In this podcast episode, Guna Meldere, Entrepreneur and Podcaster, interviews Monique about her journey of learning to slow down, take care of herself, and give up control. Monique shares how two significant events in her life served as breaking points and prompted her to prioritize self-care and well-being. They also discuss her view on happiness and the duality of life.
If you prefer to read, you can find the article below, or simply press play to listen to the episode. Enjoy!
Tell me about yourself and your journey
When I was 19 I died of a cardiac arrest and I was clinically dead for 25 seconds.
When I woke up I had these thoughts of not having lived a life that mattered, a life that had an impact on anyone. I thought I will just be a number in the hospital and the people who will remember me will only be my parents and my sister.
I thought “I’m just a useless person trying to please everyone and totally failing on that part as well, and also failing to live my life in a way I would be proud of or I would enjoy”.
I was failing at all levels, but I thought I was doing great because I was working a lot.
I was working for 6 years already, I started when I was 13. Besides my school, I would work around the clock. I didn’t have one day off, I would work 18 to 20 hours a day including school, and this literally killed me.
By this time I was in the industry of project management, process management, and all of these things that I still do and really master. And I thought, why do I do all these things for everyone else but don’t use them for myself?
Ironically I didn’t learn the lesson by that time.
I took it the wrong way.
I thought I had to take more care of my illnesses, but my lesson was totally misunderstood. I thought I had to double down at work. One time I worked a 36-hour shift, no kidding.
Long story short, I had a great career until I got to the point where I was bullied for a long time by my female boss. and that made me think that something was going really wrong.
I was supposed to be promoted, I was supposed to be her colleague and not her subordinate, and it was the other way around. I was heavily bullied and manipulated to the edge until I fell off.
I run into a severe clinical burnout syndrome, which is different from a simple burnout. There is an actual diagnosis called Severe Clinical Burnout Syndrome.
I was only 24, and as an outcome, I damaged my spine. I had four discs prolapsed and one cut off my spinal cord. My right leg was useless and I wasn’t able to walk for 4 long months.
I had to learn the lessons: slow down, take a break, give up control, and take care of myself.
All these lessons were punched in my face for months.
The outcome of all these life experiences is the book that I wrote, The T.I.M.E. Method, and the framework that I have worked on ever since. Oh, and a lifelong spine injury.
What makes you happy and what does one person need to be happy?
In the past, I didn’t even know what it meant to be happy.
A lot of people are stressed out a lot about happiness because what does it even mean? Where do we get it from? Is it something I can buy?, something I can create?, something I can find somewhere?
For me it was the realization that nothing can make me happy. It will be me who wants to be happy.
There was so much that I had to work with myself to get to a place to say I am content. Being content is different from happiness.
I was like on a rollercoaster all the time. I had super highs and super lows and they would literally rip me apart.
I tick 95% of the boxes of bad things that can happen to someone. The only thing I didn’t have was a gunpoint. But once I woke up to a knife on my throat in London. I have been robbed, chased down, beaten up, I was a victim of sexual violence, the whole list.
The first thing I had to do was to acknowledge that all of these things hurt me because in the beginning, I thought that I could get over everything. But if you don’t own that these things hurt you, you cannot heal.
I had these traumatic cases and then one of my friends told me, oh now you can just get over it because she could not handle my experience.
It is so much easier to say I’m fine, everything is alright.
I was born with a lot of physical issues and the amount of pain I had to take physically is on a level that many people would not be able to endure.
Doctors have stress-tested me and pain tolerance-tested me and they couldn’t believe the amount of pain I was experiencing.
This is one of the reasons why I overwork myself so much because working for me is a coping mechanism.
Being busy is a coping mechanism.
I had to acknowledge that a lot of the physical pain that I have now is a manifestation of all of the trauma, and suppressed emotions that I have swallowed. And I still have it today.
People need to understand the duality of life. You can be as happy and as positive and it is never going to be the truth without acknowledging the darkness.
There is no day without night. There is no shadow without light. No moon without the sun.
There is so much duality and without that, you will never be happy.
It took me quite a long time to understand this.
Time is life and if you must live every single day as if it was one full life.
To me, living a full life is not doing the things that I wish I never had done.
You can’t live fully without risking being hurt. You can’t love fully without risking something or someone. You can’t heal without the risk of being hurt again.
I had to acknowledge all of these dualities because I was really tired and exhausted from all the physical pain.
I had so much pain daily for 28 years, at some point I thought “I could kill myself or do something about it”.
Killing myself felt like the easy way out, and I am not someone who will take the easy way out. So I went on the difficult path and I did something about it.
How does your life look like now? What do you do every day?
I have designed my business in a way that suits me. My clients know that and if they don’t want that, then there is a way out.
I don’t take calls after nighttime. That means that for my clients in the US, there is a 12 to 14 hours difference so they either choose their morning time or their evening time. If that is not suited for them, there are other people to work with.
There was never a client that complained about it.
I do have only 2 days per week that I take calls because it takes sitting in front of the screen for hours having to look at the lights, and with my nerve pain, it is really hard.
I don’t make a secret out of my pain. I am very transparent. All my clients know about my migraines.
A couple of times I have been late in delivery by a day. I also have to acknowledge to myself that the work will have more quality if I do it on another day when I feel better.
I explain this to my clients before we sign the contract, so everyone who is not okay with that can just leave. If someone is not okay with me not working one day due to my migraines, they are not my ideal client anyway.
I am not there for the money but I’m there to change their lives.
I sit on the floor, it is helpful for my spine. I move a lot too. I stand up a lot, move around, stretch, walk, and dance every half an hour. I drink tons of water and tea to keep hydrated, 2 or 3 liters a day.
Other than that I go cupping every week. It is traditional Chinese medicine. It helps to get all of the toxins and inflammation out of your body and muscles and keep the blood flow going.
This therapy helps me a lot to relax, especially because my neck and my shoulder are a huge issue, and when I am stressed, it all goes to my neck and shoulders, they become rock hard.
I try to eat very healthily, I eat mostly plant-based and I take a lot of herbal medication. I am not into western medicine anymore, because it has destroyed my skin, my stomach, and my heart. Since I stopped taking it, everything is slowly recovering.
How do you find motivation?
I don’t believe in motivation at all. I know that what you really need is discipline and I believe I got my discipline already trimmed into me when I was 3 years old and I started dancing ballet at a semi-professional level.
I did that for 11 years and I think it lasted for a lifetime. I wake up in the morning and I don’t think about it, I just get up. Probably because I don’t enjoy sleeping. Maybe that helps. It is painful for me to sleep. That is a good reason to get out of bed.
If you don’t have motivation, stop doing what you do. Take a day off or if you can’t do this take an hour off your work. Just go to the pool or play tennis or golf or pilates, whatever you want.
Just take a break because if you want to be motivated, most of the people who are not feeling this motivation are because they don’t have a clear direction, They don’t know where they are going, and they are following the shiny object.
This is not going to help you.
Everything in life is a marathon. There is no sprint that can help you to get somewhere unless you are an Olympic sprinter, but if you are no Usain Bolt, you don’t have to sprint.
I tried that twice, the first one killed me the second one damaged my spine. I cannot recommend it.
Just take time off and procrastinate for your benefit.
Who inspires you?
My dad is a Superhero. I learned my work ethic from him. Now I am trying to teach him my methods. My goal is to pay his salary for the year so he can retire earlier and hopefully, I can do that soon.
I really like Robert Greene. You can see by the way he writes and the choice of words, how much thought, work, research, and mastery goes into his books.
He took 5 years to research and write the Book The Laws of Human Nature and he had a stroke in between that made him not be able to speak. He had to re-learn speaking. This guy for me is a hero in his own way and he masters writing books, he knows a lot about human behavior and the things I really love to study.
Let’s talk about your Book
I was on a call with a friend and we chatted about all the things we wanted to do. We were talking about our skills, and when i mentioned how long I have been doing this and how long I have had all of these skills for, he was kind of shocked because I was still young.
He said, “you should be writing a book”. And I was like..yeah I will think about it.
And funny enough a week later, my book coach told me that she was releasing a course to write a book in 30 days. So I joined, and out of nothing, I started writing this book thinking it was going to be 30 days.
I wrote it in 4 months and 10 days.
Who is this book for?
The book “The T.I.M.E. Method” is about time, and it is mostly written for high-achievers that are chasing time.
“Chasing time” means when you are consistently in a rush and thinking “I don’t have time for this or for that”, “I wish I would have time to do this.”
In the book, I broke down the framework that I use with my clients. So everyone can access it for a small amount.
In the end, I wanted to make this knowledge accessible because it is not only time management. It is all about how you are showing up in the world and how you lead yourself from the inside out, your mindset, and your energy: How you use your energy. Who you have to keep out to keep your energy up.
A friend once complained to me about my tendency to cut people out. However, it’s not due to laziness in building relationships. Instead, I assess whether investing my time and energy in a particular relationship is worth it, or if it’s a toxic dynamic that causes me pain.
If I have a migraine after seeing someone, there must be something toxic there.
I had to listen to that.
Sometimes it is a really uncomfortable way of having to make decisions and to walk through life, and not having a lot of friends and a big support community, but having one or two persons who have my back is better than having a big community but no one really has your back.
The first thing you want to do is to look at your everyday life and see what is draining your energy the most.
You will know this when you realize you have to do something and then you have this feeling in your stomach. It can also be a person, like the people who only talk about themselves, and when you can finally speak, they make it for themselves.
Make a list of all these things and persons, and then prioritize the 3 that drain you the most. After that, cut off the ones that are the easiest to remove.
If you can remove more than one thing, do it.
If you feel alcohol is draining you, you can just remove it. Leave it out.
I have to regularly detox from sugar. I cut off sugar. Then I went back to it, and it is not good for me and I know it. I have to detox it again. if I’m not very mindful I fall back to it because I forget how bad it is for me and I really want to eat it.
What is the biggest myth in your industry that many people are confused about?
“If you work more you get more results”. That is absolutely BS. It is the other way around. It is more about FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Success.
Multitasking is a big no. We cannot multitask. It is absolutely hilarious if you think that you can do it.
Your brain is switching back and forth, trying to focus on one thing. It zooms into one thing, and then it does not do anything else.
If you are a busy, overwhelmed entrepreneur or business owner
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