter your situation.

Nip negative emotions and reactions in the bud when they first appear. This is when they are the weakest.

Cold cases are those in which the leads have grown cold, but nothing motivates an FBI case agent as much as looking into the face of an innocent victim who trusts and expects them to find the answer. Quit is not a word used in FBI investigations.

How To Make It Work For You: Reframing is a fancy word for changing the way you look at adversity or a negative situation. Reframing can provide you with different ways of interpreting your less than perfect situation so you can expand the possibilities and overcome the adversity.

7. Find Your Tribe

Friendship are important; they can lift you up, provide security, and prevent slip-ups in both business and life.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, Tribe, “We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.”

A strong psychological thread developed during our training as special agents is the concept of the “FBI family.” FBI employees will close ranks around one of their own if the individual is targeted or harmed in some way.

How To Make It Work For You: Find your tribe. Whether it’s your biological family or your adoptive one from work, school, or church—find people who give you the sense of security and connectivity.

© 2017 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.” 

5 Strategies To Deal With Difficult Colleagues

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It is hard to put difficult colleagues into a one-size-fits-all box. After all, they come in so many shapes and sizes. No workplace is without them.

What about the passive-aggressive who feeds on bullying others? How about the know-it-all corporate climber who walks all over people in her 5 inch stilettos? Or the two-faced backstabber who delights in betraying confidences?

Difficult colleagues create stressful environments and unpleasant working conditions. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 65% of Americans cited work as a top source of stress. Only 37% of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress. In fact, work-related problems significantly outpaced other leading causes of stress such as health concerns or family responsibilities.

Not all stress at work can be blamed on difficult colleagues, but our workplace is a perfect breeding ground for people who push our buttons. A gossip who might not ordinarily get on our nerves becomes toxic when we are forced to work with them on a daily basis.

Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, difficult employees are not always bad employees. They may be highly skilled or very talented. They may add to the bottom line of your company, but they can also create stress for your other team members which reduces overall productivity.

The way your team deals with difficult colleagues will have a major impact on their careers and their well-being. Here are 5 strategies to deal with difficult colleagues:

1. Keep Friends Close, Enemies Even Closer

A difficult colleague may not be your enemy, but the more you know about them, the better you can understand them.

I will admit that, as an FBI agent, there are people out there who considered me to be the difficult colleague. I (sometimes) regret that I left casualties in the squadroom, but I also know I had reasons for taking my stance. I’m not justifying my behavior; I make this point to underscore the importance of trying to understand the difficult colleague.

A Buddhist practice suggests that if someone is causing you to suffer, it’s because they’re suffering as well.

If someone had taken the time to ask me about my behavior, I would have pointed out that I am an overachiever. As such, I put so much pressure on myself to excel that, at times, I had no time for the pettiness of common courtesy! The stress I put on myself to run undercover operations and develop human intelligence (humint) sources caught up with me; I ended up incredibly sick for several months.

TIP: Take the time to understand that your workplace antagonist is an imperfect person, just like you. You don’t have to like them but if you can understand why they act like a jerk, you might be able to prevent yourself from adding fuel to the fire.

2. Know What Pushes Your Buttons

 

 

 

No one escapes childhood without a few bruises and scrapes. We all have flash points that stem from our upbringing, family life, and relationships. Anger or frustration can be triggered when we least expect it. We react to a situation or individual rather than choose our response.

Our buttons are our responsibility to uncover. It’s so much easier to blame the difficult colleague or stupid supervisor rather than admit we have our own flaws.

Instead, take a look at why you react to certain people or situations in a negative way. Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. You need to be brave enough to look at yourself with honesty and compassion. This might mean going back to childhood hurts to discover the patterns of thinking that are sabotaging you now.

TIP: Don’t be a wimp. Get a handle on what those buttons are and who, or what, pushes them. Rather than seeing difficult colleagues as a burden, they could actually be your ticket to dramatic professional growth.

3. Save The Fight For What Matters

Analyze the person and situation so you can rule out “false triggers” that create unnecessary stress in your environment. If you can’t, you will be at the mercy of the office bullies because they will know how to manipulate you. By pushing one of your buttons, you can be made to look oversensitive, weak, or gullible.

TIP: Be responsive, not reactive when someone pushes your buttons. A knee-jerk reaction is never a good choice.

4. Keep A Lid On Anger

Anger flares up when we feel that we, or another co-worker, have been unjustly treated by the difficult colleague. There are several reasons anger is not a good reaction:

  • An unpleasant emotion
  • Bad for your health
  • Clouds your judgment
  • Makes you look unprofessional

Avoid anger in the workplace. If you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you risk being seen as unable to handle the situation like a seasoned professional. Worse yet, you may get labeled as being a difficult colleague as well.

TIP: Don’t flare up in the immediate heat of a confrontation. Instead, allow yourself to observe what is happening without getting caught up in it (meditation can help you with this). If you feel you can’t control your anger, try stalling for time. Here are some suggestions:

“Can I have a little more time to think this through? I’ll get back to you with an answer.”

“This isn’t on today’s agenda. Can we talk about it later?”

“I have a deadline. Can I get back to you on that?”

Bottom line: get out of the situation as quick as you can so you can decide if this is the hill you want to die on. If not, wait until your emotions are under control and then choose your response rather than reacting with negativity.

5. Face Conflict

Conflict avoidance is not always a great idea, either. Staying away from disagreements and conflict creates stress as well.

If you’re faced with a difficult colleague, take some time out to reflect on the situation. Think about what the ideal outcome would be for you. What would you hope to accomplish from a conversation with your colleague?

Talk the situation out with other co-workers to gage their assessment of it. They might be able to offer constructive advice and observations.

Don’t criticize, blame, or judge. Point out what you both agree upon at the beginning of the conversation.

TIP: Things might not change between you and the difficult colleague at first, but it’s worth a try. In a corporate environment that is known for tactics and playing games, develop a reputation of someone who is direct, personal and genuine. You’ll stand out!

© 2017 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.”

How To Gain More Clarity Of Goals

Monday, September 4th, 2017

As a kid, my parents gave me no choice—I was going to go to college after I graduated from high school. I had no clarity of goals for my life, so I followed the blueprint laid out by my parents.

I followed the path chosen for me all through school, and when I graduated, some fool told me to follow my passion. Clothes were fun and interesting to me, so I looked for a job in retail. I was miserable, bored, and restless. To get out of the rut I had dug for myself, I went back to school to pursue a Masters degree—but in what?

I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Most of my friends had gotten married and started families. Was I supposed to do the same thing? I’d had enough of the “follow your passion” crap advice so I set out to pinpoint when and where I found joy in my life. Not vacuous happiness experiences, but deep and meaningful joy.

Two things came to mind: I loved history and books. Did that mean I was to be a writer of historical fiction? Or were history and books to be my favorite hobbies?

Leadership is understanding how to help people plot out clarity of goals. It can be a difficult and messy process and it takes mental toughness to work through the uncertainty. 

Do you follow the blueprint of someone else’s life or create one of your own? Parker Palmer wrote in his book, Let Your Life Speak, that he grew up admiring people like Martin Luther King and Ghandi. He set out to change the educational system from within. His goal was to become the president of UC Berkeley, and he was almost able to achieve his goal.

The problem was that he hated his job. Palmer finally realized that he could be inspired by people like King and Ghandi, but he didn’t have to walk their path. He resigned and started another career that was more authentic to him.

There are powerful and wonderful voices in the world that provide ideas of what we can do and where we should go. Ultimately, however, you must choose to create your own unique blueprint and not try and imitate the lives of others.

At the age of 25 I became an FBI agent. I had found a path that resonated with me. The values held closest by this venerable organization are Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. I loved the grit in integrity because I grew up a scrappy kid on a Wyoming cattle ranch. My new career wasn’t in history or books, but I didn’t leave them behind, either.

It was a trade-off, but the values of the FBI were also important to me. I cut myself a deal: I was living in alignment with my goals even though not everything was in perfect order. There were connections between what I was doing and what I believed to be true.

I retired from the FBI after almost 25 years and wrote 2 books about leadership development. And we’ll see where my love of history takes me in the future.

Here are 5 ways you can gain clarity of goals that are important to you:

1. Create The Right Morning Ritual

Research confirms that our brain is most active and creative immediately following sleep. Unfortunately, 80 percent of people between the ages of 18-44 check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, thereby losing those precious creative moments.

In Morning Papers, Julia Cameron suggests we sit down every morning and write out 3 pages of whatever is on our mind. It might sound like a time-waster at first, but neuroscience backs up Cameron. Your brain is most creative upon waking up; use this time wisely to gain clarity on goals.

How To Make It Work For You: Go to a quiet place and grab a journal. Data dump whatever is on your mind but loosely direct your thoughts on how to gain clarity of goals. Write down whatever comes to mind about those things.

2. Focus Your Energy

Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca states that, “it’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.”

Today’s entertainment-on-demand world provides instant distractions. It’s easy to catch ourselves getting off track. As a result, our clarity of goals tend to rolled over by those distractions.

Steve Jobs suggested that we ask this question everyday: ”If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” It’s a powerful question because it forces us to focus on what we want to accomplish each day. Our approach to our day is purposeful because we identify which tasks are essential.

How To Make It Work For You: Say “no” to opportunities that do not align with your goals for the day. Forget the “busy work” that doesn’t move you toward your goals. Leave social media until the important work is done.

3. Align Immediate And Long-Term Goals

Psychologists Ken Sheldon and Tim Kasser have found that people who are mentally healthy and satisfied with life have a higher degree of vertical coherence among their goals. Long-term and immediate goals all fit together. The connection, even if loose, is important. The pursuit of short-term goals also advances the pursuit of long-term ones.

How To Make It Work For You: Always keep in mind that successful people achieve their goals not because of who they are, but because of what they do.

4. Create A Work Blueprint

Psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who can make a connection between their work and something socially meaningful are more likely to be satisfied. They are better able to adapt to the inevitable compromises that we all have to make in our job because they have clarity of goals.

How To Make It Work For You: Take a look at the questions below. The answers to them shouldn’t be a job description of what you do. What you do for a living is not important because the real question here is: why do you work. This will give you a general idea of your view of work:

  • What is work for?
  • Is it just about the money?
  • How does my work relate to what I feel is important?
  • Is my work worthwhile?
  • How does work provide you opportunities for growth and fulfillment?

5. Place Yourself Under Surveillance

Surveillance can produce a mother-lode of accurate information. FBI agents surveil terrorist suspects to get answers; you can surveil yourself at work to get answers about yourself. Create your own surveillance log.

How To Make It Work For You: Each evening, go back over the day’s activities:

  • Pinpoint where you were most engaged and energized.
  • Zoom in where you were least engaged and energized.

Rate each on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).

Reflect on “why” for each of the above. Did it have anything to do with environment, people, activities, or technology?

Now that you know where you are energized at your work, and where you are not, what can you do to change your situation? These are indicators of clarity of goals. Once you pinpoint the areas that breathe life into you, either look for ways to expand those areas in your current job, or start looking for a job where you can.

Remember that life is often a series of trade-offs between the values that are important and the opportunities in front of us. Many things in life are a compromise. Give yourself permission to cut a deal with yourself as long as there are connections between your short-term and long-term goals.

© 2017 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.”

8 Powerful Ways To Deal With A Problem Employee

Monday, August 21st, 2017

The problem employee shows up in every aspect of life because they don’t leave their idiosyncrasies at work. They take them with them wherever they go.

I had to learn how to deal with people with irritating personalities as a counterintelligence FBI agent. Walking away just because an informant was unpleasant was not an option. I needed to work with them and bring them onto my team because often they had unique information of value.

As entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders you will encounter a problem employee at some point. They can waste a lot of your valuable time and sow discord among the other employees.

Don’t get sucked into a vortex of frustration. Sometimes you need mental toughness to understand how to best deal with these types of employees. Here’s a list of the 8 most common problem employees and how to motivate them to improve their behavior:

1. The One Who Expects Perfection

There is always that problem employee who knows the right way to do things and is only too willing to show you. They have a tendency to make you, and others, feel flawed and judged. Their bottom line is often something like, “Let’s get it done right,” not “Let’s all be friends.”

Perfectionists are people who operate by the book and like to follow standard operating procedures. They can be a pain the butt if your work environment is chaotic because they are not comfortable with change.

TIP: Set up a clear chain of command and insist everyone go through proper channels. Start and end meetings on time—a perfectionist likes schedules. Explain exactly how you want things done; this provides the structure that the employee needs.

2. The One Who Wants To Be Your Best Friend

This is the problem employee who feels it’s all about relationships rather than the bottom line. They can take up an inordinate amount of time talking to you, and others, in an attempt to build that relationship.

The insecure ones are suck ups. Their lack of confidence in their skill set is compensated by using flattery and ingratiating behavior. They feel more comfortable leaning into personal relationships than applying their skills to get the job done.

TIP: Be generous with praise, but don’t reward them for fawning. Stick to the facts and never confront them with the problem. Most of them do not realize they have crossed the line.

3. The One Who Is An Overachiever

There is one in every crowd. As a leader, you may not recognize the overachiever as a problem employee. Authority figures tend to respond well to them because—well, they get things done! They go above and beyond what is asked or expected of them.

Overachievers can be impatient, with you and others. They often are not good team players and chafe at following strict rules. Be cautious about putting a perfectionist and an overachiever together on a project.

TIP: Don’t appeal to the warm and fuzzy side of their personality; they may not have one. Don’t micromanage them or ask them to slow down. Pay attention to the tension they may create with your less overachieving employees.

4. The One Who Thrives On Drama

Feelings and emotions are usually fairly close to the surface with this type of problem employee. They spend a lot of time in the depth of their tragedy and are often moody when things are not going well.

Frequently in emotional flux, dramatics tend to be inconsistent because they are mood driven and take things personally.

TIP: Be empathetic; they will feel valued and understood. If they become hysterial or overly dramatic, take a look at what is triggering it in their work environment. This employee does not do well in bureacracies or repetitious work. Instead, put them in work spaces where they can express themselves to others.

5. The One Who Analyzes Everything

Nerds are usually intelligent and thrive on scientific-like methods. They tend to be loners and not good team players. They attain their power from collecting information and knowing more than you do about a project.

Nerdy types like to feel prepared so give them plenty of advance warning if you need something. They’ll love you if you feed them information because knowledge is the currency that gives them the edge.

TIP: Don’t place this employee in a fast-paced environment where there’s no time to think or collect information. They do best in closed door situations where there are fewer interpersonal demands and interruptions.

6. The One Who Is A Worrier

Worrywarts are the ones who fret about everything, from their own abilities to your competence as a leader. They also tend to complain or second guess your decisions as a leader.

Never tell this problem employee to “not worry!” They will mistrust you and worry even more. They can be great strategists because they are always thinking. If you direct their energy toward worrying about how the competition might get a leg up, they can be a great resource.

TIP: They do not do well in environments where change is sudden or without notice. They perform best when there are clear rules to follow and where change is not introduced without preparation, caution, and all questions are answered.

7. The One Who Is A Slacker

We all dislike this problem employee and it’s tempting to eliminate the problem by firing them. If they are lazy and/or incompetent, sooner rather than later is best. Before you do, though, make sure you’ve come to the right conclusion about them. Make sure they are not bored or under-challenged.

Very often what they really need is more structure. Work with them to set goals and make these goals appeal to their emotion. They need to find a way to connect with their interests and strengths.

TIP: Often these are the people who thrive in environments that are in constant flux and change. Ask them lots of questions to get their creative juices flowing and then give them permission to follow through with their ideas.

8. The One Who Is Bossy

You have your very own Attila the Hun—lucky you! They thrive on taking charge and will not hesitate to undermine you if they don’t have ownership in the project. They do not hesitate to talk over people, including you, and use very forceful and blunt language to get their ideas across.

Bossy people don’t like to waste time dithering about what should be done. They respect leaders who say what they mean, so spit your news out fast and straight.

TIP: First, you need to determine whether the employee is a blowhard or whether they really can get in front of a situation, take the heat, and assume responsibility. Second, earn their respect. If they respect you as a leader, you can come together as a team.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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.”

How To Develop Grit In Times Of Crisis

Monday, August 14th, 2017

The Chinese word for crisis is made by combining two characters meaning crisis and opportunity. The wise and ancient Chinese understood that the true nature of a crisis is an opportunity in disguise.

A crisis implies change that has not been invited and an outcome that is not predictable. Rarely do changes come into our life that do not require an significant amount of restructuring and readjustment.

Similar to remodeling a house, you will be required to tear down what needs to be renovated and replace it with stronger materials. This can feel like a crisis when your abilities are tested and you reach that point where you dig deep for the grit to endure the reconstruction.

Grit is what separates successful people from their competition. Grit is not knowing what to do, but doing it anyway. It is endurance, conviction, and pluckiness. It will take you where you want to go when change starts to feel like a crisis.

Here is how to develop grit in times of crisis:

1. Know When To Stop Struggling

There is a difference between knowing when to quit and knowing when to stop the struggle against something that we cannot stop. When we quit, we throw in the towel, admit defeat, and feel like a victim of our circumstances.

If we stop the struggle, we face up to our fear. “What is the worst that could happen?” This is the first step toward detecting new possibilities that may reveal themselves in our circumstances.

How To Make It Work For You: Do not quit when you feel you can no longer deal with a crisis. Instead, find ways to adapt to your new circumstances. Have the grit to stay in the game but be flexible in your attempt to correct a situation according to your idea of “right.”

2. Manage Emotions

When facing a crisis, emotional incontinence is a temptation and we share our sorrows with anyone who will listen. To those who have created our crisis, it’s an admission that they have the power to hurt us. If the people who are listening are outsiders, they are helpless to offer us sound advice on how to move forward.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore and tamp down what you are feeling! 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 responding to a crisis in a way that is positive.

How To Make It Work For You: If you manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior during a crisis, you will have a better chance of recognizing new opportunities as they unfold.

3. Keep Ego In Check

Our ego takes a beating when shit hits the fan and we find ourselves up to our knees in it. No one likes to suffer or face unpleasant situations. They are, however, a fact of life and if we can keep our ego in check, we can come through them stronger.

Everyone knows how to survive in good times. That doesn’t take any talent. It’s the trying times that separate those who have what it takes to succeed from those who just project the image.

How To Make It Work For You: Developing grit is a quality that is essential for our personal growth. We take responsibility for our actions. When we stop whining, pointing fingers, and blaming others—especially during a crisis—we are able to choose our destiny.

4. Maintain Clarity Of Vision

Vision is where you see your life heading. Goals are the stepping stones to get there. Goals should be reviewed and revised on a yearly basis. If you don’t, goals can end up obstructing your original vision for yourself.

Vision and passion are the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

How To Make It Work For You: When you feel your grit begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal. If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your vision.

5. Develop An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Most interviews or studies of entrepreneurs only look at people who have been successful. They rarely focus on asking questions about what made them successful in the first place. It’s very difficult for people to describe themselves at the beginning of their career. Most of us could not remember what was going through our mind, especially if we’re scrambling to keep our company afloat.

In a recent study, researchers interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs who had not been in business for more than 3 months. They found two commonalities in the thinking of the most successful entrepreneurs: 1) they could not come up with reasons they might fail, and 2) they couldn’t care less what people think about them.

How To Make It Work For You: Find something that makes you happy and go for it. At the end of the day, the way you feel about yourself and your potential will give you confidence that you can develop the grit you will need in times of crisis.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

How To Overcome Adversity And Come Out A Winner

Monday, August 7th, 2017

A shetland pony named Socks helped teach me how to overcome adversity. We lived on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and my parents bought him for me when I was 4 years old.

Socks had a hard and dry little heart; all he wanted to do was terrorize his little rider. Dad would get on him and he was a well-mannered horse. When I got on him, however, I couldn’t get him to do anything. Worse yet, when Dad wasn’t looking, Socks would kick up his heels to see how much it would take to buck me off.

As time marched on, I got very worried because Dad said I wouldn’t get a “real” horse until I learned to ride Socks. I worked at it and finally rode Socks down the meadow about half a mile. We had to cross a ditch to go further. Socks turned his neck to get a good look at me before he let loose and bucked high and fast as he crossed the ditch. I went flying through the air.

Dad watched and saw the whole thing. I was humiliated; I cried and walked away but my Dad caught Socks and made me get right back on. Right then and there, not later when I’d plucked up enough courage to get back on and ride Socks again.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, neuroscience tells us that new memories remain unstable for a short period of time after an event. It’s during this unstable period that memories are being coded and consolidated into your subconscious.

We can erase our fear of an event if we can alter our memory of it, and the best time to do that is during the unstable period. That unstable period lasts for the first few hours.

We can learn how to overcome adversity and come out stronger than before if we do these things:

1. Get Back In The Saddle

We have all had experiences with colleagues, employees, or prospective clients that have left us unsettled, afraid, or unsure of how to move forward. We learn how to overcome adversity if we find ways to tackle the problem again so we can update our memory before that negative feeling becomes codified in our brain.

It might be with a different colleague, employee, or client but don’t let the experience of fear or anxiety get embedded into your thinking. It is important, however, that you make sure your environment is safe before trying to extinguish your fear-conditioned memory.

TIP: Replace a bad memory with a better one. The sooner, the better.

2. Grit Up

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked that I wasn’t coddled, pampered, or entitled. Growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming left me scrappy, hungry, and full of grit. Getting bucked off Socks gave me the understanding that getting knocked down is part of life. But it’s those knocks that produce the grit we need to be successful.

Grit is doing what is needed even when you don’t know exactly how to do it. Grit is determination, persistence, and endurance.

Sports psychologist Tim Woodman has done several studies on what makes superior athletes. He spent a lot of time interviewing many top performers, and the one thing that he came away with was this: nearly every top performer in his study had experienced a critical negative event in their life—parents divorcing, a death, disease, or some other perceived loss—and they experienced it early in life.

Winners learn early that life is hard. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional—LaRae Quy

Hard times create the need for a coping system. Because there is one of two ways to react to the crap that happens in life: you can whine, complain, and blame others. Or, you can take responsibility for your own actions, grit up, and look for solutions.

TIP: Learn to overcome adversity by developing a grit-up attitude. It’s your choice—you can have the mindset that your adversity creates trauma. Or, you can decide to look at your adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Express Gratitude

Hunt the good stuff in your situation and express gratitude for what you find because you cannot be anxious and grateful at the same time.

The area of the brain that produces anxiety and fear overlaps with the area of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This is one of the reasons it’s hard to be stressed out and grateful at the same time.

TIP: Use mental toughness to override your fear by focusing on positive emotions so they can tamp down negative ones. When you are mentally strong, you decide how to overcome adversity by choosing which positive emotions to focus on.

4. Acquire Lots Of Information

FBI agents making arrests face the unknown because they can’t predict how an individual will react when arrested. To alleviate the fear they may experience, they collect information in several different ways:

First, they collect information about themselves. They practice arrest scenarios with red handled guns that do not have firing pins. This provides feedback on how they respond to different situations. It allows them to constantly fine-tune their response so they can anticipate a good outcome when confronted by the unknown.

Second, they collect as much information about the person to be arrested as possible. The agents can prepare if they have reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.

Third, agents qualify in firearms 4 times a year to fine-tune their skills. By the time they actually make an arrest, they have enough muscle memory that they don’t even have to think about what to do because they’ve done it before so many times.

TIP: You’ll have a better chance of coming out a winner if you practice or rehearse your performance ahead of time. It might not be possible to replicate the exact experience, but pay attention to your response in similar situations so you can decide whether or not you need to fine tune it.

5. Visualize Your Success

Visualize how you will overcome adversity. When you visualize your success, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when you are rewarded or have positive feelings. Dopamine enables you to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

By visualizing your performance, your brain actually stores that information as a success.

There is one important caveat here, though; your brain is not easily fooled. It knows the difference between visualizing your success and fantasizing about something you can never do, like being a rock star on stage. Your brain will only store it as a success if it represents real life and real situations you will encounter.

TIP: Educate yourself about your fear, find out as much as you can, and then practice how you can overcome it.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

3 Beliefs Of People Who Refuse To Quit

Monday, July 31st, 2017

I have always admired people who refuse to quit, but when my cover was blown on my first undercover assignment, I had no choice but to throw in the towel.

I worked on building the backbone to find other ways to get back in the game. I was resilient and kept at it until another opportunity presented itself.

Resilience is not just about having backbone. It’s building up everything that supports our backbone, starting with the way we think about the negative events that happen in our life. Let’s face it, we need resilience when the shit hits the fan and things go bad. If everything was a bed or roses, we would never need to dig down to find greater strength and deeper meaning.

Mental toughness is developing a tough mindset that refuses to quit when life throws a curveball. People who refuse to quit are game-ready when opportunities show up as obstacles.

Martin Seligman is a psychologist who has spent decades studying how people deal with setbacks. In his book, Learned Optimism, he states that we all have a way of explaining the bad events that happen to us. This habit of thought starts in childhood and stems from our view of our place in the world.

The crux of mental toughness is being willing to take responsibility for our actions.  As Seligman states, people cannot learn how to be resilient unless they assume responsibility for the way they think about themselves. Maintaining positive beliefs about our abilities and our situation can enable us to become people who refuse to quit or give up on ourselves.

Here are 3 beliefs of people who refuse to quit:

1. Nothing Is Permanent

When I learned the undercover project would be shut down, I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Failure hurts and it’s stupid to pretend it doesn’t. Failure makes everyone helpless, at least for that moment.

The difference between remaining helpless and bouncing back is by accepting that negative events are simply a part of the human condition. Aging, dying, and pain are inevitable. Joy, laughter, and happiness are also inevitable. And all will dissipate despite our best efforts to make them last forever.

Seligman states that people who refuse to quit do not feel that negative events will always happen to them. They also do not feel as though an opportunity will never come their way again.

The two key words to remember are always and never. Banish those words from your vocabulary and replace them with sometimes and lately. The negative event or situation becomes transient rather than permanent.

Affective forecasting is predicting how you will feel in the future. As it turns out, we’re terrible at it. We’re not good judges of what will make us happy. For example, in predicting how events like winning the lottery might affect their happiness, people are likely to overestimate how wonderful their life will become.

The same is true of interpreting how negative events will affect their life. People overestimate how their life will be ruined or negatively impacted by the event.

How To Make It Work For You: When you are down in the dumps and beating up on yourself, think about how much worse things could be for you. This forces you to identify the stuff in your life for which you are grateful.

2. Get Specific About Pervasiveness

It was tempting for me to throw up my hands and declare that I would never be an effective undercover agent. This would be a universal, or blanket explanation, that implied I lacked the ability to ever be good at it.

Instead, I got specific about why my cover had been blown. I was helpless, and a failure—in that particular situation. However, I also knew I could learn from that experience and move on.

People who refuse to quit are not drama queens who make every negative event a catastrophe. Yes, crap happens but people who refuse to quit narrow down the reasons why something was a failure. They are specific about what went wrong and why. Again, they are willing to accept responsibility for their actions and for the way they think about themselves.

“Catastrophizing” implies that you are a loser in all areas of your life, not just in the troubled area. This thinking is pervasive and can lead to people giving up on everything.

How To Make It Work For You: Hope is the cure for catastrophizing. Finding specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope. When you are confronted with a misfortune, check that your self-talk is not hopeless. Instead, inject a large dose of hope into your language.

3. Be Wary Of Personalization

I blamed myself for my failure as an undercover agent. I needed to take responsibility, and I did. As a result, my self-esteem plummeted. I began to see myself as worthless and not making a significant contribution to my squad.

I personalized the incident, and as a result, it affected the way I felt about myself.

They way we think about permanence and pervasiveness affects the things we do. The way we personalize a negative event controls how we feel about ourselves. People who never give up like themselves because they believe they are, and have been, the catalyst for good things. They do not believe good things come from other people or circumstances.

They accept that failure and misfortune will happen along the way, but they have hope that they will be resilient and bounce back because they’ve done it before.

Remember that personalization can be internal, where you blame yourself for what has happened. It can also be external, where you blame everyone else for your misfortune.

How To Make It Work For You: Optimism is not about ignoring life’s challenges. It’s the mental toughness to discipline our minds to create more powerful explanations about what is going on in our life.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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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.” 

The One Characteristic That Makes Great Leaders

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The FBI will spend a great deal of time, effort, and money in training agents to be great leaders because agents need to be able to land on their feet when confronted with the unknown.

They also need to know how to get people to trust them with their lives, persevere when challenged with adversity, and always come out on the right end of a terrorism case. Great leaders understand how to move when roadblocks threaten their success.

The one characteristic that makes FBI agents great leaders is honesty. Lack of candor will get an agent fired quicker than any other mistake or transgression.

It’s drilled into agents that they always represent the FBI and their actions are a reflection of the organization. By making honesty a key value, the public understands they can trust agents to do their job.

New and unique ideas are essential for entrepreneurs and business owners. But the ability to successfully execute these ideas is what separates dreamers from great leaders. When money is tight, stress levels shoot through the roof and instant success takes time, so it can be hard to always take the higher moral ground.

It takes more than honesty to admit a mistake. It also takes humility, conscientiousness, and an admirable ability to feel guilty when you are less than honest in your dealings with others.

Here is a closer look at the 3 components of honesty to better understand why honesty is the one characteristic that makes great leaders:

1. HUMILITY

Please remember that being humble does not mean being a chump.

Studies confirm that business leaders from both large and small companies who possessed humility as a core trait were rated as far more ethical and trustworthy than their counterparts. They are also able to elicit better employee engagement and job performance.

If you aspire to rank among the great leaders, you need to be humble because your business will only be successful if your team can come together and problem-solve. By being humble and stepping back, you are creating space for others to contribute. Unless you are intellectually humble, you are unable to learn.

How To Make This Work For You

  1. Share your mistakes as teachable moments—by being honest and admitting your own mistakes, you make it OK for others to make a mistake as well.
  2. Engage in dialogue, not debates—don’t get caught up in trying to prove your point of view. Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn about the way other people think.
  3. Forget being wishy-washy—humility indicates that you are confident enough to make a bold statement and then step back to see if you were right.

2. CONCIENTIOUSNESS

A staggering amount of research links conscientiousness with success and great leaders. A National Institute of Mental Health study found that conscientious people earn higher salaries. The National Institute on Aging also found that conscientiousness is linked to income and job satisfaction.

While other traits like extroversion predicts outcomes in some situations, studies have found that conscientiousness has as much impact on a leader’s success as extraversion. Conscientious people tend to be more dependable and achievement-focused, traits that help them rise to the top.

Conscientious people become great leaders because they do things better than others. They set goals, work toward them, and persist when things go wrong. 

Remember the conscientious kids in your classroom? They were the ones who sat in their chairs, didn’t complain, and didn’t blame their teachers when they didn’t receive a top grade. They had the mental toughness to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that would set them up for success.

How To Make It Work For You:

  1. Balance relationships and work—conscientious people are often more task-oriented than people-oriented, so make sure to balance the two equally.
  2. Delegate with care—conscientious people can and do deliver. If one reports to you, resist the temptation to burn them out by overburdening them with work.
  3. Provide structure—conscientious people tend to work best when there are clear rules, high ethical standards, and a clearly articulated vision.

3. GUILT-ACCEPTANCE

The personality trait of guilt-acceptance taps into a person’s healthy levels of guilt. Unhealthy guilt looks more like shame—shame is feeling bad about oneself while guilt is feeling bad about one’s behavior.

A leader’s ability to feel guilty about their wrong doing has been found to be a direct predictor of success. Researchers found that MBA students who scored higher on guilt-acceptance were rated as more effective leaders by their former supervisors, peers, and clients.

Great leaders seek out those who are prone to admitting their guilt when hiring and promoting their staff. People who are honest and anticipate that they would feel bad about their behavior after doing something wrong are better able to get along and get results. They take responsibility for their actions.

How To Make It Work For You:

As a leader, you are often placed in situations where you are either hiring or promoting an employee. Ask these questions: “Please describe a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you feel when this occurred? What did you do? What, if anything, did you learn from the experience?”

Never forget that when you make honesty a key value, you generate the trust that is needed to truly make you a great leader.

© 2017 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.”