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."
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.