3 Ways Smart Leaders Prepare for the Unknown

This is a guest post by LaRae Quy. She was an FBI agent, both as a counterintelligence and undercover agent, for 25 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. Government. Now she explores the unknown and discovers the hidden truth via her blog, Your Best Adventure. You can find her on Twitter as @LaRaeQuy.

If we could predict the twists and turns in life, we’d never be confronted with the unknown. But things like cancer, death, or a sudden job loss are often beyond our control—they thrust us into an unknown world with little or no warning.

Toes on the Edge of the Diving Board - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/gmnicholas, Image #286935

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/gmnicholas

Whether we land on our feet, however, is something we can control.

As a new agent at the FBI Academy, I spent four months immersed in uncomfortable challenges. Whether it was training in firearms, defensive tactics, or physical fitness, I was confronted with the unknown all day long.

In the process, I learned many things about how to confront conflicts and unexpected challenges. The most important was this: If you want to increase safety, you must move toward the challenge.

This may sound counterintuitive since we often have a physiological reaction to sudden challenges as our forehead starts to sweat and our stomach gets knotted. No one wants to step into a situation where the outcome is unknown.

Often we forfeit control by succumbing to the fight-or-flight syndrome. It’s an automatic reaction many of us lean into when confronted with the unknown.

Here are three ways you can prepare for the unknown and safely move toward your uncomfortable challenge:

  1. Be Curious. Most successful FBI agents are curious by nature. This curiosity motivates them to look beyond the obvious and notice their surroundings.

    One of the best examples in literature of the importance of noticing what’s going on around us can be found in the Bible. Perhaps you’ve heard of the story of Moses and the burning bush? Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up” (see Exodus 3:3)

    This verse is relevant because each of us tend to take great efforts to avoid the unknown, and this burning bush was certainly an unknown to Moses! Instead, Moses shows us the way: Turn. Aside. And Look.

    • Turn: a change of focus, direction, and attitude.
    • Aside: pulling away from other things that have previously held our attention.
    • Look: embracing the new and different with the spirit of curiosity, not fear.

    Moses kept a safe distance from the burning bush but he was curious about it, and this curiosity prodded him to take a step forward.

  2. Take Small Steps. Every journey begins with baby steps. A coach shows you how to hold a golf club. You feel awkward and inept. You have to think about every movement of your body as you swing the club. You grow impatient.

    At about this time, you’re wondering why you chose to learn golf and whether it’s the right game for you. But a good coach will take you through the pace slowly so you gain confidence and build on your achievements.

    • Make each small step concrete. Mountains are climbed by one step at a time, not by giant leaps.
    • Locate the smaller problems within the larger situation. We are less likely to feel out of control if we can tackle individual issues.
    • Acknowledge the small accomplishments and savor them before moving on to the next.

    Big steps can produce fear and your brain begins a self-protective lockdown. Taking small steps, on the other hand, is a stealth solution to approaching the unknown.

  3. Learn Mastery. Genghis Khan conquered the largest empire in history with bows and arrows. Accurately hitting a target from the back of a galloping horse is not easy. Genghis mastered his art by doing three things:

    First, he developed the power to pull back the thick bow so he could aim his arrow.

    Secondly, he understood the movements of the horse he was riding. When a horse is galloping, there is a moment when the horse is air-borne and all four hooves are off the ground. In that split-second, as he sat in his saddle and sailed through the air in smooth flight, he could shoot his arrow with enough accuracy to hit the target.

    And third, he understood not only his own strengths and weaknesses, but the strengths and movements of his horse as well.

    Genghis Khan can teach us several things about mastery:

    • Cultivate the strengths within you—and your team.
    • Uncover your weaknesses—they are as important to know as your strengths.
    • Train for the day in combat. It takes an estimated 10,000 hours to become a master. With enough training, you will know yourself well enough to predict how you’ll react when confronted with a crisis.

    Leaders who embrace the unknown have a great capacity for facing challenges. They have the resources, mental skills, and physical capabilities to be curious enough to take the small steps needed to master their skills.

You can’t always control what happens to you. But you can control how you react. More importantly, you can prepare for the unknown and lean into it.

Question: How has moving toward a challenge or conflict moved you to a greater place of security? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://paulcoughlin.com Paul Coughlin

    Great post LaRae, stimulating to read..

    I wonder – the idea of uncovering our weaknesses is a current theme for a couple of my clients – you mention they are as important to know as your strengths – would you mind expanding briefly on why it is important, and maybe give an example..

    Thanks again, I’ve just subscribed to your blog feed.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Thanks, Paul. I appreciate you following my blog!

      Regarding acknowledging our weaknesses, there is so much emphasis on “overcoming” them that we’ve become afraid of acknowledging they even exist. It’s a fear many of us have that, by admitting a weakness, it will cast a shadow on our entire performance. First and foremost, people need to have to the confidence to look their weaknesses straight in the eye. It’s not a time for either pity or ego. I have found that, by giving myself permission to uncover them, it frequently gives me the luxury of managing them.

      There is a difference between acknowledging a weakness of personality or talent as opposed to the underdevelopment of a skill set.

      For example, as an FBI agent, I was not talented as an athlete. The sooner I managed that weakness the better so I compensated by learning how to shoot very well (since I needed some way to protect myself.)

      One of my personality traits that has gotten me into a lot of trouble as an investigator is that I’m not a detail-oriented person; I prefer the big picture. So rather than put myself into situations where details were essential, I worked on other aspects of case management where the bigger picture actually worked to my benefit. 

      I am a person who believes in facing challenges; it makes us stronger, better, and bolder. But I also believe in facing challenges smartly. I will always try to lead with my strong foot because the chances of my success will always be greater. 

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         Your examples, LaRae, are both helpful and encouraging. I’m not the person you want to guard the hen house. I trust foxes too much. That’s a weakness but I am able to offer calm in the midst of crisis if the fox gets inside.

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

    Very thought provoking, LaRae, thank you.

    It seems to me, as the leader moves toward the conflict, they also inspire confidence and motivation in the team. Would the people have followed Moses or Genghis without this confidence in their abilities?

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      I think this quality is lacking in many of our leaders. Instead of moving toward the conflict, they dance around it. If they do not understand the nature of the threat, they will never overcome it. And yes, leaders who have the confidence to move toward the threat inspire others – look at those who have led movements throughout our history. 

      Glad you liked the post!

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        Great thoughts. And it’s true about Leaders. I’ve always admired those who move toward the threat. I’m slowly becoming that kind of person myself.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Great insight, Ben. I just finished reading “Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews, and he talks about the valor of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who led the Gettysburg regiment that turned the tide of the Civil War. Everything was against him, but he was unwilling to succumb to fear and defeat. Instead he issued a “Charge!” and his battle-weary remnant followed him to victory. Imagine what would happen if we faced our unknowns with the same battle cry.

      • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

        Excellent example, Michele. This also may remind us that sometimes, when all human nature screams, “No Way!” but prayer leads us to “Keep Going!”, magnificent results await.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Just watched the movie “Ghandi” last night. I can see why Ben Kingsley won an Academy Award for Best Actor. You could see confidence portrayed in his eyes. They blazed when a challenge arose. I also got a feel for the power and courage engendered by Mahatma Ghandi’s presence. He took on small challenges until he faced down the British Empire and was the primary force in bringing India its independence.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I had never heard the story about Genghis Khan. Amazing what one can do with enough practice and understanding.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       I hadn’t heard that either. Truly amazing.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

       I’ve read something similar before, but you’re absolutely right.  Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    FBI training is vigorous and seems to teach some similar lessons that I learned at West Point.

    I loved the idea of moving closer to the challenge.  Often when grenades explode, the shrapnel flies up and then out.  There for someone close enough to the grenade may be in a safer zone than someone just a few feet further away.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Yes, I’m sure your West Point training taught similar lessons!

      Moving closer to the challenge gives us the opportunity to not only look at it closer and more accurately, we also have more control over the direction and impact of the fallout.

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        I’ve never thought about it that way! 

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       Oh wow. Didn’t know that!

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      I just popped over to your website, Dave. Looks like you followed in your dad’s footsteps.  My husband is a West Point grad as well.  That training has served him well, as I’m sure it has you. God bless.

      • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

        It is an honor to think I may have followed in his footsteps.  He is a hero to me and many others.  If you read his bio that is on my site, you will see why.  

        West Point shaped my dad.  My dad and West Point shaped me.  I pray daily that I can lead in a way that honors God, my family, my father, and the Long Gray Line.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    Wow.  So much to ponder in those three ways to prepare.  I think I hear you saying that being a life long learner keeps you ready for the unexpected.  I know that has made a difference for me and my family as we had to make a career and location change unexpectedly 5 years ago.

    • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

      My family also had a career and location change 2 years ago, leaving a community of 200,000, to move to Toronto that has about 6 million in the GTA.  Slightly different environment ;-)

      • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

        We moved from Taipei, with 8 million or so in the region (our district in the city had 27,000 per sq mile!), to a village of 1200 outside of Austin!  Amazingly, we really had grown to love living in Taipei.  

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        How’d it all go?

        • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

          For me, I tolerate Toronto, but I sense that it’s a short-term mission here, until we find where we’re supposed to be.  I’m thankful for the opportunities, but the pace of the City isn’t my cup o’ tea

  • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

    I’ve (thankfully) learned many lessons over my life, and I’ve had a lot of unexpected events occur.  Trusting God throughout those times was a gigantic help.  I also had a career and location change a couple years ago, and I’m still adjusting to that change.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      We do have the choice of simply going through life or “growing” through it :-)

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        Amen. Some people forfeit this choice by thinking they have none.

      • http://levittmike.wordpress.com levittmike

        Totally agree, and I’ve definitely grown through these experiences

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    True LaRae! I love this idea of “being curious”. As an internal auditor, I need to exhibit this trait the most to find out the lapses and lacunas of my audit customers. As a professional, I should able to lift the veil and look beyond the obvious; I should able to smell the rat.  If not, I will not be able to add value to my audit customers. I fail in my duty.

    To exercise professional skepticism, I need to always employ some innovative and adventurous methods to bring out the truth.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      I like your term “adventurous.” You may mean it in a slightly different way, but the idea is the same – if we’re curious, we look at life as an adventure. That’s a very positive outlook.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Ha Ha ! Thanks LaRae! To me, positivity is always a better preference to negativity.

        Subject: [mhyatt] Re: 3 Ways Smart Leaders Prepare for the Unknown

  • http://twitter.com/leeannewhite Lee Anne White

    Thanks for your insight, LaRae. I find that moving toward conflict provides opportunities for greater understanding, as well. It gives us a chance to discover the missing pieces of the puzzle that others may hold and to see things from another perspective. This is especially important when dealing with interpersonal conflict. 

    Thanks again!

    • http://www.heartyourchurch.com/ Jason Stambaugh

       Great feedback Lee Anne! I’m reminded of the phrase “Stop the bleeding.” If we run away the problem only gets worse.

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Insightful post today, LaRae!

    I can remember back in 2008, when the stock market was plunging 800 to a 1,000 points a day and the whole financial system seemed like it was going to break, it was really easy for me to put my head in the sand and want to run away. Unfortunately, running away just added to the stress.

    Actually taking a few hours to look at things intelligently, and move closer to get more information, provided a lot of insights. Listening to wise counsel from people like Dave Ramsey, opened my eyes.

    Looking back, while those were stressful times, they also provided amazing opportunities to buy world class companies (stocks) at bargain basement prices. Investors that were trained about the good and the bad times, were prepared.

    As Michael says, “What does this make possible?” http://goals4u.us/xpbcAf

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Great analogy! Yes, if we’re prepared for both good and bad times, we can choose how we react . . .

      • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

        The bad times, problems, and failures are some of the best teachers in the world, if we are willing to listen. As tough as it is, when we move closer, we can hear better.

  • http://kevinpierpont.com/ Kevin A Pierpont

    Thanks for this. I think the curiosity factor has taken me into more challenging areas of life than anything else and has been one of the things that keeps me learning and growing as a leader. 

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Curiosity killed the cat…But it also made some people very rich! Keep up the good work, Kevin!

  • http://twitter.com/JoshuaBagley Josh Bagley


    Great post brings some insights to some obstacles I’m
    currently facing…

    Reminds me to find those obstacles in my life before they
    find me and be prepared to face them with confidence… Love the last part, “you
    can prepare for the unknown and lean into it.” Good advice…

    Thanks for your service!

    Best Regards,


    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Thanks for sharing that the post has given you insights to some current obstacles – they always find us, don’t they?

      The best of luck.

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    LaRae —

    Thank you for a fascinating and practical post!  Teaching high school English, I don’t have life-threatening encounters, but my students do supply plenty of the unexpected and the unknown!

    Your #1 – be curious – shows up on an interesting list in a New York Times article : “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?” Identifying a set of strengths likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement, researchers dropped “love” in favor of “curiosity.”

    My initial reaction was, “What? Love is everything!” But considering that personal relationships can be some of our most uncomfortable challenges, your recommendation to “move toward the challenge” (vs. fight/fly) suggests that an open curiosity is an essential component not just of safety but even (especially?!) of love.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Curiosity had kept my relationship with my husband alive for 25 years . . . I just never know what to expect from him (in a good way). He is full of surprises and it’s a continual process of uncovering the real person underneath. Curiosity about another person can be a wonderful spark.

      You said that you don’t experience life-threatening encounters, but teaching high school English puts you in the firing line! Everyone’s threats are different, and just as important, so don’t sell yourself short . . . you’ve learned how to survive in a different jungle than mine, that’s all. Congratulations!

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      I really want to make my #1 Curiosity.

  • http://www.peterglowka.de/ Peter Glowka

    Great post, I am facing big unexpected changes and the unknown myself at the moment.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnHarris3 John Harris

    Not quite sure the logical of your post – if it’s unknown, we can’t prepare for it! If we could prepare, then it would be known. But, I think you hit on one good point: How you react to the unknown is the only thing you can control. 

    When I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2009, it was like being thrown into a war. My response was critical – how would I deal with the fear of death? How would I respond mentally to six rounds of chemotherapy? 

    I just finished a book to try and help others through crises and my first chapter talks about how you respond. It is the most important thing. (My book is available on Amazon here: amzn.com/1469923092)

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Thanks for sharing, John. What a story . . . and congratulations on your book.

      The main point is to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown so you can choose your response. You may not know the conflict that is before you, but can know how you’ll react. Choosing our response comes from preparation . . .

      The best of luck.

      • Jim Martin


        I just copied the middle paragraph in your comment.  This is such a concise way of expressing what you have been talking about in your post.  Very good!  Thanks.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

       John, I’ve been processing from a similar perspective this morning. I, too, had a cancer diagnosis in 2010. Although it wasn’t stage 4, it threw me into a tailspin of unknowns nonetheless. The one lesson I took from the entire experience is that life, itself, IS an unknown. There are no guarantees. It can change in a moment. And that means each day is unknown we can either cower from or lean into.

  • Audrakrell

    Excellent LaRae. When I lean in it has allowed the situation to remain authentic and true. Wallowing on the sidelines allows situations to take on a negative light and blow into something way worse than what originally occurred.

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      I agree. Wallowing on the sidelines does you more harm then the actual injury itself.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Exactly, Audra. And I’ve been an expert at that from time to time!

  • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

    Well done, LaRae.  Your message helps me at a stressful time in my life.  Two weeks from today, I’m relocating my family to the Midwest after planting my roots in So Cal for 22+ years.  There is a great unknown ahead.  Your point #1, Be Curious, brings me comfort.  My youngest son, who will be relocating with us, seems to do this naturally; he is embracing the unknown.  For me, I will have to work on your points…Turn.  Aside.  And Look.  I’ll practice that for the first 1,800 miles on the road and then apply it when we reach our destination filled with unknowns as countless as the grains of sand lining our San Diego beaches.  I will miss the beach but look forward to what’s ahead.

    Thanks for an outstanding message.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Oh, I would miss the beach, too! My second office transfer was a to large city in the South and I resisted the move. Once I got there, though, I learned that every place has some special qualities, or people wouldn’t be living there. 

      Glad you liked the message and the best of luck on your move.

      • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

         Thanks, LaRae.  I resisted this move for four years.  One lesson I learned is that you can’t overcome the power of your wife’s prayers.  She prayed for this incessantly.  Now the final obstacle in the way, my own heart, has now joined with hers to relocate closer to her family.  Your post today is a Godsend.

        • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

          And your reply is a blessing.

          • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

             I forgot to mention our favorite TV show is Criminal Minds.  Your line of work is fascinating.

        • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

          Could you ask your wife to pray that I get moved to San Diego? :)

          • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

             Barry,  she said, “pack your bags.”  :D

          • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

            ha! Awesome!!!!!

    • Jim Martin

      Michael, I wish you the best in this upcoming move.  So glad this post was helpful to you.  Moving is stressful and LaRae’s words really do give this and other big changes a new perspective.

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    I’m living in uncomfortable right now. Starting a Masters in Education, moving out of home, finding a new job, songwriting for church, going the road of a Jazz musician. It’s all a bit much for me this year. And to top it off, I want to see the world sometime this year. Talk about uncomfortable!

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Uncomfortable is a place we’d tolerate to visit but wouldn’t want to live in . . . leave something to savor for next year!

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    When facing unknowns, I’ve learned the longer I pull back and ruminate on the challenge, the more my fear multiplies and paralyzes. If I confront it head on and take those tiny steps (“I only have to do today, today”), the unknowns shrink to a manageable level. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, LaRae.

    • Jim Martin

      You make a great point, Michele.  I have the same experience as you describe in your first sentence.  “…the longer I pull back and ruminate on the challenge, the more my fear multiplies and paralyzes.”  As you suggest, confronting it head on and taking small steps has a way of pushing us forward instead of remaining paralyzed.

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      I am a true believer in tiny steps! Thanks for sharing, Michele.

  • Donnakoppelman

    As a writer, I have learned to take risks.  Try things WAY outside the box, and play around with ideas that seem to be going nowhere.  By entertaining my curiousity a bit, pushing out of my comfort zone, and facing my weaknesses, I am a better, stronger, and more successful writer.  

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Donna, you’ve said something very important: “By entertaining my curiousity a bit, pushing out of my comfort zone, and facing my weaknesses…” Curiosity and facing weaknesses go hand in hand . . . when we explore it’s really important to embrace our weaknesses as well as our strengths or we’ll never be certain we’re operating from a place of power.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I really like that point about learning mastery. How valuable do we become when we do that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/janohara.author Jan O’Hara

    “Often we forfeit control by succumbing to the fight-or-flight syndrome. It’s an automatic reaction many of us lean into when confronted with the unknown.”
    Your timing is wonderful! I wrote a blog post yesterday on defense being the first act of war and how I came to that conclusion after seeing the satirical, somewhat abrasive, and edgy Da Ali G Show. Somehow I think your ideas hold more authority, though. 

    It’s encouraging that curiosity over defensiveness would be a good quality in an FBI agent. 

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      With preparedness comes the need to defend oneself. But curiosity moves us out of the comfortable zone of routine and complacency – with experience, we can begin to predict our reactions to the unknown. We gain confidence in exploring . . . perhaps a little like Captain Kirk, never non-plussed at meeting yet another new alien.

  • Tony S

    Wow, what an awesome, thought provoking post LaRae. Thanks for sharing Michael.

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

     I’ve found that moving towards a challenge almost always results in greater security.  Once I’ve been challenged, in order to accept and complete that challenge, whatever it may be, I have to stretch and grow myself.  The result is almost always beneficial, at least in some regard.

    I love the ideas you’ve presented here, especially Turn, Aside and Look.  So helpful.  Thanks! 

    • Jim Martin

      Jeff, you make a good point.  When we are challenged, it usually means that we must stretch and grow if we are going to meet that challenge.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I agree.  Even to the point where I get uncomfortable…

  • http://www.CrazyAboutChurch.com/ Charles Specht

    I guess there’s a real sense in which almost everything is unknown.  There have been more than a few “done deals” in my life that have fallen through.  Expect the unexpected. 

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      I am with you. Sometimes when things go to smoothly I can almost sense that something unexpected is around the corner.

  • http://sevensentences.com Geoff Talbot

    Wo this is wonderful. It’s nice to read something that does admit the obvious… things out of our control often happen. We can’t just think positive and sail into the sunset.

    Really helpful thanksGeoff Talbot

  • Bonnie Clark

    I enjoyed your post today.  I would add that in “moving toward the challenge” don’t discount that different perspectives might be required.  You may have to step back before you lean in.  In playing sports, the coach has a much different vantage point than the players, which is usually invaluable.  This kind of perspective, of seeing the whole game unfolding, can help determine what adjustments need to be made (the stepping back).  That being said, the only place points are scored is on the court/field/ice…(the leaning in).

    • http://www.LaRaeQuy.com/ LaRae Quy

      Great point, Bonnie. Perspective is huge, and the ability to step back from our situation to gain a better understanding of the big picture is a tremendous advantage. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

       Good points about coaching and playing. Your comment encourages the role of mentors in a person’s life with the purpose of actually being engaged in the game (or, as LaRae might put it, taking on the challenge).

      A good coach prepares players before the challenge. He or she sets up the small-step challenges in practice so that the actual game becomes only the next step.

      I am reminded of a trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It has a 40-foot deep pool where astronauts prepare for their missions in space. They practice so many hours in the pool that, when they’re doing the actual work in space, their typical response is, “This is just like we practiced in the pool.”

  • http://lilyscloset.com/ Monica Smith


    Your message could not have been written and posted at a better time!  I will be graduating from seminary in May and am in the process of building my own business.  It is a healing ministry focused on image consulting and life coaching to women who struggle with believing and embracing their true value and worth.  I have started businesses in the past and they have not worked for financial reasons, fear, unbelief and belief in the words spoken against me.  This is a big step, one I wish had a financial safety net, but it doesn’t.  So today, I am going to turn aside and look at the challenge and trust God to speak through it so that I can go forward for Him.
    Thank you for your timely post.


    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Wow, Monica!  Your courage is inspiring!

  • Ashley Bierwolf

    Great post! I was particularly inspired by the story about Genghis Khan – It is so true that as a leader, no matter what skills you have developed as an individual, and what you have mastered on your own, if you can’t make them work in time with your team, then they won’t do you a heck of a lot of good. Great insight. Thanks!

    • LaRae Quy

      I also like the Genghis Khan story because it illustrates how the small, simple things can really make a difference. When we start to look at what mastery is all about, it’s the precision of the movement as well as the movement itself.

      Glad you liked the post!

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

         The Dan Plan blog follows the efforts of Dan McLaughlin to move from minimal golfer to professional through 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice.” I remember reading that he began with putting and mastering the short putt. His first step truly was a small one. According to his website, he’s now moved past the 2,400-hour mark.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    I like the point about taking small steps, we are always so eager and rush through things. Great post

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Small steps are the most important but easiest to overlook. Everything starts with one small action.

  • John Scheifele

    A good blog coming from the man who wrote and lived “come sip from the cup of destruction…”. About the only control one has is how one reacts to the unanticipated. John Scheifele

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    This morning, I heard about a local girl who sunk a 3-point shot to go over the 1,000-points-scored mark in her high school basketball career. The coach said, “People don’t see the work Kelsey puts in–the arriving early, the staying late after practice. They just see the results.” Practice is facing the challenge in private before the public moment arrives.

  • Jessica Zirbes

    Inspiring post!
    I fear speaking in public. I even get nervous speaking in a small group. I signed up for Toastmasters to conquer my fear. I gave my first speech last week and won beat speech of the night! I am already more confident in my speaking abilities.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Congratulations on winning best speech of the night! Toastmasters is sure to make you grow.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Great Job, Jessica! Way to move towards your fears and conquer them!

  • http://www.ChristianStressManagement.com/ Miriam

    Genghis Khan also teaches us that the perfect timing is a crucial key to success because that split second when the horse is in the air is the same split second to launch and release the arrow towards our goal regardless of whether it is an arrow of words as we speak up for our dreams or an arrow of focused action as we sign up and commit to a plan to birth our goals.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       So true Miriam. Timing plays a big role in whether or not there is success.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    Well, unfortunately, I tend to conflict with those outside of my immediate family. Rather, I try to prevent it if at all possile. When it happens, I often wait it out and let it work out on it’s own. I have gotten better over time though, and I like the viewpoint presented here.i am going to read it through a couple of more times and try to improve.

  • http://www.nayamkaward.com/ Nayamka

    A really insightful post. I see the story of Moses and the burning bush in a fresh light that inspires me to look at the unknown through different eyes. Amazing insights. Thank you.

  • Sfishwick

    I am curious by nature, so this is helpful, I just have to master the small steps usually I want to make a giant leap and also mastery which takes lots of time and practise.

  • LaRae Quy

    Hi Dan

    Thanks so much for sharing.It takes courage to be brutally honest with ourselves about our weaknesses, doesn’t it? But I’m like you, I find it liberating to no longer try to be something I’m not.The U of L – University of Life . . . I’m spending my time trying to help folks empower themselves to find deeper meaning in life and work. Unfortunately, I think it often comes down to those with experience trying to show those without experience how to pursue a life of purpose. Perhaps it is my training, but I believe that the first step for any of us is to educate both ourselves and others on how to become aware. Without awareness, we are ignorant of what is going on around us and powerless to change it.

    By teaching ourselves and others to adapt, to deal with change, and to be prepared for anything, we can move toward empowering the leader in each one of us. Unless we lead our own lives, we will never find freedom and purpose.


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  • http://www.archerfriendly.com/ Archer

    What a great, well written post.  Very interesting, too.  I love how you also talk about the FBI.

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  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    LaRae, aloha. What a terrific post. 

    What’s ironic is that your tips on what to do to face a challenge are easy to do yet oh so easy not to do. It has to be a conscious decision on our part to take those steps. The more we get in the habit of taking those steps, the more automatic and less “scary” it becomes for us to do so.

    On my blog I have written numerous times how the Lizard Brain holds us back. In its desire to “protect” us, it impedes us from our greatness.

    Not too long ago I read a book by Julien Smith entitled “Finch.”  In it he said something that is particularly relevant to what you are saying in this post.

    “When coming across
    something they know will make them flinch, most people have been trained
    to refuse the challenge and turn back. It’s a reaction that brings up
    old memories and haunts you with them. It tightens your chest and makes
    you want to run. It does whatever it must do to prevent you from moving
    forward. If the flinch works, you can’t do the work that matters because
    the fear it creates is too strong.”LaRae, thanks so much for another education and entertaining post. You are a master storyteller. Best wishes for a fabulous week ahead. Until next time, aloha. Janet

    • LaRae Quy

      Hi Janet

      Thanks for the quote from “Flinch.” It fits in perfectly with the message. I can always rely on you to bring new works, messages, and authors to my attention. I’ll remember this and I’m sure I can find a use for it in another post!

      Have a great week!

  • http://www.dental-management.net/dental-business-plan/ Dental Consultant

    Wow! I love what is written in this post. Its interesting! I agree that as a leader we should be ready in all challenges. Can you gives us a quality of a good leader?

  • http://www.facebook.com/GeorgeDGregory George Gregory

    A very appropriate post – we live in “interesting times”. The key question is whether we will react, or “pro-act” – the second one is a choice and is the only way we can hope to control our situation.
    We have gotten complacent; the jobs-for-life paradigm that we have enjoyed for the past few generations is shifting. Things are getting shaken up, but for those who are willing to step up I see great opportunity. Times of crisis show what we’re really made of, and sometimes that’s what it takes to realize our potential. 
    Thanks for the encouragement and great advice!

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Wow, LaRae. I am amazed at all you imparted with this post. I now feel better prepared to tackle anything, including shooting an arrow while riding a horse.

    I am fascinated by what you suggest in refusing to give in to our fight or flight instincts. My first inclination would be to run away from danger, but you make great points.

    I wish I had read this article before I moved to England. That was a time when I was living outside my comfort zone and could have used your advice each step of the way.

    Thanks for sharing this incredible post, LaRae!

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  • Gail Kasper

    Thank you for sharing this, LaRae. This is great information – so helpful for those fearing the unknown. I totally agree with you as you mention “you can control how you react”. I talk about in my self-help book how you must remain logical versus becoming emotional in the face of a crisis or challenge. Whether it be conquering the unknown, achieving a goal, etc, staying logical will keep you on the right track and focused.

    Gail Kasper, Motivational Speaker and Author, www.gailkasper.comUnstoppable: 6 Easy Steps To Achieve Your Goals

  • http://www.facebook.com/SuzBeeBroadhurst Suzanne Broadhurst

    This was SO encouraging!  My teenage daughter has a chronic illness that has led us down many unknown paths.  Just as we were adapting, the unknowns changed and this summer we face more uncertainty.  Where will be?  How much (hopefully how little!) pain will she be in?  What choices should we make?  When should we make them?  Thank you ever so much for this great step-by-step as we step out there … again … and anew.

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