In 1983 I Started a Business

It was a motor vehicle repair business. At the time I was clearly good at one thing – that was fixing cars. 

Most business owners start out the same way, kicking off their business with high level skills in the content of that business. For example a small business owner who sells flowers starts out being good at flower arranging. 

Unfortunately, this can and often does create a dangerous situation for that business and its owner.

When I went into this motor vehicle repair business I was a good motor vehicle mechanic; I fixed cars. The problem for me became apparent when customers would come in and ask me to do a piece of work. I’d perform the repair, it would take 20-30 minutes I guess. After completing the work I found I couldn’t charge them. 

I felt guilty taking their money for such a measly task! Here’s what I learned. 

It’s okay to give things away. However, when you give something to someone for free, and they know they probably should’ve paid for it, you’ll potentially lose that customer!


Because in that situation the customer leaves with feelings of obligation. In my case they’d drive away from my workshop with a sense they owed me something. To come back and get more work in most circumstances aroused feelings of guilt for the customer.

Losing customers is super easy if set it up the relationship so they feel guilt when they see you. 

In my case, I was stuck in this place where I could not get my head around the real issue. I felt bad charging customers for menial work, I knew it was a screwed up situation but could not do a thing about it. 

Somewhere in my past, it was deeply embedded in my psyche that getting people to part with money was a bad thing. I was exposed to beliefs that sales people are rip offs, car salesman are bad, door to door salesman are scammers. 

Now at the time I had a customer who was a property developer. He was worth almost $60 million at the time. That’s back when that was a lot of money … laughing as I write that. 

I figured this gentlemen could probably teach me something. So I asked him to help me. Truth is I never did turn the business around, but he gave me an important piece of information that has served me ever since.

He said to me, ‘Your problem isn’t knowing what to do, because you already know what you have to do.’ 

And I did know; firstly I had to charge people for my work.

My mentor told me that my problem was not knowing what to do, but rather what it was that caused me to do things, something deeper in my psyche.

Now it’s been a 25 plus year search for the answers to the questions he placed firmly in my head. And over that 25 plus years, a most important learning emerged. 

How we approach one thing is how we approach everything! 

I’m talking about the thought patterns; the unconscious thinking patterns we take from one situation to another. Every single one of these thought patterns are repeated everywhere, unless we consciously think about them. 

So people who can’t sell, can’t charge customers for a simple job without feeling guilt, are not going to be able to sell themselves in job interviews because they take the same pattern of unconscious thinking and negativity about selling from one scenario to the next. 

Here’s another example which could be relevant to you.

A corporate executive approaches me and asks me to provide a quote for delivering some training. What that executive actually asked for was a quote for ‘doing’ something.

It would have been better for the executive to be asking for a quote to deliver an outcome or an achievement, rather than an activity. 

That executive’s unconscious thinking pattern is structure around activities not outcomes. The executive’s whole world evolves around the concept – action (doing) plans from meetings, telling people what to do, planning their day with a to do list. The executive has embedded a doing thinking pattern and focusing attention on outcomes is not an unconscious way for that executive to approach things.

How the executive approaches one thing psychologically is how that executive approaches everything!

I once wanted to own a TAG watch. It was one of the things on my list of 101 things to do or get before I die.  So one day I approached a lady in a store and told her I wanted to buy one.

She said to me, “What image do you want to present?”

What an awesome question! This woman was focused on the outcome, not the action. She knew the actions we take are for the purpose on achieving some outcome, and the more focused we are on the outcome, the more effective our actions will be.

I told her the image I thought I wanted and then she offered me some suggestions.

The main point here is this … How we [unconsciously] approach one thing, is how we [unconsciously] approach everything!

Our unconscious patterns of thinking rule our lives.

So if you find patterns of being challenged in certain areas in your work or business or even sport, be aware that the clues for what’s holding you back might actually lie elsewhere.

More Information

For more information about the work of George Lee Sye, visit where you’ll discover one of the most significant professional development programs in the world today covering topics of leadership, influence, business execution, and lean six sigma.

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