Posts Tagged ‘positive attitude’

4 Ways To Overcome Failure

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I was a new agent and had just been given my first surveillance assignment. I sat outside the subject’s house and waited. And waited. For something—anything—to happen. Hours later, I found myself asleep. Actually, it was a supervisor who found me and blew his horn. I jolted awake but I had been caught; I was embarrassed and needed to find a way to overcome failure.

The pain of my failure was so acute that I never wanted to experience it again.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need to overcome failure and setbacks; and by now, you also probably know that you can learn a lot from them.

Unfortunately, the truly useful failures that change our thoughts and behavior (as opposed to merely stupid decisions) are somewhat rare. But it is possible to treat all failure and setbacks as strategic input on how to improve performance next time.

It didn’t take long for the supervisor who found me asleep on the surveillance assignment to spread the word to my colleagues. I swallowed my pride, kept a positive attitude, found ways to get interested in my assignment, and rewrote the ending by changing the focus from what I did wrong to what I was doing right.

Here are 4 ways you can overcome failure and setbacks: 


The higher up the chain of command, the harder it is to admit a mistake.

But, the best thing a leader can do is share a few personal stories with other team members of how they have overcome failure.  This is where a big dose of humility and a small ego will serve them well. Mentally tough leaders do not always have to be right.


When you communicate this to other team members, it does several things:

  1. Assures them you won’t point the finger of blame at someone if something goes wrong
  2. Encourages others to be more open, and honest, about their performance
  3. Creates an environment of innovation and experimentation
  4. Indicates that you truly understand the consequences of creative problem solving
  5. Gives others permission to bring potential problems to leadership’s attention earlier rather than later

Too often, leadership talks about a strategy of “trial and error” but their reaction to failure undermines their message.


People with strong mind make their emotions obey their logic.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. Your rational and thinking brain may understand the value of risk and failure, but your emotional, limbic brain system does not!

The only way to take control of your emotions is to focus on what you are actually learning from the experience.

As your brain learns, it adapts. What created fear, initially, is tempered by the thinking brain’s ability to see positive outcomes in the midst of a disappointment, failure, or setback. When you overcome failure, you become less afraid of it. And that is a good thing because it means you’re in control of your emotions.


If you focus on what you’ve learned, it suppresses the negative emotional reaction.

Remember—the key to success is avoiding the same mistake next time—so fail, but learn the lesson.


Rather than having all the answers, ask more questions.

The best questions always start with, “How, when, why, and what?” These are open-ended questions that invite conversation and discussion.

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

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age.


Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  1. Makes your mind active instead of passive
  2. Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  3. Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  4. Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction


Behavioral scientists have indicated that the way in which we predict our future behavior is determined by our past memories.

If team members end a project with a sense of failure and hopelessness, their only memory of the experience will be negative. They will not move on to another project with a sense of growth.

As the leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you have the power to create an atmosphere of trust and appreciation—whether or not the project was a failure or a success.

In the book, The Other “F” Word, the authors suggest that the best workplaces are formed on a foundation of trust, and trust is not forged when things are going great. Instead, it is formed when things are not going great because this is when team members learn who has their back.


There is a difference between failing, and learning from your failure. Learning from failure is an active process that requires you to put as much thought into it as you do how you plan to achieve success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency when confronted with a failure or setback because it takes more effort to extract the lesson to be learned than it does to shrug, give up, and move on.

The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success—LaRae Quy

© 2016 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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8 Powerful Secrets For Self-Improvement

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

After a brief hiatus, the FBI has reinstated the annual FIT test so they can assess the overall health and fitness level of field agents. On a yearly basis, the continued maintenance and development of each agent’s physical fitness will be placed into their personnel file.

8 Powerful Secrets For Self-Improvement

The FBI is concerned about the breakdown of their most precious asset—the agents.

The inevitable fact of deterioration is true not only for FBI agents, but for you as well. You need to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past your comfort zone if you want to invest in yourself.

Because this is the thing: continued growth is essential for safety. I’m not just talking about physical well-being; I’m also talking about your relevance in your business and job.

Self-improvement means staying professionally and personally fit. It often requires lifestyle changes that will necessitate adjustments in the way we think.

Self-improvement is not a course in miracles. It is something that takes hard work. Perhaps the real secret to becoming a better person is coming to grips with the fact that everyone has to work hard—very hard, to become the person they know they can be.

It also takes a positive attitude because we all have demons, baggage, anxieties, worries, and fears. The trick is controlling them—and that takes mental toughness.

Here are 8 Secret Steps To A Better Self:

1. Go Ahead And Talk To Yourself

Special Forces and Navy SEALS use self-talk as a powerful mental toughness tool when confronted with obstacles and adversity. Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute.

  • Teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the emotional part of your limbic brain system that regulates anxiety.
  • Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors.
  • Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.

2. Formulate Action Plans

Lasting change ultimately requires you to make the new behavior automatic.

  • Prepare yourself for specific situations. “If I am offered a glass of wine, I will say “no”.”
  • Frame your intentions as positive actions: “I will not speak in derogatory terms about my supervisor behind her back.”
  • Picture yourself carrying out your plans.

3. Launch A Personal Research and Development Program

Every good company spends time and resources on R&D. If you are planning to invest in yourself, you should do the same. Take a closer look at how you can discover hidden talents, interests, and skills. Your personal R&D might look something like this:

  • Buy 5 new magazines every month.
  • Visit 5 new websites every week.
  • Every time you meet someone interesting, ask them what they’re reading.
  • Take a vacation to somewhere new.

4. Try Out A New Pair Of Training Wheels

As long as we’re talking personal R&D, do something at which you are a beginner. Like any newbie, you will fear failure and rely upon training wheels to keep you upright. That’s OK. If you wobble and fall down, you’ll already know how it feels when you get knocked down by the competition. The sting won’t come as a shock and you won’t waste precious time whining about it.

  • Come out swinging.
  • Live by your wits.
  • Let your ego get bruised.
  • Be stronger when you finish than when you started.

5. Recruit A Board Of Personal Advisors

As Plato said, “The people we hang around are like dirt; they either help us grow and thrive, or they make us wither and wilt.”

  • Look around the conference room.
  • Who do you admire? Who do you know the least?
  • Invite them to lunch.
  • Stay in touch with the people who believe in you.
  • Cultivate people who will challenge you to be your best self.

6. Learn a New Habit

This requires you to choose between something pleasant and familiar or something much less so.

  • Think about how this goal will help you become the person you want to be.
  • Even if the goal originated from an external source, such as doctor’s warning to lose weight, you can still make it your own by finding your personal reasons to pursue it.
  • Try to come up with fun ways to learn your new habit.

7. Believe It To Be True

Studies have shown that people with unrealistic expectations are the ones mostly likely to give in to temptation and stick with old habits. Long-term lifestyle changes require you to control your impulses and stop making excuses for why you’re not changing your behavior.

  • Visualize your success along with the specific obstacles you will face.
  • Avoid situations that will trigger a bad habit that you want to break.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip up; keep moving forward.

8. Find Out Your “Why”

A powerful motivator for self-improvement is to figure out exactly why you are pursuing a particular goal or course of action in the first place.

  • Find your personal motivation to change a negative habit.
  • Listen politely to advice, but stick to your guns and choose your own goals.
  • At the end of each day ask yourself, how would you would rate each conversation, interaction, and decision you made on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Now, ask yourself what it would take to make it a 10?

As seasoned FBI agents know, successful people never stop learning how to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past their comfort zones.

What powerful tip for self-improvement can you share?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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

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5 Powerful Ways To Increase Your Mental Toughness

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Sally is an ambitious entrepreneur who believes mental toughness is bulldozing her way through obstacles and adversity. If a barrier prevents her from moving forward, she thinks that by continuing a full frontal assault, she will eventually break it down. 

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Sally’s approach may work in football, but not in life and business. Not every obstacle that comes up in life can be broken down by pounding fists at it.

Mental toughness is misunderstood by many entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders. Too often, it is associated with a hard-headed mindset that refuses to yield when circumstances change. 

Mental toughness is not something we’re born with—it’s something we can learn, and not only during tough times. We can choose to develop skills that will increase our ability to prepare for life’s unavoidable struggles.

Here are 5 powerful ways to increase your mental toughness:

1. Learn to Adapt to New Circumstances, So Lose the Ego

As entrepreneurs and leaders, it takes more than good intentions to keep your company running strong. Sally’s problem was that she did not take the time to ask herself, “What has changed?” Instead of being willing to adapt to her changing situation, she plowed on as though everything was business as usual.

Gather your team together at least twice a year and ask questions, such as “What’s new in the industry and are we on the cutting edge of that change?” “Do we need to update our strategy?”

2. Be Willing To Change Tact and Try Something New

Mental toughness is acknowledging that changes in the industry means changing strategies in order to keep moving forward. This can be very difficult for people who are goal-oriented, because for them abandoning a goal is akin to acknowledging failure. Unfortunately, they become married to the goal rather than the endgame.

In truth, changing tact can be just plain smart.

If life were predictable, you might be able to chart your life out with five-year goals. But life is full of unexpected surprises, and being unwilling to yield and reroute to reach your destination threatens to expose a hard head, not a tough mind.

Be smart enough to know the difference.

3. Experience Your Emotions — Yes, All of Them

Mental toughness is not about suppressing negative thoughts so you can be happy and optimistic all the time, even when adversity strikes. Conversely, it’s about being honest in acknowledging your entire range of emotions and giving each equal attention.

Once you fail to respect the negative emotions you’re feeling, you are being neither honest with yourself or behaving with authenticity.

The key is to chose, with intention, to give more heft to the positive aspects of your situation. This will take mental toughness, but like developing muscles, it is easier the more you do it.

It’s natural to automatically see the negative in a tough situation; our limbic brain system is warning us of danger. But not all adversity is life-threatening—so learn how to find positive options in your situation.

Sometimes the positive is simply the lesson learned, so we don’t make the same mistake next time!

4. Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself and Blaming Others; We’re Sick of Listening to You

Blaming others is an emotionally retarded way of dealing with obstacles and adversity. Blaming others is a lame way to explain yourself when the chips are down and times are tough. Everyone is confronted with obstacles and adversity—some are simply more visible from the outside than others.

If you think that those who face less adversity in life are happier, think again. In fact, research has shown that people who face adversity, and overcome it, are among the most fulfilled.

No one is owed a free ride. If you want something, go out and get it.

5. Learn How to Be Grateful — It’s Not All About You. Really.

Expressing gratitude is not a naive form of positive thinking. Instead, it is a way of thinking about the way we receive benefits and giving credit to others. To do so, often means humbling ourselves and getting ego out of the way.

People are actually more successful at reaching their goals when they express gratitude throughout their day. One study found people who were more grateful were 20% more likely to make progress than those who were not.

Developing mental toughness is a work in progress. While there is always room for improvement, we can prepare ourselves to be mentally tough so we can deal with life’s adversities when the unexpected happens.

What tips would you add to increase mental toughness? How is the best way to develop mental toughness?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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Stop Whining And Change Your Attitude

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Stop whining was the response from FBI leadership after the terrorist attack of 9/11. FBI Director Robert Mueller required all terrorism leads coming into the FBI field offices be followed up, no matter how mundane or trivial. He was determined to prevent another terrorist attack from happening again. It put a tremendous burden on investigative resources and agents complained that chasing down bogus leads took precious time away from real cases.

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I was briefed on all substantive cases in the event the media wanted additional information. One of them was a report from a local bank that their security personnel observed a male teenager selling drugs near their front lobby. The exchange was also on surveillance tape.

The teenager was carrying a large backpack, and when bank security walked by, they picked up a reading on their mobile biohazard sensors. Worried that the teenager might have an explosive device, bank security detained the teenager and contacted both the local police and the FBI.

It turns out that the teenager actually had been tested that morning for a thyroid condition, and the nuclear residue left over in his system had triggered the biohazard sensor. However, when the parents arrived they were furious at the security personnel and accused the bank of invading their son’s privacy. Even though their son had been caught red-handed selling drugs, they threatened to sue the bank and contacted a lawyer to pursue the matter.

The parents were so clearly in the wrong that even their normally greedy and unscrupulous lawyer told them they had no case.

This entire incident illustrates exactly what is wrong with this country today: no one is willing to take responsibility for their actions. Instead of being horrified that their son was peddling drugs on the streets of San Francisco, they pointed the finger at bank security and blamed them because their son was caught!

Many Americans refuse to stop whining and continue to blame others for their problems and mistakes instead of stepping up to take responsibility for their own future. Parents are worried that their children will not have a richer, better life than they did. Contrast that with the attitude in China and India, where young and old are excited about their future.

Until Americans can stop whining, stop blaming others, and complain about hard work, other nations around the world are stepping into the void.

We need to get over ourselves and put our shoulder into building our future. Here’s how:

1. Stop Whining And Behave

If you want to change your attitude, start with changing your behavior.

Our actions affect our attitude because we are motivated to justify our actions. When we are aware that our attitudes and actions do not coincide, we experience tension called cognitive dissonance.

To relieve this tension, according to the cognitive dissonance theory proposed by Leon Festinger, we often bring our attitudes into line with our actions.  It is as if we rationalize, “If I chose to do it (or say it), I must believe in it.”

2. Chose Your Behavior, Chose the Consequences

As an adult, and as a leader, you need to take responsibility for your actions. The only other option is to go through life blaming others for your lack of competence, innovation, and initiative.

The greatest stress in life is to hold onto an image of yourself that someone else created for you.

If you keep trying to live up to their standards, you will never achieve anything of genuine or authentic value. The only person you control is you.

3. Listen to Yourself When You Speak

In conversations, do you have a habit of blaming others for things when things don’t go the way you want? Rather than accept blame and responsibility for your actions, do you point the finger at coworkers, your parent’s influence, your upbringing, or others?

Stop whining and listen to yourself. If you hear blaming patterns in your speech, you can stop them.

4. Man-Up …. or Lean In

A challenge to man-up assumes the speaker is tougher than the other person. It suggests a lack of manliness and strength. This phrase contains certain sexual overtones because men can use it in a different way than women. After all, it would be hard to imagine a male candidate suggesting that a female opponent needed to be more ladylike to be qualified for the office.

But women today are not afraid of losing their feminine qualities by being tough and resilient, traits that have been mostly associated with masculinity.

The challenge to man-up encourages all of us to muster the courage to do what is right. Man-up and Lean-In are the same thing; both mean that you have the grit to do what needs to be done without making excuses for yourself or blaming others for your situation. It means grow up already!

Leadership is taking responsibility for your own actions, stop whining, stop making excuses when things don’t work out right, and stop blaming others for your mistakes. Instead, develop mental toughness and adopt a Can-Do attitude—all it takes is a little discipline and hard work.

When you stop blaming others and take responsibility, life becomes much easier.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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Change Attitude So You Can Be Better, Not Bitter

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

I needed to change attitude when I walked into my new FBI office where I was viewed as a curiosity more than anything else. In the 1980’s there weren’t that many female FBI agents; everyone was polite but distant. I wore a suit and low-heeled shoes—despite what is shown in movies and TV shows, nothing looks more ridiculous than a woman tottering around on high heels while trying to balance the weight of a gun on her hip.

I pretended not to notice when the guys grabbed their jackets and headed out the door for lunch without inviting me. I also pretended not to notice that I wasn’t included in the informal squad debriefings about the direction the more important cases were headed. Our squad worked counterintelligence and espionage cases and only senior agents were considered experienced enough to be investigating the activities of an intelligence officer.

It soon became evident that I would never get the opportunity as long as I was assigned the cases no one else on the squad wanted. If I wanted to work against a foreign spy, I’d need to go out and find one myself.

What I needed to do was change attitude and learn to be better, not bitter.

We’ve all been in situations where it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. When this happens, we have to intentionally choose to be positive because we all have an innate bias toward negativity. We process bad news faster than good news because our brain is survival driven. Survival is a tough, uncompromising business. For centuries our brain programmed us to “Get lunch—not BE lunch.”

This explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains. When faced with uncertainty, the brain is wired to quit because it is reminded of past failures. And I’ll admit that there were times I wanted to quit the squad and ask to be reassigned.

It is at this point, however, that we can chose to be influenced by our negativity bias, or conversely, pursue positive thinking. The choice is ours.

When you change attitude, you choose to learn from your experiences and be better, instead of feel sorry for yourself and be bitter.

I did not leave the squad. Instead, I made a choice to be proactive. I crafted an undercover proposal where I would be the undercover agent in a position to target foreign spies visiting companies with classified or proprietary information. FBI Headquarters loved it because it was a fresh and unique approach.

Each one of us has a choice when faced with adversity and obstacles: we can either continue the negativity spiral or decide to move forward in other ways. Here are four suggestions:

1. Admitting The Negativity Bias Helps To Change Attitude

Once you acknowledge what is going on, it prompts you to move out of the emotional limbic system, which is survival-driven, and into the cerebral brain, which is logical and thinking. Once you admit your negativity bias, it also helps you to identify partners and colleagues who can offer you support and assistance in your move.

2. Distinguish Between “Wishful Thinking” And “Positive Thinking”

Your brain will dismiss wishful thinking as a threat to your survival. Positive thinking requires you to recognize a situation for what it actually is and then work within those confines.

3. Notice Legitimate Positives

Try to identify at least 3 times as many positives as negatives in your situation. Because of your negativity bias, it’s important to consciously focus on positive experiences wherever they may be in your everyday life.

4. Focus And Sustain

Once you have noticed (or created) a positive response, stay focused on it for 10-20 seconds. Basically, positive experiences have a cumulative effect over time. The longer and more often you do this, you will not only get more curious about those experiences, you’ll actually be changing the structure of your brain. You will be creating new connections and building pathways associated with positive experiences.

Whenever I am tempted to feel bitterness toward the way I was treated by my squad as a new agent, I remind myself that because of their cold shoulder, I dug deep and found positive attributes in myself that I may not have discovered otherwise.

Be better, not bitter.

Change one letter of the alphabet and change your attitude.

How do you find positives in the middle of negative situations? 

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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