Sept. 13, 2021

E109 The Power of Quitting with John Lee Dumas | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Coach

In this episode, we have a guest speaker, John Lee Dumas. He is an incredible human being, a former officer in the Army, entrepreneur, and host of the number one rated business podcast that I've had the privilege of being on called entrepreneur on fire.

We talk about his journey, experiences, successes, defeats, and journey to creating the life that he wants to have and the life he lives today.

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In this episode, we have a guest speaker, John Lee Dumas. He is an incredible human being, a former officer in the Army, entrepreneur, and host of the number one rated business podcast that I've had the privilege of being on called entrepreneur on fire.

We talk about his journey, experiences, successes, defeats, and journey to creating the life that he wants to have and the life he lives today.

Learn more at

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Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world. Today, super excited to be back with another episode with my friend, one of my mentors and super special guest today, John Lee Dumas. John, my man, what is going on in your world today?

John Lee: Michael, I'm fired up and down here in Puerto Rico where the sun is shining, the birds are singing, life is good.

Michael: Dude. I love it. I'm super excited to have you may have noticed a little nod, The Unbroken Nation there, throw an homage to you. I started listening to an entrepreneur on fire your podcast about 7 years ago. It's played some huge, huge dividends in my life, and so the opportunity to have you on the show was incredible. Now, I know a little bit more about you than most folks. I know that you grew up in Main, four years of college paid 4th Army scholarship, eight years as an officer 13 months in Iraq. You had a team of 16 men, you let in some of those dangerous parts of the Middle East at the most dangerous time to be there.

And, you know, first and foremost as someone who comes from a military family, I have a huge amount of admiration for you. Thank you for your service, and for what you've done. I'm curious, I heard you say something one time that really struck me. You're like, at 23 years old, you are arguably completely while in this college, and this growth and being an army Cadet, filling still very irresponsible, and having this moment of six months prior to leading these men into war doing keg stands, and I remember hearing that and being like that is such an incredible juxtaposition. How did you switch into this place of taking massive responsibility for your life in such a required time, John?

John Lee: I think the word switch that you use is actually a very good one because it was literally like flipping a switch, because that's what I had to do. I just had a great life growing up in Main for the first 18 years of my life in a very small town and it's just doing the things that, you know, somebody's going to do from 0 to 18 years old and then having the best four years of my life in college and just having such a blast graduating at 22, and then being commissioned as an officer in the US Army and then all of a sudden being shipped over to Fort Riley, Kansas where I'm a platoon leader, training my platoon of 16 men and four tanks to take to war, and saying I literally had six months ago, a life where I woke up when I wanted to wake up, I had nothing to do except, you know, barely scrape by on whatever classes I had to do. And then go to a party that night and drink with my friends and hang out and flirt with girls, like that literally was my life for four years to now, like I'm driving this, you know, absolutely killing machine. The 77 ton M1A1 Abrams that's going to deploy with me to Iraq, to go fight and kill our enemies with 16 men's lives at under my supervision and ATS, essentially the beck and call of the decisions that I'm going to be making good or bad and it was terrifying and I literally could not be like the John Lee Dumas of college or of the first 18 years of my life, that happy-go-lucky the looking at the bright side of everything. I couldn't be that person. I literally had to flip a switch and just become a new person, become a different person, and honestly, I hadn't really heard or seen other people talk, or do these things back in that day. So, I must just be weird. I must have to be doing this on my own, and now it's kind of interesting like, you know, seeing some documentaries of people like Kobe who went into black mama mamba like he flips, the switch and how Serena Williams does the exact same thing, she has her all team, Beyonce has her alter ego, like that's what it was literally me flipping a switch into an alter ego and becoming a different person, which, you know, not to go too deep on this and we can maybe touch one and later if you want to, but it did allow me to compartmentalize like the terror and the trauma that I experienced while I was deployed in Iraq and seeing and doing what I saw and did and then feeling like when I got back for a couple years, like I was actually good being like; ‘Wow! I was just one of the lucky ones that really didn't deal with PTSD’ but then when I like to flip the switch back until the real John Lee Dumas, that's when the problem started, that's when the anxiety, the depression, the PTSD really kicked in for the first time. So it was like a really a delayed onset of those issues that I had to deal with during my 20s.

Michael: Man, you know, what's so fascinating to me that you picked up on the switch in that way because and I'm lucky enough to have known that you've seen me on stage. That's a switch for me to Michael and broken is very much stepping into that. So I can get the job done, and I do a line with that idea with Kobe and Beyonce and people who do that because I think that there is maybe level to it, right? Where you just look at your life and you go. I have to go to the next level. I have this responsibility, I almost even that times have to convince myself into being able to do this thing, right? And so, you know, I heard you mentioned before that this transition out of military service and into civilian life as these were your words you may or may not remember them, but it was a terrible failure for six years and you were in this place where you were dealing with PTSD, we're feeling lost, but you said in the struggle of nothing you turn to education and I thought that was a fascinating thing, you turned to books, you turn to podcast, you turn to personal development, why? Like here, the reason I'm asking you why is to create rhyme and reason, because they think that in my experience, like being at the bottom, that's the best time to turn to education. Why did that happen for you, John?

John Lee: So those were six years of struggle, law school dropped out, Corporate Finance, quits, real estates didn't work out for me, and I was just wondering I scratch my head just being like what's wrong with me? What's the issue here? Why am I unable to achieve the type of success that I'm just chasing and actually working hard, because I was working hard in all of those things. And frankly, the answer your question directly, it was out of desperation. I was desperate, I was just like whatever I've been doing is not working. I need to surround myself with the right people. I need to educate myself through the books of businessmen and women that have been successful and just other individuals who have led great lives.

So I went into this, you know, absolute Rabbit Hole of reading biographies and watching documentaries and listening to audiobooks and just business books in general, and it was really again, out of desperation, but of all of those words that I read, and those books, and in that time frame of my life pre-launching, entrepreneurs on fire, all of that helped in some way. But there was really one phrase from those tens of maybe hundreds of thousands of words that I read over the timeframe that really changed everything and that's why you know, whenever I people are like man, I read this book, it was good, but I'm like, well was there like one thing and that book, that was great, like, oh, yeah, there's one thing that was, I'm like, well, sometimes that's it, and I was reading this book and I almost put it down a few times and I just kept pounding through it just so I could complete it and towards the end of the book, this guy quoted Albert Einstein and the quote was “try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value” and it was literally like somebody maybe Albert reached out from the past and slap me in the face, and he said; ‘Bro! You are literally just trying to chase success, that's never going to work. What are you doing this valuable in this world?’ And I looked in the mirror, and I said, what value are you providing in this world? I asked myself and the answers was nothing. I wasn't providing any value. I was chasing my own personal success and not giving any value to anybody along that journey, and I said, well, Albert must know a thing or two, what if I just shifted everything and did a hundred percent value? and stop chasing success, a hundred percent and that's what led to entrepreneurs on fire, that's what led to the idea of the concepts to the commitment to try this thing out called becoming a person of value, which is what Albert Einstein talked about, and again, from this one book that I almost put down 50 times that one gem started everything.

Michael: And that's beautiful. I have so many of those moments and experiences of my life or like that one piece, that was the difference and you listen that you carry that with you, but here's what I think, people get stuck because they get that one piece quite often and then they hear a story like yours and they go. Oh, yeah. I got this piece. I'm going to go and build this, incredible empire, and the truth is like, when you were value-driven, whether that's part of your ethos or your who you are as a human being, there is patience and a vast amount of it required.But often you have to give something up to get you want you were having a conversation with Jordan Harbinger one time and you were talking about the courage to quit, and that hit me so hard, dude, because the greatest change in my life, came from quitting shit that did not bring me value. Talk about the courage to quit, John.

John Lee: Do you know how many people's lives suck right now? And I mean are just like shitty lives right now, because they're afraid to quit. Like it's the majority of the population and I see it every single day. I see that person that's in law school on their first or second semester and they hate it and they're miserable, but guess what? They paid 20,000 or 40,000 dollars to be there and everybody thinks that they're in law schools, what's so impressive. So they end up spending the next 40 years of their life, being a miserable lawyer or the person that just read a book one day or so be that. You know, so watch Grey's Anatomy, they're like, oh my God, being a nurse is amazing, you get to do this and you get to marry the doctor and you get to, and they become a nurse, and I've seen it happen to people close to me and my family by the way. And they go to school, get the degree, get the job, they're working 9 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. shifts overnight, and they're just miserable because they're just changing bedpans and they're just doing this and they've never thought that it was anything like that. And I'm just like, oh my God, like these people, they had this sunk cost fallacy, they think that just because they started going down the road that it's too much energy or there's too much cost to turning around going back to the beginning and trying again, you know, just to kind of give like a financial example, this happens all the time people. And in the stock market like they'll buy a stock at like 22, like, oh my God, if it goes to 30, like I'm going to sell and I'm going to make 50% gain, it's going amazing and then it goes to 40, they're like, oh my God, it's that 40. Then it goes to 50, they're like, oh my god, look what happened to them selling at 30, will now they're not going to sell because now they're seeing real dollar bills and then the stock starts going down the like it just goes back to 50, then I'll sell, but now it's down to 12 that just goes back to 40 I'll sell then it's back to third.

Well, if it just gets better and then I'll sudden they're on the red and this happens all the time, and so it happens in finance, happens in life, it happens in business, happens in everywhere, the sunk cost fallacy and it all stems back to people, not being willing to have the courage to quit, the courage to know that I'm going to make a decision and it may not be the best decision, that I could ever possibly make but it's going to be a decision that I make. I'm going to go forward not look over my back in hindsight, and this kind of does bring me back to my Army days. I'll tell really quick stories that you know, we were on a mission Under Fire and I was a platoon leader, so I had to make a decision. Now here I am this 23-year-old young buck, I'm going to be like General Patton and make like the greatest decision in the world right now. It's going to win the war, you know, but I got to come up with a greatest decision and he grabs me and throws me against like LT a good decision now is better than a great decision later because there might not be later for us and like I was like, holy crap like he's right bullets or literally flying. So that's obviously an extreme example, but it's true in life as well. If you just go through life and you make really good decisions at every opportunity and you're just action, action action action, take making good decisions, it's going to lead to something great.But if you're frozen in the moment, and you just are waiting for that great decision, you are never ever going to take the type of action that it takes to be a massive success.

So you need to understand the courage to quit, the courage to make a good decision and not worry that it's not a great decision, the courage to take action, those things are critical to your journey.

Michael: Yeah, a hundred percent. And also I think for clarity here, this is very much, a not preaching from a pulpit. Like I know John, you quit multiple things like law school, for example, even though you sunk cost into it because you looked at your life, and you said this isn't what I want. I quit a six-figure corporate job with a fortune 10 company because it wasn't what I wanted in the truth about life is this time right now, this moment you're not quitting, you're not gettin that shit back and if you don't act, here's what's going to happen, you're going to be on your deathbed and you're to have regrets and that is the singular worst thing I think that a human being can do in their life. But here's what I think is interesting John, I love to know your thoughts on this. People want that they want that life, they're like, I want to build this thing, I want to whether it's a business or a relationship or a family or career, whatever they're like, I want that thing and you said something that I wrote down one time that I think about literally almost every single day. He said people want the gold but they don't want the grind. What does that mean?

John Lee: Listen, if it was easy, every single person would be doing it, and then I want to be worth anything. The best things that I've done in my life, in my world have been grinding. Likewise, entrepreneurs on fire successful was because back in 2012, I identified the absolute thing that was missing in the business podcasting space. There's a good number of business podcast back then, but nobody, and I mean, nobody was doing anything more than a once-a-week podcast interview because it's a lot of work. You gotta find the guest, you gotta schedule time, you've got to interview them, you've got to edit it, you've gotta upload it to your podcast host, you've got to do the show notes page, you get to promote on social media, like, that's a lot of work and it is a lot of work. And I said, why is nobody doing a Daily Show, interviewing entrepreneurs because it's much work, everybody told me my coach, my mentor, Jamie Masters, my mastermind leader Cliff Ravenscraft, it's just too much work, John and I said; ‘We'll, wait a second. If the two top people in the podcast space are telling me, it's too much work, and I'll never happen, and I find a way to do it, think of that opportunity, think of that.’ And this goes back to a quote that I'm a big believer in “The higher the barrier, the lower the competition.”And a daily podcast is setting a very high barrier because it's so much work, finding 365 guess a year, 365 show notes page, 365 editing and episodes. I know you guys know the whole spiel by now. So much work, but guess what? Because it's such a high barrier. I had not only low competition. I had no competition. I was able to build a moat around my business. Why? Because nobody was able to create the systems, the processes and put in the grind in the work that it took to do a daily podcast, interviewing entrepreneurs, and that's why I want at such a high level.

So everybody wants entrepreneurs on fire. They want the 1 million plus listings per month, they want a hundred million total listings, they want the three thousand episodes in their back catalogue, they want the $200,000 we made last month on podcast sponsorships alone, they want the eight figures of revenue that we've generated over the past nine years in the business, they want the gold, but they're not willing to do the grinds, and those few people that are willing to do the grinds, get the gold.

Michael: And that applies to everything in life, man, everything. Whether it's your career, your relationships, whatever it is that you want. Like I think there is a grind to it, there is monotony in creating the life that you want to have, like believe or not, people think like life is just this thing where you're like chilling on the yacht, having a drink hanging out all the time, what they often miss about people who are successful in any capacity financially, or otherwise is the amount of effort that they put into it. Now, I know something that I think is really interesting about your story and your journey because people do look at the measurement of where you're at now, but they may not know this, your coach was actually going to fire you because you didn't pull the trigger on your dream. Talk about that because I want people to hear this and understand that even John Lee Dumas has guys built this, incredible empire arguably the greatest business podcast on planet Earth, almost didn't do it.

John Lee: So, I'm a big believer when it comes to finding your mentor is to find somebody who is about a year ahead of where you want to be. So where you want to be in one year's time, that's the person that you want to hire, somebody who is currently where you want to be in about 1-year time. And I found that person in Jamie Masters, who is running a great podcast for about a year at that time called the Eventual Millionaire, and I hired her, it was fantastic. She helped me out on so many things and then I caught what I like to call the perfectionist bug, which by the way 99% of podcasters that have come through my podcast and community podcasters paradise, have caught, very few people. In fact, it may be a hundred percent very few people avoid this bug called the perfectionist bug where they're just like I know my launch data, my podcast is this date, but it's not perfect yet, like my podcast could be a little bit better, my logo, maybe a little bit better, my website could maybe be improved a little bit. I'm not doing great, show notes right now. I can improve my show, knows my social media, don't have enough doesn't have enough followers right now, like I can prove, I can increase my followers, whatever it is. One, two, all those things I just mentioned. It's perfectionism. You become a perfectionist. Everybody does it and it's so sad because the word perfectionism actually usually has a positive connotation in this world, like oh like that person is a perfectionist, they just want to do things right? I think it should have a complete negative connotation in this world. In fact, I tell people you need to replace the word perfectionism with the word coward, because you are not a perfectionist, you are not trying to be perfect, you are a coward, you are being a coward, and rewind to 2012 that was May, I was hiding behind this word called perfectionism because again, people like, oh, he's just wants it to be good, he wants to be part, he wants to be perfect, like I get, it's like, who doesn't want things to be a little bit better. So I was hiding behind this word like a shield like a little rock that was protecting me, but I was a coward. I was being a coward as is everybody, whoever utters the word perfectionism or I'm a perfectionist or I'm trying to be perfect, none of those things are true, you were a hundred percent being a coward. And so, I delayed my launch for a week and then two weeks and then three weeks, and finally, my mentor bitch-slapped me, as she should have done and she said, I will fire you, if you don't launch tomorrow, and that's why I have this kind of random launch date, September 22nd 2012 was just like end of the month. Like let's just launched, it was no special day, it was just the day that my mentor wouldn't fire me. And let me tell you, I have never made the mistake again of trying to be a perfectionist because I called that $100,000 mistake, I mean it took me 13 months to get my podcast over a hundred thousand dollars in revenue and that month that I wasted not launching it, just delayed that a month. So that was $100,000 mistake. I'll never get back because I wasn't being a perfectionist. I was being a coward and that's just reality.

Michael: Yeah, that's a hard truth, man. When you have to look in the mirror and I have a feeling it was probably keeping you awake at night. Why won't I do this? Why won't I just pull the trigger? What's going on? And the greatest moment of change in your life comes through a ACTION because if you don't create change in your life, change will never happen,and you have to put in the effort, you have to put in the energy, but also, you have to be willing to face the, the naysayer in the critic who often is you first, because guess what people are out there, they're going to judge you anyway, and if you are always trying to make things perfect, you'll never have them done, and if they're not done, then you're doing yourself and the world a disservice. And this applies to everything you say all the time, John that fortune favors the bold, and I love that because I believe that it's very true outside of entrepreneurship and the military and building podcasters, paradise and entrepreneur on fire. What do you think is the boldest thing that you've done in your life?

John Lee: There a lot of bull things in my life. Some of worked out, some have not worked out for sure, but I will say, I think the boldest thing I've ever done in my life would be quitting law school, that is the defining moments in my life, where I just kind of been the poster child up until that point in my life. You know, I did well in high school. I was a three-sport athlete. I was voted athletic of my class, and then I went to college and did well in college. I was an Army Cadets and I had a lot of great friends and a lot of great times, and then I went and became an officer in the US Army and spent four years as an active duty officer, serving the country and going to war and then another 4 years after that as an inactive aren't an active reserve army officer, and I just kind of like led this life where I pretty much done all the right things. I mean, of course, you know, I had a few hiccups along the way we all do, but you know, for the most part and I had this like bright shiny future now like how and it did you hear what you hear what John is doing now like this war veteran who came back and he was a captain in the Army and now he's going to law school, like what's next with this guy's, you going to go into politics. I mean like that was kind of like, The Whispers and now I'd look in the mirror and be like now the conversation changes from John like, kind of on this steady trajectory upwards doing various things to here, like, yeah, John, John dropped out of law school, he couldn't hack it, he laughs like, who knows what he's doing now, like he's probably waiting tables somewhere, some, 24-hour diner, and of course, these are all the thoughts that are going on in your head.

When you get a little bit older, you realize people don't really care that much. They had their own things that they're caring about the do involve you, but that's the time. You think it's going to be front page news and the dinner conversation at everybody's house for the next six months. And that's why I had to leave for India when I dropped out of law school, like I just left, I like the eat, pray, love moment and I just went for four months and just backpacked India, barely communicated with anybody, and it was an interesting time in my life. But that was the boldest thing I ever did and that, the beautiful thing about doing something so incredibly bold is that whatever I had to do other bull things in my life, I'd be like, hey, this is kind of bold, but nothing compared to what you did, drop on a law school.

Michael: I love it, man. And I'll tell you this, when when I packed up my life. I quit that fortune, 10 job. I left America. I traveled the world. I lived in all these different countries, man, I learned so much about myself and I would say thisif you're unwilling to find out the truth of that thing, that's buried deep inside of you, you will never have fortune in your life.

 John, my friend, this is amazing conversation, and I appreciate you being here. Before I ask you my last question. Can you tell everybody where they can find you?

John, is where all the magic happens. Course, entrepreneurs, on Fires of pretty cool podcast. You can listen to and I see the book over Michael's right shoulder, I appreciate that brother, but you can pick up one of these, the “Common Path to Uncommon Success” It is not my genius. It is the genius of over three thousand of the world's most successful entrepreneurs that I've interviewed that's make this book what it is.

Michael: Yeah, and it's a phenomenal book. It's behind me for a reason. I love it. I think it's a powerful manual for anyone who is in this place, we're trying to solve problems in their life because I think being an entrepreneur makes you the biggest problem solver there is and so a beautiful book. I love the podcast. Please go and listen. My last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

John Lee: It means that you've been broken so many times then you are now antifragile. We've all had struggles and obstacles and challenges in life, and every time you've been broken is just a way to become more unbreakable, more unbroken, and that's what it means to me is to just continue to tanks, take strength from everything you've done in life, good, bad ugly and keep driving forward.

Michael: Beautiful, keep driving forward. My friends, Unbroken Nation.

Thank you so much for listening.

Please, like, subscribe, comment, share, leave a review.

Tell a friend.

And until next time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

-I'll see you.




John Lee DumasProfile Photo

John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas is the founder and host of Entrepreneurs on Fire, an award-winning podcast where he interviews inspiring Entrepreneurs who are truly ON FIRE. With over 3000 episodes, over 100 million lifetime downloads, 1 million+ listens a month, and seven figures in annual revenue, JLD is just getting started. JLD's first traditionally published book, The Common Path to Uncommon Success can be found at and EOFire HQ is at

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.