People 18 October 2018
Sometimes life throws unexpected difficulties at you and you just have to face it head-on. That's exactly what Rachel Brenke did. Brenke is a mother of 5, a cancer survivor, a successful entrepreneur, and an athlete. All at the same time. She has faced difficult adversities in her life but she chose to face those demons.
She focused on positivity and has overcome a great deal because of her positive outlook. Her battles have led her to achieve great health and fitness goals. Brenke was awarded a slot to compete in the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii October 13. All of her adversities have allowed her to be who she is now.
Brenke trains 6 days a week. She gets up early before her kids are up to begin her day. “I do my long runs and biking during the week so I have the weekend for my family," she says. Her training is broken up into 3 days with two training slots consisting of a 100-mile bike ride, followed by an 18-mile run. Being a mother it's hard to find the time, but Brenke makes time doing what she loves, “I maximize my schedule, I put family commitments on my calendar first then training. On some days training has to be done at night but for the most part, it is concrete in my schedule."
Rachel Brenke prepares for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Thursdays and Fridays are her long training days, Saturday is her rest day and Sunday is her light training day. She says consistency is the key to her training. “Training for an Ironman or any race is a big commitment and requires a lot of focus to do it," Brenke says.
However, training for the Ironman is not the only thing she does, she juggles being a mom, entrepreneur, and athlete. “It has changed my life and has given me a great lifestyle."
"Quit focusing on the numbers. Focus on being remarkable? and the numbers will follow."
Brenke started her journey to entrepreneurship at the age of 20 when she had her oldest son, now 13 years old. She told herself if she made it through she didn't want to be away from him. “I didn't want to work a 9-5 job and stick him in daycare all the time. I also didn't want to be working for someone else. They would be pocketing all the dreams and goals." Though Brenke was in the corporeal world for a while, she didn't enjoy it. She knew it wasn't meant for her, she pulled through it because she knew she had to do it and so, this led to her being her own boss. Now, she has been working for herself for 13 years. Brenke owns a law firm, runs an online website, makes podcasts, and has written a couple books. Because Brenke is her own boss and is busy taking on all her businesses, she said the key to balancing her work is not to balance but to juggle. “For me, it's all about making choices that I want to make, you have to be committed, your family has to be committed, and at times, I'm not able to do it all."
ADVERSITIES & POSITIVITY
Brenke has faced hurdles on her way to success. From her mental battle with deep depression and her fight against cancer to her physical battle with training. Brenke said she overcame her adversities by have a positive mentality. Brenke looks at all these adversities as preparing her for a positive mindset. “ It prepared me for doing something like this, it's all about how much can you take on to stay in a positive light." Brenke believes it's all about focusing on staying positive and being very disciplined. Brenke also tries to find positivity by keeping busy. “I'm somebody that thrives on a busy schedule, but on negative days I just try to be more focused."
Brenke has learned many lessons along the way, be it entrepreneurship or training for the Ironman Championship, she says it all goes hand in hand. “You have an end goal in mind. Developing a plan and trusting that plan. It's easy to give up, especially for me with my training. It's easy to let doubt creep in when you get tired and fear that you're going to fail." Brenke said this is the same worry with entrepreneurship “You just need to tell yourself to focus. This is just temporary emotions, don't make decisions based on this. It's also surrounding yourself with people who will step in to talk you up on these hard times."
Her journey has led her to where she is today. Brenke said it didn't just happen overnight. All in the face of her mental and physical adversities, she has become a successful business owner and has led her to great opportunities. “I have been on this entrepreneurship journey for 13 years now, I didn't set all this up at one time, the same thing for the Ironman, I didn't just decide I'm going to do the Ironman, there is a lot of training and hours and steps that go into the process."
Brenke offers advice to anyone who is wanting to achieve a goal but may be hesitant, “You just have to be yourself, be authentic and just don't be afraid to go for it." Brenke is an example that you can do anything you set your mind to.
“It's all about making a choice and sticking to it, even when you're tired, or you don't want to get out of bed or run another step, you just gotta do it because, in the end, it will all be worth it."
"Sh*t!" my daughter exclaimed as she dropped her iPad to the floor. A little bit of context; my daughter Victoria absolutely loves her iPad. And as I watched her bemoan the possible destruction of her favorite device, I thought to myself, "If I were in her position, I'd probably say the exact same thing."
In the Rastegar family, a word is only a bad word if used improperly. This is a concept that has almost become a family motto. Because in our household, we do things a little differently. To put it frankly, our practices are a little unconventional. Completely safe, one hundred percent responsible- but sure, a little unconventional.
And that's because my husband Ari and I have always felt akin in one major life philosophy; we want to live our lives our way. We have dedicated ourselves to a lifetime of questioning the world around us. And it's that philosophy that has led us to some unbelievable discoveries, especially when it comes to parenting.
Ari was an English major. And if there's one thing that can be said about English majors, it's that they can be big-time sticklers for the rules. But Ari also thinks outside of the box. And here's where these two characteristics meet. Ari was always allowed to curse as a child, but only if the word fit an appropriate and relevant context. This idea came from Ari's father (his mother would have never taken to this concept), and I think this strange practice really molded him into the person he is today.
But it wasn't long after we met that I discovered this fun piece of Ari Rastegar history, and I got to drop a pretty awesome truth bomb on Ari. My parents let me do the same exact thing…
Not only was I allowed to curse as a child, but I was also given a fair amount of freedom to do as I wanted. And the results of this may surprise you. You see, despite the lack of heavy regulating and disciplining from my parents, I was the model child. Straight A's, always came home for curfew, really never got into any significant trouble- that was me. Not trying to toot my own horn here, but it's important for the argument. And don't get the wrong impression, it's not like I walked around cursing like a sailor.
Perhaps I was allowed to curse whenever I wanted, but that didn't mean I did.
And this is where we get to the amazing power of this parenting philosophy. In my experience, by allowing my own children to curse, I have found that their ability to self-regulate has developed in an outstanding fashion. Over the past few years, Victoria and Kingston have built an unbelievable amount of discipline. And that's because our decision to allow them to curse does not come without significant ground rules. Cursing must occur under a precise and suitable context, it must be done around appropriate company, and the privilege cannot be overused. By following these guidelines, Victoria and Kingston are cultivating an understanding of moderation, and at a very early age are building a social awareness about when and where certain types of language are appropriate. And ultimately, Victoria and Kingston are displaying the same phenomenon present during my childhood. Their actual instances of cursing are extremely low.
And beneath this parenting strategy is a deeper philosophy. Ari and I first and foremost look at parenting as educators. It is not our job to dictate who our children will be, how they shall behave, and what their future should look like.
We are not dictators; we are not imposing our will on them. They are autonomous beings. Their future is in their hands, and theirs alone.
Rather, we view it as our mission to show our children what the many possibilities of the world are and prepare them for the litany of experiences and challenges they will face as they develop into adulthood. Now, when Victoria and Kingston come across any roadblocks, they have not only the tools but the confidence to handle these tensions with pride, independence, and knowledge.
And we have found that cursing is an amazing place to begin this relationship as educators. By allowing our children to curse, and gently guiding them towards the appropriate use of this privilege, we are setting a groundwork of communication that will eventually pay dividends as our children grow curious of less benign temptations; sex, drugs, alcohol. There is no fear, no need to slink behind our backs, but rather an open door where any and all communication is rewarded with gentle attention and helpful wisdom.
The home is a sacred place, and honesty and communication must be its foundation. Children often lack an ability to communicate their exact feelings. Whether out of discomfort, fear, or the emotional messiness of adolescence, children can often be less than transparent. Building a place of refuge where our children feel safe enough to disclose their innermost feelings and troubles is, therefore, an utmost priority in shepherding their future. Ari and I have come across instances where our children may have been less than truthful with a teacher, or authority figure simply because they did not feel comfortable disclosing what was really going on. But with us, they know that honesty is not only appreciated but rewarded and incentivized. This allows us to protect them at every turn, guard them against destructive situations, and help guide and problem solve, fully equipped with the facts of their situation.
And as crazy as it all sounds- I really believe in my heart that the catalogue of positive outcomes described above truly does stem from our decision to allow Victoria and Kingston to curse freely.
I know this won't sit well with every parent out there. And like so many things in life, I don't advocate this approach for all situations. In our context, this decision has more than paid itself off. In another, it may exacerbate pre-existing challenges and prove to be only a detriment to your own family's goals.
As the leader of your household, this is something that you and you alone must decide upon with intentionality and wisdom.
Ultimately, Ari and I want to be the kind of people our children genuinely want to be around. Were we not their parents, I would hope that Victoria and Kingston would organically find us interesting, warm, kind, funny, all the things we aspire to be for them each and every day.
We've let our children fly free, and fly they have. They are amazing people. One day, when they leave the confines of our home, they will become amazing adults. And hopefully, some of the little life lessons and eccentric parenting practices we imparted upon them will serve as a support for their future happiness and success.