The power of stories is incredible, isn’t it? Reading life coach Dr. Sam Collins’ Radio Heaven, a collection of motivational tales taken from her own life, has reinforced my conviction that we are designed to take in valuable lessons this way. There have been times when people (or books) have given me a piece of what I can sense is great advice, but I haven’t been able to grasp the full meaning, because I couldn’t picture how I might apply this nugget of wisdom in real life. I wanted to ask them: “How does this work? Does it work all the time? How do you know the difference between when you should do this, and when you shouldn’t?” Radio Heaven doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers, but in its anecdotal honesty it gives so many more than most motivational literature does.
The book starts with a heart-wrenching episode in Sam’s life when she loses her mother just as she is stepping out into the world and becoming independent. Without underplaying the devastation and pain this caused, the chapter introduces one of Radio Heaven’s key messages: “You must be determined to control your experience, regardless of whatever or whoever is against you.” Not an easy concept to accept in this context, but one that Sam explores further throughout the following chapters. These include memories of her being bullied in childhood, the early days of setting up the company Aspire, the serendipitous meeting with her second husband, her two very different experiences of giving birth, her successful and astonishing experiments in work-life balance, and her decision to adopt her daughter Grace, who still lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to restrictions imposed by the Congolese government. Each chapter ends with coaching questions directed at you, the reader, urging you to reflect on how the story could relate to your own life, and above all, how you might take action.
There isn’t a glimmer of pretence or arrogance in this book, which becomes clear from the very first line of the preface: “The truth is, nearly every morning I wake up and wonder how it is I’m not a complete fuckup.” Maybe it helps that I’ve met Sam and can imagine her speaking the words that she’s written, but her personality also shines through on the page thanks to her informal tone, and there is a warm humour throughout. Although Sam is considerably less of a “fuckup” than most of us, having been honoured by the Queen and all, it’s easy to identify with her self-doubt and as a result her drive and courage are highly infectious.
There’s a lot of focus lately on the need for female role models and Sam is a fantastic example; the success Aspire is testament to her ability to inspire women. It’s a personal bugbear of mine that stories that centre around women are so often marketed as “for women only”, as if men couldn’t possibly care about the trivial pursuits of the supposedly more superficial sex, so I’m not saying that this book wouldn’t make a great read for men. It most certainly would, and it’s about time men became as familiar with women’s take on the world as women are with men’s (by default, through consuming mainstream narrative). But the power of a role model is that you can imagine yourself in their shoes. Personally, I found it moving and extremely motivating to read the story of a woman who has been so successful in her career. She looks similar to me (as in: she has a female body), sounds similar to me (she has a female voice), and so she is greeted by the world in a similar way and has faced similar hurdles. I find it more BELIEVABLE that my journey could in some way resemble hers, that I might have success in this world too.
The book’s strongest theme and the one that I expect will stay with me the longest is the emphasis on the power of our intuition, currently an undervalued gift and a skill which we don’t put any effort into developing. I’m quite a scientific thinker, and I’m sure I’ll struggle to tell the difference between a “gut feeling” and indigestion for some time to come, but I’m fully convinced that Sam has got the right end of the stick when she says that “our intuition is the most important thing we have, and our homes and workplaces need more of it, not less.”
You may disagree with Sam’s ideas on the differences between men and women and whether or not women are in fact more intuitive, but regardless of your gender this book will lift you up and energise you to go out there and make a difference. Read it if you want to learn how to utilise failure, how to grow your resilience, how to gain courage to rock the status quo, and what not to wear when meeting the Queen.