Inside The Mind of Don R. Campbell: An Exclusive Interview
Inside The Mind of Don R. Campbell: An Exclusive Interview

By Madison Norton

Over the past two and a half years I have been lucky to work at the REIN™ office and have had a great opportunity to witness how Don R. Campbell operates in business, in life and in relationships. During fun times and during stressful situations his underlying message still remains the same and his words have been a great guide for me over this period. On the long weekend of September, I was sitting back and thought, “Why not take an hour of Don’s time and interview him on some key, non-real estate questions.” It is a side of him that most don’t get to see, so I truly hope it sheds some light on Don “Behind The Scenes”:

MN: I know for you it has been quite a 60 day period. What have the highlights been?

DC: Well, the summer has been a real journey. It has been sad, exciting, fantastic, productive, boring, musical, fun all wrapped into a two month period. Not as expected, but wouldn’t change it for a minute. Due to the very busy schedule that REIN™ has, I often use the summer for pure relaxation, well this year not so much J. Here’s a quick recap of how my summer went:

• My latest book Secrets of the Canadian Real Estate Cycle hit best-seller status,
• We passed the $820,000 mark in money raised for Habitat for Humanity (now over $900,000)
• We completed the final touches on the next book which has just been released this September: Buying U.S. Real Estate: The Proven and Reliable Guide for Canadians (so many Canadians are making big tax, legal and geographic mistakes when buying over the border so we decided that we had to design a system so that Canadians are more protected when they invest outside the country, hence this book being written with many tax, legal and investing experts).
• I was honoured to be asked, as the first Canadian, to write a book in the Wiley “Little Book of…” series. I completed that and made the August 31st goal, which means it will be released in January 2013.
• Our farms were ultra-productive this year – creating produce, fruit, eggs and beef for many family and friends. Autumn will be busy preserving all of this and prepping the farm for next year’s even better crop.
• My father had to move off the farm. He’s been there since 1973 so there is some sadness and melancholy around that inevitable change occurring.
• Hosted many dinner parties (Connie Campbell, my wife, is an amazing chef whose passion is sharing her meal discoveries with friends and family. I get the role of clean-up – of course that is AFTER I clean-up everything on my plate. For some examples, check out her blog
• I added new partners to the business to celebrate REIN™’s 20th anniversary so we can provide even more exclusive research, more depth to the REIN™ Workshops and dramatically increased support for REIN™ Members. That took up a lot of time this summer… but now we are cookin’! In case you missed that announcement here is a link to all of these exciting details:
• I also added to my real estate portfolio with the addition of a light industrial park with some great partners. This has been a new challenge as the majority of my portfolio is residential. I am building new systems around that.

Bottom line Madison – it was a busy, productive and truthfully enjoyable summer.

MN: This is a typical question, but one that every successful person must get asked at least once in a while: Who are three of your role models and why?

DC: I have many people who I admire, most of them unknown as public figures. It would be simple to state names everyone says, and it would be true. But the truth is I find role models everywhere: these role models exist within the charities I quietly support, within the music industry, within the business community, within the REIN™ team, with the REIN™ Membership. I think that too many people rely on one or two ‘role models’, usually popular public figures. I (and my friends) look for inspiration to live our lives better in the many people we bump into every day. I watch how they respond to situations, how they work tirelessly for no real extra benefit, they don’t bring other people down just to make themselves feel better or smarter. These people inspire because they are living their life, in their values, the best they know how. And if we would all just do the same, everyone would do so much better and not feel ‘inadequate’ or have the feeling they don’t live up to some ‘perfect’ model. Throughout life I have looked to those whose philosophies have matched my values. That way I can live my values including: wealth is not a monetary thing, it is a mind-set. You are not wealthy just because you have money. I know many a wealthy person who is truly empty and alone – despite being surrounded by lots of people.

MN: Goals are a big part of your life. What do you want to accomplish these next 12 months?

DC: This is a big year as it is a year where the economy continues to send mixed signals and has become very, very regional. It is a time that strategic investors need more leadership than ever before. These next 12 months will witness a strong growth in what we do at REIN™ to provide this leadership. I’ll have released 2 new books, hoping they both hit the best-seller list (thus raising more money for Habitat for Humanity). We will be bringing on so many new support tools that will be exclusive to REIN™ Members that we have to make sure we don’t overwhelm, so that will be a wonderful problem to have. I will be adding to my property portfolio – I have identified 2 under-performers in my portfolio that will have to be sold so I can put that money back into a property that will be an over-performer. It is also a big 12 months as I hit my 50th birthday (May 11, 2013) and my 25th Wedding Anniversary (December 28, 2012) in the same period, so that will be cause for a big celebration. My chosen charities will also be receiving more in terms of time, direction and money over the next 12 months – with ZERO expectation of me receiving anything in return. Don’t give to get – give to help.

MN: What is the most difficult thing you have gone through in your life?

DC: As with any journey, there are always bumps along the road. I don’t ever rank them from best to worst; they are just experiences that occur along the way. There have been some horrible non-business experiences, like everyone else. I would guess that the worst or most difficult business experiences come from me being an inherently trusting person and trusting others to be the same, no matter how naive that is in business. I have found that the most difficult situations have come from trusting people or giving them a hand up or major idea and those people end up coming back and using it to hurt my business or my life. They know who they are, it is a choice they make in their life – and have probably found a way to justify it in their heads so they can live with their decisions. However, just because they decide to live their life without integrity, it is not going to change my inherent trust of people. I expect people to be upfront and honest with me, and the fact is that there are those who are not. It hurts, but their actions will not change who I am.

MN: As a familiar face in the news and a real estate investor yourself, everyone wants to know: What is the best way to make money?

DC: I don’t think there is a single best way. I have done incredibly well in real estate, in business and in other investments. As far as business goes, as trite as it sounds, it is true: ‘Do What You Love.’ Sounds pretty general and a little too easy – almost a throw away statement. That’s what I thought as well, until I added the following statement: “Do whatever you can to help others achieve what they need in order to start doing what THEY love to do!” That is exactly it for me – that is doing what I love. Adding that statement to my values changed everything. I love helping people and helping them eventually get to where they love what they are doing has allowed me to stay incredibly focused on creating and leaving a long term, multi-generational legacy. Wealth is a combination of money you make and the impact you have on others which can enhance your own happiness. – In my mind, wealth has NOTHING to do with being rich and arrogant.

In the investment world, real estate has, for decades, been a proven pathway to wealth as you can provide quality housing to fantastic people and at the same time work to better the community through this quality housing or development. I started with next to nothing and had this philosophy back then – I am not just saying this after creating financial success.

I also have always had money in financial instruments such as stocks and bonds. I find it funny that those who invest in stocks think real estate is a crazy choice and those who invest in real estate think stock investors are taking way too much risk. The ultimate is to learn that a well-chosen portfolio in both camps works well. By well chosen, I don’t mean get rich quick, I mean buying long term value that pays me excess cash every year.

Make your money work harder than you. And remember that you work very hard for your money and therefore you should put some effort into choosing value. Yes, long term sustainable wealth takes some effort and time, so start now.

MN: Why do you work in your business?

DC: I cannot get enough of the impact we have on people across the country. In 2001 I made a conscious decision to change the conversation around real estate in Canada – a big task that will be ongoing. Back then the public discussion didn’t include the underlying economic fundamentals (just check out the ‘get rich’ infomercials from back in the day). I, of course, didn’t do it all alone. By elevating the volume of the discussion around underlying economics, others who also understood that real estate is not about average price and get rich, comfortably joined in. It is great to hear that people are taking a little bit more of a measured approach to the subject of real estate – not all people – but more people. Next is to change Canadians’ thinking around the difference between being ‘rich’ and being ‘wealthy’. I absolutely love what I do. I don’t have to choose between positive or negative, I just get to be an analyst. Then once the analysis is done, I get to share it with a community of like-minded, positive minded business people (REIN™ Members), share some insights on TV and radio as well as with friends and family members.

In June 1992 I attended a workshop that included an exercise that forced us to narrow down our “Life Purpose.” Out of that came the following for me:

“To use my humour, honesty and intelligence by reading, gaining knowledge from all sources and keeping everyone around me in a positive frame of mind, so I create success in my business and all areas of my life so that everyone has everything they need to be comfortable and to enjoy their lives”

Well Maddy, that seems to be the direction that my life took 20 years ago (Truthfully, some would question the humour part J). I read that statement every day, and measure progress against that and only that. What others think doesn’t matter; what the bank statements say (although nice) is not a true scorecard: the size of the real estate portfolio is fun and profitable but not how I will measure my life when it comes close to the end. I will measure it solely against this statement and how close I got to achieving it and who came along the journey with me. Long way to go, so that is why I continue to work on my business: it is fun, it fits my values and it makes a difference.

MN: Staying focused can be a battle with so many things on the go – What do you do on a daily basis to maintain your mindset?

DC: Filling the well is really important to me, so routine plays a big role. One thing that successful business owners discover is that protecting confidence and energy are critical to long term success. Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach introduced me to this valuable concept decades ago. I start the day, every day, with a comedy podcast from around the world… starting each day with a chuckle helps set the tone. I find that the morning is a great time for me to do research and analysis, so I usually do two hours of that in the morning. Later morning is one of my better creative times of the day, so I jump into anything that needs that extra spark of creativity. I used to try to fight this and put creative tasks wherever I could fit them – big mistake. My suggestion is for everyone to find their own ‘best times’ for the jobs they are tasked with, then design your day around that. Life gets much easier when you stop fighting the river. So after the creative side (writing, creating, recording etc.) I then ensure I get some nature to reground (get outside!!!). Everyone needs to take the time to read “Your Brain on Nature” by Alan Logan – it will change your routine for good.

Every evening (yes, EVERY) as I lie down to go to sleep, I go through the day. What worked, what didn’t, where I was in integrity and where was I out. I then list the top three positive things that happened that day – sometimes it is a bit of a stretch to come up with three, and other days it would be easy to list 10. But I find going to sleep with that review helps to put a positive end to the day and it also sets up the next day. This habit took a while to become routine and more difficult in difficult times. However I have learned that the more difficult that evening list is, the more important it is to complete.

Oh ya, throughout the day, even when writing, music is playing. It fills my soul. A day without music to me is a day that isn’t complete.

What people must understand is that the only person who can truly control their mindset is themself and it takes some work to do so in such a negatively focused world.

MN: Many people rely on you, but when you need someone to lean on, who do you go to for support?

DC: Wife, business partners, friends and clients. Whoever I trust to be brutally and 100% honest with me, those who understand a situation, who have been there so they can give me real life insights, not just empty platitudes or theory. If they are only going to tell me what they think I want to hear, I don’t go back to that well. Life is a wonderful journey of ups and downs, excitement and boredom, laughter and sadness – we have to embrace it. One of the best ways to do that in my world is to cut people out of my life who are energy sucks: those who leave you feeling less energetic after you’ve spent time with them. That doesn’t mean surround yourself with polyannas – it does mean to surround yourself with people who ADD to your life, who you trust and who do not continually take. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made in this area – but once you have narrowed your ‘crew’ to people with less drama, you will feel energised beyond what many think is possible.

MN: What Are The 3 Most Important Traits To Adopt?

DC: #1 Get & Keep Perspective: The most important is definitely to work very hard to keep perspective. In your life, your business, your investments there will be occurrences which can feel like utter disasters or may throw you into fear of the future. However, I have discovered that an important habit is to take the time to step back and be honest with yourself about the situation. Look for comparisons outside of your situation. And never, ever believe your ‘press.’ I find that some have the tendency to stick with their positions, even when it becomes obvious that it is not correct. Sometimes people would rather be “right” than correct. A quote that I really like is:

“Don’t let the wish become the father of the thought” or to put it more simply: Don’t drink your own Kool-Aid.

#2 Adopt the Final 30 Ft Rule: By strictly living by this rule I have been able to keep clarity and make some monumental life, business and investment decisions that have worked out incredibly well. As soon as I step away from that rule, that is where mistakes begin to be made in my life. For a detailed understanding of this rule, visit the link for my explanation: Once again, it is not saying only speak to those who believe what you believe (that would break rule #1 above) but it does say take care in listening to experience.

#3 Stop Chasing Money: Even if you do not have any, chasing money will be tiring, will force you to make some very poor short term decisions and will take you on a hard rough journey where you are vulnerable to the sharks who swim in the ‘get-rich-quick’ pool. Instead of chasing it, I suggest you study and then embody the rules to attracting money. Yes, there is a big, big difference. So much effort goes into chasing the ‘next big thing,’ however if that effort was focused on becoming someone who people want to do business with, who are trusted, authentic and real, the long term results would be calm long-term sustainable wealth.

MN: Well Don, thank you for your time and I hope we can do this again soon so we can discuss specifically how you built your real estate portfolio, how you decide what to buy and what to sell. You have shared with me some very unique real estate strategies and I think the rest of the world will be keen to read in to your thoughts. Until then, do you have anything final you’d like to share with the readers?

DC: Sure! Each of us is an individual and there is never a black-and-white answer to the best course of action when deciding how to make decisions. However, I do recommend that you become your own person and you put yourself on the pedestal, not any leader/coach/mentor. That way you can live to your values, set your own goals and life parameters and then choose to surround yourself with people who will, with integrity, help you to live that life you choose. There is no need to live someone else’s life or adopt other’s values or opinions. And if you do, your body will know it and will hold you back from truly achieving what you want. Chaos, frustration and under-performance will eventually show up (it may be soon or it may take years) but at the end of the day – you only get one chance at this life – so get on living yours! And then you can live it in gratitude

Oh yeah, laugh a lot, even when things aren’t going perfectly. It truly is the best medicine.

Madison, thanks for this conversation and by the way, I would really enjoy doing this again soon so we can discuss real estate and business.


Inside The Mind of Don R. Campbell: An Exclusive Interview was last modified: July 5th, 2013 by maddy

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