Editor’s Note: John Lee Dumas posed on a brisk 10-degree January evening in 2014 for this image. Wearing a thin jacket and just off the plane from his now-home, San Diego, California, this former commercial broker and US Army officer from Maine handled the discomfort with grace and humor. His popular EntrepreneurOnFire business podcast is broadcast seven days a week to his listeners, dubbed the ‘Fire Nation’ and is currently up to episode 806.
JLD: Oh, man, I’m just excited. I love everything you guys had going on, so thanks for letting me be a part of that.
IM: Absolutely. You’re a very brave man. So, first of all, John, how would you describe what you do, in terms a five-year-old could get?
JLD: I talk to inspiring people, and have them share stories from their past that they find would be relevant. That’s how I would tell a five-year-old.
IM: I’m curious about your journey. Tell me how you got here. The three-minute version.
JLD: I’m just a country boy, raised in Maine for the first 18 years of my life. I went to college in Rhode Island on an ROTC scholarship, and spent four years training as a cadet. Then I spent eight years in the Army, four active, four in the reserves, and when I got out I tried a bunch of different things. I tried traveling in Guatemala and in India for four months each. I tried law school, and flamed out after one semester. I tried corporate finance with John Hancock, and was there for about two years. I tried residential and commercial real estate over a span of four years. It was during that job—commercial real estate—when I was sitting in traffic, that I had the “Ah-ha” moment, for “EntrepreneurOnFire”. I realized there was a huge void to be filled. There wasn’t a seven-day-a-week broadcast for people like myself that commuted every single day, or that liked to exercise [while listening].
IM: What episode are you on right now?
JLD: Episode five hundred was recorded today.
IM: That’s a huge milestone; congratulations.
JLD: Thank you. Yeah, it actually goes live, on March 6th, but we [pre]recorded it.
IM: At this point, you’ve got a great system down and obviously you’re really well organized. Sounds like some of that Army training.
JLD: Absolutely. At 22 years old, I was in charge of sixty men, four tanks, and sent to a war in Iraq. It was a life or death scenario for me, so I definitely learned to become disciplined, focused, and to really be responsible, not only for myself, but for my platoon. So, I’ve always applied those principles at every stage in my life going forward.
IM: It may seem really obvious, from someone who’s been to San Diego, but why would you move from Maine?
JLD: I went to San Diego from Maine because I was getting into real estate, and I felt like the opportunity was right in San Diego. I came out here for two years, from ’09 to 2011. My next door neighbor ended up becoming my girlfriend, and then graciously moved back with me to Maine for two full years. I pursued commercial real estate, with the Dunham Group in Portland. And then, at the end of those two years living in Maine, “Entrepreneur” was on fire, rocking and rolling, making us location independent. We agreed that it was time to go back to her hometown and be close to her family—to kind of even out the great sacrifices she had made.
IM: You kind of went the opposite direction. Usually when somebody comes back to Maine, they don’t seem to leave. What it is about Maine that led you to do what you did?
JLD: Maine is truly, in my opinion, the way life should be. Seeing my father who has always owned his own business, and then seeing my mother as well, who went back to school later in her life, I realized that if you want something, you’ve got to go out and take it. If you want to live in Maine, you can’t just sit back and expect that you’re going to get some great job. You need to go out and make that happen. So when I had that ‘Ah-ha’ moment for “EntrepreneurOnFire,” I knew it was the kind of opportunity that I had to go out and take, and that it wasn’t just going to come to me.
IM: Why do you call them the “Fire Nation?”
JLD: In creating “Entrepreneur on Fire”, the podcast, I needed, first and foremost, listeners. People that connected with the stories that I’m having my guests share. I wanted my listeners to really feel part of the family, and to feel like they are just a group of like-minded individuals. From day one, I just always referred to my listeners as “Fire Nation,” and it’s caught on.
IM: Do you get any sleep at all?
JLD: Great question. It really does go back to my Army days, because there I was: a 22-year-old college senior, sleeping till 11 am every day. Before I knew it the day would be over, and I still wouldn’t have gotten anything done. And then—snap your fingers—I’m a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army, in charge of 16 men, and 4 tanks, and I have a lot to work on because we’re close to war. The alarm clock was always ringing at 4:30 am. By 9 am, I’d look around and think, I completed more today, at 9 am, than I used to the entire day. So I realized then the importance of rising early, and of really taking charge before the day takes control of you. In San Diego my alarm clock goes off at 5 am every day. I jump out of bed and go for a nice power walk along the bay. After a shower and a power shake, I’m sitting down at my computer by 5:45. By 9 o’clock, I can always look at the clock and say, “Wow, I have accomplished more today than most of my competitors, my peers.” Fellow entrepreneurs all do that.
IM: Would you say that’s the secret of your success?
JLD: I would say that is one of the major ingredients of my success. Rising early, the disciplined approach to work, the “Backing Method”, which has me doing eight “Entrepreneur on Fire” interviews every single Monday, and being very strict and holding to that. Otherwise I would not be able to conduct a seven-day-a-week business podcast. Many of my peers and mentors told me it wasn’t possible before I launched.
IM: You’ve just completed number 500. How many more are you going to do?
JLD: I’ve decided to do at least 500 more episodes.
IM: And then?
JLD: And then maybe take a long walk on episode 1,000, and then kind of re-evaluate where we are at that point, so that we have at least a year and a half of episodes in the can.
IM: At this point is there anything else you haven’t revealed about yourself in your podcast—like that you like waffles and chicken together or something crazy?
JLD: Being out here in San Diego, I have a lot of opportunities to pick up some pretty cool passions like golf or surfing or paddle boarding. But those things have just never appealed to me, to this point. I’m hoping at some point to find a passion, but I just don’t have one outside of being an entrepreneur.
IM: I’m assuming you’ve got a smart phone. What’s your app of choice right now, besides Evernote?
JLD: I have an Android, and my favorite app by far on Android is called “TripIt”. Whenever you book a flight, rent a car, or book a hotel room, they send you an email of your itinerary. You can just forward that itinerary to TripIt, and it beautifully displays confirmation numbers, check-in times, check-out times, details of the actual trip, and it’s always right there in your phone, perfectly for you. You can even have plane e-tickets right in that app as well. So, it’s amazing for someone like myself that travels a decent amount to know that all of my travel plans are right on my phone.
IM: I was thinking you might say “Angry Birds” or something a little less practical.
JLD: [Laughing] I don’t have time for “Angry Birds.”
IM: What’s next?
JLD: One thing I’m really excited about, beyond ‘Podcasters’ Paradise’, which we just recently launched and is a community used by podcasters to create, grow and monetize their own podcasts, is what we’re calling the “Fire Path”. The “Fire Path” is a community where our motto is, “Your Passions, our Guidance, United”. We’re taking all of the questions that we have from our community, from our listeners, and from people that are in Podcast’s Paradise and crafting a path to take if you’re looking to make that entrepreneurial leap. We will tackle one really difficult subject at a time. That’s next for us. Taking a fire path, and turning it into a complete community for people that want to take their entrepreneurial leap.
IM: Well, thank you very much, I really appreciate your time, and I’m also really jealous. I hope you’re not having to put on a light sweater or a long sleeved shirt or anything over there in San Diego, but it’s cold here in Maine.
JLD: Nope, I’ll hang up, and I’ll be going for a three-mile jog in a couple of minutes.