Have you ever met someone whose life story just blows you away?
Someone who makes you wonder how they got through everything life can throw at them – and yet they got through the darkness to share their story with the world?
5 years ago, I met Mel Carnegie in Solihull near Birmingham for a quick business meeting – she wanted to tell me more about one of her projects. Nothing more came of that meeting and over the following few years we lost touch, until mid-2012.
She then told me what she had been through in her life and especially over the previous 4 years. Her whole life had been turned upside down after she found out that her husband and her supposed soulmate was in reality a lying and cheating psychopath.
Mel explained how she was now resurfacing after all that she had been through and had written her life story.
Her book is called “I’m Still Standing” and has been snapped up by a publisher. I have just received a signed, preview copy – and I am so pleased that her story is going to inspire many readers and change many lives. Even if it inspires someone to do something as simple as refinance student loans for a lower rate or change their career path, it’s well worth a read.
It’s a real life story of how to make it happen for yourself no matter what – and at the same time make a difference to others.
Mel has also kindly given me two signed pre-publication paper copies of her book “I’m Still Standing” to give away to two readers – please see more details at the bottom of this post.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mel about life story and the lessons she has for all of us here.
1. Mel, you have quite a story to tell! Tell us more about you and how it all began for you?
Thanks, Arvind, I’ll do my best!
Professionally I work as a leadership and change development coach, helping business leaders and their teams to achieve their best potential.
I love what I do because I am driven to help others succeed, particularly through tough times and change.
Why? Well, that’s where my personal story comes in. My first few years were perfectly normal – in fact I think I was very lucky. I was born into a close and loving family, but the sudden death of my father when I was four years old catapulted me into a different world.
My mother was days from giving birth to my little sister when it happened, so I instantly adopted the role of ‘grown up’ to try and fill the void.
My mother died equally suddenly when I was 16 and my sister 11 – my world changed again, and once again I had to learn to adapt to a whole new set of rules in order to survive. But that was just the beginning!
2. Your book is a very courageous and heart rending story. What inspired you to write it?
You might think that the death of both parents would be enough to deal with, but for some reason the ‘hits’ kept coming – and I kept adapting as a result.
The most recent (and arguably most traumatic) shock came in 2009 when I discovered that the husband I called my soulmate had betrayed me in the most terrible ways – in all honesty, it just about destroyed me. It all happened so suddenly!
Luckily I was able to fall back on all the life skills I’d fine-tuned since early childhood – together with all the career and personal development training I’d attended (and taught) over the years.
It was a very wise friend of mine who recommended I ‘write it out’ in order to make sense of what was happening. So I did. Rather than using paper and pen, I decided to keep an online diary. It was private. It was for me. And it was where I slowly learned to pour out my heart and soul.
After a while I invited a few friends to read it. Their feedback came as a total surprise. Various people explained how, in different ways, my stories had helped them to make sense of situations in their own life – and they encouraged me to share my writing with more people.
So I took the plunge and made the blog public, quickly attracting readers from all around the world – and a continuing stream of encouraging messages to boot!
After being told time and time again that I should write a book, I decided to do just that – even though it was a scary prospect!
My hope is that, by sharing my personal story, I can help others find their inner strength and succeed with whatever challenges they are facing. And if I can do that – well, then it kind of makes everything worthwhile :-).
3. Was it a cathartic experience for you writing the book? How did it help?
That’s a good question Arvind!
Yes, it was cathartic – but boy was it hard as well. In the blog, you see, I had been writing in the here and now, sharing my struggles and musings as they happened.
For the book, though, I knew I had to give a much more solid background, which meant going over my younger experiences.
That process in itself stirred up so many deep emotions – many times I would be typing furiously as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
For me, it wasn’t until I actually saw the struggles of my childhood in black and white that I could fully appreciate what my sister and I had endured. It made me angry, and it also allowed me to feel compassion for myself, writing out the story of how I grew and developed in to who I am today.
So, yes, it’s been cathartic, because I’ve come out the other side feeling more whole and filled with love than before.
4. Your book will change many lives. Please share a couple of tips for people out there who might be in despair and can’t see how they’ll get through.
Gosh, thanks for your encouragement Arvind!
Hmmm. Ok – I know that each time I faced trauma there was something very specific that I did. It was automatic, instinctive at first – an instant reflex that after the first few times I learned to do as a conscious response. That is, to give myself distance from whatever was happening.
I would view the situation as if I was ‘somewhere else’ which always gave me a bigger perspective. This instinctive process also allowed me to keep track of my emotions which in many instances threatened to engulf me.
As a result of which I was able to consider my options. It didn’t always work, but it usually helped at least a little bit!
Consciously giving myself positive messages was another method that has pulled me through some desperate times.
I remember, not long after the shock discovery in 2009, walking around the village where I live – fresh air and movement helped tremendously.
My husband had abandoned me. I was heartbroken. I had no money. No way of finding an income. And I knew I faced a huge battle ahead of me. It was dire!
Regardless of all the ‘bad stuff’ that was going on; I remember repeating under my breath, in time with my walking steps “all I need is already within me”.
It made no logical sense, but as I carried on walking, my pace quickened, my voice grew louder, and my confidence increased – until I was stamping, shouting and waving my arms in the air!
Goodness knows what anyone might have thought had they seen me – but it made a huge difference to the way I was able to deal with things.
Finally, another action that helped me enormously was to say ‘thank you’ to myself and others, as much as possible.
I found that I could always find things to be grateful for, no matter how seemingly hopeless the situation. I even started a habit. Every morning when I got out of bed, I would say ‘thank you’ with each step I took to the bathroom. It started with small things ‘thank you for my sleep’ ‘thank you for my bed’ ‘thank you for this new day’ – the content didn’t really matter.
It was the conscious act of saying thank you that positively affected my mood. When I got to the bathroom mirror, no matter how I was feeling, I would greet myself with a smile and say something like ‘good morning Mel, this is our day today – let’s make it a good one!’
And slowly by slowly, it worked.
So, in summary:-
Step back from yourself and the situation, look for the bigger picture
Give yourself positive messages – even if they don’t seem real!
Find reasons to say ‘thank you’.
Be kind and smile at your reflection – you’ll start to feel like a ‘team!’
5. Mel, having experienced, endured and ultimately conquered what you went through, what sort of person have you become? What kept you going?
I’ve become (I think!) much calmer – certainly more centred.
Nothing much fazes me anymore because I know that whatever else happens, I’ve overcome so much that I’ll always find a way through.
I guess I’ve developed a quiet confidence that all is well – one of the things that has always kept me going is a phrase my mother would often repeat ‘this too will pass‘.
It’s helped me to know that the bad times don’t last forever – and at the same time it’s helped me to appreciate the good times in full!
6. Looking back, what do you wish you had known during the tough times? What resources should someone in your situation call on? For example, could this be hitherto unknown resources such as inner strength?
The years following the death of my mother were incredibly difficult. I felt powerless and simply did my best to get through.
It wasn’t until I started picking up self-help books (the first being ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by Norman Vincent Peale) that I began to realise that I could shape my own reality by consciously choosing my thoughts and perspective.
The more I learned, the more I understood that those skills could have served me much earlier on had I known of their existence.
This is what has driven me, and why I dedicated my life to teaching others the skills I have learned – often the hard way!
But I don’t regret anything in my life. It’s all unfolded the way it was meant to, and now I know I can help many more people – I am eternally grateful because I can look back on and feel proud of what I’ve achieved.
7. Mel, thank you so much. What’s next for you? Where will you be in 5 years?
I am currently working on a follow-up book, together with a business book born through years of working with leaders in the corporate world.
Drawing parallels with my personal life experiences, I am increasingly concerned that people are losing their voices in the workplace.
I’ve come across countless situations where even senior managers feel powerless to speak out or take action when they know something is wrong.
The reasons for this vary, of course, but it seems to me that many of our businesses today are suffocating their people who are, after all, the lifeblood of any successful company!
As for where I’ll be in 5 years’ time?
Well, since I’ve come to learn that life can shift in the blink of an eye, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess. What I DO know, though, is that I will still be passionate about helping others and that I will continue to learn and grow in the process. I’m thoroughly looking forward to it!
Thanks Mel – I look forward to learning more from you and watching you blossom even more. And best of luck with your book – I know it’ll change many lives.
Your Chance to Win Mel’s Book!
However, you can win one of two special pre-publication copies from Mel!
She has put aside 2 signed copies with a certificate of authenticity to be given away to 2 luck readers here.
To be in with a chance to win of the two books, all you have to do is write a comment below, and share when YOU were courageous in YOUR life.
What happened and what did you do to get out of it? What lessons did you learn?
If you are reading this via RSS or in your in-box, please click here and write your comments at the bottom of the post.
Mel will choose readers with the most inspirational stories on 14th Feb (Valentine’s Day) next week and directly send them a signed copy.
Editorial note from Arvind – (19th Feb 2013)
This competition to win Mel Carnegie’s life changing book is now closed.
Both Mel and I were blown away with your heart rending yet inspiring stories of courage and fortitude. We had to choose just 2 winners – and we found that to be an impossible task!
So this is what Mel and I did – we whittled it down to 7 people and then between us we drew at random 3 names. Mel was so moved with your stories, she decided to give away 3 copies of her book and not just 2.
The 3 winners are:-
- Lori Constein
Congratulations to all 3 of you! I’ll be directly connecting you with Mel Carnegie who’ll then send you each a signed copy of her life-changing book.