Christine Clayfield is undoubtably a hugely inspirational woman.
Having survived years of childhood abuse at the hands of her tyrannical multi-millionaire father, to being sent away to a strict boarding school run by nuns and to marrying a man who would domestically abuse her and eventually put her into a coma, Christine’s life story is one of courage and mental strength.
She refused to believe her childhood naysayers who repeatedly told her she would be useless. The positivity and determination for a better future led to her becoming a multi-millionaire entrepreneur despite being disowned by her family and left penniless to fend for herself.
Christine is author of the highly acclaimed novel, No Fourth River where she re-tells her life story. She is an ambassador of hope and her mantra is that you should never give up. You may have been dealt a rough hand, but do not let this shape your life, YOU are the one who can choose to make your life incredible.
Book available here: http://nofourthriver.com/buy-no-fourth-river
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I was born in Belgium in 1959 and moved to the UK 25 years ago. I am a businesswoman, happily married to my soulmate, an English gentleman, and mother of twin daughters and four stepchildren.
I come from a very painful past with child cruelty, bullying, bad choices and domestic abuse. I suffered at the hands of the nuns at boarding school, my authoritarian dad and my first violent husband. During my first marriage, I was beaten into hospital 3 times. My marriage ended within the first year when my husband had beaten into a coma. After 20 years of pain and misery, I turned my life around. I decided that I deserved better. I did not let my past define my future.
I set up my very first business, a computer dealership, in the early 1980s with a bank loan. It was not easy being a woman in business as it was very much a man’s world and many of them were not happy about a woman making her own way in their industry nor did they believe a woman could be successful. I didn’t care. I wanted to prove everybody wrong and show them that I wasn’t useless or worthless; something many people had told me. My first company was a big success. Since then, I have been a serial entrepreneur setting up over 15 businesses in various industries.
Before I wrote my life story, I rarely spoke about my past with others. However, sometimes when I have unintentionally mentioned things from my past, people were intrigued. They wanted to know more about my life. I’ve often been told that I should write a book because my struggles would resonate with others and I would be an inspiration. This is why I recently decided to share my life story in my debut novel: No Fourth River.
I want to help other people change their lives and not suffer in silence as I did. I want to let the world know that you can turn your life around despite the pain and suffering of your past.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Yes, I did plan my life and career. I believe that if you want to see your future, you’ve got to create it yourself. I started planning soon after I woke up from the coma and left my first husband. I made a list of all the things I wanted to achieve in my life after I read a book by Napoleon Hill. He said: “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” I typed the list neatly on a piece of paper. I read in a book that purple was the colour of the independent woman, so I bought a purple picture frame to put my list in and hung it in my bedroom. Next, to the frame, I hung a few pictures of the things that I wanted to achieve, to visualize my dreams.
It took me years to work through my list and I am very glad that I had my list to guide me. I have achieved everything on my list that was within my control.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
At some point in my life I had no money, no job, no food, no real friends, no love and no home to live in. My life was full of challenges.
My biggest challenge was to forget my past, move on and start building a new life. After endless torment, I made it my mission to be so busy loving my life that I had no time for hate, regrets, negativity, worry or fear. I was going to be a survivor of the unfairness of my past and thrive in style.
I felt an overwhelming urge to find the person I truly am, the real me hiding beneath the layers of misery, emotional pain and physical abuse. I was going to live for real. I was going to let my inner fire burn brightly and enjoy life. I wanted to become the woman I knew I could be. I became driven, focused and determined to forget my past.
I have faced many other challenges, both in business and in my personal life and quite a few times it was a mixture of both. When I raised my children (from my second marriage), I was juggling motherhood, marriage, work and business. I had a full-time nanny during weekdays, but I always organised my day to be home from work as early as possible to give my girls a bath, read them a story, play games and tuck them into bed. Once my girls were asleep, I started working again. That’s just how I was and still am: working hard, spotting business opportunities, getting in money from different sources, as I’ve never believed in putting all my eggs in one basket. I was always too scared to go back to the life I used to have: begging for money as my first husband used to spend all the money I earned, leaving me penniless.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I do enjoy mentoring others and watching them succeed on their own terms. A few years ago, I wrote several business books. I took several budding entrepreneurs under my wing to succeed in Internet marketing and help them increase their revenue and gain financial independence.
What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?
Quite honestly, I’d like to see more equality when it comes to women in business. Things have changed drastically since I started my business career and it’s definitely heading in the right direction. I think that more changes need to be made to encourage women, young and old to be more confident and put everything into action to achieve their dreams.
There is still a large salary difference between women and men in a lot of companies and that needs to change too.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
The pressure of wearing high heels and make-up. It is absolutely fine if one enjoys it but how women look is too often more important, in some work environments, than how well they do their jobs.
I don’t wear make up on a daily basis, I wear jeans and a black cotton shirt because it takes away the headache of putting an outfit together and taking too long getting ready. I chose to spend my time on things that I enjoy more.
I don’t have a dress code for my employees, whether one wants to dress smartly in a suit, wear make-up or heels, it does not matter to me because it makes no difference to their performance. What matters is that they feel comfortable, valued and enjoy their work. My staff love my view on this; probably a contributing factor to the fact that most of my staff members have worked for me for over eight years.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I have a few that are very meaningful to me and made a huge impact on my life, so I can’t pick just one.
- Getting over my past. I have accepted that my past experiences have made me the woman I am today. I’ve rebuilt my life, coming back stronger than ever. The lessons I have learned throughout my life have served me well. I have become a strong woman. I have the life that I wanted, I am very happy. I am grateful that I was brave enough to turn my life around and that even when times were tough, I did not give up.
- Becoming a successful businesswoman. One of the things I had on my list (my plan for the future) was to set up multiple sources of income so that I would never be financially dependent again. That was, and still is, very important for me. I have achieved this through sheer determination, grit and hard work.
- My twin daughters. For over 20 years, my life was filled with trauma and misery. I was desperate for somebody to love me. I used to dream about having twin girls so that I could shower them with abundance of love, something I never had until I met my second husband.
I used to picture twin girls. It started as an unconscious thought and very quickly the thought of my twin girls became a lifeline.
After I married my second husband, we tried a lot of things in order to become pregnant with twin girls, from old wives tales to medical studies and it worked: I did have the identical twin girls of my dreams. It is still a great topic of conversation.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is to find a traditional mainstream publisher for my novel No Fourth River, it is a biographical novel based on my true life story.
Since I’ve self-published this novel, it has been very well received; sales are growing but more importantly readers are reaching out to me to tell me how much they have enjoyed reading the book or how it has inspired them to look past their painful past and to look ahead to their future. When my book will be published with a traditional publisher, it will be available in book shops worldwide, translated into 20 languages and I can reach millions of people with my message. That’s the plan.
Once I have found a traditional publisher, my next big goal is to have my story made into a movie.
I would also like to invent a product and have lots of ideas scribbled in my idea-notebook.
What message do you want to send with your story?
I can’t possibly summarize that question in one single message. There are so many things I’ve learned during my journey but some of the most important messages are:
– Your bad past has a secret superpower – the determination to have a better future. If you look at the present with the eyes of the past, you will only see your bad past. Instead, look with the eyes of the future.
– Your past does not have to define your future –leave your past in the past. Use your bad past to become a stronger version of yourself- despite the pain of your past, you can control your future.
– The only limits you have are the ones that you accept. Believe in yourself and anything is possible. I am living proof of what somebody can achieve, when pushed beyond the extreme of extremes.
– Realise the power of a positive mind – believe in your goals and dreams.
– Don’ be a victim but a survivor – YOU need to make things happen.
– Mental scars can fade away – Physical wounds heal; that’s the wonder of the human body. Mental wounds only heal if you allow it to happen. They can fade away and become a distant memory. Learning to let go of the past is the key to future happiness. The mental pain you felt yesterday can become the strength you feel tomorrow. THE most important thing is that YOU have to allow it to happen and not dwell on the past.
My story is for anyone who wishes to shine a light on their own path and decides to take action towards a better tomorrow. With my novel No Fourth River, I want to let the world know that you can turn your life around despite the pain and suffering of your past.
The goal of my book is to inspire and show that you can break the cycle of misfortune and rise above anything that holds you back to shape your future rather than letting your situation dictate what the future holds. I am living proof.
My scars are a reminder of my struggles, battles and victories. They show pain and suffering but more importantly, they show my will to survive. All of us have scars. I hope that mine, by writing my book, will give strength to other people who are suffering and are not happy with their lives.