Self-help coaches and couple Elaine Lo and Pet Sutton, AKA ‘Petlo’, have a number of simple yet highly effective life ‘recipes’ to thank for bringing them together. In this exclusive feature they reveal how their lives have transformed for the better, and how anyone can likewise find more fulfilment by stirring together the right ingredients
By Timothy Arden
Many of us are searching for that elusive, secret recipe to success and fulfilment, whether that be in our personal or professional lives, or both.
According to respected self-help experts Elaine Lo and Pet Sutton, however, there isn’t just one recipe to achieving our goals and aspirations. They have formulated eight practical life-lessons that, if followed, can help lead to newfound confidence, better relationships and greater performance, among other key factors that determine our overall happiness and wellbeing.
Their personal development ‘cookbook’, 8 Recipes for Life: Find Your Fulfilment, has just been published under their collective name, ‘Petlo’. Of course, there’s no shortage of self-help books on the shelves already, but what sets this one apart as something particularly special is that Elaine and Pet have previously adopted and benefitted from each one of the recipes they recommend. The proof, as they say, is in the tasting, not the pudding.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the life recipes has been in helping bring them together romantically. The significant age gap between the couple—Elaine is 32 and Pet, 61—has been one challenge, but each has also had their own personal issues to work through on top of this.
For Pet, the issue was nothing less than receiving a stark diagnosis for melanoma—the most serious form of skin cancer—shortly before he first came to know Elaine. It was 2014 and, after having undergone a major 10-hour operation to remove the cancer from his neck, he was told by doctors that he only had a 50 per cent chance of survival for the next five years.
“My cancer diagnosis didn’t come with an ongoing treatment plan,” says Pet, who lives in Manchester. “There was nothing else the medical professionals could do for this type of cancer except further surgery if it re-occurred. So I accepted the prognosis and planned my life accordingly. I decided not to enter another romantic relationship as I thought it would be unfair on a partner to do so given the uncertainty.”
Elaine, however, had other ideas. That same year she had attended a one-month Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in Thailand where Pet was the instructor. They struck up an instant rapport, with Elaine providing much-needed emotional support during this difficult time. It was thanks to Elaine that Pet came to learn about the transformative power of Recipe 5: ‘Follow your head and your heart, at the same time’.
This lesson, as detailed in Petlo’s book, reveals how we can all bridge the divide between our mind and heart. Usually, they are two conflicting forces, with the head being the voice of reason and the heart akin to an inner child which operates at a purely emotional level. Unless they join forces the result is invariably thwarted ambitions or hollow victories, with a lack of true fulfilment.
The change didn’t happen overnight, but Pet did finally come to accept that he deserved a new chance of happiness, as he recalls: “When Elaine first asked me to ‘give up and keep believing’, I didn’t understand what she was saying.
“But gradually I grasped this type of head–heart thinking that Elaine was trying to teach me. Giving up happened in the head because there was nothing I could physically do to resolve the situation; believing happened in the heart as I sincerely welcomed the other 50% chance of living long and healthily.”
“It’s been five years. I am now cancer-free, have a great relationship, and am living a fulfilling life.”
Petlo have now been in a long-distance relationship for three years, and, as Elaine, who lives in Hong Kong, explains, Head-Heart Thinking is at the centre of all they do, both as business and romantic partners. This type of double relationship can often prove tricky, but here again, Recipe 5 has proven its worth.
She said: “We are a couple who work together. When we work together, we fight often, fervently; having heated arguments because we want the best for our work. All this fighting doesn’t affect our romantic relationship because we keep them in the head.
“Our fights are never personal; they never get to our hearts. Our hearts understand this intention very well. Both of us understand the other person is acting with the best intentions so we can go a level up and see our disagreements as an example of the other person caring to get the very best result for our joint work.”
Even if the head and heart are on the same side, couples seldom remain together for long without both partners being willing to open up to each other. This was a particular issue for Elaine, who admits that it was a contributing factor to the breakdown of a previous relationship.
She therefore gives full credit to Pet for teaching her the truth of Recipe 7 (‘Vulnerability is power’), which has allowed their romance to flourish.
She said: “I remember many years ago saying to my ex-boyfriend, ‘My pride is more important than our relationship.’ No wonder that relationship didn’t work out! A major problem was a lack of communication between us and that was partially a result of not willing to be vulnerable. At the time I was worried what my ex-boyfriend would think of me if I told him my problems.
“Thankfully, Pet is the most ‘vulnerable’ and open person I know. His willingness to be vulnerable inspired me to become so too. I think, on some levels, love is the willingness to be completely vulnerable with another person. With this type of vulnerability, communication thrives.
“Even when the topic is difficult, we raise it. We don’t cover up issues which hoard hard feelings and come back to bite us; we deal with them without delay. Our willingness to be vulnerable with each other makes our relationship robust.”
Embarking on a new partnership of any kind always involves a degree of risk, and for some people this is something to be feared. They would much rather remain in their comfort zone, even if, in all honesty, that state is a far cry from where they actually want to be in life.
Elaine sympathises, but makes the point that if we don’t try to broaden our horizons and dare to try new things then we will simply stagnate.
What’s worse, any sense of fulfilment to be found within that comfort zone will quickly depreciate if you do not constantly strive to move forward, develop as a person and reaching new goals.
This life-lesson is common between all eight recipes (as it stands to reason that you need to be prepared to move out of the comfort zone to make any meaningful changes). Not surprisingly, then, ‘We don’t want comfort’ is the first recipe in 8 Recipes for Life, and, indeed, had a large role in the creation of Petlo and the book itself.
“I personally love comfort,” Elaine confesses. “I love it so much I used to be a person who would always have chosen to remain in my comfort zone if I hadn’t been forced out of it.”
What initially forced her out of the comfort zone was being fired from her last job, where she acted as an executive trainer and coach in a financial company in China. The person who owned the company, and dismissed her, was her own father!
She continued: “When I got fired in 2017, I was thrown out of my comfort zone. It was one of the best things that have happened to me.
“I decided to grasp this chance to finally start my childhood project: writing a self-help book on how to live more happily. The idea of this book has been with me forever, but of course the content has evolved as I learned more from life.
“If I hadn’t been fired, I would never have written 8 Recipes for Life with Pet, which is something I believe I am meant to do, and we would never have gone into business together as Petlo.
She added: “Both of us have gained so much fulfilment as a result of these simple recipes, our clients and friends have used them to great effects too, and now we want to bring that same level of satisfaction to the world.”