Don Smith: Building A Community And Brand Based On Personal Growth

Posted on

Please meet Don Smith. Don Smith is a certified life coach and founder of a popular personal development community, The Personal Growth Channel. He’s also a father of five, general manager for Nelson Systems, Inc., and has served on multiple company boards.

Real People Success Stories


Don Smith
from the Personal Growth Channel


The Interview


Briefly, how did you launch The Personal Growth Channel and your coaching business?


I have had the benefit of having many mentors in my life over the years, and felt it was time for me to give back a little of what I had learned to the community. I started The Personal Growth Channel in 2015 as a way for me to do that. My original idea was to share some of the lessons I had learned from being a father of five and being in leadership roles for more than twenty years and started writing articles, so that’s how it started.


It didn’t take me long to realize that just writing articles was a very limited vision, so I came up with our current mission statement which is to help each other grow in our personal and professional lives, and a community was born. From there, it morphed into the international community it is today with participants from nearly every continent on the planet. People have contacted me over the years after reading my articles to work with them one on one, so the coaching business was a natural evolution of that work.


What is one thing you have learned running a successful business/brand?


Overnight success is usually anything but overnight. Most people have no idea how much effort it takes to build a successful business. That’s why if you don’t enjoy it, you aren’t likely to be successful.

[bctt tweet=”Overnight success is usually anything but overnight…That’s why if you don’t enjoy it, you aren’t likely to be successful. – Don Smith, The Personal Growth Channel ” username=”michaeldinich”]


As a life coach what is one thing you have learned from your clients?


Everyone needs someone in their life who believes in them, who will listen to them, who will encourage them to do what is necessary to achieve their dreams, and who won’t be afraid to give their honest opinion even when they know it won’t be easy to hear. Even me.


What is one mistake you made that made that you wish you could change?


I have made a great many mistakes over the years. I made a mistake by getting married at the age of 18. But if I hadn’t made that mistake, I wouldn’t have three of my girls, and it wasn’t all bad, there were quite a few good moments in my first marriage. I learned from that mistake what I wanted and didn’t want in a relationship.


Most of my mistakes have been like that, they were learning experiences and they had ripple effects on other areas of my life, so I wouldn’t choose to change those. I would not be the man I am today without the mistakes I’ve made in my life.


If I had to change one thing in my life, I would probably go back and spend some more time with my mom before she passed rather than spend that time working. She was an amazing lady, would be good to have a bit more time with her again.


What advice would you give someone starting a new business or career?


Do something you enjoy. If you don’t, your results will be mediocre because you will not put in the time and effort it will take to really master your craft or build your business. Don’t ignore profitability though either, it is much easier to stick with a career or business when you aren’t eating peanut butter and jelly for every meal while fending off the bill collectors.


If what you enjoy is drinking beer and watching NetFlix all day, that may not be such a good idea for a career or a business. Pick something you enjoy that people will be willing to pay for.


What are you most proud of?

That’s an easy one. I’m most proud of my kids and my wife. I’m probably biased, but they’re great kids, and I couldn’t ask for a much better partner than Pamela.


Any upcoming projects you are working on?


The main thing that I’m working on for The Personal Growth Channel is building out our community with live roundtable webinars and local chapters. I believe that what people need more than anything in today’s day and age is a real connection with others and a space that they can talk about tough topics that don’t come up in casual conversation. That’s what I’m working on creating.


How has social media impacted your business/brand?


Social media is an interesting thing. For Nelson Systems, which is the company I’m in charge of at my day job, social media barely comes into play other than as another medium to touch base with customers. At The Personal Growth Channel, social media is at the core of the business as that is where we get a lot of the traffic to our site.


What does your social media strategy look like?


I wish I could say that I had an iron clad social media strategy, but I really don’t. I’ve got a reach of over 28 million on Triberr and run several tribes including one called Heavy Hitters that requires a minimum of 50k followers to be considered as a member. That’s one of my biggest sources of traffic and came about from personally finding and inviting influencers one by one and helping them out by sharing their stuff. I think that’s the key to social media, developing relationships with others like yourself and not being afraid to promote them.


I also try to stay active with sharing information across Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, and Instagram, and use some tools that help queue up content for that. No, I’m not actually on posting quotes, articles, and such all day long. I go in once or twice a week and queue all that up, then try and get in every so often to answer questions and comments.


Running a business, promoting and marketing can be a challenge how do you manage it all? Any apps, books or tips that you use?


If you can afford it, hire sales reps. That’s what real businesses do, and how I manage things at my day job. A good rep is well worth the investment. Hire good people, and good things happen.


For The Personal Growth Channel, I largely manage everything by myself. It’s still more of a hobby for me than a full-time business, even though I probably invest more time in it than many people spend at their regular job. It also helps that I’m a bit of an insomniac. I get a lot done while everyone else is sleeping.


I use a variety of apps regularly, Social Jukebox, CrowdFire, Buffer, Pablo, Photoshop, Triberr, and Fiverr are probably the ones I use the most.


If you are going to start a business, I would suggest starting by reading Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins. It’s a very well researched book that looks at what it takes to create a successful business.


You have a large family and a lot going on, how do you manage time?


Very carefully. Seriously though, I put appointments on the calendar and make sure that time stays blocked out for the important things. I make sure to include things like working out to stay healthy and time with family. Beyond that, I manage most of my day from a pad of paper and email. I write down what I need to do and look at it and knock the items off the list in priority order. Some things I cross off the list if I decide I really don’t need to do them, or delegate them if appropriate.


Any advice for people that have a hard time working on projects they do not enjoy?


Don’t do projects you don’t enjoy. Failing that, if you don’t have a choice, just put your head down and get it done.


Any apps you can recommend?


General apps? YNAB, Google Calendar, Office, Hoopla, Kindle, and MyFitnessPal are a few I use regularly.


You have been very public about being blinded by divorce, looking back is there anything you know now you wish you knew?


I wish I knew how to express myself a little better back then. I don’t think it would have changed anything though, we had some fundamental differences. She is a great lady, but we had very different views on a few things and needs which eventually led to the breakdown.


You openly discuss reading a number of books during your relationships struggles, was there one in particular you would recommend to people?


ScreamFree Marriage is the best book I’ve found on dealing with romantic relationships, and yes, I have read probably hundreds of those types of books. That was one of my books of the month picks awhile back.


If someone was having a hard time managing projects is there a book you would recommend?


Having difficulty managing projects covers a broad spectrum of issues, I’d want to pinpoint where they were having difficulty to recommend a specific book. A few come to mind though:


If you are talking about enterprise level projects with a lot of moving parts, then the person might want to invest in something more involved like a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification program.


You participated in a few Tough Mudders, what was that like?

Imagine running a half marathon through the mud, up and down cliffs, through streams, with about 20 or 30 special forces style obstacles designed to torture you thrown in. That’s what a Tough Mudder is.


My first one it rained all week before we got there, but luckily stopped raining on the day we ran. The entire course was soaked though, so it was a mud bath the whole way. It went reasonably well until about mile ten, when my legs decided they had had enough. Imagine the worst charley horse you’ve ever felt in both of your calves, unable to walk, and stuck in a creek up to your waist with a huge muddy bank ahead of you that you have to somehow get up. That’s where I found myself and was the first time I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish the run. Luckily, I managed to drag myself up the bank without drowning and my team rallied around me and kept me going, so I was able to finish. Second one went off without a hitch, I had trained much better for that one and the team was solid throughout.


My third one was miserable. It rained the entire week before and the entire time we were running and temperatures were in the low 50’s. I thought one of my teammates was going to go into hypothermia, especially when we were swimming through the ice water which they put out just to torture us. The mud was probably five or six inches deep because of the rain, so that made it quite difficult to run. I messed up my foot on that one so ran on what felt like a broken foot for the last six miles or so.


All that being said, I actually really enjoyed the challenge. Knowing that I needed to be in really great shape or I was going to get hurt was a huge motivator for me to get in shape. I have always enjoyed being outside, and there’s just something about playing in the mud that still seems fun, guess that’s the little kid in me coming out. I also got to know some great people, going through something like that with a team really forces you to work together and develops friendships very quickly, which was what brought me back for the second and third rounds.


How do you train?


These days to stay in shape, I have a personal trainer that I work with three days a week, plus I walk for a few miles nearly every night. When I was training for the Tough Mudders, I did P90X and/or Insanity for about an hour and a half, then ran for an hour or two every day plus did some longer runs on weekends.


How important is fitness?


I think being physically fit is critical. I have done a lot of research on the subject for my own purposes after being overweight myself and for the weight loss program I put together which people get access to when they become members. Most people don’t realize just how many things are affected when your body is not in shape. I had an uncle that was diagnosed with so many problems that he was taking, like, 50 pills every day. When he got in shape, virtually all those health issues disappeared, and he was able to stop taking all of his medications with his doctor’s blessing.


Experts have estimated that over 300,000 people die every single year in the US due to obesity. Compare that to school shootings which killed a grand total of 25 people in 2017. But you don’t hear about that on the news, even though that’s over 800 people every single day, or more people every single week than was killed in the 9/11 attacks. It’s simply an issue that is not talked about, it has become socially unacceptable to talk to others about weight issues, which is a real shame.


Mental health issues have also been tied to being overweight. Depression, heart disease, strokes, even cancer has all been now tied back to physical health by researchers.


From my own personal experience, I just feel better, and I believe I have more energy and perform better on virtually any tasks when I’m physically fit. My wife likes it too…which I’ll just say is a good thing.


How do you find time to workout? Do you enjoy it? If not, how do you stay motivated?


I work out over my lunch hour and often late at night before going to bed, so it doesn’t interfere with much. I enjoy visiting with the people at the gym and enjoy leaving the gym. Occasionally I even enjoy the actual workout. I do enjoy walking at night, my dog helps keep me motivated on that.


The funny thing about motivation is that it is highly overrated. It isn’t motivation, it’s discipline. If you put it on the calendar and show up when you say you are going to show up and do the work, that’s discipline. It’s no different than going to work or any other thing that you know you need to do. Sometimes you don’t want to do it, but if you have some discipline in your life you do it anyway. If you wait around until you are motivated to do it, you’ll never get around to it. It’s one of those things you just have to force yourself to do.


[bctt tweet=”The funny thing about motivation is that it is highly overrated. It isn’t motivation, it’s discipline. – Don Smith, The Personal Growth Channel ” username=”michaeldinich”]


Once you have done something long enough, it becomes part of your routine. That’s where I am at. I have gotten to the point where I enjoy the feeling it gives me when the workout is complete, and it’s a little bit of an escape sometimes when I’ve had a particularly busy or trying day.


During a workout or on my way to a workout I’ve asked myself several times, “Why am I doing this?” You know what the most interesting thing is though? I’ve never once left the gym thinking I really shouldn’t have gone today. Force yourself to do what you know you need to do, and you’ll be happy with yourself later for doing it.


Do you have any money advice you have picked up along the way?


I actually wrote an entire master summary on the subject, it’s in the member’s section of our website, called “How I added over $100,000 to my net worth over the last few years while raising five kids: Personal finance essentials you need to know.


My best advice is that there are only two parts of the financial equation, income and expenses. You need to lower expenses and find ways to increase your income. You can only lower expenses so much, but income can be virtually unlimited if you invest in yourself and assets that produce income enough.


Anything I should ask that I have not?


How can people get involved with The Personal Growth Channel? Go to and click on become a member.


What is the one thing you wish everyone knew?


I wish everyone realized how fluid and adaptive the human body and mind really is. You can physically change your mind and body by changing what you eat and do on a regular basis. Don’t like what your life looks like? Change it by changing what you do daily!


Last question, The Flash vs Quicksilver: Who wins a tough mudder and why?


It depends if it is set in the DC universe or the Marvel universe. If in the DC universe, The Flash wins. In the Marvel universe, Quicksilver wins. It was all foretold in the ancient tomes known as the comics.


Thank you, Don Smith, for your candidness and the fantastic resources you have given the readers. 


Please check out!


If you enjoyed this interview, I recommend: 

Interview with Perez Hilton, the original influencer

Interview with John Robin on the Roads to Success

Interview with Morgan Strebler, Celebrity Mentalist

Interview with Sexy Chef Wendy on building a Badass Business and Brand


Is there someone you’d like to hear from? Contact me with their name and I will do my best to bring you another amazing Real People Success Story! 


About the Author

Michael launched Your Money Geek to make personal finance fun. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income, and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.