What a Former FBI Agent Just Taught Me About Confidence

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Recently I was lucky enough to have a Skype video call with LaRae Quy and she dropped huge amounts of knowledge. I would like to share the secrets I learned:

Confidence is not just faking it until you make it. LaRae Quy spent 24 years of her life in extremely tough situations. As an FBI counter intelligence and undercover officer she had her fair share of “defining” moments where the outcome could mean life or death. In these types of situations LaRae says:

“There is no room for faking it until you make it. You must summon the confidence from within first, and act on that confidence.”

In order to gain confidence you must be able to overcome obstacles. Some people gain confidence from success. That is great. What happens if you have never been successful in even a remotely similar situation though?

When LaRae was training at Quantico one of the requirements was to jump into a pool while holding an M-16 and then resurface and swim to the other side. The problem was, LaRae, growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, never learned to swim. Even right before the exercise, she still couldn’t actually swim. But she understood that failure was not an option, she knew she had to do it and summoned the confidence to jump. Then she jumped. She is still here and believes that action is the proof of confidence. When you push your limits, your limits expand. You don’t fake courage. You take action.

LaRae Quy likes to use the term “Emotional Competence” instead of Emotional Intelligence. While they might seem one-and-the-same, the difference made perfect sense to me. Competence is a more relevant term than intelligence. I know a lot of intelligent people who are not competent. Competence is about action, while intelligence is about knowledge. This idea of competence over intelligence also manifests itself in a quote she told me during our video call:

“Theories are nice, evidence is better. Our lives are our evidence”

Competence leads to confidence. According this FBI Agent “Emotional Competence’” has 2 Main components: 

  1. Being Able to Identify The Feeling
  2. Regulating Your Feelings & The Resulting Actions

One of the main weaknesses we have when it comes to emotional competence is our vocabulary. When we discuss our feelings we are “ just fine” or “good”. This is weak and not descriptive. Being able to effectively identify and describe your emotion allows you to take the next steps in order to process and determine correct action. We need to be able to understand if we are angry, frightened, frustrated, jealous, concerned, worried, scared, or happy. Once we know what we are feeling we can then begin to understand why.

LaRae taught me that in order to be able to control (regulate) your actions and feelings there is a 5-step process:

  1. Quiet Your Mind
  2. Explore: Ask the Hard Questions
  3. Determine: Is This (Feeling/Idea/Perception) True?
  4. Decide What Needs to Be Done
  5. Take Action. Dare Yourself. Be Aggressive.

1. Quiet Your Mind – some people meditate. Some people exercise. Some people are religious. Whatever you do, make sure you have space and time to think about your thoughts. When your mind can focus and you are not being bombarded by outside noise, your ability to reflect and process information greatly increases.

2. Explore – this is where you ask what does this feeling do? Is it good for me? Is it self-limiting or is it helpful? Where does this feeling come from? Is it from my parents, my childhood, teachers, or friends and coaches? How did I get it? Why do I have it? Trace the origins. This is where all those questions must be answered.

3. Find Truth – is the feeling with its origin and meaning true? Does the feeling portray reality or am I making it up?

4. Decide What Needs to Be Done – what action if taken will move me closer to my desired outcomes? What action can I take? Where is my influence? Decide what you want to feel, what you want to accomplish and then focus on the actions that will get you there. By determining the best possible course of action, following through becomes easier.

5. Take Action – We need to challenge ourselves to proceed. All fear can be killed with action. Dare yourself to push your boundaries. Most limits are self-inflicted and can be broken. Break through those limits. Be aggressive with your actions and take control of your personal limitations.

The lack of confidence is present at all levels. Executive leaders feel unsure about their abilities just as much as junior analysts. It is rampant for both men and women, often though it is just expressed differently. Feeling afraid or questioning your abilities is ok as long as you do not dwell on the feeling and start believing it as true. Feel the feeling. Label the feeling. Then apply LaRae’s 5-steps to understand, question, and take corrective action. If you follow this process, you will be able to gain true confidence and thereby take more action in the future.

More about LaRae: LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. Government

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. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception. LaRae is the author of “Secrets Of A Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.”

More posts by Mareo can be found Here

Benefits of Gratitude on Performance

Gratitude=Increased Performance

Gratitude is the number one indicator of people I like. Really. Looking back at all of my relationships, the people I am the closest with are the ones who are the most grateful. It causes me to pause and ask myself two things:

  1. Am I the type of person I want to be friends with?
  2. Why? Why are the people I connect with the ones who are the most grateful?

Interestingly, these people also are great performers. They perform professionally, emotionally, socially, physically, and with family. They succeed because they learn and grow.

Success is about not only about results, it is about learning from setbacks and striving for constant progress. It is about taking what you have – what you have been given – and making the most with it. Performance is about living up to your capabilities. Performance is about execution. Having an idea or strategy and then finding a way to get it done. Often we look at the hard skills need to perform, yet your emotional state is just as important.

Positive Psychology is an academic field that studies happiness. According to positive psychologists Ken Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky, there is research that says that up to 40 percent of your happiness comes from activities that you choose to do. When you are happier, you perform better in all aspects of your lives. Your work product improves. Your relationships get strengthened.

“When we are happy—when our mindset and mood are positive—we are smarter, more motivated, and thus more successful. Happiness is the center, and success revolves around it.”  – Shawn Achor

In the search for uncovering the secret to happiness, positive psychology keeps returning to the same concept: gratitude. In multiples studies, researchers have found that if people are purposefully engaged in trying to become more grateful, they are more likely to become happier. Gratitude is a feeling. It is an emotion we choose to have based on our willingness to appreciate the good that is around us.

From the Harvard Medical School Health Publications:

“Another leading researcher in this field, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.”

Amy Morin, Author of the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,  wrote an article in Forbes that shows 7 Scientifically Proven Ways that gratitude enhances your life:

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. 
  2. Gratitude improves physical health.
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  5. Grateful people sleep better.
  6. Gratitude increases mental strength.
  7. Gratitude improves self-esteem.

Showing gratitude privately and publicly creates happiness. In my life, I have found that people who do certain things are able to experience increased levels of happiness through gratitude.

Three ways to develop gratitude:

  1. Journal it! Write down daily what you are thankful for. Every morning write down 10 things you are grateful for. Every night before you fall asleep write down another 10 things you are thankful for. Our words create our world. Our thoughts define our reality.
  2. Tell it! Each day commit to telling one person why you are thankful for them. It could be a friend, spouse, co-worker, child, taxi driver, grocery store cashier… anyone. Telling people you are thankful for them increases your awareness, and creates happiness in others. Do more than say “Thank You”. Be specific as to why you are thankful and even better write them a letter.
  3. Forget it! All obstacles, struggles, pain and setbacks are only as powerful as we allow them to be. Letting go of the bad, letting go of the negative – is as important as focusing on the good

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    . Dwell only on what can help you achieve your potential and discard the rest.

Being constantly happy is not realistic or even practical. We need adversity. Our well-being is determined by the meaning we give to each situation. We can choose to feel happy based on actions we take. Pain and struggle are vital for growth and mastery. The meaning we apply to the pain is what really determines our happiness. If we can be thankful for the experiences and appreciate what is happening, we then are in control over our personal happiness. Be thankful. Tell others you appreciate them. Ignore the negative. Do those things and you will develop gratitude and find more happiness and be more confident and be more successful.

**Jeff Haden collected 40 incredible quotes on gratitude for this Inc. Article. andDave Kerpen tells a story and shares 15 more for this Inc. Article.**

Mareo McCracken 

3 Ways to “ALWAYS” Build Trust

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Relationship quality is measured by the level trust attained. One determinant of success is the quality of our relationships, or the ability to build trust.

“Again and again, we see both individuals and organizations perform only to a small degree of their potential success, or fail entirely, simply because of their neglect of the human element in business and life.” – John C. Maxwell

The main focus of any leader is to build trust. Relationships built on trust are the foundation of success. No one has succeeded on an island. Stephen M.R. Coveyteaches that there are two types of trust:

  1. Character (your integrity)
  2. Competence (the ability and willingness to produce).

”Trust in others comes not only from being truthful but also from the extent you reliably you do what you say you will do.” Stephen M.R. Covey

Leaders who inspire, build, motivate, and ultimately succeed are leaders who are able to develop and maintain both types of trust in their professional and personal relationships. Some trust is instantaneous, while other trust must be earned over time. Recently I took a helicopter ride while working on a project in Brazil. As soon as we arrived at the helipad I saw the pilot with his uniform, stripes, and various symbols that signified his competence. Instantly I believed that he had the ability and qualifications to fly the machine safely. The same is usually true when we visit a doctor or attend a university lecture. Credentials can build trust. Especially trust in competence.

In business though, credentials often mean very little. Building trust with individuals and teams comes down to our ability to navigate complex social situations. While the circumstances may vary, the process of building lasting trust is very simple to learn and apply.

The process for building trust is:

  1. Always Listen First (Curiosity, Concern & Care)
  2. Always Speak About People as If They Can Hear You
  3. Always Do Exactly What You Promised, then Do More

The first two steps in the process build your “character trust” and the final step builds your “competence trust”.

Jeff Haden produced a short analysis on the Science of Building Trust that examined the book The Decision to Trust: How Leaders Create High-Trust Organizations.

Jeff counsels leaders on how to build trust and make effective decisions:

“When you put yourself in your employees’ place and consider their perspectives and their needs, you can easily determine the best ways to act and communicate so you can create an environment of empowerment and trust… and in the process build a high-performing organization.” – Jeff Haden

Leaders who build trust are leaders who succeed.

Always Listening First allows us to learn and understand. And more important, those people we are building relationships will feel our genuine care. Emotions control relationships. Listening gives other people the chance to express themselves; this opens the door to connection and long-term positive associations. By listening you show concern while learning what types of actions and behaviors will best allow this relationship to succeed.

Always Speaking About People as If They Were Present does not necessarily build trust, but doing the opposite is the fastest destroyer of trust. Lying and cheating is wrong – you might or might not get caught. But, whomever you talk to will know how you talk about others. They will not want to be talked about when they are gone and therefore will not trust you. Be the type of person you want to be friends with.

Always Doing Exactly What We Promised, and Then Doing More shows we have integrity, we are honest, and just as important – that we are competent. Getting the job done is what makes the world go round. If you promise a phone call, make the call. If you promise an email, send the email. If you promise a trip to the swimming pool, go to the pool! (Practice with your family – the ones closest to you are often the hardest ones to keep promises to.) No matter how honest we are, if we do not produce something, we do not add value. There are many things we can produce – if our role is a high school teacher our product then is how well we teach, educate, and inspire the youth. If our role is as an accountant, our accuracy and insights we produce become our product. Everyone in some form or another has value to contribute. Everyone can create and produce. Competence comes from the skill, ability, and willingness to produce the best possible product. We trust people who constantly perform. First do what you say you will, then wow them and do more.

Following the simplified three things we must “ALWAYS” do will put us in situations to constantly be building trust. Building trust in relationships takes time, is easy is to loose and nearly impossible to regain

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. Earning trust once is hard, earning it twice next to impossible. Work hard at building trust; treat trust building like a profession. Always listen, Always Speak Kindly and Open About Others, and Always Deliver.

Now Its Your Turn: What are some ways you have found that help build trust? What advice do you have for others on their journey? (please share your experience and knowledge)

* For further study I recommend these 3 books:

  1. The Decision to Trust: How Leaders Create High-Trust Organizations – Robert F. Hurley 
  2. The Speed of Trust – Stephen M.R. Covey
  3. Winning With People – John C. Maxwell

Some More Posts:

5 Regrets Solved & 10 Steps for Better Relationships

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Success is about moving forward. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Often, it is hard to move forward, we have regrets that hold us back. Sometimes regret can ruin us, as the legendary sales trainer, Victor Antonio teaches:

“Regret is fertile ground for negativity and pessimism to set in, which only begets more regret, which can only be remedied by letting go of the past and taking decisive action.”

Dave Kerpen, the CEO of Likable Local, wrote an article for Inc. that shares 17 motivational quotes that help us let go.  My favorite from his list:

“The great courageous act that we must all do, is to have the courage to step out of our history and past so that we can live our dreams.”Oprah Winfrey

Other times regret can be used as a way to help us remember the actions we took that produced results we did not desire. This regret can be used as a tool to motivate us to make different choices going forward. We can learn from our own experiences, but we can also learn from the experiences of others

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A now famous Australian nurse, Bonnie Ware,  spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying advice. These insights received so much attention that she put her notes into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The five most common regrets are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

All 5 of the regrets revolve around relationships. Whether the relationships are personal or professional – how we define ourselves in relation to and with others is the biggest determinant of our happiness (or lack thereof).  The more time I spend with those I care about, the more fulfilled I feel.

In the The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk , the author explains how important relationships really are:

“…no relationships should be taken for granted. They are what life is all about, the whole point. How we cultivate our relationships is often the greatest determinant of the type of life we get to live. Business is no different. Real business isn’t done in board meetings; it’s done over a half-eaten plate of buffalo wings at the sports bar, or during the intermission of a Broadway show. It’s done through an enthusiastic greeting, with an unexpected recommendation, or by offering up your cab when it’s raining. It happens in the small personal interactions that allow us to prove to each other who we are and what we believe in…”

The best way to build relationships is to help other people. Helping other people is the only true secret to sustainable success.

Adam Grant, Wharton’s top-rate professor who wrote Give and Take, explains that the givers are the ones who give freely to others and thereby creating the most rewarding relationships. From his book:

“The more I help out, the more successful I become. But I measure success in what it has done for the people around me. That is the real accolade.”

“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Adam Grant’s message coincides with one of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quote:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Helping others, spending time with those we love, and cultivating true and pure relationships without expectations is how we can develop fulfilling relationships in life and in business. This in turn helps us to maximize our potential. Spending time developing relationships is what will create stronger bonds. We need to spend time with those people we care about.

Some good advice I have found for building professional relationships comes from John Hall and an article he wrote for Forbes. John provides 10 actions that lead to building effective professional relationships: (most can also be applied to personal relationships too!)

  1. Sharing knowledge
  2. Finding out what’s valuable to them
  3. Sharing your resources
  4. Making them aware of an opportunity
  5. Giving them transparent feedback
  6. Being a brand advocate
  7. Giving introductions
  8. Volunteering your time
  9. Recognizing them
  10. Giving gifts 

Time is precious. How we spend our time matters. Remembering the past and learning from the experiences we gained is valuable in guiding our future actions. Letting go of the pain and regrets of the past is vital to future progression. In order to live life to the fullest we must focus on our relationships.

– Mareo McCracken

Be a Fast-Follower & 8 Tips

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Failure is not lack of success. It is a result of giving up and not having the right strategy for success.

Winston Churchill said:

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Fear is only realized when we don’t act. Action erases fear. Often in business as in life, we are afraid of what we don’t know.  We are afraid of failure. The concept of failure needs to be changed

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Tony Robbins preaches:

“In every situation there is no failure, only results.”

For every event in our lives, we define what the results mean to us. If the results are viewed as failure, then we have created the failure. If the results are viewed as educational moments then the results become wins.

While action fixes a multitude of weaknesses, our work ethic must be tempered by strategy.  Our strategy for success comes from modeling the behavior of those who have been successful before us. Steve Blank, Stanford Business Professor, teaches that there is often comfort and faster success that comes from being a fast-follower rather than a fast-mover. Trying to gain first-mover advantage often leads to disastrous results.

Besides modeling those who are most successful as a fast-follower, here are eight principles of timeless business advice from Jeff Haden:

  1. Focus on collecting knowledge…
  2. …but focus more on collecting knowledgeable people.
  3. Give before receiving.
  4. Look past the messenger and focus on the message.
  5. Always work on next.
  6. Eat as many of your words as you can.
  7. Turn ideas into actions.
  8. Learn about squirrel nests.

Focus on finding those in your industry who already do well what you specialize in; then find a way to do what they do better by putting your own unique twist into the recipe. Stay positive and follow a plan.

Perceptions of Happiness










A recent forum/blog post by Wharton marketing professor Cassie Mogilner outlines groundbreaking research regarding how our perception of happiness changes as we age. Dr

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. Mogilner and her co-researchers basic findings are that when we are young excitement = happiness and the older we get the more calmness = happiness. Both desired results of either excitement or calmness are based on one central aspect: time. How we spend our time is the greatest determinant of our happiness. Not the amount of money or things we have.

With both happiness factors, if time is spent creating and building personal relationships our happiness level increases. While there are many types of personalities, with some more outgoing than others – most people want to feel involved, connected, and appreciated. Developing positive relationships with other people helps us realize those emotional needs.

Also, some of the interesting counterintuitive research points out that the more stressed or time constrained we feel can be solved as we give our time to others, as we give of ourselves and our time the less stressed we end up feeling. The more we serve and volunteer our time, the more time it feels that we have.

Initial Thoughts on Buber – Regarding Conflict & Kindness


In the Merriam-Webster dictionary Humanity is defined as the quality or state of being human or the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals. Humans being kind other humans is easy. We create difficulties when we choose (consciously or subconsciously) not to see other people as humans.

Being kind to other people becomes simple when we see them for what they really are and not what we “deceive” ourselves into believing they are. We treat humans differently than we treat objects. Human’s are like us

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. They breathe, they have feelings, and they are people. When we view people as objects they turn into something other than humans.

Martin Buber’s classic I and Thou teaches that there are two basic worldviews that we to apply to every interaction. The first “I-You” is where we see others as humans, as part of us, in the present tense. The second is “I-It” where we view others as objects, as things of the past, as items to use.

As we separate people from ourselves, as we stereotype, as we apply attributes to people the way we would things like cars, houses, tools, and food we dehumanize them; thus we end up treating them as objects. People are not objects and this is where the error is made.

Whenever we are in a situation where we notice our own feelings of compassion, empathy, understanding, or patience begin to wane towards other humans it would make sense to stop and picture the person you are dealing with as a friend, as a brother, as a sister, as a parent or child. As we do this, our internal thought process can begin to change. While our opinions and ideas might not change, our ability to overcome conflict will be greatly enhanced. Instead of giving them power over our emotions, we take control back over what we feel and how we express it.

Get More Done – with “3 and 3 Planning”



Your daily structure is your operational framework  success. Once the mindset for success is achieved and the goals are determined, then the execution must begin. As long as you always know what you need to do, you will never be working aimlessly. Focusing on what is most important allows both your conscious and unconscious mind to work toward accomplishing your goals.

Daily planning is essential to achievement. Daily planning is not about goal setting or affirmations. It is actually determining what specific actions you will take the next day to make sure you are staying on your path to achieve your highest potential. Ignore the natural desire to write down a 25-item to-do list. You might have a 25 item list that outlines what steps you need to take to accomplish your goals, but this not a to-do list. Those lists are not effective at helping you get your most important work done. They hurt your ability to focus and can make even small tasks seem daunting.

You choose how to spend your time. You must make many choices everyday. By eliminating clutter and focusing on what is most important you are choosing to be effective. The daily planning method I use is called “3 and 3 Planning”.  Each night before you go to bed you write down the 3 most essential things you will accomplish the next day and then write down the 3 additional things you must do to take yourself to the next level.

Essential Tasks are things you must do. No excuses. No matter what happens, these three items must get done. When I started they were:

  1.     Prayer – Meditation
  2.     Reading Inspirational Scripture/Material – 30 min. minimum
  3.     Express love to my wife and kids through Words and Actions

I was committed to those three actions and they became a part of me.

The next step in the nightly planning process is to really erase all of the clutter and determine what three tasks would take you to the next level of success. Not 4, not 5, but 3 specific actions. These tasks can be constant, other times they change daily. Really, it depends on what actions will create the most dramatic impact on your achievement.

When you create your goals, your should also list all the steps that will be required to achieve those goals. You outline each step along the way. Whether it is 5 steps or 25 steps, the next most important three steps become your 3 additional things you will accomplish. If you have responsibilities at work and need to finish a project for a client, then that item might become number 1. For me at the beginning my Next Level Tasks looked like:

  1.     Exercise: 15 minutes cardio, 20 minutes weights
  2.     Call and Nurture 10 prospective clients
  3.     Write 10 Thank you notes

If I had a sales call next week and was giving a presentation, the next level task might include presentation prep everyday for a week, but when that presentation was over, it would be dropped off. Next level tasks are determined by your responsibilities as well as your goals.

After 30 days or more, some or all of your essential tasks will become habits and therefore have no need to be written down and they can be removed. Then some of your Next Level Tasks can be moved to Essential and you can replenish the Next Level Tasks. For example: If you had an Essential Task of reading educational material for 30 minutes a day and you did it for 30 days in a row, it is now a habit and is part of you. You own it so it can be removed. One of your Next Level Tasks, such as Exercise for 20 minutes that you did for 30 days (as long as you really did it) can now be moved to the essential task since it is part of who you are. Not all Next Level tasks need to be moved to essential, as many are one-time projects. Next Level Tasks can change daily if needed, or can become longer-term tasks that become essential once you have mastered some of the more essential tasks.

Anything you complete in addition to the items you wrote down in the “3 and 3 Planning” is bonus, extra credit, and will help you. But do not focus on those things, focus on the structure first and let other items come later.

It is easier to be committed to a few things then try to do everything at once.

The value of simplification allows your mind to focus on what you want to accomplish. Greg McKeown wrote a great book on how to simplify your life:

Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less. By creating a process to determine what you must do, and what you should do that is short, concise, and precise you will be able to execute and accomplish far more than just by creating mega-long to-do lists. Having the right frame of mind is the foundation for your life. Your defined goals are the design of your future. Your action plans determine the structure of your success

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. Thus, your decisions do determine your destiny.

– Mareo McCracken


Put The Blame On Me



Our reference points, motives and biases form the foundation of all that we feel and do. Why we do things determines our decisions and outcomes. When it comes to accomplishing our goals, helping other people, reducing conflict, and creating successful relationships – we can choose the quality of every interaction.

Humans are naturally selfish. The need to survive has created habits and mechanisms that put our own personal needs above the needs of others. One way we deceive ourselves into being selfish is the way we view other people. We often see ourselves as the center of reality, as the most human, living-being in our world – while we see others as objects, not people. We treat objects much differently than we treat humans. By seeing other people as objects we can then justify any action that puts our needs above theirs – this is where most conflict comes from. Viewing others as objects rather than as humans allows us to justify our opinions and feelings as correct while making sure that we blind ourselves to the correctness of other people’s ideas, needs, and actions

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. In order to understand this idea better please read:  The Anatomy of Peace – by The Arbinger Institute.

When we try to see other people as humans rather than objects, our actions, thoughts, and behaviors will change. We will be able to solve problems that before seemed insurmountable. We will have the ability to help others get what they want and feel good doing so.

Studying the WHY of what we do rather than the WHAT creates the foundation for effective change. If a building is built on unstable ground, the entire structure is at risk. It is the same in our lives. If our beliefs and mindset are not built with sure and true principles, then all of our relationships, success, and endeavors are at risk.

When things go wrong we give our power to others by blaming. When we blame others for events or actions, we are not taking responsibility for our own ability to create change. When we blame, we are not viewing them as humans, but rather as objects who are supposed to be perfect. To start the process of really viewing others as living beings, whenever a conflict or negative situation arises – begin by asking yourself 4 questions:

  • What do I really want the outcome to be?
  • What do they really want the outcome to be?
  • What can I do to change the current situation?
  • What can I do to help the other person get what they want?

The answers to these questions allows the possibility for deeper understanding and a reduction of selfishness. In life, the more we help other people get what they want, the byproduct is that we end up getting what we want. Adam Grant wrote a book that describes all people as either givers, takers, or matchers. While all three can achieve success – those who help others the most end up achieving the greatest success and satisfaction.  Viewing others as humans helps us overcome selfishness. In taking responsibility for our own feelings, our own actions, we can then learn to navigate complex relationships and reduce conflict in all areas of our lives.

Gratitude = Happiness


Positive Psychology is an academic field that studies happiness. According to positive psychologists Ken Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky, there is research that says that up to 40 percent of our happiness comes from activities that we choose to action.

In the search for uncovering the secret to happiness, positive psychology keeps returning to the same concept: gratitude. In multiples studies, researchers have found that if people are purposefully engaged in trying to become more grateful, they are more likely to become happier. Gratitude is a feeling. It is an emotion we choose to have based on our willingness to appreciate the good that is around us.

Showing gratitude privately and publicly creates happiness. In my life, I have found that people who do certain things are able to experience increased levels of gratitude.

Three ways to develop gratitude:

  1. Journal it! Write down daily what you are thankful for. Every morning write down 10 things you are grateful for. Every night before you fall asleep write down another 10 things you are thankful for. Our words create our world. Our thoughts define our soul.
  2. Tell it! Each day commit to telling one person why you are thankful for them

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    . It could be a friend, spouse, co-worker, child, taxi driver, grocery store cashier… anyone. Telling people you are thankful for them increases your awareness, and creates happiness in others. Do more than say “Thank You”. Be specific as to why you are thankful and even better write them a letter.

  3. Forget it! All obstacles, struggles, pain and setbacks are only as powerful as we allow them to be. Letting go of the bad, letting go of the negative – is as important as focusing on the good. Dwell only on what can help you achieve your potential and discard the rest.

Being constantly happy is not realistic or even practical. We need adversity. Our well-being is determined by the meaning we give to each situation. We can choose to feel happy based on actions we take. Pain and struggle are vital for growth and mastery. The meaning we apply to the pain is what really determines our happiness. If we can be thankful for the experiences and appreciate what is happening, we then are in control over our personal happiness. Be thankful, tell others you appreciate them, and ignore the negative.

– Mareo McCracken


More Resources:

Shawn Achor Ted Talk

Sonja Lyubomirsky – Article