Once upon a time, Sean Russell was a mechanical engineer with a crippling anxiety disorder. But after dedicating his life to healing and bettering himself, he became an expert in the field of self-improvement, and since quitting his job in 2013, he has built his company, Menprovement, into a full-time business that currently reaches over half a million men per month. On the site, Russell teaches men how to achieve success in both business and life and how to shape their minds, bodies and souls. Menprovement is a site for men that are serious about improving their lives and feeling better than they ever thought possible.
Russell’s Menprovement podcast, which he started in August of 2014, is downloaded over 30,000 times per month and, like the Menprovement website, seeks to help people reach higher levels of livings and achievement.
What was your upbringing like, and how did it help to shape who you are today?
My upbringing was pretty traditional. I was extremely fortunate to grow up in an incredible family. My parents couldn’t have been more loving, and I always had a close social circle of best friends and positive influences. After elementary school, I quickly stood out as a top athlete in soccer and this really shaped who I became throughout high school and college. A “cool kid,” I guess you could say. The positive influence of my family shaped me into the guy I am today by providing me with powerful morals. I truly care about helping people and want to give back and help as many people as possible. The only downside of growing up so privileged socially and athletically is that I never really had to try. What I mean is that I kind of just went through the motions of life and things worked out because of who I was. I never had a solid direction or foundation for the future, because I was enjoying the present so much. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the present, but you have to have your GPS set for big goals.
How did you initially get into the mechanical engineering field, and what made you realize that it wasn’t the right career for you?
When I was younger, I never really had a clear vision of the future. Being so in the moment led me to go to college just to play soccer and socialize, thinking that everything would just fall into place. I didn’t really have a care in the world as to what my major was, because I thought I would just one day be a professional player. So I essentially was a college athlete going to class just because I had to. As it turns out, life threw me a curve ball, soccer didn’t work out and I ended up in a mechanical engineering firm doing something I had zero interest in. I truly played Russian Roulette with my future and didn’t end up where I thought I would be.
What inspired the creation of Menprovement?
Menprovement was created out of a combination of passion, necessity and escape. At age 23, I was working in my mechanical engineering firm and was very unhappy. I was also struggling with an anxiety disorder at this point due to an incident that occurred two years prior from a substance overdose. Eventually, this anxiety disorder progressed to chronic fatigue syndrome and my life was nearly unlivable. So I dedicated myself 100% to healing and improving my own life. To turning things around. I was always a researcher and into self-improvement, so I was constantly reading sites, looking for ways to improve while also looking for ways to escape my dreaded 9-5 job.
I started a website early on that tanked. It was to track my progress and growth over time. But I never gave up and continued to self-educate, visualizing succeeding and believing that I would find a way. Then one day, while driving home from work, the name Menprovement popped into my head. I truly believe that’s how these things work. If you align your thoughts, beliefs and actions, then the universe will give you what you need and when you need it. So I started the site 1.5 years ago.
Growth has been tremendous, and I have not only fully recovered from my anxiety disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome, but have gone on to improve my life in almost every area and help millions of men do the same.
What were the most important steps you took to become more self-confident?
Self-confidence has multiple facets. In the first spectrum, it is all about truly owning who you are. Being able to follow your true purpose regardless of what anyone thinks. I was kind of embarrassed when I first started a blog. And at first I was hesitant to tell anyone and truly own it. But doing so has elevated my self-confidence dramatically. Then on the next spectrum, self-confidence is not about being confident enough to believe you can do anything, but being confident enough to know you are very likely to fail and being able to do it anyway. On the last end of the spectrum, self-confidence is about taking action and slowly expanding. You’re not going to be confident in yourself if you are sitting on the couch all day. You wouldn’t be confident playing tennis if you’ve never picked up a racket. So slowly expanding my comfort zone, taking action and living on my edge allowed me to grow and grow and quickly become confident in everything I do.
When it comes to marketing your site and getting traffic, what methods have worked best for you?
My methods for marketing Menprovement are simple, but effective. I research to find what questions men need answering, and what keywords are being searched often. Then I self-educate to the point of expertise and learn from influencers. Then I write the most informative piece of content I can on that topic. I make it better than anything else out there, and I do it right the first time. Every piece that I write is set out to be life-changing for the reader, so that they can leave it and take immediate action to improve their life. Then I do the grunt work of back-linking and content promotion, because there are millions of articles out there, and if you don’t make sure that your article gets eyes on it, then writing it was useless.
An applicable tip that I use is, when I write an article, I find out who backlinks to the top ten results in Google for the keyword I wrote for, and then I contact every one of those sites and send them my article. I get an amazing response and lots of links.
What are your long-term goals with the Menprovement website and podcast?
Menprovement will be the number one self-improvement site for men in the world, if it isn’t already. Sites like menshealth.com and askmen.com have turned into mainstream content farms, with 90% of the articles being quite useless. I think people have been waiting for something that is authentic, yet encompasses that big company mindset and ability. There are a lot of great mens blogs out there, but I want to hit that mainstream market in a non-mainstream way. I want visitors to be able to come in and be guided down a path of self-improvement and growth over the course of months. And we are building all that on the backend right now. The podcast is awesome. I get phone calls and emails every day from guys who tell me that it has changed their life. I love doing it, and I just want to be able to give people the best guests and best information I can. The goal for that is to be over 100,000 downloads a month by 2016 and 1 million a month by 2017.
Professionally or personally, who have been your biggest influences?
My biggest influences growing up were for sure my parents. They really instilled good values in me.
Now, my biggest influences are the guys I’ve never even met. I am an avid listener of podcasts to learn and grow, and I listen to guys like Pat Flynn, Lewis Howes and other major entrepreneurs and learn from them every day. Tim Ferris is another one. His book The Four Hour Work Week really pushed me forward.
What’s the coolest piece of clothing you own?
I’m a simple, but clean, dresser. So I have to say, the coolest piece of clothing I own are my Grizzly Bark Hamilton Boots for CLAE.com. They dress up jeans and a t-shit like nothing else, and the longer I wear them in, the better they look.
What was your favorite childhood cartoon?
Man, this is hard! I loved Doug. Then Hey Arnold. Then I was a Spongebob guy (still am a little).
If you could offer one piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?
Oh man. Well, part of me would say nothing. Because all the hardship I faced in my life has brought me to this moment where I am today. And without it, I wouldn’t be this person. But applicably, I would tell myself to start menprovement.com today! And to set goals for the future, because things won’t just “happen” for you. If Menprovement was started when I was 18, I would likely be a billionaire right now. But again, would I be the same person who grew from acquiring the strength to overcome traumatic experiences? That I don’t know.