Interview With Lee Warren | Author of No Place To Hide | High Speed Low Drag Podcast

Lee WarrenWelcome 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, W. Lee Warren, M.D. Lee, are you prepared to ignite? Lee, are you prepared to ignite?

Lee: I am ready to ignite, John.

John: Yes. Lee is the author of No Place to Hide: A Brain Surgeon’s Long Journey Home from the Iraq War. He is also a brain surgeon, inventor and Iraq war veteran. Lee helps us become healthier, feel better and be happier in our lives, our relationships and our businesses at Lee, I’ve given High Speed Nation just a little insight. So, share more about you personally and then expound upon the biz.

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Lee: Well, like you said, I’m a brain surgeon and a spine surgeon. I spent 14 years in the US Air Force and lovely 130 days of that was in Iraq during the busy part of the war. Now I’m in private practice. I live with my family in Auburn, Alabama. So, I’d say war eagle.

John: Well, powerful stuff, Lee. Give us a little more detail about what you have going on right now.

Lee: Well, of course, I’m still running a full-time medical practice. My wife, Lisa, runs our practice. I do surgery two days a week and still practice traditional neurosurgery. And then also we have another company called Warren Innovation where we invent and develop and market medical instruments and devices. We got about nine issued and provisional patents in that space. And I’m doing some online work — blogging and podcasting and trying to help people with information that helps them have better lives based on some of the things I know how to do, and just connecting with people and growing new set of relationships out there on the web.

John: As if being a brain surgeon wasn’t enough, High Speed Nation, Lee has got it all going on. Lee, we’re going to dive into your journey. Talk about some stories that are centered upon how you got to where you are today. But before we dive into all that, share a success quote and why you chose it.

Lee: Well, the quote that Lisa and I started our company with was actually a Bible verse, the gospel of Luke 12:48. It says:

“To whom much is given much is required.”

And I’ve always thought if you’re a person that’s got a lot of talents, a lot of skills or has been given a lot of blessings then you really owe the world a lot in return. And so, for me, I’ve been given a lot. I’ve had a lot of success and I’ve been blessed to be trained and learn how to do a lot of things. And so I feel like I owe it to my Creator and to my fellow men to do the best I can and bring as much value to the world as I can. And that’s my quote.

John: Boom. Well, Lee, we’re really to going to take those principles and see how you’ve applied them throughout your life in these different stories. First and foremost, you have spent some time in the military. You spent those 160 days, I believe you said, in Iraq during a very busy time and I’m sure you had many pivotal moments during that experience. But what would you say was your most pivotal moments in the military? Tell us that story.

soldierLee: Definitely, being in Iraq, for me, as a surgeon, especially a military surgeon, I think, your pinnacle of your experience would be to go to war and to do battlefield surgery. And so we were there and that experience in ten hospitals, getting mortared every day and having the opportunity to take care of not only Americans but also Iraqi civilians, and children and even the bad guys, the terrorists. And so just as a position and as a person, that was a life-changing experience for me to be in that intense environment that really most doctors don’t ever get placed in. I’d say that was my biggest thing the military gave me.

John: So that was really unique experience for obvious reasons. Looking back on that, Lee, and obviously hindsight is 20-20, but what would you say — What are the top lessons that you learned and what are your biggest takeaways from that pivotal moment in your life?

Lee: I think the biggest thing I learned, especially as a neurosurgeon in the United States where we have just excess of every resource available, I think the biggest lesson I learned is that most of us can do our jobs excellently with very little in terms of resource. We really don’t have to have a lot of the abundance that we have. I learned to make the most of what’s given to me even when most of it was stripped away. And I think that was a valuable life lesson I learned in the war, really to be able to do your job and maximize your success even if you only have a little bit to start with.

John: No doubt. So, Lee, let’s talk about the transition out. Maybe you can talk about the transition out of those 160 days you spent in Iraq or maybe talk about the transition out of the military in general, if you’ve made that at this point. Talk about that transition because a lot of our listeners here today are making that transition now or have that transition coming up in the future. What would you share with them about your story, your obstacles and challenges, about transitioning out of the military?

Lee: I think my story might be a little unique, I hope so anyway because I think that changed the way they do things a little bit. I got out in June 2005. In my case, they deployed me to Iraq right at the very end of my commitment time in the military. Basically, I got home from the war and a couple of weeks later I was out. I had already signed a contract to join a civilian private practice in Alabama. I was in Texas. I was in Iraq. Two weeks later, I was in Texas. Two weeks after that, I was in private practice in Alabama with nobody in my world that knew where I’d been a month before.

And so, my transition was kind of abrupt and total and complete shock almost to me. I’m doing battlefield surgery and a month later I’m doing back pain clinic in Alabama. For me, that was extremely abrupt and very fast transition. It was really a difficult, extremely difficult transition for me. And I think they learned not to do that to people so that now, I think, it’s really rare for people who are deployed especially to be deployed at the very end of their contract period.

John: Yeah, it’s tough. I will say I was one of the fortunate ones where I did 13-month tour of duty. But when I got back, I still had over two years that I owed to the Army as far as active duty wise. And then another four years in the Reserves. So I remained on base. I remained surrounded by military personnel. And that kind of transition was a lot smoother. I could just see that stark abruptness of going from battlefield surgeries to just, “Oh, my back hurts, Doc. Can you help me?” One of those things.

Lee: Yeah. I almost sort of lost my cool on a couple of occasions.

John: Really?

Lee: Yeah. It was interesting. I remember one day walking out of the OR in Alabama and I saw this heart surgeon who was standing at the desk. And he was just cussing this poor nurse out, just blistering her because he didn’t have this particular instrument that he wanted. And I thought to myself, I could have done that operation in Iraq with a spoon. And he’s cussing this poor woman out. And I got really angry like that, excessively angry. My personality is not like that at all. And I realized it was really because I didn’t have a buffer of some time to get back to normal before I was thrust into that environment of being around people that really didn’t understand that most things aren’t that big of a deal.

John: That’s really fascinating. What you just want our listeners to walk away with, Lee, as a takeaway from that experience?

soldier brotherhoodLee: Well, I think, the big thing for me is when you separate from the military, I think you should stay attached to the culture and to the people that you know in as many ways as you can. First of all, because it’s a tremendous brotherhood, a fraternity of people that you’ve served with, but also because it’s a different world out there. And so, if you can maintain some relationships, not only are those people potentially valuable to you later on in life as collaborators or partners or customers or whatever, but they are also people who understand where you’ve been and what you’ve been through. And so, I think it’s important to keep a relationship with your peers in the military that way.

John: So, Lee, let’s go forward now and tell another story. This one is going to be an aha moment, so to speak, like a light bulb that went off at some point. I mean, you’ve shared all these different ventures you’ve started up and you have a lot of different so to speak irons in the fire, which is really cool.

I mean, you, obviously, like to stay and remain busy. So, you’ve had a lot of these aha moments. You’ve had a lot of epiphanies, a lot of light bulbs. But let’s have you just tell a story and this would just be a story of one of those light bulb moments that you had, really take us there, Lee. Share with us that epiphany moment that you had. I want to be there with you when you had this idea. And then really kind of unpack it and walk us through the steps you took to turn this idea into success.

Lee: Well, I think, the biggest one for me, John, is in 2010, 2011 when the government passed the Affordable Health Care Act commonly known as Obamacare. Before that event, medicine in our country really never changed very much. So, most of us in practice, especially guys in mid-career like me, had always taken for granted that people always get sick, we always are going to have plenty of work to do and we’re always going to be paid fairly for that work.

And all of a sudden a law was changed that basically, you won’t hear this in the media, but pretty much cut most physicians’ salaries in half in one day. And we pretty much just gutted the way we make our living. And at the same time added tremendous amount of oversight, paperwork and I even had to hire two additional employees to keep up with all the insurance changes. So it cut our salary and increased our overhead at the same time.

So, the aha moment for me was, “Hey, my career is not going to continue to be what I always thought it was going to be.” And so we had to figure out — I mean, if you’re 25 and that happens to you, you can get over it. But if you’re 45 and you got three kids in college and you got a mortgage and all that, you got to figure out how you’re going to continue to live and make your living. So, for us, that was the catalyst for when we said, “Hey, we got to change the way we do things.”

And we know a lot of things and we know a lot of — I had a lot of expertise but I can’t count on being able to just go to the operating room and operate on one person at a time and still make a living. So that really opened our mind up to the idea of information marketing and online entrepreneurial endeavors and to just try to do things to still be serving people and using what we know but doing it in a way that’s not tied to somebody can change a law and it’s all going to go away.

So to think that, for me, that piece of legislation was my aha moment and it really it turns out to be a blessing because I’m having so much more fun now than I ever did and I’m meeting so many new people and getting to know people all over the world. And I’m ending up being able to help people, millions of people more than I ever could just going to the operating room for a few more years until I’m too old.

John: Wow. Now, that’s really fascinating and that’s just one reality, I think, Lee, that we all just have to realize in this day and age. It’s just important to know that things are going to change. There’s going to be outside influences that you’re going to have no control over, that are going to totally change and influence your life. I mean, I got into corporate finance right in 2008. I mean, that was a huge influence about what happened with that career.

And then I got into real estate in 2009. That’s a huge influence about that career. It’s one of those things that — High Speed Nation, you just need to realize that these days, it’s better to be like a little Swiss Army knife, where you’re always learning, you’re always diversifying and that’s exactly what Lee is doing and I just love that. It’s fascinating. So, Lee, let’s wrap this up in a little bow here with the aha moment and just break it down for our listeners right now, what do you think should be the one takeaway that they walk away with from this experience, this aha moment that you have in your career?

Lee: I think it’s don’t ever put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t ever assume that the future will look just like the past has. And so, always be agile and be willing and not afraid to change things even if it’s scary. In fact, especially if it’s scary. Be willing to do it anyway because the reward is always worth the effort and it’s always worth jumping out there over the ledge because big things that you couldn’t see coming are out there if you get your head up and keep going.

John: Keep your head up. Keep going. Love it. And speaking of that, Lee, I want to bring things to present time because you have continued to keep on going, to continue to diversity, to continue to put those eggs in multiple baskets. But of all of these things that you’ve done thus far, what is the one thing that you’re most fired up about that you can share with High Speed Nation today?

no place to hideLee: I think the thing I’m having the most fun with actually is writing. I’ve always written things and taught and educate people but until I wrote the memoir of what happened to me in the war, I never thought of myself as a writer.

And so, now, all of a sudden, I’m immersed in this culture and having a traditionally published book with Harper Collins, we’re going to do on TV and radio and all that stuff. It’s a whole new career that I never thought I might have access to, a whole new world but it came about because I sat down and told my story. You keep talking about telling stories. I had a story. And, I mean, everybody on High Speed Nation has a story because we’d been in the military. So we all got a unique perspective on life.

And I have one from having been to Iraq as a brain surgeon and what that did to my family and to me. And I sat down and wrote it. And I didn’t know what happened but I just asked somebody if they would publish and they said, “Wow, we think it’s great. Let’s publish it.” So that’s been a whole new thing for me that happened, like you said, because I was willing to do something new.

John: Absolutely. And what I think is really just important here, Lee, is that the listeners understand if you want to be, do.

Lee: That’s right.

John: I mean, Lee, you weren’t a writer but you decided to write. So guess what? You became a writer. I can tell you my first 100 podcasts on Entrepreneur On Fire proved this very eloquently. I was not a podcaster. But I wanted to podcast. I wanted to interview people. I wanted to become a host. I wanted to broadcast my voice. And so I was willing to be bad at first in order to get good because the only way I was going to ever become a podcaster was to actually podcast.

Lee: That’s right.

John: The only way that Lee was ever going to become a writer was to write, right, Lee?

Lee: That’s right. The first book I self-published and I gave it to a writer who is pretty well-known. He sold 20 million books, Philip Yancey. And he said, “Wow, you’ve got a great story and people need to hear it but this is terrible. Write this thing again and we’ll talk again.” I spent two years and I wrote the book again. I read every book I could read about writing and just like you do with podcasting, I learned how to write.

Anything you want to do that’s new, folks, I mean, you’ve got to learn the craft behind it. You don’t just wake up one day and be John Dumas, John Lee Dumas as a podcaster. And you don’t just wake up one day and have Harper Collins buy your book. You had to learn how to do that stuff. But you can. And I did it. And John Lee did it on a massive scale. And you can do it too.

John: And how amazing does it feel, Lee, when you put in that time, when you put in the effort, when you really just bared your soul to this and then you do get that recognition? I mean, it’s so much more meaningful than if it was just handed to you on a golden platter?

Lee: That’s exactly right. If I woke up one day and wrote a book and send it off and somebody bought it, I would never have understood the reality that is real about writing and about anything. You just got to put your butt in the chair and you got to keep doing it. And eventually, if you stick it out, you’ll get better at it. Same thing with online businesses. You don’t know how to do that until you do it a bunch of times and fail. You don’t become a brain surgeon overnight or you don’t become an online entrepreneur overnight either. You can learn how to do it. And don’t be afraid to fail.

John: Yeah. And that’s why, and I’m sure you probably, as an author and as a writer, respect this man as well. But I just can’t get enough of Steven Pressfield. I read everything that he writes.

Lee: Me too.

John: It is. His book, Do the Work and The War of Art. These books just really put you in that chair, like you said, Lee, and just say, “Get your butt to work.”

Lee: And Turning Pro is one of my favorites.

John: Oh, yeah, Turning Pro. I need to reread that one. Lee, we’re going to transition now into the lightning rounds. This is where you get to share incredible resources and simply mind blowing answers. Are you prepared?

Lee: I’m prepared.

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

Lee: For me, it’s what we talked about. It was how fast I went from being military in the war to civilian and in that big transition between being around people who get you and being around people that don’t. And, for me, that was the hardest part.

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

Lee: Biggest thing is, I think, stay connected to your military peers. Because if you’re going into a new business in a new world, you need to ask some people who understand where you’ve been. And then also are very valuable resources for you in terms of bouncing ideas and people who get you. It might be even potential customers are part of them.

John: Share one of your personal habits that you believe contribute to your success?

Lee: I think being a servant. I was raised by parents who always said do something for somebody else before you expect them to do something for you. And, I think, that the best habit you can cultivate especially in business is service. You provide massive over the top value and serve people beyond what they would ever dream of and they’ll become not just customers but raving fans.

John: What book would you recommend to our listeners, Lee?

do_the_workLee: Well, I think you read my notes because the book I was going to recommend is Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.

John: I should have known, you being an author. I should have known.

Lee: It’s perfect that the quote from that book that’s amazing to me is that creative people are people who make businesses or people who write things or do something new. Pressfield says, “You’ve done something that only mothers and gods can do. You’ve created new life.”

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

Lee: I think the biggest piece of guidance is don’t ever be afraid to fail because you might. I mean, you may wake up tomorrow and some law changed and your whole world turns upside down or you may lose somebody important to you, or something may happen that shakes you up. But don’t ever be afraid to keep going, try something new, serve other people beyond your capacity almost and it will all come back to you in the end. That’s what I had to say. Keep on tracking and do your best.

John: Well, if I wake up tomorrow and they say, “No more podcasting,” I will be [0:21:07] [Indiscernible] without a battle.

Lee: I think you’ll be okay.

John: So, Lee, where can we find you?

Lee: is my website. You can find me there. I do a newsletter every week. I’m podcasting too. I just got started. I’ve done 25 episodes. And just that sort of thing. My book is on Amazon. I appreciate so much the opportunity to be with you today and what you’re doing for the vets and for all of us who had served. I just really appreciate what you guys are doing.

John: Well, no, thank you, Lee, and congratulations, first and foremost, on your podcast. I want to let you know this usually is a pretty cool stuff for people to hear that 90% of podcast never make it past episode seven. So no matter what happens, you are in the top 10% of all podcasts and this is a nice little comforting thought. But the reality is, Lee, you’ve seen what it takes to get out there to try new things and to succeed in new things. And that, High Speed Nation, is a great lesson to take away.

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

Lee: Thank so much. God bless.

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