067: John Lee Dumas, part 2: Become a person of value

July 25, 2018 by Joshua
in Podcast

John Lee Dumas

Welcome to conversation number two with John Lee Dumas. You’re going to hear how John Lee Dumas inspired me, how he’s acting on his commitment. One of the biggest commitments of anybody on the show and that’s what’s inspired me back and his acting on it involving people in his neighborhood around him, involving people in his family. Really fun. He talks about joy. It’s going to be about how he is leading others, how he’s finding other things to do, how he’s learning about the environment and acting on these things. And this one’s short and sweet. So let’s just let John take it away.


Joshua: So welcome to the Leadership and the Environment podcast. I’m here with John Lee Dumas for our second conversation. John, how are you doing?

John: Fired up. Thanks for asking.

Joshua: And when we start talking about leadership I have to mention today would be Nelson Mandela’s one hundredth birthday. And if we talk about leaders, Nelson Mandela towers above almost everybody. And I had to mention that. And also, I want to hear about how your personal challenge went because I’ve talked about it a lot and I’m going to keep people hanging on for a second because when last we spoke it was winter here and you pointed your camera out the window to show Puerto Rico and you’re like, “Look how beautiful it is here.” And I was like, “Darn”. And partly that has enriched my life because it’s led me to take these sailing lessons as a way to avoid flying and possibly to go to Puerto Rico and help you pick up garbage if I can get my way there. I haven’t been on the ocean yet but I want to thank you for… A few guests have inspired me back because I do a lot of things but only a few have done things where I felt like, “Wow, that’s really big.” I got to up my game. I got to get off my plateau. So I thank you for that. And I’ve now kept the listeners waiting because I think people want to know you’ve taken on one of the bigger challenges of picking up garbage from the beach and I wonder if you could share.

John: Yes. So it’s really interesting. So here in Puerto Rico we live in just a beautiful side of the island. But what’s interesting about it is it is the eastern facing side so when the breeze hits us, the breeze is essentially coming all the way across the Atlantic Ocean all the way from Africa and this amazing fresh breeze. But guess what? There’s nothing between us. So all this trash that gets dumped by cruise ships and by aircraft carriers and by fishermen and by just people who just frankly just you know don’t care gets washed up on our shores and it’s really sad.

And it was one of those things where you can get frustrated and say, “Hey, this is just always going to happen. It’s never going to get better so let’s just like one I’ll pile up, I’ll pile up.” Or you know you can say like, “Listen, this is my beach, this is my home I am not going to let some other you know a person who doesn’t care you know ruin this overall experience.” So when we talked last like I made the commitment to go and you know be a consistent person that goes and cleans the beaches to give examples for others. And in fact, just about a month and a half ago my 7-year-old niece and 3-year-old nephew are here. And I took them out as well with their little plastic bags and they had fun with it you know like scurrying around like finding the trash and being like, “Uncle Lee, like look what I found.” And I am like, “Yeah, throw it away.”

Then [unintelligible] packing the trash out because some of them are around very secluded beaches down dirt roads you know or going-by like bikers and walkers and hikers and runners and some of them are stopping and asking us, “What are you guys doing there? What was going on?” And you talk about it and then they get inspired and I go for a run like a week later and then I see them with plastic bags coming out with trash and I am just like wow, like this is really cool how like the momentum that I started you know is having this kind of ripple effect now with other people.

And you know now we are all facing a new challenge which is pretty interesting which I don’t think you know about, Joshua, but it’s this time of year where we have what’s called Sargassum seaweed that just really inundates the beaches in massive quantities and it washes up on the beach and the base and the sun and the smell is really atrocious and in fact it is the legitimately toxic to consume too much at too close of an area and it’s really tough.

And so we’ve also kind of had to come together as a community to kind of figure out ways that we can lessen this. So it’s like we have the trash, we have the Sargassum seaweed which by the way is not natural to the fact where it is actually caused because of pollution runoff from places like Brazil and Venezuela that goes into the Caribbean Ocean and kind of comes up and creates this kind of you know filth that ends up kind of getting washed up on our shore. So it’s a struggle that you know something that you can get overwhelmed by or you can just say, “No, I’m just going to do my part today. And I am going to see what happens tomorrow.”

Joshua: So I want to go back. You going and people are seeing you picking up garbage and they’re just asking about. Are you suggesting that they do it or are they taking it upon themselves?

John: Taking it upon themselves. You know I would never discourage people from doing it but I am not going to be like, “Yeah, you should do it.” Like I just say listen, like this is something that brings me a lot of joy, brings me a lot of satisfaction to help our beaches look better and a lot of times they say, “Well, thank you”. You know this is their community too and then they take ownership for that as well. And then like I said just really seemed to start this great ripple effect that it’s having a good impact on our community.

Joshua: So this is really I mean this is leading by example without even trying. I mean you’re just, the word I heard was joy and I think the predominant thing that I hear is people saying, ”If I do it and no one else does, what difference does it make?” And what I am seeing is the opposite with you is that you’re enjoying it. So right there, doing something you enjoy. That’s all you need to know. But it’s also leading people who do stuff. And how do you feel about other people getting involved? Is it like that’s kind of cool or is it like you want to do more? Are you happy or are you satisfied?

John: It makes me realize that I think that there’s really an opportunity here to get organized and to really start taking even more ownership about what we’re doing here as a community and really have a lot of fun with it. You know one thing that is just kind of interesting that you said that I like to touch upon just a couple of seconds ago was you know some people look at something and they’re like, “Well, if I’m the only person doing it like can I make a difference? Does it eve matter?” And it brings me back to that story that I’m sure a lot of people have heard but maybe haven’t thought about in a while is you here’s this 7-year-old girl on a beach you know after high tide and it’s currently at low tide and there’s all these starfish that just have kind of been stuck in the sand and they’re you know slowly you know suffocating and struggling and dying and she’s going you know down the beach with hundreds and thousands of them and throwing them one by one back into the ocean and you know adult approaches her and says you know, “Honey, what are you doing? Like you can never make an impact. I mean there’s just too many.” And she picks up one and throws it in the ocean and says, “I just made an impact for that one” and that can be all that it means.

Joshua: I want to add to that even more because now imagine that some other people see her doing that and then they start doing it too. And then other people see that and they start doing it too. Because there is compound effect because you’re not just doing it yourself. You involved your family in it. You involved your neighbors in it and you’re not telling them to do it, you are not trying to get them to do it. They’re just seeing you do it and they are like, “Oh, that’s cool. I want to do that too.”

John: Yeah. And I think it’s important to also think what’s the flipside though. Even if you don’t get that momentum, don’t get frustrated. You guys are making a difference even if it’s just one. One difference.

Joshua: So were there any hurdles? Were there things that made it hard or times when you’re like, “This isn’t worth it”? I don’t know.

John: It’s tough because you know I’m just sometimes just like you know I just want to pop my iPod Nano in and just go for a run and just you know cross the trails and then come back and enjoy the night. And you know I don’t necessarily want to you know bring a bag out there and load it all up and you know grab all that gross stuff and then I have to haul the bag back out. You know it’s not glamorous. And those are struggles that I have. And so you know just what I say? I say listen, I do it once and I am going to reward myself with you know going for a run the next day and then you know I can kind of continue to play like this kind of [unintelligible] game.


Joshua: Do you know about this thing in Sweden where they bring bags with them running and they pick up garbage as they run?

John: No.

Joshua: I’ve been thinking about doing that because I live in New York and so it’s like there’s a lot of garbage around. And so you know think about when you’re running, normally when I run I just want to run straight. I don’t like it when there’s a turn. I’m in Central Park, I like the hills. But these people have started doing something. I pick up garbage when I walk on the street. But they run with a bag and when they pass garbage, they pick it up and put it in the bag. And on the one, hand that sounds like it’s annoying because you can’t get a good run in. On the other hand, you’re doing this always up and down. It’s going to be like a full body workout.

John: And making it an adventure. Yeah you pick up a big piece of garbage like and you stop to do that, why not do 10 Burpees right there? Like you can really kind of add some things to that where you know people just say, “I can’t stop running. I got to run.” Like that’s just chronic cardio like that’s like a marathon like you can have a good circle workout, you can do a HIIT training you know high intense interval training and you can really look at it like that when looking like a game like people of Geocaching. You know there’s a cool Geocache right down the road for me. But the reality is why not look at trash as kind of like a Pokémon Go! Game, like, “Oh, there’s a piece of trash. Let’s go get it.”

Joshua: Yeah. Look I’m not blown sunshine of your butt here. But like most people I listen to them I’m like, “That’s cool that you’re not using straws” or something like that. I think it’s not such a big deal. But you actually are getting me to be… Like I’m going to do that the next time I go running. I think it is like the soccer players you know this is true where they take a step and then scoop and then they take a step and scoop. I don’t know if people listening understand what I am talking. But it’s like you’re getting a different workout. I don’t think I am going to get very far but I’m going to run a couple of blocks and be like the bags going to be full and my legs are going to be super tired.

John: You live in New York city so maybe your goal should be to like take a bag, run your little obstacle course, fill it up, find a trash can, toss in there and then you just finish your run. Like your goal should be to like to fill up one trash bag or you know so many X number of pieces of trash and then you’re off crashing your last run as normal.

Joshua: And my big goal is to get other people to start doing it because a bunch of people have read like, “The Swedish found this little thing.” But I’m not doing it. I’ve never seen anyone do it New York. I want to do this. This is Cool. So you committed for a year. So we’re going to talk again in six months so maybe I’ll get a boat and I’ll find a skipper who can take me to Puerto Rico because I want to get there get there. If I cannot get there sooner now I’m putting myself on the line to be accountable to you and everyone listening that I’m going to do this. See what happens, try to get some people to follow it.

It sounds like you’re going to keep doing it. Oh, by the way, I tell a lot of people something I find very admirable about what happened before when we talked before I asked you what you…. You know do you care about the environment? And you went, “No.” First person who is just like right “No, don’t care” and I’m not sure exactly what you’re thinking but you did after a couple of minutes switch to “yes, the beach.” And I really like that ability or willingness to change your mind publicly, to be vulnerable like that because I think it’s very important. A lot of people just stick with something forever. And I tell people about that and people like that. So I want to give you that feedback. And then you took on one of the bigger challenges so I found that very admirable. And this is the other thing, I tell people, “Look at his webpage. It says how much he made this month. It’s six figures. He can pay people to do this. He’s doing it himself.” And so there’s an element there. How did it turn into joy for you? I mean if someone said to you, “Hey, pick up my garbage, you probably wouldn’t say, “Great! Sounds like a bunch of joy”

John: It was taking ownership like ownership that this is my islands, this is my community, you know this is my area that I spend time at, and I want to be beautiful and I want it to be clean and I want it to look good and you know and honestly it does feel good when I’m a part of that change and affecting good in that way. So all those reasons.

Joshua: Cool. And I think you just might have answered it. I like to close with a couple of questions. One is is there anything I didn’t think to ask that’s worth bringing up? And the other, is there any message direct that you want to give to the listeners?

John: You know one thing you didn’t ask is when is the next I am going to be in New York?

Joshua: When is the next time you are going to be in New York?

John: Next Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Joshua: Oh, have you thought about having some famous vegetable stew?

John: Oh, I like the sound of vegetable stew.

Joshua: Yeah. And it’s made with no garbage. It’s just like almost…. I don’t feel I know a whole thing about avoiding food packaging but I haven’t thrown up my garbage since June 2017 because I haven’t had that much yet. And actually, that doesn’t matter. It’s delicious. That’s what matters.

John: That’s all I care about and I want to eat it.

Joshua: So there’s the invitation. And to the listeners if you’re in New York, you know hit me up and I’ll try to work you guys into.

John: Where on the island are you? What’s your borough?

Joshua: I am in Greenwich Village.

John: Greenwich. I’ll be on the west side.

Joshua: I am right off at Express stop. It’s easy to get to. So sweet. If it’s cool you, I will follow up by e-mail to work on logistics and I guarantee you you’re going be like, “This is going to be one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.”

John: Would you cook it for all the people that I am with? I’m going to be with a few people.

Joshua: It’s about 500 square feet here. So everyone who can fit is welcome to come over. Oh, here’s the thing. I’ll send you this e-mail or an e-mail with this link that I ask people if they want… You feel compelled you’ve got to bring something like wine or desserts, something like that. So it’s fine to bring nothing but if you bring anything or anyone brings anything, please no packaging. So no rubber bands, no stickers, no cans, no bags unless it’s something that you brought with you to the store and that you will use again. So a lot of people have this weird thing, they bring stuff over in a bag and I am like I can understand how they do what they do but they’re like they bring packaged stuff over. So nothing is fine but most people they find that like fruit or vegetable or something like that.

John: I am probably going to offer nothing.

Joshua: That’s totally fine. I mean that’s what most people do. And it’s fine with me. Just bring your appetite. And if you bring your friends, that’s cool too. Let me know how many before they come over so I know how many… OK. Anything else? Any last message to the listeners? Oh, wait. Did you already give that?

John: No, I haven’t given the last message. I would say if there’s like one thing that I will leave people with that’s kind of based on what we’ve been talking about today is a quote that I’ve always loved from Albert Einstein which is “Try not to become a person of success but rather a person of value.” And that was I think one of my biggest struggles for most of my life. 32 years of my life was I was really trying to be successful. But when I flipped on his head at 32 years old and said you know what I want to just listen to this or buy Albert Einstein and just focus on becoming a person of value, everything changed. And like I consider you know picking up trash being a person of value. I consider you know creating a free podcast valuable. I consider conversations like this that other people can hear about valuable. So what are you doing own it yourself. Things that you’re doing that are valuable and when you start to really start to [unintelligible] a lot of valuable things, then you’ll start to see some really cool things happen.

Joshua: I could leave that there but I wonder if you have any posts or recordings of yours that could take them if someone were like, “Yeah, I do want to get my value. I do want to”… Are there resources that they could get?

John: Yeah. I would give them a free resource that I’ve actually recently created that would really help them get to that value point because unless you really know what your big idea is, you really can’t give a ton of value in that area because you need to have a clear concise idea of what that is. So I’ve created a three-hour training for anybody that wants it, it’s completely free and it’s called “Three Hours to Your Big Idea.” So if you give me three hours, I’ll give you your big idea. Visit yourbigidea.io and you’re off to the races and then boom, you have your big idea! Now you can start to see where the value that you can get in this world.

Joshua: That’s awesome. You’re so quick with that because let the record show I did not tell him I was going to ask that question. Thank you for having that and I’ll put the link up so people can click it just using typing it in. Well, thank you very much.

John: It was great. And I look forward to hearing from you about New York City.

Joshua: I’ll see you soon.

John: Take care.

Joshua: Bye.


It sounds to me like he’s really going to keep doing it. And I was serious that few others lead me back, though some do. Actually, I got to mention Jeff Brown who is the host of the ReadtoLead podcast he’s taking on his homeowner’s association to start that recycling program in his neighborhood, that’s led me to propose formally a Sustainability Committee to my co-op board and that’s moving along. But John is getting me, first, it was the sailing. Now it’s going to be the running and maybe when he’s in New York we’ll go running together picking up garbage together. And I was also serious for those around New York City who want to take me up on famous vegetable stew just hit me up. You can figure out how to find me and just let me know when you’re around. For everyone else, I’ll let you know how things went with John Lee Dumas when he came to visit.

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