Changing the Rules of Engagement: Be Bold, Be First, Be You with Martha LaGuardia-Kotite

Martha LaGuardia-Kotite is a woman that knows the value of betting on yourself. As a retired Captain of the United States Coast Guard, world-renowned public speaker, and awarded author, she knows that it takes discipline and heart to accomplish your dreams. Martha's mantra is "be bold, be first, be you." During this Confidence Conversation Martha tells her story and how she overcame self doubt to conquer the world.




Find your reason for pushing forward. Martha didn’t have an easy path, but she knew that she didn’t want to stay where she was. As a young adult Martha was able to recognize that she could pave her own way and she did that by getting clear on what she wanted her life to look like and finding a means to make that a reality. This mindset is what ultimately led Martha to the Coast Guard.


Be bold. Be first. Be you. These are Martha’s rules of engagement which she covers in detail in her book, Changing the Rules of Engagement. What does it mean? Take a chance on yourself and live your life unapologetically and authentically. Be a trailblazer and create a new path for both yourself and those to come. You only get one you, so embrace the essence of who you are and never lose yourself in the process.


Don’t be a barrier to yourself. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that life is filled with negativity and doubt that are both direct and indirect. The beautiful thing is that we have the ability to choose whether we pick up that negativity and let it resonate with us and become a part of us. It’s time to choose what you want and let go of the barriers.


You’re going to have to take a leap. Nothing amazing comes from your comfort zone. There comes a point in your life or career where you are going to have to get uncomfortable to get to the next level.


Learn to have fun along the way. Your journey to success won’t always be an easy one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. It’s time to find the joy in the journey and lean into the lessons that life has to offer.


Release yourself from the expectations of others. Do what you’re passionate about, not what others say that you should do. People are often quick to offer advice about what you should be doing or to tell you why what you’d like to do won’t work. Martha and I would like to challenge you to listen to your passions and intuition rather than the words of others. If the vision is for you it can certainly come true.



Evaluate the energy in your space. The people in your environment have the ability to lift you up or tear you down. Take an inventory of the people in your life and how they make you feel. Sometimes the biggest barriers are the people we allow in our space.


Weak moments don’t mean that you are a weak person. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. You can’t be true to yourself if you’re not allowing yourself to feel your feelings. Really take the time to understand how you feel. Get inquisitive about why you feel a certain way based on certain interactions. From here you can begin to uproot the negativity and pour into the positivity in your life.


In the midst of darkness, remember that there is always light. Life won’t always be easy, and you’ll face crushing times. Martha’s brother lost his life to suicide, and she faced a period of darkness following his death. During this time she questioned whether or not she would make it herself; her brother was her rock and now he was gone. However, Martha didn’t stay down just because she felt down. She started putting the pieces together one by one and got intentional about making a way for herself. Now she is a world-renowned public speaker, author, and media relations professional.


You get one life, and you get to choose what you do and how you do it. You can make a difference just by being yourself and living unapologetically. The world around you may not be reaffirming what you want to see or who you want to be, but you get to be the first. Just because you don’t see anyone else doing it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Be first, be bold, be you.




Be sure to check out Martha's most recent book, Changing the Rules of Engagement: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Leadership from Women in the Military