Interview with John Lee Dumas
Mark: Ladies and gentlemen, I have the fire breathing John Lee Dumas on the mic. John, how is it going?
John: Mark Mason, I am here and I am prepared to ignite.
Mark: I am so excited to have you here. As you know, a lot of my listeners are trying to get started online and your story is kind of amazing. Before we get into your story, I want to do a little something here. I want to thank you for your service to the United States when you were driving tanks and doing all that cool stuff. Thank you very much.
John: I truly appreciate your appreciation. True story, I served right next to soldiers from Poland, from England, from Australia, and many other amazing countries while I was deployed in Iraq, so it was an international effort as well. Also, many Iraqi soldiers that were fighting for the good side as well. Thank you for your appreciation. I know a lot of international listeners know people that were deployed to Iraq as well, so thank you for your country’s service.
Mark: My listeners are interested in really trying to get things going. A lot of people that listen to my show are working their business in the margins, they’re trying to get started. You, on the other hand, have interviewed over 1,000 – I think 1,100+ now – entrepreneurs.
John: You were number 1,165.
Mark: I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, that will be going live sometime in December.
My question to you is, based on all of these people that you’ve talked to, you’re one of the few people in the world probably that has recently talked to more than 1,000 entrepreneurs – that’s kind of a powerful thing, even a newscaster or someone, I can’t think of anyone else in the world who has had so much contact with so many different entrepreneurs – is it still possible starting from zero to have an idea and be successful in business right now?
John: More so now than ever. And it keeps getting more possible every single day from my vantage point. If you are willing to not just have an idea but to have an idea that is niche, that is special, that is unique, then you are going to be able to create, grow, and down the road monetize that audience in a really powerful way.
We talked a little bit on my show and you said these words, Mark, “you only need 100 people,” you only need to help 100 people to solve 100 people’s problems and that’s a six figure a year business, period, right there. It’s at your fingertips. It’s just finding a problem that inspires you that you have some value to give or that you’re going to acquire value for. I didn’t have any value to give when I first started, but I acquired it through these interviews, so that came with time. Something that inspires you, that excites you, that you have value to give or soon are going to acquire to give, and then you just put the nose to grindstone and work hard to serve those people. Boom, you have a business.
Mark: You talk about putting your nose to the grindstone. Again, you’ve talked to these 1,100 people. What are the behaviors that you observe from them, when you talk to these people what can you say about them that they have in common that helps make them successful?
John: This is interesting because this has actually turned into what is now my current passion project that I’ve been working on in all of 2015 and I’m so excited about. After interviewing now over 1,165 (you were the most recent person that I interviewed, so that’s my exact number right now) I’ve seen the one commonality that all of these entrepreneurs have in common. They know how to set and accomplish a goal.
It’s not that they are setting and accomplishing tons of goals in all of these different areas. They know how to set and accomplish a goal, a singular goal. It was so obvious to me at the beginning of 2015, I was at 700 or 800 interviews at that point and it just kept coming up over and over again. It is incredible that this is the one commonality. I really can’t name another thing that is so common as this one thing of setting and accomplishing a goal.
That is exactly why I’ve created my passion project, which is now The Freedom Journal, which we can talk about later. It’s because of this one commonality of having to learn to set not just any goal but a smart goal, and then accomplish that goal in a timely fashion. That’s what sets my guests apart from many of my listeners who haven’t accomplished or achieved similar success.
Mark: Can you tell our listeners an example, maybe from the past, of how that has manifested for you? I know that’s something that you’re good at as well, and I know your story very well, but maybe you have a particular example where you set a goal that was business related, maybe that you weren’t even sure you could reach, and you made it happen.
John: Totally. I like to go back to the beginning for me, which is the launch of Entrepreneur on Fire. When I started I had no experience on a microphone, I had no interview experience, I had no connections in the industry. I had come from the military, from corporate finance. I had nothing and this was my first swing of the bat in the world of entrepreneurship. But, I knew that I wanted to create this seven day a week show. I had my “a-ha moment” and I saw that was something that I wanted to create, so I set out to create it.
I learned a lot of these things from the military and other ventures in my life, because I was 32 years old when I launched Entrepreneur on Fire. What I did was I sat down and set a smart goal. I love acronyms and people that listen to my show know I have my share of acronyms, but this one is key. It’s a specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goal. It has to really fit all of those specifics, because if it doesn’t then you’re not going to be able to actually achieve that goal in that critical time-bound fashion that makes sense for you and your business.
If you sit down first and create a smart goal, that’s key. For me, that was Entrepreneur on Fire, that was being specific, this is going to be a seven day a week show. Measurable; I’m going to be measuring what success looks like if I achieve this goal. I want to achieve 100,000 listens per month, that is my big goal down the road. Is it attainable? I talked to people like Cliff Ravenscraft who mentored me and Jamie Tardy who mentored me, and they said yes, this is an attainable goal if you knock it out of the park. Is it relevant? It’s very relevant to me because I want to be a podcast host, so this was a totally relevant goal. Was it time-bound? Yes, I gave myself one year to achieve this goal, one year to get those 100,000 listens on my seven day a week podcast.
I was very specific, I was very smart with setting that goal. Then I set monthly goals to keep me on track along the way, which were critical as well. When I launched my podcast I had that clear path ahead of me of what it would look like to achieve my end goal of still having a seven day a week podcast with 100,000 listens per month at the end of that one year.
That’s grown into Entrepreneur on Fire, which has 1,165 straight interviews without a break with 1.2 million listens per month, so I’ve obviously massively broken through that goal that I had the first year here in year three and that’s really exciting. That’s an example of me setting a smart goal and accomplishing it within that timeframe that I gave myself.
Mark: One of the things that I think people struggle with, and maybe you can comment on this. You had this number in you head of 100,000 listeners and you sort of knew what you were going to do, you were going to interview people.
By the way, true confession; we knew each other back then because we were both around Cliff Ravenscraft and I remember thinking as a guy who worked part time, “Okay, this goal of producing content every day, 365 days a year, John won’t be able to sustain that.” That’s where I was with my thinking.
So, apologies, I underestimated you, John. That will never happen ever again. I don’t make mistakes twice and I will never underestimate you again.
John: Fool me once, shame on you.
Mark: So you kind of had a plan, but you didn’t really know how to get to 100,000. I think a lot of people are in this spot where they know kind of what they want, maybe even how to measure it, but they don’t really have any idea how to get from 100 listens to 100,000, or $100 to $100,000, or 100 sales to 100,000. What do you do when you don’t know how to get there?
John: There’s a quote that I always went back and still do to this day when I try new things. This Freedom Journal for me was completely brand new, I had never published a physical leather bound journal before, I had no idea what I was doing. I went back to how I first started Entrepreneur on Fire and this quote that has always resonated with me, “If you want to be, do.”
I wanted to be a podcaster, so I had to podcast. There was no left or right to it, I just had to do that thing. I did not do it well at first or for a decent amount of time afterwards, but I kept podcasting so that I could eventually become a podcaster.
It didn’t happen overnight. Michael Jordan didn’t make his first free throw. Tiger Woods didn’t make his first putt. These things happen over time, you become that thing that you repeatedly do. There’s another quote that says just that, “We are what we repeatedly do.” It’s true. What is that you want to become? Do that thing.
Guess what? Things come up. I’m interviewing people, they’re telling me these great stories, I’m having ideas and a-ha moments on ways to monetize my podcast. I try them and some flop, some work, and some work really well and I amplify those that work really well. Before you know it I have a five figure per month business, and then before you know it I have a six figure per month business, and not too long ago in May we had our first $500,000 month. It all came from saying, “I am going to be a podcaster, so I am going to podcast.”
Mark: So $500,000 months, a lot of people are driving in their cars right now thinking, “Okay, whatever.” I’m sure Kate tells you this all the time, John, you are not normal. You’re the edge case. People shouldn’t expect to be like you, there’s no way they can be that successful. John, nobody is going to be like you.
What do you say to these 2,000 people or more in Podcasters Paradise who say, “Maybe that worked for you, but you’re John. I’m not John Lee Dumas, I can’t do this.” What do you say to those people?
John: Now there are 2,700 members in Podcasters Paradise, all of whom are moving towards their goal of sharing their voice, message, mission with the world. It’s awesome to see. For those people that are driving in their car that are thinking and saying to themselves, or maybe to their passengers, those exact words that you just shared, I’d say I was in your car four years ago today driving to a job I did not like, listening to Gary Vaynerchuck and Tim Ferriss and Pat Flynn talking about what they were accomplishing and what they were doing, and then talking about other people saying how they’re an edge case and nobody could ever be like them, and thinking to myself, “That’s right, I could never be like them. I’m just this dude who served his country, this grunt soldier with no real refined skills. I work hard and I break things and try to fix them.”
Then I launched and I just kept doing that thing over and over again. That slight edge started working in my favor of doing a daily show and tweeting, putting up posts and updates, and connecting with people that mattered and actually caring about those relationships not just with my guests but with my listeners as well. Then before I knew it I was being asked to speak at conferences and failing badly at those conferences, getting up and stuttering and pacing around and giving some crappy talk and then getting off stage.
Leading up to now, where just three or four months ago I’m keynoting Podcast Movement in Fort Worth, Texas in front of 1,100 people, warming up the stage for Mark Maron of WTF. That has been my progress. It isn’t one that has been replicated many times, but I was you four years ago thinking the exact same thing of Tim Ferriss is an anomaly, Gary Vaynerchuck is an anomaly. Yes, they are anomalies, but the reality is that they did that thing, they took action at one point.
I’ve heard Tim’s story back in 2007 when he couldn’t get anybody to read 4 Hour Work Week, let alone publish it. They laughed him out of buildings, they thought he was a joke, some little punk. Look at him now.
We’ve all started wherever you are right now in the car. Many of us have started even lower than that. I know that I did. It’s just doing that thing.
Mark: As punks go, Tim Ferriss is a pretty cool punk. That’s one of those books I will never ever forget reading. Just wow, I get it.
John: And 60 publishers read that book and laughed at him.
Mark: That is really amazing. You talked about you’re just a grunt. What about that? What was it, did anything carry forward from that time in the military that you still look at today, behaviors or lessons learned, or things that made you successful in the military that you are able to use today in running your business from day to day?
John: The biggest lesson I learned from being an Officer in the U.S. Army, specifically within logistics for my final two years, is Parkinson’s Law. That is that tasks will expand to the time that you allot them. I got into entrepreneurship and I was thinking, “Do people not know this?”
I’m seeing people saying, “I want to build a website sometime this month,” and then the end of the month would come – Mark, you were in masterminds as well and you saw just people would set these loose claims and then they would never become a reality. Whereas, I would always say, “I’m going to interview four people tomorrow for Entrepreneur on Fire.” And guess what? It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t necessarily fun because I wasn’t good, but I interviewed four people the next day. By the end of that day my four interviews were done.
Mark, you were number two, my second chat today. I have seven more interviews lined up today. People say, “John, that’s crazy.” Is it? Because I’m standing in my shorts and tank top right now overlooking the Pacific Ocean hear in San Diego, I’m going to have seven more conversations with really cool entrepreneurs, and then I’m going to be done for the day around 5:30, still sitting in my studio in my home here in San Diego. Is that really tough?
I remember what tough is, I remember deploying to war, I remember getting up early and schlepping to some cubicle for nine hours a day, I remember doing the same thing in New York City, I remember getting into commercial real estate and driving around fruitlessly all day looking to list one property that would have made me nothing even if I was successful doing it. I remember that. Now these conversations that I’m having with successful entrepreneurs, not only are they fun but every one of them is worth $4,000 because that’s how much my sponsorship revenue is for every single episode.
Mark: I will tell you that Parkinson’s Law is alive and well in corporate America. That’s something that I can speak to. What you said is great.
Some of the advice that I give people who are starting out – and you and I talked about this in episode 1,165 of EoF – I encourage people to do something every day no matter what, even if it’s one little thing.
You mentioned a book. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that book where you picked up that same idea of how the little things add up over time.
John: The book is called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. It’s just such a great book for entrepreneurs to read because so many of us say, “What did I do today? I didn’t have any huge wins, I didn’t break any milestones.” That’s okay sometimes. If you understand the power of the slight edge – and that’s doing the small things right every single day.
For me, that’s a 35 minute power walk every morning here in the San Diego Bay and then ending with a seven minute circuit workout. You know what? I’m not going to see massive results from that every day because it’s not a killer workout, it’s 45 minutes and most of it is a walk. But, in six months I’ve seen massive results of energy, fitness, leanness from doing that small thing every day.
Just like for my email that goes out every single morning. Mark, when your interview goes live on Entrepreneur on Fire you’re going to get an email that says, “Mark, your interview on Entrepreneur on Fire is live. You rocked the mic. Here are all the links to share with your audience. If you do so, I’d be honored.” And they’re just simple one click shares that make it so easy for you and my past guests to share with your audience.
I share embed codes if you put “I was featured on Entrepreneur on Fire” on your site you can. Some people do it and some people don’t, but I give them the option every single day. It’s just automatic, it’s the first thing that happens every single day. That little thing has added up to where now EoF has over 1.2 million listens per month and growing.
Those are the little things that you can implement into your lives that will grow into great successes down the road.
Mark: It’s amazing to me how incremental things add up. If you’re able to do a little bit at a time, you look back a year later and all of a sudden, wow, you’ve built all of this stuff. Maybe this one thing that you struggled with for two days a year ago is still paying dividends. I think that’s a really key thing, especially when you’re working in the margins.
I have two questions for you, an easy one and a hard one. Then I want you to tell me what’s next for EoF and then we’re out. Are you ready for all of that?
John: Cool. Let’s rock.
Mark: First one is the easy one. Did you ever actually get to drive a tank? I’ve always wanted to drive a tank. Did you get to drive one? I know you had some tank level where you were a Lieutenant in a tank unit or something.
John: I was the Platoon Leader in a platoon of tanks, which is four tanks and 16 men.
Mark: Okay. That means that you had an E5 driving the tank, right?
John: You’re good, Mark. I love this. By the way, just for a side reference, four tanks properly manned would take over 75% of the countries in this world because there’s nothing they could do, they just couldn’t stop four tanks, period. So it’s a very powerful armament for a 23 year old to be in charge of, which was me.
The answer is yes. We spent 12 months at Fort Knox, Kentucky training every facet of that tank. I was the driver, I was the loader, I was the gunner, and I was the tank commander; those are the four positions within a tank. I learned how to do all four of those positions, and very well.
When it came to deploying to Iraq, I was just the tank commander. That’s the guy that you see maybe in those older movies propped up outside of the turret with the 50 cal right there, which is a massive machine gun, commanding not just his tank but the other three as well.
Mark: I don’t know how much you can talk about this, but my understanding based on the stuff that’s in the public domain is that now you actually have a display in the tank that shows you where the tank is and sometimes maybe where the enemy tanks are, so it’s very electronic.
John: Totally. It’s a touch screen, so you know when you start a mission where your tanks are because it shows you the infrared. You just tap the infrareds and it puts little green triangles on them so that it will follow them around. Then whenever an enemy is identified you can touch them with a different pointer and it will put a red X on them so you know that’s the enemy. It’s fascinating and it’s all really high tech stuff.
Here’s something that you’ll probably find really cool. The accuracy of a tank is unbelievable when it comes to firing the sabot rounds, which is the killing rounds, the one that can puncture any kind of wall or material or anything, it’s a really powerful round. It will accurately fire up to two miles. So when you are aiming your tank up and you actually push the infrared button that shoots out the infrared on the target that you want to hit, you’ll push that button and you’ll see the actual tank tube actually go through taking in wind, the actual humidity in the air, everything, so that when it actually fires it will land within a quarter size of that actual infrared target up to two miles away.
To say that most enemies don’t have a chance is a massive understatement, because even when the Iraqi tanks got close enough to ours to fire, which literally never happens, their shells would just bounce off our tanks. It’s like playing prehistoric back in time games, it’s just not fair.
Mark: If I ever start a tank podcast, which is a real possibility now, you’re going to be my first guest.
John: I’d love it, I love talking about it.
Mark: Okay, that was the easy question. Hard question now. If you were faced with one of my listeners on the street and they just asked you for your best advice about being successful starting a business online, what’s the one thing that you think everybody should know, the one thing that this is the thing that really can make the difference between success and failure? What would you tell them?
John: If you don’t care, nobody is going to care. Actually sit down, take some time, and don’t just say, “Mark is doing the corn sheller thing, I’m going to try that.” No. You don’t care about corn shellers, you did that on a dare. Forget about it.
Sit down and say, “What am I actually excited about?” Which is why it’s really cool that you’re thinking about starting a tank podcast because you’re obviously excited about that and therefore you care.
So, what do you (the listener) care about? What excites you? What do you want to just know more about than the average person? Just sit down and become the subject matter expert in that by going to Lynda.com and watching all of those incredibly awesome video tutorials or any number of places. Become the expert and then start adding value to the world in that.
Your business will appear before your eyes when you do things like that. It’s not going to be overnight and it’s not going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars a month right away, but it could start with that first dollar in the door and grow from there. Then guess what? You’ll be having a blast doing it and that’s really what matters.
Mark: Awesome. Thank you for that. Last question for you and then I’m going to let you enjoy that coastline view that you have there.
Tell everybody what’s going on with Entrepreneur on Fire next. I know you have some projects and you alluded to one of them previously. Tell me what’s next and exciting and coming soon from John Lee Dumas, JLD the fire man. What’s coming up?
John: By far my biggest project and passion project in 2015 is The Freedom Journal. We did allude to it. You asked that great question about the one thing that I’ve seen all of my past guests possess and that commonality is the setting and accomplishing of goals. I said there are enough apps in the world, there are enough online PDFs and all this stuff, I have the ability because of the successful revenue and business model that I have to create something physical and really special that can help a ton of people in pretty much any industry, and that is The Freedom Journal.
So I set out in 2015 to create what I considered the perfect journal that will teach people how to set a smart goal – we touched upon what that is, it’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound – and then, more importantly, I guide you in the accomplishment of that goal in 100 days.
This is a beautiful faux-leather (animal friendly) black journal, gold embossed, gold leafed, it’s just a work of art. If this was a video podcast, I’d hold it up right now, it is gorgeous journal and within it the illustrations are killer. It will guide you on your journey of settings and accomplishing your number one goal in 100 days, period. Whatever that goes is, you will accomplish it.
I’m so confident that I’m actually putting a complete money back guarantee, if you don’t accomplish your goal at the end of the 100 days, send me the book so I can study and see why you might have failed and why the book might have let you down so that I can improve it in the future, and you get your money back. It’s that much of an awesome goal oriented book and it’s my passion project.
On January 4th we’re launching a killer crowd funding campaign via Kickstarter where there’s going to be a ton of great gift levels and rewards. We’d love for people to check it out. One of the reasons why we’re using Kickstarter as a platform, and this goes back to the conference I just keynoted at, Thrive: Make Money Matter, this is not just another revenue source for Entrepreneur on Fire, we’ve partnered up with Pencils of Promise, which is an incredible organization out in New York City. As we hit our funding goals I’m going to be actually writing checks for $25,000 to build schools in third world countries directly out of the proceeds from The Freedom Journal.
It’s going to be an amazing journal for anybody that actually has it in their hands to accomplish a goal and then, number two, you’re going to be contributing to a phenomenal cause and building complete schools in third world countries. Mark, I know you’re friends with Pat, and Pat just got back from Africa not too long ago to see his school that he built through his Pencils of Promise campaign. It’s just awesome. It’s a feel good story, it’s just a reality and something that I’m really passionate about.
Mark: Very good. Do you have a sign up list or anything ready to go for the Kickstarter campaign?
John: Just visit TheFreedomJournal.com.
Mark: I knew you would have that. Just to be clear, you said it’s faux-leather but no fauxs were harmed in the making of the books? There’s no third world faux farm or something where these fauxs are getting led to slaughter, it’s all good?
John: It is all good. It’s faux leather, animals were spared across the board. Faux is just a French word for fake, so it’s all good.
Mark: John Lee Dumas, you are the man. JLD, the fire man, the stud, the dude. You’ve done it. I’m really excited to have had you on the show. My listeners are going to want more John Lee Dumas. Where do they get it?
Mark: I’m totally in, you will see my Kickstarter contribution, I’m committed.
John: You will get a beautiful faux-leather bound book delivered to your doorstep.
Mark: I’m looking forward to that, but I’m not in for that reason. I’m in because I believe in what you’re doing and I think it’s going to help a lot of people and if I can be a tiny part of that, I’m down.
John: I’m going to have the high five Mark level contribution of a pretty high number, so that will what you claim.
Mark: Very good. Awesome. All right, you have a great day. Thank you very much.
John: Mark, thank you.
Wrapping Things Up…
That was an awesome interview with John Lee Dumas. I hope you enjoyed that. I hope you found at least one thing that you can take away from that. I encourage you to give John a shout out and let him know that you heard him on the Late Night Internet Marketing Podcast, he will love that and I will love it too. Thank him for being on, because it’s a big deal to get John on the show. Give John a shout out, you can find all of his contact information in the show notes at LateNightIM.com/092 or you can just simply holler at him @JohnLeeDumas on Twitter and let him know you heard him on the show. That would be awesome.
Also, don’t forget about the Michael Hyatt PDF at LateNightIM.com/hyattpdf. That’s really worth your time to download, go check that out, I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Until next week, I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving or whatever it is that you do with this special Thursday of the year. I’ll see you next week.