From stay at home mom of 11 to Harvard, space & taking on the Taliban with Allyson Reneau Ep.6Sep 13, 2022
LISTEN OR WATCH ON
*Podcast also available wherever podcasts are streamed
If you’ve ever thought ‘it’s too late for me’ then this episode is especially for you. Today I’m joined by an incredible guest where we talk about how you can in fact have it all, but maybe not all at once.
Allyson Reneau is the biological mother to 11 children, who graduated from Harvard University in US Space Policy at the age of 50. She has also worked with NASA, is a gymnast coach to Olympic hopefuls, a No.1 Amazon author, internationally sought speaker and successful entrepreneur. Oh and she’s also a pilot, Juilliard pianist and horse rides.
I just have one question for her - how?!
I Have You To Thank
I’m here, doing this podcast, because I have Allyson to thank. She has had such an incredible impact on my life. When I first met her and listened to her speak at a conference, she made me realise that life happens in seasons and that ultimately it's ok to slow down and rest in the season that I'm in.
Small Farm Town Life
Allyson grew up in a very small farm town. She worked with horses and got in the nitty gritty of farm life. Her mother was great at teaching her how to dress up and be a classy woman, but also taught her hard work.
This small town prepared her to do a lot of things very well. With it being a small town, Allyson grew up participating in a lot of extra curricular activities. As an only child, she went on to birth 11 biological children in her adult years.
She Just Figured It Out
On her journey, she’s always just learned how to do things on her own. Any time she has started something new, she has had zero experience. This has kept her humble and dependent on friends, faith and family.
I Don’t Use the Word Cope
“I don’t use the word cope because I was really all in as a mother.”
Allyson shares with us that she always felt that her most important role was being a mother. She homeschooled her children until 6th grade. She made it a point to find joy in simple tasks like folding the socks. She also always tried hard to develop their gifts and talents, and she believes this helped them be motivated. She believes there is a plan for every person’s life and she knew that if she could teach her children to love what they did, it wouldn’t feel like work for them.
Allyson expresses how she feels that it always falls together for kids and like there is always a higher power helping support and guide. She shares that she had to trust that in motherhood.
It’s Better Sometimes to Live Life in Chapters
“Women can have it all, but not all at the same time.”
Allyson shares how it’s better sometimes to live life in chapters. She goes on to explain that you might be all in as a mother for a season and all in for business in a later season.
Allyson explains to us that she will say “yes” to just about anything that is ethical and moral. She believes that it’s in the yes that relationships are built.
“It’s those relationships where the miracles lie.”
After the epiphany of starting a gym, that’s when she received a call from a man who tells her that she didn’t know him but that she had helped his son through a crisis about a year prior by giving him hope during a hard time. As a thank you, they wanted to send her money to help other children. This man ended up being Vice President of United Airlines. To her surprise, she received a check in the mail for over $300,000.
Because of this gift, she was able to fulfil her dream which would have taken her years to accomplish, within only ten days!
How Do You Do A Cartwheel?
She didn’t know how to coach somebody to do a cartwheel, but she was connected to an olympic gymnastics coach and was able to partner with him.
To Allyson, it's not just about the gymnastics, they teach their kids how to be great champions in life. Right now, they're coaching 500 gymnasts.
Always Act on Compassion
Allyson inspires us to always act on compassion and beautiful things can emerge from helping others. She reminds us to not let our hearts close up to humanity, and don’t brush off the small voice to reach out to help other people.
Are You Going to be a Wienie or a Hot Dog Today?
When asked what Allyson does to turn up the volume on that still small voice, she states that first and foremost, it’s important to have a morning routine. Every morning, she asks herself if she's going to be a wienie or a hot dog for that day - will she be weak or strong. She then reads something inspirational and will then go on a run after that. Having a morning routine is the key to success for Allyson.
Studying at Harvard
Allyson began studying at Harvard at the age of 50. She walks us through how she felt like she had forgotten her identity. She felt like there had to be more and wanted to have a big impact on this world. On a morning run, the idea popped up in her head to get her masters at Harvard. She tried to shake it but she couldn’t. She didn’t have money, had seven kids at that point, and felt like she was not smart enough, but she could not shake it.
So, she borrowed frequent flyer points and hotel points from a friend and made it to meet the dean of Harvard. She gave her all the reasons she shouldn’t go but the dean believed in her and told her she will find a way to do it. Allyson decided to do it and met a man who gave away scholarships who paid for her entire education. She graduated at the top of her class with straight As. She studied United States Space Policy NASA.
Allyson had been a pilot before and loved space and aviation. She contacted a Harvard professor and told that professor that this was what she wanted to do. So, she placed her in a NASA school. From there, she ended up working at Washington D.C. at NASA Headquarters.
Every Woman Can Have It
Allyson believes that every woman can have what she has. All she did was say “yes”, even when she was afraid. She shares with us that she was desperate for change and that desperation pushed her to change. She felt like she had to move forward.
Allyson and I discuss how if you have nothing to fall back on, then you will not be motivated to move forward. She shares with us how she loves failures because it allows her to analyze herself and grow. She explains that failures have made her a better coach, mother, business woman and better everything.
“No one can stop you but yourself.”
Putting One Foot In Front of the Other
Allyson candidly shares that she got a divorce in 2014 and went through depression. She explains that she kept putting one foot in front of the other. But her breakthrough came after her education at Harvard. She had to start over financially with no place to live. She didn’t want to get into a legal battle, so she just moved forward by starting over. Now she owns her own home and is proud of her new life. For Allyson, that was the most depressing yet victorious time of her life.
“When you remove yourself from toxic situations where people are wounding you a lot, you can grow a lot faster.”
Explore Mars Rescue Mission
Allyson tells us about her experience in 2021 when she was on the Explore Mars Board of Directors. Every May they have an annual conference. In 2019 they decided to invite the Afghan girls Robotic Team. Elon Musk actually paid for all of their travel expenses. She was able to meet and connect with them. She stayed in touch with them to help them with their education.
In August of 2021, she woke up with an overwhelming feeling that the girls were in trouble. She couldn’t shake it. She didn’t know how to get a hold of them, but she just started. She started praying and asking for guidance.
She connected with the girls' mentor and they started doing all they could to get the girls to safety by using their government connections. She was working with the US Embassy in Qatar with US military leaders. For two weeks, it was one obstacle after another but they refused to give up. Finally, they had a breakthrough and the Qatar government flew them out of the Taliban controlled airport. Allyson was finally able to visit them in Ireland.
Since then, Allyson has been threatened to not talk about it. She knew her family would be in danger if she did not stop speaking up. She soon realized that she had to speak up. She met with her lawyer and drew up a will and started speaking to the press. Suddenly teams were coming together to rescue people. Threats continued coming her way but she just couldn’t quit.
Afghan Women Judges
The next group of people they were able to help were the Afghan women judges. These judges had put a lot of Taliban in jail over the years and when the Taliban took over, they released all the prisoners. These judges were being chased and assassinated cruelly. She was able to team up with others and get them help.
More From Allyson
Allyson ends our conversation by encouraging us to think about what we really want to do with our lives and to not have dying regrets. She shares that every new thing she has tried, she has felt stupid. She reminds us that every expert was once a beginner.
She shares that you have to be willing to go through the awkward stage of learning and growing. What an amazing and inspiring conversation with Allyson. You can catch the full episode here.
If you consider yourself a multipassionate person then you're gonna love my interview with Chibundu Onuzo, make sure you check it out!
How to connect with Allyson:
Learn more about Allyson: https://allysonreneau.com/
Allyon's email: [email protected]