YAPClassic: Ashley Stahl on Designing Your Dream Career

YAPClassic: Ashley Stahl on Designing Your Dream Career

YAPClassic: Ashley Stahl on Designing Your Dream Career

When Ashley Stahl graduated college during the 2008 recession, she couldn’t get a job and was sleeping on her parent’s couch. She eventually landed a job at the Pentagon by contacting her college, requesting a list of alumni that were living in Washington D.C., and cold-calling every person on the list, asking for help in finding work in counter-terrorism. This was the first of many scrappy methods Ashley came up with to snag her dream job. Now, Ashley is a bestselling author and top career coach who maintains a monthly career column in Forbes. In this episode, you’ll learn about Ashley’s journey from working in counter-terrorism to becoming a career coach, the importance of discovering your core skillset, and the misconceptions around following your passions and creating five-year plans.

Ashley Stahl is an entrepreneur, speaker, bestselling author, and Fortune 500 spokesperson. Between her online courses, subscribers, and show “The You Turn Podcast,” (with 2M downloads), she’s been able to support clients in 78 countries in self-discovery, upgrading their confidence, and finding career fulfillment. With roughly 7 million views, her TEDx talk on intuition and fulfillment is ranked amongst the top 100 TED talks on the Internet.


In this episode, Hala and Ashley will discuss:

– How to find your dream career by examining your childhood

– The problem with following your passion as a career

– 10 core skillsets that you should build your career around

– Are 5-year plans too restrictive?

– How to pick the right core values

– Differentiating intuition from fear

– How Ashley pulled herself out of $500K of debt

– The value of having multiple income streams within your niche

– Why you shouldn’t write a book until you have a solid concept for one

– And other topics…


Ashley Stahl is a counterterrorism professional turned career coach, an international bestselling author, a Fortune 500 spokesperson, and an expert on intuition, personal branding, and fulfillment. Daymond John (Shark Tank, Fubu, NYT bestselling author) says Ashley’s bestseller You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, Design Your Dream Career, is “the ultimate guide to discover your path in the workforce.” With roughly 7 million views, her TEDx talk on intuition and fulfillment is ranked amongst the top 100 TED talks on the Internet.


Between her online courses, subscribers, and show “The You Turn Podcast,” (with 2M downloads), she’s been able to support clients in 78 countries in self-discovery, upgrading their confidence, and finding career fulfillment. She maintains a monthly career column in Forbes, and her work has been also featured in outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, CBS, SELF, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and more. She’s also the founder of CAKE Publishing, a ghostwriting and publicity house for entrepreneurs and organizations.


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Resources Mentioned:

Ashley’s Book, You Turn: https://ashleystahl.com/you-turn/

Ashley’s Website: https://ashleystahl.com/


Sponsored By:

The Kelly Roach Show – Listen to The Kelly Roach show on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.


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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: What's up, my young and profiting family? Today we're pulling my interview with Ashley Stahl from the Archives. Ashley is an entrepreneur, speaker, and bestselling author Between her online courses, subscribers and the show, the U-Turn podcast. She's been able to support clients in 78 countries in self-discovery, upgrading their confidence and finding career fulfillment.

In this episode, we talk about Ashley's work in counter terrorism and how she found her calling as a career coach. We'll get her advice for people who are unsure about their career, the best ways to identify job misalignment, and how to take a career u-turn to do the work that better aligns with who you are.

I have to say, I really love this episode because Ashley's advice is so different from other mainstream career coaches. She focuses on helping you build a career that you will thrive in because she prioritizes your core skillsets, not your passions. And Ashley just joined my podcast network, the Y Media Network, which is quickly growing to be the number one business podcast network in the industry.

So I'm really excited to replay this episode and support her. I hope you all enjoy my interview with the brilliant Ashley Stahl.

[00:01:18] Ashley Stahl: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here with you. 

[00:01:21] Hala Taha: Yeah. I think that you have such a unique story. You know, you started off your career as an administrative assistant, then you went into counter-terrorism, then you went into being a, you know, career coach. So I thought it would be fun to kick off this interview to just hear a little bit about, you know, what you wanted to be when you grew up.

Because I don't think many people like think, oh, I wanna work as a spy, or, you know, with, with the government when I, when I grow up. And so I wanna know if that was something that you always like dreamed of or did it kind of just happen that way? 

[00:01:54] Ashley Stahl: I love your question. Like I can tell this is already gonna be such a good conversation because it's funny, I don't know if any podcasters have asked me.

What I wanted to be when I grew up. But I feel like that's such a relevant question for so many people. And if we look at our lives, it's like most of the time we were told about very limited career options. Being a veterinarian. An astronaut, I'm pretty sure I heard like teacher firefighter, like there weren't a lot of options.

But actually in the book that I recently wrote, I opened up in my introduction saying that at my preschool graduation, the principal asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. And I remember as a kid, Being whatever age in preschool, walking up to the microphone and staring at all the parents in the audience with the lights in my eyes and saying, I wanna be a mom and a poet.

And also a writer. And it's funny because I went on this whole journey in my career being many, many things. And now in my thirties, here I am back at the person I was truly meant to be. I finally wrote a book. I'm working on a poetry collection and you know, I'll be a mother in time. And so it's, it's funny how we go on these crazy journeys to come back to what we already probably know about ourselves.

[00:03:01] Hala Taha: I know it's, it's so strange because it's like you are who you are when, when you were like three, four years old, like your personality has already developed and, and you already kind of know what you're good at. I, I would tell all my listeners who are out there tuning in, like, if you're having trouble finding your passion or, or thinking about what you wanna do in life, think about what you liked when you were younger and what, you know, your parents used to say you were like as a kid.

And think about how that relates. To your career. So speaking about careers, you were in counter-terrorism and you actually like landed a really cool job. You ended up taking up a position that was a senior official, like 65 year old colonel, you ended up replacing his job. We'll get into that in a bit in terms of how you did that.

But what was your day to day like? In that job, 

[00:03:48] Ashley Stahl: man, I can see you. You asked such good question still. I mean, I would say, well, first of all, you're right about being a kid. I feel like there's something very innocent about our childlike nature. We're drawn to what we're drawn to. We're not ashamed or afraid of our creativity, and there's such a natural flow to being a kid.

I love that you talk about that with everybody listening. As far as the Pentagon goes, I made that career decision based on a misunderstanding, and I think a lot of people do make career decisions based on misunderstandings and on these high impact moments that really affect the way we see the world.

So in my case, I'll never forget this moment, I was living in France. I was studying abroad, which was such a privilege to be able to do that and get funding and, and a scholarship to be able to do that. And I'll never forget this rainy Sunday I was in, not France, which was outside of Paris and the countryside.

And I saw this woman getting hit by her husband, and I'd never seen anything like that. I'd never seen domestic violence before, let alone like in the street. You know, nobody was there. And I remember looking around in this panic like, is there a police officer? What can I do? It was pouring rain. She had a baby in her arms.

The baby started crying and we had this moment, this very human moment where she looked at me and she locked eyes with me, and it was just her and me in that moment. And in that time, I was studying world affairs. You know, my family was very impacted by nine 11. I have family on the East coast and it was just kind of this moment where I thought, I wanna be a protector.

I want to be a helper. And for whatever reason, the fact that she was being beat up in that way, the closest path my brain could go as somebody studying government was to work in national security. Like to be not just protecting people on a human level, but on a national level. So, I don't know necessarily why that was the one option, but I do know that this happens for a lot of people is that we have these big formative moments and they meet us in a vulnerable time of our lives where we need to make a, a decision about our life, about our career, about a marriage, about anything.

And my decision was I'm going to pursue this path. And so I put everything into national security. I learned the languages, I got the degrees. And then I came home during the recession and couldn't get a job to save my life. Slept on my parents' couch for a few months, too many, and just decided I need to take what I could get.

So I ended up accepting a position as an admin assistant. That was what kind of sent me into the, this desperation of like, I know I meant for counter-terrorism for now, it might have not have been my lifelong goal, but I knew something about it was meant for my life. For now, which is kind of a weird thought to have in your career.

Everybody's holding onto that feeling of wanting something that's there forever. But I just wanted something that felt solid now, and I remember emailing my university and my admin assistant job just operating on that belief. So many people do that. I had to take what I could get, that I had to get my foot in the door.

There's so many limiting beliefs that we buy into as job seekers that I don't actually think as a career expert, serve your career. So I contacted my college and said, look. I'm a government student that graduated. Do you have a list of alumni that have moved to DC that live in DC and they sent me 2000 names, emails and phone numbers back of like, this is our alumni who have moved to the district, and I worked my way through that list.

I emailed every person. I cold, called every person, and of course I faced a ton of rejection. But in the end, I would say over a hundred people on that 2000 person list ended up helping me in such a big way. I got confidence. I moved to DC and I got tons of job offers and that landed me replacing the colonel at the Pentagon.

And what happened there was, you know, a lot of people say that they don't have enough experience. And of course for me, just having a master's degree and a couple language skills didn't necessarily qualify me to run a massive program. 80 million contract, but I had a lot of energy. I was authentic and I was a hard worker.

And I think that when people can like you, when they can trust you, when they believe in you, that trumps years of experience. So I went to college career fairs that I wasn't even at a student ad when I moved to dc I like snuck in to all these college career fairs and ended up impressing this guy who was a government contractor.

And it's really interesting. In government jobs, it's kind of the chicken or the egg. Like in order to get a top secret job, you usually need a top secret clearance, but you can't get a top secret clearance unless you have a top secret job. So you need that one job that gets you to break in and they give you a security clearance.

And government contractors are a little bit more generous with that than the government itself. So I ended up networking with the guy who founded a contractor and he said, you know what? I have so many executives that have taken this role, but they're all from the military and they all delegate their way out of the job cuz that's what they were taught to do so well is when you're a senior leader in the military, you delegate.

And he's like, I need somebody that can do the job themselves. And that person became me. So what was cool about that was every day was different. You know, some weeks I was on military bases in the Middle America. Other weeks I was at the Pentagon. Other weeks I was in an outside office location. But I learned so much about people.

I learned about communication skills, what it takes to be a good communicator, because I was surrounded by different people who had. Different political agendas to be great, and they needed to be great at communicating. And on the periphery of that, I really found my true purpose, which was helping people learn how to land, job offers.

I started helping friends outside of work, getting job offers, and they always said, you should be a career coach. And I was like, that sounds ridiculous. Like what does that even mean? And 10 years later, here I am with a podcast and a book and all that stuff. Stuff being a career coach. 

[00:09:37] Hala Taha: That's so cool. I wanna take you back to when you were still in college, right?

So that was a great overview for you. Thanks for giving it to our listeners. Let's go back to when you were in college. You were sitting with your college counselor and she told you to follow your passion. Now that you're a career coach, you've had all this experience helping people get jobs, what would your advice be to a college counselor or to anyone who is giving advice, um, when somebody doesn't know what they're supposed to be doing and what career path they're supposed to be going into?

Like what would you have wished that advisor said to you? 

[00:10:10] Ashley Stahl: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of three worded tirades that feel really good when people say them, but you don't really know what to do with them and follow your passion. Do what you love and the money will follow. All of those things feel good in theory, but I think they leave us a little bit more lost than we even started with because if we're being completely honest with ourselves, we can be passionate and even interested in a lot of different things.

But there's a big difference between being a consumer of something. And a creator or a producer of that thing. So in my case, I love fashion, I love cupcakes. I would be a horrible fashion designer. I would be a horrible cupcake baker. They just because I have an interest or a passion in something I. Uh, it doesn't equate to a skillset in it.

And so my biggest advice I would say for career advisors and anybody in their career right now is to upgrade the quality of questions that you're asking yourself to get clarity in your career. And that starts with, instead of asking yourself, what industry do I wanna be in? What am I passionate about?

Those are good questions, but what a great question is to me is what is my best course skillset? When have people seen me at my best because according to research, we thrive when we are doing well at something. We enjoy ourselves, we have a better time, we like ourselves more. And um, I think a lot of the time people might pursue a passion, but it forces them to work in an area of their skillset that doesn't really align with who they are or where they're gifted.

So I would say any given person has probably. Three or so core skillsets. And it's important to figure out what is that primary one, like in my case, words is my number one core skillset. And from there, once you figure out your core skillset, asking yourself, how do I wanna express this? Cuz your skill is like an umbrella that can fan out to many different job titles, many different responsibilities, but your skillset is really the what of your career.

And that matters first and foremost, how you're harnessing your energy throughout the day. 

[00:12:09] Hala Taha: Yeah. And can you give us some other examples of core skillsets? Like what are some common ones that people have? 

[00:12:15] Ashley Stahl: Yeah. Well I have a list of 10 if you wanna jam through all of them for our note takers. Sure. Yeah. Um, okay.

So the first one is innovation, and the innovation course skillset is all about. You know, the creative self-starter, who's the entrepreneur? Or it's somebody within a company who is an intrapreneur. It's a highly creative person. Maybe they run their own book of business under a company. Um, but they are a creative problem solver.

And then the second core skillset I think about a lot is building. And these skill sets are kind of energy fields. So it's not just how you're using, you know, your, how you're thinking, you're doing responsibilities. It's also. How you're using your energy. So building can be quite literal, like a construction worker.

It can also be more of a metaphor like a website designer or a web builder. And then the third skillset I would say is mine. The words skillset. I'm guessing you probably have some. 

[00:13:08] Hala Taha: Yeah, I feel like I'm Words and innovation. Yeah, mixed together. 

[00:13:12] Ashley Stahl: We'll get probably seven more. We'll, like, but yeah, you probably are, uh, especially, you know, having worked at Disney and stuff like that, you've got some innovative mindset going on.

And number four is motion. So people don't necessarily realize that being in motion is a skillset, but these are the, for the, for the people who are on their feet all day, and that's how they thrive. It could be a tour guide, it could be a hairdresser, it could be a, um, a fitness. Influencer, physical trainer type of person, and it's important by the way, as you kind of go through these to reflect on whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, because I know there's a lot of research on being an ambivert, for example, but I.

If you're an introvert, like I somewhat am in my career, contrary to how I probably sound, I sound very extroverted. My word skillset is gonna manifest internally. It's gonna look like me writing. It's gonna probably look like me having a podcast like I do more than me out there on a stage speaking. And it's funny cuz people who research me, they're gonna find a couple of big speaking engagements I've done.

But they're gonna find more podcast episodes and things that are not behind a video camera, because I'm an introvert. And so I think it's really important to kind of know that about yourself. The fifth core skillset is service. This one brings up a whole different slew of questions. These are for our humanitarians, our supporters.

And when I think about the service core skillset, there are people who are just natural born helpers, but sometimes it comes from a wounded place where maybe it's a coping mechanism. They learned how to be a people pleaser. Or an over giver, and that has really influenced how they show up in their career.

So it's so important to be able to reflect on where your skillset comes from. Is it really a skill you have or is it more of a coping mechanism that you've had to learn so that you can stay authentic? Cuz you don't want your trauma to be what you lead with, and yet it can be both. It can be that you had to learn how to be a people pleaser and you love helping.

It's just important to ask those questions. And number six is coordination. These are, you know, the people probably on your podcast helping you get the logistics done, the event coordinators, operations, project managers. The world moves because of these detail-oriented people and, and then analysis. And this is a funny one because at the Pentagon, you know, in counter-terrorism, I had to work in the analysis arena.

And that's not my skillset. And that's why I was so exhausted in my jobs all the time. And if you look at analysis, I. It was really me misunderstanding the words course skillset. So I, I didn't realize I'm good at words. That's my skill. And so I kind of looked at intelligence analysis and thought this is a way for me to use words, but really what I was doing was living an analysis, not in creative words, not in expressing myself with words.

So you, you kind of have to notice that there's different versions of how people can interpret their skillset. Or even if you look at a psychologist, you might have one psychologist who leads with words and the way they express themselves is so healing for someone versus a psychologist who's really analytical and they lead with analysis and the advice they give comes through that lens and that skillset, none are better than the other, but it's important to know where you lead.

And um, then we've got number eight, which is numbers. Pretty straightforward. Our number of crunchers and number nine, technology. So these are our, you know, tech troubleshoots, our artificial intelligence creators. They probably also have some innovation in them. And then number 10, which is my favorite one, I feel like you have some of that cuz you're so well put together, is beauty.

This is the core skillset that makeup artists, interior designers, jewelry designers, will have. They make art of the world around them and I absolutely love that skillset. 

[00:16:52] Hala Taha: Oh, those are so cool. I feel like everybody can kind of take those 10 and decide, cuz you don't have to just be one. Right. For me, I felt like I resonated with innovation, with writing and with the project management one, like the event planning one and even a bit of technology and beauty like you said.

So I feel like I'm like a little bit of everything, but I guess you need to. Find which one you're like most strong at and what careers would be a good fit for that. Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsors.

So we just talked about how you're really not into the phrase, uh, do what you love or follow your passion. And another common piece of advice that you're against is having a five-year plan, right? So what is it about a five-year plan that you're opposed to? Why do you think that's the wrong way to think?

[00:17:42] Ashley Stahl: I think honestly who we are is a moving and growing and expanding organism. I think when you make a five-year plan, you're buying into an identity for yourself that might not work. I mean, that's like saying that your favorite pair of jeans that you love right now is gonna be your favorite pair of jeans in 2026.

It's just not realistic and it's not honoring who we truly are. And that's why I think also kind of going back to the core skillset. That's so important because your core skillset can be expressed and you said you have three that you resonate with. I think it's most important to get clear on what's the one you wanna lead with most, and then kind of knowing you have these other two.

For anybody who's listening, and I think this plays into your five-year plan because it's like, Instead of saying, this is the role I want, cuz what you're really saying is, this is the way I'm going to use my skillset instead saying I'm gonna be growing, harnessing, sharpening, expanding my impact with this course skillset and allowing your career to be an experiment that meets you where you are.

Because one of the most damaging things you can do in your career is, Push the river, like push yourself to be someone you're not override who you are right now. That never works. The people who are thriving and the people who are making the most impact usually are not that linear in their career because they're honoring where their gifts have started to generate, and that's gonna move over time.

[00:19:00] Hala Taha: I totally agree. So I know one of the big like ideas that you have is that you should do what you are, not what you love. Right? So help us understand with the real example, cuz I think when you were in counter-terrorism, you were doing what you love and not what you are. Maybe take us through even when you were working in Counter T terror and how it was kind of misaligned with who you really are.

[00:19:23] Ashley Stahl: Yeah, I would say, I mean, there's two dynamics in anyone's career. There's the what of what you're doing in your career. That comes back to your core skillset, what we were talking about. The second piece is the how of how your career looks. That comes back down to, you know, your boss, the corporate culture, the dynamics at work, your values, and according to research, with half of people leaving their job because they don't like their boss, what we know is that how your job looks.

Matters for your wellbeing just as much as what you're doing from nine to five, your responsibilities, your core skillset when it comes to doing what you are. I think the key is outside of knowing your skills, also understanding what are your core values? What are the non-negotiable principles by which you lead your life?

Because I know there's a lot of coaches out there saying, know what you value, know what your core values are. But I think there's a a lot of misinformation for people around actually clarifying. I. What those words are. For example, I have a list of core values in one of my programs, and I had a client tell me that his core value was adventure.

And then another one told me her core value was adventure out of their top five. And I asked the guy, I said, well, what does adventure mean for you? And he said, skydiving, like adrenaline seeking. And then the other woman, I said, what does this mean for you? And she said, trying new restaurants in New York.

Totally different version of this. And I actually think this is something we get confused also in our romantic relationships. We, we say pick somebody that has the same values as you, but maybe if religion or spirituality is a core value, that could look very different for how two people express and show up in that value.

So I would say on top of that, People really thinking about words like family, authenticity, spirituality, there's so many words, balance, humor, creativity. All of these different words represent values. And for somebody to take some time to reflect, not on words they want more of, like I had a client who said peace was a core value.

Definitely not a core value for her. She's not a naturally peaceful person. And we both laughed about that. So I said, okay, great. You know what you're aspiring for more of, but that's still not your core value. And then we found the words that represent who she actually is. And what you really wanna do is pick five words that without that word, you don't exist anymore.

Like I have a lot of humor. And it doesn't always show up in podcasts, but if a friend walks through the door like, I'm a joker and I'm really silly, and if you take humor away, like people would think something's wrong with me cuz it's just not me to not have it. So that's when you know you've hit a core value is something that's so deep and clear in who you are that you can't exist without it.

[00:22:06] Hala Taha: Yeah, I love this. If you guys like this conversation, I had a conversation with Kristen. Sherry. We talked about finding your dream job and she talks a lot about this too. So let's talk about side hustles, cuz I think we both have some experience with that. Was your career coaching a side hustle when you were doing.

Counter-terrorism because I think you were dabbling in it. And at what point did you know like, Hey, I wanna take this full-time. I think you got a coach and you invested $10,000, you sold your car, you risked it all. So that's a big move. So what was it that told you like, wow, this is really what I need to do?

[00:22:40] Ashley Stahl: You know, I feel like. There's never gonna be this like billboard in the sky that's like, this is it. You're on the right path. And all we really have is our intuition. And I think a lot of people get confused on what is their instinct or their intuition versus what is their fear. And all of the most in inspiring business biography of, of leaders that I look up to, like Warren Buffett, they always say intuition is their number one business asset.

And so I think the first thing is understanding when you're listening to your intuition versus when you're listening to fear. In my case, intuition is absolute. It sounds like. This is good for you. This isn't good for you. That's all it sounds like for me. And so when I was pursuing and job hunting to get my job offer in DC I was noticing that I was having the best time networking.

I loved reworking my resume. It used my words course skill set very well, like spinning words so that I wasn't lying on my resume. I was being honest, but I was positioning myself in the best light because, Your resume is a marketing document. It's not a place that you regurgitate everything you've ever done.

And on the periphery of job hunting, I realize, and on my, on the periphery of going into counter-terrorism, I realize I love helping people with this. So I started for free, just telling friends, like I'll help them with their job hunt. You know, I got so many job offers that leaked into my life for months after I accepted my position at the Pentagon.

And so many friends would say, how did you do this? And I was just having nothing but a good time showing them. And I ended up getting kicked outta Starbucks cuz so many people would show up and say, can you help me friend? A friend. Friend, a friend. It just became out of control. And so for me it's kind of about following life.

Like starting to notice when there's, don't hold your vision so tightly that you don't notice when there's something in front of you or on the periphery of what you're doing that is pulling you. And so for me it was like, yeah, it made sense mentally to stay at the Pentagon. It made sense to keep earning and to keep thriving in my career and the way that I was, but my heart, Was so inspired when I was around the people who needed help with job hunting and eventually it was just a matter of courage.

And I think, you know, a lot of people make the word fear mean that they shouldn't do something. But there's this coach Dan Sullivan, and he once said, you know, fear, Is wetting your pants and courage is doing what you're supposed to do with wet pants. And so it wasn't like I had this golden moment where it felt safe and it didn't feel scary to do what I wanted to do.

And there were no career coaches, especially not for millennials, cuz we were kind of at that age spot where there were no millennials who had enough experience to go They're old enough. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I was kind of like breaking ground and I looked on the internet and there were barely any career coach sites that I saw, and I knew I was creating something outta thin air.

I had no idea if anybody would like it, but I. Within weeks of, uh, you know, I had this moment where my job had come to me and said, Hey, Ashley, this contract is ending. We can give you a huge promotion in New York, or you don't have a job. And I remember thinking like, I don't wanna move to New York. And just weeks after that, I got my f.

First Ted Talk opportunity had never spoken on a stage before, and I just decided to burn the bridges behind me and completely step into this career coaching business. And I think that energy of like, this will work. I, I'm not negotiating on this, it created a level of action taking in me that I can only access when I.

You, I think you can only access when you truly give yourself to something. It's not necessarily that I recommend that to everybody at home listening to just quit your job by any means. 

[00:26:11] Hala Taha: Okay, so before we go a little bit into your book, I wanna talk about some failures that you had as an entrepreneur because this 10 years that you, you, you were an entrepreneur, it wasn't just smooth sailing rosy peaches.

There was some hard times. You know, you lost $500,000, your company went under. That's tough, you know, and scary for an entrepreneur, like that's all you have. So how did you turn it around? Uh, tell us about that experience. 

[00:26:39] Ashley Stahl: Well, here's the problem with having one revenue stream is that it's too close to zero.

And I learned in my exp well, so first, here's what happened is in. The early, like 2010, 2012, Facebook ads weren't really a trend yet. They were just beginning and you started to kind of see the rise of online webinars, which now is so common. Everybody has a webinar, but I. Back in the day, it wasn't. And I remember seeing that when I had my career coaching practice and thinking I've got an eight step method to help people land, job offers.

And even in my book U-Turn, it's an 11 step method now, and I remember thinking, I really want to create a course. So I created a webinar. I gave it, not one, not to, but 91 times I paid for Facebook ads for people to register for my webinar. And I was breaking even for a while and even going into debt because I was investing in things for my course and my membership site.

And you know, I spent so much money when I didn't have a mentor because I just was throwing money at things I thought would be their answer. And really, if I had a good mentor who had been there and done that, they would've spared me. I think so many dollars spent. But I ended up going into debt and then eventually after reading every book there was about copywriting and webinars, I became a master webinar writer and.

I even to this day have a company called Cake Publishing, and it's a ghost writing house, a publicity house. I don't do any of the work at that company except I write webinars and I write speeches because for our clients, because those are the two areas that I don't know how to hand off. Uh, but I really learned through that experience, how to write a webinar.

And I went from a hundred thousand dollars in debt just investing in that process of getting my course out there. To 5 million in revenue in two months and I went through a, you know, we'd got thousands of customers overnight cuz that's how it works with advertising. If you have something and you're putting it out there, it's really a numbers game.

It's X amount of people see it, X amount of people buy it, and then you can increase your advertising budget and get more buyers. What nobody tells you is that the algorithm can change. So if you take on a huge staff and a lot of overhead, the algorithm can change. And so I ended up losing, I. All of my millions really, because I ended up pausing my whole advertising process and asking a lawyer to go through everything.

I'd never made that much money before. It felt so big to me and I was like, we need to look at this. And I come from a Pentagon, like I love justice and integrity. I was like, this feels like illegal, making this much money. And I ended up having lawyers look at it and they ended up saying there was no gray zone.

There wasn't anything bad about what I had. And by the time I turned it back on a month later, they needed over a month to look at all of my assets. The algorithm had changed and it wasn't profitable anymore, just like that. And I spent about six months doing like monkey dances of Facebook ads and recording new videos and trying to get my ads to convert like they did, and they just wouldn't.

And then eventually after about a year after that, I had millions of dollars locked up in payment plans from customers who had bought my programs. So, I faced the, the really hard decision of either keeping my overhead afloat. I had a really large team of employees or closing the doors, and I had my mom, who's my bookkeeper, and she does a lot of bookkeeping for her clients.

And so she was looking after my books and she said, look, Ashley, if you close the doors this week, you get to keep a couple hundred thousand dollars and live your life and start over. And if you don't. You're gonna go into debt. And I held on a little bit longer cause I just felt so much sadness letting go of my team.

I was in a little bit of a delusion of like, I can figure this out. And I do think there's something to be said about being visionary and aspirational, but I was just in denial. I. And it was like facing that this wasn't working anymore. So I let go of my team. I went back to my roots in private coaching.

I had a huge email list, so I just went back to that. Loved doing that. That was the beginning of it all. Anyway, started my podcast because I didn't know how to engage this massive email list of a half million millennials who signed up for my job hunting training. And just engage them with the U-Turn podcast.

That was literally what made me start the show was how do I create content that I have fun doing that engages these people who signed up? And, uh, ever since then, I've been building my business now, not only as an author and a podcast with sponsorships and having a small high-end private practice, but I have agents, I have a talent agent.

I have so many different things and it really. Happened for me because I was forcing myself to create a business model that was highly profitable. But was for someone else, like I don't think people realize in the e-course world that if you have an online course, your course is gonna take you 5% of your time to make 95% of your time is marketing.

And really good marketing is about tweaking and being exact and looking at your email subject lines and creating new ads. It's all ads. And that's just not who I am. I'm a highly creative writer and I'm meant to be an author just like I was that at five years old at my preschool graduation. And so, you know, really remembering the truth of who I am has come from hitting this rock bottom.

And I think kind of like you have, you know, you're reflecting on like, do you believe you can keep this money that's coming in through your company? For me, I feel like I can keep the revenue that is coming in. I can keep paying my team because I'm so much more aligned. I'm getting paid to be me. I'm not overriding who I am to create, and when you do that, you'll burn out anyway.

It's not sustainable who you are. Always is going to win. So I just came back to myself and, um, wrote the book. I was always meant to write and I think things have only gone up and my revenue isn't like it used to be at almost a million dollars a month or something like that, but we're at an easy multiple six figure, seven figure company and I'm having a really good time.

I probably work 15 hours a week and I absolutely love what I do. 

[00:32:35] Hala Taha: Yeah. That's amazing. I think there was so much lessons that you talked about. I love the fact that you have multiple revenue streams. You have cake publishing, you have your coaching business. The least secure thing you can do is just have one revenue stream in an unto five job.

That's the least secure thing you can do, in my opinion. 

[00:32:52] Ashley Stahl: And it takes time. Yeah. Like great feedback. It takes time. Like any new entrepreneur has to remember that. You're not gonna have 10 quality revenue streams overnight. You know, like right now we probably have eight or nine revenue streams, but it's like master one thing cuz you don't need 10 sales funnels that are all broken and not working.

I spent two years creating that one webinar. Sales funnel to my course and that's why it worked for so long. It was excellent. And so I think it's like really master the one service you have, but but be a few moves ahead. Know that you need to rework and re-offer another service and serve your customers at many different price points.

Like don't just offer one. 

[00:33:32] Hala Taha: Yeah. And I love the the Facebook ad story that you gave too, because it's so true. Those things can just change in an instant. You can't just bank on ads working really well, whether it's YouTube now, there's a lot of, uh, success stories on YouTube ads. You never really know what's gonna pan out, so you can't bank on that.

It's, and you just write it until it's gone. You know, we'll be right back after a quick break from our sponsors.

So let's talk about your book, like what's the book process like, because one of my goals is to at least know the concept of the book that I wanna write. So what was that process like? What advice can you give to anybody who's thinking about writing a book? 

[00:34:12] Ashley Stahl: I love your intention just to know the concept because, and not to force it, because it takes time to like really know what you have to say and, and I think certain people, certain creators, when they create from such a clean.

Such a true place. It's like the work that will come out of you is only going to succeed. Like my most recent TED Talk, I mean, that thing I knew was going to do well because I put my soul into it. It came from such clean energy. And so with my book, I really allowed that concept to come to me and take the time it needed to.

And I knew I wanted to write a narrative about my life, but infuse it with a prescriptive step-by-step. Guidance for people to get clarity on their next career move and who they truly are. And you know, it was, it was interesting cuz there's actually not a genre for that. There's either memoirs or there's self-help.

There's not that blend of like, I'm gonna tell stories and there's gonna be a ton of tips in these stories that people can implement today for their career. And so even publishers had. The ones that declined me didn't know what to do because they couldn't fit the genre, and they were like, look, we need to know what shelf this sits on in Barnes Noble.

We can't buy a book. We don't know what shelf it sits on. And so first I just had to learn how to talk about my book, how to talk about the concept, because it's funny, it can easily, we're all like little mad scientists sometimes as entrepreneurs. The whole thing is in our head, but we don't know how to express it.

And so I took some time to really think about what I wanted to do. I wrote down the lessons of my life. I wrote down my step-by-step formula that I wanted to help people with, and I pegged each lesson. To a story so that I could put the stories in a, in cadence with the lessons I wanted people to learn.

And I wrote a book proposal. I googled online what book proposals looked like. I asked friends for their book proposals, and from there I got an agent, sent him my book proposal. It took me one year to make my book proposal. So it usually will include your marketing plan for your book and two chapters. So, you know, a book is really a labor of love and, and people say it, but it's, it's more and more crazy to me that people would write a book for money because it's.

Really a labor of love. So I spent a year just working on those two initial chapters on the table of contents and my marketing plan eventually got an agent to take a look at it. He took me on, he started shopping the book. It usually takes about three weeks from when you have a finalized proposal and the agent takes it to get some offers from different publishing houses.

And again, the ones that turned me down, it was like they just couldn't figure out where it sat on the shelf. And then the ones that were fighting over it, A lot of them were more spiritual type publishers that didn't have a book that was career focused, and they could see that I had a lot of mindset and psychology in my book, but also those practical tools, and I think that's something that is really missing in the personal development space.

There's a lot of podcasts about purpose and it ends up being very spiritual, which is very powerful, very mindset focused, also very relevant. But not enough practical tools like the 10 core skill sets and which one are you? I think the publishers really appreciated that grounded approach to career advice.

And from there I ended up getting, um, a couple of offers, accepting one, and then that publisher had so many requests for me to delete a chapter to change my title. And I knew I wanted to be called U-turn, y o u, like returning to yourself. And they didn't like the title, but I had woven it throughout the book.

And so I ended up paying my publisher back a six figure advance and hoping that another publisher would buy it, and they did. 

[00:37:41] Hala Taha: You are so ballsy. Like, wow. Like you just go all in and take risks and they, what they say is, you know, high risk, high reward, and you've been rewarded. And life for, for jumping in and taking all these risks.

It's, it's amazing how many risks that you've taken. It's crazy, 

[00:37:57] Ashley Stahl: you know, I think as I get into my thirties, I'm a little more risk averse. Like, I'm gonna have a family and, but I still am a risk taker and I have to, you have to remember like I still lost millions of dollars. Like there, it's just a muscle.

And you'll usually win if you are a risk taker anyway. But you have to be willing to face those losses as well. 

[00:38:15] Hala Taha: Do you wanna just tell everybody what the main takeaway of the book is? 

[00:38:18] Ashley Stahl: Yeah, I would say, I mean, outside of your core skillset, I talk about your core nature and like the energy that you bring to the room and what that means for your career options.

I also help you with a large core values list. I think that's in chapter three, with how to figure out what your core values are. There's an exercise list of different things you can do and questions to ask yourself at the end of every chapter. So that I am just a vehicle for you to learn about yourself.

But the takeaway of the book is that who you are always wins. So whether you wanna listen to who you truly are, that little nudge inside of you that says what you're doing right now isn't working. Whether you wanna listen to that today or next year. You're gonna have to face it at some point. And so my book is really about helping you own who you are, know how to express it best in the workforce and take some steps to really make it happen.

[00:39:11] Hala Taha: Yeah, so. That's awesome. And the last question we ask all our guests is, what is your secret to profiting in life 

[00:39:18] Ashley Stahl: people. Conversations. I would say your life is only as expansive as the conversations you're having. Whenever I feel like my business is plateauing or it needs more energy around it, I just think, who can I have a conversation with today?

[00:39:33] Hala Taha: I love that. So being engaged, getting experiences, getting feedback, I think that's super important. Well, thank you so much Ashley. I love this conversation. You are an amazing person and uh, thank you so much for taking the time to come on our show. 

[00:39:44] Ashley Stahl: Thank you for having me.

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