Cara Brookins and Ashley James
To build a life you want is what we should all aim for. Life is short. And it is up to us to make the most of it, regardless of what situation we are in. My guest today, Author of Rise: How a House Built a Family, Cara Brookins is such an inspiration. From dealing with domestic violence to building her own house, she has defied the odds and proved that it is indeed possible to build a life you want.
Cara Brookins weathered through many storms before she became who she is today. She was a victim of extreme domestic violence when she married her first husband who slowly descended into having full-blown paranoid schizophrenia. Because he became dangerous, they divorced. But for ten years after that, he kept coming back and tormented Cara and her children.
Then Cara Brookins met another guy, who seemed to be the right answer. They eventually married, but he also ended up physically abusive. After two terrible marriages and children who were aged 17, 15, 11, and two at that time, the experience affected her two older kids. The situation turned even more severe since they now needed a place to live.
Building A House
Her failed marriages and the threat of being homeless gave Cara Brookins the idea of perhaps building a house herself. They were living in a house that was up for sale that time and could not afford to keep it.
She believed that it was primarily the need more than the inspiration to make their lives better. So, in the Fall of 2007, when Youtube was a brand-new website then, Cara Brookins started to research.
Cara Brookins was a computer programmer by profession, and that helped a lot. At first, she started watching videos for work to learn new computer languages. And then she saw videos on how to build a house. Broaching the idea to her kids, they were open to try it. They only had money to buy a piece of land and building materials but not enough money to hire people to build their house.
Cara Brookins says people helped along the way. Building the house took 20-hour days for nine months straight. She had to make sure they were on schedule because she had a 9-month construction loan.
“In the beginning when we first had this idea, it didn’t seem radical. People were stunned, but my kids were already beaten down for more than a decade at that point. There was always somebody in control. And there was always this layer of fear. There was no action we could take that would make it better,” recalls Cara Brookins.
She adds, “This idea of building a house was the first time that gave us the opportunity to go out and take physical action to visibly and tangibly make our lives better.”
Before building a house, Cara Brookins and her kids were stuck in a crippling survival mode. They didn’t have a close family that could help them through the trauma.
“You kind of pull inside yourself, each one of you and each day. We had to quickly learn not only how to communicate what we need and our ideas. And we also learned how to anticipate one another’s needs and talents,” Cara Brookins said.
She adds, “The level of doubt is hard to describe because, in retrospect, people think it must be fun building, exciting and empowering. Instead, when you bite off more than you can chew, it knocks you to your knees. Everything we tried to do, it was multiple setbacks before we move forward. Not surprisingly, that level of self- doubt, made them so much harder.”
According to Cara Brookins, to build a life you want, we want to think that the moment you take action, it’s the changing point. But for her, it’s like after the action was taken.
“That happened to me most often. I was forced into taking action because I had to. The city and the bank would not let me proceed with this house until I had water. A deadline forced me,” said Cara Brookins.
She adds, “And once that happened, I can see in retrospect how ridiculous my situation was. And how ridiculous I had made my situation by not taking that option. That’s when I made this conscious effort not to do it anymore.”
Taking From Experience
Cara Brookins believes that when you feel paralysis and fear to take the next step to build the life you want, we usually think of the worst-case scenario. And believe that we are going to survive, learn from the experience and be better next time. For Cara Brookins, the transition was after she saw the effect of her doubt, hesitation, paralysis, and procrastination.
“Get over yourself. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Walk in the lows and ask that ridiculous question. Have fun with it,” suggests Cara Brookins. “We learned that early on. Whatever your goal is, and if you go all in, you will figure out a way if it is your only way of survival.”
Cara Brookins also believes that to build the life you want; you need to put reminders in your path. And designing your life around the thing, you want to do and the person you want to be.
Another important factor on how to build the life you want is recognizing that when you procrastinate, our brain is going to be continually fighting for that feeling of wanting or accomplishing something. Cara Brookins says it’s a whole lot easier for it to win at something it knows you are successful at that for your brain to allow you to go out and take that risk.
“As soon as you are aware of that process, your brain is designed to hold you back. Because doing risky things can get you eaten by a tiger,” said Cara Brookins. “That’s your primitive brain saying don’t go trying difficult things, stay here and do the safer thing. That’s how we get trapped in these cycles.”
Today, Cara Brookins and her family reside in a 3,500 square foot house. The house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big library, a 3-car garage, a big shop, and a treehouse.
While there aren’t that many photos of the construction period, Cara Brookins’ house is a testament that anything is possible. She is still humbled by the fact that her story inspired so many people.
“The kids became close. Not only do they support each other but they call each other out. And lovingly call each other out. There is a level of honesty,” Cara Brookins said.
She adds, “The key is in our society. We have forgotten the value of taking physical action of going out and doing something that’s physically hard. And the way that it bonds you together.”
Rise: How a House Built a Family
Cara Brookins’ Rise: How a House Built a Family book, inspired many people to do their projects or build a life they want. The book has lessons that you can apply to your business as well. The book also appealed to men who took Cara Brookins by surprise.
“In retrospect, it shouldn’t have because it is that physical activity that men do better and more often than women. Men are better in turning to that while women tend to turn to more talk and internal things,” said Cara Brookins.
In getting out of your comfort zone, the risk you feel is natural. Because Cara Brookins says, it is scary to put everything you got into one massive dream. And the only way that you can make something that big is to put everything into it.
The first time Cara Brookins considered writing a book about building her house was when she was talking to another writer who encouraged her to write about it. That writer’s agent called Cara Brookins who eventually tried to write the story.
But the book didn’t sell. It took Cara Brookins six years of constantly giving up and going back in writing fiction. Because it was so hard for her to tell the bad part and she worried about the effect, it would have on her kids.
“To get to a point where I was willing to share the worst moments of my life, I wrote in a raw and honest way. In a way that it was exceptionally vulnerable. And my kids had to be ok with it, too,” said Cara Brookins.
Then when her agent called to inform her that it was sent to publishers, the next hurdle was to see how many people like the book. Many did, and the rest is history.
When Cara Brookins started her journey in building a house, there weren’t many resources available. Now, anything is possible. With smartphones and so many resources online, she encourages everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to explore and learn.
“We live in an amazing time. But then it becomes hard to focus. And hard to figure out which of those things you need or want. And how do those things go together,” said Cara Brookins. “I think that’s more of the procrastination we have now. Many people are paralyzed in their reality.”
Motivational Keynote Speaker
Cara Brookins’ profession was being a computer programmer for 18 years. In her spare time, she wrote books. But becoming a motivational speaker allowed her to reach out and inspire more people to build the life they want.
“It’s hard to get on stage. Because it proves that no matter how many big things you do, you will still face other things that are big, scary and challenging to overcome and have to talk yourself through it,” Cara Brookins said.
She adds, “The more that I did it from each time I learned, I change my presentation the way I saw myself. And the way I saw my goal. My goal was not for me. But it was for the audience, and what I wanted them to feel. It transformed into this thing that I love.”
Ultimately, becoming a speaker is a good thing because Cara Brookins loves sharing what she went through. She also does workshops for companies about procrastination.
See You At The Movies
Although Cara Brookins plans to write some more non-fiction books, she is currently busy ironing out the details of an upcoming Hollywood film about her life.
Cara Brookins is co-producing the film along with the lead actress of the upcoming movie. She hopes the movie will inspire people to take action and do great things. And that their past does not define their future.
“It’s about how to make yourself the type of person to take action. Part of it is setting goals and declaring it. It’s also to improve the way that your current situation looks and feel,” said Cara Brookins.
She adds, “Whatever you think you might be able to do, whatever you think you want the most in your life, go do it.”
Cara Brookins is best known for being the mom who built her own house using YouTube tutorials. She has been entertaining, educating, and inspiring audiences with her keynotes and presentations since 2004.
Cara Brookins is the author of eight books, including Rise: How a House Built a family, which tells the story of building her 3,500 square foot house with the help of her four children by watching YouTube tutorials — and googling things like foundation work, plumbing, and gas lines.
News of Cara Brookins’ family story went viral in more than 75 countries and was viewed two billion times. Rise has now been optioned to become a major motion picture. Inspiring audiences to build bigger lives remains Cara’s greatest passion.
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