Sue Lake-Harris

~Author, Mentor, Speaker, Educator~

Life experiences and  formal qualifications make Sue a unique, credible, and motivating mentor, author, speaker and educator. Her programmes get results – whether online, small group, or one-on-one. 

 My Story 

 

      I think I was born to be a mentor…

When I look at how my life story plays out, I don’t think there were really other options for me! Being a mentor means I can reach people and help them find their areas of passion and potential. And there are many ways I can do that – I can wear my hat as an author and support people through my books, articles, and blogs. I can wear my hat as a speaker, and reach people with humour, empathy, and story-telling. I can wear my educator hat and reach people through professional training courses and workshops. And the mentoring of mentoring hats is when I work directly with you on you – where together we can both Learn ~ Grow ~ Become.

A good mentor is always learning – from personal experience and from working closely with others…

I  know and understand grief, what it feels like to  be told you are seriously ill, to have challenged fertility, to experience depression, to live through divorce, and to emerge from these experiences stronger, wiser, and with a sincere desire to help others.

So what in my story makes me the right person for you to trust when investing in yourself? Read on to see if we are a good “fit”.

***

I was born in Carlton, Victoria, Australia, in the old Royal Women’s Hospital.

At 16 days of age, I was adopted into the family I consider my own – a family

of amazing, quirky, smart people.

 

 

                                                         My beloved father died just before my sixth birthday, and I wasn’t told until the funeral                                                                  was all over – everyone thought I was too young. I remember knowing something was                                                                terribly wrong… people in the house at all hours, friends we hadn’t seen for ages                                                                         suddenly visiting from interstate, aunts and uncles descending, me being sent away                                                                  to stay overnight with a neighbour. My first taste of death was shrouded in mystery,                                                                  activity, and fear.

                                                   By the time I was 21, I’d lost over ten people who were close to me through accident, illness, 

                                                and misadventure. Death was no stranger in my life… 

I became the “go to” person for any of my friends who were experiencing trauma or facing major challenges – because of all the deaths of those close to me, some naturally and some violently, having lived through grief and trauma myself and come through the other side, they knew I empathised deeply, and just maybe, could support and help them.

It was clear throughout my early years that working with and mentoring others would be a major part of my life, and that as an adult, I would seek out professional opportunities that allowed me to support others. I coached gymnastics, wrote and directed plays in primary school. In high school I started teaching Sunday school, using story-telling, singing and dancing as tools for working with the littlies. Even then, I knew that performance was a special way of connecting with people. 

Being involved in the teaching/learning process throughout my early life, it made sense to study teaching and education at university. And as my passion was performing arts, my university major was in “Expressive Arts” as it was known then, encompassing music, movement, voice, drama, visual arts, and media.

Early teaching experiences included special education, and eventually I moved into the corporate training area of the Australian Commonwealth Government, working with special placement officers all the way up to the Commissioner for Superannuation, covering such diverse areas as IT, performance appraisal and counselling, team leadership, team building, writing skills, and so on. It was at this time that I added to my university qualifications by completing training and assessment studies for adults.

My love of performing arts and teaching in that area were catered for by involvement in community theatre projects and some teaching of drama and voice in a dance school.

I married when I was twenty, and my groom was twenty-two. By the time I was 26, even though we both loved each other and were great friends, it was pretty clear that we weren’t meant to be married. We parted with sadness but no animosity. Negotiating our split wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, so I have great empathy for those who suffer when a relationship must end.

About a year after our divorce, I haemorrhaged at work. There were no symptoms – I just

suddenly bled. I went to my doctor immediately who sent me for tests. Bam! Cervical cancer,

level 3. Ouch! 

I was performing in a production of Camelot. There was no understudy and we had three weeks

left of the season. Could the surgery wait three weeks? My specialist wasn’t happy. He didn’t

think I’d end up terminal, but he was worried at how the situation had arisen with absolutely no

warning. 

We closed on the Saturday night and I was in the hospital on Monday morning. When the doctor

came to speak with me after I woke up, it was to tell me that in the 3 weeks since the diagnosis, the cancer had progressed to level 4. That was a scarily fast change in level. Fortunately, it was believed everything had been removed in time, but I would need monitoring for some years.

As you can tell from this story, I survived! But I developed scar tissue that would interfere with conception. Oh well, I resigned myself to no children.

Fortunately, my partner at the time – now my second husband of more than 20 years – wasn’t interested in fatherhood.

I was also continuing to perform with other groups myself! One such group was presenting “Calamity Jane” and I had the role of Calam – one I’d wanted to do for a long time. We were three days out from opening when a local TV station came to record the cast doing a number from the show. In the middle of my dance solo, my feet went out from under me on a slippery stage. I severely injured my ankle. My understudy (who’s now a full-on lead singer with a band!) ended up doing the show while I tried everything I could to get well.

Doctors advised that I would probably never completely heal and I was out of performing for several months. In spite of constant pain, I followed all the conventional medical advice regarding physiotherapy and a home exercise and strengthening programme to give me the best chance of resuming dance. While I improved rapidly, I never got rid of the pain.

I was soooo disappointed (and wasn’t looking very professional when conducting corporate training – joggers are not a good look with a tailored suit!) A friend I trusted insisted that if anything could help, it would be traditional Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki. Ever the sceptic, but desperate to heal, I attended a three-day, traditional Reiki 1 seminar.

Even before the end of the seminar, the pain I’d been experiencing ever since the accident disappeared. That motivated me to follow the advice of my teacher – to diligently self-treat with Reiki on a daily basis.

To my surprise, old injuries (including a 9 year-old torn sub-scapularis), healed over several months. The scar tissue from my cancer surgery disappeared, and the hayfever, sinus problems, eczema, asthma, and IBS all subsided over time and continue to remain at bay. My remarkable healing led me to take additional training to become a professional practitioner, as I wanted to help others with Reiki. 

The remarkable turn around in my health made me reassess what I wanted in life. It took me a few years for the right time to present itself, but I left government employment and started up my own Reiki treatment practice and a performing arts academy, focussing on “triple threat” tuition for youth – helping them develop skills by putting on two-act, musical theatre productions. I was writing the shows tailored to the students, and involved in every aspect of production from direction, set design, costuming – all with student involvement to one degree or another. It felt wonderful to be putting my formal qualifications to use in my area of passion.

While most students came to me because they shared that passion, some were encouraged to attend for other reasons. I ended up with ASD, ADD, ADHD, and dyslexic students. In short, students who had “challenges” were being sent to me. It was incredibly rewarding work, AND hard – long hours, lots of encouragement, lots of work behind the scenes. Lots of consultation with parents about their children. Some of my students went through family challenges, such as life-threatening illnesses, accident, death… In whatever way I could, I supported them.

There I was, in my late 30s, working hard at both Reiki and performance, and never taking my health for granted – I was still having regular checks. At one check-up when I was 38, my GP told me the scar tissue that would have prevented conception had completely disappeared - a supposedly impossible thing to happen.

                                     I was told if I wanted to have kids I’d better do it fast because I was getting too old! My first son                                                 arrived just before my 40th birthday, and my second, just before my 42nd. Both pregnancies were

                                     wonderfully uncomplicated and both boys are incredible young men. There are two very different and

                                     interesting stories about their births, but they can wait for another time! 

                                     I ended up being invited by the director of the Usui Reiki Network to become a teacher of Reiki, This

                                     meant committing to a five-year traditional apprenticeship (with no guarantee I’d get through!)                                                   Fortunately I did, and have been teaching Reiki for more than a decade.

In addition, I became a professional speaker – I was a keynote speaker at an international Reiki conference, I delivered many talks on Reiki at various health-focussed events and expos, delivered motivational talks to young people on career options, and was MC for numerous community fundraisers.

I became a celebrant – friends kept asking me to speak at their weddings, significant birthdays, and even at funerals. The first funeral where I delivered a eulogy was the one that propelled me into the celebrancy field. When you are approached by the celebrant and funeral director after the service, and both want your business card because they assumed you are already in the profession, that’s clearly a sign about where a gift lies! And I will admit that there were soooo many funerals over the years that just didn’t reflect the people I knew and loved – I hoped I would always manage to capture the real person who was being remembered.

My work in professional theatre as a performer, and on the logistics side, meant I developed skills in event creation and management that transferred seamlessly into celebrancy. I have a continued interest in teaching performing arts, have written a mainstream book at last, as well as plays and musicals, several courses, and occasionally still perform myself! My entire focus for everything I do is on supporting people who want to thrive and grow.

The programmes I have personally developed grew out of my own experiences (the tough lessons and the lighter ones – from both my professional and personal lives), and my background in education and development.

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