Words create worlds. As I got to know Anthea as a boss, friend and mentor over the last 19 months, she’d always remind me of the power of our words.

A simple difference between “being busy” and “love packed” can make a whole world of difference in our emotions, behaviours and ultimately, the circumstances we create.

In writing the words for her maiden book 50 Shades of Love, Anthea has inspired in me a sense of hope, not just for a more joyful future for myself but also for a better world. Let me explain.

What is it about?

50 Shades of Love chronicles Anthea’s 50 years of life on Earth, through words that are deeply personal, emotive and authentic. From the wood cover (yes, real wood!), the acid free paper, and the many blank spaces intentionally design to provide open space for reflection, reading the book itself is a multi-sensory experience.

Each shade contains a story from her life, inviting the reader into the memories (both happy and traumatic) that have contributed to the being she is today.

From her memories of being called ‘sampat’ (retarded) as a child because of a birth defect; her meteoric rise to become a Managing Director at age 25; the heady days of getting married in a whirlwind romance and the subsequent soul-crushing divorce; the dissolution of the company she’d co-founded that left her with $16 at age 39 and brought her to a poignant realisation:

You only lose what you cling on to. You are not your marriage, your bank balance or your business. You are all the love that you have given and the love that you have received… I saw, for the first time, in insane clarity, the abundance of what I have: family, friends, skills, networks. At 39, I lost everything — and found me.

In each shade, Anthea bares all — sharing her vulnerabilities, fears, hopes and dreams, providing an extremely engaging experience for the reader.

Why is it special?

Donning her coaching and tree hugger hat, Anthea also weaves in two very special elements into each shade: a coaching question and a tree!

For example, in sharing a story of how she used to dance with her father before dinner as a child growing up in their flat in Ang Mo Kio, Anthea invites the reader to ponder over the question:

When was the last time you danced? How can you expand your space for joy and love?

She then also shares a story of the Mahogany tree and its wood, which is used to make djembe drums used in musical ceremonies in parts of Africa. Each tree is curated by Bian Tan, a tree sommelier, and brought to life through a beautiful illustration by Lau Ee Wun, an aspiring artist.

Some other questions that were particularly poignant for me included:

What risks do you have to take to know what you are made of?

What questions do you want to ask about your life, but haven’t?

How comfortable are you in asking for help? What does being vulnerable mean to you?

After going through what I thought was a massive failure back in 2008, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, finding myself unmotivated, uninspired and disillusioned. Over the next 8 years, I became a self-improvement junkie, spending all the money I had on motivational books and seminars, hoping to raise my self-esteem and find happiness.

Yet the initial motivational high after a seminar never lasted and I would continue to find myself going through emotional highs and lows. At age 26 now, I have come to realise that a sense of happiness and fulfillment doesn’t come from a success formula preached by the motivational gurus that I had been chasing all this time.

Interestingly for me, it comes from asking the right questions and going on a journey to find our answers to those questions. I had to do the inner work, nobody else could do it for me.

The questions raised by Anthea serve as a guide to our truer selves, opening the door to deeper levels of self-awareness and frankly, it was sometimes quite uncomfortable having to contemplate these questions.

They invited me to confront my deepest fears, insecurities and vulnerabilities, some of which I had shoved down and tried my best to ignore for a very long time. But they also opened a space for me to experience more joy, fulfillment and peace.

I’d say this is not a book to be read. This is a book to be experienced. Which is why I believe this book will age well. As our identities change with the passage of time, I believe coming back to ponder and journal about these questions that Anthea has raised will help cultivate our moral compass in how we approach life.

Words create worlds. In reliving memories from her 50 years on Earth, Anthea‘s words have empowered us with questions to create the next 50 years for ourselves, one not of fear, anxiety and lack, but of joy, love and abundance.

I’d highly encourage anyone to read this book and to pass it on to a family member, friend or colleague. The questions raised in this are truly transformational.

In contemplating these questions, perhaps we can begin to regain the last of human freedoms that Dr Viktor Frankl discovered as a prisoner in Auschwitz almost 70 years ago: “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.

 


Get a copy of 50 Shades of Love at the website: http://www.50shadesoflove.org. All net proceeds of the book shall go towards supporting psychosocial support programmes for children and women refugees around the world, starting with the Rohingyas for the first print run. Let’s give them shade and love.