John Lee Dumas opens up about PTSD

Joining me is another guy who interviews entrepreneurs about how they’ve built their businesses.

John Lee Dumas has done over 3000 interviews as the founder and host of the award-winning podcast, Entrepreneurs on Fire, where he interviews inspiring entrepreneurs.

He’s got a book now about how he built his business and what you can learn from his experience. It’s called The Common Path to Uncommon Success. I invited him here to talk about the details.

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John Lee Dumas is the founder and host of the award-winning podcast, Entrepreneurs on Fire, where he interviews inspiring entrepreneurs.


Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is another guy who guess what interviews, entrepreneurs about how they’ve built their businesses. John Lee Dumas has been doing this for what?

Over 3000 interviews. I just discovered that in your book, I didn’t realize you crossed that milestone since let me. Let me see if I remember from the book 2012, I think you said is when you started

John Lee: September, 2012.

Andrew: at that, you know, my wife is constantly reading and she believe it or not. She’s on me for not reading enough.

I told her I, you just don’t see it. I could read book so much faster and I retain things anyway. Um, And one of the things that I liked about John is that he had me as one of his first guests on his podcast when he was getting started. I’ve also just enjoyed getting to, you know, him over the years, he’s built a business where he teaches other entrepreneurs about podcasting.

He’s got a book now where he is talking about how he built his business and what you can learn from his experience. It’s called the common path to uncommon success. I invited him here to talk, frankly. I’ll be honest with you guys. I invite him because I like him. He said I got a book. I said, come on, let’s get on here.

We’ll talk. And we’ll figure out a way to talk up the book. And I’m sure that, uh, you’ve got an interesting way of promoting the book. I should say this interview is sponsored by two phenomenal, uh, sponsors. The first, if you’re out there listening to us and you’re inspired by this, you want to start a business, want to publish your website, go to

And of course, if you already have a site, bring it to HostGator. They’ll take good care of you. And the second is a company you don’t know about. It’s called . I’m actually hoping John and I could talk about how he could do a better job promoting them. They’re all about getting leads from LinkedIn, but we’ll talk about those later, John.

Good to have you here.

John Lee: I’m fired up to be here, brother. It was telling me we get to hang out. It’s always a blast. Even when we get to hang out on cruise ships, circa 2015 podcast, spirit ice cream.

Andrew: I that’s where I feel. I feel like I really got to know you and I understood cruises. You’re basically just forced to stay with the same group of people for days. And then you get to know them. You don’t pretend you have another agenda, something more important, and you also can let go. I’ve seen people in shorts.

I saw their hairy legs. I saw them just walk around when they’re just not in the mood and you get to know them better when

John Lee: I mean, should we tell the Kate Erickson surfing story real quick?

Andrew: Oh, uh, I don’t know. I feel comfortable with that. I told you I got this whole middle Eastern background. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. Go ahead and tell it.

John Lee: So my fiance as of Christmas day, Caitlin Erickson was also on that cruise. And you know, like you said, you get to know people a little bit better. We were all in the outdoors, a wave surfing and Kate was up there with her shorts and her shirt on and surfing away and she fell down, but I was holding onto the board and whoop there, go the shorts.

And, uh, there was just her and her birthday suit.

Andrew: Do you get uncomfortable talking about that at all?

John Lee: No, not at all. I ain’t listen. Every man was a 100% gentlemen and literally did an about face faster than I’ve seen in the army. I was an officer in the army for eight years, I would say about face and people would do it. Eventually people did it like immediately. And I was like, wow. And then all the, all the, all the girls, they were just like, Oh my God, Kate, how can we help?

Like running with towels and blankets and stuff. And, you know,

Andrew: Yeah, it’s interesting. I was taught, I was bringing up, uh, people’s sexual experiences and it feels to people like, I can just talk about sex and get it. No, what I want to do is understand them, and this is a part of who they are, then that’s what I want to get. But once we get into something like this, it’s like Andrew becomes a 1930s housewife.

Like you’ve gone too far, sir.

John Lee: you know, I remembered that when we were hanging out in San Francisco and we were with a bunch of people, Jada Scott Densmore, who unfortunately is no longer with us and some other amazing people. And you did, you went around the room and you asked a question along those lines and it was, it was a very revealing question.

Andrew: Yes, I did think it was real. I won’t talk about what we got. Hey, here’s what I will talk about. I didn’t realize that you, you talked about your military experience. We’ll get into business in a minute, but you had PTSD. I didn’t realize it until I read the book.

John Lee: Bad. So I was an awesome in the army for six years, uh, or sorry, four years active duty and then additional four years in the reserves. So a total of eight years, and for 13 of those months, I was deployed to Iraq. I was in charge of four tanks, 16 men. And it was real war. I mean, we were over there, it was war.

Uh, four of my 16 soldiers did not come home. And, you know, there was definitely a responsibility on my shoulders for that. And it was a very emotionally traumatic period for a 23 and 24 year old because I turned 24 while I was in Iraq. And. I, I paid for it, you know, not immediately, by the way, like, I kind of went back to the army lifestyle and that was that.

But then when I was in the civilian world, like I really saw it coming on and, uh, PTSD definitely hit me hard and cause multiple bouts of depression in my mid and late twenties. And you know, I really still feel like there’s, there’s some lingering effects

Andrew: what do you mean by, on my shoulders?

John Lee: because I was people tune leader. Those were mine. Yeah. I said, go left. We went left and we got hit. You know, like it was my decision. So it was literally like, if I had just said go, right, things could be different.

Andrew: And so then when you had PTSD, how did that affect you? What, what exactly happened?

John Lee: The biggest thing was like, I just found myself not able to concentrate on anything. Like I was in law school at the time. And when you can’t cost rate and law school forget about it, which is a why I dropped out because I just, wasn’t going to be able to continue going forward, but you just couldn’t concentrate on anything.

And like the most revealing thing that I’ll share right now is like, I grew up a massive new England Patriots football fan. Just born and raised in new England, went to college in new England, loved the Patriots. It was like, I was passionate about the games and I was watching one of the games. And I just remember thinking so clearly to myself, I could care less who wins this game.

And when that realization hit me, Andrew, I was like, Whoa, something is wrong up here because you used to live and die by these guys. And now you could just care less.

Andrew: W what, why would you mind go when you weren’t paying attention? Was it just, was it back to that turning to that turn or was it somewhere else or were you just in blank? Nothing matters.

John Lee: There was a combination of all three, to be honest, you know, sometimes I would drift back to my work experience sometimes, you know, I would just dwell on things that in my life were in great. You know, if I was like dating somebody and like something small happens that would now just. Roll off my shoulders.

I would like just stress over it and focus on it and just make it so much more than it was again, which just wasn’t me. Like, you know, before I went to like, quote unquote war, like one of my girlfriends, you know, my previous girlfriends biggest complaints were just like, John, like nothing phases you like, you don’t even care if I’m like making out with a guy across the bar, like that’s an exaggeration, but you know, that was kind of true in some ways we were like, I just, I didn’t get jealous at nothing.

Like it really phase me. I wouldn’t. You know, engage in fights or nitty things with, with any of them. Cause it just wasn’t worth it. But then it was the opposite. Like, you know, now I’m just like every little thing, you know, like. Yeah. Like how could you like dot that? Oh, I don’t even remember what it was, but I would just stress over all of those things.

And I was just like, this is like the, I’m now acting the opposite of how I usually acted for the first 26 years of my life. I, now I could care less about the Patriots, um, overboard, jealous, or envious, or stressing out about the little things that don’t matter in life and getting into arguments about nothing.

And I’m like, literally I’m the exact opposite person right now. And that was weird.

Andrew: How do you get yourself back on it? The reason that I’m asking is I just, I just had a conversation with a few entrepreneurs who. Who talked about being sued. And one of them says, I find myself just getting angry at this person. Who’s suing me. And I can’t disconnect my mind from it and focus. And then I get angry at myself.

He said for thinking about this lawsuit and others started talking about how in this little group that I’m in with. So talking about how they were sued and how it becomes a distraction. When you have PTSD, how do you keep yourself from losing focus like that? How do you get yourself back from PTSD?

John Lee: Yeah, most people don’t and I call it circling the drain of despair, because that’s exactly what it means. Feels like you’re just going deeper and deeper into it because now you’re in despair because you’re despairing and you’re mad at yourself and you’re mad at them and you’re mad at everybody and it’s just a bad scenario.

So I mean, some ways I was able to get, to get over the hump, so to speak. Um, and you know, number one is definitely time. Like it just took time. Number two was therapy. Like I definitely, you know, embraced therapy and talking to other people and like groups. Et cetera. Um, I did try medication for a while, which I’m actually at the stage in my life at 41.

Like I was 27 then. And so I was just like, I’ll try anything. And like, I wish I hadn’t. Cause I’m pretty against that for various reasons now, although I think now, um, there’s some really interesting and a lot of. Really cool case studies for veterans, none of which I’ve tried. Cause I just, I, I would be happy to now if I feel like I needed it, but like silicide them and I don’t know much about it, but Bufo and like other things along those lines that people are, are trying to like naturally alter their state to kind of like get in their heads and get over what they can’t get over.

And I have some really good veteran friends who swear by it and it’s really interesting what’s happening in the veteran community with it.

Andrew: What’s the therapy. What did therapy do? How did that help you get over

John Lee: Just talking about it and realizing that I wasn’t alone. And that actually what I was experiencing was, was actually normal. It was unfortunate, but it was normal. Like other people were losing interest in things they used to love, you know, snapping over things that they used to not care about. And I was like, Oh, okay.

So now that I know that I’m just not this weird stranger, you know, on a. Just didn’t lands, but I’m actually going through what this thing PTSD actually is. At least now I can identify it and now work with people to get over it.

Andrew: Got it. So talking about it, I also imagine keeps it from being bottled inside and not getting a chance. It’s almost like our mind wants to think it through and we’re not letting it talk it out and get it out and flush it out. I think about journaling and I know you’ve got a incredible, popular, incredibly popular journal.

I was one of the, did I get the first version of that? Did I get

John Lee: The first version.

Andrew: It’s so beautifully done. It looks like a fricking Bible. The way that you set it up. But I feel like that’s the benefit that I get from journaling that when there’s something that’s spinning in my head, I get to get it out, even if there’s nobody there to listen.

So maybe that’s what I should’ve suggested to this entrepreneur. Just journal it out, talk it out instead of

John Lee: Talk it out, surround yourself with other people who are going through the same thing. So you can understand that like, it’s actually, it’s not good that you’re having these thoughts, but it’s, it’s normal and it’s natural and key. But, you know, I, I will say just, uh, reminds you of the, the Bible golden, this of the journal, rather.

So always within reach because I’m a big believer I journal every single day is getting the stuff in here. Out there onto the page, even if it’s junk, if it’s crap, I’m unloading crap and junk from my head, which is, which is just as important.

Andrew: I wanted to do this interview roughly about how you got here. And then we’ll talk about some of the ideas in the book. Um, but maybe we should start with what here is, where are you guys? Revenue wise?

John Lee: We actually just hit our 90th month in a row of a net profits of over a hundred thousand dollars. So that’s one thing that our business has been is flipping consistence. And by the way, we’ve published 90. Income reports in a row, monthly income reports and those income reports have a fantastic tax step from our accountants, have a legal tip from our lawyer, have details of all the things we did right this month, so that we can be emulated by other people.

And also all the things we did wrong this month, which happens. Every month too. So you can avoid our mistakes breaks down. Every penny that comes in, plus every expense that goes out. So you can see how we actually run our business and what we spend our money on. So they’re very thorough. They’re very detailed and, um, we’re well over $20 million in total revenue since I launched in 2012.

And now that I live in Puerto Rico, I get to keep the money. I may brother.

Andrew: Uh, by the way, that’s on EO, I’m on the site right now. I, to ask you a question about it, but yeah, you are in Puerto Rico because what’s, what are the tax laws there?

John Lee: I love California, California is an amazing States. San Diego was my home for five years. It’s beautiful. The weather’s great. The people are awesome. It is so painful to be a successful financial entrepreneur in California

Andrew: I will say this with, with one little exception, the people who are doing the people who are selling companies don’t suffer nearly as much, right? Their tax rate is considerably lower. They get to postpone when they pay taxes. Right?

John Lee: Some people don’t pay taxes.

Andrew: Right. Yeah. So, sorry that, that is, uh, that it’s a problem for me.

And it’s a thing that just really pisses me off that there are people who are doing that. They make so much money, but then they pay way less percentage-wise because they’re just making it on a capital gains.

John Lee: But it’s a fantastic point. There’s so many people that are building amazing companies that they know they will exit for at some point for seven, eight, nine figures. But they’re not paying that in taxes. Now I have a different business where I’m making a hundred thousand dollars. Net profit a month. That means if I’m living in California, I’m spending at least 50 K a month in taxes.

Now, by the way, I’ve made six, $700,000 in a month before, like that was a $300,000 check I wrote in one month to uncle Sam. And that’s painful for the type of business that I run and that I was going to continue to run. So this was back in 2016. I had just hit my third year in a row where I wrote a seven figure check to uncle Sam.

And I was like, this, this could stop soon, sooner than later, it’s getting painful now. So I talked to my accountant and I said, Hey, what are the legal options for me to. Decrease my income and I don’t want to move to Texas. No offense, Texas don’t want to move to Nevada or Florida. It just, wasn’t my thing.

What can I do? And he said, well, You can move to this Caribbean islands, it’s called Puerto Rico and you’re not going to pay any federal tax because it’s not a state, it’s a territory. So they don’t pay federal tax. You’re not gonna pay any state tax because they have an incentive program for entrepreneurs that will only pay a 4% corporate tax rates.

Your total tax rate will be 4%. So I went from 51 to 4%, literally the day I moved because it’s. Immediately the day you move, boom, you can send a, uh, a letter to the California IRS and to the federal government and say, I’m out and a letter to Puerto Rico saying I’m in and you literally start paying 4% that moment.

So I moved to Puerto Rico back in 2016, almost immediately bought our dream home here on the Caribbean, which is this beautiful $2 million gorgeous panoramic Caribbean view home. Um, in 17 months, Andrew I’d saved more money in taxes than the house cost.

Andrew: Wow. And what about COVID now? How are you guys handling it there?

John Lee: Feels like we’re in a little bit of a bubble down here. So I live in a gated community where there’s 3,300 homes. So it’s a massive community, two golf courses, 20 tennis court, 17 restaurants at, in a question center, a K through 12 Academy. You name it. We have it in the community. And it’s just a lot of people who are like, you know what, we’re just gonna hunker down.

And so people have hunkered down here and we’ve had incredibly few cases. Um, the Island is 3.5 million people. So it’s not a small population and there’s a total of 214 cases on the Island right now. So it’s not. Insignificant, there are people with COVID in Puerto Rico, but it’s pretty under control at this time.

Um, and so far so good. It feels like, you know, we have people by the way, that visit all the time. So I have people that have come down from Maine, cause that’s where I’m from my family. And, and they say it is such a breath of fresh air to be down here in Puerto Rico,

Andrew: you walk around and hang out with friends, be in each other’s homes within your community? You can

John Lee: within our community.

Andrew: in the house or no masks when you’re with friends.

John Lee: No masks inside or outside? No.

Andrew: I didn’t think of that. All right. So the way you did it was it’s content you talk about in a book about how you decided you were going to go into audio.

You’re somebody who likes to just keep on cranking. I wonder lately, whether we’ve hit peak content, peak, blogging, peak, Twitter, peak, Instagram, peak, everything that it just feels like it’s hard for anyone to stand out.

John Lee: I’m not saying that we haven’t, but I will say that I’ve heard that in 2012, when I launched that we were at peak content. I heard it 2016 when I was midway through my current journey. And I’m hearing that today and I’m not saying. That you’re wrong today or anybody’s wrong today? That’s saying that current thing, uh, because eventually somebody is going to be right.

Of course, you know, just like eventually something’s going to be right about when the stock market’s going to crash. It will crash at some point and that person will eventually be right. Um, that will happen. Is it now, I mean, I will say, I don’t know how far you want to go down this rabbit hole, but I do feel like a, an app like clubhouse is really adding, uh, speed to that con content saturation in a very fast way.


Andrew: what clubhouse, by the way, is a, the app where you can just go in and talk to people within these virtual rooms. It’s all audio based. Why do you think that’s a lot?

John Lee: I think it’s speeding up. What that’s common is that you made about potentially going to peak saturation because. People only have so much time. There’s 24 hours in a day. You’re going to sleep, hopefully for at least eight of those hours, you’re going to hopefully be doing work for some of those hours, working out, talking to people, doing things you have a certain amount of time each day that you can literally consume content like a podcast, like a video show, like X, Y, Z, and.

Clubhouse is coming in right now. And it’s taking a huge chunk of that free time that people dedicated at in the past to other platforms. Now in six months, we’d be laughing about clubhouse. Has that failed experiment maybe? Or we may be saying, wow, look at like Facebook bought them for $10 billion ends.

Now they just blew it up to the next level. And now all people use to consume their audio. Content is clubhouse, who knows, but right now is legit.

Andrew: All right. And so you got into podcasting because you were listening to podcasts. You said, you know what? I like this thing I’ve been leading, uh, what kind of conversations do you lead in the army that made you feel like you’re ready to do this?

John Lee: You guys ready to do it? I mean, when I launched a podcast, I was. Terrible a B I was clueless. Like, see, I was completely freaked out of all things that had to do with technology, microphones, mixers, uh, you name it. So I didn’t think I could do it. I mean, did I have some experience in the army where I was like having to give reports in front of five star generals?

Like yes, that happens. So I had some perspective of being like, JLD get over yourself, like stop being such a little scaredy-cat loser and talking to a microphone into an, into an empty room. Because of course, when I launched it was an empty room. And going back to one of your earlier comments, actually.

Yes, Andrew Warner was one of my power 20 when I wish I called, you know, people that I sat down, um, like very intentionally pre-launch and said, these are my 20 dream guests. And if I sat down and made that listing and Andrew, you would still be on it.

Andrew: Right on. I love that you, that you went back to your mentor and you said, Hey, Jamie, I’ve got to make this adjustment to, I forget what it was. It was something like, can I put this, these, these links in this margin, on the left instead of on the right. I have to say, even within your community of people, who’ve created podcasts, I’ll get stupid questions like that.

That makes me just want to, I am not a physical person and I know it sounds cliche. It makes me want to hit them and just smack them and wake them up and say, who cares? I know what you’re doing. You’re postponing getting started for these nonsense reasons.

John Lee: Well, I get pretty, I get pretty bold in the book. I know you sent me one highlighted text, which you know, is really interesting. We can maybe talk about later, but like I just straight up call people cowards in the book. And number one, I call myself a coward because I was a hundred percent of coward. And what was I doing?

I was a coward cowering behind a wall of fear because I didn’t want to launch my voice and my message to the world. I didn’t want people to be able to make fun of me, which I knew they would. And some people did. And I didn’t want that to happen cause I was this fragile little flower. And so what did I do?

I tried to hide behind the word perfectionism. Oh, wait, I’m a perfectionist. I can’t launch right now because it’s not ready. I’m such a perfectionist. So many people love saying that word. And like, like you wanted to smack people in the face for the prior comments. I want to smack people in the face to say that because.

What really I’m hearing when they’re saying I’m a perfectionist, I’m hearing, I’m a coward who is unable to launch because I’m a coward. And like, that’s just how I got to call it out. And by the way, I’m not pointing at people. I’m like, I’m pointing at myself too. Like that was me in 2012. And I don’t want you to be that person that I was that almost didn’t launch, like stop being this flippant perfectionist, because perfectionism flat out sucks every time.

Andrew: All right, you got it. One of the things that I like about you and others. Is that you get mentors? I remember actually swimming and thinking of you saying I swim every day. I think John would have gotten a trainer to help them swim better. Um, I’d been playing chess a lot more. My friend Noah Kagan got a trainer to teach him to play chess more.

I sometimes feel though like breaking that isolation that I have of me swimming on my own breaking, that isolation that I have of me in the game of chess. Is is distracting. How do you not, how do you stay creative within your own experience while bringing somebody in and saying, now you yell at me when I’m not swimming.

Right? You tell me how I should be playing chess better.

John Lee: I think you’re overthinking it. And I think you’re thinking about it in the wrong way. Like how I would think about this scenario that you’re talking about is, and by the way, this is a great little, a Tim Ferriss hack that I love is. You want to get better at swimming? Why don’t you look up the silver medalist of the last Olympics, which nobody cares about, but who’s obviously a fantastic swimmer.

And how can you hire that person for an unbelievably cheap dollar value compared to the gold medalist who beat them by one, 100th of a second who’s can command any dollar amount. They want go to the silver medalist and you can do that for, and of course, any sport or whatever endeavor you want to do.

But to your specific point of like, you know, you want it for solitude and you want extra wires, he was only yelling at you. I look at it as I want to be trained incredibly well by somebody incredibly great at what they do and then left alone so that I am confident for those next 1000 laps that I swam there being done in the best manner.

So I know that my flip turn is spot on. They know what I’m saying under water, the right amount of time that I’m doing X, Y, and Z, and which I can, by the way, relate to, I, I. I think I told a story about my swimming in the book actually. And, um, yeah, and that was legit. Like I was a terrible swimmer star, but you know, I, I figured things out over time, but that’s not the point of what you’re saying is I’m a big believer in being taught by the best, how to do things right.

One time by them. Like this is how you do it and learning, and maybe having a couple sessions, but then, you know, being set off into the world and then doing it with the knowledge that I’m implementing their genius as well.

Andrew: I know I talked to Lewis house and he’s about something. And he said that he also, I guess, trained you or helped you out with your webinars. Right. And that’s a key part of your model. It seems to me, your business model is I’m going to do all this stuff for free. And then I’m going to give you free training, which happens via email, right.

With videos. And then it’s, if you want even more than you pay and that’s. That’s the model for everything. I was even surprised to hear that when you were an affiliate of Tony Robbins, instead of telling your audience, I’ve got Tony Robbins in here, you created a free training with another partner, which then with the screw to nine to five people, you created that free training.

And then people who went through it paid, I think even for part of it. And then they, they were up-sold on the affiliate. That’s the model that you go with.

John Lee: The model is what can you do to give people such immense value that they get a real substantial, like a substantial results in a substantial, great solution to a real problem that they have. But at the same time, they are now ready and knee in the need that next step. And the great example I gave him, the book that you’ve kind of referred to is I teach people for free how to create and launch their podcasts.

But as you, and I know when you launch your podcast to the world is one of the most exciting moments for podcasters. And now there’s two things you really want to do. You want to grow that audience and you want to monetize and guess what? Here’s, JLD the guy that taught you how to create it and how to launch it, who, you know, like, and trust, because you’ve seen my videos.

You’ve learned from me. You have this reciprocity built up from all this free value I’ve given you. And now you want to join my paid community. Podcaster’s paradise to grow your audience and to monetize. And that’s why paradise now has over 6,000 members over 7 million in revenue and has been going for eight years in a row.

Andrew: I thought I saw in the book that I highlighted it. I thought I saw that you closed it down. In fact, didn’t you, was it something else that you said you closed down?

John Lee: So I’ve never closed podcasts, paradise down. What you actually are referring to, I believe is, um, my course I launched because of the idea. Of Podcaster’s paradise, where people were coming to me and saying, John, you’re doing live webinars every single week. So I want to learn how to podcast, but I also want to learn how to do webinars.

So we had a course for four years called webinar on fire, which we sold on the backend. It was like this additional option for people that, um, bought Podcaster’s paradise, or they could just buy it on their own and they didn’t even want to start a podcast. And that was a great revenue stream for us for a lot of years.

And then frankly, webinars just became a lot less effective and we didn’t want to keep up with the course and keep updating it. So we just let it go.

Andrew: What’s effective now what’s working for you.

John Lee: Podcast is absolutely so working for me, I’m doing five days a week. Now I did seven days a week for five and a half years. Then I stepped down, uh, to do two per week for a while. Cause I was like, I’m ready to do more of like the Andrew Warner deep dive interviews. I was just ready for it. I was excited to do it and I, and I, and I’m still doing those, but.

I’m now just upping my quantity. I went to three days a week and then four days a week now I’m at five days a week. I’m just like, I just, I miss talking to more people. So now I’m back up to five days a week. So the podcast is absolutely working. Um, and that’s really the main core focus of everything that I do.

Andrew: So I looked at your revenue, even revenue wise, advertising is number one from podcasting. You didn’t see a dip in advertising last year, 2020, or dip in an audience. I saw a dip in audience.

John Lee: I started dipping audience. Um, and we had a couple of our big sponsors who are with us for a year, say, Hey, we want to put up our, our advertising on pause, you know, back in like March and April, when everybody was freaking out. And I said, absolutely not. You have a year contact contract with us. You will stay by that contract.

Or you’ll be hearing from our legal counsel. Like this is not meant to be mean, but like. We trusted you, you trusted us. We’re delivering, we’re going to keep on delivering on that. And you know, most of them came back and they’re like, John, we get it. We’re good. Like we’re going to stay, we’re going to stay the course.

And they’re glad they did because you know, we, we did see a little blip in numbers, like most people did, but then we actually saw a bigger increase and we’ve had our three biggest months, the last, the last consecutive three months, because it does seem like more people are now kind of getting into their new home life flow.

And they’re just kind of. Having podcasting be more part of that journey. So

Andrew: So you’re saying downloads have gone up.

John Lee: downloads as well. We had our three biggest months, the last three months,

Andrew: I sensed that. Maybe you were burning out on, on podcasting for a bit there. I think you were even charging people to be on the podcast. Am I right? You still, so everyone was on, is paying to be on just about. And then how do you keep it from being too promotional from them? If they’re paying.

John Lee: In the application, which would get 400 inquiries per month to be on the shell, in the application for people to apply, to be on the show. It very clearly says, this is a podcast that delivers value on your area of expertise. You will be allowed one call to action at the end of the show, and that is debts.

So every episode is. Value value, value, sponsor, break value, value, value, time to say goodbye. Call to action. Goodbye.

Andrew: Right. Speaking of sponsor my first sponsor, actually, you know what? The first sponsor is an easy one it’s HostGator. Um, and I think we can make it work well, but I’ve got to talk to you about , I’m kind of struggling to talk about it and I think I’m going to lose them because I’m not doing a great job.


John Lee: Yeah.

Andrew: I think I’m doing an okay job, but I’d like to do a better job. Here’s what they do. You know, like if you wanted to get customers, what you could do is just wait for them to come to you. Or you could go to LinkedIn and then find the people who would be ideal customers. Maybe you get their email address and message them, but people aren’t opening up their email.

If they don’t know you, if you apparently, if you send a message on LinkedIn, you get better response only. Anyway, it takes a long time. They created an automated way to do that. If you tell them the type of people you’re looking for, like, if you said, I want all CEOs of startups in tech, in San Francisco that have at least a hundred employees or 50 employees, they’ll get it for you.

And they send, send the first message to them saying you should be sponsoring entrepreneurs on fire. And then if the person responds comes to John, John gets a type in, or just someone on the team and close a sale. That’s, that’s what they do. That’s the software. Here’s an extra layer here. What do you think so far where I am with it?

John Lee: I mean, do you want me to be honest? Do you want me to, just to be positive?

Andrew: Did. To be honest, go ahead.

John Lee: I need to hear more, but it feels right now, like that may be a personal, um, cold reach out that’s is also equating into a cold, not even a warm lead. So I need to know how are they making this more personal? Is there a way for me to create an awesome video that they can use in that?

So they’re already getting a face and voice branding before it comes to my inbox.

Andrew: Uh, you want the, you want it a video from yourself to the person

John Lee: saying they’re sending a video to the

Andrew: they’re sorry. They’re sending a text. They’re sending text messages on LinkedIn to the person. So it would be, Hey, it’s John. I saw that you’re in San Francisco and maybe a couple of personal things because they do mail merge.

If you’re interested in hearing about how to sponsor, just hit reply and I’ll let you know about it, or I think I can get customers for you hit reply. And then as soon as the person has survived, it goes to you and you can have a real back and forth with them.

John Lee: Okay. I would actually, maybe even like to say, Hey, if you want to learn a little bit more click here, because here’s a video from out of the company that, that goes into detail for some more context, and then, and then hit reply. So like, I would just like to see that one step in there, cause I’ve always found in my outbound marketing that’s key.

Andrew: A little more explanation and then hit reply only for the people who are really getting in. All right. Let me say this for anyone out there. Who’s listening. If this is something that you’re interested in, go to  see a demo video that Z O P T O where you’ll see a demo video and, um, Well, so much more that I could talk about that you can even see, like, if they’ve been on the site, you send them a message on LinkedIn, without saying specifically creepily, I saw you on my side, but it’s kind of like, Hey, it’s like, this could be a good fit just when they’re thinking about it.

All right. I won’t go into the list of features, but I’m grateful to them for sponsoring

John Lee: Okay.

Andrew: Yeah, man. Um, When, when, uh, what’s your sales process for advertising? Is it wait for people to come to you? That’s that’s been pretty effective for

John Lee: So I wait for people to come to me. I get a lot of inbounds, um, requests that people that come and, you know, frankly, our income reports, um, do a lot of that because people see that, Oh, this sky gets a lot of money. Podcast sponsors obviously has shown us to be effective. And then they use the contact form.

They reach out to us and then we send them the rate card and they’re like, Oh, We can’t afford that and that’s fine, but you know, some people can, um, I use a lot of podcasts, uh, broker, uh, sponsor brokers. Um, I, by the way, just kind of a side note, I’d be happy to introduce you to a fantastic company.

They’re called a red circle. I have no affiliation with them, but they’ve been sending me fantastic sponsors. They’re awesome. Um, they’re doing some really cool things in the podcast space. Um, and I just have a couple of sponsors who have been with me for so long. Like ZipRecruiter has been a, uh, an annual sponsor, six episodes a month for 12 months at a time for five years now.

It’s like insane. And I have a couple of other sponsors just like that as well. So even though I have five episodes per week now, like my inventory is almost sold out for all of 20, 21.

Andrew: Wow. I, um, I don’t know, red circle obviously knows ZipRecruiter. I’ve heard them a lot. Um, and maybe we, we should be checking out, uh,

John Lee: You should go ahead or go to that. Indeed is like their competitors. So you just go to indeed and say, Hey, ZipRecruiter just wants to sponsor my show, but before I give it to them, like you want to do a counter offer and just play them off each other. They’ll love it.

Andrew: Because there’s so much money in recruiting that high ticket item products do well with my, with my audience. Right?

John Lee: A huge one right now is better help too. I think you do good with that company because of our PTSD conversation.

Andrew: Yeah. I remember talking to the founder of better health, just asking him basically to justify how therapy could be done by mobile and really in retrospect, of course it could be done even better by mobile.

John Lee: And by the way, they’re the number one podcast monitor in the world.

Andrew: I didn’t realize that you go to them directly or are using, uh,

John Lee: No, you know, we never been sponsored by them. I don’t think they’d be a great fit for me specifically, um, for my podcast. So we don’t like go after companies really like that. Um, we kind of, our sweet spot ZipRecruiter is awesome for that reason in other companies, but, um, There’s a report by a great podcast newsletter called pod news, which every podcast has, should be subscribed to.

And they just recently sent out the report to like the top 10, uh, podcast sponsors and better help is number one.

Andrew: Makes sense. I have been hearing them a lot and it does. It’s just of the moment so much. All right. So the first thing is that that’s how you sell it. Let’s talk a little bit about, um, your research process. I, I found that I go so deep in the research that I could go mental with it. I have to limit myself.

What’s your process? Do you do research on guests?

John Lee: Minutes in zero seconds. And I don’t say that like out of pride, I say that like out of necessity, because when I launched a daily podcast, I said, if I’m committing to doing seven interviews a week, I’ve got to find a way to either do very efficient and quick or potentially no research whatsoever. And I often would the ladder.

And I said, if this isn’t working out, I’ll have to adjust and figure out another way. And. For 3000 plus episodes, it’s just worked out and you know, what, what I say to myself and I’m, you know, I know I’m kidding myself in some ways, Andrew, but I say to myself, Hey, when I, when I come to the interviews, incredibly unprepared, um, with knowledge about the guests, it makes me curious at like my, my.

Um, listeners are. And so I asked the question that my listeners want to be asking themselves because I know I’m not cursed with a curse of knowledge that I do know a lot of people have and when they’re talking, they just, they know the answers. So they don’t ask them. They assume everybody knows, and it’s called the curse of knowledge for a reason.

And so. I don’t have the curse of knowledge. I am basically clueless about every guest that I bring on. I literally right before I bring them on, I read their 30 word bio and that’s all I know about them. And then I bring them on and we just talk.

Andrew: How do you know, by the way, I, I clearly have a different approach to it. I was going mental. I said, Olivia, we can’t talk. I’ve got to kind of finish John’s book. And the reason that I do it the night before, or the day of usually I would do it the day of, but I had too much, the reason I do it is because.

Dude, I would then go down every rabbit hole possible research wise. I actually do work with a coach who has to tell me set timers to stop, like going off on these research, uh,

John Lee: Yeah.

Andrew: yeah, it, it helps. Um, yeah, I do it on my Apple watch. I just hit the five minute thing. I promised myself only five minutes and it’s such a vibrate like crazy.

And then go, all right, another five minutes. And then I stopped. What about, um, staying in touch with your audience? I feel like that’s always a challenge for me. And I think you called me out on that for your, um, Podcaster’s paradise, the cruise. Is that what it was called? Where you said, Andrew, you’re so deep in the world of your interviewees, but you’re not nearly enough with your audience.

And I do work to do that, but I could see that it’s a big challenge, especially now during COVID, where I can’t get into, into their lives. What do you do to see what they need?

John Lee: On the opposite of you. Like I’ll spend almost no time, literally zero time researching my guests, but I’ll spend so much unscalable time. Like talking, literally talking and conversing back and forth with my audience, with my listeners. Um, I’ve always asked them for it via email, via social media. Whenever people reach out to me and say, you know, love the show, enjoy this and do it.

The animal is like, can we jump on a Skype call? They’re like, wait, what’s this isn’t like John. I’m

Andrew: of the blue you’ll jump on a Skype call with them.

John Lee: all the time, all the time, because they have four questions that I flipping love asking these individuals. So I love jumping on calls with them. And if they don’t wanna jump on a call with some people, don’t I get it.

I just sent him the four questions and say, well, can you just respond to these like

Andrew: of the four questions.

John Lee: number one, I always ask, how did you find out about my shell? And does it matter if it listening for five years? I want to know how the first were led to my show so I can amplify the things that actually work. Then I ask them number two.

What do you like about the show? Just so I can understand what they actually like. Cause people are vague. Oh, great show yesterday. But what was great? What actually was great about the show because the whole show was not great. What did you love? And I start to understand what really people get and like for a great example of this is a lot of people say, John, I love when after that guest is done talking, you turn to the audience, like you break down the third wall and you say fire nation.

Here are the biggest takeaways. I want to make sure you get from what Andrew just shared. I do that just a couple of times on interviews, not every one, but like I got so much feedback. When I asked that question for my listeners. I’m like, I’m gonna do this on every interview. And then like the comments kept even growing and growing now that I was doing it all the time.

And now that is literally a cemented. Parts of my show. And like, people love that. And then number three, I ask people, what don’t you like about my shell? And when I hear somebody give me something they don’t like about the show, I essentially ignore it. But I remember it. And if I get a, cause it could be an anomalies, my point on that, but then I get.

If I get a theme of people, like kind of saying they don’t like certain things about the show over and over again, then I’ll take action. And then, and frankly, I actually had that happen kind of recently, which I could talk about Okay. So I always started my show for hundreds of episodes with the question, um, Tell me something about yourself that most people don’t know.

And frankly, it was cool. I got a lot of great feedback about that at first. And like, people are like, this is neat. I’m going to know something about these different people. And frankly, like most things, you know, that question had an expiration date and it just kind of aim a little old and like people are saying, okay, I’m hearing kind of the same thing a lot.

Like, well, whatever, you know, everything has everybody has any different, but. Felt the same. And I started getting people commenting on that more than more than once. And I was like, Oh, you know what, their rights. And so I came up with a new question that I now ask, which is pretty interesting is what is something that you believe about success?

Or about becoming successful that most people disagree with. So I really want to put people on the spot to be contrarian because I love being a contrarian. I love playing devil’s advocate. Like I love when I’m on panels because you know, Conference, there’s such a love Fest. There was like, Oh, I love what he just said.

I love what she just said. I could not agree more is people’s favorite phrase, which I hate when people say I cannot agree more. I’m like, do you have your own individual mind please? And so like when I’m on a panels, I am on a mission to disagree with as many people as I can on that. Not even cause I necessarily disagree with them because I want to disagree and start up.

But an interesting conversation and people are floored. The like, what’s like, what is this? What are you doing? I’m like actually having a fun conversation now. Um, and Tucker max, is that really well, by the way, little shout out to Tucker max, I saw him do that to Ty Lopez.

Andrew: David Heinemeier Hansson does that too. That I remember he came on, he said, Andrew, I’m sick. And I could still do the interview. This is the founder of base camp. And I said, I don’t mind that he’s sick. Cause I know he’s going to be good. And I also knew he was going to disagree, but I didn’t think how fast he would do it.

I remember introducing it saying, Hey, this is Andrew founder mixer, G home of the ambitious upstart. He goes, I hate ambition. I hate ambitious people. Um, I swear you could go see it in the transcript. How are you doing time-wise I know that you’re really deepen

John Lee: a solid eight minutes, if that feels right. I mean, we booked for an hour. There’ll be an hour.

Andrew: how do you, uh, how do you inter when you, how do you interrupt your day when you’re so driven by the calendar to get on calls with, with, with your listeners?

That’s been a real pain for me.

John Lee: Yeah. You know, I make it a priority and I’m not always in this kind of. Back-to-back book, promotion mode that a men now in a normal world, which is not these current three months in an in book, promotion mode. I, uh, I work five days a month. I work incredibly hard. Those five days, my schedule is insane. And then I work very lightly, you know, email, social media, a couple of things, you know, the other 25 days in the month.

Um, but I have time. I got time. I’m hanging out by the pool. I’m asking the questions. I’m jumping on calls. I’ll do the voice.

Andrew: Random times like that. That’s when you’re reaching out to people. And by the way, in the book, you just talk about how, the way you were able to figure out what to sell your audience was through these kinds of conversations. They turns out they weren’t necessarily interested in being like your guests.

They wanted to be like you, you said, all right, let’s teach them how to create podcasts. That’s how the business happened. And you go through the process of understanding. I think you said you had a hundred people who are willing to pay you to be in part in the community. I’m kind of doing this because I promised I would go through some kind of order here and talk a little bit about the book.

John Lee: To close the loop though, real quick. Cause I think we have is the fourth question I ask is. And your point, what you were just talking about is what is your biggest struggle right now? Which got me the answer to everything that Andrew just share. Like that’s how I got that answer of what my audience wanted and that’s how I created all the products and all the services I created.

None of them came here. They all came from that question.

Andrew: the problem. All right, let me close it out with the book. When you’re working, as you said, a few days a week, four or five days a month, how are you sitting down and getting yourself to write? I think you said at one point I, I forced myself to sit one hour a day for, but in that one hour, what is it for eight months, one hour, a day in that hour, how do you get productive in that moment?

The beauty of doing an interview is we’re recording. I can’t not be productive. I have to talk, but if I have to sit down and write, it’s a fricking nightmare.

John Lee: It would have been for me too. And it was, and I had to like get to a point where it wasn’t cause I wasn’t used to it, but after like a week of forced myself to sit there and stare at a blank screen, like you start to kind of break down some of these walls. And I did the method that we talked briefly about about 20 minutes ago is the Pomodoro method.

I set my timer for 42 minutes. That’s just my crazy number that I came up with and I press start and I watched the first two seconds tick down. And then I said, I have 41 minutes and 56 seconds to write, and I just started writing and I started writing and that was it. And that got me to 71,000 words in 480 writing hours.

Cause I’m a crazy person that tracks stuff like this. And it’s a 273 page meaty business book that apparently Andrew one or read in a couple hours.

Andrew: And it follows a logical progression. If anything, frankly, I would’ve, I would’ve assumed that somebody else had written it except the video that you sent me was so hyper, like, aware that you needed to say, I wrote this book. It’s not a marketing thing. I PR yeah, there you go. The

John Lee: I wrote every single word.

Andrew: Yeah.

John Lee: Let’s talk about that for a second, because I think this is on topic. Um, I do things that don’t scale when it matters like those conversations with my audience. Because when you do things that don’t scale, all of a sudden things in ideas, you get those things become scalable.

So I sent Andrew a four minutes personal video to let him know that a. He matters to me. I’m not just sending a blast email that he’s a part of. He’s a friends. I respect him. I like him. I know him. I trust him. And I love his platform. I love what he’s built and I don’t take it lightly if I’d be able to come on and talk about whatever and maybe mention the book, if that makes sense.

Like that would be meaningful. There was a personal four-minute video. I did 300 of those videos. On average four minutes long, you can do the math weeks of just doing those videos, because I know that doing those things that don’t scale are so meaningful. And there’s a reason why I got an 85% response rate from the top 300 influencers.

I reached out to opposed to like a 5% response rate because it was personal and it hit people to the core that, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Andrew: I ended up buying 12 fricking books. I write, I emailed Andrea. I said, can you, I said, I don’t even want to deal with the site, Andrew, please take my credit card, buy 12 books because of the video. All right. And of course we had you on here. You have a URL. Why aren’t you sending people to Amazon? Everyone buys books on Amazon.

John Lee: So that URL does send people to Amazon, but you know, I’m a smart business guy. Like I want to show you what the bonuses are. First. I want to collect your email address first. When did you can go to Amazon, if you want the common path, uncommon success it’s on there. Johnny Dumas, whatever you

Andrew: the, what’s the URL. Let’s be

John Lee: URL is uncommon success. You’ll get to see my beautiful endorsements from Seth Goden, who does not give out endorsements easily. Gary Vaynerchuk, uh, Neil Patel, Eric and Mandy Dorie Clark. You’ll see all five of the bonuses there, which are insane. You mentioned the freedom journal earlier. This is something we can, if we had more time, we could talk about Badu.

I’m sending the freedom, mastery and podcast journal to everybody’s doorstep who buys one copy of this book. I’m losing money on every single pre-order.

Andrew: Because.

John Lee: Not the point that this is not a financial play for me, like finances, good. Done in the bank. This is get this flip and book in people’s hands because I am positive.

This is going to change people’s lives. And this is not some flaky, you know, like author saying this, this is like me not being able to write a book for 10 years. Cause I didn’t have a book to write now. Cannot wait for people to actually be able to apply these 17 step roadmap to get to where they need to be.

Andrew: All right. And if we go to uncommon success,, you’re first getting our contact information and then letting us know that if we buy it, I guess we’re buying it on Amazon. You’re going to give us all these bonuses, a book. If we, uh, the journal, if we get one, but what am I getting? I don’t even know what I’m getting for 12 guys.

If you’re curious, go to uncommon success,

John Lee: I am flying you first-class to Puerto Rico. You are staying in my guests

Andrew: Am I coming to Puerto Rico? You invited me for free. I, I didn’t even need to do

John Lee: I’m buying a first class flight for you. Of course. I’m kidding. But listen, you are coming. I hope to Puerto Rico at some point.

Andrew: I’d love to come to port. Now you’re making me think. Maybe that’s where we should go and hide for COVID. Alright, thank you so much for being on here. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first that actually got it’s mentioned it. Xarelto. If you want to see this, go watch a video at

John just made a dance for them. This is the type of stuff you get when you buy sponsorship and Mixergy a dance from the guests and number two. Didn’t get much of an ad. I will not charge us against, I will not charge him for it, but I will tell you, listen, go, when you need a website, hosted, go to

They’ll do WordPress, any number of other platforms and do it right inexpensively. And when you throw that slash mixer do at the end, you get a Pat on the back. They’ll they Andrew for sending over there and you get a great price from them better than they usually offer John, I know you live by your calendar.

Get out of here.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.