THE INNER CHIEF – EPISODE 29 – John Lee Dumas on being insanely valuable, thinking outside the box and how to finally win
In this episode we hear from John Lee Dumas, Founder of Entrepreneurs on Fire.
John’s Top 3 Points:
- Live by this mantra – “Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” Albert Einstein
- To get in front you must think and act outside the box. Stop doing what everyone else is doing. Stand apart and do what you love doing
- Hustle. Go the extra mile and while everyone else is watching netflix you do what your competition isn’t willing to do
John is the founder and host of Entrepreneurs ON FIRE, an award winning Podcast where he interviews today’s most successful Entrepreneurs 7-days a week. JLD has grown EOFire.com into a 7-figure business with over 2000 interviews and 1.5 million monthly listens.
You can connect with John through these publications:
Entrepreneurs On Fire:
Memoir – Audio Biographies of the men and women who changed the world:
JLD is also the author of:
The Freedom Journal: Accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days
The Mastery Journal: Master productivity, discipline and focus in 100 days!
And His new book, How to Finally Win (www.howtofinallywin.com)
Some of the questions I ask John Lee Dumas:
- What was the most important lesson you learnt from your time as a soldier in Iraq that shaped you the most?
- You spent time in law firms, real estate and a number of other industries early in your career. Eventually you took a different path to be start podcasts and be an entrepreneur. What were you really looking for that you found in podcasting and EOFire?
- What advice would you give to a middle / snr manager of a large organisation that is stuck in their career, fighting politics and can’t seem to find a way forward?
- If someone, is thinking that they might like to start their own business. Can you explain what a side-hustle is and the most important principles to get it right?
- What is a final message of wisdom and hope you think is vital for the next generation of executives?
Greg Layton: I want people to understand a bit about where you come from. What is your essence? Can you tell us a quick story about maybe something that summed up your childhood?
John Lee Dumas: You know, I was really into sports as a child. It really was just the main focus of my life. I grew up in a very small town in Maine, right next to a park, so every day after school, I'd head down there, and I'd play basketball or hit the ball around with friends. And then my father would get off work, and we'd get down to the serious business of taking ground balls and swinging the bat and shooting the ball and doing all the things.
That really kind of summed up my childhood was really just school, then play and sports and fun. I feel very fortunate that my dad was a really big part of that because he ran his own business, and he was lawyer who ran his own practise, so I really, from a young age, said, “You know what? There's a lot of benefits of running your own business, of being in charge of who you are and what you're doing.”
All my other friends' fathers, I just can remember, were always at work. That was just … “Where's your dad?” “Oh, he's at work.” And I was like, “Oh, well, that's cool.” And then I would call my dad up at like 3:15, 3:30, and he'd be like, “Yep, I'll be right over.” And boom, he'd be there. We really just had this cool experience. That kind of sums up my childhood, just a lot of fun, a lot of sun, a lot of snow because I am from Maine, so it definitely gets cold up there. But a lot of quality time with the father.
Greg Layton: Now, when you finished through school, and you joined the army, and you actually toured Iraq. Can you tell us a bit about your time there? Were there any events that, I suppose, have shaped you since then.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, big time. Just picture a 23-year-old, and this 23-year-old spent the first 18 years of his life in a small town in Maine, then four years in Providence, Rhode Island, which is a pretty small city. What did I do in college? I mean, I drank, I went to parties, I had fun, I slept in, I didn't take school that seriously. Then now, just a year later, I'm in charge of 16 men in Iraq, four tanks, and I'm in a war. It was such a crazy difference from what I had been living the prior 23 years of my life. It was kind of hard to cope with. I will say that because it was pretty just immediate from graduation into training then into war. It was like bang, bang, bang.
I just kind of had to look into the mirror one day and say, “You know what, it's time to get serious. You've had fun your whole life. You had fun during college. You haven't really taken life that seriously so far. But if you don't take life seriously right now, then you're potentially gonna get killed, and you might actually even be responsible for other people getting killed as well. This is war. This is serious.”
I kind of made this mental shift that whole time I was in Iraq and just really said, “You know what, for these 13 months I'm gonna be here, it's just all about doing what's right, taking the extra step, going the extra mile, being cautious, but being professional, being disciplined, being focused on what I'm doing.” I was able to kind of click into that gear. It wasn't super simple because it was the first time I ever had to click into that gear before, but I was able to do it. I definitely learned a lot of lessons during those 13 months.
Greg Layton: Yeah, no doubt. I listen to your podcast, EO on Fire, and a lot of that is around the discipline and process excellence and really bringing your A game every single day. Did that really stem from that time in Iraq, do you think?
John Lee Dumas: Absolutely. There's no doubt about it. That was really the first time that I saw the benefits of being disciplined, that I saw the benefit of really being focused on the task at hand, that I understood what productivity meant, like actually producing the right actions on a day-to-day basis and what that could lead to
Greg Layton: A lot of my listeners would really battle with the number of things they have in front of them every single day, and even more and more tasks get put on them from their boss. What do you do? Do you have a daily ritual or something that allows you to stay super-focused?
John Lee Dumas: I have a ritual that I love. It's basically two hours of just focusing on my health, my wellness, my energy. It starts off at civil twilight. Do you know what civil twilight means, Greg? Do they use that term in Australia?
Greg Layton: No, we don't use that term.
John Lee Dumas: It's when the sun is still six degrees below the horizon, so it's light out, but the sun has not yet come up. That's when I get out of bed, and that's when I go outside. Luckily, I can do that because I'm in Puerto Rico, and it's typically between 78 and 81 degrees in civil twilight, so it's very comfortable outside.
I do an amazing 25 to 30-minute yoga session, just to start the day. Then I follow that up with a 10-minute meditation, and that meditation then moves into my gym, where I do 30 minutes in an infrared sauna, which I have, a little at-home infrared sauna, which I absolutely love and adore and use every single day.
Then I go up into my shower, and I do dry brushing right before I shower to get my lymph nodes moving. Then after I shower, I'm hydrating because I've just spent the entire night and then morning dehydrating by doing those activities, especially the dry sauna, just sweating my butt off. I hydrate the right way. I hydrate with a freshly squeezed lemon into my water, with a great all-natural, all-nutrient little powder that just kinda mixes in and gives me the nutrients that my body needs. I have a fruit and vegetable blend that I mix in too, so I'm essentially drinking about 30 ounces of water, just bang, bang, bang, just to fully hydrate my body and to get myself going.
Then I go through a little breathing exercise to really make sure that I'm oxygenating my body and my blood in the best way possible. Then I journal. I utilise both the Mastery and the Freedom Journal. And then I do my first focus session of the day, and that focus session is something not social media, not email-related, nothing that's being reactive. It's about being proactive on a project that I'm currently working on.
That is, in essence, what my morning ritual looks like, and typically that takes somewhere between two to three hours.
Greg Layton: When you left the army, you spent time at law firms and real estate and other industries. When you were in those other jobs at the law firm and the real estate, what do you think you were really looking for that, when you found podcasting and being a business owner, you found? What do you think you were really looking for?
John Lee Dumas: I think what I was looking for when I went to law school and when I went into corporate finance and then when I went into commercial real estate, what I was looking for was success. I was chasing success. I was chasing respect. I really thought that I needed to do that to kind of continue what I had started by being an officer in the U.S. Army for four years. Now, let's just kinda keep that going. How do I keep up levelling that game?
I just wasn't finding success, and I definitely was not finding happiness. Then I saw a quote that I'd seen before, but I'd never really absorbed it to the level that I did that day. That quote was an Albert Einstein quote, “Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” I was just like, “Albert Einstein, you brilliant man.” Here I am, I've been trying to become a person of success my entire life, and I've been coming up woefully short. But what value have I been giving to the world? What have I been doing to provide value? The answer was really not that much.
I decided that day to flip it on its head. That's when I decided to come up with the concept of creating value first and seeing where that led me, which led me to create a free, valuable, and consistent podcast called Entrepreneurs on Fire. Here we are talking now, almost six years later, over 2,000 episodes, over 60 million listens to date with a business that generates multiple millions of dollars every single year.
Greg Layton: I can't recommend that podcast enough. I listen to it regularly. What it does for people in the corporate world is give you a very different lens of the world. Entrepreneurs think differently. They move fast. They have a lot of energy, and I think that's something that we can really learn from the corporate world.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah.
Greg Layton: John, a lot of my listeners, as they get further up in the hierarchy, I think of like a VP-type level over in the States, but here it would be like a general manager or director level, they hit this top bit where only a few people make it, like a very few percent make it to C-level type positions. Then they get stuck fighting politics and bureaucracy and things like that, and they can't seem to find a way forward. What advice would you give them?
John Lee Dumas: I think one of the biggest problems with corporate America that I definitely found when I was in there is that everybody is just within their own box. You're just in the box. You just continue to try to do the same things that you were taught from people before you, from people that have hired you, or that are in positions that you want to strive towards. You're just in this box. To me, all the magic happens outside of that box, when you change, when you try to do something different.
I mean, what can you do to set yourself apart? Like when I launched Entrepreneurs on Fire, I could've stayed in the box, and I could've done what everybody else was doing, which was a weekly podcast, interviewing one entrepreneur, four per month, and just ask the same questions. But no, I said, “How can I do this differently? What is needed in this world?” And I realised that there's no daily podcast. There were probably people that were like me that were driving around every single day, looking for new inspiration, new guidance, new excitement, all this stuff. And I said, “Hey, why not be that person to fill that void?”
I just think people need to say, “What is really screwed up at my work?” Everybody complains around the water fountain. Everybody moans about this boss, that boss, about this coworker, about that coworker. How about go on, number one, just like a 30-day complain-free challenge, where you're just not complaining for 30 days? That'll change your life for one, I guarantee you that. Then number two, why don't you actually try to do and make a change happen that's meaningful and actually doing something that's outside of the box, that's gonna make people raise their eyebrows?
I think a lot of people just want to fit in. They want to just kind of be that next sheep that's baaing in line and not just raising any eyebrows because hey, I don't want my head to get chopped off. I hear a lot of people, especially in Australia, refer to that, the tall poppy syndrome, where if that tall poppy pops up, if somebody's kinda standing out a little bit, that person's gonna get their head chopped off because everybody wants everybody just to be even, to be normal, and to be right along there.
I can remember it happening in the States too. When I was in corporate finance, I got in with this attitude that was just on fire, and I was just like, “I'm gonna crush this.” I was making more phone calls than anybody and having longer talk times than anybody. I had somebody pull me aside at the coffee machine. They're like, “John, why don't you slow down a little bit? You're making us look bad.” I'll never forget that little chat that I had. I looked at that guy, and I'm like, “You're making yourself look bad. I'm just doing what I think is best for me and for my business and for my external wholesaler” because I was in securities, so I had an external wholesaler. I was his internal.
I was just doing what I thought was best for him and for me and for our team, and then, of course, overall for the business, which was John Hancock. And the fact that this person wanted me to do worse, which would've then been doing worse for my teammates, would've been doing worse for my company. He wanted me to do worse just so he could do worse and not have to improve and do better was just such a foreign concept to me. I was like, “Man, I'm either in the wrong place, or I'm gonna be running this place pretty soon. One of the two.”
Honestly, I think either thing would've happened because I was getting promoted incredibly rapidly. I was having all these opportunities handed to me. But it just ended up being the reality that I saw the ladder that I was climbing. I saw what was on the other side of that wall. I saw that I did not want to be climbing that ladder and that I was in fact climbing the wrong ladder, and that I wanted to be waking up every morning and working on something that I was excited about, that I was inspired about, that was building my brand, my business, not somebody else's. That's when I made that shift.
But, for people that are still in that situation, and they're thinking, “What can I do?” It's gotta be different. You can't be afraid to raise those eyebrows, to try something new. Honestly, if your boss bites your head off because of it, then that boss needs to get exposed for the charlatan that they are, frankly, because it's not good for anybody. It's bad for business. It's bad for you. It's bad for your colleagues, who are just settling for mediocrity, and mediocrity just sucks.
Greg Layton: John, just a quick question because I think you've made a really good point here about, if someone does want to leave, I'm an entrepreneur, you're an entrepreneur, not everyone wins, right? It's a tough game. It's not all cocktails on the beach. I know how hard you work. If someone is thinking about potentially taking a leap outside the company they work for, can you explain what a side hustle is and the most important principles to get that right?
John Lee Dumas: I think a side hustle is a great opportunity for most people because the reality is, and we have to speak in realities, most people are living paycheck to paycheck. If you're not living paycheck to paycheck, you probably don't have many paychecks that you can miss before you start saying, “Yikes, where's that next rent or mortgage or whatever payment that you owe is coming from?” We don't have that much in the bank. This is a highly reported statistic. It's quite scary. Frankly, it's the handcuffs that keep people locked in jobs, in lives, that they frankly just don't like and, most of the time, despise.
Listen, I get the fact that you can't just walk away from your job, for most people. That's just the reality, and that's okay because that is most people's reality right now. You're not doing something terrible because you're in that situation. You've just unfortunately gone down the path most people have.
So, what can you do now? Well, listen, you're probably working a nine-to-five. I get that some people work a little longer hours than that, and you have commuting and stuff like that. But if you really want to live that lifestyle that you want down the road, you've got to start utilising your other hours. Instead of getting home, cracking open a cocktail, watching three hours of Netflix, going to bed, waking up right before you gotta leave for work, flying into work, and just that being your life. You've gotta flip the script a little bit. If you keep doing that, that will always be your life. Just know that.
And if you're okay with that, fine. You're probably not listening to this podcast if you're okay with that. You're probably drinking a cocktail in front of Netflix right now, not listening to shows like this, so it probably doesn't apply to you. But if you are listening to this, you're probably like, “What can I do?” Well, take your seven to midnight. Take your five a.m. to eight a.m. Use those hours to start a side hustle.
There's a quote, and I'm gonna butcher it a little bit because I don't know it exactly, but it's like, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work like no one else is willing to, so they can live like no one else is able to later.” If you're willing to work like nobody's willing to work now, you're giving yourself at least the opportunity to live like nobody else is able to later.
Frankly, listen, that's me. I'm speaking from the Caribbean right now, in this gorgeous house overlooking the Caribbean with a lifestyle that I love, with a job that I can do exactly what I want, when I want to. Yes, it's absolutely hard work. You are my 27th of 27 interviews today. I've put in the time and the effort today to get my message out, to share my voice, my mission, my message with the world.
But guess what? A, I love doing it, which is why I chose this profession. I enjoy speaking into a microphone and having conversations with people like you, Greg, and with the listeners who are listening now and being able to share this stuff. I've chosen this, and I'm excited about it. And guess what? I do this one day a month. This is the day that I do interviews on other shows. I will not do another interview on another show for the next 30 days, literally. It's not till April 20 that I'm doing another full day of interviews. Right now, it's the middle of March, as you and I are talking and recording this.
Then the other days of the month, I'm doing what I want to do, which, by the way, is also work. I'm working hard. I'm doing the emails, the social media. I'm writing a book. I'm creating a course. I'm doing a lot of things, and I'm working really hard, but at the things that I want to work on. For those people that really want to get this going, the side hustle's got to be part of it. You've gotta come up with an idea and put that practise to work from seven p.m. to midnight. Wake up at five a.m., work on it through eight. If you have the ability while you're at work, during your lunch break, or even when you're at work, and maybe you're able to actually crush it.
I can remember, back at John Hancock, I was able to do an entire day's work in like two and a half hours. Then I could do other things the rest of the day. A lot of people have that opportunity at their work as well. I'm not saying to shirk at your job, but maybe instead of just casually and slowly doing your job all day, you crush it for a couple hours, and you use some of that free time that you've freed up to think and to brainstorm and to test and to get that side hustle going.
Once you get that side hustle going, and the dollars start to trickle in, the next thing you know, you're making $1,000 per month, and you're like, “Wow, I can really see this turning into $3,000 or $4,000 a month, if I was able to give my full focus to that.” Well, now you're talking. Now, maybe you can make that leap because you already have some momentum. You already have some things going for you. You just need more time, more energy, more effort to pour into that. Now, you can leave that job and say, “Okay, I have six months to go from $1,000 a month to $4,000 a month because those are my monthly expenses. I gotta get there.”
Listen, we're human beings. We're survival of the fittest. Put our backs against the walls, that's when we perform best. That's when we really make things happen, especially entrepreneurs. Again, if you're listening to this, you're probably in that boat where you're gonna work your booty off to avoid that failure. You're gonna make things happen.
That's what the side hustle's all about, just testing some things, doing it in the off hours, and just making it happen, getting that initial momentum, and then seeing ways you can amplify that down the road.
Greg Layton: That is some sage advice. I'll make sure all that's really clear for people in the show notes. John, it's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. There's a couple final questions we ask all our chiefs, of which you are truly a great chief. Normally, I ask people what is their number one book or number on podcast. I'm just gonna skip that question and say, listen to EO on Fire or, if you love history, listen to a new one called Memoir, which I had my first listen of that the other day.
John Lee Dumas: Yay!
Greg Layton: That was pretty cool, Alexander the Great. Understanding the history of the great men and women that have shaped the planet. That's really cool. A quick couple of questions, mate. What's the next thing in your life you're most excited about?
John Lee Dumas: Right now, I'm working on a book project called, “How to Finally Win.” It's about creating your dream life one step at a time. If people want to learn more, they can just visit howtofinallywin.com.
Greg Layton: That's awesome. Okay, I'll put that in the show notes too, guys. Mate, how can people connect with you? Is the best way through How to Finally Win and the podcast?
John Lee Dumas: All the magic happens at eofire.com. You can subscribe to the podcast there. We have five incredibly awesome free courses there, a free course on how to podcast, do webinars, create funnels, accomplish goals, be more productive, all there for you. Eofire.com.
Greg Layton: Excellent. Mate, can you nominate another chief that you hold with great respect you think should be on this show?
John Lee Dumas: I would like to nominate Kate Lynn Erickson to be the next chief on your show.
Greg Layton: Ah, Kate would be brilliant, yes. Excellent. The final message of wisdom and hope you think is vital for the next generation of executives. Your final question, John.
John Lee Dumas: If you want to be, do. Whatever it is that you want to be in this world, do that thing. If you want to be a guitarist, pick up a guitar and play for two hours a day. You want to become great at golf? Gotta go golfing every single day. You want to become great at podcasting? You gotta podcast. You gotta actually do that thing. Whatever it is you want to be in this world, do that thing.
Greg Layton: That's a magnificent note to finish on, John. I want to thank you and honour you for your magnificent contribution to the world and to entrepreneurs who, I think, have an incredibly debt to you. Thank you again for all your time.
John Lee Dumas: Greg, it was great hanging out with you, brother. Take care and later.