Turning Tragedy into Triumph
photos by Brian Fitzsimmons
After losing his father to alcoholism, Rob Dial dedicated himself to a life of altruism. Now a renowned performance coach, motivational speaker, podcaster, and viral video phenom, the Austin-based jack-of-all-trades is hoping to touch a billion lives in 2018.
Rob Dial was alone a lot as a kid. The youngest of two children raised along the crystal clear waters of Anna Maria Island, Florida, he grew accustomed to the solitude his alcoholic father’s absence and parents’ eventual divorce afforded him. Though the isolation was overwhelming at times, he learned to find peace in the silence and introspection in his independence. But when his dad passed away from liver failure and jaundice, Dial (only 15 at the time) broke out of the cocoon he’d built around himself.
“His passing woke me up, showed me how fragile our lives are and tragic self-destruction is,” Dial says. “I knew his death couldn’t be in vain, that I had to grow from it and use that experience to help others.”
Since then, Dial has moved through life with an elevated purpose and insatiable hunger for success. After climbing the ladder at Cutco Cutlery—the company known best for its razor-sharp knives—and breaking several sales records as a 21-year-old district manager, he was turned onto the concept of personal development. He soon sought out a mentor and hired a life coach to propel him to greater intellectual heights, all while also reading personal growth books at a breakneck pace and working to increase his mental bandwidth. As time passed, he became increasingly invigorated by his progress but disenchanted with his work. That is until, one day, he quit his job to take a solo backpacking trip around Europe. The freedom was refreshing, and the solitude reminded him of his childhood. It was the most alive he’d felt in years, a signal that he shouldn’t go back to Florida and resume his old life.
He had to shake things up.
By summer 2015, Dial had moved to Austin and worked his way through multiple high-level self-development techniques. After deliberating with his friends and mentors, he decided it was time to fulfill the promise he’d made to himself and his father years ago. Things escalated quickly from there. After co-authoring a book with his best friend, Dial created a tri-weekly podcast, MWF Motivation, where he provided positive tips and words of wisdom to listeners. Less than two months later, MWF had skyrocketed the top of the iTunes ‘New and Noteworthy’ list for up-and-coming podcasts, and held the number one spot in the business and self-help categories for eight weeks straight and hit over 100,000 downloads in the first two months alone. Thus confirming what his personal development training had taught him: People want more positivity in their lives.
Dial ramped things up from there, churning out podcast after podcast. By the end of his first year, MWF episodes had surpassed over a million unique downloads. While blown away by his rapid rise, he wanted to broaden his reach. He soon began building his presence on social media, creating short, sharable motivational videos where he discussed topics ranging from the biological causes of depression to a list of life hacks to boost daily happiness.
His videos quickly grew in popularity. By the end of 2017, his self-development Facebook page boasted over 500,000 followers, and his pictures and videos had accrued over 550 million views. While he hopes to hit a billion views in 2018, Dial knows this movement is not about himself, but the people it touches.
“I’m not some all-knowing guru or somebody who purports to have all the answers,” he explains. “This is about people wanting to face their greatest fears and improve themselves little by little every day.”
Despite his ascent over the past two and a half years, Dial’s core principles haven’t changed. He continues to closely study how biology, neurology, and psychology impact us emotionally and physically, and regularly weaves them into his content. His style is the same too. Rather than instructing people or pretending to have the blueprint to self-realization, he creates an environment that encourages introspection and facilitates self-driven transformations. Instead of dogmatically telling people what to do and think, he asks them questions about their past, their hopes, and their beliefs. These inquiries can be deep-cutting, and this process can be slow and painful, but he believes being vulnerable and honest is the only way to overcome deep-seated mental barriers. Through journaling, meditation, reading, and other independent exercises, Dial says people can become more aware of what’s holding them back and make peace with their anxieties. “I don’t want people to look to me for instruction. I want them to build their own self-awareness and construct a foundation of self-empowerment.”
Dial used to film, write, and post all of his own content, but these days he has a team of employees around him to help. He still records three podcasts a week and at least ten videos a month, but his new schedule allows him to travel and tackle larger opportunities whenever they arise. No matter where he is or what challenges await him, though, he starts every morning with two hours of meditation, reading, and journaling, a routine that takes him back to his early days as a kid on Anna Maria Island. As he sits in silence, he can’t help but reflect on the way his life has unfolded, and how things have come together in the 17 years since his father’s passing. Looking back, Dial’s only wish is that he could thank his dad for all the lessons he taught him and the good he created.
“I only do what I do now because of his death,” he says. “I can never bring him back, but I can work for the rest of my life to turn a debilitating situation into something beautiful.”