My mental wellbeing will be impacted: I have an overwhelming desire to help people find the freedom that I have found. Selling a life changing program is very different to selling a widget. You become emotionally invested. I’ve had to learn to not take things personally and to detach myself emotionally…actually, I still haven’t worked out how to do this.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Clays.
Natalie Clays is an award winning quit smoking expert and the Director/Facilitator of Allen Carr’s Easyway clinics in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. A former 20 year smoker who found freedom herself, Natalie’s passion is to help other smokers understand and escape from the nicotine trap. Pursuing her vision of a smoke free world, she has helped an estimated 10,000 smokers in countries including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Canada, Jamaica and more recently, the United States of America.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Born in Staffordshire, England in 1967 into a pretty normal family with two brothers and a sports loving Dad, I grew up watching or playing sport and was a bit of a tomboy. I preferred playing with a bat, ball or cars rather than dolls or other girls and had to be quite tough to hold my own with two brothers.
We had a fun, happy childhood and were blessed with overseas holidays every year, something that most kids at my school couldn’t afford to do. I felt quite privileged.
Academically I was pretty bright and tipped to go to either Oxford or Cambridge Universities which are the equivalent of Yale or Harvard, but after my parents separated at age 16, I started dropping out of lessons and bunking off school, choosing instead to loiter around and smoke. I wouldn’t say I was a complete dropout but I nowhere near fulfilled my academic potential.
It was a horrible time in my life and as I watched my mum struggle to pay the bills, I vowed that I would always strive to be financially independent and never feel the need to rely on anyone else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There’s a guy called Brad Sugars who runs a business coaching group and one of the things he teaches is ‘The Line of Attitude’ which is all about our attitude and how we deal with life stuff. You can function either above or below the line; above the line people take ownership, responsibility and are accountable; for below the line people it’s blame, excuses, denial.
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that there is so much stuff we have zero control over (pandemics, elections, weather, traffic, etc) but we have 100% control over how we choose to respond, react or behave. As a result of living this way, things that I have no control over don’t really bother me and I’m a much happier person.
How would your best friend describe you?
Let’s ask her, shall we? “Beautiful, funny, bubbly, kind, loving, smart, successful.”
And this is why she’s my best friend!!
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?
Perseverance, resilience and being brave enough to act on an opportunity. There have been three significant, life changing opportunities in my life; the opportunity to move from the UK to Australia, the opportunity to start my own business and the opportunity to move to the US. Each one was a huge decision to make but on each occasion I decided to go for it. I think that has contributed enormously to my success.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
After dropping out of school early I got a job in a bank but a year into it, decided it wasn’t for me. I then joined a large UK supermarket chain on their trainee management program. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to work in retail management, but more a case of not knowing what I wanted to do and not having the academic qualifications or skills to do anything else. After passing the training program I spent six years in retail management before deciding I needed a change. Luckily, I’d acquired a bit of fresh produce knowledge and was able to bluff my way into a job working on the supply side, dealing directly with supermarket buyers. Back in those days, they were known for being a bit brutal and ruthless and you had to be pretty tough to hold your own.
This was a bit of a turning point and long story short, I was headhunted for my next four roles. One of these was for another large UK supermarket chain as a fruit buyer and I found myself traveling the world in the pointy end, visiting strawberry farms in France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Israel; melons in France, Spain, Brazil, Costa Rica, and bananas in Belize, Panama, Costa Rica and Jamaica.
It was a very cool job involving private jets, helicopters, luxury hotels, fine dining and hard to come by tickets to big sporting events, not to mention squeezing in side trips such as white water rafting in Costa Rica, sailing in Scotland, sunbathing on Rio’s Copacabana beach, fishing in Belize, clubbing in Toulouse…I honestly thought I had the best job in the world!
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
After getting headhunted by an Australian fresh produce company, I relocated to Sydney in 2000 (and let’s be honest, it had to be a pretty good opportunity for me to leave my last job!).
I was single, didn’t know anyone in Australia and felt very alone. In those first few weeks my Dad used to call me every morning and every evening to check in and I’d say, “Yeah, I’m fine Dad, everything’s great,” and then get off the phone and sob. It was another difficult period in my life and I found myself drinking quite a lot and chain smoking.
I soon settled into Australian life and before long was asked to be a keynote speaker at the annual banana congress to an audience of 600 people. Ducking out for a crafty cigarette and then sitting front row next to the Deputy Prime Minister, I always remember being mortified by how much I must have smelled like an ashtray.
Fast forward a few years and having tried every method under the sun to quit smoking, I found myself at an Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking seminar with four other equally terrified women (yes, quitting smoking had that effect on me).
I walked out of the seminar six hours later and it felt like the light bulb had come on and I started to see smoking in a whole new light, not as a friend that I was giving up but as a toxic enemy that I was getting rid of. I felt inspired, empowered and finally free of a drug that had controlled my life for 20 years.
So inspired in fact, that as the weeks went by and the desire to smoke seemed to have completely disappeared, I started to question whether it was something I could get involved with, to actually help other people and change their lives in the same way that mine had been changed.
I consulted friends, family and a business specialist for advice and the answer from everyone was a resounding, “No, don’t do it!”
This was not what I wanted to hear so I did what every smart, intelligent, rational person does and consulted a psychic! Looking back it seems ridiculous but I think I was just desperate to be told, yes, go for it. Which is exactly what she said, which is exactly what I did.
I quit my six figure salary with all of the perks (that was a well paid job back in 2003) and started my unpaid training to become an Allen Carr quit smoking facilitator.
Still single with no financial support, friends and family offered to help me out with money but I was determined to do it on my own so instead, took a job in a bar serving drinks. There I was, a middle aged woman approaching 40, having had what most people would consider a successful career, now working alongside uni students for minimum wage. It was actually quite liberating, not having too much responsibility and not taking work home with me.
After 16 months of pouring drinks, waiting tables, night shifts and learning the seminar content during the day (with one minor legal setback that delayed proceedings by 10 months!), I delivered my first Allen Carr seminar on 2nd July 2005 and have never looked back.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I wrote two lists:
1. What’s the absolute best thing that could happen if I do this? and
2. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if I do this?
The best was amazing and the worst just wasn’t bad enough to not go for it. It really felt as if I didn’t have a choice and would always regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing?
I’d previously only ever worked for other people or companies so I signed up for a community college class for new business start ups. Here I learnt some business basics about legal requirements, tax etc.
I also joined a small business coaching group to surround myself with like minded people and immerse myself in that environment, plus I read, watched and listened to everything I could in order to learn as much as possible from other experts: Napoleon Hill, Jack Canfield, Stephen R Covey, Michael Gerber etc.
I had to start thinking like a business owner rather than an employee.
I also had to become a proficient and engaging public speaker, something I’d only done once before.
How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Many people start a business based on passion for the product or service but running a business and all that entails requires more than just enthusiasm. I knew that I had the passion and drive for the subject matter, which got me through the public speaking part, but had to learn so much in order to do so effectively. It was exciting and daunting at the same time but thankfully a good friend of mine was in a similar start up place so we joined the college program together and supported each other along the way. It was great being able to bounce stuff around with someone who was in exactly the same stage of starting out alone.
I outsourced things that I didn’t excel at such as finance, web development and focused on what I was good at, helping people to quit smoking.
How are things going with this new initiative?
I truly believe I’ve found my calling in life. Initially starting out with the area of New South Wales, Australia, I’ve since expanded to Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, New Zealand and most recently, mid-pandemic, expanded operations and moved to the US!!
We’ve recently joined forces with the World Health Organization to offer our services to their Commit to Quit campaign and provide help to millions of smokers around the world who don’t have easy access to quit smoking services. Helping smokers in places as far away and diverse as East Timor, Nigeria, Jordan, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Suriname, Turkey and Mexico is super exciting and I’m as passionate about it today as I was all those years ago. I get to change peoples lives which is immensely rewarding.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Our global CEO, John Dicey, has given me his unwavering guidance and support from day one. He has always trusted in me to assist with fulfilling Allen Carr’s legacy and pursuing our goal to cure the world of addiction.
At our 2019 annual conference, I offered to tour America in a Winnebago running quit smoking seminars in every city, coast to coast. After convincing him that I was serious and would relocate from Australia to do it, he backed me all the way and entrusted me with the massive responsibility of setting up US operations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
There have been so many interesting experiences with this venture such as my first TV appearance and a few celebrity clients but the one that has surprised me the most is some of the travel opportunities that I’ve had. I started by running quit smoking seminars in Sydney and thought my days of work travel were behind me, but have since run seminars across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain ranging from a deserted mining site in the middle of the Australian outback to five days on a luxury tropical island in the beautiful Whitsundays.
One that stands out is Saudi Arabia where I felt privileged to experience a culture that was new to me. I ran a seminar where everyone was fully clothed from head to toe, where alcohol is illegal and there’s a prayer break every hour or so. The next day we drove an hour across the Persian Gulf into Bahrain and literally as you cross the border, layers of clothing are removed, bare flesh is exposed and alcohol is the norm. Such an interesting contrast between two neighboring countries.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Yes, definitely. I was venturing into the unknown and honestly didn’t know if I had the ability to succeed or not.
I struggled with lots of other aspects of the business, not least the ever changing tech environment, but I knew I had the best possible product and the energy and enthusiasm to deliver it to people who needed help. Seeing the transformation of my clients reinforces that I’ve got this and can change lives.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I didn’t. Whilst my friends and family are generally very supportive, they tried to talk me out of it and thought I was throwing away a successful corporate career and risking too much. They were well meaning but I ignored them and did what I wanted to do and what I believed in. I guess I followed my heart and not my head on this occasion but luckily it turned out to be the right choice.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I was out of my comfort zone in so many ways but a big one was going from a very well paid job to minimum wage in hospitality; struggling to pay the rent, unable to afford to go out and living on beans on toast and jacket potatoes!!
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- I don’t need to be good or the best at everything: Figure out your strengths and weaknesses and let go and outsource the rest. An example of this would be anything technical or digital. As long as I have a reasonable understanding of how things work and why we’re doing stuff, it makes far more sense to outsource it to someone who understands it way better than I do.
- The learning never stops and the job is never done: Technology is evolving so rapidly that we have to continue to learn to be at the forefront in order to meet our customers’ needs.
- Not all clients are created equal: The work I do involves human emotions and some clients can be exceptionally challenging which can be draining. Which leads me onto the next one;
- My mental wellbeing will be impacted: I have an overwhelming desire to help people find the freedom that I have found. Selling a life changing program is very different to selling a widget. You become emotionally invested. I’ve had to learn to not take things personally and to detach myself emotionally…actually, I still haven’t worked out how to do this.
- That it would be so incredibly hard to sell something so amazing and life changing: Addiction equals fear and the people I can help are often afraid to take the next step.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Sharing Allen Carr’s Easyway method with the world. If everyone heard it and understood it, addiction would be a thing of the past.
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
Changing people’s lives in a fun, positive way with a smile and always operating above the line.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit www.usa.allencarr.com — all news and social media links are posted here.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!