I’m excited to be here with Jordan Harbinger. Jordan is an icon of the podcasting industry and if you hadn’t heard of him yet, this is an absolute treat. Jordan always had an affinity for social influence, for interpersonal dynamics and social engineering. He’s helped private companies test the security of their communication systems and worked with law enforcement agencies and been doing that since before he could drive. He spent years abroad in Europe, the developing world, South America, Eastern Europe, all over the place. He learned to speak several different languages, worked in all kinds of governments and NGOs and even been kidnapped twice. Maybe he’ll tell us how that happened. He’ll tell you that the real reason that he’s still here and alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into and out of just about any situation. Hopefully, you won’t have to talk your way out of this situation, Jordan, welcome.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
I’m absolutely thrilled to have you. Why don’t you just take a couple of minutes? We’ve been through your bio, but why don’t you give everybody a little bit of context for what got you to this stage of your career.
When I was younger, I went through school. I was one of those guys that was like, “I’m just going to teach myself geometry on the geometry exam.” Then I realized that there were a lot of smart kids in my high school, so I had to work a little harder. I got to college, I realized everybody was smart, but everybody was drinking a lot. I couldn’t outsmart everyone, but I could probably just outwork them by working a little and not drinking a lot or just working a little. I outworked every one and I got to law school and everybody was smart and hard worker, so I just said, “Can’t get smarter in a short period of time, can outwork everyone.” I went from being the guy who just studies sometimes to the guy who studies sixteen hours a day, six to seven days a week.
When I got to Wall Street as an attorney, everybody was smart, everybody worked twenty hours a day and I went, “I’m going to get fired. They’re going figure out I don’t belong here and I’m going to get fired,” and that’s called impostor syndrome. Back then it was called reality. Impostor syndrome for me was scary because I thought this is what’s going to happen, they’re going to figure me out and then I’m in trouble and I’m not going to have a career and all kinds of catastrophes are going to happen as a result. That was scary for me. Whenever you’re in law school, by the way, there’s all these urban legends, and it was, “Did you hear about the girl that didn’t want to do any of the work they were giving her, so she worked from home for four years and all she did was read Tom Clancy novels and then they eventually fired her. Four years, she collected a salary. It’s unbelievable.” I went, “I’m not trying to scan my law firm, but I would love it if they didn’t notice me and it gave me a lot of time to figure out what the hell was going on over here. Then by the time I have a clue what’s happening, I’ll be useful enough that they won’t want to fire me.” Sounds like a plan, perfect, let’s do this.
When you hit tough times in business, it’s better to have the relationships beforehand.
How do I work from home? That’s a good challenge. I don’t just stop showing up. That’s not going to work, so there was this partner named Dave and he had been the one who hired me. Dave was never in the office and I thought, “Dave must know how to work from home because he’s never here. He’s obviously just working from home because we’re lawyers. We bill hours, we bill hours in six minute increments.” I asked him to meet with me and HR made him do that because he was my mentor, so he had to check a box on a form somewhere, so he took me. It was funny because everybody else who’s getting mentored was going to see Blue Man Group and going to McCormick & Schmick for lunch and having drinks. He took me to the basement of our office building where there was a pop-up Starbucks and he’s like, “Ask me whatever you want.” He wasn’t a mean or rude guy, but he had important things to do and I was not one of those things most likely and he was right. I said, “How come you are a partner and everyone says you’re this great partner and everything like that, but you never are in the office? What’s going on?” He said, “People talk about that? They notice I’m not in the office?” I was backtracking because I’m thinking “I’m going to get fired at Starbucks. This is how my career ends?” I try to go off the radar and I ended up getting so far on the radar that now I’m going to get fired at Starbucks.
He puts his Blackberry down and he goes, “No, I work from home sometimes, but what I do is I focus on bringing in the deals.” I said, “How do I do that?” He went “After you worked here for long enough and you make enough connections with all the people in the industry and the investment bankers that are our clients, you play enough golf, you do enough jujitsu, you go on charity dinners, and you’re friends with all these guys, you’re playing racquetball, you’re playing squash, you just become friends with them and they’ll throw you the deals. You don’t have to worry about it.” I went, “Wait a minute, you just told me a million things I’m not doing and then said ‘You don’t have to worry about it.’ What are you talking about? I don’t know how to do any of those things.” I’m thinking I don’t know how to play squash; I better learn how to play squash, but what he was telling me was I form a bunch of relationships. I’m more valuable outside the firm that I am inside the firm because inside the firm, he can probably bill $800 an hour or $1,000 an hour as a partner. Outside the firm, he can bring in a million-dollar law deal once or twice a quarter, so his billable hour bonus, which is probably at a partner level, six figures or close to it, is nothing compared to the 5% he’s getting bringing in a million dollar law deal every once a quarter.
Why worry about billable hours when you can go do jujitsu, play golf, play squash and then go, “Bill, send me that memorandum about the real estate transaction we’re doing or the mortgage bank security pool that we’re doing for Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns.” That’s a lot easier. Instead of figuring out how to work from home so I don’t get caught, don’t get fired, after that point, I dedicated my life to “There’s another competitive advantage that I can build after having lost my other two, which were natural smarts and work ethic.” Those are both very limited but networking or relationship development was brand new. It was unlimited and even better, nobody else was thinking about it. All those junior level or mid level associates, all they were doing was grinding, which is what you have to do at a law firm, especially when you’re new: billable hours, billable hours, billable hours. I went, “I’m going to do that, but if I start to figure out how to network and create relationships now, then in five years when I need this skill set, I’ll have a five-year advantage on all these socially awkward colleagues that I have who are not ready for this.”
I had some great colleagues that were very social and I asked them about this and they went, “Just work here long enough and we meet enough people that eventually we start making deals and we’ll start to make business.” We called it rainmaking back then. They go, “We should figure this out.” Me and this group of guys who were always going out for drinks, we went “We just got to figure out how to make friends with investment bankers.” We made huge spreadsheets of who’d we go to school with? Who do we know? What I know now is that we were proactively and very deliberately creating relationships, networking and creating social capital. I thought that was going to get me to the top of the law game but what it did was take me down this path of learning about nonverbal communication, persuasion, influence, networking, and relationship development, which is far more interesting to me than law ever was.
I can imagine that it would be. First of all, it’s useful in every situation. Anytime you are around another human being, you can use those skills and it’s always different. My background is engineering and one of the ways that I escape the pile in engineering is very similar. I learned to interact with other human beings, whereas most engineers don’t like to do that. Fantastic insight, but I think it’s one of the most important competitive advantages that exists. It never goes away because most people won’t do it. Why do you think that is?
There are a couple of reasons. When I go to companies and law firms and speeches and things like that, what’s happening for me is people say, “Okay, but.” Here’s the entrepreneur pool, “I need to get my prototype going. I need to get my website going. I need to get my product launch formula ready with my team. Insert excuse here that sounds very, very, very convincing. Of course, I need a business set up before I can create relationships.” Actually it’s better to have the relationships beforehand. “Yeah, but I have no value to give because I don’t have any income or any money or anything.” It doesn’t matter. That’s not how we’re creating relationships. If I go to a company like Apple, people there go, “Yeah, but I’m so busy,” or “I know the people in my work unit and I’m not planning on leaving my work unit or my department,” or “We’re not allowed to talk to people from other companies because of trade secret stuff and they’re worried about that.” All of it is baloney. You go to an engineering firm and here’s where you get truthful answers. The scientists and the engineers at biotech firms, they go, “That sounds incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. I do not want to do that.”The best time to dig this well is before you’re thirsty, and the best way to do that is to create relationships before you need them.
It took me a long time to figure out that that was an honest answer. The other answers I was getting were very convincing lies we tell ourselves when pretty much everyone is just going, “I don’t know how to start those types of conversations. I don’t know how to maintain relationships. I’m deprioritizing this because not only is it awkward, I don’t see what I can get from it right away.” They have a fundamental misunderstanding of how relationships work, which I did too in the beginning. I was thinking, “I work at this law firm for eight years, I become a partner because I put in the time then, country club and I know everyone and I networked.” That is the opposite of how these things happen for most of us. What works is you work your butt off, you build a ton of relationships. Management loves you because you’re bringing in business. You recruited a couple of new associates. You are on this other project because the managing partner of that firm knew you and asked for you by name and you went to school with a couple other people on the team. They recruited you for this other high profile deal that’s getting closed because they remember you from Michigan or Michigan Law or whatever.
They have to make you a partner because you’re the one who knows everybody. It’s not you make partner and then, networking. That can happen. What’s better is if they decide, “We can’t afford to let this Jordan guy go. If he gets a better offer somewhere else and we don’t make him a partner, he could take his book of business with him and those guys have been worth $8 million over the last eight years. It doesn’t mean we’re going to lose them, but do we want to risk even losing one deal because he brought it to a different firm? Or do we want to just make this guy a junior partner and not worry about it?” I think the answer’s pretty clear. That’s how you get ahead in this. You dig the well before you’re thirsty and you create a lot of relationships before you need them, so that if there ever comes a time when you do need them, you can call upon them and you have them there ready for you.
Asking for a favor when you don’t have a relationship is like asking for a spare tire to be put in the trunk of your car after you get a flat. It’s just not good timing. You know this from sales and recruiting and things, the best time to get a new job is when you already have a job, especially if that job is going well for you. If you’re in sales and you can say, “Last year I closed $3.9 million worth of color copier machine sales.” That’s a great time to go and ask for a raise or get an offer from another company in the same niche. It’s not a good time if you go, “I got fired last year and I’ve been living off my savings and things are a little tight and I was hoping you guys could get me in the door.” That’s a terrible time to ask for something. The best time to dig this well is before you’re thirsty, and the best way to do that is to create relationships before you need them.
That’s great advice and you hear it all the time. Very few people in my experience actually act on it. I don’t know if the audience is aware, but you’re going through something where that little piece of advice you gave is important for you because of this transition that you’re going through it. I’m going to guess that because you’ve dug the well, this transition is going to go a lot better than it would for a lot of people. As you’re saying it, does that advice ring a bell in your head, like, “I’m so glad I’ve focused on that all these years.”?
I cannot even begin to tell you how important this has been for me. What’s happening essentially, just to give everybody a little bit of background, is I ran a show and I founded a company called the Art of Charm. It was about social skills and dating and stuff like that. I did that for eleven years. I negotiated an amicable split because I got tired of being branded as some dating guy when I’m married. I’m interviewing all these amazing people on the podcast and it just was not a good brand for me. I negotiated an amicable split. That deal fell apart for various reasons which I will not get into here because it doesn’t matter anyway. I found myself saying, “I could probably file a lawsuit and I might even prevail. However, I’m going to end up with an Xbox and a bicycle at the end of it, or I’m going to take the rest of the team that is no longer working with the company and create something new, but I’m going to have to create it using only the skill set that I have and the team that I have and low resources and probably start without an income and just have my relationships. It was scary. You watch ESPN and you see these athletes and they go, “You find out who your friends are.” I’m like, “That doesn’t mean that you find out how great everyone is.”
It means that nobody cares about you because you don’t have your money or your platform or whatever it is. You see guys like MC Hammer who was popular in ’93. Everyone left me and I’m sleeping in my car,” and you’re just thinking like, “No.” I was worried about that. I started to reach out. After freaking out, the second thing I did was make a list of people that I knew I could reach out to that I was just sure we’re going to say yes. Because I was thinking my ego is not going to like it if I get rejected too many times while I’m already down. I can only take so many kicks while I’m already down. I reached out to friends. They were like, “Of course, we’ll help you. We can’t wait.” That gave me a little boost and then I made another list of hundreds of other people that I’ve reached out to and I am reaching out to and a lot of my friends are introducing me to people like you as well. It just immediately exploded into this opportunity of “I am finding out who my friends are.” My friends are so numerous that I had no idea and then their friends are cool and then their friends of friends are great people, and their friends of friends of friends. I have so many opportunities coming my way that I’m super thankful.
When you have a network, management loves you because you’re bringing in business
The Jordan Harbinger Show that I run is a couple of weeks old as of this recording and has about a million downloads. Bear in mind, I didn’t leave with the email list. I didn’t leave with the social media. I didn’t leave with the website. I didn’t leave with the show feed. I left with my relationships, my name, my skill set, and my team, which does not include paid advertising. My team is production, technical, and web. This is not something that happened as a result of some magic trick or me going, “I’ll just pay a million dollars and get my followers back.” That’s not an option. This is all from going on other shows, having influence or say, “Jordan is now at The Jordan Harbinger Show. He left this other company. That’s brought a huge number of fans back and also gotten me a huge number of new fans in just a few short weeks, and so I spent years and years giving and helping other people without the expectation of anything in return, not keeping score, not expecting anything. The irony or maybe the funny twist on that is I believed that I would never need anything in return. I was not thinking “One day I’m going to get shit canned and it’s going to be terrible and I’m going have to call everyone.” No, I was just thinking, “This is a good way to live. I like it. Everyone thinks I’m a nice guy and it’s easy to help people.” It’s like, “I’m glad I did that.” Because had I ignored that, had I thought “I’m a big shot, look at me, I run an iTunes top 10 podcasts, I don’t care. I don’t have to help people. I’m a big deal around here. I’ve got 300,000 Twitter followers.”
That was not tempting because that’s not how I roll, but I could see why somebody who’s at the top of any industry would say, “I don’t have to go to this conference and talk with these people. I don’t have to reply to my fan mail. I don’t have to reply to people who tweeted me on Twitter. It’s a waste of time. I would rather watch Netflix.” I understand that, but I didn’t do that. I answer all my email. I answer all my tweets. I go to all the conferences. If people want to talk to me after my speeches, I talk outside for two hours. I enjoy it and that was a lucky break because that consistent process over the last ten years, a lot of those people who I helped eight years ago via email, they remember me. The person who I spent three hours helping and answering their questions eight years ago outside a conference, they are a big deal now and they got 300,000 followers. They went, “Remember when you helped me with that thing,” and I go, “No, but I’m glad you do.”
That’s what I’ve been leaning on and it’s been magical. If somebody offered me a million dollars cash and said, “I’m going to give you this, you can keep your team. You can keep all your skills, but you can’t keep your relationships, but it’s going to help you rebuild your business. Here’s a million dollars.” I would say, “No thanks.” I’d rather have the network that I have because I’ve probably gotten a million dollars in free exposure lined up over the next 90 days and people helping me out with things that I could never afford to pay them for for free just because I’ve known them and been nice to them in the past and helped them with other things.
Going back to your statement about you’ll find out who your friends are. I actually think you find out who you have relationship with. You may have people that are hanging around you that are there because of something that they get from you, whether it’s money or status or whatever. You mentioned athletes, a lot of the athletes and entertainers get into that because people are attracted to a tremendous amount of money and fame and all that thing. You do find very quickly you don’t have relationship there. What you’re finding is that because it wasn’t built on all of that, it was actually built on real human depth and relationship that you’ve got something to lean on and you’ve got something of value. You said “I didn’t just do it thinking I was going to get something out of it. I’m doing it because I just like to be nice to people.” For the audience, it’s that simple. It realty is. Everybody is out there looking for the hack. How do I build a network like Jordan has? There’s no hack.
I do have a couple of principles though that we could talk about that are useful that are mindsets or mental models. The first thing that I would say is me before I met Dave and thought I was going to get fired, I always thought networking was about a secret club. I’m going to some great school, “I went to Yale, so I know important people.” That’s how I thought it was or you’re born into it. “My dad’s a big deal. He knows the mayor,” so you’re well-connected now. I thought that’s what it was, but your network is your business development army. You can create it faster because like the tortoise and the hare, if you remember that fable, there are people that are born into a network and it is something to be coveted and admired.
Your network is your business development army
One of my close friends, he’s just American royalty. His great, great, grand uncle is Paul Revere literally. I found that out because I went to his house where his parents were and I went “Why do you have a giant painting of Paul Revere? You guys are so weird,” and his wife, who’s a good friend of mine was like, “They are related,” and he was like, “My parents have weird stuff.” He didn’t talk about it because he didn’t need to, but his wife was like, “He is his uncle.” This is a guy who was well connected as hell. His family knows everybody. They own a freaking island and I thought, “I’m never going be able to do that. I’m never going to compete with this guy in any arena. There’s just no way.” I started focusing on these skills and everything over the last ten years, and I realized like the tortoise and the hare people who are born into it, it’s not that they’re lazy, but they’re coasting. They’ve never had to think about how to make connections. They’ve never needed to. Their grandpa just sends an email or goes golfing with the CEO of whatever company you want to work for and you got everything you want. That’s how it happened. Luckily he turned out well, but I think a lot of people in this situation wouldn’t. The problem is, when those connect doors out of your life go away, they pass away or they retire or whatever, you’re out of luck.
For me, I’ve got to grind so hard to get even 1% of what they’ve got as a network, so I ran that race. I ran that race or walked it as the tortoise has in the parable. While the hare takes a nap, I realized, “I’m at the finish line.” I’ve got a huge network. It’s not the finish line per se in our story, but I’ve got a huge network and all these people that we’re coasting that looked so well connected, they have no idea how to do this for themselves. You have to learn it because if you’re ignoring this, you’re not immune to the consequences. You’re just being willfully ignorant of this secret game being played around you. If you’re at an engineering firm or a small business, you’re in trouble if you think, “I’ll focus on this later.” Because somebody at your level or below is thinking about it now and they’re doing a good job at it and you’re going to go, “How the hell did that kid I hired four years ago ended up my boss? How did that happen?” Or “How come I didn’t get that project? I’m a better fill in the blank than so and so who did. It’s all about who you know. I hate life.” People should be saying that about you, “This guy knows everybody. Of course he got the good deal, project, position, promotion.” That should be you, not you whining about how things are unfair. That’s the first set of rules, digging the well before you’re thirsty.
Have you ever seen Glengarry Glen Ross where he’s like “Always be closing.” That’s ABC, Always Be Closing. The rule that we teach on The Jordan Harbinger Show would be ABG, Always Be Giving. Always help other people without the expectation of anything in return. The reason that that’s important is because it’s just a great way to live and will make you feel good. Nobody cares about that right now, we’re trying to figure out what’s in it for me. Help other people without the expectation of anything in return. It doesn’t mean that you have to be the sucker who gets walked on and always turning the other cheek. What this means, and the reason this is functional is because you can’t see the opportunities that are over the horizon. If I’m a graphic designer, which I’m not, and I’m only looking for people who need graphic designer who can help me find people who need graphic design, then I’m not going to help you with your podcast audio setup, even though I know a guy who can help you with that. Because no, I just need to make graphic design, “Steve, do you need a website?” “No.” Alright, next. “John, do you need a website?” “No.” All right, next.
The way you do this because you say, “You’ve got a podcast. I happen to know this guy who’s got a large following. I don’t know if you guys want to connect, but he talks about engineers and how they can work better in the office and it might be a good fit for your show.” “Sure.” I’m connecting you two. I’ve helped two people without the expectation of anything in return and I did it in a scalable way. Because people go, “I don’t have time to help tons of people. I’m trying to get my own stuff off the ground, Jordan. Come on, man. This is a luxury. I can’t afford to waste any time doing this.” You can’t afford to waste time giving people free graphic design help all day, but what you can afford to do is make one introduction every week, every day if you can, but every week. Introduce two people, now you’ve got two token units, whatever you want to call it, a social capital where they both go, “That was a good intro. Thanks for that. I appreciate that.”
You do it in the following way. You do the double opt-in. The double opt-in is when I say, “Steve, do you want an intro to this guy? He does financial planning for professional athletes and since you’re a professional athlete, I figured you might want that intro.” You say, “Sure, I’ll take it,” and I go “Great.” Then I speak to the financial planner and I say, “I got an athlete for you if you’re interested.” He says, “Of course, thank you.” Then I make the intro. The reason I don’t just say, “Surprise. Here’s an introduction,” is because a lot of things can happen that might make it awkward where the athlete goes, “This guy emails me every week. He’s so annoying and now he’s in my Inbox from a friend. I can’t ignore it. That’s awkward for me.” Or the other person says, “I would love that intro, but I am slammed and I’ve got a kid who’s sick. Do it in three weeks, and then I’ll be able to reply and I won’t look like an idiot for having this thing get lost in my Inbox. He’s going to get an auto-responder that says I’m on vacation.”
Always be giving, always do the double opt-in and make it scalable by creating email introductions
There’re all kinds of things that can happen. If you get the double opt-in, you get commitment just at a tiny level from each person and then it doesn’t fail. The introduction is successful every time. If one person says no, you can just say, “It’s not a good time for that, but I’m going to do it later on,” and then nobody goes, “What a jerk.” They just think “I appreciate the offer.” That’s the double opt‑in and it’s important. Don’t skip it. It takes extra two minutes per introduction if that. It will make your introductions go smoothly, it will make you look professional. People will appreciate it. They will always take an introduction from you because they know you’re not going to throw them under the bus and make it weird. Always be giving, always do the double opt-in and make it scalable by creating email introductions that are using the double opt-in, not just doing free work.
Jordan just shared a fantastic couple of principles, two ideas for how to go out and build your network. You were talking about making these connections which is real practical advice. One of the things that people get hung up on is they feel like they need to make a super relevant connection. In other words, it’s almost got to be like a business referral and I always think that puts too much onto it. Most people are out there looking for connection with other humans anyway, particularly in business, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that bulls eye that, “Here’s your next million dollar deal.” What are some of the things that you look for as you’re thinking about who to connect? How do you think about this person would be a great match with this one?
When I’m thinking about who to connect the double opt-in, first of all, will help with this but what I’m thinking is, “This person started a new podcast. What I should do is connect them with people I think might be able to help them.” Or this person just said, “I’m in the cryptocurrency,” and I say, “How are you going to do your taxes?” and they go, “I have no idea. I don’t even know. I have to pay taxes because I don’t want to go to jail, but I have no clue.” I go, “I happen to know a CPA who specializes now in this and his client roster is filling up quick, but you might want to talk to him.” Of course, that guy wants more clients, so I might even have a standing opt-in where it’s like “Anytime you want to introduce a potential client, just go ahead and do it. You don’t have to ask me,” but I’ll always ask the other person of course. I’m looking for an obvious win and an obvious fit because I’m not trying to stretch it too much, but people might be surprised at what a fit actually means. Because there’s tons of people where you can say, “There’s this person who lives in your area and they raise chickens and they sell eggs online that are somehow special.” You’re both entrepreneurs and you both live in Northern California and he’s in your area a lot because he sells eggs to the stores near you, so you guys might want to meet up at some point just because you’re both good people.” That’s okay. It’s not a great intro but it’s okay. It’s not a bad idea to do something like that.
That said, there’s a lot of introductions that I’ve made where it’s just, “You guys would get along because Jordan does interviews with crazy people and you help authors get their books done, so you know a ton of authors and Jordan interviews a ton of authors. I don’t have anything specific in mind for you guys, but you guys should just know each other.”