Why Narrating My Audiobook Was Hell – And Why It Was Worth It

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips0 Comments

Cara Brookins - RIse audiobook

I love listening to stories. When I was a little girl I begged my parents and grandparents for stories of their childhood until I had them all memorized and written down. Even then I still preferred hearing them say the tales out loud.

I strategically planned conversations with my grandma that I knew would lead to stories. And I shamelessly pulled out her photo drawer and spread her memories across the table just so I could see that look in her eyes when she stared up at the spot where the wall met the ceiling and told me her yesterdays.

Growing up rarely changes the fundamental things we love, so you probably know already that stories are still my passion. But more specifically, I still love listening to stories. I almost never watch television, but I listen to around 200 books a year. And I also juggle a number of podcasts that focus on story—both fiction and non-fiction. I simply love the oral storytelling tradition.

Naturally, when Macmillan Audio approached me about hosting the Raise My Roof podcast, I agreed before they had even finished the question. “I LOVE podcasts!” I squealed.

The noise I made when Macmillan asked me to narrate the audiobook for my memoir was something else entirely.

I didn’t want to do it.

No one likes a hypocrite. And I instantly knew that if any other author came to me and asked me if they should do this I would scream, “Yes! Of course! No one else can tell your story! You have to do it.” And of course, this is exactly what everyone said to me.

Applying that advice to myself was a whole different thing. The best I could do was agree to try. I had little faith I’d be able to get through it, and that’s saying a lot because I’m stubborn enough to believe I can do some pretty tough things.

Rise is deeply personal. Many of the things in it I have never said out loud to anyone. Not friends, not my parents, not even my kids. So how could I possibly say them to any person who ever decides they need an audiobook to keep them awake on a long drive or pass the hours of their commute?

I know, of course, on an intellectual level that these things are already out there. That anyone can read them in the book. That none of this is new information just because it’s in a new format.

But, actually, it is.

Because whatever monotone reading voice you might hear while you speed read the book will be replaced by the real emotion in my own. This is my real story. These are my real kids and my real parents. These things really hurt. They really made me happy or proud or knocked me to my knees.

I’m not a voice actor. When I say these things out loud, I can’t hide the crack in my voice, or the smile. I can’t even hide the tears — and yes, there were a lot of real tears when I read Rise.

I’m not a person who cries. I’m a problem solver. Tears aren’t going to get us anywhere so I’m all about pushing forward toward solutions. But by the third of five days reading Rise in a phone-booth sized studio in the Flatiron building in NYC, I confessed to my (fabulous) producer Chealsea, that maybe I used to be a person who didn’t cry.

Writing a memoir is emotional in some of these same ways. But writing is done in isolation, and usually reading is too. I feel like there’s an element of privacy to my silent words between the pages of a book. All the secrets feel oddly protected by those hard covers.

And there I was, letting all the secrets out. Could there be a single thing I’ll ever do that would leave me feeling more vulnerable than that? I doubt it.

CaraBrookins - Flatiron

Song lyrics are a good example of the way words can transport us to a place in our history.

Rise is the song of my most difficult and triumphant times. And it was one I ultimately had to sing all alone.

Getting from the opening line all the way to the copyright information at the end was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. And like most things that fit into that category, it left me with a profound sense of accomplishment and pride.

I slayed one of my biggest dragons and here I am still.

And a big part of writing a memoir was knowing that my grandchildren and their grandchildren would have their history in writing. Now, they will be able to listen to me tell it in my own voice. That’s one of the most powerful feelings I can imagine.

CaraBrookins - Flatiron studio

Instead of feeling wrapped between the protective covers of this book, I feel completely wrapped by the support and love of my family and friends. And I also know the sound of my heart breaking and soaring will lend a voice to other people still working to find their way through to the other side after traumatic things.

There it is. There’s the soul of me. There’s no taking this back. There’s no silencing it. These things happened. And despite it all, my kids and I live and love and laugh.

There’s an enormous power in putting a name to things, in finding the exact words that describe how we used to feel, how we feel now, and how we wish we felt. Writing is my thing, and maybe you or someone you know who is going through tough times isn’t a writer, maybe they don’t have the words and that makes them feel robbed of some power.

And that’s why it was worth it.

It’s my voice. It’s my story. They are my words. But anyone at all who needs them is welcome to borrow the power.

You can listen to a sample of me reading the Rise audiobook right here.

And order through Audible or Amazon now!


cara brookins

Cara Brookins - Rise Audiobook

A Little Old Liar Called Fear

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips1 Comment

Cara Brookins - Raise My Roof Ellen Hendricksen

Fear keeps us alive, but it also keeps us from living.

I’m talking about that fight-or-flight response built in to keep us alive when the saber-toothed tiger leaps out of the bushes. It’s why you and I are here right now. Our cave ancestor learned what hurt or killed and then he stayed away from it. You and I learned this stuff too, from staying out of traffic to keeping your little fingers off the stove burner.

Stay away from things that are hot, have teeth, swinging fists, or travel at high speeds.

But I don’t meet a lot of saber-toothed tigers or fists anymore. I’ve learned to stay physically safe. I even wear my seat belt, don’t smoke, and rarely drink alcoholic beverages. (I know, I’m such a good girl, right!?)

So what am I so afraid of today?

Failure & Rejection. And believe it or not, these fears all go back to our cave ancestors and serve our survival.

Because we seriously need other people.

We needed our pack in the caves to hunt and gather enough for our survival. We needed them for warmth (yup, the fireside kind, the tight hugs, and the emotional support.) We need them today for most of the same reasons. So the fear of rejection and failure is a real legitimate fear. Don’t let anyone say it’s silly, or made up. You need your pack. No man is an island.

Here’s how you toss aside that fear of failure and rejection.

Surround yourself with people who support you. I know, that sounds ridiculously simple. But so many of us stick with friends and significant others who berate us, who tell us to stop dreaming so big, who tell us to be content and satisfied with what we have. Yeah, I’ve been there.

You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.

So what if you shift things around to surround yourself with people who are successful in your field? Find people who have already accomplished or are working to accomplish exactly the thing you’re doing. Imagine how it would feel to talk about the things you love and the things you want to do and hear encouragement along with constructive advice.

Find this group, and your life will change forever.

You’ll be fearless.

I’m not suggesting you abandon everyone you know, but you do need to evaluate who is helping you reach toward your goals and who is holding you back. Spend less time with people who hold you back. If they are permanently in your life then just don’t talk to them about your biggest goal. Stick to safe topics and surround yourself with other people for your goal support. (Trust me, they’re out there. I’ll tell you how to find them in a minute.)

Here’s the thing that took me way too long to figure out. I’m not stuck on a playground anymore. I’m not limited to the people who show up at random in my life. I am all grown up and I get to pick who I hang out with. And I get to choose the criteria. Wow. I hope you figured this out a long time ago. either way, do a little test now and then to make sure you are surrounding yourself with optimal people for your goals.

Imagine right now that you failed big on your current path to your goal. Which of your friends and family would laugh, or say they told you so, or just look at you with pity because it’s what they expected all along? These are the people you steer clear of. If you identified some on your side, your biggest cheerleaders and best companions, hold them close.

What if you just discovered you’re all alone?

No worries, because you can fix that. Find local groups and businesses that are doing what you want to do. Meet the owners. Make friends. And if you can’t find local people, then google conferences in your field. There are conferences for just about everything you can imagine. Save up and go to some. And while you’re waiting you can join a FaceBook group. Follow people on Twitter. Make virtual friends who will become real life friends when you meet up at conferences or events.

This sounds weird doesn’t it, because most of us have never been strategic about who we surround ourselves with. we take whoever happens to be there. That makes no sense at all if you’re planing the rest of your life with specific goals. Obviously there’s more to this though. It isn’t just about what you can get for your goals. It’s about the whole pack–your pack. And that means you’ll be giving back, too.

Be a support for other people in your field.

You aren’t going to just look for people who can do something for you. You’re going to attend events and offer to do things for other people. They want the same thing you do, to surround themselves with positive people who are working toward a big goal. People who help them dust off their knees when they fail and also help them find a new path. Someone who will tell them they can do it and then help make it happen.

You can have anything you want if you help enough other people get what they want. That’s what Zig Ziglar said and it’s true.

Be the person other people want in their circle of support. Give. Get.

Now that you’re fearless, there’s nothing to stop you. You’re going to reach all the way to your biggest dream and beyond. Your new support group isn’t going to reject you and they will only see one failure as a stepping stone in your ultimate success.

Now, step out of your cave and go select your pack!

And if the sort of fear that’s holding you back is physical fear of an abuser or PTSD from traumatic past events, you can get through that too. Check out my discussion with Psychologist Ellen Hendricksen on episode 3 of the Raise My Roof podcast. And make sure you subscribe so you’ll get a new episode each week!

cara brookins
Cara Brookins - Raise My Roof

Start Your Career Like J.K. Rowling – Getting Paid To Write

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Writing Tips5 Comments


I wanted to be Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling when I started writing. No, I don’t mean I wanted to write the same books or even in the same style, but I wanted their success. I wanted to write, and I wanted to get paid for it–even pay my bills from it–and these icons proved that earning a good living was possible. From the media stories it looked like they almost effortlessly fell into wild success. Real life Cinderella stories.

But how often are things really the way they look in the media?

More on that in a minute. Because as soon as I mentioned to other people that I wanted to write and I started to read things about other writers and creatives of all sorts, I noticed the overwhelming opinion was that artists should work solely for the love of their craft. They should stay true to their muse, follow their hearts, and most of all they shouldn’t be bothered with things of this earth, like having enough money to pay bills. Writers shouldn’t write to trends or worry about a reader or how commercial their book might be. And if that was your focus, some would call you a sellout.

So I shifted my focus. Writing became more of a hobby than a career. I didn’t put much time or study into it. I had zero strategy for success. So it’s no surprise it didn’t come and tap me on the shoulder. Getting paid, after all, was just a bonus. The real value of art is the way you’re staying true to your soul.

Um. What? Seriously? How can anyone say this stuff with a straight face?

Trust me, you won’t have to look very far to find this muck. You will, however, not find a single article suggesting doctors should practice for the joy of it, or without compensation for their years of study or long hours of work. No one says this about assembly line workers for Ford either, or taxi drivers, and no, not even dog groomers.

I’m not clear where things went all wrong for creatives, but we need writers and sculptors and painters as certainly as we need brick layers. They build a layer of society essential for health and happiness–and especially, for the transfer of knowledge and ideas.

There. Glad we cleared that up.

We all agree that getting paid for your expertise and hard work is not only acceptable but perfectly reasonable and even essential, so let’s move on to the how. Especially in an environment where you’ll still hear the archaic mindset above. (Why is there no eye-roll key on my keyboard?)

I hope you’ve arrived at this realization earlier than I did. I wasted years–many years–buying into this ridiculous idea. And by the time I sorted out the truth of all this, I was not only years behind, my haphazard writing directions had made a mess of my booklist.

I was all over the map. There were no patterns. No direction. No brand, unless chaos counts (and someone already made a movie about that.)

If you’re a creative and you want to get paid, good for you. ((Hugs)) You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you. Because Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling aren’t exactly what they appear to be. They aren’t overnight successes. They are what we like to call 20-year overnight successes. Because they laid the groundwork and developed a strategy long before they ever cashed heavy checks.

Dan Brown wrote some real flops under a pen name, like, Men to Avoid: A Survival Guide for the Romantically Frustrated Woman. And, The Bald Book. And his first three suspense novels were pretty much a flop too until after one hit it big. Who knows how many other manuscripts never saw the light of day or were tossed in the early stages. He worked hard for his success. He tried a lot of things.

But you know what he didn’t do? He didn’t give up.

J.K. Rowling wrote stories for her little sister when they were just children. Her education and jobs focused on language and teaching. She based Hermione on herself, for goodness sake. So if you’ve read Harry Potter you know how hard she worked! She wrote, she studied, she dreamed up stories.

And you knew this was coming, right? She didn’t give up. She found the thing she wanted to do and she sacrificed to make it happen, to make it real and grow it into something big.

Write one book, and you’re in. The Midas touch. It’s a nice dream but you can let it go now.

Instead, do this:

Surround yourself with people who are already successful in this field.
Find a writing club or organization. Attend conferences. Join online groups. Attending conferences with the top writers in the world changed everything for me. Hearing their mindset and strategy gave me permission to view writing as a serious career.

Study your craft. If you want to be taken seriously, if you want this to be your professional career, put in the time. Take classes, read blogs of successful writers, listen to podcasts, consume free material and paid material. Invest in yourself and your career.

Develop a strategy to make money with your writing. What do you bring with you to this career that can be monetized? Maybe you can share your expertise in legal contracts, or linguistics, or police procedure. It’s very difficult to make enough money writing books to support yourself. Add additional streams of revenue by teaching other writers. Blog, do a podcast, develop a workbook or course with more people in your field. Run this career like the business it is.

Do it. Don’t plan for it, or dream about it, or even get sulky about it. Leap in and write. Surround yourself with story. The best way to be a writer, is to write!

Don’t give up. Keep your eye on the goal. If you exhaust one strategy, don’t change the goal, change your path. Find a different way to get there. If you want this as bad as you say you do, you’ll give it everything you got until it’s your reality. Don’t settle for anything less than your dream. It’s out there. It’s possible.

You will be an author.

And most importantly, you will get paid for it.
cara brookins

Will This Path Take Me To My Goal? – Raise My Roof With Ben Lieberman

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips0 Comments

Raise My Roof - Cara Brookins

You may be more sure of your goals than anyone in the world. And if you have the determination to get there, it seems like there’s no stopping you. Everyone believes you’ll make it. Until something major comes along to scramble everything. Maybe it’s something good, or something tough. Or maybe it’s a tragedy of the worst degree. A nightmare.

The trick will be to pull yourself back together and come though the transition with enough energy left to pursue your goals. To get back on track and get life back to ‘normal’. Just let enough time pass to find your footing again, to re-discover your passion. To get back on schedule.

Or at least that’s what everyone says.

People mean well. They want the best when they say things like this. In fact, you’ve probably said the same things to someone else before. (I know I have.) But when something big and unexpected hits, you barely remember what normal feels like–and you’re pretty sure you’ll never be there again. And in order to hit a goal, (even a simple one like feeling normal again) you have to be able to visualize that goal in extreme detail.

The truth is, when a life-changing event smacks up against you, it, well… it changes your life.

You have to find a new normal, and that’s going to take time.

What about all those big goals you had? You were chasing your passion and doing well. Will you have to abandon those dreams forever? No. If you took the time to discover exactly that thing that lights up your eyes and drives you to work through the night, then there is nothing and no one that can knock you off that big path.

You most definitely have hit a detour. But that’s not the end of the world.

Sometimes a detour turns into one of the most important things you’ve ever done.

My kids and I went through some really terrible times. We were trapped in a nightmare of domestic violence and stalking for years. Even though I knew my big goal was writing fiction, it was difficult to make progress when so much time was devoted to survival.

It was during the darkest, worst time of our lives that we had the idea to do the biggest thing we’d ever accomplish. Necessity is the mother of invention. We needed a house. We needed safety. We needed a project that would bring us all together. So we built a house.

Talk about the mother of all side projects! We didn’t know normal and building a house wasn’t going to help us find it. But it was part of our journey there. It was part of the healing.

My passion was still writing fiction. I wasn’t setting a new goal of building houses. In fact, I may never build another house. (Shhh. Don’t tell my kids!) But I gave myself permission to go down this path and do what needed to be done so I would be stronger and so my kids would be bolder, bigger people. I didn’t know then that the project would also become part of my writing career. I didn’t know where it would take me. I just knew I had to do it, and I also knew it was temporary and that I really would get back on track to pursue that big thing I was meant to do with my life.

My story isn’t unique.

You’ve been through big things of all sorts of degrees, and so have the people you love. What’s unique is the path each of us takes through to the other side. And that’s why we listen to one another’s stories. Because we can learn valuable tips for doing more than surviving, for triumphing and building an even bigger life than we imagined. We can impact hundreds of people in the middle of their own life-changing events.

On this week’s Raise My Roof podcast I’m chatting with Ben Lieberman. His path included a great job on wall street and a growing writing career. And then that big event came. For Ben it was every parent’s worst nightmare. His son was killed in a car accident in which the driver–a good friend–was distracted by texting.

His life was forever changed. He would have to find a new normal. He started to go down a healing path, but he didn’t stop there. Distracted driving was still killing other people’s children, and he decided someone had to become an activist. Someone had to change laws and mindsets.

And even though it was miles away from his original dreams, Ben Lieberman began to do exactly that.

Curious how he’s doing it?

Tune in to this week’s Raise My Roof Podcast. And make sure you subscribe so you’ll get a new episode each week!

You will hear the love and determination in Ben’s voice. And you’ll come away filled with the courage to embrace the side path the next time you or someone you love is slammed away from the safe path toward your goals. You’ll grow stronger and more capable of reaching the biggest dreams than you ever would have been before.

cara brookins
Cara Brookins - Raise My Roof

Loving Your Day Job – Raise My Roof With Joanna Penn

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips0 Comments

Cara Brookins - Raise My Roof

Look me in the eyes and tell me you love your day job. I can tell if you mean it, and not because I have super powers. Things just change when you talk about the thing you’re most passionate about. It sounds like a ridiculous cliche, I know, but your eyes really do light up. You become more animated. You talk faster, lean forward, and you sound smarter because this is a topic you know inside and out. When you talk about the thing you love, it shows.

Everyone can tell.

And the craziest thing about this is how much of our lives we spend looking for this thing when everyone around us can already see what it is. Label it your calling, your purpose, your destiny, or your passion.

It’s just your thing.

Whatever else you do in life, you’d better find a way to do that thing or you’re never going to feel quite right. You’ll be restless, dissatisfied, and a little bit lost. And you’ll spend too much time doing the day job that leaves your eyes cold, dead, and empty when you talk about it. Okay, well that’s probably over-the-top harsh, but you get the idea.

Maybe you know exactly what your thing is. Or maybe you did once and everyone talked you out of Christmas tree farming to point you toward a more respectable career as a teacher or a more financially secure one as an attorney. Maybe you went into the family cheese business or chose a profession to make someone else’s dreams come true. Or maybe you actually found your thing and now you want to help your kids, your partner or someone else find theirs. Here’s how you can determine if someone needs to make a move right now. Ask that person you love, or yourself (who you should also love) this:

Are you spending the bulk of your time doing the thing you ache for?

If not, it’s time for a change.

I believe everyone shows what they’re most passionate about when they’re little. Somewhere between the ages of three to seven, you felt completely free to do what you loved. You sang opera or tamed stuffed crocodiles and didn’t feel any obligation to change for other people. You did what was fun to you and you alone. Sure, that sounds a little self centered, but when you’re discovering your passion, it really is all about you.

What did you spend time doing when you were little? Were you reading? Drawing? Building towers? Planning parties? Digging for a T-Rex? Pulling your sister’s loose teeth? Playing at doing Mom’s taxes? Did you hug a bow and arrow or a calculator to fall asleep? What made you dance and giggle and jabber until your mom held her hands over her ears and everyone in the family rolled their eyes?

What consumed you?

Ask your family members. Look through photo albums. Time travel using any means necessary. Go all the way back to before you knew how unlikely or unloved a job in that profession might be. Go back to when you believed anything was possible. Find your thing. I bet your eyes still light up when you think about the way four-year-old you was true to yourself.

Anything is possible right now. Actually, it always was. You were just tricked out of the thing you were meant to do by frightened people who didn’t know how to turn it into a real career. Maybe that person was even you.

No shame or regret. It happens to so many of us. (Me included.) No looking back, just look forward to your new life plan. Because you can seriously make a living doing that thing you love most, and that is true no matter how weird, or niche, or silly your thing is.

On this week’s Raise My Roof podcast I’m chatting with Joanna Penn. She was working in the financial industry and absolutely miserable. But how do you walk away from a job that makes a respectable income? How do you align your goals with your financial realities and responsibilities?

Joanna Penn did exactly that.

She left the day job she hated and found a way to make a good living doing exactly that thing she loved most. She made the move with a series of careful calculations. And she was open minded when monetization opportunities appeared even if they weren’t part of her original plan.

Curious how she did it?

Tune in to this week’s Raise My Roof Podcast! (And make sure you subscribe so you’ll get a new episode each week!)

You will hear in Joanna’s voice that she has found and excelled at exactly the thing she was meant to do. Cliche or not, I’m going to call it a bit of a sparkle in her eye, and it will leave you more motivated than ever to find that thing in your own life.


cara brookins
Cara Brookins - Raise My Roof

Confidence Changed Everything – How I Borrowed Until I Could Buy

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips0 Comments

Cara Brookins - Confidence

Fake it ’til you make it, they say. And it’s sound advice for many times in our lives. (Like ordering lunch in a foreign language, or one of those fast-moving coffee shops for experts.) But most people misunderstand what exactly they’re supposed to fake and how to do it.

And even after you finally get the idea down–unless you’re a trained actor–faking stuff in a believable way is a lot harder than you expect. Sometimes you fall flat on your face. And sometimes you end up with really awful coffee.

People reaching for an impossibly big goal are an anomaly. Normal people just don’t know how to take us, and we’re actually not so sure how to take ourselves sometimes. (Am I brave or a little crazy?) A lot of times we feel undeserving, unprepared, or even unworthy even after years of hard work and sacrifice.

We feel this way partly because we put so much high-level pressure (read: perfectionist) on ourselves that we underestimate our own skills, and partly because so many people around us are startled and uncertain by huge dreams. Big dreamers are used to hearing: What makes you think you can do all that? Aren’t you setting yourself up for failure? Shouldn’t you be content where you’re at? You have your head in the clouds, don’t you!

But let me remind you that confidence isn’t always narcissism. Sometimes it’s earned fair and square through hard work and sacrifice. Sometimes people really do achieve big, impossible things. But more often, people who could have are knocked down by popular opinion. (read: discouragement) Let’s put an end to that, should we?

Where the heck do these big ideas even come from?

I don’t know. And I’ve sort of quit trying to figure it out. Maybe it’s mysterious and magical, or a perfect storm of skill meeting adversity. But when you have a big idea that (for some reason you can’t explain) suddenly feels not just completely possible but necessary, you just have to do it.

When I had the idea to build a house everyone thought I was crazy. This shocked me every single time I heard it. Because when I added up where we were at (broke, scared, small, uncertain) the one and only way I could see for us to move forward was to do this big thing. And I never doubted for a minute that we could do it.

Of course I can see now how this looked to everyone else. But there’s something that happens to each of us a few times in our lives that reaches to the depths of our strength and makes us more than we appear to be. It’s like some collective strength from the universe just rises up inside our heads and whispers, “Heck yeah, you will do this thing!”

Below is the the blank slate of our land before the loan was secure. Yeah, this dream was worth fighting for.

Cara Brookins - Inkwell

When a big dream hits, you have to go for it.

The confidence is there in the beginning, right after the idea slams into you. In fact, you’ve never been more confident. But your own doubts will creep in and so will everyone else’s and this is when the faking starts.

When I tried to get a construction loan for the supplies to build our house, I was declined. More than once. More than twice to be honest. No loan officers actually laughed at me, but the giggles over my absurd idea were most definitely implied. Who was I to think I could build a house based on YouTube videos, a book from the 60’s and my experience building a bookcase and changing the batteries in my smoke alarms?

But I could do it. I knew my kids and I could do it.

So on the first week of December just a few years ago, I walked into the final bank wearing a pin-striped skirt suit. My shoulders were back and my step had a kick that suggested I might own the place. I carried an armload of documents and copies of my blueprints. (So they were pencil drawn by my fifteen-year-old and me at the kitchen table, they were in an official looking cardboard tube!) I told the loan officer what he would do for me, and I gave him a deadline. I was a busy, competent person, after all, and I couldn’t stand for any silly delays.

I was the picture of confidence. I had command of the place. They took me seriously. And I walked out with a loan for 1/3 more than I asked for. You’ve never seen a more confident, intentional approach.

Of course I was faking it.

So much sweat had dripped down the backs of my knees that I had trouble keeping my shoes on when I walked out. But by the time I pulled into the driveway to tell the kids, something profound had happened. A good portion of that fake confidence stuck tight. It hadn’t come out of nowhere, after all, I had just called it back up from the early moments of my big idea. And with this affirmation and each one after, it became more and more a part of who I was.

That girl who walked into the bank feeling like an impostor?

She was me all along.

You can’t build a house with fake skill though. And that’s where people get confused with the fake it ’til you make it idea. It doesn’t mean you fake the work or study, just the level of certainty that you’re equipped for it. Once you land that start up money or that first client, that isn’t the time to kick back and consider yourself arrived.

After your confidence lands you the part, you darn well better work triple time to bring your skills up to par.

So my kids and I learned how to build a house. We studied energy efficient building options. We discussed wind turbines and solar panels and learned about passive solar construction. We read the benefit of a solid door/window header and how to build counter tops out of concrete. We learned the skills.

We learned, too, that faking confidence is nothing more than believing in yourself. It’s leaping in and giving it a shot, and then leaping in to do it all over again if it fails. There’s nothing really fake about it in the end. Because you’re wearing the belief that you will eventually figure this thing out for two reasons, you’re too stubborn to quit, and you want it too bad to give up.

We built a house.

And I know you’ll achieve your big dream, whatever it is, because you have permission to believe in yourself enough to learn the skills and when the time comes to get this thing off the ground, you’re going to walk into the place like you own it.

Cara Brookins - Construction

cara brookins

Hosting a Podcast – Why I Love It

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips4 Comments

Cara Brookins - podcast

I never planned to host a podcast. This is surprising since I’ve been a fanatical podcast listener since before most people had even heard of them. The truth is, I’m an all-around huge fan of spoken story in all forms. Live storytelling, audiobooks, and the shorter clips shared in podcasts. If you’re one of the rare sort who hasn’t explored this world yet, podcasts are free shows and the playlist is as diverse as the internet.

I think of them as old fashioned radio style shows. You get to know the host’s voice, personality, and often their life story while they share the topic of their show. My subscription list is as varied as my reading list, but I lean toward science, history, and anything that resembles a story. Some of my favs if you need a place to start are from NPR, PRX, and Radiotopia.

As much as I love this endless supply of information and motivation, I just never imagined I’d lend my own voice. I also love listening to aucoustic guitar, but after a short attempt to master a few prescool level songs, I decided I should remain a very appreciative listener.

And yet, here I am.

Cara Brookins - Raise My Roof

I’m officially the host of a motivational podcast. It’s called Raise My Roof. And it happened completely by accident. (The preview episode is available at the end of this post!)

That sounds ridiculous both because I’m very intentional with my writing career and because podcasting is a lot of work. It’s something you plan for, organize, build, and launch only after careful deliberation over the commitment.

Well, usually.

I was in a conference-call meeting with a variety of people with my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and someone quipped up at the end of the call, “Oh, I promised someone over at Macmillan I would ask if you’re by any chance interested in guest hosting a podcast?”

And of course I answered, “Oh my gosh! I LOVE podcasts! Of course I’ll guest host a podcast!”

We had different definitions of “guest hosting.”

My understanding was that I would leap on someone else’s podcast for an episode. (Read one episode.) It would be fun! It would be temporary. It would be a quick thing I did one afternoon before I carried on with my exceptionally long to-do list.

Then I received and email from the folks over at Macmillan with my podcast briefing. It outlined a dozen episodes. And it already had this fantastic graphic. And there were all these ideas for guests who had overcome trauma or transitioned through difficult things—no, not transitioned but triumphed—and then more guests and topics and… and…

Just like that, we were off and running.

While I signed contracts and lined up guests, my friends all said, “What are you doing? You don’t have time for this. You’re really going to regret this.”

And I really worried they were right. I continued listening to my favorite podcasts and the worry grew. These hosts were so smart and authentic and comfortable with themselves. One thought just kept hounding me.

I’m not that girl.

I’ve never interviewed people in an audio format in my life. And because I’ve never planned to, I honestly wasn’t paying attention to how it’s done. I mean I noticed during interviews if it was done well or done poorly, but I didn’t pause to take notes on the little things that made a big difference.

I was serious out of my element. In over my head. And no, I couldn’t back out. By the time I realized everything that was involved, we were ready to roll. I didn’t even have time to read up on how to do this. To finally take those notes about what works and what doesn’t. I didn’t even have time to form a plan.

Like I do with so many (too many?) things in life, I decided to just charge in fearless. And by that I don’t mean I wasn’t afraid, I was actually shaking in my slippers, but I intended to plow forward anyhow.

I chatted with my first guest and it went really well. It wasn’t perfect. I said stupid things at some points. Then I blushed a little, rolled my eyes, and carried on. Then I had another guest. I fumbled plenty through that one too and now and then I also said some things that made good sense. And then I realized something very important.

This is what I love about podcasts. The host is a regular person. No one special. No one trained. Just someone with an unstoppable passion for the topic and overwhelming curiosity about their guests. And I realized the most important thing about the whole process.

I was exactly that girl.

Sure, it takes some time to get used to letting things slide. Doing less than my best work. Moving on without editing the details. But I’m learning to. Because if that’s what I love about podcasts, it’s safe to say this same authenticity is why other people will tune in.

That’s not to say my podcast isn’t edited. But it isn’t edited by me. I make the recordings and send them all to my producer Alyssa and my editor, Nathan, at Macmillan. They handle a pile of podcasts under their Quick and Dirty Tips umbrella. Yes, you should definitely go check these out because 2.4 million listeners are tuned in to them!

I’m wrapping up the first season now. And I finally feel like I’ve found a bit of my voice for this. I’m not quite as scared when I turn on the mic and make that call. I can kick back and relax with the guests more. Will there be a second season? I haven’t decided yet. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also endlessly fascinating to talk with empowering people and share their stories.

I never imagined I’d say this.
But if the response to Raise My Roof is good, I think I’ll keep going.

I have a lot to learn. Most of it’s not about the best way to do an interview. Most of it’s about being my authentic, quirky self in front of a mic and rolling with whatever happens next.

Listen to a preview episode:

cara brookins



P.S. If you’re curious about the technical details of podcasting I’ll be posting a list of my equipment soon. The most important detail is (obviously) quality sound. So I construct a very small cave and huddle in it cross legged and smiling. Here it is with my foam door wide open for some air. It’s all about soft spaces.

Cara Brookins - Podcast

Cover Quotes Sell Books – How To Get A Great Author Quote

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips0 Comments

Cara Brookins - Cover Quotes

The publishing process is so much more complex than most people imagine when they begin writing a book. After adding dozens of unnecessary words to high school essays to reach a target word count, I started my writing career believing the most difficult thing was just to put an entire books worth of words on paper (without including things like: a very, very, very cold winter…). And after I had a few books under my belt, I believed selling a book to a publisher was the toughest part.

Then I learned a thing or two about marketing.

Without a doubt, marketing and publicity are right up there with the greatest writing challenges–at least in my world. So I was thrilled when St. Martin’s Press assigned a marketing and publicity team to me for the Rise release. I imagined they would handle everything. I imagined my only task would be to smile, send gratitude, and start writing my next book.

Not for the first time, I was so very, very, very wrong. Having teams of people helping with marketing just meant more suggestions coming my way. And ultimately, I was still the one who had to do the hands on work. They might set up the interviews, make connections, point me toward great ideas, but I had to step up and find the time and courage to do them.

Ultimately, you’re the best person to market your book.
And you’re the only person who can complete some of the major steps on the marketing plan.

One of the most important things you’ll do for your book is secure a quote for the cover from a a well-respected author. I’ve heard these called endorsements, jacket quotes, or blurbs. I usually call them blurbs. Here’s one on the cover of Rise:

Cara Brookins - Rise blurb

High quality blurbs are important because we do judge a book by it’s cover, and that means the endorsements as well as the title and art. Word of mouth sells. We trust a friend’s judgement when they say, “You just have to read this fantastic book!” And that’s what a blurb becomes. After a reader has read and loved several books by an author, they feel like friend enough to trust their judgement.

When Lee Child or Stephen King say they liked a book, I’m more likely to buy it than if it’s just another a new title from an unknown author.

But how do you get a blurb from a top selling author?

Authors tend to be independent all the way through. We like working on our own and it’s crazy-tough to ask for help. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you ask for a blurb and its intimidating. Every. Single Time.

Follow these steps to make blurb hunting easier:

Who? Make a list of authors you admire in your genre. Choose those with a large fan base and start with high expectations at the top of your wishlist. If they don’t pan out you can go to your plan B list. You should run the list by your editor and publicity team. There could be a conflict you’re unaware of that might lead a publisher to nix some of your ideas. Don’t get pulled down in the messy politics of this. Just move on to your next pick.

When? Start early. As soon as you start writing your book, join organizations, take classes, and rub elbows with real people in your genre. You will meet people qualified to give blurbs or at least people who know people. The writing world is small. We all travel in the same circles, and finding a connection to an author is so much better than a cold call. Don’t wait until you’re finsihed with your book to start making these connections.

Where? Getting contact info can be tough, especially if your target author has celebrity status. Start by asking the friends you met at conferences, events, or on social media. Next go to your agent, editor, publicist and marketing team for suggestions. They may be able to get a direct email address or at least an agent or editor connected to the author. Unfortunately, they will rarely go all the way to get the blurb for you though, you have to do the ground work on this.

What do you say? Introduce yourself and if you’ve met, remind the author where and describe why they are a great fit for this particular book. (Maybe it’s a similar topic to one of their books?) Be brief and to the point, but include a very short description of your book that includes the genre, publisher, and release date. Also include a deadline for when you’ll need the blurb so they know if they will be able to fit you in. You should explain where you will use a blurb and of course you should always thank them for their time.

How many? This can vary depending on your publisher’s plan. My goal for Rise was six committed blurbs so I kept asking until eight people agreed. (And that took more requests than usual because many were celebrities I didn’t know. I made 43 requests for Rise.) You will be able to use at least one on the cover, several more on the back, and some in the interior and on your website copy. Every single quote is valuable.

Then you wait. I keep all of my requests in a spreadsheet that includes dates and followup plans. After you’ve made the request, you just have to be patient. Sending one followup note close to the deadline is appropriate, but no more than that. It’s possible the author couldn’t fit it in after all. Or maybe they decided it wasn’t a great fit for them. No hard feelings, if you remind them and they don’t get back to you before the deadline, just move on. This is why you asked for more than you needed from the start.

Don’t ever pay for a blurb. And don’t discard a blurb without using at least part of it. Someone took time to read your book and send you a note. There should be something positive in it you can use.

**It’s perfectly acceptable to chop a blurb up and use shortened parts of it. This is a standard in the publishing industry. You can even use several forms of the same blurb. Use a short note on the book cover and a longer version on your website.

Always. Return the favor. If the author ever asks you for a blurb or any other favor you can deliver, make sure you follow through. At the very least you should always review their books on Amazon and request them at your local library. And in the same spirit, pay it forward. You know how difficult it was to ask for a blurb. When a new author approaches you, respond promptly, be honest about your time commitment, and help them out whenever you can.

More blurbs for Rise:

“This rousing memoir beautifully illustrates how one family can look apprehension dead in the eye and scoff at it. For readers looking for inspiration to accomplish a daunting task, they need look no further than Brookins’ highly engaging and encouraging book.” ―Booklist

“A tough, honest memoir. Brookins deftly narrates the extreme learning curve her family experienced while putting a family back together again.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Cara Brookins did something remarkable with her life: She turned trauma into power and fear into courage. She refused to be a victim anymore. In powerful ways, her extraordinary memoir, Rise, tells the story of her resurrection from victim of domestic abuse to bad-ass mom with a hammer and carpenter’s square. You will be enlightened. You will be inspired. You will cheer her on as she builds a new home and a new life for herself and her four children ― one brick at a time.” ― John Grogan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Marley & Me

“If Rise were a novel, the plot―woman escapes domestic violence to build her own house, assisted only by her children and YouTube videos―would seem impossibly far-fetched. But Cara Brookins actually lived this story, and reading her account of it slowly filled me to the brim with admiration, hope, and belief that a determined human can do practically anything. Rise is a compelling story, lovingly told, that will uplift and inspire readers whatever their circumstances.” ― Martha Beck, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Your Own North Star

“Sometimes the universe puts us in a bad place and dares us to fight our way out. Cara Brookins did just this. We should all be as strong as her. This book will provide the powerful imagery and guidance for a generation of people who need to change their lives.” ― Tom Hart, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rosalie Lightning

“This inspiring real-life story that’s all the more amazing because it’s true. Readers will be both spellbound and lifted by it.” ― David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author

“Telling a story like Rise takes guts. It also takes talent, which Cara has in spades. To paraphrase Sondheim, she made a house, where there never was a house. And then she wrote this memorable book about it. Believe me, it’s pretty rare for those skill sets to overlap.” ― Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone

“Readers will be torn between believing Cara is a one-of-a-kind hero, and that anyone can be. At once heartbreaking and deeply inspiring, in Rise, Cara proves to herself, her children, and the rest of the world that strength comes from within and can be rebuilt, brick by brick. ― Hilary Liftin, co-author of the New York Times bestseller sTORI Telling

“It has been a very long time since I have read a book as singular and as profoundly moving as Rise. Rise, by turns daunting and uplifting, gives new meaning to the concepts of heroism and sacrifice, and it is a remarkable construct in itself.” ― Les Standiford, author of Water to the Angels

cara brookins

Our First Thanksgiving – Building Inkwell Manor

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Family, Rise, Writing Tips8 Comments

Cara Brookins -Inkwell Thanksgiving

We started small. Over the Thanksgiving of 2007 my kids and I gathered twigs, pine needles, and acorns to build a small model of a house. It was pitiful and crumbling with no thought of plumbing or electricity. The mini-house wasn’t much to look at even after we added doll house furniture and glued it all together. Our early sketches were crooked and far off scale. Our understanding of foundations and footings was juvenile. But having a safe place to put our beds, even if it was drawn in pencil and modeled in twigs, put our minds in a safe place too.

Cara Brookins - stick house

Once this idea to build a house hit us, we all grabbed tight. I still don’t know exactly where it came from even though I know exactly when I first thought it. It didn’t come from me, that’s for sure. I’m not the sort of girl who just builds herself a house. It came from some other place. Some wild place. And since wild ideas can be as flighty as wild horses, we didn’t let loose of the idea no matter what anyone else said. And trust me, people had plenty to say. But we needed something wild. We needed that house.

The planning wasn’t like you’d expect, because most of the conversation and the decision happened with very few words. We started building a crude stick house and sketching layouts. We planned a den, a kitchen, and even a library without a clue how we would run pipes, raise walls, or frame windows. No one disagreed with the places we put bedrooms or broom closets. No one asked if we’d lost our minds. No one looked back.

Yes, I know that sounds impossible. But it’s true.

We’d lost a lot. We’d been through hell, the kids and me, and all at once we knew that the old life would end only after we built a new one. We didn’t know yet that building it would be as difficult and painful as the letting go and healing would be. We didn’t know it would hurt in every possible way. There was a lot more that we didn’t know than the things we did. But we knew we needed to build a house long before we ever knew how.

That was enough.

The kids and I had run away to hide that Thanksgiving. We had started to believe that everyone deserved a happy home. Everyone deserved a place without monsters and ghosts. Even my kids and me.

Then before any of us paused to think about what it would really take to build a life-sized version of our model, we’d agreed that we were building it for real. That den. That kitchen. And even that library. And all out of two-by-fours, pipes, and shingles instead of twigs.

Planning our house was the most hopeful Thanksgiving we’ve ever had. Even with a tossed-together meal in a lonely cabin. Even with kids whose spirits were as broken as my own heart.

We hoped the five of us needing a thing more than we needed breath would push us to make it our reality. We hoped building physical walls would break down the mental ones that kept each of us locked in our own heads.

We hoped building a house would rebuild our family.

Cara Brookins - Inkwell Thanksgiving

Nine years later, the little stick house is long gone. The real thing is sturdy and complete.

We are safe. We are sitting—all five of us—around our table in the house we built with our own hands. We have no monsters. The ghosts still stop by, but we throw them out after a brief tussle.

And this year, like the eight before it and all the ones to come, it’s the most thankful Thanksgiving we’ve ever had.
cara brookins

Just Say Yes

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Family, Rise, Writing Tips0 Comments

Cara Brookins - justsayyes

With Rise weeks away from release, each week I’ve been thinking about where we were in the building process back in the fall we decided to build our own house.

That November was a terrible time for me and my kids. Not because awful things were happening though. In fact, we were finally free of so many things. Well, we were physically free. Emotionally, we were broken.

I had no idea how to put our pieces back together.

Even though I was confident we could be put together again, I imagined the glue lines would be obvious, ugly things. And I kept thinking about how everyone says healing takes time. So I fantasized about pausing the world so we could work through everything that had happened and plan a better future.

But we didn’t have time.

And the world doesn’t pause no matter how often I put in the request. My oldest kids were teenagers and I knew I’d lose them for good if I didn’t find a way for all of us to connect.

So I listened to everyone’s advice:

1. Take baby steps
2. Focus on the positive
3. Lean on each other
4. Communicate

It all sounded so perfect and logical. It was neat and tidy and simple. And it was pretty universal. Dozens of people and books and videos seemed to suggest these same things.

It was the wrong advice for us.

Baby steps weren’t going to get us anywhere fast enough to suit me. I wanted a better life for my kids and time was running short before they moved out and into their own adult lives. I needed to build something positive before I could focus on it. We didn’t like each other well enough to lean one each other, and we didn’t know each other well enough to communicate.

In a horrific situation, families don’t pull together. Each person goes into survival mode and pulls deep into their own mind. That’s where we were. Hidden in our own noisy heads. Afraid of everything. Afraid to really live.

So I made up new rules.

I would design a project that:

1. Required a huge leap
2. Built something positive
3. Demanded team work
4. Would fail without communication

But the week before Thanksgiving we hadn’t even committed to a specific project yet. We just had the wiggle of an idea. We hadn’t yet said it out loud.

You don’t have to be as low as we were to re-write your rules.

Maybe you’re ready for some things to change in your life. And if you’ve been listening to what everyone else says, you probably think you can realize this change if you just aim yourself in the general direction and chant, “Every little step brings you closer.”

That wasn’t enough for me and I doubt it will be enough for you.

Make a decision to do something a little radical. Take a step so enormous you barely recognize the terrain. Do something so big and so impossible that accomplishing it will change the way you see yourself. And if at all possible, don’t do any of this alone.

Chances are, you didn’t get where you are today all by yourself. You had family or friends who took the journey with you. If they felt the same tough times, they might need a change as badly as you do. Invite them on your quest for a better life.

On the week before Thanksgiving back on the awful year, my kids and I were searching. We were dreaming of a bigger, better life with no idea of how we would get there.

We were opening our minds to all sorts of possibilities.

We were saying yes.

Whatever crazy ideas we came up with that had any remote chance of survival, we allowed ourselves to imagine. And within each scenario, we said yes to each tiny step.

Some of the ideas were terrible. But we played through them anyhow, because you never know which one will ignite something bigger and better.

Other ideas were great, but they didn’t feel right for our family just then.

So we kept pulling our ideas out of our heads.
We kept thinking and imagining. And We kept saying yes and what if. We knew we’d discover exactly the right thing if we kept going closer to the edge of what we believed was possible. And when we finally reached that edge, we’d leap in.

Keep your mind open while you look for the thing that will make a big change in your life, that thing that will change how you see yourself. It may be the least likely thing you ever expected.

One of the ideas in this mix for us was a house. And when it finally wiggled to the surface we didn’t hesitate. Not even enough to evaluate the likelihood of success. Not even to figure out the details.

We just said yes.

cara brookins

Speaking on Stage – Tell Your Story Out Loud

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Rise, Writing Tips1 Comment

CaraBrookins - Speak on stage

There’s no substitute for live events. Radio is powerful, and so are podcasts. Video is a step better, and I imagine VR will take us almost all the way there when it becomes more widespread. But there is nothing like seeing and hearing a person stand in front of you and tell their story.

Seeing someone’s eyes and hearing their voice rise in triumph, and watching the surety in the way they move tell so much more than the words they write in a book. Every person brings a type of energy with them and that’s certainly part of the appeal of meeting a favorite author or actor in real life. We want some of that to rub off on us. We want to feel connected with the things we love about this person.

But there’s another side too, and I think it’s even more important.

It’s about the way their voice breaks when they say the tough things out loud. It’s how their shoulders and their hearts fall when they describe how they were defeated. It’s how vulnerable and real and just like us they appear during certain moments when they’re on that stage.

It’s about being real.

And while that might be one of the most appealing parts of listening to a speaker, that’s one of the most difficult parts of being one.

If I could travel back and tell teenage Cara that she would be a motivational speaker one day, she would have run away and changed her name. She was the girl who stood up during speech class—put off until her senior year—and cried like a baby. Then on the second try, she shook violently while sweat dripped down her knees into her shoes.

I did NOT want to get up and talk in front of a crowd. Not ever.

I had never felt more singled out. More alone.

But then I had kids, and when they didn’t have a voice, I learned to speak for them.

Then I learned how many people don’t have a voice. I don’t mean physically, of course, but there are other reasons people can’t say out loud what they’ve been through.

    1. Younger versions of me who haven’t found their voice yet.
    2. People who will be in danger if they tell.
    3. Maybe words just aren’t a person’s thing.

As a writer, I have plenty of words. And I know how powerful it is to put a name to things. It helps you step back from what happened (or is still happening) and organize a way to change it and to heal. To move forward in a better way toward a bigger future. Listening to other people tell their stories helped me, and I knew I had to change the level of my own sharing.

I knew I had to learn to share my story out loud. I spoke about writing before I wrote my memoir, Rise, but I rarely spoke about my personal history on stage. So learning to speak about what I’d already written was just a matter of learning a new way to deliver these same thoughts.

Simple. Right?

Obviously not. And for all the reasons I already mentioned. It’s incredibly vulnerable to stand up and say, “Look, here are a lot of the things I did wrong in my life. They aren’t pretty. And I didn’t pay the consequences alone. My kids caught some of the fall out too.”

Public speaking is really humbling. It makes a person feel really small.

But of course there’s the rest. “And then here’s what I did to try to make things better. Some of it was really good. Some of it is sort of controversial. All of it was hard.”

And then comes the best part. The honesty.

Here’s what I learned from it. Here’s what I hope you learn. And maybe you have some ideas and experiences that I can learn from too. Because, you know what? You know the biggest truth?

We’re all in this together. The things we do right. The things we do wrong. The on purpose things and the accidental things all make us a part of the shared human race.

So that’s the real reason in person events are priceless. Because they bring us all to the same space—not just physically—with a reminder that we’re all just humans doing the best we can to live, love, and contribute.

And those things I felt back in high school when I stood up in front of everyone, that I was singled out, that I was all alone, that just meant I was doing it wrong. I was going in with the wrong attitude. I was thinking about myself. About how my hair looked and my voice sounded and how people might make fun of me.

What’s the right way to leap in when you’re on a stage?

It’s all about the audience. How do they feel? What can my words give to them? And how will they feel about themselves? And with that attitude you’ll find yourself feeling the opposite of little high school Cara.

I never feel more connected. So much a welcome part of everyone in the room.

If you’ve wondered why I’m doing more and more speaking, this is why. If you’ve wondered if you should start, you should.

But as a part of my writing career it’s also another large layer of things to manage. So get out and get some practice speaking to Rotary clubs and conferences. Speak every time you can. Speak for free, speak for lunch, speak for travel costs. And when you’re confident and ready to share to a larger audience, partner with a speaker’s bureau.

I’m part of Macmillan Speakers and they are a fantastic example of how to make this a large part of your career. If you’re curious about what I’m doing with them, and to watch a sample of my talks, or book an event check out my page at: Macmillan Speakers

cara brookins

How to Find Your Big Goal – And Achieve It

Cara BrookinsAuthor Life, Family, Rise1 Comment

Cara Brookins - Big Goals

Some people seem to be born with a singular passion and goal. Though knowing where you want to be and figuring out how to get there are two distinctly different things. And some of us spend years trying to figure out what our big goal is. Maybe you’re still working this out. If you’re not exactly sure where you’re headed or how to get there, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re probably in the majority. But here’s the good news: there’s a very good chance you’re closer to finding it than you thought you were. Because the hidden truth is this:

Chasing your one big goal, your life’s passion, doesn’t look or feel anything like you expected it to. 

I knew pretty early in life that stories were my thing. But I didn’t have the confidence to claim it out loud. Not enough to seek out the right classes or the right books and connects. Heck, I didn’t even claim it out loud when I was alone. Saying in my own mind that I wanted to be an author sounded pretentious. And, honestly, I was afraid to dream that big. So even when I was all alone and could have failed without anyone watching but my own fragile self, I still hid from my own most basic truths.

Yup. That wicked little monster called fear gives everyone pause. Some give in to it. I did.

You can’t hide from the things that mean the most to you though. They keep creeping up in a million small ways in your life, from the movies you select and books you read to the people you admire and/or hang out with. If you’re still trying to narrow down a direction, start by looking at these places and people where you spend the most time. Write these things down. Identify a pattern. And if you can’t find one, bring in an objective, honest, loving friend or family member to help identify your thing. 

After you found your thing, what then? More hard truths: 

Unless you were born into great wealth, little responsibility, and razor sharp focus, identifying your big thing and finding the time, money, and support to achieve it are going to be part of your entire life journey. 

Oh, but is that really bad news? Not to me. Knowing that I have direction and purpose and challenges for the rest of my life is just fine, as long as I know I’m aiming my energy toward what I love, I can definitely live with this. Wait, I mean for this. I can definitely live for this.  

What does this journey look like? It ultimately becomes a combination of these things:  

  1. Things I love __________
  2. Things I sorta like __________
  3. Things I have to do __________
  4. Things that make money __________

Yeah, that’s sort of a patched together subset of things, I know. And maybe you were hoping for razor sharp direction. But when I combine ideal scenarios with reality, that’s the list I come up with every time.

This is the way to your goal: take the things from the list you used to identify your thing and insert them into the above list. Fill in as many blanks as you can with things you genuinely love, because that’s how you maintain the determination and discipline to keep going.  

There’s a lot more to finding your big goals and achieving them. My kids and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, and I decided to share more of our story in a very personal way, by sitting in front of my camera and telling you how I made the decision to take a huge leap, how I found partners, how I stayed committed to my goals, and then how in the world we made it all happen. 

These videos are free. No strings attached. I hope they help you find the path toward building bigger things in your life. I hope they keep you motivated all the way through to a triumphant finish. 

Click the image below or click here to sign up and I’ll email you one video a day for four days.

Why not all at once?

Because if you’re going to take these big changes seriously, you have to pause and reflect, you have to plan, and you’ll need a reminder to keep doing this until it becomes a habit and until you have steeled yourself with the determination to leap in and take a crazy big step toward your bigger future. 


cara brookins