We all want to accomplish something in life. Whether that’s starting a business, raising a family, or writing a bestselling novel — the possibilities are endless for Dave Sparks!
It’s easy to look at people who’ve achieved success and assume that there’s just something “better” about those people. Maybe they’ve always just been good at everything. Why does success have to be so hard for you?
But even child prodigies need time to grow. People don’t just stumble into success. It isn’t like winning the lottery. It’s about a long-term commitment to yourself and your dreams: What do you want to accomplish, what is the best way to get there, and how will that make you a better person?
Some people want to achieve success because it means a comfortable life. But the path to achieving success is anything but comfortable. It takes dedication, passion, and a willingness to learn, and often, these things don’t come easily.
My guest today understands this well. He’s committed to self-improvement and the importance of being uncomfortable in order to grow.
“When you hear [the words] personal development or self-help you think — oh, you gotta be sick right? This person must have psychological issues or problems. Forget about it, dude … I feel like I’m a fine-tuned machine, but guess what? I can still get better.” – Dave Sparks
Dave Sparks is an entrepreneur, custom vehicle builder, and social media personality from Salt Lake City, Utah, who goes by the name “Heavy D” in the Discovery channel’s hit TV show, Diesel Brothers. Since he was little, Dave has been fascinated by anything with an engine or wheels. His most famous creation is the “Mega Ram Runner,” and you should check it out — it’s totally badass.
Dave went to college to study welding, mechanics, and fabrication, but after his first semester he decided that he could learn more from real world experience than from books and lectures. He worked for his uncle’s construction business and handled heavy machinery while learning the ins and outs of running a company.
In 2009, Dave met the girl of his dreams. One year later, they were married, and he opened a small used car lot. Then he began to build his dream company, DieselSellerz, which builds badass trucks. That childhood dream of his really came to fruition.
Dave is probably best known for his Discovery channel show, Diesel Brothers. In the show, Dave Sparks (Heavy D) along with his friend Diesel Dave, turn diesel trucks that were headed to the junkyard into custom-built, stunt-ready machines. Diesel Brothers took off in 2016 and has been a massive hit ever since. It’s already headed into its sixth season, starting on March 16, 2020.
But Dave didn’t accomplish all this by being comfortable. He may have his own helicopter now, but when he was a kid, he used to live in a VW van with his entire family. He basically started with nothing. He had to take risks and stretch himself in order to make things work. He didn’t expect any handouts. He took the responsibility of achieving success upon himself and didn’t expect it to just “happen” to him.
In this interview, we talk about how he achieved that success, focused on self-improvement, and invested in healthy relationships.
If there’s one thing that Dave doesn’t want to be, it’s comfortable or complacent. He’s already accomplished so much — why not sit back, take an ongoing vacation, and just smell the roses for a bit? But Dave refuses this sort of lifestyle; in fact, he believes it’s ultimately unhealthy:
“There’s a huge epidemic nationwide of people that have depression … now I know there’s clinical depression, when people [have] chemical issues and imbalance, but I also think a lot of depression is self-induced because people just stop growing … If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing.” – Dave Sparks
Humans are wired to pursue growth and not stasis. Stasis becomes stagnant while growth pushes us forward into our potential. Dave aims to intentionally make himself uncomfortable every day. Turns out, Dave and I share a lot in common.
Inspired by the Iceman, Wim Hof, we both take regular ice baths. They suck. Really. I’m not about to make an ice bath sound pleasing, because it hurts. Every morning in Utah, Dave will take out his big ice trough and take a bath. For reference, Utah temperatures are hitting an average of 26 degrees right now. It’s already freaking cold.
“But you know that forcing yourself to do that starts to create that self-discipline. You start training yourself, that yes, I can do hard things, and it’s okay to do hard things, and guess what, hard things benefit you.” – Dave Sparks
Maybe an ice bath isn’t what you need though. Dave shared another thing he does which I think you all will find relatable. You know when you’re stopping by a store, and you get there like one minute after it closes? You pull on the handle but the door’s locked, and all the employees are staring at you? Yeah, Dave hates that. So guess what he started doing:
“So I started going to the Apple store at 9:01 … [and] do the old door jiggle. I’ve just put myself in an uncomfortable situation, because I needed to get over that uncomfortable feeling of people seeing me struggle … and man I’m telling you, like they’re the dumbest little things, but to me, that’s personal development. That’s figuring out what triggers me, what makes me uncomfortable, and figuring out how to just get over it.” – Dave Sparks
Find out what triggers you and refuse to avoid it. Maybe for you, it’s taking an ice bath. Maybe it’s applying to a job you think you never could get. Or maybe, it’s learning how to professionally salsa dance (this is what I did!). It goes without saying, but growth only happens when we put ourselves in situations where we can grow.
Comfortable doesn’t mean happy,; it means complacent. It means giving up before you’ve finished the race. Don’t settle with who you are now.
Everyone is always telling you to step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes, this can be beneficial, but other times, it can send us into a whirlwind of anxiety. If you’re working towards something, and you look at the big picture, that big picture can swallow you whole.
“Everybody starts thinking about all these big picture goals, and things that they wanna do, and I found that a lot of people just weren’t getting there because they didn’t know where to start. So we started a podcast called The Heavy Checklist, and it’s just about checklist items. It’s the little things that you need to start implementing today and tomorrow and next week … to be able to not have that social anxiety of getting caught by everybody at the Apple store when the door’s locked … [just] give yourself small little items.” – Dave Sparks
I think that it’s those uncomfortable moments, the fears, and the insecurities that grow us the most. When we master them, one step at a time, they don’t master us anymore; the fear goes away.
Another way to focus on the “small picture” is to limit your focus to one area of expertise. It’s great to try new things and venture out of your comfort zone, but would you rather be really great at one thing or kinda good at a lot of things? Dave says that in the long run, it’s best to pour all your energy into that one thing you’re passionate about rather than stretch yourself thin. If you stretch yourself thin, that big picture gets only bigger and more overwhelming.
Sometimes, it’s not ourselves but it’s other people that are making us insecure about our future. “You couldn’t possibly do that.” Here’s what Heavy D has to say about that:
“In the past, I had to prove everyone wrong about everything. So, I would hurt myself, just to make a point. Now I only do it to prove [it] to myself, not to anyone else.” – Dave Sparks
Don’t burden yourself with the pressure to prove yourself to others. Look at what you want to accomplish, think practically about how you’re going to get there, and start making those small steps.
“There’s no magic button. There’s no magic word that is gonna make you successful, or make you happy, it’s all these small little things. In sports we call that the fundamentals. It’s just like going back to the basics of dribbling, shooting, arm position, whatever it may be — it’s the fundamentals.” – Dave Sparks
Block out the haters and focus on the fundamentals. Otherwise, that big picture is going to overwhelm you.
I asked Dave how he’s stayed focused on his wife and family as his fame and success have grown not only in Diesel Brothers but in his other opportunities as well. I was really inspired by Dave’s love for his wife.
“This woman is very important … she knows who I am, she knows my capabilities … She knows I can accomplish things, so she sometimes has more confidence in me, than I even do myself … having a woman by your side like that is — man. [Without her], I’d be lost. I would be nothing.” – Dave Sparks
In the midst of all the success, Dave and his wife have supported each other, loved each other, and pushed each other to reach their fullest potential.
They have three beautiful children — a daughter (age 8) and two sons (ages 5 and 2). One of Dave’s biggest fears right now is missing them growing up. He wants to be constantly engaged in their lives and is committed to raising his kids the right way — in a way that doesn’t demand entitlement but encourages gratitude, hard work, and compassion.
These kids have everything, but Dave wants them to appreciate everything they have and share it generously with other people:
“We gotta teach these little kids what real life is about. So that is honestly one of the biggest things that I focus on, trying to make sure that we’re grateful for what we have, and teaching my kids that nothing is just handed to you. You can’t just live your life. You gotta appreciate what you got.” – Dave Sparks
This is something Dave learned from a young age, not only from growing up in a humble family but also from going on a two-year long mission trip in Bolivia. Dave is part of the Mormom church, and mission is a central part of the Mormon faith.
“So basically, I get dropped into this third world country, not knowing anything about the culture, not knowing anything about it, and I just basically went in and said, all right, I’m gonna become part of this culture. I’m gonna learn everything I can about it, and I’m just gonna let myself, basically become just a total servant of the Lord, right? Go out and teach the gospel, help people, serve, and just do everything I can to learn … They call it the best two years, because without those, dude, I don’t think I would have learned the self-control and self-discipline and more importantly the love for other people.” – Dave Sparks
This self-control, self-discipline, and compassion for other people is something that Dave wants his children to have. He wants them to have a vision for their life, one that resolves around pursuing their passion and helping others along the way. He wants to teach them that “there’s no magic button” that’s soundly going to make them successful or happy. It’s going to take hard work, dedication, and the willingness to learn from mistakes.
This is a lesson that goes for all of us. Whether or not you own a helicopter, there’s something in your life that you can be grateful for. Friends, family, a pet, a roof over your head. Entitlement and complacency will only slow you down. Never lose the drive to work hard and with purpose.
I asked Dave if he had any regrets from the past — anything that he wished no one knew about him. I really appreciated Dave’s vulnerability. He said that when he began working in the auto industry, his work was all about him and what he could make for himself.
“All I cared about was what I was enjoying in that moment, what my vehicle was doing for me, and I could care less if I was polluting, or whatever it was. Like I said, that applies to a lot of different things. I think just not being aware of other people’s feelings. I’m a very focused person. When I get set on what I want, I go for it. Well, the problem with that is there’s casualties, along the way, like people that are a victim of your being just oblivious.” – Dave Sparks
Now, Dave feels a lot differently about his career. He not only wants to build badass trucks, but trucks that are safe and good for the environment. His partner, Diesel Dave, has always been very intuitive when it comes to knowing the public’s needs, so together, the Diesel brothers balance each other out.
I asked Dave what’s the next big thing to happen in the auto industry. We’ve now got electric cars now, and they’re great! I drive a Tesla — completely battery powered. But you gotta stop to charge it, and while this isn’t necessarily a huge inconvenience (first-world problem, I know), people want something better. Something that’s good for the environment but also efficient, sleek, and long-lasting.
The secret lies in hydrogen, an element that is literally everywhere. You find hydrogen in water, but ironically, the hydrogen part of water is very flammable. When it’s paired with oxygen, it’s not flammable (it’s water), but if you can separate the hydrogen from the oxygen, you have a very potent fuel — hydrogen gas.
“The problem is, [hydrogen] got a bad rep over the years because people have tried to use it to power vehicles, and it’s just never kind of quite worked, because the problem is, to be able to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen, it takes a lot of energy. In fact, it takes more energy than it produces … [but] technology is getting better, and now it’s gotten to the point where hydrogen fuel can be split, you know, and basically stored, more cost effectively, and the technology is literally getting better every single day.” – Dave Sparks
Even though we’re not quite there yet, Dave thinks it’s very possible we’ll be there soon. Hydrogen-powered cars. 100% clean, no emissions. Amazing, right? Basically what would happen is that the hydrogen would power a fuel cell that creates static electricity. That electricity is then captured and transferred to the car’s battery, so no more constant recharging and no more emissions!
“I’ve been guilty of blowing black smoke out of my truck. I hate that now. I look back, I’m like, Man, that was dumb. There’s a whole world of people that still think it’s okay to have their truck spit black smoke and their vehicle create these emissions. Well, whether you believe in global warming, climate change, or not – that’s not what this is about. This is about making life better for all of us.” – Dave Sparks
Honestly, I think Dave puts it perfectly. This isn’t about an agenda — it’s about making the world better, healthier, and happier.
Dave Sparks is great — just a real down-to-earth guy. He’s constantly leaning into his curiosity and getting out of his comfort zone. Dave has every reason to lay back, put his feet up, and never work another day in his life, but he doesn’t want that. He’d rather be working hard every day, whether it be with Diesel Brothers, his company DieselSellerz, or with his family. He loves a good challenge, because challenges are opportunities for improvement and growth.
This champion mindset leads perfectly into Dave’s definition of greatness:
“My definition of greatness is never stopping, never being complacent … You’ve never made it. You can be okay with where you’re at, but just know that you’re capable of so much more, and when you see somebody that actually lives their life by that standard, that’s greatness.” – Dave Sparks
Whether you’ve binged Diesel Brothers or know nothing about trucks, I’d encourage you to listen to this episode. Dave is so honest about his experiences, he genuinely loves people, and his story from “nothing” to success is truly inspiring.
So go ahead and buckle up for Episode 923 with the incredible Dave Sparks.