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Nora Szanto, inspired to write a book, on The Table Read

Written by Nora Szanto

Have you ever wondered what makes the most successful people different from the rest?

Striving For Success

As an ex-basketball player, I certainly did. Success was something they drilled into us from day one. We were encouraged to be at our every game every step of the way. After realising that I would not be the female version of Michael Jordan, I switched to sports marketing and am proud to have worked on many major events – from Olympic Games and World Cups to continental championships. For a former athlete, these roles were a dream come true. 

But something was missing. Despite living a very successful life by most people’s standards I felt I wasn’t making the impact I truly hoped for. After hearing a powerful story from a female speaker who battled with cancer while raising children, I knew I wanted to do something more meaningful to support parents. At the peak of my career I switched gears and began a spiritual journey that brought me to complete a master’s degree in psychology at age 41.

This question of success still lingered in my mind. What makes extremely successful business leaders different from the average employees?  I had to find the answer.

Codes For Success

During my Psychology MSc Dissertation, I interviewed ​​C-Suite business executives of large companies. The participants of the study were of different genders, economic backgrounds, races, religions, and nationalities. Each had a unique personality and distinct motivations. Yet among their differences, striking similarities emerged, which set these individuals apart.

This research revealed the five ‘codes’ to success which formed the foundational message of the book. These are childhood controversies, self-awareness, dealing with adversity, humility and a growth mindset.

Nora Szanto, inspired to write a book, on The Table Read
Photo by lilartsy on

My kids listened wide-eyed as I shared their stories of triumph against all odds.

It dawned on me that they were learning about key characteristics of success through storytelling. This “light-bulb moment,” inspired the foundations of the book.

Writers Work - Get Paid to Write

The Celestina Code

The Celestina Code is a social and emotional learning fiction story for children that combines positive psychology with immersive adventure. This unique story gives parents the ‘code’ to transform their children’s lives by reducing anxiety and nurturing a growth mindset that leads to long term success and fulfillment.

This may have sparked the idea but there were many long nights and laborious battles ahead. Completing a thesis during the pandemic, while home-schooling two kids was not an easy feat, to say the least! I leaned heavily on my supportive husband to hold the fort in a seemingly chaotic post-pandemic world.

While I have been told many times that I am a good storyteller, writing never came to me that easily, especially doing it in English, which is not my native language. For this reason, working with a ghostwriter to translate this vivid world onto paper, seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to build a collaborative working relationship with someone phenomenal, who understands the intricacies of the story and can translate that into a digestible format for kids.

Finding Creative Freedom

As a recovering perfectionist, I learned early on that I would need to allow for creative freedom, and the mistakes that come with it to progress. We used a combination of in-person discussions, audio messages and visual references to bring the book to life. Mixing different media helped to translate my story world into words.

For me, diversity and inclusion remains an integral fabric of storytelling. We were careful to weave in characters with disabilities and multicultural backgrounds to reveal a rich and lively tale that embodies the globalised place we live in.

Seeing this vivid world come to life on paper felt like a dream come true. But nothing beats the responses I’ve received from early readers.

Working With Parents

Waiting for feedback felt like an emotional rollercoaster.  It was essential for me to co-design the book with parents so It could create a real impact for their kids. The only way to determine this was through qualitative feedback. Once the manuscript was crafted, I personally emailed parents open to receiving the first few chapters in exchange for genuine opinions on the quality of the story.

I still remember holding my breath as I opened my inbox nervously anticipating crickets. Thankfully I was blown away by the positive responses I received from parents sharing stories of engaged and inquisitive kids wanting to read more!

Hearing from countless parents of children with disabilities who found hope that they would be included in a brighter future, reminded me why I began this journey in the first place.

I realised for the first time, I wasn’t just writing a story. I was building a movement that redefined success and supported parents to encourage their kids to pursue their dreams.

Authors Life

More than anything, I discovered that the greatest feeling of success and fulfilment resides in the small moments like watching my kids laughing while reading a good book.

Ironically, after speaking with countless parents across the globe, my quest for discovering and uncovering success led me back home.

This book has continued to bring together an incredible community of parents and I’m delighted to expand this into a world of resources that can positively impact the next generation in ways that are truly life changing. The story is just beginning.

About Nora Szanto

Nora Tollenaar-Szanto is a certified Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner, Matrix Reimprinting and Psych-K Therapist, with a master’s degree in psychology. She enjoyed a career as a high-performance strategist for business leaders and professional athletes, helping clients overcome subconscious blocks and limiting beliefs to reach their full potential. Since the breakout of COVID-19, she has turned her focus toward supporting families.

During her master’s degree, Nora did extensive research into revealing the common characteristics of some of the most successful people in the world. She interviewed CEOs, presidents, and founders of multi-billion-dollar companies. Her research revealed certain connecting patterns that resulted in elevated professional achievement. Based on her key findings, she wrote her first adventure novel, The Celestina Code. Perfect for middle graders, it aims to inspire children to believe that their dreams are attainable by empowering them with essential high-performing traits to rise from adversity, overcome obstacles, step into their truth and reach their goals with integrity.

The book is available for pre-order at

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