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The Leader's Mindset Podcast EP3 - Dave Burlin

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Highlights from the episode:

Dave Burlin (01:50):

Yeah. I grew up in a small town outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's called Pryor. And if you wanted to get really nerdy about it, it's called Pryor Creek. Um, I think the population is about four or 5,000. It might be, uh, more than that now, but I think there was like 90 or a hundred kids in our graduating class.

Dave Burlin (02:10):

Uh, so that's where I grew up as a, as a young little Dave. I actually did go by David back then. Uh, and then I changed it when I got hip.

Jason LeDuc (02:18):

When you got hip. I was gonna say, there's gotta be a story behind that, but clearly you got hip and now you are Dave Burlin and Dave, David Burlin.

Dave Burlin (02:25):


Jason LeDuc (02:26):

Had his sights set on something broader, grander, higher.

Dave Burlin (02:31):


Jason LeDuc (02:32):

Than Pryor Creek.

Dave Burlin (02:34):


Jason LeDuc (02:35):

What came next?

Dave Burlin (02:37):

You know, I, if I really went back that far, and as soon as you, as soon as I said Pryor, Pryor Creek, one thing that really stands out that's still very prominent in my life is, uh, the great thing they did have, there was a skating rink, and I had no idea how much music would be a part of my life now.

Dave Burlin (02:57):

uh, as a, as a wedding DJ. But also it's, you know, everything that I do in the world of entertainment and DJ'ing events, that's what funds all my passion. So in almost every time I get behind the decks and do any kind of event, there is a little nod back to, uh, little David, uh, at the skating rink. So there, that's a big piece of that. But I think as I learned more about the world, that's where I, I definitely knew that I, I needed to pack up and, and go somewhere else.

Jason LeDuc (04:07):

Let's, let's get into the joining the Marine Corps and, and all that good stuff.

Dave Burlin (04:11):

Yeah. Um, that came much later in life. I mean, that was, that was one of those things. I was at risk youth, and for that, it took me a while to really figure out what I wanted to do. That was the, when I went to the Marine Corps, that was the first plane ride of my whole life.

Dave Burlin (04:26):

I'd never really went anywhere, hadn't traveled, you know, everywhere we traveled was by car. Um, so that came much later in life. Uh, I was, I say much later in life, I was 19. Um, but that was really after I'd kind of exhausted everything to figure out where I fit. Um, I, I'm a typical entrepreneur.

Dave Burlin (04:46):

in that, uh, I'm a high school dropout. I didn't, I didn't graduate high school. Um, so the Marine Corps was that solution for me to be part of something bigger than myself and also see the world in a way that I'd never seen it before.

Jason LeDuc (04:59):

Now, now I have a question for you about you, you mentioned be something bigger than myself.

Jason LeDuc (05:04):

and I think all of us who have served as veterans look back on our time and we realize that was a great benefit. Was that why you got into the Marine Corps, or, uh, 'cause in my case, I got into the Air Force 'cause I wanted to fly in planes and see the world and like all the, all the wrong reasons to go do it. But I stayed because I was doing really impactful things and being part of something bigger than myself.

Dave Burlin (05:25):

If I had to be really honest, joining the Marine Corps was just a way to get out of Oklahoma.

Dave Burlin (05:31):

Uh, I didn't know how much it would affect me until I got there, until I became a part of that, but, uh, but yeah, I think that the initial way was just like, I've gotta do something different. So I just had to get the heck outta town.

Dave Burlin (06:11):

and I got out, uh, post 9/11, but we happened to be on, uh, the 15th MEU at the time. Uh, like I said, we had left that summer of 2001, uh, had no idea, uh, that what we were in for. Um, and I did, I did a TED talk about this, uh, TEDx talk later about this in life. Um, it was actually my birthday, September 10th.

Dave Burlin (06:33):

So I was in Darwin Australia, um, doing what any just turned 21 year old Marine would be doing,

Jason LeDuc (06:40):

I, I've, I've been to Darwin, so I know what there is to do in Darwin, Australia.

Dave Burlin (06:44):

Um, and we were out partying, and then we got called back to the ship. And honestly, I thought everything was a, uh, I thought it was a drill because that was our first international port of call on that, on that deployment. So I'm like really a drill on our first, on our first port of call. And then it was a very sobering experience when we got back to the boat and kind of saw everything that was going on. And, uh, I had no idea how much everyone's live would change from that moment.

Dave Burlin (07:51):

Um, one is organizational structure. I think there's a lot of organizations that can learn from the military and how to implement communication and leadership structure into their organizations. But more important than that, and it's something that really has played a strong significant value in my life, is values and, and really understanding how, if you have a strong set of core values, that can be be a magnet for people to come to you, or, but it can also repel people away that don't believe in the same things that you believe. Um, there's a lot of playful banter between all the military branches.

Dave Burlin (08:29):

uh, but there's just an, an unspeakable bond that normally happens whenever you have two marines that connect for, for whatever reason. Um, so, um, there's lots of that in every branch or every organization that people have been a part of. Uh, but I think that's one of the biggest things that I still carry over and, and help people with in their organizations.

Dave Burlin (11:02):

I did have a reason why I went back to Oklahoma, um, there, in, in what's really unique about, I told you I was in a small town. outside of Tulsa. There's lots of small towns all across Oklahoma. But for whatever reason, my small town, uh, there was a youth academy and it was a, at-risk youth, uh, it was called Thunderbird Youth Academy, and it's, it's part of a National Guard Youth Challenge program. I think they're in like 30 cities.

Dave Burlin (11:35):

uh, 30 states across the United States. But, uh, back then Tulsa was, or I'm sorry, Pryor where I'm from, was one of the first 10 programs back in 1993. And I heard about that place growing up. Like that's where I thought I was gonna have to go. 'cause I was kind of at risk youth. Um, so there was something that made me want, want to go back and serve those kids. And, and while I did it very selflessly, there was a lot of selfish things that I gained from it because when I was talking to them, I felt like I was kind of talking to my younger self.

Dave Burlin (15:55):

when I ran the, the, the youth academy, I was like the highest ranking person on, on the grounds, normally in charge of like 200 kids. But it was a very high stress, high impact.

Dave Burlin (16:11):

Like every, every time my my radio went off, it was normally a fight or a kid wanting to quit. It was always the, these crisis decisions. What was beautiful about the electric thing was I had taken one class for that whenever I was in high school, but it was a way that I could just go release and just, uh, I did have a, my boombox from the Marine Corps.

Dave Burlin (16:33):

I would play music and I would like, you know, get a whole crew pumped up and we would go wire houses or we would wire commercial, residential, whatever. Uh, a lot of industrial stuff. And it was just a place where I could listen to music and just think and get the job done. And I didn't have to make any big decisions. It was like, Hey, here's all the stuff you need to wire this job.

Dave Burlin (16:53):

You got two days, get it done. And it was just a paycheck. But it, the funny thing is, uh, to answer your question, it was, uh, it was networking. There was a guy that was on our, on our crew and he said, dude, you're so much fun and you have so much passion. You don't want to do this for the rest of your life. He goes, I have this friend, he owns a DJ business, you should go talk to him. And when I went and met Jason Bailey, um, I had no idea what I was in, in store for, but that guy changed my life. He's the first person that like, put a book in my hand.

Dave Burlin (17:25):

and said, and when I walked into their company culture, uh, DJ Connection at the time was like the largest DJ business in the state of Oklahoma.

Dave Burlin (17:33):

They dominated Tulsa, Oklahoma City. And when I walked into the environment, it was like all these guys in suits, but it was like all this fun, crazy stuff hanging up all over the wall. Everybody's on the phone, everybody's energetic, there's people doing like, you know, big claps and all that stuff.

Dave Burlin (17:50):

like during phone calls. And I'm like, what is this place? Um, and in short, the poetic, this is

entrepreneurship. Like this is the heart of it. And that's where I just got hooked. And, uh, little would I know that everything that I learned from being a drill instructor, from being in the Marine Corps, um, I didn't understand how much that would carry over.

Dave Burlin (18:11):

Into the wedding industry. Now it's not a shot at like club DJs and stuff like that, but, you know, if I were a club DJ, I probably would've gotten in fights because just when people come up, like I'm, you know, I like, I like running the show. I like being organized. I like doing that. And it just, that's one thing that comes in, in handy for not only planning weddings, but executing weddings and all that stuff. It's like seeing the problem before it happens and just being ahead of it.

Jason LeDuc (18:37):

Well, and one of the cool things about being a wedding DJ, when you're a club DJ you're a club DJ, night in, night out, different crowd, but all looking for the same thing when you're a wedding DJ.

Dave Burlin (18:51):


Jason LeDuc (18:51):

You are making the most important night of two people's lives.

Dave Burlin (18:55):


Jason LeDuc (18:55):

The most special night they're ever gonna have.

Dave Burlin (18:57):


Dave Burlin (18:57):

I mean, that's, there's a lot of, a lot of satisfaction that can come with that besides the money.

Dave Burlin (19:02):

Yeah. And, and you know, I, I, that's what the purpose was for a long time. It's like, I, I get to be a part of this, but now as I sit back and I look through all the photos and I see all the videos and like I look at what I have and how important that is for me, I have a front row seat to love every weekend.

Jason LeDuc (19:21):

That's gonna be the title of your book. Front Row Seat to Love.

Dave Burlin (19:23):


Dave Burlin (19:23):

Front Row Seat to Love

Jason LeDuc (25:50):

I love that. And I love how building a team is so important to you, because I have observed you doing that on multiple fronts with all of the things you're involved in in town. So what is your approach.

Dave Burlin (26:02):


Jason LeDuc (26:02):

To enrolling people in the vision you have for things like Bunker Labs, for things like Global Entrepreneur Week for things like what we do in the tech community downtown. Yeah. What, how do you get these folks to come along? How do you, what do you do to get them to be that line out the door who want to be on Dave Burlin's team?

Dave Burlin (26:18):

So, I, I stole this from one of the greatest mentors that I've never met.

Dave Burlin (26:24):

Simon Sinek, um, Start with Why was very powerful for me. I have some crazy stories about how I'm connected to them. Um, I have met most of the people on his team. I, for whatever reason, I've never talked to him. Um, but, uh, a lot of what he, he wrote stuck with me. I've, I've read all of his books, uh, but I use the framework of his basic understanding of why, um, and it's:

Dave Burlin (26:53):

And a lot of times I can help people discover that in, in a pretty easy, you know, half day thing that I can, I can walk through with people. But the one that has, it's, it's changed for me. Right. If you asked me, I think I was on video, uh, very similar to this in 2016, and I said, my purpose is to inspire veterans so they're successful in their transition from service to civilian life, and they can then inspire other veterans.

Dave Burlin (27:19):

It's not that I don't care about that anymore, but when I really realized that community building is what I'm, I'm here for.

Dave Burlin (27:29):

um, right now, the biggest why for me is to connect the people of our city so we can show the world who we really are. And there's, there's something that people that want to do that they gravitate. So it, it starts with that. And then it's having a clear path of how I believe we can do it. And normally that comes through some type of an organization that's already done it. Uh, I, I do like to, I, I say I'm very original thought person, but sometimes to get the momentum that we need, it's to do something that somebody's already done. Right? So when you look at organizations like Bunker Labs that already had a framework and was in 29 cities before us, right?

Dave Burlin (28:09):

now we're, and then there's, now there's 30 and it's, and it's easy to, to plug into that system and do it. Same thing for Global Entrepreneurship week. You know, they're in hundreds of communities all around the world. I saw how powerful that was in Tulsa and I wanted to bring that here because one thing about Vegas is you've got this hodgepodge of all these unicorn amazing people from all over.

Dave Burlin (28:29):

But some of those people get here and they say, why don't you have 1 Million Cups? Why don't they have Disrupt HR? Why don't they have this? Why don't they have that? And for the ones that I care about the most, I wanna bring those here. Um, and then slowly, I think we'll see more of those over time. But that's, that's how I get people excited. But, and sometimes that energy runs out, right? And sometimes people just get busy in the day to day.

Dave Burlin (28:54):

But when we have stuff like a finish line for Global Entrepreneurship Week, uh, I think we can get there. Uh, we proved that last year. So, um, I think that's the best way, is having a really strong reason why that's something that people can resonate with. And they can still say, you know, me too. I want to do Yeah. Me, I see that. How can I help?

Dave Burlin (33:08):

One thing I love about the veteran community here in Las Vegas is they have done a really good job at breaking those barriers of siloed groups. Um, there's, there's a few things that I see that are consistent across a lot of communities around the United States. Um, so I'll, I'll talk about the, the big issue, but how Vegas is doing a really good job of it. And this is where I lose some people and some people might get. Can I say? Um,

Jason LeDuc (33:37):

It's, it's the internet. Nobody cares.

Dave Burlin (33:39):

I think some people get at this. And when I say that not every veteran is suicidal.

Dave Burlin (33:46):

not every veteran is homeless. Not every veteran needs a job, uh, or needs a free thing. There are lots of veterans that are paving the way for, for other veterans visually by, um, things like education, entrepreneurship, employment, and the, in some communities, the, it's a one-sided talk. Now this is a little bit of kind of a deeper talk, but, um, I believe that there's two sides of, of military transition and it's, it's boiled down to post-traumatic stress

Dave Burlin (34:20):

Which unfortunately that ends and it ends very badly. And then there's this conversation of post-traumatic growth and whichever dog you feed is going to get stronger. So the more people stand around and talk about a number that impacts veterans and just focus on that number, that number might go up versus going down because.

Dave Burlin (34:41):

it, it just, it can create a, a really bad cycle. So when I, I bring all that up. When I see the community of Las Vegas, I feel like we have so many programs that are very visible. So many organizations that aren't just trying to give free things away and they're not doing, uh, stuff. They're actually creating programs that are sustainable and that, that promote sustainability among other veterans through that visibility. Um, that's how we, uh, that's how we do this, in my opinion. That's how we win the hearts and minds, and that's how we keep people on the right track.

Jason LeDuc (38:50):

How do you stay focused on the big picture and what is your strategy for getting all the thing, 'cause I know you put, I know you put the time in, I know you start every day and turn the crank, but it's not, you're not just putting out fires every day. You've got a strategy to what you're doing.

Dave Burlin (39:04):


Jason LeDuc (39:04):

What is that strategy to get all this done?

Dave Burlin (39:06):

Well, I'll talk about the one for the, the entrepreneurship stuff first. Like, I, I try to always have a clear intention at any table that I'm at, at whether it be a round table for the eco, uh, ecosystem development or the city or any of those things. I always try to, I try to listen first, but I walk into it knowing what's, what's my goal? My goal is to connect the people of the city so we can show the world who we really are. And then a lot of times when I see this common thread of everything, and I look at some of the other places that I've been, that have already solved that problem, how do I solve it for us? And this is where I'm at right now, at the time of this recording. Um, I've said it in a couple of city meetings.

Dave Burlin (39:50):

and, and groups and stuff. And now I try to like, make that the punctuation on every, on every round table or whatever. And it's, uh, you know, instead of just the saying, all right guys, good luck. See you next meeting. I say, Hey, real quick, uh, just a little idea here. How about before we tear down another casino or another building in this town, which we're, we're gonna continue to do, but what if before we do that we strongly consider creating a focal point center for entrepreneurial research that is a magnet for all of the innovation. Uh, there's other cities that have done this.

Dave Burlin (40:30):

the one that bring, you know, comes, comes to mind first and foremost was Austin, Texas.

Jason LeDuc (40:34):


Dave Burlin (40:34):

When I went to Austin, Texas, um, for a Bunker Labs event, right after our group call for, for Global Entrepreneurship week, I realized that the same people that run Global Entrepreneurship Week in Texas are the same people that run The Capital Factory.

Dave Burlin (40:48):

Which The Capital Factory is an Omni Hotel, two towers, one tower is like all the innovation and all that stuff. The other hotel is ran like a hotel because there's always people coming there.

Dave Burlin (40:58):

And I'm like, we have that. And if we can do that here in Las Vegas, then, and I make the joke 'cause it stands out. Like if it was the, the, um, the Luxor right. If we did that with the Luxor, that would now become an icon for entrepreneurial research. We could get rid of the whole food court and make it, you know, Nevada's largest test kitchen.

Dave Burlin (41:22):

it's still a functional space, but if it's on the skyline, then that shows the world that we're serious about entrepreneurship. Just like Allegiant Stadium showed the world that we're serious about sports. And now, now we have every major sport coming to Vegas and some of 'em are looking to headquarter here. So if we can do that, like that's, that's the big vision solution and just keep talking around that idea until, um, until something like that, you know, moves us forward, that that'll be a big step forward for us as a community. Um, so that's strategy. Um, but that's a little bit more of a long-term strategy.

Jason LeDuc (52:49):

Alright, before we get into the final couple questions, is there anything else you want us to know about Dave Burlin or anything you're working on?

Dave Burlin (52:57):

Um, one thing that I still have on many of my titles across social media is podcast host.

Dave Burlin (53:04):

Um, I did do, uh, a podcast during covid. I was able to pin down some of my favorite people that have inspired me, some of the authors and speakers and mentors that I've worked with over the years. I think I did about 25 episodes. Um, it, I put it on the shelf after live events and stuff started opening back up here. I felt it was kind of hard to do both.

Dave Burlin (53:26):

but with so many things that have come back full circle and so many incredible relationships that I've made, it's time to fire that back up. So the Dave Means business podcast will be coming, uh, to a platform near you in the very future.

Jason LeDuc (53:40):

Can't wait. We'll be looking for it.

Jason LeDuc (54:08):

Awesome. Is there anyone something or someone you, you are grateful for?

Dave Burlin (54:18):

Yeah. Um, I'll, I'll throw this back on Mike Kim, because he taught me a three prompt, uh, gratitude that you can use every day. That's not the same thing every day.

Dave Burlin (54:30):

it's a person in your life. It's a, uh, opportunity that you have and something that happened yesterday. Um, so as far as a person in my life, um, I've had this amazing, incredible friend who has been, uh, kind of a right hand person, uh, always there helping out with all the projects and stuff I've been doing for the last two years. Her name's Sophia.

Dave Burlin (54:54):

She's, uh, Sophia Monroe with Daymaker Productions.

Jason LeDuc (54:57):

I, I think I've heard of her.

Dave Burlin (54:59):

She's pretty remarkable. Very grateful for her.

Jason LeDuc (55:01):

And finally, if you could give advice to young people, or even go back in time and give some advice to Young Dave at any point along the way, do you have any advice for, for young people or for Young Dave along the way?

Dave Burlin (55:17):

I do. Read, uh, one of those little simple things I found is, uh, if you want to understand the world, read, if you want to understand yourself, write. And, um, I can say this, I, the first book that I really read that ever like, made sense to me. I cheated on all my book reports.

Dave Burlin (55:40):

It was just a, I always cheated, like I read, uh, what was it, uh, Sphere, which was also a movie I read Jurassic Park, which was also a movie. Uh, so, but I didn't read my first book until I was 30, and it's when I joined the, the DJ company.

Dave Burlin (55:57):

And that was, you know, 12 years ago. And I can't breathe without books. Uh, there's always something. And if I, I can't even imagine what I would be or where I would be if I was consuming books at that level when I was 14, 15, 16 years old, even in the military, like where my head space would be. Um, so now I can't that, that's it. Read a book or listen to a book. Some people, when I say read books, oh no. Read book, listen to one. I don't care. Uh, but just never stop learning.

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