Posts Tagged ‘Risk’

4 Traits Essential For Success

Monday, November 27th, 2017

When I was 12 years old, I learned a big lesson about some of the traits essential for success.

We got word around noon that my Dad’s father was in the hospital and not expected to live. Earlier that week, 4 feet of thick, wet snow fell on our remote Wyoming cattle ranch, burrowed in the shadow of Laramie Peak. The roads were impassable. The little town where Grandpa was hospitalized was 30 miles away as the crow flies.

They had a testy relationship, but Dad felt it very important to see Grandpa before he died. I suspect he hoped to make amends. Dad saddled his favorite horse, a tall bay with a black mane and tail named Fireball, and started out at 1:00pm.

The Laramie Range of mountains are rough, so my Dad followed a riverbed until he got to an old abandoned road. We had trailed our cattle on that road many times and Fireball sensed he was in familiar territory. At one point, Dad got off to lighten Fireball’s load, but the snow was crotch deep, forcing Dad to get back on his horse.

Darkness hit but they plowed onward. As they moved out of the mountains, bare patches of dead grass showed up through the snow. Dad tried to get Fireball to move beyond a walk but the horse was so tired, the most he could muster was a slow trot.

Wind had created a snowbank around a wire gate. Dad wrapped one end of his rope around the gate post and tied the other end to his saddle horn. As he led Fireball away, the gate post pulled from the ground. Both man and horse rode through the snowbank to the other side.

They arrived at my Grandpa’s ranch house in complete darkness. It had taken them 7 hours non-stop to make the trip. Fireball was so weary his legs shook. Dad found keys to a truck and headed to the hospital. He got there before his father died.

There are many traits essential for success no matter your circumstances or situation. Here are 4 that I learned from this experience:

1. Courage Will Move You Out Of Your Rut

It took courage for Dad to put his life in jeopardy by doing the hard thing. The easy thing would have been to stay at home. He had faith in Fireball to save his life.

Likewise, it takes courage to place your career in jeopardy when moving ahead holds no promises. The future looks bleak and the road will be hard. If things don’t work out, it might mean your career will stall and die. But if you don’t try it, your spirit might be the thing to die.

Courage is one of the traits essential for success because it’s fundamental to propelling change and motivating people—even if the idea sounds crazy. Benjamin Franklin must have looked crazy as he chased after thunderstorms and lightning.

If you want to inspire others to achieve what may look impossible, you need the courage to move into the unknown. Innovative companies such as Uber and Airbnb didn’t wait until tried-and-tested models were developed before they moved ahead. Both companies had the courage to change the way their two industries serviced their clients. 

TIP: Courage is not always easy but its essential if you plan to be successful in both business and life. If it scares you, do it. Every time you do something scary or uncomfortable, you learn so much about yourself and your character. That awareness is something you will take with you wherever you go. Self-awareness is a major part of mental toughness.

2. Take A Risk If You Don’t Know The Answer

About 5 miles after he started, Dad rode by the ranch house of Uncle Stanley. Uncle Stanley took one look at Fireball and said, “That horse will never make it. You’ll die out there.” Dad knew he was taking a risk, but it was a calculated one. He had picked his best horse, and he had lived in the mountains his entire life so he understood the terrain.

The willingness to take a risk is one of the traits essential for success because it requires that you embrace the belief you have what it takes. Belief in yourself, and your team, will take you where you want to go. The smallest amount of doubt can ruin your chances of success.

Assessing risk also relies on knowledge and experience. It makes no sense to take a risk unless you have underlying knowledge that will help in deciding. Whether you add a new item to a menu, test a new product, or add a service, you need to have a deep understanding of the move that is being considered.

TIP: Be smart about your risks, be logical, be rational and calculating, and always improve your skills. But most importantly, always believe in yourself. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”

3. Resilience Is Needed When Life Gets Hard

Dad understood the risk he was taking. He could freeze to death if Fireball broke a leg in the deep snow and couldn’t continue. Dad assessed the risk and decided. He remained positive and focused on what was going right rather than on the negative.

Resilience is one of the traits essential for success because an adaptable and flexible mindset can find ways around obstacles. Resilient people cultivate a strong sense of opportunity during periods of turbulence. They cope well because they see challenges as part of life’s journey; they embrace them rather than fight them.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from whatever adversity you are facing. Often the only way out—is through the adversity. We must push through a bad situation that faces us. We need to be positive thinkers. The best time to nip negative emotions is when they first appear because this is when they are the weakest.

TIP: A resilient individual is not someone who avoids stress; rather, it is someone who learns how to tame it. Psychologists distinguish between good stress, or “eustress” and bad stress. Positive experiences cause eustress while negative experiences cause bad stress. A new body of research suggests that stress is not bad for you unless you believe it is bad for you. Seeing stressors as challenges rather than threats invites physiological responses that can improve thinking and cause less physical wear and tear.       

4. Confidence Is Needed To Manage Ambiguity

Fireball and Dad stepped into the unknown as they made tracks through the thick, heavy snow. Dad had no way of knowing what to expect but he had confidence in Fireball. He also had confidence in himself because this was not his first rodeo. Although the stakes had never been this high, he well knew of the danger that lay ahead. He was also confident he would make it.

The ability to manage ambiguity is one of the traits essential for success because change is the only certainty in this world today. Ambiguity creates complexity and confusion around the decision-making process.

To deal with ambiguity you must be comfortable with uncertainty. You cannot control everything so make peace with it and prepare as best you can. A great deal of learning how to deal with ambiguity is having confidence in yourself so you can land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

TIP: Confident people are not afraid to take a stand, even when surrounded by uncertainty. Prepare as best you can. Lean into your own experiences and knowledge, reach out to others with more experience and different ideas, and be a good listener.

P.S. While Fireball lived another 10 years, he was never the same because tendons in his legs had torn. He walked with difficulty so Dad kept him on good feed and never rode him again.

© 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.”

5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

Monday, August 29th, 2016

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:


Risk - mouse in mug

Most of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.


Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.


Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. 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.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.


Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. If you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.


Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 2016 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.” 


Science-Based Reasons Men And Women Look At Risk Differently

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

FBI agents are trained to take risk seriously. Every arrest is planned from many angles with emphasis given to what can go wrong when agents are faced with the unexpected.


I took part in several arrests in my career. While there risks because I carried a weapon every day, the biggest risk came from friendly fire. That is, a supervisor who could change your life with a single stroke of their pen and transfer you, without warning, to another squad.

I lived in fear of this risk because agents have no choice in their assignment. From day one this message was hammered into our thinking—the needs of the Bureau come first. Always.

When success also means survival, it was essential to land on my feet when confronted with the unknown. Over time, I learned to look at risks as opportunities to be exploited. It could be a messy investigation or new squad assignment.

Real success came when I walked away from uncomfortable situations with more savvy and skill than when I started.

In today’s competitive marketplace, we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations all the time. As we move out of our comfort zone, we also move closer to risk. We don’t know how far into the unknown our risks will take us.

Conventional wisdom says that women take fewer risks than men, but is it true? Much of the difference can be attributed to the way boys and girls are socialized as children. In general, boys are reared to shoot from the hip early on. Girls learn about risk differently. Risky behavior, girls are told, is dangerous.

If conditioning is partly to blame, then reconditioning is part of the answer. Adopting a “Grit-up” mentality can make all the difference.

Research finds that men and women use different strategies. They also use different parts of their brain, when making choices on how to keep moving toward goals.

Here are 3 science-based reasons men and women look at risk differently:

1. Risk: Stress Makes A Difference

A recent study by Mara Mather and Nichole R. Lighthall found that male risk-taking tends to increase under stress. On the other hand, female risk taking tends to decrease under stress. The researchers discovered that there are gender differences in brain activity. It revolves around the different ways men and women compute risk and prepare for action. This is important given the stressful nature of our work lives today.

CAUTION TIP: Don’t stereotype men as too reckless and women too cautious. It makes good sense for men and women to work together to create smarter risk-taking decisions.

2. Risk: Immediate vs Long-Term Rewards

A review published in Behavioral Brain Research discovered that the majority of women in the study tended to focus on immediate rewards. Meanwhile, the majority of men in the study tended to focus on long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Men may appear to be stubborn and unwilling to change course once a strategy is put into action. Remember his brain engages the top, dorsal area of the orbitofrontal cortex which focuses on long term rewards. In addition, most male brains seek out irregular patterns of behavior which will provide them with a competitive advantage. This will help them set goals that will produce long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to be feckless and unable to stick with a strategy. Remember her brain engages the medial part of this region which is involved in identifying regular patterns and immediate rewards. Her brain is able to assimilate new information that enables her to make adjustments to strategies that will lead to rewards accordingly.

3. Risk: Bait-And-Switch

An article published in Scientific American Mind explains why women are more comfortable with switching strategies mid-task. This is difficult for men because they tend to engage the part of their brain linked to long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to uncertain or worried about making errors. Remember her brain takes the time to gather more information. In fact, it is a woman’s detailed exploration that makes them more attuned to change. They can clue into changes quicker than their male counterparts.

CAUTION TIP: Men may find it more difficult to abandon a project, course of action, or strategy. Remember his brain tends to focus on big rewards later. This is unlike female brains that are often satisfied with small gains now.

Researchers caution that neither approach is better; both are necessary and useful in daily life. We do need to understand how these differences can turn into advantages through collaborative efforts that involves both sexes.

It too simplistic to assume that all men and women react the same way to risk, stress, and goal setting. And it’s dangerous to stereotype behavior by gender. Of primary significance is that these studies elucidate how different brains each bring unique strengths to the table. Working together will create a stronger collaborative product in the end.

What differences in risk taking have you noticed between men and women?   

© 2016 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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6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong In Tough Times

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I experienced some tough times while dealing with curious radio, television, and newspaper reporters. If I inadvertently revealed information that was sealed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, I could have been fired or even prosecuted.

6 Ways To Stay Mentally Strong In Tough Times

Often, I’d fret that my words would be taken out of context or that I would be misquoted. I worried and lost sleep as I waited until for the interview to air or be printed.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, you know what it feels like to worry in tough times and you’re faced with uncertainty. This is when you need to be mentally strong so you can keep moving forward.

Here are 6 ways to stay mentally strong in tough times:

1. Control Your Thoughts

When tough times hit, the first thing we do is start to worry. But we need to control our thoughts because they control our emotions and behaviors.

Anxiety and fear are housed in our limbic brain system, but mentally tough people have figured out how to ignore them—or at least, control them.

TIP: Name Your Fear

Instead of pretending that you are not scared, admit what is creating the fear. Research has indicated that recognizing and acknowledging one’s fears are critical steps towards tackling and overcoming them.

If you try to suppress a fear or worry, it won’t work—the brain is smarter than that. Instead, name your fear or anxiety for what it is and you will actually lessen your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up a dialogue about it, you will only increase the emotional state of the limbic system.

2. Prepare For The Lonely Work

Self-awareness is not a prerequisite for climbing the ladder of success—but it sure helps to keep you there.

Self-awareness empowers you because it instills a confidence that comes from a deep understanding of who you are and why you are special. It’s called lonely work because this is one thing you truly must do for yourself.

TIP: Spend Time With Yourself

  • Get to know what makes you tick
  • Learn your strengths so you can use them
  • Accept your weaknesses so you can minimize them
  • Develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses; forget about trying to change who you are by trying to “work” on them
  • Give yourself permission to shine in those areas in which you are blessed

3. Get Priorities Straight

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 90% of workers were not engaged in their jobs. This is a modern day phenomena that started after Adam Smith, the father of industrial capitalism, stated that people were naturally lazy and would work only for pay.

Mentally strong entrepreneurs and leaders understand that wages are important—of course they are! But, if you are naive enough to believe that chasing after that almighty dollar will bring you happiness, I have a piece of swamp land in Wyoming to sell you.

TIP: Engage In Work That Provides Both Value And Meaning

Mentally strong people are smart enough to know that when they get their priorities straight, it does several things:

  • Provides work that is both engaging and meaningful
  • Offers opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Allows control over what we do and how we do it

4. Take A Risk

In firearms training I learned one thing: it’s not risk that will kill you, it’s complacency. Sitting in the same spot all your life will bite you in the butt when the unexpected lands at your feet and you face tough times because you won’t know how to move forward with confidence and flexibility.

The mentally strong use tough times as opportunities to take a risk because they understand that risks, and the change they produce, are what will save you from a life of complacency—and stagnation.

TIP: Calculated Risks Make It Easy

As an FBI agent, my colleagues and I took smart risks by planning what could go wrong, and then forging ahead.

Calculated risks mean looking at all the positive and negative outcomes and then proceeding forward by putting all of that information to best use.

5. Be Grateful—ALWAYS

Gratitude is the most powerful emotion in the world. It allows you to love not only yourself, but others as well.

Mental toughness strengthens our ability to distinguish positive emotions from negative ones. We can use this awareness to strengthen positive emotions like gratitude and control negative ones like anger. 

Another thing about gratitude—it is impossible to grateful and negative at the same time.

TIP: Keep Focused On Being Grateful When Life Is Taking A Down Turn

We perceive an act as more worthy of gratitude when it:

  • costs someone (either time or effort)
  • is perceived to be of value
  • is not obligatory or habitual in nature
  • produces relief or happiness

6. Control What You Can Control

When making an arrest, agents are given specific assignments; for example, “Cover the back door so the criminal can’t run away.”

It is the agent’s responsibility to control what they can control; they do not worry about what others are doing or any other aspect of the arrest.

TIP: Ignore The Things You Can’t Control

In the same way, you must ignore the things over which you have no power. You have limited resources, so why waste them on things that are out of your control?

For some, it might be the politics of your organization; for others, it might be your environment. Whatever it is, realize that you can only control the things that come under your purview. You might want to save the world, but do yourself a favor and take it one step at a time.

Mental toughness separates the successful entrepreneur and business owner from the mediocre. It allows successful people to keep moving forward when they hit tough times.

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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.” 

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The Real Reasons You Let Uncertainty Hold You Back

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

I will never forget the first day I ever shot a gun. I was on the firing line at the FBI Academy and holding a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver. My heart was racing and my palms were sweating—I was filled with uncertainty and worried that I would not shoot well enough to qualify.

Experiencing uncertainty is different than taking a risk. Risk involves a known probability that something will, or will not happen; uncertainty, however, indicates the probabilities are unknown.

Therefore, we cannot predict an outcome.

How many of us have missed tremendous opportunities and experiences because we’ve chosen to walk away when faced with uncertainty?

But avoiding challenges is a form of self-sabotage—it is holding onto self-limiting beliefs about what we can do in life. 

Mental toughness is the ability to break unproductive patterns of behavior. It is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success.

Here are three ways you can be mentally tough and not let uncertainty hold you back:


You do not let uncertainty hold you back when you hang around people who encourage you to push your boundaries and try new things.

When we surround ourselves with conversations and information that match our beliefs, we subconsciously limit our exposure to views and opinions that are different from our own. Different views may threaten our comfortable way of thinking by challenging us with new aspirations. 

If you see yourself in a certain way, and that image is bolstered by the people with whom you surround yourself, you will continue to act and behave in ways that is consistent with that image.


  • Break away from people who keep you tethered to your self-limiting beliefs.
  • Spend time with people who have different points of view from your own.
  • Learn from their experiences.
  • Embark on a new adventure or destination.
  • Give yourself permission to be uncomfortable–and even fail at first, as you discover new strengths, skills, and talents.


You do not let uncertainty hold you back when you recognize that your recollection of the past is not always accurate.

Our memories are fallible, and yet we often treat them as more reliable than current observation or data.

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


  • Remember that your confirmation bias stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values, and self-image. 
  • Recognize that memories do not always provide you with accurate information.
  • Revisit the facts of a memory freighted with self-limiting beliefs so you can gain a more accurate perspective on the event.


You do not let uncertainty hold you back when you resist the temptation to rely on stereotypes to help you think fast.

Researcher Daniel Kahneman describes how we can think fast by using stereotypes, rules of thumb, and jumping to conclusions. Thinking fast is incredibly efficient, usually accurate, and essential to our survival. Most importantly, it frees up our thinking for other things.

However, thinking fast also creates errors in specific situations. Our brain is so wedded to stereotypes that we rely upon them even when they defy logic—especially when the stereotype is a self-limiting belief about ourselves.


  • Recognize that much of the way in which you categorize and sort information is accurate.
  • Evaluate your rules of thumb, however, on a regular basis to ensure that your information is up to date and  non-prejudicial.
  • Be alert for stereotypes that place limits—either on others or yourself.
  • Be aware of potential pitfalls when making snap decisions and judgments.


You do not let uncertainty hold you back when you prepare for all possible outcomes. 

If you are smart, you will always test the ground before taking a step into the unknown. That is not lack of confidence; that is old-fashioned self-preservation.

This is not the same as “expect the worst” because it’s reminding yourself that you can handle whatever difficulty comes along. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” It is a powerful question because it prepares us to prepare for the worst so you can plan how you’d handle it.

This question challenges us to look at all possibilities. When we do, we expand our ability to cope and adapt to different situations, thereby making uncertainty look more manageable.


  • Find a trusted friend and discuss all possible outcomes.
  • Build a survival scenario for each one.
  • Create a series of short-term plans that can evolve as the situation becomes clearer.
  • Repeat the first 2 steps. New outcomes may have surfaced that were unknown to you earlier.

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. 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.” 


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5 Harsh Reasons You Don’t Seize Opportunities

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

As a child, I loved taking risks. Growing up around rattlesnakes, barbed wire fences, and frisky horses that liked to kick the saddle out of my hands, there was very little I thought I couldn’t do.

The key was putting my mind to it.

With age comes wisdom—or so I thought. As an adult, I was less amenable to taking risk. I was very strategic about relationships, careers, and spiritual formation. And I realize that there is a place for strategy, as long as it does not make your thinking soft.

Soft thinking is the opposite of mental toughness. If you suffer from soft thinking, you are afraid of seizing opportunities because you are afraid that your emotions, thoughts, or behavior might spin out of control. Or, you’re afraid to leave your comfort zone.

As it turns out, the key to managing risk is still in our mind.

There is no way to sugar-coat it—you’re afraid of risk and don’t seize the opportunities in your life because you don’t:


Strong minds seize opportunities because they allow themselves to be terrified—quite often. As a result, terror is a feeling that they are familiar with.

If you continually place yourself in situations where there is a little risk involved and the outcome is not known, your comfort zone is not stretched. Our brain likes to feel comfortable and seeks pleasure over pain. That’s why we’re tempted to abandon ship at the first sign of distress.

Our desire to avoid losses is almost twice as powerful as our desire to take a risk. This explains why we often walk away or fail to recognize new opportunities.

If you start your day without feeling a little terror from the challenges before you, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.


Strong minds seize opportunities because their minds are agile and flexible.

Thinking fast is automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, and subconscious. It means we can throw out long debates in favor of snap judgments and hard-wired rules of thumb that have served us well in the past.

Thinking fast is driven by your past experiences and memories. If you move into your discomfort zone on a regular basis, you frequently experience doses of terror and uncertainty. As a result, your mind does not get mired down with fear when new opportunities present themselves.

Fast thinking is efficient and effective, and essential if we want to seize opportunities in the fast-moving world of life and business.


Strong minds seize opportunities because they do not allow themselves to get stuck in a rut.

In business and life, the comfort zone has never been a good place to be. It may feel comfortable but then we face another kind of risk: one of being irrelevant, obsolete—and extinct.

If you plan to think forward, you will need to continually question conventional wisdom, reinvent your approach to work, and welcome disruptive innovation.

In short, you will need to live in a petri dish in which you are continually experimenting with new ideas and maneuvering in a perpetual zone of distress and uncertainty—and sometimes, even embarrassment.


Strong minds seize opportunities because they learn from their past mistakes so they don’t repeat them.

Our ability to think fast and think forward is determined by our brain, and our past behavior.

As children, our brains were flexible, creative, and unpredictable. As adults, however, our brain becomes more rigid—anything with unvaried repetition like careers, cultural activities, and skills all lead to rigidity.

Once we make the same decision a second or third time, a habit is formed, and one that becomes quite inflexible.

Rigid patterns of thinking tend to become self-sustaining over time. Habits of behavior produced from past failure is not the same thing as learning from a mistake.

Habits are often a default reaction that leads to rigid thinking; learning, on the other hand, requires a flexible mindset that is always collecting and processing new information.

Often, we are not aware of these rigid patterns of thinking until we pinpoint their genesis in our memory. At that point, we recognize them for what they are and are able to move on from them.


Strong minds seize opportunities because they are always looking for new things to do, and once they are engaged, they turn their full attention to it.

Researchers have found that curiosity is the single necessary condition for creating a flexible and agile mind.

When we are curious, we are engaged. Giving a subject our full attention and concentration is important if we want our brain to be more flexible and agile. It’s also important that, once we thoroughly understand a subject, we move on to something else.

To keep the brain fit, we must learn something new, rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Never lose a holy curiosity—Albert Einstein

How have you taken a risk and seized an opportunity?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. 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.” 


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7 Ways Smart Leaders Embrace Risk

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

To embrace risk means to move into a situation that involves exposure to danger. In the case of an FBI investigation, it could mean a drawn weapon. For entrepreneurs, startups, and business owners, it could mean how to evaluate the competition or start a new business.

Risk - mouse in mug

Like many others, I tend to fear what I don’t understand. I have never liked to take risks and I bet most of you don’t either. But the reality is this: if you want to break out of the pack, you have got to make yourself visible, and visibility and risk often go hand-in-hand.

Our ability to achieve goals is related to how we embrace risk in all areas of our life. When we engage in any action where the outcome is unknown, we take a risk. We become smart at taking a risk when we learn how to analyze and assess the situation. Some risk is worth it, and some is not. The more competent and capable we are at making those distinctions, the more successful we will become.

Intelligent risk-taking is important as we start a new businesses but equally important as we grow established ones. Our ability to make our own luck is closely woven into our ability to be smart about the way we embrace risk.

As leaders, we not only need to be smart about the way in which we embrace risk, we need to be smart about the way we guide and direct our team. We need to help them embrace risk in a way that is productive and efficient.

Here are 7 ways smart leaders embrace risk themselves and help their team:

1. Listen To Gut Feelings

Research at the Brain and Creativity Institute has shown that gut-thinking is a good idea because there is a relationship between emotions, rational thinking, and our physical body. When we accurately process our emotions, they often accelerate our decision making process in the form of intuitions, hunches, and gut feelings.

For example, your brain can predict an outcome based on your perceptions (outside information) and your emotions (inside information). This combination of information results in a physical sensation—a gut feeling.

The quicker we get in touch with our emotions, the quicker we make our decisions. A good rule of thumb is not to just remember facts about past situations and their subsequent outcome—but also recall how you felt at the time.

Tip: You will never develop and trust your gut feelings, hunches, and intuition until you can associate 1) facts about past situation with 2) the feelings you also experienced at the time. Threading the two together can give you invaluable insight but it takes hard work. It’s not too late to start. Take notes on events throughout your day and then reflect on the emotions you experienced. What was the correlation?

2. Rewire Your Brain

Until recently, the brain was regarded as an immutable organ that did not change after early childhood.

Researchers Mike Merzenich and Norman Doidge have demonstrated that the brain has the ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections—and this continues throughout life.

When we embrace risk, we no longer need to revert to the same negative feelings that we once felt. If we take charge of our brain, we can train it to change its response to new situations and changes in our environment.

Tip: This research reminds us we are no longer captive to the way we once thought about risk. Remember that our memories, behaviors, responses, and habits are not our destiny. We have more control over the way our brain thinks than we once believed.

3. Change The Way Your Brain Looks At Risk

Since we now know that the brain constantly seeks stimulation and rewards, it’s easier to understand how our fear of risk and avoidance of failure impacts what captures our attention. A continuous molding of the brain is essential if we to learn how to take a smarter risk. As with any skill, the more you practice and do it, the more natural it becomes.

Smart risk-taking can become a habit, like anything else. The simple practice of noticing where our attention is and bringing it back to where we want it to be plays a vital role in rewiring the way our brain looks at risk and uncertainty.

Tip: Intentionally notice where your attention is at any given moment. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. What happens in your body at that same moment? Do you feel calm or a sense of panic?
  2. What is it about where your attention is focused that makes you feel this way? Is it a thought from your past that plays in your head like a broken record? Or, is it exactly where you want to be?
  3. What do you need to do to shift your attention in a different direction?

Repeat the three steps above and you will begin to develop the habits necessary to take small, smart risks. Once we identify habits that add value to our decision-making process, we can take a closer look at the ones we struggle with, and the ones that are holding us back from having the life we want.

4. Go Public So Everyone Is On The Same Page

Smart leaders distinguish the areas in their company or organization where risk is encouraged from the areas where it is not.  There will most likely be specific areas, such as customer service or financial commitments, where it’s not a good idea to embrace risk. If these areas run smooth and do not need to be tweaked, make sure everyone knows.

Tip: Draw clear boundaries around those areas where innovation is not needed (at this time) and those areas where new solutions or approaches are welcome.

5. Use The Right Words

Language drives behavior and creates a mindset about what is acceptable and what is not. Risk implies the potential for failure. When we focus on words like failure and unsuccessful, we look at the situation in the wrong context. Failure and mistakes do not lead to success—smart choices in the way we embrace risk leads to success.

Tip: Use words like experiment or explore to describe the way you want your team to embrace risk. It will create a more open attitude toward risk and innovation. When you use words like failure and unsuccessful, you imply a correlation between risk and mistakes.

6. Make Sure Risk Is Small And Nimble

When it comes to innovation, it needs to move fast. It has a better chance of success if the risk is small and nimble. It can be shut down, or, amped up sooner. Small teams are faster than big ones because there is less bureaucracy and layers of management.

Tip: Create teams that can move ideas and decisions with speed and accuracy. A sense of urgency tends to encourage smarter ideas.

7. Establish Clear Criteria For Funding Projects

There is nothing more disruptive to a team’s moral than a lack of clear communication from leadership. Everyone gets pumped up about a project only to learn later than there is no funding to take it to the next level.

Tip: Fund each defined phase for the project so every team member knows the terms of the deadline. If the idea doesn’t pan out in the designated timeframe, the team is disbanded. There are no surprises for the team.

© 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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