(~7 minute read.)
I met Leanne Camilleri in 2017 at a dinner of predominantly Australian people in Montreal. Those sitting around the dinner table certainly all had one thing in common – a passion for helping people to be the best version of themselves, of helping people to flourish. We were all participants in the 5th International Positive Psychology Conference in Montreal. I can’t quite remember if Leanne and I were sitting side-by-side at dinner, but we were certainly sitting close by and I do remember a lot of conversation and laughter with her. I am so glad that we met that night. Since then, it has been great to continue to connect over what we have in common; that stated above and also a passion for Indie (but more on that later).
I am honoured to share Leanne’s story. In her own words …
Hello, I’m Leanne and I am a positive deviant. While a deviant might be understood as sinister or someone who acts outside of normal behaviour, my actions are fuelled by good intent to bring out the best in people.
I feel a mixture of pride and vulnerability to share my story.
In the year of COVID-19, I completed the Master of Applied Positive Psychology. I still feel like pinching myself. I actually did it. And I did so in a year of great disruption. I have a deep seeded passion for bringing out the best in others and this is influenced by my own adversities and why I so passionately persevered in developing myself so that I could be empowered to make a difference.
I am a woman who has experienced many things and it is these experiences that have shaped the person I am today.
A childhood trauma and constant illness led me to become a high school dropout at 14. A while back, I came across my school leaver certificate. In the reason for leaving section, it said “child is disinterested in school.” I have not allowed these reasons to hold me back in life. I have always been a determined soul. Leaving school at such a young age meant that I worked in my family’s business and went to Secretary College. It has meant that I have had to work harder for what ever I have wanted to achieve.
I have learned that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. What determines my success is how much of myself I put into it.
I trust my inner voice, even if I think I can’t do it, I challenge it by exploring possible pathways toward whatever I want to achieve, rather than sitting with the “I wish I had” feeling. The great Lucille Ball once said, “Regret what you’ve done, not what you wish you had done.” I have adopted this mindset.
I am not different, I am uniquely me. I now understand that we learn in different ways and when we understand people better, we can work with them to develop their learning. There was a time that I felt I was not intelligent enough because of my education. This has been the fuel for developing Grit to keep working, learning and growing.
I consider myself a constant work in progress and my mentors are key in guiding me. I have male and female mentors and they have been pivotal at those points where I might have otherwise given up. I am so very grateful to have these people in my life.
I have learned that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. What determines my success is how much of myself I put into it.
I was married at 17 and experienced a relationship affected by alcohol. There was a time where I was so angry about this period of my life but then I stopped holding on to it.
I became the primary carer of my grandmother for 9 years. She had Alzheimer’s Disease, this was an incredibly hard time but one I choose to view as a very special time in my life. My mother and I wanted to ensure a happy life for a woman who had done so much for us and others too. I studied to ensure I had the skills to care for my grandmother at home. I succeeded in upholding this commitment until she died at home from effects of this cruel disease.
My fondest memory of my grandmother is laughter around the table with her and my mum, a cup of tea and coffee cake. When I was young, she would often take care of me when I was unwell. We called my grandmother, Mum mum. She was a well presented, somewhat proper woman with underlying cheekiness. Alzheimer’s changed her in many ways but that sense of cheeky fun was always there and I cherish a little ditty she would say regularly in the later years. “High cockalora jig jig jig, have you ever seen a monkey riding on a pig.” She would then ask, “Well… Have you?” With Mum mum, I always felt like I belonged. The hardest memory is the day she didn’t know who I was.
(Photos: on the left, is Mum mum and on the right is Leanne with her Mum.)
During this time I became a single mother.
This part of my life slowed me down as I adjusted to my circumstances and journeyed through grief and overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks.
Through life, I have refused to back down to the challenges these experiences have brought. I chose to consider myself and my children richer for our experience. There have been very hard experiences. They have also been incredibly rewarding as they have strengthened important bonds and helped me realise what was important to me in life and what wasn’t.
What is most important for me now is my family and friends, and listening to the song with in me. I have realised I don’t need to belong or be liked by everyone and that it is more important to stay true to who I am and my values than to try and fit in with others.
There is a quote by JM Barrie in Peter Pan that resonates with me. It says “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it. The reason birds can fly and we cannot is simply that they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings”.
I think these life changing experiences clipped my wings for a while; they grounded me and gave me time to re-evaluate paths I had taken and the new journey ahead. Over time, I have regrown my wings by taking determined positive steps to fly again.
I have come to understand we experience cycles of life. This is when our wings are clipped momentarily and whether we like it or not we are faced with an opportunity to learn and grow. The lessons we learn determine how quickly we begin to fly again. And this is what builds resilience.
I now choose to surround myself with positivity and greet every challenge as a chance to learn.
I view myself as successful and I believe I can fly. I continually seek to grow professionally and personally and welcome the experience of a new journey and the chance to learn.
Right from a child, I wanted to be a nurse. Through the study I undertook in aged care I was heading toward enrolled nursing. But after Mum mum died and my marriage broke down, I didn’t have anything left to give others at that time, so I chose to take a different path than nursing. I’ve worked in fast food, financial services, shipbuilding and Defence.
I spent several years working in the shipbuilding industry. We were working towards what was termed the “Valley of Death” as there was no certainty of future work after 2019. This was a volatile and turbulent time. It was the perfect environment for stress, burnout, distrust and overwhelm, with the constant threat of redundancy. My son also worked in this industry within his trade. He became redundant and then a year later, I too became redundant.
Over time, I have regrown my wings by taking determined positive steps to fly again.
While working within this industry I became passionate about positively influencing organisational culture and empowering workers with an understanding of the tools to manage their wellbeing during this time. This led to me undertaking the Master of Applied Positive Psychology and the creation of a program to build psychological capital to provide workers with the best possible exit experience.
I have three successful adult children. My eldest son Josh (28) is a caring and loving husband. He is the comedian of the family, he is looked up to by his brother and sister and I am proud that he is a positive role model for them. He is also an incredibly caring and giving young man who finds meaning in his involvement with the SES (State Emergency Service). He also loves his cricket and rarely misses a match. We have a history together. Josh is a boiler maker and I followed him to the shipbuilding industry and I travelled that turbulent time with him.
My second son Ash (27), is also a tradesperson; he is a Diesel Mechanic. He loves working on vehicles, pulling them apart, diagnosing the problem and working out how to resolve it. One of my favourite memories is when Ash asked if he could pull one of my dad’s old computers apart that didn’t work. As it was going be thrown out ,this was allowed. The computer store had advised that it couldn’t be fixed. Ash got it working. My dad delighted in calling the computer store to tell them this.
I feel so proud of my boys; they are honourable, caring young men, building futures with their life partners.
My youngest is my daughter Kim (23); she is lovingly kind and giving and super determined. As she leans into life, I always remind myself of these strengths. She has transferred her strengths of kindness, caring and compassion in the childcare industry to working with animals at an animal shelter. I am proud of the way she has been able to do this.
I admire her connection with the animals and she is so brave and confident in handling them. Consequently, she has 2 rescue horses, Bondi and Paris and for a while we had Emami the black lamb who was a surprise birth from a rescue sheep. He got around the house in a nappy until he found his forever home.
I am fortunate to have found a loving, kind and fun partner Aaron to share the adventure of life with. Our greatest adventures are always planned to include our dog Indie. I have become the 3rd wheel in what is a beautiful love story of a man who hated dogs and the red dog who woo’ed him. Aaron has a kind and generous heart and an enormous zest for the adventure of water sports and getting out in nature. Indie shares that zest, so I am often happy to watch them surfing and paddle boarding together. There are two memorable adventures that light me up when I think of them. The first – Aaron has a love for waterfalls and one time on a roadtrip with our friends he decided to take a closer look at Erskine Falls on the Great Ocean Road. Consequently he fell off and I have the picture to prove it. I was cross for the concern and risk to his safety but also admired his wonderment and awe of nature.
The second was a recent trip on the Eyre Peninsular in South Australia when visiting a beautiful, inviting beach with no one on it. As I sat enjoying the view I was overcome with shock and laughter as Aaron performed a nudie run with Indie running beside him. It was like a love scene. I admired his bravery and this captures the essence of his love for nature and our dog Indie.
I have come to understand that people come into our lives for reasons and seasons and consider myself fortunate to understand this and that not always is the reason or season holding a lesson for me.
What leaning into courage has taught me:
- Listen to the song within. I don’t want to get the end of my life and wish I had given something a go.
- Ask. You will never know the answer if you don’t and if it is a yes – it opens doors.
- Seek to learn – about yourself and others, knowledge is power!
- There is no such thing as can’t! So lean into the courage of CAN!
- Believe. Have faith to fly, choose to grow and be positive.
If you would like to connect with Leanne and the positively deviant work she is doing, she can be contacted as follows:
- LinkedIn: Leanne Camilleri
- Website: http://www.resettothrive.com.au
- Podcast: The Work Well, Live Well Podcast, and …
- Indie’s instagram page: indie_the_red_dog
And, a little more of Leanne’s story; I asked Leanne how her children would describe her and this is what they said:
“I’m proud of my mum because she always gives something a go. When she fails, she gets up, dusts herself off and tries again. I admire her fighting spirit.” ~Josh
“Mum is the rock that holds our family together. She’s always willing to try new things and although she was young when she left school it didn’t stop her from going back to studying after raising us three to make a career for herself, she’s shown us that it’s never too late to do what you want to do and I think I speak for all of us when I say we are so proud of her.” ~Kim
I feel very honoured and humbled that Leanne shared her story with me and with you. It is a story of many paths and of tremendous courage on each of those paths.
Just thinking of Leanne always brings a smile. Her positivity, passion and courage is contagious.
So … back to Indie for a minute. I have followed Indie’s adventures for quite some time. I so look forward to his next adventure; they are always awesome. Hopefully, if I’m lucky, I might meet him one day.