How To Make Courage A Habit With Laura Khalil – Episode 090

LFL 90 | Make Courage A Habit


Your habits are mostly the foundations of your achievements and success, and courage is one of the best traits to have. Laura Khalil, a speaker and trainer at Brave by Design, joins Patrick Veroneau to talk about mindset techniques. She dives into different scenarios and situations that will make you think as she helps you change your perception and mindset. Learn all about negativity bias, how it’s built into us, and how it’s affecting our daily lives. Understand where the best place is to start your personal growth and break the notion of being self-made in a society where we all rely on others. Also, know how to live in the moment and appreciate what you have attained as you set time to have your own moment of gratitude.

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How To Make Courage A Habit With Laura Khalil

My guest is all about building courage in her clients. She hosts an incredible podcast called Brave By Design. She is also known as the force of badassery. After having a conversation with her several times now, I would have to say, it’s true. I will tell you this to me was a great episode, especially in the environment we’re in right now, talking about how we do that. How do we build courage? You’ll find that there are some interesting perspectives in terms of how we do this and do it together. The evolution of this podcast is about how do we learn to lead like no other. It first starts with reimagining what that looks like and that’s what this show is all about. Why don’t we get into it?

Laura, thank you so much for being on the show. I’ve been looking forward to this. You are the force of badassery. I love that. A couple of things that stood out to me as I was reading some of your background was that you combined teaching the habit of courage with business know-how. Both of those are so important in the environment that we’re in. I was hoping that we could maybe go down that path and see where we end up in terms of the clients that you deal with or the people that you’re with. How do you do that right now in terms of developing that habit of courage?

Let me take a step back and let’s talk about why I combine these two things. Those who are reading this may know or learn that I ran a very successful consulting business for a number of years doing marketing consulting for huge companies. When people started asking me to speak and teach on this stuff, I would tell them, “Here’s the business know-how. Here’s how you do it.” These are steps that anyone can learn. I can teach you how to write a contract. I can teach you how to talk to a client. I can teach you how to sell. What I began to notice was that I can give you those steps, but if you do not have a foundation in self-worth, you will find all kinds of ways to delay yourself, to self-sabotage, to throw up roadblocks and not succeed and stay where you are. Where you are may feel safer for you than where you want to go because where you want to go is unknown to you.

That’s why I began talking more about developing the habit of courage because we can give you the map. It’s not a secret of how to do these things, of how to build a business, of how to rise in your career. If you don’t believe in yourself, if you’re not courageous, I guarantee you you’re going to have a real hard time doing it. That’s why I’ve combined those two to make it a little bit easier for people to address some of the very critical mindset techniques that we can begin to use and employ now to feel more courageous, especially in those challenging circumstances where we are afraid to speak up or we are scared of what someone will think of us if we put our necks out there or we try something different. That’s where the courage piece comes in because sometimes, we’re more conditioned to shrink than to shine.

Before we started this, you had mentioned the negativity bias. I was wondering if you could speak to that in terms of where does that fit in this in terms of the habit of courage?

We are all programmed with a negativity bias. We always consider the worst-case scenario. Click To Tweet

We are all programmed with a negativity bias. That means that we are all programmed to think like, “This scary thing is happening and I’m going to go to the worst-case scenario.” That’s how we are trained to think. That’s how we survived millions of years ago. That’s very normal. If you immediately go to the worst-case scenario, that’s okay, but here’s where we get intentional about developing that courage muscle. Courage is a muscle like anxiety, stress and overwhelm are muscles. How do we begin to develop that muscle when we fall into the negative? I want you to think about this question. What are the 25 benefits of this situation to furthering my values and to furthering my mission on this planet? Think about that.

That question can be very challenging for certain people to answer because they’ll immediately say, “Laura, there’s nothing. There’s nothing good. I can’t find anything. What a dumb exercise.” Think about what’s important to you. Is family something that you value that’s very important to you? How is this crisis helping you to strengthen your relationship with your family further? Tell me 10 or 25 ways. I love to get about 25 because that’s when we begin to see that negativity bias is suppressed. The nervous system comes down a little bit and we can see how everything is not in our way. It is on our way to achieving our highest potential. When we use and develop that habit of courage and to start with that one simple technique, you will begin to think instead of this being the worst thing ever, why is this the best thing ever?

I love how you talk about putting the number 25 out there because the easy thing to do is say, “Let’s think of three things.” If it’s only three, then that negativity bias will overtake it again. You’re almost building this, “How thick can I get this shell around me to defend myself against this negative bias?”

What I’ll say is when I do this with my clients and they’re working with me, I make them get to 200. That’s no easy feat. It’s not easy to do that, but you’ll notice as you begin to do this exercise, and I tell everyone, “Do it until you have tears of joy, tears of inspiration, tears of gratitude for the challenge that is in front of you.” What I tell everyone is that we grow right at the border between support and challenge. What does that mean? That means that if I’m living my life and I am so incredibly challenged by everything going on and I cannot function and I cannot find the support, I’ll give up. Conversely, if I grew up in an environment and I never have a problem in my life. I’ve got free-flowing access to money and to everything like my heart could ever desire. What happens? I become lazy.

We see this happen with people. We see people who feel extremely defeated by challenges. We see people who are wildly unmotivated and uninspired to do anything with their life because they don’t need to. How do we get out of that? How we get out of that negativity bias is we begin to develop courage. We begin to see, what challenges do I want to go after? How are the challenges that are currently appearing in my life supporting me? When you can bring equilibrium and see that this event has both the support and challenge that are helping me fulfill what I’m here to do. I talk a lot about that. I don’t know what the belief system of the audience is, but I do truly believe that we are all here to do something great with our lives.

LFL 90 | Make Courage A Habit

Make Courage A Habit: If you do not have a foundation in self-worth, you will find ways to delay yourself, self-sabotage, throw up roadblocks, not succeed, and stay where you are.


That’s pretty core to what I believe. If you agree with that, then instead of seeing these challenges as insurmountable obstacles, let’s see these challenges as our greatest opportunities. We can divide the world into a couple of types of people. There are people who are thinking like this and there are people who are giving in to their fear and giving into distress who are paralyzed. The people who are beginning to think in this way and thinking, “How can I best serve over the next 12 to 24 months as we face this crisis?” This is not a 2-week or 1-month issue. We are forever changed and impacted. By the way, the effects we’re seeing for this pandemic will continue there. This is not the end of it so let’s get realistic.

It’s coming back. There will be other waves of it. We’re going to get more control over it when we get a vaccine and that type of thing but until then, think about what are the opportunities for me to best serve in this crisis because our highest potential is always in service to others. If you’re sitting on the couch, eating a bag of potato chips and Netflix for six months, who is that in service to? That’s not in service to anyone. That doesn’t help anyone. When we can say, “No, I need to rise above that,” I need to find, what are the benefits for me in this situation? What are the benefits for me from my natural gifts and talents to share with the world? We then can really be of service and help our communities and help this world to unite in this incredible conflict.

You hit on so many things that I’m trying to unpack here. To me, what we’re going through right now is a dress rehearsal for many things to come down the road in terms of how we approach and behave toward each other. The other thing that I think about when you were saying that is all the research out there in regards to belongingness. We need each other. We cannot get through this without each other. There is such a myth around self-made. Nobody is self-made unless you made the road you’re driving on, the car you’re in, the roof that’s over your head, and you made the food you’re eating. It sounds absurd. That’s it.

With that said, what I do believe is that we can be and need to be self-motivated. There needs to be our ability to drive from inside, but we all need each other to get through this. Lastly, as it relates to this idea of it needs to be more than about myself. As you probably are familiar with how much research is out there that says when they looked at income levels and other components, what provided the most happiness for people was those that had a purpose. Those individuals that had a purpose were those that found to be experienced the most well-being and to be the happiest. To me, the purpose is about being for others.

One of the questions I always wake up and ask myself every day, and I want to preface this by saying I’m not a particularly religious person, but this is more a question I asked to my higher self. I’ll say, “How can I best be of service? How can I help?” You start the day with that kind of thought and you will begin to see opportunities appear. We have control over those thoughts. To your point, isolation, there are so many things about the internet that have been incredible and wonderful and revolutionary, but never have people felt so isolated and disconnected. Never have we seen such high levels of inability to cope with stress and anxiety in society when we are “more connected” than ever.

We grow right at the border between support and challenge. Click To Tweet

This period is teaching us exactly like you said. Nobody does it on their own. We have lived in a culture that’s a lot about self-made, self-reliance, and you can do it but it takes a village. The things that I’m seeing in my community and I imagine you’re seeing as well, I am so inspired by how people are pulling together to help. For example, our hospital staff or to help our kids in need who need lunch or dinner or who are helping our elderly folks. People are coming together in ways. I have a dog. I walk down the street 2 to 3 times a day with my dog to take her out. Thankfully, we’re not in a very populated area, but I’m waving to the neighbors. I’m saying hi from across the street because before, what would we do? We take them for granted. We’d ignored them. We’d look away. I don’t want to be seen. No. We’re learning about this community. We’re learning about reconnecting to others. It’s going to leave us in such a stronger place but it is interesting what you talk about this being a dress rehearsal. I want to hear more about that.

In our lifetimes, we haven’t experienced this kind of challenge before. You start to see how people interact with each other and how they behave toward each other. It speaks to where do we go from here. What’s the next challenge that we will deal with that is going to put us in a similar situation and what will we learn from this so that in round two, we understand where we go next.

I hope that people take that to heart because it’s true. I don’t think we’ve experienced this since probably World War II, which none of us were alive for. Our grandparents or parents may have gone through this, but we certainly have not. We’ve gotten a little bit complacent, honestly. That’s my opinion. We have gotten very comfortable. Let me talk about support and challenge for a second. We’ve gotten comfortable with being supported and challenged in other ways, but supported in certain ways where we have gotten comfortable with sitting in front of the TV and witnessing life happening outside of us. What’s going on right now is a form of attack. It’s a virus, but the difference for me in how I see it is that this virus is not an agent brought from a foreign nation.

It’s a thing going around the world. There’s nobody outside of us to attack. There’s nobody outside of us to fight. There’s no to say, “You’re the one. This is your fault.” No. That’s not real. What can we do? The only thing we can do to heal right now, the only thing we can do to “fight” this is to go within and heal ourselves. That’s the only way. To me, that’s an incredibly profound lesson in what’s happening and how do we heal ourselves? How do we become more reconnected with ourselves? How do we slow down? How do we do self-care? How do we take this time to realign and reset around what our dreams are to spend more time with our family and to reconnect with the land and our communities?

When we think about this form of “war” or attack, that’s my perspective on it. I don’t know if you share that, but it’s a very profound gift that we are experiencing and that’s my choice to see it that way. I fully recognize that other people may see this as the worst thing ever. In the habit of courage, what we talk about is every challenge is a huge opportunity and the bigger, the challenge is, the bigger the opportunity.

LFL 90 | Make Courage A Habit

Make Courage A Habit: When we begin to see that negativity bias is suppressed, the nervous system calms down a little bit, and we can see how everything is not in our way. It’s actually on our way to achieving our highest potential.


A lot of your work is around mindset, which that’s what this all is. To piggyback off of what you’re talking about, there’s so much here in regards to experiencing our own vulnerability. Who would have ever thought something that we can’t even see can have this great an impact on a globe, on all of us? I am a huge advocate of vulnerability in the work. We can probably dovetail into here around emotional intelligence because we had this conversation that we’re seeing more interest in emotional intelligence. I first started with emotional intelligence in 2008 when I started my company. That’s when I had gotten involved with emotional intelligence.

Patrick, what a time to start a company. Talk about a crisis but that’s incredible.

It speaks to there’s a way out. One of the things that I will talk about is your past is your power. Ten minutes ago was our past. What do we learn from that that we go forward and we navigate a better place going forward? That’s all we have. People that say, “You can’t live in the past.” I agree with that. What we need to do is leverage our past because that’s all that we have. If I don’t remember my past, I wouldn’t know how to get home again because I need to know the route to take to get home. Unless I’m going to use a GPS every place that I go, I need to understand my past.

What I hear you’re saying and the language I would put it in is it is wise not to be a victim of your history, but a master of your destiny. We take the past and we incorporate those lessons that we have learned and those gifts we have received along the way into, how am I going to set forth? What is my next step? Why am I so grateful to be alive on this planet? I’ll tell you one of the greatest gifts for me in this whole experience is the gift of presence. The gift of appreciating every single morning when I call my parents who I haven’t been able to see now for quite a while. How grateful I am to hear their voices in a way that I was never grateful before. How grateful I am to hear that we are all healthy.

We take that stuff for granted. We’re like, “They’re fine. Whatever.” That day when we go home, that day is so far off, it’s a mystery. That day could be here any day. Thinking about, what legacy do I want to leave for my community, for my family, for my world? What a beautiful question to start asking right now. I want to say for people who are reading that may find that a little overwhelming like, “What am I supposed to do? Become the next MLK, Jr.?” No. Do what you can do. That may mean being a great parent that may mean giving your kids an extra hug. That may mean leading with love instead of hate in your heart.

We have lived in a culture that's a lot about self-made and self-reliance, but it takes a village in reality. Click To Tweet

It doesn’t have to be these huge acts. Remember, the people that we see in the media or we see out in front and on top, they have a whole group of people holding them up. Let’s not forget about that. That’s what it makes me think about. I don’t know if you see this, but I would probably guess you do. I see so many people who are either trying to escape the past and run towards the future that they never realize how much they have accomplished at this moment. They never have a moment of gratitude to say, “This moment I have co-created is a product of so many of my dreams and desires and wants from the past. Here I am. Thank you.”

It’s interesting you say that because I certainly know those people and I believe I’ve been one myself. I would compare it to chasing your shadow. Remember as a kid when you’re trying to chase it, you’re never going to catch it, but it’s always right there with you. It’s the same thing with happiness or wanting to be in a better place that we chase all of these other things. If we stopped, it’s right inside of us. Our shadow is right there all the time. It’s not going anywhere.

I have to tell you, I know this isn’t my podcast, but I’m going to take over for a second. One thing I love about talking to you, and maybe the audience will resonate with this, but it is so refreshing to hear this kind of insight from a man. I don’t know if you’ve ever been told that before or felt that, but it is very refreshing. A lot of times when we talk, especially about vulnerability, when we talk about gratitude, when we talk about finding inner peace, these are things that we often hear from women who are deemed like a little bit touchy, feely. I love that you bring that to the table. That’s powerful.

I will tell you, it was not always this way. I will often say that when I go in and do workshops, especially around emotional intelligence and the room that I might be in might be primarily males. I will say that as males, we’ve been sold a bill of goods that don’t exist. That has forced us to be tough and rugged and all of this stuff. I grew up playing sports. I was a bouncer in college at a bar. I did all of those. I realized that when all was said and done that it was my own insecurity that I tried to prop up through a lot of that bravado. It was my insecurity. Once I started to realize that, it was like it’s exhausting to play that role.

It’s tiring. We were saying earlier before we started, it’s so much easier to be yourself. I want to say something though this emotional intelligence piece and understanding how to interact and engage with individuals. It’s my belief that what I put out into the world, what I’m sharing with the world is an expression of my inner world. My outer world, how I talk to you, how I appear in the world, what I share, what I do as an expression of my inner beliefs, my inner thoughts and what has brought me to this moment. When we are working with individuals and we are trying to understand them and we’re trying to understand their perspectives and where they’re coming from. When we are feeling maybe a little offended by things that they’ve said or we’re feeling challenged, remember that all everyone is doing is giving you an outer expression of their inner reality. Does that make sense?

LFL 90 | Make Courage A Habit

Make Courage A Habit: A lot of people are either trying to escape the past and run towards the future that they never realize how much they have actually accomplished at this moment. They never have a moment of gratitude.


That makes complete sense. This is a whole separate episode that we need to do on this because I truly believe that. Talking about biases. We create biases on other people in terms of how we perceive somebody. We don’t know anything about them. I would say that we’re like icebergs. We only see about 10% of the other person. We don’t know the 90% that is their own backstory of why they behave the way that they do. That’s not to make excuses for people, but if we don’t come to this place of trying to understand that because you’re different than me. Rather than me judge you as being a bad person, for all I know, if I had to experience where you were, I would be in a worse place than you are now.

To that point, I want to say a lot of my work is with women and there are some very real issues and differences that women face in the workplace, of course. I want to say this. If you are an individual or a woman, or it doesn’t matter, you can be anyone, who keeps experiencing the same problem over and over like a broken record and it’s the same situation. It’s the same problem. Let’s use a concrete example. You always jumped to, “They must not respect me because I’m a woman. They must think I’m less than because I’m a woman.” If that’s a repeating thought for you that happens over and over no matter where you go and who you’re talking to, you’re the common denominator.

What does that say about the thoughts in your head about how you talk to yourself? I say that from a place of experience because I spent many years in the corporate world being told by male bosses in Silicon Valley, I needed to smile more. I needed to be nicer. I needed to soften my language. I needed to tone it down. It bothered me. It seemed like no matter where I went as a full-time employee, I would attract that. I would find these people. Eventually, I said, “I’m the common denominator. The only thing I can do is change my experience.” That’s when I started consulting and everything changed. I want to talk about why was that happening to me? Why did I keep confronting these men who kept telling me I wasn’t okay as I naturally am?

My belief is that that’s because there was a little inner critic inside my head who was saying the same thing and was looking for confirmation of that in my external reality. I went to go find it. I found it. A very strong belief that Laura, you’re not good enough. You’re too much. You can never be successful. Until I broke the cycle by leaving the full-time world and stepping into my leadership qualities and saying, “F-you inner critic,” that’s when it all changed. Suddenly, I was praised for being bold, determined, and confident. I never came across it again.

In the coaching and you probably have your own word for it, but as I was going through those, it’s called the saboteur. It was that person in your head that’s saying, “You can’t do this,” or whatever that might be. Even when we think we’ve put up the façade that nobody sees it, it bleeds out of us. We fool ourselves into thinking it’s not there. I totally agree with that. As we wrap this thing up, what’s the best way for people to get ahold of you, Laura?

It is wise to not be a victim of your history, but a master of your destiny. Click To Tweet

There’s a couple of ways. The first is to come and join me on the podcast Brave By Design. We talk about how ambitious women and allies can rise and thrive. We have lots of topics and I’m angling now to get Patrick on the show so you can enjoy more of us together over there. You can also find me at and join our Facebook community where I go live every Wednesday at noon Eastern.

This has been such a joy to have this conversation. I appreciate this.

Thanks so much for having me.

Thanks. Take care.

As you can see, Laura is the force of badassery. She gave so many valuable observations and recommendations in terms of how do we build courage as well as how do we create an environment where we’re for others and being of service to others? One of the questions that stands out to me is simply asking, “How can I help today?” If more of us focus on that of thinking what can I do to help others, we will be in such a better place going forward. My guess is you know somebody that you think would be interested in listening to this show and I’d ask that you forward it on to them. If you haven’t subscribed already, I’d ask that you do that. It would mean the world to me if you would leave a rating or a comment on this or any other episode because that’s how this message continues to get out there. Together, we will be reimagining what leadership looks like. Until our next episode, I hope you are able to go out there and rise above your best.

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About Laura Khalil

I’m a two-time entrepreneur, keynote speaker, teacher and podcaster focused on helping women achieve incredible success in their careers and lives.

I struggled in the corporate world for years, before starting my own consulting business. That’s when I realized that all the traits that had penalized me as an individual contributor were actually my greatest assets as a leader!

You don’t need to change yourself to be successful.

If you feel like you keep hitting a wall (or glass ceiling), I’ll show you how to leverage who you are to build influence with the right people and power over your life to do the incredible things I know you’re capable of sharing with the world.

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