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John Lee Dumas on the Common Path to Uncommon Success – John Lee Dumas
The Agents of Change

John Lee Dumas on the Common Path to Uncommon Success - John Lee Dumas

When it comes to inspiring others to dig deep to find their passions and turn them into success, John Lee Dumas – the Entrepreneur on Fire – is the luminary that immediately comes to mind. JLD is constantly finding ways to inspire entrepreneurs, and his latest passion is no different. We talk to JLD today about his latest book, and how he’s using that to embolden others who might be stuck on their path to success and financial freedom.


Rich: I still remember the time I met today’s guest. It was on a rooftop bar in New York City during Blog World. Our mutual friend, Jamie Masters, introduced us because we both live in Portland, Maine, and we should know each other. She was right.

When I asked my guest what he did, he informed me that he had recently quit his commercial real estate gig to become a professional podcaster. I had no idea what that looked like, and I wished him well.

Since then, I’ve seen them blow up, speaking on bigger and bigger stages, moving from tiny workshop to sought after keynote, reaching more and more people through his Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast, released two or three journals to help people on their entrepreneurial journey, and finally publish the book that entrepreneurs everywhere have been waiting for. I’m especially excited to be talking about The Common Path to Uncommon Success with John Lee Dumas. JLD welcome back to The Agents of Change Podcast.

JLD: Brother, I am fired up to be here. We go way back. I mean, literally I remember sitting in my commercial real estate office that you mentioned during the intro, with my brother-in-law and partner, Justin. And The Agents of Change event was coming up and we were just saying like, “I think there’s something we need to do because this is going to be helpful for our business”. So he wrote me a check for $75. I took the other $75 on that, and for $150 I bought a ticket, went to the event, sat there. You had Derek Halpern, Amy Porterfield, Chris Brogan on stage was my first ever introduction online influencers to these internet moguls. Again, I was in a suit. I was a commercial broker. I was clueless. But brother, you have done probably a lot more than you even know about starting on this journey with opening my eyes up to what the possibilities were saying to myself.

Do I really want to sell that industrial building in Scarborough, Maine? Or do I want to see if I can share my voice, my message, my mission with the world? And of course I chose the latter and here we are today.

Rich: That’s awesome. I’m glad that I had some small bit in your origin story. That’s awesome to hear that I was in some way the gamma ray to your Hulk.

JLD: I’m going to give you the gamma ray.

Rich: All right. Sounds good. So I’m very excited to be talking about your new book. That is so great. Now it’s not your first book, but in many ways it feels new. Because you’ve done some journals. You did a podcasting one, but this is really about how people can create their own entrepreneurial journey. Why now?

JLD: This is my first traditionally published book. Those other journals you mentioned earlier, The Freedom Journal, The Mastery Journal, The Podcast Journal, which I launched in 2016, 2017, and 2019, those were passion projects and those were good. But at the end of the day, they’re journals. Essentially create one page and then repeat it 99 times, and there you have a hundred-day journal.

So not talking those down because they’re fantastic. And I’m going to give a bunch away to your audience today for sure. But this is different. This is 71,000 words that I sat down, and I wrote every single word myself. Because over the 3,000 interviews that I’ve now done, of course with Rich Brooks being one of those early, early, early episodes. I mean, he was in my OG, my “power 20”, I remember so clearly. I’ve just been able to really understand and download and put together the 17 fundamental principles, these elements that every successful entrepreneur has. And I took those 17 elements, I put them in chronological order, and I saw that it created a very specific roadmap.

This is a roadmap that Rich Brooks, myself, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferris, we have all followed this roadmap. And this is the roadmap that has led us to financial freedom, it’s led us to fulfillment in life as well. And it’s not a complicated, secret, hidden roadmap. It is a common path. That’s why the book is called, The Common Path to Uncommon Success, because we’ve achieved uncommon success, our own different variation versions of that. But this book is the 17-step roadmap that will lead you to your version of uncommon success in chronological order.

Rich: John, how do you define success?

JLD: Waking up in the morning, doing what I want, where I want, with whom I want. That is my version of a successful life. And I did not have that day one when I launched my business. I did not have that year one, or even a lot of ways by year four. I was getting there by year four.

But man, let me tell you the life that I’m living now, down here in Puerto Rico, on the Caribbean. Doing what I love every single day with whom I love, that is my version of success. That is my version of uncommon success and I’m living it every single day. Could I take my business to eight figures and beyond on an annual basis? I have no doubts. But I would then not be living the life that I want to be living of uncommon success.

I’m doing that with three virtual assistants. With myself and Kate’s, our business is lean, it’s mean, it’s my version of uncommon success. Gary Vaynerchuk, fantastic guy, has a different version of uncommon success. Nine hundred people underneath him running one of the biggest advertising agencies in New York City. That’s the life he wants to live, and that’s his version of uncommon success.

And the point of this book is to help you, to guide you, to get you to understand number one, what your version of uncommon success actually looks like for you, the individual. And then of course the 17-step roadmap will get you there.

Rich: Side note: Did I just see you drinking out of a Becky’s Diner mug? We’re not going to have the video, but maybe I’ll just take that screen capture off of it. Who knows? Awesome.

JLD: I’ll tell you if Portland, Maine, whenever I come back, I need to get brunch and I need to get brunch at Becky’s Diner.

Rich: This is an unpaid advertisement right here. John you’ve identified, as you mentioned, 17-step process in the book. Everything from identifying your big idea, to creating your avatar, from building your funnel, to building a team. What have you found are some of the biggest hurdles to that common path?

JLD: So number one, which is chapter one, which is step one, most people aren’t even living in their zone of fire. They have never identified their own big idea. And Rich, you’ve seen this over the years when I launched Entrepreneurs on Fire – and we’ve commented on this so many times – people will see somebody doing something like a daily podcast. And they’ll launch a weak, pale imitation of that because that person’s having success. Guess what? That was that person’s big idea. That’s not your big idea. So no wonder why you failed, or you struggled, or you came up short. Because you’re not living your big idea. You’re not living in your zone of fire. So that needs to just first off, step one, you’ve got to go through that process I created right off the bat. So number one, validated. If you have your big idea right now, awesome. Let’s validate and confirm that.

But number two, at the very least you probably need some tweaks and adjustments that I help you get to. And that’s step one. But number three, a lot of you just got to clean that slate, wipe that board, realize you’re a pale, weak, imitation of somebody else’s success, and let’s go in the right direction now. And that should be exciting for you. But with step two, a lot of people don’t understand this. And this is where I found my beautiful zone of fire specifically is, guess what, you have to have your big idea and then you have to discover the niche within the big idea that’s not currently being fulfilled, that is open and ripe for opportunity.

Was I the first person to think about having a podcast? Of course not. Was I the first person to think about having a business podcast? No. An interview business podcast? No. I kept niching down to the fourth level. And the day that I launched Entrepreneurs on Fire, I was the first daily podcast interviewing entrepreneurs. I was the best daily podcast. I was the worst daily podcast. Rich, I was the only daily podcast. That’s why I won at such a high level, because I took my big idea, I niched it down till I could own that space, till I could be the best solution to a real problem.

The last thing I’ll say on this is we’ll skip ahead to chapter seven. This book 71,000 words, which is pretty long for a business book. Each chapter is about 3,000 to 5,000 words. I started writing chapter seven and then a week later, I’m like, I’m still writing chapter seven. It was 13,500 words, which is mind blowing for a single chapter as the size of some business books. But that chapter is creating a content production plane. And Rich, you know that we are amazing at doing that, but even I didn’t know just how good we were with a content production plant and how, by the way, bad most people are. And that’s why we’re now into our ninth year of running Entrepreneurs on Fire. We are still producing the best podcasts on the most consistent, the highest quality, doing all of these things so well, being everywhere. Social media, books, journals, conferences, because our content production plan is so dialed in. So this chapter alone will a blow your mind and make you blow up your current, crappy content production system that you have, and completely start from scratch and build the right content production plan that you frankly need if you want to succeed.

Rich: Awesome. Awesome. You have a chapter on finding a mentor and another one about joining a mastermind or creating one. Later you talk about building a team and creating affiliate partners. While many people envision the entrepreneurial journey as a solitary path, a lonely path, it seems that you’re suggesting otherwise. How important do you feel it is to find people that can help you grow? And what tips do you have to find those partners?

JLD: It’s everything. So listen, chapter five, you need to find your mentor. That’s step five, chapter six, step six, you need to join a mastermind. Or if you can’t join one, I teach you how to create your own mastermind. Those are two unbelievably critical steps in your process.

So back to the person that introduced us, Rich, back on that roof, back in Blog World in 2012, that was Jaime Masters. She was a successful business podcast host, that’s what I wanted to be, a successful business podcast host. Well, I found somebody who is currently where I wanted to be, and I hired that person to mentor me. And what does she do that first week? She says, “Come to this conference, meet Rich Brooks, meet Pat Flynn, Michael Stelzner, Michael Hyatt, all of these amazing people that are here in your industry.” I came back from that one conference with like 15 yeses on my podcast of really big names. That by the way, it made other people I asked in the future absolute, obvious yes’s because they saw who my back catalog was. So just that one event that Jaime took me to was worth the thousands of dollars that I was paying her to be my mentor.

And then not to mention, I joined Cliff Ravenscraft’s podcast mastermind that was $3,500. That was a lot of money for somebody who was not going to be making any money for their foreseeable future with their new entrepreneurial venture. And man, now the fact that I was Cliff’s mentee, that I was learning from him every week, that I was surrounded by other people in my mastermind who I was learning from and understanding that what I was going through was normal.

And then guess what? Cliff was running the next Blog World, which they changed to New Media Expo in January, just six months later. And it was December, a month before I was going as an attendee to this event. Cliff said, “Hey, John, somebody in the podcasting space just dropped out on speaking. You’re doing a daily show. You’re having a little bit of traction. Why don’t you jump in and be the speaker?” And I’m like, oh my God, this opportunity that Cliff is casually offering me is amazing. It was immense. Not only was I now speaking at this event, in the speaker’s room hanging out with the speakers, going to speaker’s dinners, doing all that, I was on a different level. I got to actually speak in front of an audience and be terrible. Because we’re all terrible the first time we do it. And then slowly and slowly get better until I get honors like getting to be the keynote at Agents of Change and other events like that. Because I mean, that is exactly how you start that process.

So those are two key steps. So many people overlook them or kind of tsk tsk them. It is a critical step in your roadmap to financial freedom and fulfillment. Do not skip any step. And I’m glad you brought those two up specifically because they are critical.

Rich: It’s two things that immediately come to mind. One is, and I’ve been saying this for years, the people that I’ve seen – and we all started around the same place – those people who really explode are the people who are willing to invest in themselves. You, Pat Flynn, Amy Porterfield, all of these people had no qualms in writing checks that were bigger than their checkbook could handle at the time because they knew where they wanted to go. And we are often afraid of making that big leap. I’ve made it a few times myself. I’ve made it very recently again, but you have to invest in yourself.

And the second thing is, it’s funny to hear that story about Cliff Ravenscraft because you and I had a very similar journey. I didn’t realize this, but me speaking at the first Blog World ever was very similar. I stepped up into shoes that I could not fill. I asked for the opportunity and I got up there on stage and spoke on a topic I don’t even speak about. But it didn’t matter because it was just about getting in front of a national “audience” and really trying something new and having those connections that would get me up on that stage. So I’m glad to hear your story.

JLD: Yeah. Let me just add one kind of mindset thing for people on this topic, as well as this was really kind of interesting for me early in my career. Somebody was talking to me about this investment into his products and services. Which by the way, I will say I didn’t end up going with, but his one comment stuck with me. And it was like a $10,000 elite coaching program or something. And he was like, “John, let me ask you, do you ever want to be able to command a $10,000 speaking fee, or a $10,000 coaching fee, or a $10,000 mastermind fee?” And I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “Well, if you’re not willing to invest $10,000 in yourself to learn from the best, how can you ever expect other people to ever invest in you that kind of dollar amount?” And I’m like, “He’s so, right.” It was a good plug, but again, didn’t work because he just wasn’t the right person and I didn’t even end up going with him. But that stayed with me and it definitely propelled future investments in my life.

Rich: Absolutely. All right. The very first time you came on this podcast we talked about “Jimmy”, your avatar. It’s one of my favorite episodes and one of the most evergreen episodes we’ve ever had. I still send new clients to go listen to that or to read the transcript from that episode.

I noticed you have a chapter, I mentioned earlier, on avatars in the book. How has your approach to creating an avatar over the years changed? And how’s “Jimmy” doing these days?

JLD: Brother, we could take that episode that you talked about and just slap it in the chapter of that book right here. Because just like you mentioned, it is 100% evergreen and its step three. It is chapter three. It is right at the beginning of your journey. It is, identify what your big flipping idea is, discover the underserved niche within that big idea that you can actually compete in and get traction in. And then once you have that, the next step you have to do is sit down and craft your avatar, create that perfect client, customer listener, viewer, whatever that is, because that is your North star. That is the individual that you are always going to be basing every single decision you come to.

You mentioned “Jimmy”, he’s my avatar. Every time I come to a fork in the road, WWJW – what would Jimmy want? Whatever Jimmy wants I give him because he’s the perfect listener of Entrepreneurs on Fire. So do I make this decision or that decision, it’s whichever one Jimmy would want, not me, the host of a show that has now over a hundred million listens, 1.4 million listens a month. I’ve been running a multimillion-dollar business for now eight years in a row, I’m not the perfect listener of my own show and I’m very aware of that. But Jimmy is, and Jimmy has not changed. His kids haven’t even gotten older, they are still three and five years old, Rich.

Rich: It’s just like the Simpsons. So what’s the process like? You mentioned you need to find your avatar’s biggest struggle. So what does that look like for the typical business owner, trying to figure out what their avatar is struggling with?

JLD: You need to find your avatar’s biggest struggle, because if you can provide not just a solution, but the best solution to your avatar’s biggest struggle, you will win. So when you go through my step process, you will get to one step that’s actually called “launch”.  Launch, as getting your product, your service, your podcast, your show, your content out to the world.

 What’s the step after launching? Pinpointing your avatar’s biggest struggle. That’s when you pinpoint your avatar’s biggest struggle, because to pinpoint your real avatar’s biggest struggle, you have to engage with your audit. You can’t engage with your audience until you have stuff out there in the world. So once you launch whatever it is you’re putting out there, you then need to work and put so much energy and effort into contacting your avatar, contacting those people consuming your content. And whoever’s consuming your content you say, “Can I please get you on a five-minute Skype call”, or “Will you please answer these four questions in an email?” So whether it’s via email or you can get them on a call – which I highly recommend – I know it’s not scalable. Do things that don’t scale. You have to be getting part of your journey. You’ve got to put the work in. You’re not going to have a scalable leverageable business day one, so put in the work.

I talked with hundreds of Jimmy’s the first six months of Entrepreneurs on Fire, and I asked them these four questions. Number one, how’d you find out about Entrepreneurs on Fire, my contents? So I could actually start to understand how people were finding my show. I could pour amplifying fluid on that to just make sure that I was continuing to focus on things that were working, bringing people into my world.

Number two, what do you like about my show? And then, what could I do then? Well, I could actually keep doing things that people liked. What don’t you like about my show? That’s question three. The first person who threw out what they don’t like about my show, I didn’t change my show immediately. That could be an anomaly. But if I heard a consistent theme over time of like, “Nah, I just don’t like this”, then I really considered withdrawing that if a lot of people were telling me that.

And then number four, “Okay. Before I let you go, what is your biggest struggle right now?” And that was something that surprised me. I had no designs to coach podcasting. I thought I was going to learn from business owners, business tactics, and maybe teach business to individuals. I barely knew how to podcast myself. When that question kept coming back with an answer of, “Well John, I love sports or nutrition or music or gardening, and I want to start my podcast. How do I do it?” I’m like, man, this is what my audience is telling me. They’re telling me their biggest struggle is getting their voice out to the world and they want to use podcasting as a platform to do that. That’s when I launched Podcaster’s Paradise and the rest is history. 6,000 people, 7 million in revenue, every day more people are joining. Like that was my first like real financial grand slam, and it was all from those questions.

Rich: Awesome. Now, one thing I’ve always admired about you, John, is your drive. You can narrow your focus like few people I have ever met. You create systems that make you more productive. So what advice do you have for people who may lack this gene or haven’t yet figured out how to be that productive? Is the common path still open to them, or do they need to make some significant changes to the way that they work?

JLD: The common path is absolutely open to you, but you have to follow this roadmap. You have to follow this process. I mean, pre-interview Rich and I are talking about how much better his life and business has become since he found the integrator, the right person to take things off of his plate. That’s not his zone of fire, allowing him to live in his zone of fire.

Guess what I’m doing right now, Rich? I’m living in my zone of fire. This is my best use of my time. I’m having amazing conversations with amazing people that are going to be listened to by others. Whether it’s on Entrepreneurs on Fire, my podcast, whether it’s on other people’s podcasts, other people’s shows, other people’s platforms, Instagram live, Facebook live, Clubhouse, fill in the blank. This is where my time is best spent. So if I’m doing a million other things and never doing this, my business suffers and my overall revenue suffers, and everything suffers, my life suffers because I’m not living in my zone of fire.

 So it’s very clear when you have identified your big idea, which is your zone of fire, then you continue going through the roadmap and you’re going to get to the place of building a team. And I teach you step-by-step. And we ring Amy Porterfield in, a very mutual dear friend of both of ours who has built an amazing 19-person and growing team, of how to build a team. I of course tell you how I built my team of three virtual assistants and myself and Kate, so a total of five. But Amy then comes in for a different perspective and she tells you how she grew her 19-person team that’s larger and amazing and doing some great things, and what it comes down to at the core. I won’t ruin or spoil everything, Amy only does what Amy needs to be doing, which is creating content like you and I are doing right now; being on webinars, being on social media, live video, doing things like podcasts and podcast guesting. That’s what Amy does. She does not do all the minutia that it takes to run her team.

Once you have the right team and you find the right people to fit in those categories, you live in your zone of fire. And where else would you ever want to live?

Rich: That is really good advice because I think too many business owners feel, and I’m guilty of this, to feel like they have to have their fingers in every single aspect of the business. Which kind of brings up a point. Like I mentioned earlier, the word “entrepreneur” sometimes makes people think of a solo man or woman who is just working so hard to create something new. But obviously that’s not true, you’ve just given us a few examples. Can people who are running businesses, who this is not their side hustle, but they’ve already developed a business, can they take things from your book and grow their own business, not just their own personal lifestyle?

JLD: 100%. This is how you get initial fraction in any side hustle, in any business, it’s going through this process. Again, you’re going to go through a very kind of typical way of like, “Oh, this person’s having success in this area. Let me follow that.” And like, “Why am I not having success in this area?” Because you’re not doing the fundamentals. You need to be better at the basics.

And that is identifying what your big idea is. Under discovering and uncovering the niche that you need to be serving within that, creating that avatar, and then continuing to move through these processes, to get initial proof of concept, to get initial traction. And once you get initial traction, guess what? Now it’s just a matter of pouring some igniter fluid on that, scaling and leveraging and laser focusing on that thing that’s working, fanning that flame, that little spark that you’ve now found.

Most people Rich, they never see a spark. They never see a spark because they’re doing what I call going one mile wide with all these ideas and just one inch deep with all of these different things. And they’re like, “Why aren’t I making an impression anywhere?” The people that go one inch wide and one mile deep become the best solution to that one, single problem, that one mile down. And there’s no competition down there, or very limited or crappy competition. Those people get traction. Those people figure things out. Those people start to understand how to scale and leverage that first spark they found.

And then if they want to, some people stay in that niche forever, by the way, because they realize this is exactly where they want to be. Some people say, “I want to take this momentum and I’m going to broaden and scale out.” Like I’ve done with just my podcast. Then I’ve launched multiple courses. I’ve launched multiple books. Now I’m writing, I’m releasing my first traditionally published book. That is the process. You need to follow one step at a time.

Rich: Well, you may have already mentioned what the one thing that you want people to take away from reading this book. If you haven’t, what is it? And if you feel like you already have, what’s one thing that we haven’t talked about that you really want people to take away from today’s interview?

JLD: The one thing is this, you’re not living in your zone of fire right now. I’m speaking to 99% of you. There are 1%, I’m not going to lie, that are living their zone of fire. Awesome. But if you’re listening to this podcast episode, it’s because you want to consume great content. It’s because you want to improve yourself. You want to better yourself. You need to identify your zone of fire. You need to identify the one big idea that is yours, that you can take ownership on and go all in on. That’s the one big takeaway that I want to give to you. If you start there, the rest is just following the next 16 steps. It’s really that easy. Now it’s hard work, but as easy as this laid out right there in front of you. It’s now just putting in the work because you have the roadmap.

Rich: John, where can people find the book, and where can they find you online?

JLD: This is the only copy that exists in the world. You have to come to Puerto Rico, rip it out of my hands. That’s the only thing you can do now. The thing is, listen, this book, this is my pride and joy. This is blood, sweat, and tears. I woke up every morning for eight months in a row during my little Puerto Rican 2020 quarantine and I wrote for two hours for eight months. That’s 480 writing hours I put into this, 71,000 words. I partnered with Harper Collins, an amazing publisher, and we’re going all in on this. I have unbelievable endorsements. One of them is right in the front there, Gary Vaynerchuk personally endorsed this book. Seth Godin personally endorsed this book, Neil Patel, Dorie Clark, Erica Mandy, these are luminaries in their respective fields, all personally endorsed this book. We are going all out. Because I just want to get this book in people’s hands. Rich, I’ve made it financially, I’m down to Puerto Rico keeping all the money I make. Life is good. So I am literally losing money every single time somebody pre-orders because I am shipping to everybody’s door. All three of my journals, the podcast, Freedom and Mastery journals, the physical journals, I am shipping to your door. $150 worth of journals get shipped to your door for a $17 single pre-order on Amazon.

So for those people that want to find their financial freedom and fulfillment, head over to Amazon, I got a specific URL for you, uncommonsuccessbook.com. You’ll see a video of the book, more details below all five bonuses listed out there. And then of course links to pre-order the book, which comes out on March 23rd. These bonuses, there’s five of them, I just gave you the first one. There’s four other amazing ones disappear on March 23rd. We are no longer offering these bonuses come March 23, because frankly we won’t be able to fulfill all the orders once they go live. But we’re going big for pre-orders because we want day one to be huge.

So pre-order this book, we’ll send you all five bonuses, uncommon success, book.com. You want to get two or three for people you love. You’re actually showing them you love them because, give them financial freedom, give them fulfillment in their life. You have the opportunity to give them that gift. Do it.

Rich: You’re awesome. John, as always, absolute pleasure to have you back on the show. I’m very excited about the book and thanks for coming by today.

JLD: Thanks, brother.

Show Notes:

John Lee Dumas is The Entrepreneur on Fire, and his passion lies in helping others find their voice, their ideal life, and their financial freedom. Get inspired by listening to his podcast, check out his website for his journals and courses, and definitely pre-order his latest book if you’re serious about finding how to live your best life.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.