Michael McDonnell

Avatar BoxHuman | April 2, 2020

“Cystic Fibrosis, isolated and bullied. Now I defy what society says is ‘normal’ for someone like me” – Michael McDonnell


BoxHuman Writer

We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping and bringing light to the world. We do this in order to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see and receive on a daily basis. We met up with one of these amazing individuals…

Hi Michael, it’s great to speak with you. To start off this interview can you please tell me in one sentence who you are and what you are especially known for?

Hi, I’m Michael McDonnell and I help side hustlers become full-time business owners by helping them become who they need to be, to make it happen.

Perfect! To get to know more about you can you please tell me in your own words how did your inspiring journey begin, from what age and what happened?

My story began when I was very young; at just two months old I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis which is a genetic condition that affects the whole body (Lungs and Digestive system predominantly).

I failed to thrive; and at the time it was my parent’s job to look after me, keep my alive essentially and get me through my younger years.

It wasn’t easy for a young boy that needed around the hour set of treatments and medication twice a day to get through each and every day. From being singled out, isolated and bullied for most of my younger life; it was all too easy to keep to myself, not really having much of social life and spend most days just trying to get through each day.

I didn’t do much future planning and I spent most days just doing what I wanted to do; what I enjoyed. I mean, you never know how long I was going to last so I had fun, I played sport, kept active and that was almost my entire childhood.

Then it became time where I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. As I got older and as I started to keep on top of my health, it became easier through sport (tennis, basketball) and the gym to not only feel ‘like everyone else’ but to actually improve on that and better my condition.

With that, I followed sport my whole life up until this point. I became a personal trainer, tennis coach and played basketball for my university in the UK…Not bad for someone with a health condition.

But this leads to another turning point which set me on a course for the life I lead now…

In my early 20’s (given I was eating fairly well and exercising a lot like a personal trainer and tennis coach). I was tested for and diagnosed with cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.

What most don’t realise was that this was not long after a friend of mine passed away who had the same conditions (CF and diabetes.) It hit me pretty hard.

I went through all the stages; anger, frustration, hating myself… eventually, I got through it and I realised that I couldn’t keep going on as I had been.

My health was always my priority, but I didn’t know what it was it going to take for me to not only manage; my cystic fibrosis, my diabetes and as well as that somehow earn enough money to be able to live and live well enough that I wouldn’t have to suffer for it.

It was after my clients realising I had health conditions and being able to outperform ‘average’ people combined with others resonating with my story in the entrepreneurship space (I needed to take time out due to burnout)… I decided to start public speaking through videos, which I’d never done before. I started creating content around mindset as that’s what got me through everything so far. I started to grow a mindset coaching business from the ground up online, without any prior experience.

This lead to me starting my own podcast and gradually grow my influence from there. I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed on several podcasts, working with hundreds of people and helping thousands of people online through my message, the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from my experiences.

Wow-what an inspiring start to this interview already! It’s so empowering to see how you have turned some of your life’s challenges into something that will inspire and help others. Thank you for sharing that Michael. You’ve spoken about some of your challenges already so with that being said, let’s move onto my next question…What’s been your biggest challenge that you’ve had to go through and how did you overcome it?

As I said previously being diagnosed with conditions that a friend passed away with was a big challenge for me. However, I have also been micro struggling around stepping outside my comfort zone. One of the biggest ‘stepping out of my comfort zone challenges’ was when I made the dream move abroad to the Canary Islands. Despite overcoming a lot until that point, my fears still attempted to stop me, hold me back and convince me it was a bad idea. I had so many questions that filled my head:

  • Will it succeed? Will it fail?
  • What would it mean either way?
  • What would my friends and family think?
  • How would I or them feel if I did it, only to end up back in the UK again?

As you can tell, no amount of preparation could stop my fear from rearing its head again and creating whatever story it wanted to keep me stuck. What I did to overcome it was to simply act scared, one thing my past has taught me is that waiting to feel good about something that’s ACTUALLY scary will mean you end up waiting forever. So I came up with an alternative way of thinking about these questions:

Outcome 1. If it doesn’t work?
I end up going back to the UK after 12 months

Outcome 2. If it does work?
I have an amazing time

So I choose Outcome 2: So be it… There’s only one way to find out

Michael McDonnell Interview

What a refreshing way to think about things that may challenge you, such great advice Michael, thank you. Knowing that you love sports can you tell us why you decided to become a personal trainer and coach in the first place. What inspired you to do this and why?

I became a personal trainer because health was all I knew up until that point. I’d been able to keep myself healthy given my starting point; so I felt like helping others who were struggling was the natural thing to do.

Coaching started out as a voluntary thing at my local tennis club, something I tried. Once I’d got the feel-good feeling of seeing the whites in a child’s eye’s light up because of something I helped them with; I was hooked on helping people and I’ve been chasing and feeling that feeling since I was 16 years old.


‘Life’ can make us humans experience amazing things and moments. What has been your biggest achievement and proudest moment so far and why?

My biggest and proudest achievements are being interviewed on TV, winning entrepreneur of the year and going against all the odds to move abroad, with health conditions while running my business.

Congratulations Michael! What fantastic achievements that you should be super proud of! Let’s keep the positive vibes flowing even more and start our quick BoxHuman ‘Fire-Inspire’ questions.

Let’s go…

1) What makes you smile and inspires you to be you on a daily basis and why?

2) What is your favourite quote?

1. If I can help one person a day, that makes me happy along with my health.

2. My favourite quotes:

“Be you, because life’s too short to be anyone else.” and…

“You can do what’s right, or what’s easy; your choice.” Michael McDonnell

3) If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?

You’re allowed to fail; if you have to take a step back for a year, to go forwards further than you ever thought possible the rest of your life.

That bad year is how you get there BUT you’ll never know until you find out. You never know what stage of your journey you’re actually at so all you can do is do the best you can with what you have.

4) Brilliant inspiring answers Michael! And your final BoxHuman Fire Question…What future life goals do you want to achieve and why? And in three words how would you describe yourself?

1. My future life goals are to travel more and enjoy my life more.

2. I would describe myself as: Kind, Courageous and Compassionate.

As always we like to end our interviews on… A BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness, and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?

My ability to defy what society has defined as “normal” for someone like me. My ability to practice what I preach, inspire and help others along the way.

Michael McDonnell Interview

“Thank you, Michael”

For more inspiring human stories check out BoxHuman Empower Stories. Want to share your story too? We’d love to hear from you, so please say hello