surprising business lessons learned -- do things that scare you

Photo by Magic Falls Rafting Company

It was a cold, dark night in 2013. I was sitting with my husband Greg on the couch, half asking him if, and half telling him that, it was time to start my own business.


We had two baby girls enrolled in daycare, three mortgages on two pieces of property and one of the highest cost of living locations in the country at the time.


Giving up my salary and regular paycheck to launch a business was pretty risky.


I remember laying out the plan and telling Greg “I just need a year to replace my current income and I need to know if you’re on board with this.”


It must’ve been my Gemini charm that persuaded him because by the following Friday, I was giving my notice to the advertising and PR agency I’d worked at for eight years.


It’s been six years since that night. The truth is, I grossly overestimated how “easy” it was going to be to own a viable business, raise a family and keep my sanity. I’ve learned alot about what it really means to take a chance, bet on yourself and become a business owner in the start-up and growth phases of a business.

Here are six surprising business/life lessons that can help you create more success.

#6 Re-frame Your Definition of Expert

It’s taken years for me to warm up to the idea of calling myself an expert, even after more than 20 years of experience. Until someone wise helped me re-frame what an expert does and the value of it.

Instead of calling myself an expert, I could just keep on doing what I already naturally do . . . educate and advocate for the success of others.

They helped me see that positioning yourself as an authority is about doing what you do best to help other people solve problems (and sharing those results with no apologies) so others can determine your expert status for themselves.

What a relief it was for me to learn the subtle distinction.

Surprising Business Lessons Learned: Don’t be bashful or apologetic for promoting what you do best, especially when it helps others. Authority positioning is about advocacy and strategy, not ego.

#5 Do Things That “Scare” You


First off, is that “scary” thing actually scaring you? What if it excited you instead? I’ve driven a NASCAR stock care 200+ mph on Atlanta Motor Speedway, gone white water rafting in class IV rapids and skied double-black diamond White Heat at Sunday River (not well mind you). In every instance my excitement trumped my fear. I’ve also been paralyzed with fear on stage at least twice in my life.The chances of dying from the former activities are far more than the latter so what gives?  Whether you’re speaking to a group of people or jumping out of airplanes, you’ll likely encounter fear, excitement or both. The chemicals pumping through your body when you feel fear and anxiety and excitement and anticipation are exactly the same. It’s the thoughts and emotions you attach to your experiences that make you fearful or fearless.

Surprising Business Lessons Learned: Confront your fear, shift your emotions and focus on a positive outcome that excites you.


#4 Mind Your Vibe


Guess what? Thoughts and feelings apply to more than fear. Running a business has shown me that I needed to seriously clean up my vibrational habits. Just like it’s important to take care of your body, you need to take care of your energy too. Your thoughts and beliefs are the fuel that feeds you energetically. You can fill up your energetic tank with trash or treasure. My early years in life were plagued with mind trash. What I’ve learned is that it’s far more effective (and joyful) for my business and life to take about 30 minutes each day to express gratitude, meditate, have a positive rampage and listen to something (usually Abraham-Hicks or a TED Talk) that lifts my vibe. This is probably the most surprising habit that has significantly impacted my relationships, my opportunities and my wallet in ways I never expected.

Surprising Business Lessons Learned: The right energy attracts success


#3 Just Decide


Indecision is the secret killer of success and happiness. I know people who put off decisions for weeks, years, decades because they don’t want to make the wrong decision. There are no wrong decisions. Every decision can be course corrected. Some need more correcting than others, but nothing is permanent. I know I’ve made poor and great decisions in my business. You either make decisions, learn from the poor ones and get back on track or you stay stuck in the same place forever.

Surprising Business Lessons Learned: Make progress, not perfection.


#2 Move from “Learn” to “Learn-Do” to “Do” to “Delegate/Automate” As Quickly As You Can


The first year of my business was like going back to school. And since I’m a nerd, this was a fun place to be. But learning isn’t earning. At some point you need to apply what you’ve learned and the sooner you do, the sooner you earn. Now, doing is a better place to be in your business but it’ll only get you so far. And you’ll know when you’re “doing it all” in your business because your revenue will plateau and the next level in your business will elude you.

Surprising Business Lessons Learned: The sooner you can delegate and automate, the sooner you will grow.


#1 Tell Your Story, Even if You’re Afraid


I used to think my story didn’t matter, and I certainly didn’t want to tell it. But about two years and tens of thousands of dollars into my business, I knew I had to face and tell my own story. Since the first time I shared my story in an email, I’ve probably told my story a hundred times (or more) in talks and interviews (check out my most most recent interview here). Each time, I feel fear and anxiety and resistance begging me not to share it but I do it anyway. And each time I share my story it impacts someone in ways I never expect. It’s your story and ultimately your decision but just remember this final surprising business lesson learned . . .

Hiding your story isn’t helping anyone.

How about you? Share your surprising business lessons learned in the comments!


  1. Marjorie Turner Hollman on May 30, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Great lessons, for sure, Gayle. I especially related to the difference between fear and excitement.I was surprised to realize this a number of years ago, that often what I most feared was exactly what I needed,in fact had to do. Walking through that fear still feels scary, but having done it so many times, it gets a little easier, remembering that the result is often pretty exciting!

    • storystylist on May 30, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks for your comment Marjorie. Yes, the more you walk through what feels scary the easier it is to recognize what it really is and re-frame it into excitement.

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