— Summary —
About John Lee Dumas
John Lee Dumas is the founder and host of EOFire, a top ranked business podcast where he interviews inspiring entrepreneurs daily. Before getting into the podcast space, he served eight years in the army. After he came back, he went through a six year struggle in his search for meaning and making an impact. His journey took him through a law school to corporate finance to real estate. With some wins and some failures, he just wasn’t happy.
So, in his search for content he discovered some incredible podcasts which were free, valuable and constant. But he found out that the frequency in which they were published wasn’t enough for him so he started his own podcast Entrepreneur on Fire which is published 7 days a week. As of now, there are almost 1400 episodes published with over a million monthly listeners and 30 million downloads to date.
- It really is important to distinguish yourself to make better stuff and be better at what you do.
- You are not going to be awesome from day one. Keep working hard every single day to get a little bit better.
- It is not about the hack or the technology. We have to run the miles.
- Create the solution for your avatar.
- Don’t force out more than you can really get out there in a quality way. People want the quality so work on it.
Three Habits for Success
Creating (1) free, (2) valuable and (3) consistent content.
The Imposter Syndrome due to which high-achieving individuals are terrified and are unable to internalize their accomplishments.
Looking Into the Future
We need to focus our energy and our greatest impact on specific avatars that we want to serve. If you try to resonate with everybody, you resonate with no one. Just know who you are at your core, know exactly who you want to serve and then just serve that person or those few. Those few people even that one person will grow into a much bigger tribe.
Profit First, Michael Michalowicz
Stop taking life so seriously. You have a long road ahead of you. There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs. Enjoy the moment. Work hard and chill out.
— Begin Transcript —
Hey everyone, this is Mel Abraham from The Entrepreneur’s Solution show and welcome to this episode. And this episode’s for me is an absolute joy. It’s kind of full circle for me because this show came about because of my guest this morning and getting a chance to have a chat with the John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire, Fire Nation, Webinars on Fire. It’s Podcasters’ Paradise. You name it.
John’s got an amazing, amazing story. I guess we call him JLD. And here’s a guy who one has served our country in a great way, 7 years in the army and doing tours in Iraq and leading a platoon, leadership qualities. But then he came back here and he went through a struggle that many of us entrepreneurs go through. It’s kind of that search for meaning, that search for who we are, that search for what’s meaningful and how we can have the greatest impact.
He will tell you a little bit more about his journey but he went from the service to law school to finance to real estate all around until he landed on this concept of serving entrepreneurs and serving entrepreneurs in a great way. With Entrepreneur on Fire, it’s one of the best podcast out there in the entrepreneur space and just in the podcast space in general; talks about life and that type of thing.
You look at it, he’s on episode; last time I checked I think it’s episode 1333. So, this guy has been busy seven days a week and some of the cool things that I like about him is that some of the concepts with his podcast is it was focused on valuable content and consistent content which I think for content creators, thought leaders, entrepreneurs is something that we lack is this concept of saying, “Let’s give value first and let’s do it consistently and then let’s see where the chips fall” and John has done that and we’re going to get a chance to talk to him about a couple of things that include…
I want to talk to him about his Freedom Journal which is his newest endeavor and an amazing, amazing resource that he did on kick start. It was like number 6 on Kickstarter campaigns so welcome, welcome John. JLD it’s just great to have you here and get a chance to spend some time with you.
John: Well Mel, there is no place I’d rather be then right here, right now brother and whether it’s John or JLD or just Dumas, I’m all good with it brother. Let’s just say I will rock the mic.
Mel: You’ve got it. You got it my friend. Hey, do me a favor. I kind of gave you my synopsis of your journey but maybe you could give us your perspective and the key turning points, the things that were the Ahas! Or the realizations that got you because sometimes we get pushed back on our heels and we are afraid to make those choices but you stepped through them and you did them in a big way.
John: I think you did a great job so maybe I will just go through some of the highlights and lowlights. I come from a very inauspicious background in the state of Maine. Spent the first 18 years in my life there. Great, great time. Then I went to college under Army ROTC scholarship and when I graduated, I spent 8 years in the army 4 active, 4 in the reserve. Did a little 13 month tour of duty in Iraq which you mentioned.
Then when I got out of the military, I thought the world was my oyster but then I spent the next 6 years struggling greatly and failing consistently. I tried law school. I quit after one semester. Corporate finance. Dying of slow death in a cubicle, I quit after 18 months. And then, I tried real estate for 4 years; commercial and residential, and I had some successes there, some wins but a lot of failures and struggles and I just wasn’t happy.
So, I was searching. Searching for content. Luckily, some of the podcasts which are incredibly free, valuable and consistent content targeted on demand. All the things that I know that we love as human beings and I found my podcast that I loved and I would be listening to them but then I saw and heard that these podcasts were just coming out with one a week or two a month. Twice a month at the most and I was like, “Man, I’m driving to work 5 days a week. I’m heading to the gym.”
Like there has to be a solution for people like myself and I did more research, it didn’t exist. I decided to follow that great Gandhi quote and ‘Be the change you wished to see in the world’ and for me that was to create a 7 day a week podcast interviewing inspiring entrepreneurs. And was I good when I started? No. I was clueless. I was naïve. I didn’t know what I was getting into.
But ignorance is a bliss for entrepreneurs. I just woke up every single day, got a little bit better, learned a little bit more. Here we are. I’ve now recorded over 1400 episodes. We’ve had over 30 million downloads to date. We’re generating over a million listeners per month and our business is a 7 figure a year business. So, a lot of things have been going well and I’m just excited to continue to share inspiration with the world.
Mel: It’s amazing that what you’ve done in what I think is a relatively short time because the podcast started late, late 2012. So, you’re talking about less than 4 years, 30 million downloads.
Mel: Yeah. I mean that’s incredible and I think it’s a statement to a couple of things. And this is maybe where we jump off is one you focused on creating distinction but distinction with excellence and I’m just curious where that came from for you.
John: Yeah, so one thing I do want to kind of point out first is, we hear a lot of these metrics out there and like 30 million downloads is not a vanity metric; like that’s a real number for sure. Like that’s a huge number in the podcasting world but you know, I know as myself when I listen to other episodes and interviews etc. I’m like, “What does that really mean?”
Like okay. Like you’ve got two thousand likes on your Instagram posts. Like is that really doing something positive for your business? And so, I think, what is important that do that I’m really proud of here at EOFire is we do share our income reports every single month. Last year EOFire generated over four and a half million gross and we did 2.6 million net revenue. So, this is real money coming from a real business so you know these numbers that we can throw around all day long and I caution everybody to take a lot of them with a grain of salt.
But in a really search and strive for people that are actually bringing in real revenue for content that they’re providing and for businesses that they’re growing because that’s important. And not to get off on to a rant Mel but look at these like Ink Talk 100 list every single year. I go through the magazine and it’s like number 34, this company that did 9 million dollars in gross revenue with 218 employees. I’m like, “There’s no money there.” That is losing money every single year so we need to be careful like who we look up to and who we admire and who we are following. We need to find people that are actually doing it the way that we want to be doing.
And for me, an important thing, and this is a great book by Michael Michalowicz, Profit First. I wanted to have money in the bank at the end of the day, at the end of the year. And that’s important to me so that’s the business that I’m building is a very net profit focused business. You know 60 to 70, sometimes even up to 80 percent on what we do.
But kind of getting to what you are saying about the distinction, I think it really is important to distinguish yourself and the ways that you’re able to because a lot of people say, “John, what are best tactics to get more downloads and more listeners and grow my audience?”
My answer is, “Make better stuff.”
Like be better at what you do. Create a better podcast episode. Do a better blog post. Like create better content. Stop worrying about the latest hack that’s going to get more people to your podcast episode because I don’t care if you get a thousand people to your podcast episode when you used to get a hundred. If your podcast episode stinks then that’s just going to be 900 people being like, “Well, what is this crap?” and they’re never coming back. So, work on your stuff, distinguish yourself.
That doesn’t mean you got to be awesome from day 1 because you’re not going to be. But just be as good as you can from day one and keep working hard every single day to get a little bit better. I mean, go back and listen to episode 100 of EOFire. I wasn’t good even after a hundred episodes. Listen to episode 500. I was a little bit better. Episode 1000, I was really getting a lot better. Now, here I am approaching my 1500th episode. Like the quality is increasing because I’m working on it every single day.
Mel: Well, it becomes the, your tools of the trade. And I love what you say. I will go back to your rant for a moment because I look at those Inc 100 lists and I do the math. I look at the revenue per employee and I go, “Are you kidding me? I want nothing to do with this.” But I think that this is…what did you say?
John: Working so hard too.
Mel: Oh my god. Forget it. I had a staff of 30 at one point. I’m done. So, high margin, high cash flow, high impact, high excellence. That’s the way to go. And I think that the message that you take away from what you just said is, we got to run the miles. It’s not about the hack, the technology, the recording, the music, the bumpers; any of that. We got to run the miles to get ourselves at a level that people take notice.
And I honor you for that and I thank you for that because you basically told me the same thing in a 10 minute conversation and said, “You just got to go do it.” And that’s what we’ve done. And we just keep doing it. I’m doing some daily videos. I’m doing weekly podcasts. And I can tell you and everyone out there that, that regular patterns serves you; when I went into the studio to record my latest launch videos, it was totally different and on live stages, it’s totally different because you’ve created and worked the muscle out in a great way and it’s perfect to do that.
John: After you’re doing a weekly podcast, like so many people are saying, like, “John is doing a daily podcast. That must be the reason why he is successful.” And the reason is, “No” like I’m creating a daily podcast because I know that that’s what I wanted as a listener so I’m creating the solution for my avatar, for my perfect listener. It is so much better that you’re going to do one episode per week or one episode a month that’s an awesome podcast episode then to just force out a daily podcast or more than you can really get out there in a quality way. People want the quality so work on the quality.
Mel: Yeah. Absolutely.
John: Consistency. That is the keyword.
Mel: What was that? Consistency. So, when we look back on your journey and like you said, you’ve had your stumbles and falls, your stubbed toes and broken noses along the way. What do you think are the three habits that really drove your success that may help some of the listeners to understand, hmm because to me habits are just rituals that are the things that we just do repeatedly sometimes unconsciously but sometimes, we start them consciously and they make a huge difference over time?
John: Yes. So I will talk about three ingredients that I believe are important to success because I want to talk about some of my habits that I’ve implemented but the thing about habits for me is they are always changing, they are always adjusting because once I’ve formed a habit, it’s a habit now I would move on to the next thing. So that’s always evolving for me. I’m always pivoting and adjusting and kind of finding out new things about myself but three ingredients that are so key and you touched upon them a little bit in the intro, you touched upon two of them specifically.
But for me the three ingredients for success are creating free, valuable and consistent content. If you’re able to take those three ingredients and do that on again, that third ingredient consistent basis, you will win. It’s just a matter of when. And you have to realize that we are on a marathon. Like, EOFire did not turn on back in September of 2012 and become a cash generating machine.
No, like the first year we did twenty six thousand dollars in gross revenue. The second year, we definitely did a lot more into the six figures but it wasn’t until year three and four that we started seeing our seven figure and not that we are approaching eight figures but we’re getting closer to eight figures then we are to seven figures at this point which is pretty exciting and that took time, it took the … of us saying, “You know what? We are going to do free, valuable and consistent content around what our avatar wants.”
Because when we do that then we’re going to build an audience of our avatars and then, we can say, “Avatars, what are you struggling with? What is your pain points, your obstacles?”
And then, we can create the solution for them in the form of a product, a service, a community that starts generating revenue. That’s called building the audience the right way so that they can know, like and trust you and then you engage them in a powerful, meaningful, caring way and then, you create the solution for their problems, for their pain points that they’ve shared with you. You hand it back to them on a silver platter and maybe for the first few times, you do it for free as well like I do with free podcast course and our free webinar course.
Like those were things that we put out there for free. But of course we do have opportunities for higher level for the premium like Podcasters’ Paradise and Webinar on Fire and The Freedom Journal. So, those are opportunities as well. So, that to me are the three ingredients of success and if you can implement that and make that a habit then every day, you’re doing those three things, you win. It’s just a matter of when.
Mel: Making that the top of the list to make sure that when you get to that end of the day, you literally are just, you can look at yourself and say, “Can I check these things off? And if I can check these things off, I did all right that day.” Cool. Cool.
What do you think the biggest hurdle is that you had to overcome, maybe that was a mindset hurdle or maybe it was a thought process or maybe it was just knowledge that you had to overcome that really actually released you in that process and what did you do to overcome it?
John: Yeah, I say the biggest thing by far was something that I call The Imposter Syndrome and that is, just, that voice inside your head because Mel, when I launched EOFire or I was actually right there in free launch mode, like I had never interviewed anybody before. I had never done any kind of a podcast or a broadcast show. I had no online experience. I didn’t have a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page.
I was starting from ground zero and again, ignorance is bliss in a lot of ways but it can also be scary at the same time too because I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into. So, when it came time for me to launch like I was terrified. I was like, I can’t press this publish button because who am I to have interviewed Tim Ferris and Gary Vaynerchuk and Barbara Corcoran. Like who am I to have interviewed these people and it definitely terrified me and I was actually paralyzed and I pushed my launch date back five weeks because of that fear that I had surrounding my launch.
I was ready in every way, shape and form but the imposter syndrome stepped in and the reality is this because I’ve now personally mentored over 40 mentees. There’s over 2800 people in Podcasters’ Paradise. Like there is an absolute reality that we’re human beings and we’re going to experience the imposter syndrome. It is innate within us when we’re born. Those who are successful are those who learn to embrace the imposter syndrome and rise above.
Mel: So true. I know that I struggle with it many times because you also even have the outside forces saying, “Who are you to do that?” and if you listen to the voices inside and outside, it makes it even more challenging to deal with it. And so, it’s cool that you brought that piece up because I think that we all struggle with it and we all need to find that way and maybe it’s an external; The Entrepreneur Solution, the book didn’t get out because I put it on a shelf because I was scared to put it out; same thing until someone that was in my life looked at me and he was a mentor and a friend and he said, “I will not support anything else you do until we put this book out in the world.” And there we were sixteen thousand books sold in two weeks.
John: It’s kind of funny you told that story because for us, it was really interesting. I was delaying launching for five weeks and it was my mentor Jaime Masters of the Eventual Millionaire who finally came to me and said, “John, like I’m calling out your BS. If you don’t launch your podcast today, I will fire you.”
Mel: Wow. So you had the same experience. You know, you’re pissed off at the time but thankful afterwards. It was a great gift for him to do that for me. So, we start to look towards the; we’ve got I know a handful of minutes left but as you start to look to the future, if you were looking out 5 – 10 years based on what’s going on tech wise, globally, economically what is, where would you say we need to focus our time, our energy to have the greatest impact?
John: I think we need to focus our energy and our greatest impact on these specific avatars that we want to serve. I mean, so many people try to go broad and look for the biggest numbers and try to resonate with everybody. Instead, they resonate with nobody. I mean, just know who you are at your core, know exactly who you want to serve and then just serve that person or those few, few people because believe me, those few people even that one person will grow into a much bigger tribe.
I mean, I started speaking to my avatar Jimmy and now EOFire gets over a million listens per months. I mean, believe me, just by starting speaking to one vision and to one avatar, like it might seem limiting but it’s the exact opposite. It allows you to actually resonate with others in a deep way and make an impact and start that momentum to get going.
So, going to the future, there’s just going to be a lot of noise, lot of voices out there in the world and you’re just going to get drowned if you try to just sound like everybody else and try to appeal to everybody because you’re going to say, the 10 best entrepreneurial books to read in 2016; I mean, that can be written by anybody but what can just be done by you like what is that one thing that you want to serve? What’s that one problem that you want to solve or that you can solve better than anybody else for any number of reasons?
And just really dial into that one thing, become known for it and then, if you want to expand out and broaden out after you’ve gotten an initial momentum or maybe you just stay there making an incredibly valuable impact with a set number of people and you have a great business, a great career, great life.
Mel: So true. So many people think that the way to rise above all the noise is just to scream louder and it’s not. And this is kind of one of the things that I will typically say. I said it’s about finding the right ear with the right message at the right time and just whispering and they will go with you. And that’s really where you’re going with this and I think that our economy, though we’re global now, we’re going to be slivering it up in pieces so we can serve based in the slices that we can go out there.
So, I’ve got one more question for you but before we do that, I want to make sure we get this is in because I think it’s such an incredible, incredible resource. You put out something; well, I guess it was late 2015, late last year, early this year, it’s still out there called The Freedom Journal. And that seems to me just in seeing how you handled it and how you promoted that. That is a passion work, it seemed to me and it’s a tremendous resource. Do me a favor, tell us about The Freedom Journal. How it came about and why it’s so important? Because I think it will transform people’s lives.
John: Well, thank you for this stage to do so Mel. It is definitely a passion project of mine for sure and it all started back when I started interviewing successful entrepreneurs back in 2012. My listeners from day 1 would say, “John, what is the secret to success? Like why are these entrepreneurs successful? What’s their magic bullet?”
And I never had a great answer besides hard work which will always be one of the answers but giving it some more thought over the years, I have realized that successful entrepreneurs know how to set and accomplish goals, period. And unsuccessful entrepreneurs struggle with that very thing. So, I said, “How can I create the solution? How can I bridge that gap?”
And it really just came to me. Like I wanted to create a physical product because I had the means to and because I wanted to be different, unique and not easily replicable. So, I sat down and spent a year crafting what is now The Freedom Journal which is a gorgeous full leather, because I’m an animal lover, gold embossed journal that will help you set your number one goal and then, it will guide you in accomplishing that goal in 100 days. So, it’s a huge passion project of mine that’s something that we spent an entire year doing, creating, perfecting.
And then in January of 2016, we launched The Freedom Journal via Kickstarter and we did a 33 day Kickstarter campaign. Over those 33 days, we raised over four hundred and fifty three thousand dollars in revenue which made it the sixth most funded publishing campaign of all time on Kickstarter. And we did over nine thousand freedom journal sold and again, this is a 39 dollar journal.
Again, going back to like really making money guys, like this isn’t something where you hear like authors say like, “Oh yeah, like I sold all these books and they’ve made like 50 cents per book.” Our profit margin on The Freedom Journal are 26 dollars per book. So, I mean like it is significant because we’re doing it again the right way of providing the value but then also doing this our way not the traditional way.
And so, that was huge. We also partnered with Pencils of Promise and the reason why and because The Freedom Journal was so profitable to us, we were able to donate over seventy five thousand dollars to Pencils of Promise from the profits to build schools in developing countries, specifically three because every twenty five thousand dollars that we’re able to donate builds a school in a developing country.
And to this day, we’re now over twelve thousand five hundred freedom journals sold and we make sales every single day and a portion of those sales go to Pencils of Promise to this day so if you’re sitting there right now thinking that you might want to have a guide, the guide, the ultimate guide to setting and accomplishing your number one goal in a hundred days check out TheFreedomJournal.com.
Mel: Dynamite, dynamite. And I love it because what you’re doing is you’re doing good and while doing well at the same time and that is so cool to see. One last question and then we’ll close out but I could spend a lot of time chatting with you and just kind of picking your brain, my friend. So, here is this and this is kind of like going back and saying, if you went back to yourself when you first started this journey. Maybe, it was five years ago. Maybe, it was ten years ago. And had a chance to whisper in your ear kind of some words of wisdom about the potholes and the journey, what would it be?
John: Pretty simple. I’d say, “JLD chill out brother.” Like, stop taking life so seriously. Like, you have a long road ahead of you. There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs. Enjoy the moment. Work hard and chill out.
Mel: Awesome, awesome. Listen JLD, this to me is a blessing and honor to have you here full circle, getting a chance to have you on the show that would have never come alive if it wasn’t for you my friend and so, I thank you for taking the time. I know, you’ve got an incredible, incredible busy schedule but for all the entrepreneur listeners out there, The Entrepreneur’s Solution listeners out there, to me this is a treat. Enjoy it, digest it. See what John is doing. John and Kate are amazing people.
Look at Fire Nation because if you’re looking to create a community, if you’re looking to create something that is a movement, see what they’ve done because they love their people and their people love them back and it’s tremendous to see how they created that. I look forward to seeing you all in the next episode. John, thanks again my friend. Cheers to you brother.
John: Appreciate you.
Mel: See you.
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