Jordan Harbinger is an American lawyer turned Social Dynamics expert and Entrepreneur.
He’s the owner and co-founder of The Art of Charm, which is a dating and relationships coaching company – as well as a top 50 podcast on iTunes – which he’s been hosting for over 8 years now.
Jordan’s company, The Art of Charm, holds bootcamps and coaching sessions for men that want to learn the elements of emotional intelligence to become more confident, charismatic, and all-around better versions of themselves.
The Art of Charm gets 2,000,000 downloads per month, and around 5-10,000 NEW subscribers every month.
Jordan’s business sense, extensive knowledge of the industry and contemporary approach to teaching make him one of the best and most sought after coaches in the world.
“A core principle of my own life, and upon which this company was founded, is that one should leave everything and everyone better than they were before we met. By bringing positivity and abundance to others, you can’t go wrong.”
Jordan Harbinger has always had an affinity for Social Influence, Interpersonal Dynamics and Social Engineering, helping private companies test the security of their communications systems and working with law enforcement agencies before he was even old enough to drive.
Jordan has spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and speaks several languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war-zones and been kidnapped -twice. He’ll tell you; the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of), just about any type of situation.
Jordan: Yeah, the entrepreneurship thing is trendy, right now. It’s kind of wrongfully trendy. I’ll explain what I mean by that in a second. I love the fact that more people are becoming entrepreneurs, so don’t get me wrong there, but it’s gone—the pendulum has kind of swung too far. Whereas before it was like “Get a job. Get the 9 to 5, this entrepreneurship thing is a bunch of BS.” A lot of peoples’ parents or friends—things that you read about in articles like “Don’t let these people hold you back,” and I get that and I’m with that. However, the pendulum has swung way too far where there’s a lot of people being like “You’re in the 9 to 5, you’re a sucker. You’re just creating wealth for someone else. You’re a sheep,” and it’s like “No, there’s a lot of people who need to have those jobs, and are better suited to those jobs.”
And frankly as an entrepreneur—I hate that word. It’s so pretentious, but I’ll use it here because of clarity. I would rather have a 9 to 5 if I could be satisfied with one, but I’m just way too ADD slash hyper slash whatever control freak or whatever, insert label here. I couldn’t ever do it, I would be a terrible employee. I have been a terrible employee. The only time I can really stay focused on stuff is when it’s very flexible. It’s my own thing, I can work on my own stuff. I need to be able to jump gears a lot.
I’ve actually hired my own boss here at Art of Charm many times in the past because I need someone to be like “Jordan, that’s a good idea, but let’s go back and work on this project. Jordan did you do this?” I need my own boss to keep me focused. I just need to also not be under that bosses thumb, where I’m like “Can I take a day off and go to the beach,” and have him be like “No! You used all of your days off.” I can’t have that part, but I need the part where somebody cracks the whip and says “Hey, remember that think you said you were going to do? We need that now,” and I’m like “Oh cool, yeah. Sorry I got distracted by the fiftieth thing today, I’ll do that.”
I’ve got systems in place to be productive. I’ve got systems in place to maintain focus, but I do need someone to help me figure out where to spend my time, prioritize. Those are things that basically have now become administrative tasks and I don’t want to spend time doing that. I need somebody else who’s kind of steering the ship, and I need to be able to steer the brand, which is two different things. I also need someone to say “Hey these are the important thing you need to get done this week. Then you can fart around with pet projects later on.” The pet projects later on often become core parts of the business, they’re just not crucial in the mean time. Does any of that make sense?
Zephan: Yeah, I definitely see that value in having—I don’t know if you would call it like a virtual assistant or somebody who kind of manages things, because you get to a certain point where there’s so much going on. If you looked at my calendar right now, it’s color coded with every single thing that has to happen today. Whether it’s like doing my own laundry or recording a podcast episode.
Jordan: Yeah, my calendar is insane. It’s like fifteen minutes is the lowest amount of time you can schedule without editing manually in BusyCal or iCal. I’ve got the whole day from 8am to 8pm scheduled out. People go “Oh that’s terrible.” I’ve got Starbucks in there, checking email, all the little tasks that people do that they don’t put on their calendar, that’s all in there. That’s been a huge productivity hack for me personally because I think a lot of people, they’ll put things, if they use the calendar at all—usually people don’t because they think “I want freedom,” which is—you know don’t even get me started there. They’ll put things on their calendar like “I’ve got a call with Jordan at 4pm,” and that’s the only thing on their calendar. Before 4pm they’re “working”, but nothing is really prioritized. Some of that stuff is in their head. Mean while they’re kind of like “Ah, I better check my social media,” and then they’re checking their email and stuff like that.
The problem is you get sucked down all these little rabbit holes. I don’t care how focused you are. I’ll throw this out there without throwing anyone under the bus. I’m friends with the guy who literally wrote the book on this stuff, no names mentioned. Him and I will be emailing each other back and forth and one of us will finally go “Hey we should probably stop breaking the rules that we invented for people productivity wise and meet up in real life or get on the phone.” The thing is those rabbit holes are real. Yes, you batch email three times a day and you don’t answer before 5pm blah blah blah, but when your friend hits you up and you see it show up in your inbox and you don’t have your day scheduled out, guess what happens.
These rules are very flexible and they get broken a lot. The way that I try, usually in vain, to make it 100% go away, is by scheduling everything out and that’s great. My lunch is half an hour. If I finish early, great I’ll check email again or I’ll go on Facebook or something like that or call a friend. I’m not checking email instead of handling social media. I’m not checking my Facebook instead of doing something in our CRM. I’m not checking Twitter instead of handling a call or being late for something because of that. All of these things are delegated to someone else or they’re scheduled out on my calendar so they get get done. Then at the end of the week I don’t go “I never even got to this, and I didn’t get to that.” They get done.
The reason they get done is because there’s dedicated time to that. The only time that time goes somewhere that it’s not supposed to is like I had to drive somebody to the hospital, an emergency call came in, some other thing happened that was urgent enough that only I could handle it. Then it just gets moved to the end of the day, or to flex time that I build into the rest of the week specifically because I did have to handle a delivery or help move something heavy during my 8:30am whatever slot. That’s so key. That’s why people get “overwhelmed” is because they don’t know what’s next or because they didn’t build anything into their calendar that allows for a red flag to drop or something weird to happen in the middle of their day. It screws up their entire month.
Jordan: That stuff piles up. If you don’t have the help you need and you don’t have your own time scheduled out, you will run into these weird blocks and you won’t know what caused it. Or you’ll go “Well it was just this and then I scheduled my email and then this call ran late and then”—my whole day is ruined.
You’ve got to be really careful with your time. The way to do that is to block it off in your calender. If somebody calls twenty minute early or ten minutes early because they had a minute, just don’t answer the phone. You’ve got something else during that time. Like right now, I’ve got you on this list. We are doing this show right now. If my mom calls during this time, I’ll call her back in half an hour when we’re done. I’m not going to go “Oh, hold on,” and that’s reasonable because we’re talking live. People treat all of their other appointments that are just things they’re doing themselves like email, social media, editing audio or video or whatever home tasks or personal tasks that’s not involving someone else, they don’t ever treat those appointments like that.
The same thing happens to them when they’re like “I just never have time to go to the gym.” Oh because you didn’t put it on the calendar so phone calls and emails got over that. Or you didn’t build any flex time so even though this was on the calendar, something else ran late and now you don’t get to go to the gym all week. This is how people live their life, and this is how I lived my life until I got this religious addiction to the calendar. I don’t even know what’s happening later but I don’t have to. It doesn’t take up any psychological space. It’s be planned out for two weeks.
Zephan: Yeah, and that’s been a struggle that I had when I first got started. The calendar was all mental. It was in my head. I knew exactly what I was doing and when, but then it started to get to the point where people were like “Oh what are you doing Thursday?” It’s like Tuesday evening. I’m like “I have no freaking idea.” That’s where the calendar came in. I like your idea of scheduling in that flex time, because I think for me right now, I just kind of have these empty time slots. It would be better off to say this is my flex time that I can use for certain things, as apposed to just leaving it open ended. Then it could turn into anything from so and so saying “Oh I’m going out to dinner at such and such place. Do you want to go with me?” Or it could have been time that I could have been more productive. I like that as a take away.
I’m curious to jump back real quick. I like that you brought up that entrepreneur is a terrible word for what it is that we do. I think both you and I have come from working for other people and now we do both work for ourselves. How do we better describe what it is? There’s so many, what they would call “want-trapreneurs” out there now that it’s almost tarnishing the name that we give ourselves.
Jordan: Yeah I mean, for me the word “entrepreneur” is super pretentious. It’s not even because—I don’t even know now. It’s tough to sort of slot it in there—it just sounds so grandiose. The other problem is, it’s getting worse actually. If you say “Well, I run a small business with some friends,” that doesn’t sound as cool as,”I’m an entrepreneur. I run 17,000 different businesses.” It’s weird because all of these things are so trendy right now that everybody wants to do that. Like I said before, if you’re not doing them you’re some kind of loser or something like that, according to all the marketers that want to sell you entrepreneurship plans and products.
The problem is: 1. Not only is this bad for people who are in their regular job and perfectly happy doing it. They get this weird “fomo”, fear of missing out. Like “If you’re not running your own business, you’re working for the man. You’re going to die in a tragic accident because of this.” They just have this weird thing that’s going on. It’s causing a lot of people to start really—I know I’m going to take heat for this, and so are you for having me on the show, but oh well. There’s people who shouldn’t be starting businesses that are. The problem is, you don’t know who those people are until they’ve tried it for like 3 years or more. Anybody who saw me running Art of Charm with AJ 7 years ago would’ve been like “Guys, don’t quit your day jobs. Oh you did? Good luck.”
There’s a lot of people that don’t need to be entrepreneurs. That just aren’t doing what they really are cut out for work wise, and they have no business trying to start their own niche. One of the flags that I see from this are a lot of the things that are built up to be oh so cool and grandiose by the entrepreneurship, AKA internet marketer community is trying to sell people products on running businesses. For one thing, one of the flags is they’re all clones of each other. Oh, you’re going to start a business where you consult? Okay. What sets you apart? What experience do you have? Oh, nothing? You read an e-book on how to make money online? Well, here’s what I think about that—insert expletive here and blur out my hand, because that’s what I think about that.
You see these others guys that are like “Well I’ve run this business and I’ve got that business and I run this business.” Having been running a business of my own with the Art of Charm team for years now, almost a decade, one of the major red flags that I see—that all of the Silicon Valley guys that I end up hanging out with because I live in San Francisco, and a lot of the LA business folks that are actually successful—one of the major red flags that cause us to say “This is guy is full of you know what,” is they run two or three businesses, but they’ve only been in business a short time. It is so f-ing hard to run one business and do it well, and bring it to 7 and then 8 figures. It is so difficult to do that when you have no experience doing it. Once you’ve got one business off the ground, you can bring other businesses up. It’s like “Holy crap. That took me 5 years the first time and now it took me 3 months.”
Jordan: It becomes easier. When you’re like “Well, I consult and I do this and I do that,” it’s the business equivalent of “I’m an actress, model, singer, photographer.” In LA it’s a running joke that there’s people that do that because what that means is you work at Denny’s and you’re a server. You do all these things that are like “Oh, I have an app. I’ve got a business. I got an online consulting thing. I’ve got a membership website. I’m a social media ninja.” It’s like “No. You live in your parent’s basement.” It’s because when you see that, you’re just going “Oh man. You’re doing all of those things? Me and my friends run one business on our own. We’ve got an assistant, an administrator and a CPA. We still don’t have enough man hours. We still are looking to hire for the team.”
If you’ve got four businesses and you run them all with just you or your assistant or one partner, we know that those businesses are doing nothing. You’re just saying it because you want to sound important. That doesn’t work at the higher levels. It sounds great when you’re talking to somebody who just started yesterday. It sounds terrible to somebody who started 5-10 years ago. It’s a flag, and we won’t do business with people like that because it’s scary because it shows a lack of attention span. Again, this is where “Becoming an entrepreneur,” sounds really cool and they encourage all these bad habits. They encourage sort of bad branding, that I think bites people in the butt later on.
Zephan: Let me ask this then because entrepreneurship is given quite often as the turn key solution to “Oh you hate your job, you hate your life? Well, just quit it. Create a business.” Obviously, it’s not the only solution. It can be part of your solution. What is the best way for people now who are searching for a more meaningful or purposeful life? What do they need to do right now?
Jordan: Yeah, that’s a good question. I’ll wrap that thought with a last issue I have with the entrepreneurship thing which addressing that is most people are focused on the entrepreneurship stuff from the angle of “Wait. I can quit my job now, that I hate and has a bunch of stress, and start this new life. I can “work from anywhere.”” There’s pictures of laptops on the beach and what that says to most people is “Wow, I can work from the beach.” What that says to me is “You have to bring your laptop on vacation,” because that’s what real “entrepreneurship” is like. You have your laptop on the beach because you have 3,000 emails that you’ve neglected. Not because you can. The problem is, most people are focused on the escapist mindset of entrepreneurship. They’re focused on like “I can quit this job and leave and then I’m in control of my destiny.” They don’t think about the fact that now you’re responsible and the buck stops with you.
People should be looking for ways to contribute more value at work. They should be looking for ways to development more relationships in their industry or switch industries. You can switch jobs and switch industries. Believe it or not, contrary to what the sales letter says for the latest entrepreneurship product, there’s plenty of people that are in their 9 to 5 that love what they do and that’s totally okay. You can start a business on the side, but you should not quit your job until you’re at the point at which the only thing that’s required for you to scale your business is more of your time.
Most people, the mistake that I see them make I should say—there’s plenty of other mistakes I don’t see. The mistake I see them making is they’ll quit their job and then they fart around on social media trying to get like their Twitter engagement up for 6 hours a day and they’re writing blog posts that no one will read and things like that. When really, they should’ve stayed in their 9 to 5, focused on learning different skill sets, maybe switched industries or switched jobs, and then scaled their business by hiring as many people as they needed to get things done, not using their own time. Worked on this thing on their own time.
The thing is, if you’re running a successful business or a business that has legs, you can hire team members to do a lot of things for you. You don’t necessarily need to be there working on it 24/7. You will eventually need to quit in order to scale. That’s totally legit, but I think people are in a rush to quit and then they quit and they go “Okay. Now I’ve got to fill all this time that I have with business stuff.” They’re reading and they’re doing all that stuff. That stuff has it’s place, but what happens unfortunately is they go “Oh my God. I have no income now. This new business now needs to take short cuts to get income to pay me the salary that I just lost.” That’s a dangerous place to be because now you’re not playing the long game anymore, you’re playing the “Oh my God. How do I pay my rent,” game. That’s not good for business. It’s actually counter productive to quit your job at the 9 to 5 and focus on entrepreneurship. It’s really really counter productive in the beginning and people do that a lot.
Zephan: You’re recommending that entrepreneurship can still be an option, but it needs to be something that you think a little more wisely about as appose to just following what everyone’s selling you—is the whole “Quit your job tomorrow and next week everything’s fine and peachy.”
Jordan: Right. Entrepreneurship is the new—it’s like a lottery. People are going “Oh you can quit your job and you can work on this and you can make money from home.” If the idea of quitting your job and making money from home is more exciting than the thing that you’re building, then you’re doing it backwards. For Art of Charm, I would be doing this for free. If I won $100,000,000 I would still be doing this. Sure things would be getting done a little differently, etc., etc., and we’d be having this conversation on my yacht. I would still be doing this.
A lot of people are like “I need to figure out a way to make money from home because I hate my job.” That’s backwards. Or they’re like “No, I’m really excited about this app thing that I’m building. This thing that I’m doing,” but they’re more excited about not having to do the other thing that they’re stuck doing that pays the bills, or equally as excited. That’s problematic because then it’s just escapism. You really have to ask yourself hard questions that you might not be able to answer right away, which are: What’s more exciting, the freedom aspect or the thing that I’m building? I’ll tell you right now, when you look at really successful businesses, those entrepreneurs myself included, running a small business for years, you have no life.
You’re not working from the beach. That whole laptop on the beach thing is a freaking fantasy. If you’re just doing something that makes you like $7,000 a month so that you can sort of live off grid in Thailand, cool. Yeah, you can do that. If you’re building a real business that’s going to sustain you and your family, it’s going to work in the long term, it’s branded well, you’re managing a team, and it starts to get scalable, none of that stuff is going to be real for you for years. You’re going to be grinding it out 80 hours a week. It’s just reality. I don’t know anybody that’s successful that doesn’t do that, or that didn’t have a phase where that happened. I literally can’t name one person, when you get down to the non-B.S. part. There’s a lot of people who sell products that teach you how to do that, but I know those people and they work harder than anyone.
Zephan: I’ve seen it first hand myself, having left to start my own business. Up front I’m thinking “Okay. Replace the 40 hours a week that I was working and this will be fine.” Now if you look at my calendar, I’m getting up and working from essentially 8:00am in the morning until 11:00pm or 12:00am at night. I definitely understand that. I’m pulling 16 hour days constantly and sometimes if that means staying awake for 2 days straight, then that’s what I have to do to get it done.
To round this all off, how do we make sure that we’re at least happy in what we’re doing? It sounds like, or at least what I thought I heard you saying, is that we need to be more passionate about the thing that we’re going after as apposed to the so called money or freedom that comes along with it.
Jordan: That is what I said. Yeah, because when I first started The Art of Charm with the guys, with A.J., Johnny, and the crew here, none of us were like “Man, this is going to be a cake walk. We’re going to make so much money.” We were like “Okay, this is a business that has legs and it’s really fun to run.” I still worked on Wall Street, A.J. still worked in the cancer lab, Johnny still worked in a bar. He just got a bar job in New York instead of North Carolina, where he came from. We were busting our tails off. Then eventually, A.J. quit his lab job and moved out to New York. Johnny still had the bar job for a long time. I still worked on Wall Street for a while. Eventually I left the Wall Street gig. Johnny kept his bar gig for a while until we needed him to coach more programs that were all sold out. We were able to do that and give him a raise. He quit the other job. That was how it worked. We had those other jobs for a long time. Then we worked 80 hours a week and we still do. It’s just that now we really enjoy it and it’s lucrative instead of “Oh my gosh. If we do this and it doesn’t work, this sucks.”
There were years. Years, man, where I woke up everyday—maybe not everyday, probably 3 times a week. I was like “I should just work at the post office. I bet it’s less stressful.” I think I didn’t sleep for like 8 months one year. It was awful. I would be walking down the road or driving and I would see construction worker and I would be like “I bet those guys don’t have to worry about anything. They just go home after this. They’re exhausted, but you know what, they just don’t worry about anything.” Compared to what I’m worried about. I was at the point where I was like “I can’t handle the anxiety from this. I can’t do this for very much longer.”
I went and saw this really cool therapist. By the way there’s no shame in that. If you’re feeling super anxious about your business, get therapy asap. It will keep you sane. She was like “Listen, this is totally normal, but you have to decide whether or not the anxiety level is here.” We looked at all these different ways to lower the anxiety in other areas of life like getting a trainer, eating better, getting sunshine, returning phone calls on walks instead of sitting in the office all day and doing it, getting a standing desk instead of sitting on a bed, which I did for literally 2 years. I worked from a bed. Sitting on the edge of a bed because I didn’t have an office. There were a lot of little things that I was doing wrong that added up.
Once I sort of straightened out that other stuff my performance in the business started to increase, which got to the point where I didn’t have to worry about putting food in the mouths of myself and the whole team, selling programs and things like that. Now it seems like “Wow, it’s so easy now.” There’s still a ton of work, but we made it through that curve. That’s why this is not for everyone. I think people think “Oh, I’m going to set up this automation thing where I make money online.” For very few people at low amounts of money, that’s feasible. It’s not necessarily going to be sustainable. It’s not necessarily going to feed your family, and it’s certainly not going to build a real scalable business.
Zephan: Right. This has been a great conversation so far. Just to round things off, is there any words of encouragement that we can give to people? I know we probably scared the crap out of like everybody listening right now, whether they started a business recently or considered starting a business. Is there any words of wisdom that you can give to them saying that “You really can ultimately find something that you will 100% love doing”?
Jordan: Sure. This might just be my weird way of teaching stuff, but I think that what I just said is encouraging if you look at it this way: 1. I love what I’m doing, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If you’re in a hole full of you know what, you can largely persevere and get through it if you have the fortitude to do so. 2. If you’re in something and you feel like there’s no way out of it. Like if you’re working right now and you’re thinking about starting a business, you don’t have to think about quitting your job and starting a business at the same time. Don’t do that. Start the business small, scale it up, make tons of mistakes while it’s a hobby and not the way that you’re going to put food on your table for yourself, your family, pay the rent, etc.
Yeah, start small and scale up. There’s no reason you should have to quit your job right away. There’s no reason you should even be looking to do that until you need to scale it with your time. The thing is, you’ve learned this stuff along the way. There’s all these products that offer to teach you how to do the business stuff, but none of them so far as I’ve seen are very complete. Really what it comes down to is mental fortitude. There’s a lot of work ethic involved and little systems that you need to do to make sure that you’re productive. They’re all learn-able. I’m super super ADHD. I barely made it through college. Then I went to law school and started to crush because they had these systems in place, and was quite frankly willing to out work everyone. No matter what. If you think people are smarter than you or harder working than you or whatever, you can work on your weaknesses and leverage your strengths and you’ll be fine.
That said, don’t be married to your idea. If things aren’t working out right away for your idea, you can always pivot. You can do the entrepreneur thing if you really want to, it’s just a matter of finding something that really suits you. If you’re doing your business right now and you think “Wow, I used to love it, but now I hate it.” You don’t necessarily have to quit what you’re doing, but you can outsource the stuff that you don’t like. You should start to look at ways that you can be flexible with it. I can’t count on my hands or toes put together, how many times in the past, probably, decade I’ve said “I hate this business. I’ve got to get out of it.”
Now I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The dip wasn’t a month, it wasn’t a year, it was half a decade for us. You know, it was a long time. If you’re willing to slog it out, you can be successful.
Zephan: Yeah, and I 100% agree. It’s going to take a little bit of work, but you really can get to a point where you love, just like you said, 100% of what you’re doing. Jordan, it’s been an awesome conversation. What is the best way for people to keep track of you, The Art of Charm, and things that you’re doing?
Jordan: Sure, theartofcharm.com is our website. You’re listening to a podcast, so if you’re into podcasts and really good actionable advice, I have The Art of Charm podcast in iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening to this. You can listen to The Art of Charm. People can connect with me on Facebook and Twitter as well. I’m really easy to find and I’m super accessible. I reply to like everything.
Zephan: Yeah. Thank you because I reached out to you over Reddit and that’s how we originally connected. Thank you for being open to communicating with people and having a great conversation.
Jordan: My pleasure, man. Thanks for listening to my rambles.