Personal Freedom Coach Preston Smiles shares his thoughts on dealing with two pandemics
By Shanee Edwards
You’ve probably seen Preston Smiles and his beautiful wife, Alexi Panos, and their three small children around the neighborhood. Handsome and charming, a health diagnosis shook Smiles to his core when he was just 25-years-old. The former actor and model discovered he had a genetic heart condition that was giving him an irregular heartbeat.
“You can mess with anything but the heart,” says Smiles, “You mess with the heart, you’re screwed.”
Smiles didn’t want his life to be cut short, so he made some drastic lifestyle changes. “One of those changes was my diet and my stress levels, which I didn’t even know was a thing. But I had to come to grips with it and realized I was one of the most stressed out 25-year-olds you could find. It was destroying my body,” says Smiles.
Now 40, he says he hasn’t taken a pill since two months after his diagnosis.
Smiles started advocating for physical, mental and emotional wellness without ever expecting to make a living at it. But when he was offered a book deal with Simon & Schuster about five years ago, his life transformed. He wrote “Love Louder: 33 Ways to Amplify Your Life,” he and his wife wrote “Now or Never: Your Epic Life in 5 Steps,” and Panos wrote “50 Ways to Yay: Transformative Tools for a Whole Lot of Happy.” Everything blew up in a good way. Smiles now coaches people one-on-one, calling himself a “personal freedom coach” and runs three personal development and transformation companies with his wife. His work has sent him all over the world.
I reached out to Smiles because he seemed like the perfect person to provide a message of positivity during this difficult time. Not surprisingly, his perspective on 2020 is slightly different than mine.
“This is a beautiful time,” says Smiles, “and it’s also showing the ugly sides of our country. There’s two pandemics. One of them has been happening since the birth of this country and we’re finally facing off with it. And the other one is a little trickier, but also a reminder of things everybody had previous to this pandemic and have taken for granted.”
The first pandemic Smiles refers to is that of social and racial reckoning. He says America has been guilty of rewriting history and ignoring the elephant in the room (racism).
“What’s happening right now is a great rebirth,” say Smiles. “People are forced to look at what is, and is not, working about our current society.”
“As an Afro-amazing man, I feel deeply proud to be an American for the first time. I travel all over the world and I’ve shared on my Instagram posts that I feel safer in Africa than I do in the country I was born in. Being an ‘other’ in a place your ancestors built doesn’t feel good. As a Black person, a lot of times we don’t feel there is an opening for us to even share that because the moment we do someone says, ‘Oh, you’re pulling the Black card.’”
Smiles says he’s had multiple challenging experiences due to his race, even in Playa Vista. “Before COVID-19 or any of those things, people would see me and cross the street. All their fears come up, they clench their purse – and I’m a millionaire! Imagine what that energy feels like daily for people who are struggling on top of that,” he says.
The good news, says Smiles, “The healing will come sooner rather than later; it’s already happening.”
The second pandemic Smiles refers to is, of course, COVID-19. The virus has uprooted work and school, causing plenty of anxiety. Many of us wake up in the morning and do a bit of doom-scrolling through the news. But Smiles says it’s important to be mindful about where we put our attention.
“If we put our attention on the news, the number of cases, and things of that nature, then that will grow,” he says. “For me, I’m very careful to guard the gates of my consciousness by not allowing garbage to come in. We don’t want to be stupid, but we don’t want to be operating from fear and lack and limitation.”
While he does worry about his three young children from time to time, he doesn’t dwell on it. “My children’s immune systems are doing the perfect work they do and will always do whether I’m worrying about them or not.”
The bottom line says Smiles is that he believes love and humanity always wins. “There’s a light inside each and every one of us that will never go out. I believe the human spirit is courageous and will never back down. We’ll make it through this like we’ve made it through everything else,” he says.