The Value Of Social Capital with Jordan Harbinger | #031
Your network is literally the most valuable asset that you can ever build. No matter what happens in your life, you could rely on that network to help you out with where you are. Jordan Harbinger, “The Larry King of podcasting,” calls it the social capital. Jordan is a Wall Street lawyer turned talk show host, social dynamics expert, and entrepreneur. After hosting a top 50 iTunes podcast for over a decade that enjoyed nearly four million downloads a month at its zenith, Jordan has embarked on a new adventure: The Jordan Harbinger Show.
When he left his old company and started the Jordan Harbinger Show and Advanced Human Dynamics, he had to essentially start from scratch with only his talent, his hard work ethic, and his network, which is by far his most valuable leverage. Jordan shares his journey from being an intern at the embassy in Panama to doing a podcast and multiple shows on big networks, and finally starting his very own show, stressing the importance of digging up the well before you’re even thirsty, which means preparing and creating relationships before you ever need them.
The Value Of Social Capital with Jordan Harbinger
I have with me, Jordan Harbinger. I am a huge student of learning the art of interviewing. Jordan has run a very popular, one of the most downloaded podcasts on all iTunes, with a previous show. Since he left that show, he launched a brand-new podcast called The Jordan Harbinger Show, which has skyrocketed to the top of the charts. Jordan is a fantastic interviewer and so it was great to flip the script and talk about his story.
This is a very unique episode because if you follow Jordan, he talked about his past with why he left his previous show, which is a very popular podcast. I didn’t want to go down that route. I wanted to focus on different parts of his story, why he was kidnapped, other very interesting aspects of his life that have contributed to where he is. The purpose of the show is to talk about how to unlock opportunities within our space. I know you’re going to enjoy it and when you’re done, go follow Jordan. He is completely open for feedback, open to connect with him. His show is absolutely on fire. Without further ado, let’s jump into the episode.
We have a very special guest as we get to speak with someone who has rubbed elbows and interviewed some of today’s most recognized personalities and celebrities, Jordan Harbinger. Jordan, once referred to as the Larry King of podcasting, is a Wall Street lawyer turned talk show host, social dynamics expert and entrepreneur. After hosting a Top 50 iTunes podcast for over a decade that enjoyed nearly four million downloads a month at its zenith, Jordan has embarked on a new adventure, The Jordan Harbinger Show, where he deconstructs the playbooks of the most successful people on earth and shares their strategies, perspectives, and insights with the rest of us.
Throughout his career as a host, he’s interviewed the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Russell Brand, Shaquille O’Neal, Simon Sinek, Tony Hawk, Larry King, Mike Rowe, Chris Hadfield, Penn Jillette, and many more. As a former Wall Street attorney, Jordan speaks five languages and spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and has been kidnapped twice. I’m very interested to get into that. Jordan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me on. What’s funny about that intro Is you’re like, “As a Wall Street lawyer, Jordan speaks five languages.” I’m like, “Being a lawyer does not automatically mean that you speak five languages. In fact, usually it means you speak one language.” Everyone is like, “What did that guy just say? This is so confusing.”
I am glad you clarified that because my audience was definitely going to be thrown off by it.
It’s like, “If you go to law school, you have to speak five languages.” No, you totally don’t.
Jordan, I went fanboy on you. As soon as we hopped on our call I’m like, “I’ve got to give you props.”
I am happy to relive that. If you want to relive that, I am cool with that.
It never gets old. People are like, “Hold on, let me apologize. I am about to give a bunch of compliments.” Nope, go right ahead.
As a show host myself, I love to, for lack of a better word, deconstruct the art of how to give great interviews. I’ve listened to a bunch of your podcast over at The Jordan Harbinger Show, which everyone should go check out because it’s a fascinating stuff. I was re-listening to Simon Sinek’s episode, and the reason why I was so fascinated is that you were able to dive way deeper below the surface. There were a couple of instances in the very beginning of the episode where you were like, “I believed in it once and I didn’t really understand why I needed it until more recently.”
That led to a fascinating discussion, which ultimately led the conversation to say why people take their why for granted until later in life. It was an excellent interview. You also talked about the Goldman’s dilemma which was fascinating, which was over 50% of Olympic athletes would sacrifice their life to achieve a goal. Those are the nuggets that you don’t get in many other interviews. I do want to give you props on being an excellent interviewer because it’s a skill that is vastly underrated.
I agree that it’s underrated in that I’ve had a lot of people try to copy. I’m not saying don’t try to copy me. Flattery is the sincerest form of imitation or something like that.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
The opposite of what I just said. About how I’m articulate, having people try to copy the style and things like that comes down to the fact that I don’t have any particular talent as an interviewer, as evidenced by my lack of ability to even get out a cliché that everyone has been able to use successfully for generations. I just outwork everyone when it comes to prep. I was talking with a lot of journalists because I always seek these people out and I’m like, “You’re really good at this, how much do you prepare?” You find usually that the best interviewers, they’re really well-prepared.
When you look at a guy like Howard Stern, he’s got a great style. I listen to people that have worked with him and have them helping me and they show me how he prepares. It sounds like he’s walked into this thing and weighing it, but he’s got dozens of hours of prep behind him from his team. A journalist like Anderson Cooper or Charlie Rose do dozens of hours and even people who say, “I didn’t prepare that much for this interview or I only had twenty minutes to prepare for this phone interview.” When you look at the history of what they’re doing, it’s like, “You only had twenty minutes to prepare for the phone interview with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, but you were the Bureau Chief of Reuters in Lebanon for twelve years.” It’s not like you had, “What’s this guy’s name? How do you pronounce this?” It’s like, “I haven’t read the latest and greatest from this guy, but I’ve spent ten years following his career.” They do a bang-up job. What I have to do as an interviewer is instead of going, “It’s a podcast. Nobody really cares.” No, if I’ve got somebody coming on the show, I’ve got to read their book. If they have two books and the second one is a take after the first one, I’ve got to read both.
Then I’ve got to look at their TED Talk and I’ve got to listen to the interviews they did with other media. I want to make sure that I’m not just redoing what everyone else did and that I do get the good stories that they want. I also want to make sure that I’m aware of when they’re using what’s called a sound bite so that if I see them going down the rabbit hole of autopilot, “This is where I talk about how when I was a kid I stole a bike and I got caught,” I want to be able to nip those in the bud or move them along fast, so we don’t spend 45 minutes going over exactly what they talked about in every other show. Getting things that other people haven’t said, people are like, “How do you get things that other people never get?” I have good rapport with the guest, but mostly because I prepped and they know that they can’t go through the BS with me. A lot of it is not just they liked me, so they admitted all these things they didn’t talk about elsewhere, the thing is their sound bites and all their pre-prepared stuff, I was aware that it was coming. I saw it coming and I just ninja blocked it and was able to parry that into something else.
That’s a skill but if you can look at game tape, AKA read their book and listen to interviews, you know they’re going to run whatever play, the sound bites, that they’re going to run. You can set up your defense. Not that I look at interviewing as an adversarial relationship, but you can do that and be like, “He’s going to bring up this story.” When he does, I want to then skip to the end of that story because there are way too many details. Instead of a five-minute long story about how he stole a bike and got caught, I just go, “Didn’t you steal a bike and then you got caught by your mom? That’s just a nightmare scenario for me. My mom would’ve kicked my butt. Tell me what you learned from that.” It’s like, “Skip the whole story, get to the lesson.” You got to be able to do that. I’m thinking of those things when I do the interviews.
I did an interview with Elaine Pofeldt. She was on one of the previous podcasts too. She authored the book, The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business and we were talking about that. Her background is in journalism. I come from a non-publicity world and as we were talking, it was so apparent how detailed and how much research she did and how important that was. It revealed this whole other world because I don’t know much about journalists at all and I didn’t know how their mind operated, but you’re 100% right, it’s all in the research. It’s all in the background, getting your facts straight, knowing where to pivot, and seeing when they’re going to be running a run play up the gut or a Hail Mary pass and being able to defend it. That was an excellent analogy.
There are a couple of strategies. We don’t have to go deep into detail, but there are a lot of strategies for getting things out of people. Even interviewers like Joe Rogan are well-known for also getting a lot out of people, but that’s because he does a three-hour long show. One of the things that a lot of people don’t know about The Jordan Harbinger Show is that I record 90-minute blocks, but I have a 45 to 50-minute long show. The reason is that a lot of the time, there are technical glitches. Another strategy that I have, and this happened when I was interviewing this FBI agent, she had all of her sound bites and she would not let them go because she was media trained.
She was uncomfortable freewheeling it and had a few things she wanted to get across. Since she was a little bit less cooperative with the free flow that I would like, I just went, “Plan B, instead of trying to get bob and weave, I’m going to run out the clock.” I let her get through all of her sound bites, I didn’t save much of anything. Then after she was done, I told my producer on the back channel, “Cut out all of that except for the introductory material and then the one story about the car.” I started asking questions and she answered all those questions and we cut out 40 to 45 minutes of the sound bites.
We aired the show and she went, “I just listened to it. It is by far the best one. I’m really getting better with practice.” I was like, “What you need to do is stop with the rehearsed crap because this is the real show.” I hate looking at interviewing as an adversarial relationship but sometimes the guests can’t do a free-flowing conversation because they’re not a performer. When you get a guest like that, when you get a scientist, you’ve got to be able to spar with them based on their own research. If you’re just going, “Tell me something interesting.” You’re going to be disappointed when they go, “I don’t have anything interesting. All my research is fascinating. Let me tell you about zygotes. Hold the hell on. No.”
This is going to be a good transition. What we’re talking about here is going to be a great transition into one of your one of your top skill sets, which is either social networking or social engineering. I can’t remember what you called it but obviously, you’re a brilliant networker. I was listening to John Corcoran’s podcast when he interviewed you and you had mentioned the reason why you started your podcast was you love conversations. What do you mean by that? How do you love conversations?
Fair enough, I’ll have the same conversation I would at a party as I would on the show in a way, although there are differences. When I’m doing a show, every minute of the listener’s time has to be earned. Whereas if I’m at a party, I’m a little more selfish with my curiosity. I still love the art of getting people to teach me something. If I meet someone who works for Google and they’re trying to tell me about, “I do search over at Google.” I want them to teach me something that I can use or at least some new manner of thinking even if it’s a mindset like, “What we’re working on is this.” I want them to show me or teach me something. I really have a passion for figuring out what people are interested in talking about, getting them to talk about it, and then getting them to talk about it in a way that’s not just mindless entertainment, fluff or banter.
I would want that person to teach me something that either nobody else knows yet outside of their niche that’s interesting or a different way of thinking or something that I can use. In that way, knowing that I’m going to be better for having had the conversation, it’s a lot easier for me to get interested. That’s why when people go, “I can’t do the small talk that people have at parties.” I go, “Good, you shouldn’t.” “It’s so hot out today.” “Yes, it’s really hot.” Who cares? There’s a reason you’re bored with small talk and a lot of people go, “I just have this analytical mind and I can’t do it.” I get that you can’t do it. It’s also completely fruitless, but if you can do one second of it and you go, “Yes, it’s so hot outside.” Then everyone goes, “Yes, it is hot outside,” and you go, “I know that you work in animal conservation, what is this whole global warming thing speaking of hot weather doing for your career?” “Actually, it’s changed the migration patterns of a lot of animals.” “Tell us about that.” You’re done with the small talk.
The reason people hate small talk is because, “It’s so hot outside.” “It sure is.” “I’ve been sweating a lot.” “Me too.” “I’ve got to wear a suit to work.” “You better take Uber.” That’s so dumb and boring, I get why people hate that. For me, I don’t have a passion for that conversation and nobody frankly does or should, but if you can really make it useful, then I don’t understand how you cannot be interested in it. Whenever somebody is like, “I don’t like talking to people,” I get that either they’re uncomfortable with it or they just don’t have enough skill to make it utilitarian or usually a mixture of both.
Clearly, you’re a brilliant networker. When you rattled through all the interviews that you’ve done in the past, those are the biggest names known today. You teach networking. I don’t want to say the secret. I hate the secret behind networking. Can you take me through an example in your mind when you made one of the biggest connections you’ve ever had? Maybe it was your first big interview and was networking involved in there. I know I’m reaching here, but I’m trying to grab at how you’ve been able to relate networking to constantly just get these big names like Simon, Mike Rowe, Shaquille O’Neal and everyone that we’ve listed.
I don’t want to front entirely some people you get because they have a book coming out and they’re like, “My assistant will do the interview.” I’m like, “No, I don’t want your assistant. I have questions for you only.” They’re like, “I won’t do it.” I’m like, “I’m not going to promote your book.” Sometimes, you do that. You turn the screw. I’m looking for opportunity. It wasn’t like I’m such a huge Shaq fan. I need to get Shaq. How do I get Shaq? I joined this network, PodcastOne, and the owner is friends with Shaquille O’Neal. I know that because he has courtside seats. I knew that he had courtside seats because it’s called Courtside Entertainment and I thought that was a weird name for a company. I walked into his office and there’s a picture of him with President Clinton and all these other people, Kobe and Shaq. Then Shaq came out with a podcast and I went, “When can I get Shaq?” He goes, “We’ll figure that out some time. I don’t know. He’s pretty hard to get.” For two straight years I said, “Give me a goal to hit and when I hit it, you’ll help me book Shaq.” He was like, “It’s really hard to get. It’s a big favor.”
I kept helping him recruit new members for the network. Norman Pattiz is the name. I kept helping him make money through advertising. I kept bringing him advertisers. I kept bringing the advertising properties. I kept connecting him with other people in my network. I wasn’t doing a lot of this myself. I was connecting with other people in my network and eventually he goes, “This is really helpful.” Every time he would say something like that I’d say, “You don’t have to thank me. Just hook me up with Shaq.” He goes, “I’ll do it. Eventually, it will happen. I promise. It’s going to happen.”
I followed up in a way that wasn’t annoying and every time I brought some value I didn’t say, “I’m doing this in exchange for Shaq.” I just kept doing the value-add thing and eventually he was like, “Shaq is coming into town. He’s going to be in the studio. Do you want to do the interview? I’m only hooking him up with you. Don’t tell anyone. They’ll find out when he gets here that he’s here, but he’s going to do your show and that’s it.” I went, “Yes, thank you.” He goes, “Good. Here’s another contract for you to sign. It’s an extension of the one you already have.” I went, “I get it. I feel you. Fine.” I signed it. We’re doing it. It wasn’t quid pro quo. I’m saying it in a way that sounds like it, but temporally these things are all spread out over a long period of time. I’m not saying, “If you hook me up with this, I will do this for you.” It’s just I’m always helping other people without the expectation of anything in return. I dig the well before I’m thirsty, which means I prepare and create relationships before I ever need them even if I might never need them. I give generously in all cases, even if I don’t think anybody can ever help me.
I’m always making those introductions the same as I would if somebody said, “I’ll give you a Shaq even if you do this.” I would make those same introductions to anybody else who needed them for any reason and that’s the reason that I end up with the opportunities that I have is that I’m willing to help and give generously all the time instead of just trying to close. It’s ABG, always be generous, instead of ABC, always be closing. I’m always willing to be generous with that because you never know where those opportunities lie and with this, this fell into my lap. It was a matter of filtering for that opportunity, pursuing it in a way that was tenacious but not annoying and being valuable enough that it actually made sense for that to happen. People are like, “You’re on a network and Shaq was on that network.” So what? I can never do that. Let me pick somebody else.
How about Mike Rowe? I said, “How does one get in touch with Mike Rowe?” You sure as heck don’t tweet at the guy or try to hit him up on Instagram. He’s busy. You never go directly. What a lot of people do is they go, “I need an introduction to Mike Rowe. I want to know him so that I can make this thing happen.” That might work but if they’re anything like me and a lot of people are, especially hard to reach people that are busy, which includes like every celebrity, you reaching out to them is impossibly difficult to cut through the noise and you have to get around all these gatekeepers. When you finally end up in a back stairwell during a fire drill at the opera and Mike Rowe is standing right next to you, he goes, “Sure, I’d love to do your show. Here’s my card. Email this and my assistant will reply.” You end up exactly where you would have been if you got the introduction to Mike Rowe’s assistant instead of to him directly.
People don’t think about this stuff. You’re not trying to become Will Smith’s best friend. That’s not going to happen and even if it did, he’d say, “Call my assistant.” What you’re trying to do is get in touch and influence the people that can influence them. I’m easy to reach. I’m a crap example of this. If you want to get in touch with me and you’re having trouble, don’t try to continually bang down my door. Find out who my assistant is, it’s my wife. Get in touch with my wife, get her to like you. I will probably end up doing whatever you want because she’s going to be like, “I made you an appointment with Joel Erway and he’s really nice.” I’m like, “Okay, great. Whatever.” If you’re bugging me or somebody else directly for three years, there’s a good chance it’s just never going to happen because I’m going to be like, “Sure, remind me in six months,” and then I’m going to forget about it.
The same thing goes with any high-profile personality. You have to find the people that influence them. They are not usually even in control of their own schedule because they don’t want to be. You have to go to the person who’s the gatekeeper. Here’s the thing. That influencer, their job is to say no to most things so you’re not going, “Hi, Mike Rowe’s assistant, I want to interview Mike Rowe,” because they’re going, “Join the club. I’m going to drag this to the folder of people who are probably never going to ever have that happen and it’s always going to go there and I’m never going to see you again.”
What you want to do is get in touch with that person and say, “I’m interested in interviewing Mike Rowe. I know that he’s so busy. Is there somebody else that I could interview that’s a part of your organization that you think would be good on my show? I’m interested in helping out with the charity that you run.” Then his assistant will likely say, “Sure, we have a PR publicist that I think would be a good person for you to talk to.” Then as your value to them grows, they go, “You should have Mike on your show because he’s got a new show coming out and he’s also got that charity. He’d probably love to talk to you.” That’s how those things happen. Not, “Hi, can I talk to Mike?” That’s just irritating and then that’s how you get blocked. You have to bring value to them. It’s not just relentless follow-up.
I hope you write a book one day called Always Be Generous, ABG Networking. I think it’s a fantastic name.
That’s actually not bad.
It was an excellent example, never go directly because you do become that annoying person like, “Can I jump in?” A case in point, I personally know somebody who I like and met in person. She wanted to come in and do a training to my group on Experts Unleashed. I said, “Let’s do it.” I wanted to with full intention, but then she started nagging me. It was on the calendar and then we had the call to discuss it. She was eight minutes late. I bailed and then she kept nagging me again. I said, “We’re done.” It’s super valuable. It took over two years to get Shaq. You’ve built the well, you dug the well before you were thirsty. You also have a networking course. You teach this, and you’re an expert at it. Do you have a networking course that people can go through for free or part of it for free?
I do, yes. I have https://jordanharbinger.com/course. It’s a networking class that’s all this stuff I wish I’d known fifteen plus years ago. It’s got a lot of drills about reaching out to people and automating relationship maintenance using things like Facebook, LinkedIn, calendars, stuff that you all have but that nobody uses properly. It creates a lot of the mindsets in you so while you’re standing in line for coffee at Starbuck, you can use that time to maintain your network because a lot of people procrastinate. They say, “Why should I reach out to people? I’ve got all this other stuff I’ve got to do. How am I possibly going to spend another hour per day doing this or how am I going to reach out to people doing that? I’ve got all this social media stuff I’ve got to do. Why am I going to figure out this networking thing?” It’s surprisingly easy to create these relationships and maintain them over time. Those are the drills that I’ve got there at https://jordanharbinger.com/course is where I keep the secret goods.
It’s free because I want people to go there and go, “This is the magical stuff. Jordan is the man. The Jordan Harbinger Show must be amazing because his networking stuff is amazing.” It makes the world a better place because frankly, if everyone used the ABG generosity model, everyone was helping each other out, we would all be so much further ahead. We wouldn’t have this one-sided what’s in it for me type of stuff going on as much anymore because there will be so much value that people would instantly realize they have and that they can bring. People wouldn’t be worrying about trying to get ahead or, “I don’t want to help my competitor.” That stuff all melts away.
What I love to focus on here and what my audience loves to hear is the journey. We’re all about how experts like you have created opportunities throughout their path. Here you are, you have an unbelievably popular podcast show and Advanced Human Dynamics free course. You’ve got all this credibility. You came from a very fascinating journey. You were kidnapped twice. The earliest public employment that I saw on your profile was back in 2001. You worked for Panama and you were an intern.
I’ve worked for the State Department in Panama, not for Panama itself.
You were a teacher of English as a second language in Serbia. Did you work for Linklaters as an overpaid intern?
That’s correct. I was actually an attorney but let’s not split hairs. That’s what you do when you’re an attorney, you’re an overpaid intern essentially.
Take me back to 2001, maybe this wasn’t even the start of your professional career, but this is the first thing listed that I found working for the embassy in Panama. What was that like?
This is right after September 11. I went down there early and they were like, “Your security clearance should be done anytime.” Then it wasn’t done and all the other interns were cleared, and I was like, “What is the holdup?” They were like, “You lived in Ukraine and Israel, but then there’s this huge gap where you were just randomly in the Middle East. You were also an exchange student, but you weren’t regularly in Germany. You were in the former Eastern part of Germany. Then you studied Russian and you also studied Hebrew for a little while. You speak German and then you learned Spanish a little bit, but you were in Mexico. Where exactly were you? What hotel were you at?” “No, I lived with people. I lived with families in all these countries.” “You lived with a Ukrainian family?” “They were Russian.” “We need all these addresses and by the way, we have to have FBI agents at the embassy in each of these countries to go and interview these families and this might take a minute.”
I was like, “How long could it possibly take?” Months later I’m still backpacking around Panama and they’re like, “You can come to work and do public affairs because you are not cleared for anything.” Then towards the end of the summer, I finally got a clearance and what was funny was it took so long and then finally, I got a clearance and then some people on the upper floors of the embassy where things are sealed off nicely went, “How did this guy end up with an internship and how come he’s starting in August?” They’re like, “He took a long time to clear.” They’re like, “I’ll say.” They started giving me some interesting stuff. It was cool because I went from, “You’re not allowed out of the lobby of this place,” to “Don’t bring in any electronics and you can’t have your own coffee mug.”
That was a new experience. I’ve got a little bit of experience watching the DEA operate, meeting with CIA guys and the FBI. It was really a cool experience to have as a kid because I was probably 21. Living in embassy housing in Panama was amazing because first, you’re living in an embassy area. There’s security everywhere. Everyone knows who you are. You go to a bar or a club and it’s like, “Are you guys working at the embassy?” You never wait in line, you pay for a few things here and there. You go to exclusive parties. It was cool. Being diplomat-ish is awesome. There’s no getting around it. The problem is when you’re a career diplomat, you’ve got all stuff you’ve got to deal with because you work for the government. You get buried and then they’re like, “Your wife’s going to be in South Korea and you’re going to be in Zimbabwe.” You’re going to make low amounts of money forever. It’s awesome when you’re in your twenties, I would imagine as you get older you’re like, “Why did I pick this again?”
Did you know you wanted to be an attorney? What was your vision?
I never wanted to be a lawyer. I went to law school for terrible reasons. First, I went there because people were like, “You should be a lawyer. Law degrees are a great key to the future.” “Do you like to argue? You should be a lawyer.” No, don’t ever listen to anyone tell you, you should be a lawyer if they are not a lawyer and if they are a lawyer, what you should do is say, “Why do you think I should be a lawyer?” If it doesn’t sound like something that you are, if they’re like, “You like this and that,” don’t listen to them unless they are very explicit about why. The problem is I listened to a bunch of people who were like, “You’re studying political science, nobody’s going to hire you for that.” “Economics? I don’t know what you can do with that.” This person was like a gym teacher. No offense to gym teachers, but you’re really not qualified to tell people they should be lawyers based on you having watched History and Law and Order, it’s not true.
The other contributing factor was I went to the University of Michigan and graduated. I tried to get jobs and I was like, “I don’t know how to do this. Nobody showed us how. I’m going to stick around for a summer before I find a real job. I’ll just work at BestBuy.” I walk into BestBuy and I’m like, “Hi, I can build computers. I can install and uninstall software. I know how to install components. I know how to remove viruses.” They’re like, “You have to sell CDs for two years before you can move up to computer repair.” I was like, “Two years, I’ve built a computer on my own in the living floor from components, what are you talking about? Do I have to sell CDs? I’m not selling Britney Spears CDs.” They’re like, “This is where we need people.” I went, “Okay, adios. I’m not doing this.” The answer back in 2002 to, “I can’t get a job,” wasn’t, “The market sucks.” It wasn’t “Maybe I should look at different places.” It wasn’t, “All big companies aren’t the only places that are hiring.” The answer was, “I must’ve just needed more education.”
I went to apply to different graduate schools and I got into a bunch. I got into some law schools. I got scholarships from law schools and then got into Michigan Law, which is a good law school, top ten. I’m not saying that to brag, I’m saying that because it’s part of the story here. A bunch of people went, “If you got into a top ten law school, you have to go. You’re wasting an opportunity.” It’s like if somebody who hears you got into Harvard, it’s like, “You have to go,” and you’re like, “I hate Boston and I don’t want to study this. My family is in Mexico and I can’t afford it.” They’re like, “But it’s Harvard.” It’s like, “Okay, fine.” Michigan Law to lawyers was like, “I would have gone if I went in there,” so you go. Then you’d go, “I have so much debt. I have to take a Wall Street job or I’m never going to pay it off.” Then you end up on Wall Street and you go, “What the hell happened? How did I end up here?”
Unfortunately, what happens to most of us attorneys, we’re unhappy in what we do because we ended up there thinking it was going to be something else or we just took it because we thought, “Lucrative career.” Then what happens is we go, “I’m unhappy but I can afford a boat and a boat would totally make me happy.” Then you buy a boat and then when you want to quit law, you go, “I can’t, I’ve got all these freaking boat payments. Then I got a house. I can’t quit, I can’t take a lower paying job. I can’t move and do my own business.” What I did is I saved my money and then also the economy started to tank and so I went, “This is a great time to not get another job as a lawyer.” I get a redo and I have the dough. I reinvested it in my company and I never looked back. I think a lot of people are floating down the river and as the river gets smoother and cushier and your raft becomes nicer and softer, you start to think, “I could get used to this.” The problem is people do get used to it.
You said you reinvested into your company, your own company or the company that you were working for in Wall Street?
I invested in my own company. As the economy started to get crappier in 2008, what happened was I was saving my money. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment. I had a bunch of people working with me on the podcast and I was making about $160,000 a year plus bonus. What they did is they said, “You’re not going to get a bonus. We’re going to end up laying off everyone in about nine months if the economy doesn’t pick back up.” As you know, spoiler alert, it didn’t. “What we’re going to do is pay you full salary and benefits but you should look for another job. You don’t even have to come in because we don’t have work for most of you. We’ll call you if we get big projects and then we’ll have you come back and if you have another job, we’ll release you but in the meantime, you’re going to get full salary and benefits for the next nine months.”
I was able to make $16,000 per month plus I had health insurance. I didn’t have to go to work, but I was allowed to use the office if I needed to. I had a Wall Street office in the same building as American Express. I was making a ton of money, living like a college student and running my other company. Instead of going out and partying it up and enjoying it, I was like, “Double down, take this money, use it as seed capital because it’s already post-tax dough.” That’s what I did.
When did the birth of the podcast happen? In 2008, that’s when this opportunity popped up but when was the podcast officially started?
It had two years of runway.
It was about a year. It was December 2006. It was a year and a few months at most of the runway. It wasn’t quite two years.
Why a podcast? Where did that come from? You have no radio host experience as far as I know.
No, I didn’t. When I was at the law firm, there was a partner there and he was never in the office. Let me back up, when I was in high school I could show up for a geometry test and figure stuff out the night before or show up and take the test itself and I was like, “I’m so smart.” Then I got to college and everybody was really smart and I was like, “I am in trouble.” Everyone was drinking their face off and I went, “If I limit my partying to three, four nights a week, I can study. I’ll be able to outwork all these other kids.” I outworked everyone and then I got to Wall Street and it was like, “Everyone’s willing to work six days a week to seven days a week, sixteen hours a day. Everyone’s smarter than me, I’m going to get fired.”
I met up with his partner and I was like, “You’re never in the office. You just work from home a lot.” What I was looking for was the secret key to working from home because I figured if I worked from home, people wouldn’t find out I didn’t belong there, and I wouldn’t get fired. It’s the classic imposture syndrome. Since I was looking for that, he goes, “No, actually it’s not that I work from home a lot, it’s that I bring in a lot of business so I’m more valuable not in the office. I’m more valuable playing racket ball, going biking, doing Jiu-jitsu, going to do some golf, and going to charity stuff. I can delegate a lot of my work. I work from home. I keep up with my email. I keep up with the deal flow, but I’m really just bringing clients.” I went, “Okay, hang on.”
My competitive advantage has always been to be smart and/or be able to outwork everyone. In law school, I studied for sixteen hours a day instead of five or whatever most people are doing. When I got to Wall Street, I didn’t have that option. There were only so many hours in the day. Making yourself smarter is tough. I was like, “I’ve got to learn how to bring in business.” I took Dale Carnegie classes, I took other ideas like that and I started working on body language and nonverbal communication. I’ve got a lot of coaching. I read a lot of books. I started going out and trying things because I’d read something online. It’s like, “If you look at someone in their right eye, they’ll like you more.” I’d be like, “I can’t just remember that. I’ve got to do that.”
I’d go out and I’d be working on the right eye thing and this is weird. The women I was talking to were like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m looking in your right eye, do you feel an affinity for me?” They’re like, “No, you’re being weird.” I’m like, “Check that off the list. I’m doing that too much. Maybe it doesn’t work or I’m doing it too much.” I worked on all these different skills and I found that a lot of the stuff you read online and a lot of the stuff that you do is just BS. I started to teach to my friends the stuff that I was working on and that was working for me. I’d go out six nights a week and my friend would come with me.
We would meet some women and they’d be like, “What are you doing? What are you working on? We see you a lot. We heard somebody language stuff.” We’d be breaking it down with them and then the women would be like, “This is really cool.” Then they would tell other guys and they would tell other women, so we would be having these conversations at bars or outside and people would go, “Catch me up.” I go, “I’m having the same conversation for the first 40 minutes of every night or the first two hours of every night. I need people to come in with a primer and then I can help them work on the advanced stuff.” I started burning CDs with conversations that were I taught nonverbal communication, body language and I kept giving them away.
Then people would come back and go, “I listened to that or I listened to half then my brother took it and he’s not giving it back, or I gave it to my roommate, but do you have another thing?” I was giving out all these CDs and I was spending hundreds of dollars over a period of a few months on blank CDs and burning them for hours during the day between classes. I was like, “This is ridiculous.” A friend of mine goes, “There’s this new thing called podcasting. You can upload an MP3 file to the internet and people can download them.” I went, “That’s awesome. I need that.” We set up a WordPress website and people kept going, “This is neat.” Then another person’s like, “You can add it in the iTunes and if someone uses iTunes they can download it.” There was no such thing as a smartphone or at least there was no iPhone so there’s no mobile podcasting, nothing like that.
We would upload it to iTunes and then suddenly it was like, “This got 24 downloads yesterday. To whom did you tell about this?” Then we were like, “This is crazy. 800 people downloaded it last month. What’s going on?” Then we looked at the map and it was like, “Somebody from South Africa downloaded this, do you know anyone from South Africa?” “No.” We started saying, “If you’re listening to this and you’re from South Africa, tell us how you found the show.” They’re like, “I’m in iTunes looking for stuff to listen to and I found your show.” I was like, “I guess we have a show. I was just thinking it’s conversations, but we have a show.” I started treating it a little bit more like a show and putting more energy and effort into it. That was suddenly what started off as an easy way to distribute things to people that I knew and people that they knew. Instead of burning CDs, it turned into one of the most popular podcasts in the world.
I love the fact that you had the balls to go speak to a partner and be like, “Why aren’t you at work?”
I instantly regretted it too. It’s funny because what happened was he was supposed to be my mentor because other people had these mentors at the firm and it’s not like, “I like this guy. I’m going to show them how to do it.” It was like, “You’re mentoring these three.” They would take you out for lobster for lunch. They’d take you to see Blue Man Group and it’s like, “Ask me any questions.” This guy was never around. He was cool. He wasn’t rude or anything. He wasn’t like a salty old fart or anything like that, but he was just like, “I’ll go and mentor this guy.” He took me out to Starbucks in the basement of this office building where we worked. Everyone else was getting these $300 lunches and I was getting Starbucks while he’s banging away on Windows, Blackberry. He was like, “What’s up? You’ve got questions?” I was like, “How come you’re never in the office?” He puts his Blackberry down and he’s like, “Who said I’m never in the office?”
I was like, “A lot of people that aren’t me.” He was like, “People are talking about me not being in the office?” I was like, “It’s just something I’ve noticed along with other people because everyone’s like, ‘How’s your mentorship thing going?’ I’m like, ‘It’s fine.’ Totally not dissatisfied at all, but you must be busy. I assumed you were working from home.”’ He’s like, “No, I’m generating deals.” Originally, I thought I’m going to get fired for saying this, but he was cool and that was the thing. The reason he was so good at what he did, bringing in business and things like that, was that he was cool about all the stuff that he was doing. Everyone liked him. The trick wasn’t, “You’ve got to go and have a firm handshake and good eye contact.” That’s what the usual advice is. That wasn’t the real deal. His thing was he was fun and people like being around him.
It wasn’t about learning how to shove business cards in people’s faces and be salesy. It was about being likable enough where people go, “Jordan, I’m taking the afternoon off. Let’s go for a bike ride down the West Side Highway.” You go, “You want to meet in half an hour? I’m wrapping up an email.” Then just bouncing and going and doing that and having your bosses, which are the other partners at that point who go, “When Dave leaves the office, it’s because he’s got something to do. It’s not because he doesn’t want to be here anymore.”
Nobody cares if you’re the 32-year-old partner younger than everybody else or 35-year-old partner and you’re taking off for a bike ride for the rest of the day because they figure, “He’s going with the guys from Goldman Sachs so don’t bug him about it. Don’t give him any crap about it. At the end of the quarter when he brings in two multimillion-dollar deals, you’ll know why he went for a bike ride and why he didn’t show up on Monday because he was playing racquetball.” That’s his value to the firm. What was interesting about that was when the firm eventually went under, he got a job as a partner at another firm because he had this huge book of business and a lot of the other partners were just SOL. They were out of luck because they were workhorses and they were skilled but there was a lack of need for skilled lawyers. There was always a need for more business.
There’s something valuable about that lesson and it’s being not being afraid to ask the tough questions, not even tough questions. You didn’t know it was a tough question at the time but never expected it. I bet you probably, without a shadow of a doubt, everybody else in your firm at your level was probably terrified to ask that question. It’s that idea that if you don’t know what to expect, you’re in better hands than somebody who thinks and assumes what’s going happen after you do it.
You jump in, that leads you down the path of Dale Carnegie, nonverbal communication which ultimately leads you to start your first podcast, which got some traction. People all around the world were listening to it. How did that then lead to the next big thing? I’m assuming the next thing was when you started working with Sirius or you’ve got your own show on Sirius. What was that next big step after your firm went under and you were focusing on your podcast?
Even before the firm went under, of course, I’ve been doing some of the networking stuff as much as I could. There was a friend of mine who had written a book and he got a guest spot on a show on Satellite Radio which is in New York. That guest spot was Maxim Radio. He was like, “They offered me my own show, but I don’t want to drive, living in Virginia.” They were like, “You just have to drive up here.” He was like, “Drive to Manhattan once a week to do a show? No way.” He said, “You should talk to my friend. He’s good on separate topics. He might be really interesting for you, just give him one guest slot.”
He got us a guest slot on that particular show. We went on there and happened to be going pretty well when the station manager walked in to do what’s called an air check. Then, the publicist was interested, the show booker was interested in what we were talking about and they are like, “This is so interesting.” They said, “We got to have you back sometime. What you’re talking about is really good, the verbal and nonverbal communication, the persuasion, the influence and all this stuff.” I said, “I’m always down for that.” Then I went back again, crushed, in my opinion and then the guest slot which I thought was great because you can screw up radio and then it’s over. It’s live radio. I said, “Here’s a card that I about this show that I run, check it out.”
He went, “It’s a podcast. We have heard of those.” A couple of weeks later I said, “I’d love to come back on the show sometime, also did you have a chance to listen to this podcast?” They went, “Not only are you going to come back on the show, we’ve been listening to your podcast, it’s really interesting. Would you consider doing something similar to this on Satellite Radio?” I said, “Sure. The only problem is I’ve got a day job as an attorney, so I can’t just bust out and leave.” They said, “What if we get you on The Evening Drive every Friday?” I said, “I can do that. I can probably escape around 7:00 PM on a Friday. If it’s a really big deal that I’m working on, someone will cover for me and I just have to walk two blocks.” I was already working essentially right near it. I just have to walk a couple blocks, go up and then zip right back, so I could even say like, “I’ve got something I got to do.” The rest of my guys in my law firm would cover for me and some of our other partners would have to know.
I went and I did the show. After a while we were working on Friday nights, so I would come back, and the guys had all tuned in online and listened to the whole show while they were working. It was funny after a while I didn’t have to hide it. The partners were like, “Isn’t your show pretty soon? You’ve got to go.” I’d come back at 9:00 PM to finish up whatever deal we were doing or the work for the night for the next couple hours. I’d come in and they were like, “So that one caller,” because the whole office was listening online. I ended up getting that satellite radio show not only while I had the podcast, but while I was also an attorney. I was essentially just moonlighting. It was super fun.
Was it a weekly spot or a daily spot?
It was a weekly spot.
A weekly spot on Sirius XM.
It was Sirius and then became Sirius XM.
Clearly, people were interested in nonverbal communication, which is fascinating to me because as somebody who feels like we have similar traits, I studied that stuff too. I feel like most people are interested in it, but they’re not. When you go mainstream and you get your message out there, the audience is there and it’s extremely fascinating to hear about why people never heard of Dale Carnegie before, why people have never heard of body language and nonverbal communication. You get your first gig on Sirius. How long did that last?
That was several years even after I had moved out to Los Angeles, I still ended up doing the Sirius XM at the time radio show from the studio weekly in LA for years and years after that. Three and a half plus years we did the show.
Did that for three and a half years then you eventually launched another podcast and that led to The Jordan Harbinger Show?
Yeah, it was just piggybacking one after the other. It was constantly going what it was like, “The Sirius XM show ends but I’m still doing my show.” That’s continually going.
The Jordan Harbinger Show has massive success. I checked out your ratings and there are 1,400 positive reviews. I think it’s four and a half if not five stars. It’s a fascinating show. One last question and it’s going to tie to the idea of networking and everything that we’ve talked about in the beginning, human dynamics. As you start to build up this well of being generous, when did you launch The Jordan Harbinger show? Was it 2018?
Yes, February 2018.
As of the moment, it’s crushing it. You’ve built up this thing like human equity, the social equity, human dynamic equity, I don’t know what you want to call it.
The social capital.
You launched your new show, how did you dip into that well? How did you start to cash in with that social capital? I’m assuming clearly you did because you were skyrocketing right now, but explain that before we wrap up if you wouldn’t mind.
When I left my old company and started the Jordan Harbinger Show and Advanced Human Dynamics, I essentially had to start from scratch. I didn’t get any company assets, IP, media, nothing from my old job for my old company that I’d started and run for eleven years in the old show. All I had was talent, which is minimal in my case so I’m zero, hard work ethic, which is great, but only works if you’re going to do everything yourself. Then I had my network which was by far the most valuable leverage, which is one of the reasons why we have the Advanced Human Dynamics Level One networking stuff because that’s been a huge game-changer for me. At first, when I was off on my own, it was like, “How am I going to do this? It’s going to be possible.”
I made a list of a couple dozen people that I could reach out to for help and that I knew would say yes. I reached out to them and they said, “Yes, I’ve got some help,” and then I went, “This is working well. I need to reach out to my entire network and ask everybody if I get help or be helped by them when I’m in this time of need essentially.” I reached out. I made a list of a lot of people. I reached out to everybody and I was like, “I’m going through this. Can you help me out?” A lot of the people/everybody was like, “Absolutely.” Because I dug the well before I was thirsty, I’d made those relationships for the past eleven plus years, I’d given all the time without the expectation of anything in return. I wasn’t what’s in it for me ever. I was always just helping other people and so as it turned out, people were jumping at the chance to reciprocate.
I ended up really starting off with a bang. There have been 2.8 or 2.9 million downloads of The Jordan Harbinger Show, which is damn awesome. I don’t know how to phrase it. I wasn’t expecting it to be that way and in over time, it’s over 6.6 million downloads since the middle of February when we started. A lot of our fans moved over from the old show. A lot of our guests, I’ve had no problem booking. I’ve been able to call in some favors and get a lot of great people lined up. I’ve had no problem restarting the business.
My network gave me a contract right away because they knew what I was capable of. The team that I needed moved over from my old company and started working with me immediately. It’s just excellent and easier to make that transition that I thought, don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard starting from scratch, but it’s a lot easier when everything that you need and everybody that you need to help you is onboard just by virtue of the fact that you were there for them at some point in the past that honestly, I barely even remember.
What people are going to realize is like when you build a network, your network is literally the most valuable asset in my opinion that you can ever build, because you transitioned to companies no matter what happened in your life, provided that you’re still alive to cash in on this, no matter what happened, you could rely on that network to help you out with where you are. For some reason, maybe you had to move across the country for whatever or move across the world, you can still cash on that network for some sort of help. That’s why I love building that network. You absolutely have to build it and it applies to everybody. It is very mass marketable. Everybody needs to build a very strong network and develop that social capital.
Jordan, I had a blast. We talked about a ton of stuff. You’ve got your networking course at https://jordanharbinger.com/course. We talked about your journey from when you started out as an intern at the embassy in Panama to then being convinced to go to a top ten law school at Michigan and then obviously going on to grad school or going into more debt, which led to you taking a job on Wall Street. All of it was part of this tremendous learning experience which led you to then asking your mentor why the heck he wasn’t showing up to work.
Probably one of the greatest stories ever because that led you down this valuable exercise of, “I need to be valuable. I’m not tied to dollars per hour output. If I produce a result, people will value me.” Then you learn all about nonverbal communication which led to CDs and a podcast, ultimately multiple shows on big networks and now you’ve got a show that has six million downloads, three million in the last 30 days. Did I leave anything out? Did we miss anything that you wanted to include?
I’d just love it if your audience would check out The Jordan Harbinger Show. There are lots of useful tips in there for everything. Every episode is practical. We make worksheets for every episode. The idea is that you learn something and so I hope I’ve helped explain and convey that. I would love to see some of your fans become fans of The Jordan Harbinger Show as well.
Go check it out. He’s an amazing guy and an excellent interviewer. I can’t speak highly of him enough. Jordan, I appreciate you. For everyone else, go check him out and we’ll see you in the next episode.
About Jordan Harbinger