Interview With Dave Burlin | Sales Team Leader for DJ Connection | High Speed Low Drag

Dave Burlin High Speed Low DragWelcome to High Speed Low Drag, the podcast for veterans and soldiers transitioning into the civilian world. War veteran John Lee Dumas interviews other veterans who are crushing both business and life, revealing the path they took to achieve outstanding success. Veterans, are you prepared to ignite?

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High Speed Nation, John Lee Dumas here and I am fired up to bring you our featured guest today, Dave Burlin. Dave, are you prepared to ignite?

Dave: Absolutely, John. Let’s do this.

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John: All right. Dave is a Marine Corp veteran now serving in the wedding industry as a regional sales team leader/marketing guru for DJ Connection. His new project, Discharge to In Charge, is aimed at helping connect private resources to veterans as they transition back into the civilian world. Dave, I’ve given High Speed Nation just a little insight. So share a little bit more about you personally and then expound upon the biz.

Dave: Okay. I am actually a Marine Corps veteran. I got out back in fall of 2003. So I’ve been out for a little while. I worked a series of odd jobs since then. The first job was at youth academy, went right back to the military style workforce until about 2010 whenever I found this exciting new industry. I jumped into the wedding industry. In the wedding industry, there’s a lot of different businesses. I found DJ to be a huge passion of mine.

But I really fell into a great organization — DJ Connection. The founder of the company was the entrepreneur of the year by the Small Business Administration. He’s a personal mentor of mine and they’ve just got me fired up over the last four years, really getting everything going all the way from Tulsa to Dallas to Kansas City and everything in between.

John: Well, Dave, what I love about your journey is that we’re going to be diving into it. So I’m really excited to be focused on your transition out, some pivotal moments you’ve had in the military and a lot more in between. But before we get into all of that, we always start with a success quote. So share that and why you chose it.

urlDave: Okay. Yeah. This is a great author and inspiration for me. His quote is:

“Finding your true purpose isn’t always about discovery. It’s often about recovery.”

That’s Jon Acuff. He’s a great author that I’ve resonated a lot with in the last two years and that’s been a personal mantra for me. I’ve helped a lot of veterans find a job but is that a job that’s working toward their true purpose? I want to help people reconnect with that so if they do that, they tend to be a lot more successful.

Sometimes it’s not about trying to go out and find something new. Sometimes it’s about digging back through past experiences and finding something that really does get you excited that you can be passionate about.

John: I love that quote. Jon Acuff is an incredible entrepreneur. I actually had the honor of interviewing him on my other podcast, Entrepreneur On Fire. And his story, his journey, Dave, is just phenomenal, highly recommend checking that out. But what we want to do now, Dave, is focus on your journey. Specifically within the military now, can you share a story of what you consider your most pivotal moment in the military?

Dave: Yeah, yeah. And this is a tough one. And that’s really what I love about both of your podcasts. I can really get down to some real stuff here. I joined the Marine Corps pre-911. I actually joined in January of 2000 where we had not experienced any kind of conflict. It was a different kind of Marine Corps than it is now.

I was actually on my first deployment when 911 happened. It was my 21st birthday. Whenever we got closer after we came back, it was the Spring of 2003 that they started taking different parts of the military over to Iraq. We started lining the borders of Iraq. My unit, first battalion, first Marines, we did not go with the rest of the military. When almost 75% of the United States forces went over, my unit did not go. This was extremely challenging. I always tell people it was like riding the bench for the Super Bowl.

In that challenge, we were in Southern California. I was there at Camp Pendleton. And myself along with many other Marines fell into a lot of off time and ended up making some pretty hefty decisions that ultimately got me in some trouble. And I actually processed out a little bit early. So my transition was a little different and there was a lot of adversity going on as more and more veterans came back and they started struggling with some of the same things like alcohol addiction and Maeng Da Kratom Addiction.

It has proved to be a very useful experience for me. But I would say the most pivotal moment was the day that I had to answer for those mistakes. I had a choice. You always have a choice. And I could have lied about it. And I could have tried to do everything to get out of it. I talked to my command first Sergeant and I took full responsibility for myself and the actions of other people under my command. Ultimately, I walked away with no benefits, no penalties either. But in that, I’ve learned so much and it has become more valuable to me through the years than if I were to have done it any other way.

John: Well, let’s now take step back, Dave, and focus on that transition out. You faced some obstacles and challenges that you just shared right now. But what would you say are some of your major lessons learned during your transition out that you think some of our listeners that are currently in the military or making their transition out could actually benefit from?

Dave: Sure. Really have a plan. That was the biggest thing for me. I did have a plan of what I wanted to do but the obstacle took me off of that course a little bit. I had to get a new plan. I have talked to several people that are just getting out now and that is where most people really struggle with their transition is they don’t know exactly what they want to do or what they want to be. So I would say, some of the lessons that, looking back, I really would have liked to have had a little bit more of a plan in place and maybe had a mentor on the outside that maybe had a job waiting or direction that I wanted to go.

John: Very cool stuff. High Speed Nation, as you’re listening to this stuff right now, I really want you to pull out the points that really would impact you and your transition, your journey, some lessons that people like Dave and other guests I’ve had that we can learn from so we don’t repeat that history. Now, Dave, I want to talk about your actual civilian life a little bit. Let’s talk about your first civilian gig.

Now, you’re out of the military. Your ties are cut. Everything is good in the world. What was the first thing you did and what were some of the struggles that maybe our listeners who are in that transition period recently or currently or just got out of it can really benefit from?

Dave: Sure, sure. My first job is exactly what you would think most people would do. Coming from Marine Corps Infantry with some intense leadership trainings, advanced weaponry knowledge, I did what anybody would do and I drove a ditch witch. Now, my first job, John, was I worked for a [0:08:28] [Indiscernible] company in the oil fields of Northeastern Oklahoma and it was very different. It was definitely a step outside of the norm. I mean, it was cold. It was miserable and I just sat on a ditch witch and dug a ditch all day long.

TEDTalksSo, that was the first job on the transition out. That was definitely very different. I had the honor of talking about this in a TED Talk that I did last month. That’s where I realized that that job didn’t really have any purpose for me. I had to find something that really did fuel my passion. And that’s whenever I found the next major job when I worked for a large youth academy here in Oklahoma.

John: Well, let’s talk about that transition to your youth academy. You obviously weren’t inspired. Your fire, your passion wasn’t there for that first gig that you had. What did that transition look like? How did you find it? And how did that transition successfully happen?

Dave: Sure. Well, I talked about the idea of working at that youth academy to everybody that I knew. I mean, that’s one of my big mantras is whatever your goals are, share those with passion. Tell everybody you meet. Tell people who you are and what you’re about but what you’re wanting to do. And I wanted to work with the youth academy. I had a random dinner with my girlfriend at that time, my wife now of almost ten years.

We had a double date and I talked about working at the youth academy. And the guy just said, “Hey, one of my best friends from college is one of the supervisors. Let me connect you.” Made the connection, did the interview, and I was brought on full time.

Six and a half years later, I changed the lives of over 2,800 of Oklahoma’s at risk youth. And it was an incredible journey.

John: I think that is such a powerful point that you made, Dave. And for High Speed Nation that’s just listening right now, I mean, you need to vocalize things. You need to put things out in the universe. You can’t just want something and keep it a secret. I mean, the law of attraction is real. If you put stuff out there, all of a sudden, the universe starts working for you, not against you.

Dave: Absolutely.

John: Dave has seen that in so many different ways. And that’s actually what I want to move into next, Dave, an aha moment you’ve had. I mean, you’ve got a ton. But let’s talk about one specifically that you can really draw out in a story format. Share with us this light bulb moment that you’ve had and the steps you took to turn it into a success.

Dave: That’s a great question. I get too wrapped up in a way to Jon Acuff and I’m glad that he did it make it on your other show. He’s a great, great person, great author and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with him as well. Last summer, I picked up his book, Start. I picked up the audio book. I drive a lot so I was able to listen to the audio book.

It really sparked the idea of starting on this new journey. As I’ve been in the entrepreneur space, I really started listening to the idea of punching fear in the face and actually starting on this path. Well, one of the challenges that Jon had in a little side group that he had was the Time magazine article. And in the Time Magazine article, I was supposed to write about my successes from the future looking back.

So, the aha moment for me was the day that I realized the power of writing down your goals. I actually wrote a Time Magazine article. I also found TED Talks last year and I was very inspired by some of the great speakers in that space. I wrote a Time Magazine article about the first time that I spoke at TED in 2023. Well, long story short, as I’ve shared that passion with so many different people, I was actually able to speak at TEDx Tulsa about veterans returning home last month here in Tulsa in front of a packed crowd of about 150 like-minded individuals.

I got to share that and soon I will be able to share that platform with the TED platform around the world about veterans coming back. So really the power of written goals has been phenomenal for me because as soon as I did channel into that, I’ve been working towards that every day as I talk to people and share that passion with them. So that’s been huge for me.

John: Can you take us really quick through your finding TED Talks and really being into TED Talks and then all of a sudden, within a year, you’re on stage? How does that happen?

Dave: Sure. Well, last year, I was on a business trip up in Kansas City as we’ve expanded the DJ company from Tulsa to Dallas and then Kansas City. I’ve spearheaded a lot of that. And I was on a business trip up in Kansas City and I was just flipping through the channels in the hotel and I came across my first TED Talk that I watched. And in most avid TED fans know the first ones that they watch because I found where I could inspire the world, not just change it, not just entertain it, but I found a platform where I could truly inspire people to reach their dreams.

And the first one I saw was Sarah Kay, If I Should Have a Daughter. And I don’t have a daughter. I have a son. But every time I watch that episode, it gets me fired up and I said, “I want to do this. This is what I want to do. How can I get there?” I set the goal for ten years later. I spoke last month and things are really just starting to fall into place. I wrote the second Time Magazine article last week whenever I was on vacation about the next phase of how I get to where I’m going from here.

John: Now, how would you say that you actually — Like what was the one fulcrum point that did leverage you on that TED stage? What was that one break that you had that got you there so quick?

Dave: Another side note. One of the communities that Jon Acuff started is a group that we have here in Tulsa. I actually meet with — They were complete strangers at that time last summer. We meet for breakfast Friday morning at a village inn at 5:00 a.m. The whole concept is to start working on you’re awesome at 5:00 a.m. when Peter hasn’t got up yet.

John: I love that phrase.

Dave: But we actually met as strangers at first and all of us have like-minded passions all from different backgrounds. And as I continued to share that identity of wanting to speak at TED, somebody else that was in that group knew somebody who had the former licensing for it.

And before you know it, it was a few phone calls away to find out that she could get the license but it wasn’t valid. She had to go through some hoops with the TED organization but not only did she fire up a whole core team to get that going but also some of the other members from our group actually shared the stage as well. So it was something that we all got to work out our own dreams. But the defining point was literally just telling people that I was going to do it. And somebody heard that and wanted to help.

John: Love that. Love that so much because it’s just one of those things where, High Speed Nation, we can put a lot of things. There are a lot of things that are not in our control. But we can put certain things in our control. One of those things is getting out, reaching out to people, having conversations, sharing your dreams, putting it out there in the universe, getting up at 5:00 a.m. if that’s what it takes to get up before fear wakes up. I love that. Dave, let’s move forward now to today, to the present moment in your life. What is the one thing that has you most excited right now?

Dave: John, I am really excited about some of the projects that we have on the table. The intro, you talked about me being part of the DJ company, that’s definitely growing. I would be what you would consider to be an entrepreneur as I don’t own the company but I had been very instrumental in it with my military experience expanding growth. But the founder of the company is actually moved on to a new project that he’s brought me on with. That’s Clay Clark. He’s my mentor. That’s called Thrive15. And if I know right, he’s actually on the list to talk on Entrepreneur On Fire.

John: He is.

thrive15Dave: And I was in all the original meetings as that’s come to fruition over the last two years. The thing that I’m really fired up about is just in short, the Thrive15 is an online education program for entrepreneurs. And we’ve got some great mentors on there. I got to work with Lee Cockerell, who used to run Disney. I get to work with David Robinson. I get to work with Clay on a regular basis. And making these videos is huge but I was really right there to fight for something that was just going to make it crazy.

And one of the things that I really fought for was the Hand-up Movement. So I’m the deputy director of the Hand-up Movement. And what that means is I fought in association with the US Chamber and we’re going to get Thrive15 free for veterans forever. So, any veteran can sign up and they’ll have endless access to over 500 videos to learn how to raise capital, how to pick out property, how to grow their sales team, how to do marketing, and how to do anything that they’re going to need to grow their business. And with that, being free for veterans is huge. They’ll have ways that they can get access to some of those great mentors.

John: Love it, Dave. Love where you’re going. I think it’s just going to be inspiring to High Speed Nation here, just really drilling into how you can just go from one strength to strength. And that’s how you’ve been building up. And, Dave, we are about to enter the lightning round. This is where you get to share incredible resources and simply mind blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?

Dave: I‘m ready. Let’s do it.

John: What was the most difficult adjustment that you had to make to the civilian world?

Dave: Wow, that’s a tough one. In short, one of the things that I challenge all veterans do is I ask them in a roundabout way that same question. I asked it in the TED Talk. I said: What is the one word answer that you feel veterans struggle with the most? For a lot of people, it’s a lot of very emotional things. I struggled with those too. But honestly, the one thing that I had a really hard time with is finances.

I’m not very great at taxes and things like that. But even just spending versus budgets and stuff like that, I think it came from being in it such an early age. I picked some bad habits as far as not having any real responsibility and just spending money. I’ll be honest, that’s probably one of the hardest things that I still continue to struggle with today.

John: What business advice would you pass along to those that are making the transition now?

Dave: Another shameless Jon Acuff quote. I’ve been listening to him for a while. “Stand on the shoulders of giants.” There’s a ton of people that have already done what you hope to accomplish and you’d be surprised on how accessible they might be. It was just a few, probably a month ago that I started listening to your podcast.

And I was able to make some phone calls and send some emails to reach out to you. And same thing as I reached out to people like Jon Acuff. And I’d been able to talk to the COO for Simon Sinek and all these different people that are out there that are more accessible than you might think. And you just got to be intentional and stand on their shoulders.

John: You have to be intentional. Love that. So, Dave, share one of your personal habits that you believe contributes to your success.

Dave: Personal habits. The one thing that if anybody knows me, they know that I always have a book in my hand or an audio book going on in my car. So I’m a true believer in leaders are readers and readers are leaders. I’m always listening to something or I’m always learning something and I’m always waiting for that next good book.

John: What is one of the biggest generalizations of being a vet, if any, that you’ve had to overcome in the civilian world?

Dave: That’s a tough one. I would say — I actually heard other people chiming the same that we’re brainwashed especially as Marines, that I’ve been brainwashed somehow and I’m a mindless robot. That’s been one of the toughest struggles that I have to make up for in other areas.

John: If you can recommend just one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?

Start by Jon AcuffDave: i would have to recommend Start by Jon Acuff. It’s been the greatest value to me. I read about 35 books a year. I try to do one book a week. But there’s some weeks that I don’t travel as much. I’m not able to do that. That’s probably been the most influential book for me in the last two years. And whenever I had breakfast with Jon, a few weeks ago, I realized just talking to him as a person, that it’s not just appealing to me or anybody that wants to chase their dreams but with veterans actually making that transition as they’re coming back, it could be a very instrumental book to get their passion sparked and get them on the path to start being awesome.

John: So, Dave, let’s end today literally on fire with you sharing just one parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.

Dave: Yeah. Write down your goals. The power of written goals has just been huge for me. As I’m working on all these different projects, I’ve got a Discharge to In Charge that’s really coming to life now. I have a fundraising event that I’m doing for local veterans here in Tulsa. I write everything down and I look for accountability. So be held accountable. Just because you’re a leader in your own career doesn’t mean that you get out and it’s automatically your way. You still got to be held accountable. You got to be humble to be held accountable. And that would be my biggest piece of parting advice.

As far as connecting with me, fortunately, there’s not too many Dave Burlins out there. I’ve got the Twitter handle as @DaveBurlin. You can reach me on Facebook, Dave Burlin. And then also on LinkedIn. I’m on all the social media profiles. And you can find me or you can reach me through Gmail. That’s one of the best routes.

John: Well, High Speed Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you have been hanging out with Dave and myself today. So keep up the heat. And, Dave, thank you for being so generous with your time, your expertise and experience. High Speed Nation salutes you and we’ll catch you on the flipside.

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