We all remember John Lennon’s famous lyric, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Well, most plans involve taking risks. I’ve been called “a seasoned cliff jumper” and a “force of nature” like a hurricane, by John, my loving husband and biggest supporter. I’ve never been afraid to speak first and think about it later.

I am lucky that the “80–20” rule has worked in my favor—80 percent of the time what I’ve said or what I’ve done is something I’ve been immensely proud of and 20 percent of the time, I am wishing that internal filter had worked a little better. You can be neither afraid of saying something wrong nor never hesitate to apologize when you are. My daddy always said, “You can make yourself miserable or make yourself invaluably strong. The work is about the same.”

One great thing about being a Texas woman is that we are taught from early on that self-worth comes from within. I think that is why Southern Belles are recognized for having such large personalities. I was raised to be resourceful and make my own path, not sit on the curb as the parade drove by. My confidence in my ideas has allowed me to be bold and step outside the box. I also learned that if you’re going to risk jumping out of a plane without a parachute, you should make sure someone who has a parachute is jumping next to you.

I have cultivated a very talented group of women that I lovingly call “Team Ovary.” I make it clear that anyone employed by me doesn’t necessarily work FOR me, we ALL work together. I am just as accountable to them for the decisions I make. We are in this together.

I trust my team implicitly. This is vital to any organization. While their valuable advice is sometimes tough to swallow, especially when I am reaching for the moon, they remind me that I am running out of oxygen and may need to revisit my quest.

It’s a challenge to surround yourself with people who keep you reaching for the stars. You want people to have a similar drive and passion, but not necessarily the same views. It’s the diversity of views—the ability to agree and disagree—that moves us toward our goals.

On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Be innovative and use technology to your advantage; also use your connections, roll up your sleeves, and stand for the cause you believe in.

On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
My role models are the men and women who put their lives in danger to protect our communities and our county. I am moved by those who give of themselves without expecting recognition. These heroes are true teachers and inspire me to be a better human being.

On Facing Challenges
My biggest challenge has been people not believing I was serious about starting a foundation that provides trained K9s to law enforcement.

Kristi’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Don’t worry about anything that won’t matter in five years—you are not the center of the universe. God’s got that covered.