Using Personal Stories to Bring Business (and Life) Lessons into Focus

Photo by  Stefan Cosma  on  Unsplash

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this post for my personal Facebook page, but I’m including it here because it provides a template for how entrepreneurs can use story to communicate a “lesson learned" in a way that makes it more memorable and impactful for customers, employees, investors, or whoever the audience might be.

The idea here is that when you craft a personal narrative (like below), start with the lesson you want to get across and then build your story around it.

This way, the story becomes a vehicle designed to transport your idea from the audience’s head to their heart, creating an emotional connection that inspires them to reflect and take action for themselves.

Glance vs. Gaze...

Week 1 of training for the Space Coast Marathon is in the books (47 miles total). It’s the calm before the storm, as mileage and intensity are about to pick up. But as I reflect on the week, one lesson has really hit home with me: GLANCE at the goal; GAZE on the task.

A friend asked me, “I noticed your posts on Strava that, after each workout, you say you have one hundred and twenty something—or whatever number of days—till the marathon. Don’t you get overwhelmed when you think about all those days ahead, especially this far out from the race?”

I can see his point. But the more I think about it, the answer is No. 

At least, not when I maintain a healthy balance between Glance and Gaze.

Here’s what I mean.

Over the years, I have learned to GLANCE at the big picture—the long, challenging road ahead—and then GAZE on what’s on tap for the day, pouring myself into the task at hand.

That’s because I believe that if I "win the day"—that is, follow through on my commitments today—tomorrow will take care of itself. 

I’ve learned this principle while building a business and dealing with immense amounts of stress and problems along the way. Now, I can see how it can apply to marathon training, as well. 

The idea is that if I string together 100+ days of wins, I will put myself in the best position to “win” on Day 126—race day.


But what would happen if I reversed the order of Glance and Gaze?

If I GAZED on the big picture on the hard road ahead, I would definitely feel overwhelmed.

I mean, my training plan has me peaking at nearly 80 miles per week. I haven’t run that many miles since the summer before my senior year in college—24 years ago. And 40+ miles per week already feels tough enough, especially with everything else I’m managing in life. How in the heck will my soon-to-be 46-year-old body handle nearly twice that mileage? 

That’s a serious question—and a seed of doubt that could eventually choke my efforts…IF I allow it to germinate in my mind.

That’s the problem when I GAZE on what lies ahead. I work myself up. So much uncertainty. So few answers. And total paralysis in the pursuit of my goals.

And, how do you think that would impact my workout for the day?

You guessed it. I would question whether I should really do it. What’s the point? I’m going to fall short anyway, right?

That moment of hesitation to move forward on the day’s workout would mark the beginning of the end for my marathon training program.

That’s why I choose to only GLANCE at the big picture—to look at it just enough to ensure I’m moving in the right direction.

But then I quickly shift my GAZE—to focus my time, energy, and emotions—on the task immediately before me. This workout. This mile. This step.

To position me for success tomorrow, I must lose myself in the NOW. This is where I find my greatest joy and satisfaction in the pursuit of goals that stretch the boundaries of my self-conceived limits.


So what? Why share this with you?

I believe that learning how to strike an optimal balance between Glance vs. Gaze could be the key that unlocks our greatest potential—whether in health and fitness, business, life, or whatever.

What barriers have been holding you back from pursuing your big goals in life? 

Could it be that you’ve been GAZING on that obstacle, making it bigger than it really is, where it keeps you from taking that next step?

You know…I don’t have enough money. I don’t know the right people. I’m not good at X, Y, or Z.

But what if you could shift your focus?

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, you would GLANCE at the obstacle. That is, acknowledge it. But then quickly shift your focus to GAZE at possible solutions. “Okay, yes. We don’t have enough money right now to start this new venture. But here are some ideas on what we can do NOW to eventually earn and/or attract the capital we need to make this happen.”

The idea here is to ... 

—GLANCE at the problem; GAZE on the solution

—GLANCE at the plan; GAZE on the execution

—GLANCE at the goal; GAZE on the task at hand.

When we focus on winning the day—each day—we will discover that tomorrow will take care of itself.

Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tap into the power of story to grow their business.

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