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Jordan Harbinger on building social capital both personally and professionally

By August 2, 2017 August 12th, 2020 One Comment

“So now we start to think of ourselves as confident, open, friendly people. We’re treated as open, confident and friendly people and that is a virtuous cycle.”– Jordan Harbinger

Jordan Harbinger

Jordan Harbinger (@TheArtofCharm), an authority on social interactions has traveled places in the world that most people have never gone and that many people wouldn’t dream of. He tells us hair-raising stories about being in the former Yugoslavia as it disintegrated and his time in North Korea. As he describes his kidnapping, you get an idea of how he is able to use his communication skills to talk his way out of what were literally life and death situations. Now he’s the co-founder of the internationally recognized “The Art of Charm” podcast and consulting with business and individuals on developing networking and communication skills. Listen to this episode to hear some quick tips on communication and networking for entrepreneurs.

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Building Social Capital with Jordan Harbinger

Hey folks, welcome back. This is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today. As you know, I do not take it lightly. I know your time is valuable and there are a million things vying for your attention, so I certainly appreciate the time.

Today is a Harbinger of really great things to come. And my guest is Jordan Harbinger, of “The Art of Charm” podcast and a book by that time. And all around pretty incredible guy.

Jordan, this is take 2 for you and I. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast buddy.

Jordan Harbinger: Hey, thanks for having me back on the show. If you’re wondering what happened to the 1st episode of me on the show–there isn’t one.

Mark: (laughing) There isn’t one. It’s in the black hole archives, right?

Jordan: Right.

Mark: We went through the entire podcast, and when we were done I realized that I didn’t record it. And when I realized I didn’t record it, I was a little embarrassed. So we went to Jordan and say, “Hey, you know, we didn’t record this.” And Jordan said, “No problem. I always keep a backup.” But… drum roll. (laughing)

Jordan: But what happened was I had cleaned out my hard drive and I thought, “Well, this is already recorded.” And, I don’t know, I must have just caught up the last few shows, because I usually only delete them when they’re out. And that was the exception. The one time in 5 years when I accidentally deleted something before it came out. And it happens to be the one time in as many years that that same person also didn’t have a copy. So perfect illustration of Murphy’s Law there.

Mark: I was thinking about that. We literally spent 45 minutes talking about your kidnapping episodes. So maybe this time we’ll shorten that down to, like, 35 minutes, (laughing) so we can get into some other stuff.

Jordan: Sure.

Mark: So let me give you a little bit more color about Jordan. Jordan… he’s a communications expert. He used to work Wall Street as an attorney, but he bailed on that. He worked for the State Department. He’s travelled the world over several times, and been to places that usually only Navy SEALs go to. Such as North Korea and other war-torn regions.

He speaks 5 languages. So he’s an expert learner. And now he helps everyday people learn the art of charm. How to become a great communicator.

So parents out there, if you want to learn how to communicate with your kids, then let’s listen in. And if you’re a corporate chieftain who wants to learn how to communicate better…

Those are some of the things I’d love to get into today with you Jordan.

But first off, I’d love to just get a little sense for the listeners about who you are. Where you’re from. What were the influences in your life that led you to be such an Indiana Jones kind of adventurer?

Jordan. Yeah, so… When I was a kid, I was an only child and I was getting bored. And that’s always a problem. So I started to skip school cause I didn’t like it. I was bored there too. And I figured out… well, I got a computer and I got the Internet. And that was the beginning of the end.

So I figured out how to wiretap those green boxes of phone pairs, and I borrowed a lineman’s handset–those orange phones–and I started listening in on phone conversations. And I’m hoping the statutes of limitations is up. (laughing)

Mark: (laughing) They’re coming to get you right now. I can hear ’em.

Jordan: I know, right? Damn it.

Allegedly I did this stuff. There’s no evidence that I did.

Mark: It’d be pretty hard to prove that. Those phone lines are barely in existence anymore, right?

Jordan: That’s right. That’s right. Who uses landlines anyways?

And so I essentially was listening in on conversations that were had by adults. And when I was 14, the only adults that were in my life were people that fed you, drove you places, yelled at you, gave you homework and then there were your parents. Who were, like, weird and not interesting somehow.

And what was really interesting about this wiretapping thing was I was starting to get a picture of conversations and a picture of adult humans that you just don’t get when you are a kid. Because they talk in ways that they don’t talk when they’re talking with kids around.

And one of them in particular was my neighbor and he was getting a divorce. And he would talk to his soon-to-be ex-wife in one way. And he would talk to his friends in another way. And he would talk to his sister in another way. And then he would talk to his mom in a way that was different from all of those as well.

So it was a very interesting setup for me, because I started to hear what people were like. And I remember thinking to myself, “Man, if he just talked to his soon-to-be ex-wife the same way he talked to his mom, he wouldn’t be having these problems in his relationship. Instead he talks to his soon-to-be ex-wife in way almost like he’s talking to his friends. You know, macho BS. And I thought, “What a weird situation.”

“And so I started to get to know and see human nature up close in a way that was highly unusual for a kid.”

And I started to get into more and more trouble doing that type of thing. I started to do things like cloning cell phones. Which is where you basically reprogram a cell phone and you can hear other people’s conversations that way. And you can make calls and stuff like that.

And I started to get into this sort of underground hacking scene quite a bit. And I got in some trouble that led to me becoming a “person of interest” for the FBI. But I was so young that they didn’t prosecute me. Instead I started working with them.

So, it became kind of an upward trend. Because that was another time… that was another–not first time, but rare time–that an adult had said that I was smart and maybe could do something. That wasn’t just my mom or parents. And that was important because I thought, “These are FBI agents. These guys are smart. They know what they’re talking about.”

Mark: So let me unpack that a little bit. You got rolled up by the FBI, but you were too young to be prosecuted, so they basically said, “Hey, hacker, you’re going to work for us.” Or else? Is that kind of how they said it?

Jordan: Yeah, it’s the nineties right? So what was happening was they busted a bunch of people for cloning cell phones. And then there’s this 14 year-old kid. And they’re like, “What? How did you…? Where did you get this?” And I said, “You know, I made it. I took the cell phone apart, and I reprogrammed it, and then I put it back together.”

And they were like, “You’re lying.” And I showed them exactly how I did it. And then I showed them how I can wiretap. And I showed them how computers can get credit card numbers online. And they were like, “Hunh. Okay, let’s call Washington.”

Back then there was a cyber-crime guy or gal. Or 2. And they were both in Washington. There wasn’t a cyber-crime division, or… maybe even now, FBI, everything is cyber-crime. What do I know?

So they were calling this Washington guys. They were like, “Yeah. This kid did this, this, this and this.” And they were thinking, like, “How is that possible?” Cause they probably had one or two people that were doing the cell phone cloning thing in all of the United States. That they had been catching and working with. And then suddenly there’s this random kid in Detroit doing it? I mean, it just doesn’t check out.

So I started helping them with a lot of different little things. And I was helping one of the more junior agents and his boss, who was a more senior agent, figure out things that were happening online. So I would send them transcripts of chat rooms that people thought were hidden on America Online–that were pedophiles doing weird stuff. And I would just fax them these transcripts

And of course, as you know, from a little document called the Constitution–Law Enforcement agencies can’t just wiretap whoever they want. They can’t just search whatever they want.

But if a concerned citizen like me goes and finds something of note that’s sketchy and sends it to them, then that’s different…

Mark: Then they have to follow up…

Jordan: So I started doing things like that. In a very loose relationship. And they started saying things like, “Hey, you should come work here. Maybe we can get you a college scholarship. Maybe you should do this. Do that.”

And I started to get almost mentored by these guys, and

“I realized for the first time that I wasn’t just a weirdo misfit, I was a weirdo misfit in a good way. And maybe I could get my act together.”

So my grades started to go way up. Even though I was spending way more time doing things I probably shouldn’t have been online. I started to realize that I actually had a future instead of just some sort of Internet geek who was going to sit around in his underwear online all day.

And that was a big deal for me. And that was the beginning of me trying out a lot of new things. So, I worked with the FBI for a while. I coasted through the rest of undergrad. I went to college where I wasn’t smarter than everybody else at college. But I was able to outwork everyone because everybody was drinking their face off. And so instead of natural smarts being my competitive advantage, hard work became my competitive advantage. And the same thing in law school.

And I eventually went to Wall Street as an attorney. Which seems like a far cry from the FBI, but was yet another turning point as well. Because when I got to Wall Street and I realized that everybody was smart and everybody was hard-working at that level of the game. Then I needed a new competitive advantage, and I started to research what those might be. And that’s how I got into the relationship building business that we run now here at The Art of Charm.

College and Law School


Mark: So how did you get interested in law? I do find that kind of interesting. You’re cruising along, you’re helping the FBI, and all of a sudden you’re like, “I wanna go to law school.” What’s up with that?

Jordan: Yeah, so what happened was I graduated from the University of Michigan. I’d been studying Russian, Spanish, German, Political Science and Economics. And I’d made my own concentration. And my advisor was like, “This is really unusual. It’s really great. These skills are going to be in high demand.”

And then I went to get a job at Best Buy while I was looking for other, quote-unquote, REAL jobs. And Best Buy was like, “Yeah. We’re pretty full man. We’re not really hiring right now.”

And I remember thinking, “But wait, I went to college and I did well. And I have all this interesting stuff that I can do.”

And they’re like, “Yeah. You know, we have some part-time help on early weekdays in the music department that you could do.”

And I thought, “Sell CDs? Early in the morning? What am I going to learn from this?” And early on, even then, it was important for me to be learning something on every job or every career. And I tried to stretch my mind around what I might learn from that. But it’s not like I’d never had a job. I worked at a movie theater before. So I already had the old, basic responsibility thing locked up pretty well. I thought, “Oh, this might be a waste of time.”

And so my mom’s friend was like, “You should be a lawyer.” And this is something that I feel like adults say to kids. They just say, “You should be a lawyer,” because it’s a respectable career that makes a decent amount of money. That isn’t doctor, which requires a lot of prep. You can just sort of sign up for it and go to law school in the end. As far as anybody else knows.

And so I went, “Uh, okay.” And I had a girlfriend at the time who was also going to the University of Michigan, and I thought, “Oh, I’ll just apply to Michigan law.” But the catch was… there’s one little hitch here which was that Michigan law is one of the top law schools in America. And it’s actually really hard to get in. You can’t just sign up for it, right? It’s not 1965, when you can just kind of go, “Oh, I’m going to go to college here because I’m from there.” It’s a different game now.

So I applied there. I got wait-listed. And I wrote a really compelling argument that said, “If you let me in for next year’s class, instead of the current year which I’m applying for, I will get a job and kill time in the meantime. And I’ll put down my tuition deposit and I won’t apply to other schools.”

And I didn’t think that was going to work, but it did. They liked the way that I’d formulated the argument. The argument in the letter I wrote.

So then they said yes, which is a miracle. I mean, it’s like, really, really, really good. I had a lot of friends calling in–putting in a good word for me to. People that had been accepted. So that was kind of my first idea with leveraging relationships. Although I didn’t necessarily do it on purpose. I just thought it would help anyway that I could.

And then I had to kill a year. And I ended up going and working in the former Yugoslavia, which is kind of where… That’s where the trouble started that we talked about last time.



Mark: Right. Okay, so let’s skip by law school and go back… I know Yugoslavia happened in the interim year. Let’s dig into that. Cause I think that you’re already becoming a communications expert to some degree.

You’re studying languages. You had your early childhood experiences kind of tapping in and observing how people communicated verbally. And now you find yourself in a war-torn region of the former Yugoslavia which is now broken down into… well, Kosovo, right? And Bosnia and Herzegovina and all that. And you get yourself basically kidnapped, am I right?

Jordan: Yeah, basically kidnapped. And it’s funny cause when I lived there the map… they weren’t even sure what to put on it. People in Serbia were saying “Yugoslavia” because it still had Montenegro. But then some people called it “Serbia and Montenegro.” And then they said, “That counts Kosovo, so let’s call it Yugoslavia.” But then Kosovo decided they were going to try to be independent. So half the country called it Yugoslavia, half the country called it Serbia and Montenegro.

Then Montenegro broke off and it was like, “Well, okay. I guess we’re just Serbia now.”

So that the people who made maps were like, “Make up your mind already, damn it. We can’t reprint these things all the time.”

So it was kind of a mess…

Mark: What were you doing there to begin with? Was that State Department work or FBI…?

Jordan: That was. That was State Department work. So I got a grant from… actually it was Defense Department work. I got a grant from the Department of Defense to go and work and live in Serbia. And that was supposed to be totally civilian in nature, but their program there was so fledgling that the guy running it was kind of knucklehead. This is where… it was just a mess.

Looking back on it, they picked some academic turd with absolutely zero street smarts to run this diplomatic initiative by the Department of Defense. This wasn’t a former military guy. He wasn’t a government contractor. He wasn’t some guy who was sharp and had worked in the region. He was just some geek from wherever.

And I say geek… Normally, when I’m talking about myself I say geek. This guy was just a putz, really. He had no idea what he was doing. And he was never in town. And he never knew where I was. And he never filed the right papers.

And that eventually led me to sort of do my own thing. Because when you live there you have to register with the police every time you come back into the country. And I was travelling a bunch. I was moving around. I’d go to Macedonia. I’d go to Bosnia. I’d go to Montenegro to check things out. Romania. Moldova. I was taking a look around the place. Croatia.

And every time I came back I had to register with the police. And this guy was supposed to help me do that with the help of the US Embassy and everything, but he was never in town. So I always had to do it on my own. And one day I had a late flight coming back from I think Austria or something like that. And I went to the police station–which I had to do–to register where I was. And they had a shift change or maybe the cop there was just being a prick that day. I don’t know.

But he basically decided that because I was in the police station at 11 PM at night, that I must be a criminal. And…

Mark: (laughing) Like you’re just going to walk into the police station if you’re a criminal.

Jordan: Right. Because that’s how criminals apparently get caught there. They stroll into the police station and sit patiently on a bench. I mean, give me a break.

So I sat there, and the guy decided, “Well, okay. You’re clearly foreign and you must be some kind of criminal. So I don’t know what to do with you. And I don’t know where this paperwork is. So rather than let you go, I’m going to put you in a jail cell overnight.”

And I was like, “What? I’m under arrest now? This is such BS.” This is what it’s like when you have zero freedom, okay?

They threw me in a jail cell. I was in there with a bunch of gypsy or Roma women who were smoking. They were prostitutes. They were there with their pimp or whatever. They were smoking unfiltered cigarettes the whole time. And talking loudly in some language that I didn’t understand.

It was one of the most miserable nights I’d had. And I’d been through this police rigmarole crap over and over and over. Bribing some fat slob to stamp a piece of paper that said I was back in the country and had checked in.

And so I just decided, “You know, to hell with this. This is the last time I’m going to do it.”

So I didn’t register the next time I came back into the country. And of course, the police being as disorganized as they were–they had no idea for months and months about where I was. And then one day they had… I think… I don’t know. Somebody had seen me on TV, or I had landed back on their radar somehow. But I was AWOL. They went to go visit the place where I had last registered, and I wasn’t there. My stuff wasn’t there. And I got a panicked call from my friend who did live there saying, “You gotta re-register now because the cops came here and they said they’re going to arrest me. And I live with my grandma. You gotta go and we gotta re-register you now.”

And I said, “Cool.”

So she went in and de-registered me. And then I never re-registered. Cause I wanted to find a place on my own and I didn’t want to deal with the cops,

“so I basically just went completely off the grid. And that started to catch up with me after a while.”



Mark: Okay, so… when it did catch up with you, what did you learn about communications. Like, when you had to basically talk and scheme your way out of a pretty nasty situation, give us the highlights on how that improved your little toolkit so that you could get out of the nastiest situations in the world. And what can we learn from that?

Jordan: Sure. So of course, the long story takes like an hour to tell. The short version is I get approached by these state security cops. These guys are not real cops. They are like Bosnian militias that now their village has been burned to the ground by Croatians or Bosniacs or something. So they live in Serbia now. And the way to get them to not be prosecuted for the war crimes they committed against other people’s villages and towns is to give them a badge and say that they’re an agent of the state. Therefore they’re combatant in a war–blah, blah, blah. They can… I don’t know the exact legal loophole but basically it’s… they weren’t just random people. They were somehow under state control and they basically make it so the state has no authority over them.

They fall under the direct command and control of the president, I think. So it becomes a huge issue. And that was so that they could get around throwing these guys in jail for what they considered to be something patriotic.

Mark: Doesn’t sound too far off from what we do in this country.

Jordan: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean how does that work?

Mark: (laughing) You want to stay out of jail, just work for the president.

Jordan: Yeah, pretty much. Good point.

Mark: Until they throw him in jail. And then you’re in trouble.

Jordan: And then you gotta go. Yeah. And then you gotta go somewhere else.

So these guys they picked up me and my friend, cause they were looking for a few of us. And these guys are also known to rape women and stuff like that. We were with a bunch of girls and we had the girls run in one direction, and then I ran in the other direction, knowing that they would come after me instead of the women.

So they were driving in a jeep on an island that has no cars. So it was a dirty, muddy, non-road and they drove after me. And we let the girls get away. So since I had fled and also they were looking for American spies, apparently. Supposedly. They decided to take me and my friend to their “safe house.” My friend was also… he had organized crime connections from back in the day. I mean, from way back in the day. From when he was probably 9 years old. Because his dad was Saddam Hussein’s lawyer, so he was connected with other unsavory figures inside Serbia. And these are just the kind of people you run around with when you’re an ex-pat who works for the Department of Defense in a country like Serbia.

So I wasn’t exactly winning any brownie points with these guys, being like, “Look, I’m just an English teacher.” They were kind of like, “Uh-Hunh. And you’re just hanging around with this guy’s kid. And you’re just hanging around here. And you’re an unregistered foreign agent in the country.”

Which is funny, because now I can use that term. But before Michael Flynn, nobody had a clue what that was. Now people are like, “Oh, I’ve heard of that.”

So I was an unregistered foreign agent essentially. Even though technically I was registered, I just wasn’t registered in the way they wanted. I was registered with the government, but not with the local police. And that was good enough for them to take us to their safe house.

Now these guys were also high as a kite. On Meth, usually. Whatever these guys were on, they were just extremely wired. Red eyes. All kinds of screwed-up. And they were armed.

So we ended up back at their safe house and my friend is getting his ass beat. And I’m keeping extremely calm. On the outside. On the inside, I’m freaking out of course. But on the outside I’m staying as calm as humanly possible. And I’m also… the takeaway here is not just Keep Calm and Carry On when things are out of control.

“The takeaway here is you can control a situation by controlling your own emotions. Or your appearance of emotions.”

And so, what this looked like in practice was that since this guy was angry, and getting upset and freaking out, and wired. I was asking very logical questions. Cause it’s very difficult for your brain to have an extreme emotional reaction and also think about something logically at the same time. So when he was saying something like, “Your country bombed us, and we’re going to beat your ass. We’re going to burn you.” And they’re bringing out cigarettes and electrical cables and stuff.

And you’d say something like, “Well, you know, somebody has to call my boss. Because my boss is going to want to ask you a few questions.”

And they’re like, “Are you threatening us?”

And I’m like, “No, no, no. She literally wants to ask you questions because she wants to know exactly where we are. Because she works for the government and I think she works in the same department as you.”

And they’re like, “What? No, no, no. Anyway, shut up. We’re going to beat your ass.”

And it’s like, “Okay, but before you do that, I wanna know what you like to do at this certain restaurant because I’m going to be going there later today.”

And they’re like, “What? No, you’re not going anywhere. What are you talking about? No. You are a spy.”

“Well, okay. But if I’m a spy, how come I know a bunch of people that work in the same office as you?”

“What? Who do you know?”

So I’m confusing them a little bit, but not with totally random stuff. With logical conversation.

Mark: This is almost exactly what James Bond does when he talks himself out of a really hairy situation until he can find some kind of lever or advantage or opening. And then he just pounces.

Jordan: Yeah. I think the reason that this works is not just something cool that I saw in a James Bond movie for example. The idea behind this is that I’m engaging the logical brain. And so eventually I find something that sticks. And it’s very difficult for people to both engage that kind of talk and resist that kind of talk. For example, if these guys were smarter and better trained, they would have just started doing what they were going to do. Instead of just yapping up a storm, and being threatening. And trying to be tough guys. They would have actually executed their plan, which was whatever… I don’t even know if they had one.

So they screwed this up, and I started to talk about things like food, restaurants, light levels of politics that weren’t going to get me in trouble. Areas around town. The logistics of travelling through their country. Driving laws. Just really, really concrete, logical topics.

Until finally the guy got really tired. And he was frustrated, but he was more interested in talking about food and drink than he was in actually interrogating me. Cause I think he knew that I had nothing to say. I mean, I was 25. I looked young, then. I look young now. I looked very young then. And I think he knew that what he was doing was just a bunch of BS.

And so the idea that I was some kind of spy was just as ludicrous to him as it was to me. And so my friend was in the other room. And his guy was sort of going to town on him, so I think he thought, “Okay, if these guys are up to something, we’ll get it from the one guy.”

Mark: Were they beating him up? When you say “going to town” what were they doing?

Jordan: Oh yeah. Big time. They were beating him up. They had a needle and they kept poking him with it in the body. It was really gross, actually. And he had to go to the hospital to make sure that he didn’t have anything worse than Tetanus. Which thank God, he didn’t. But they kept poking him with this syringe. That was really scary because he had all of these puncture wounds. And puncture wounds are one of the most disgusting looking things that a body can have. They’re just really gross.

I mean, granted I’ve seen gunshot wounds on the Internet or television or something like that. Those are obviously more disgusting because there’s more there.

But puncture wounds on somebody who’s walking around is just really, really, really gross. And especially when they’re needles, cause it’s just such an invasive thing to think you might have AIDS. It’s really, really gross

So they’re beating him up, and they’re treating him really poorly. And I’m discussing with the guy who’s interrogating me food, drink, restaurants. What to order when you go to certain places. So as you can sort of see, the logical thread of these conversations has started to really take root with this guy.

Now, he still feels like he’s in control. But I know that I’m controlling the conversation which sort of is a nice prelude to me running a talk show on “The Art of Charm” podcast, because I control those conversations too. In a way that makes the guest feel that they’re still in control of the conversation. Which makes for a better show.

So that’s kind of what I’m doing with this guy here. And at this point, my plan is “just look for an opportunity.” Just try to figure out if you can get him tired or something where he goes to check on the other guy and maybe I can get out. Cause I’m not restrained. I’m just sitting down. I am in a basement, but I’m not restrained. I’m not tied to a chair or anything like that.

And so this goes on for quite some time. And we’re talking about this homemade liquor that they have in Serbia. In the Balkans and in Eastern Europe in general. It’s called Rakia, so you probably heard of Slivovice and things like that. It’s something like that. Greece’s version is Ouzo, I think. And Russia, they just make Vodka at home.

So this is kind of like a homemade Vodka made from different types of fruit. And I… we start talking about our favorite types of that. Cause there’s a million different kinds. It’s very popular there. Even young people make it in canisters in the garage.

And I said, “Yeah, man. After all this, I could use a drink right now.” Even though it was probably 8 o’clock in the morning, cause they’d had us pretty much all night. And they guy and I keep talking, and then he gets up for a second and he goes somewhere and I think, “Okay, this is probably my chance.”

So when he comes back down the hall, I’m going to… cause he’s still blocking the door. When he comes back down the hall, I’m going to put up my last stand here. And I see him coming back with a club and I think, “Crap. Okay, I hadn’t thought about him going to get something else. I better figure out what I’m going to do.” And I’m thinking, “Uch, man. Is it single leg takedown, and then I get hit with this club? Or do I go for the top?” And then I remember learning this stuff back in the SERE courses and stuff like that is control the weapon is what you’re really supposed to do.

So I’m brainstorming all this. Trying to remember all this crap. When I realize he’s not holding a club, he’s actually holding a bottle. And he comes back in and he plunks the bottle down, and he goes, “This is the stuff we keep here, for when we’re waiting.”

And I was like, “Waiting for what? I don’t want to ask that question. So let’s see what happens.

So he plunks the bottle down and he pours us a couple of drinks. And we’re drinking this homemade liquor that they keep at the safe house. And I realize at some point that I’m drinking with this guy, which means I’m maybe not going to die here? I don’t know. Still TBD.

Mark: Right. So your buddy’s getting the shit kicked out of him and you’re drinking with your…

Jordan. Right. Exactly. Right. I’m drinking. But it could just be very James Bond-like, where, yeah, I’m having a drink but I’m gonna get shot in the back of the head in 15 minutes and I just don’t know it. You know?

So really, I don’t know what’s going on. And I decide after a few rounds, I said, “Look man. I need some water. Because I haven’t had any water for a long time, and I don’t feel good. And I think I’m gonna puke, and it’s going to be a big mess.”

And he goes, “All right, all right, all right. Hold on. Hold on.”

And I realize there’s no water anywhere except maybe back where he came from. Because I’m in a basement with rusty pipes sticking out of the walls. And a car battery in the corner with a coat hanger stuck to it. And I’m thinking, “Yeah, I know what goes on here.” And it’s not water and relaxation and chilling out.

So I still hear my friend getting beat. And I hear the guy get up and go to the other room. And I’m starting to sneak around a little bit.

And then I hear the jeep door close. And then I hear the other jeep door close. And I think, “Oh my God. I think they left.” But I’m not sure, because he could have just had a bottle of water in the jeep. So I’m thinking, “How am I going to get out of here.”

And then I hear the jeep leave and I realize they took off. Possibly to go get us something, or possibly they were done with us, or possibly they realized they left the ammo at the other place. I don’t know what was going on, but they had left. For what I think they probably assumed was just a minute.

My friend was unconscious, so I grabbed him. Woke him up. Carry-walked him kind of… limped him over to a restaurant that was nearby. And they called the regular police, who came and arrested us again, but of course this time took us to the police station. And they didn’t believe a word of what we had to say, naturally.

And then eventually I described the jeep, and I described the car and I described where we were. And then they went, “Oh. Got it. Okay.” That’s not something you can read about in a magazine and make up or pull out of your ass. That’s something that is… that’s something that sounds true. Jeep with government plates. Mitsubishi, black. Tinted windows. Runner boards. In a safe house, in a basement, you know.

That kind of thing.

And so the police captain ended up calling… since my Serbian was crap and my friend was basically still unconscious and not able to speak, the police captain called his girlfriend who was a language teacher. And I was there as a language teacher as well. So she knew my boss. Who at this point was worried sick about me. And she’d been getting calls from these guys from my phone saying, “Yeah, we’re going to kill your friend.” and all this stuff. And all my friends were freaking out. And of course this language teacher–I just told her, “Call my boss.” So she called my boss, who is freaking out. Corroborated the part of the story about me being kidnapped by some crazy people who were calling her on the phone.

And then the police cut us loose. They said, “We don’t want any part of this. You were never here.” And they just threw us out of the police station, cause they didn’t even want to deal with it. And that was how we got out of that place in one piece.

“And I couldn’t help but think that it might have ended up quite a bit worse had we not been able to buy enough time for these guys to either get bored, or get tired, or trust us enough to leave us there on our own.”

I mean–as you can tell, they were poorly trained, but we had to make that opportunity anyway.

Mark: Yeah. Well that’s a hell of a gap year, between college and law school.

Jordan: (laughing) Yeah, no kidding. “What’d you do over your gap year?” “Um, well…”

Mark: (laughing) Went to Yugoslavia, got kidnapped a few times, you know…

Jordan: (laughing) And had some great food! Yeah. Exactly.

North Korea


Mark: Well, I can see… I mean that area and that thirst for adventure is eventually going to turn up some interesting circumstances. But you didn’t stop there. After college, you decided to go back to places that most people don’t think of going. Unless you’re Denis Rodman, for instance, and just happened to be loved in North Korea. But you’ve been to North Korea. What was that like? Tell us about that experience.

Jordan: Yeah, North Korea is…

Mark: Cause that’s been in the news quite a bit lately and people are a little on edge.

Jordan: It’s been in the news quite a bit lately. (laughing) Yes, that is correct. North Korea is legitimately the weirdest place I’ve ever been.

Mark: Really?

Jordan: It’s like a completely fake… it’s just completely fake in almost every way. When you land, there’s an airport that has nothing going on. There’s no lights on half the time. There’s pictures of the leader up on the outside, and there’s no other planes, and there’s no other flights. You land on this runway, and there’s no jet way. They just put up a staircase.

And depending on if you fly Air China or the North Korean airline, they don’t leave the plane. Which is also really strange. The flight crew will stay on the tarmac in the plane. Air China.

And of course the Korean crew will come out and help you get down the stairs.

And then you walk into this airport lounge… or, lounge… airport terminal and there’s soldiers that are there for immigration purposes. They don’t stamp your passport. The lights, again, are not on.

There’s a baggage carousel. It’s probably powered by some guy on an exercise bike, and it’s a million years old.

And you get in there, and you go through, and they’re opening all your luggage. They see an iPad and they don’t know what it is. And they look at your camera, and they say, “Does it have a GPS?” And they take your cellular phone and they put it in locker and give you a receipt on what is essentially almost tissue paper, and you’ve gotta get it when you leave. Because you’re not allowed to have a mobile phone there. At the time when I went.

And you get on a bus. And the bus driver has a piece of paper in the front windshield with your name and your picture, so that they know exactly who’s on the bus, and what you look like. And you get on the bus with your luggage. You get in there, and the tour guide says, “Welcome to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We’re headed to the hotel right now.”

And it’s just strange. There’s no streetlights on the way from the airport to the hotel. You see people diving out of the road in the bus headlights. I always like to sit up front. There’s tons of people outside. Just hundreds, everywhere. And there’s no lights. They’re just walking in the dark. It’s just unbelievable.

“And you get to a hotel, and the hotel for tourists only has tourists. And it’s on an island. And you can’t leave the hotel once you get inside. They don’t let you out.”

And you’re just kinda thinking, “What did I get myself into now?”

Mark: (laughing) Yeah, right. What was your mission in Korea? Were you just..? Were you visiting as a tourist? Or did you have some other kind of nefarious mission?

Jordan: No. I was just a tourist there. All 4 times. I went there 4 times as a tourist. And led trips there with other westerners. And it was a very strange place. The guy that recently died after coming home from there, he was in that same hotel. And I know, he was on it… when he stole the poster, he was on a secret floor in the hotel. That you can find, because when you take the elevator, it goes “1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7.” And you notice there’s no 4th floor. And you can’t get to the 4th floor from the stairs, because if you try to take the stairs… and I’m not even kidding… there’s someone sitting in the dark, or knitting by candlelight 24/7. They’re on the staircase to make sure that you don’t accidentally wander up onto that secret floor.

The way that you get to the 4th floor, is you take the freight elevator. Which is located in the lobby of this hotel. You take the freight elevator to the 4th floor during the times that the freight elevator is on, when the attendant is not there. When he goes out for a cigarette or whatever.

And that’s how you get up there. And when you get up there, there’s meeting rooms. And there’s all these posters. And I guess he ripped down one of those. And that was… that was what did him in.

Mark: Hunh. Okay, so… you’ve gotta be able to leave this hotel though. I mean, you don’t just go to North Korea and hang out in this hotel the whole time?

Jordan: Right? So the hotel has a ton of things to do in it. It’s amazing, actually. It’s not a great hotel, but it’s just got bowling and swimming pools and karaoke and 5 restaurants… It’s pretty incredible as far as hotels are concerned.

Socialists are really… Communists really they’re big on this grandiose crap. So they’ve got a hotel there that is not… I think now it’s finally possibly open… but it was a giant concrete structure. And it was 105 stories tall. And there was nothing in it. It was built in 1981 and left to dirt until 2015 or ’16. Nothing built. No windows, nothing. Nothing inside it.

And when they took pictures of the skyline, they would airbrush that out of the skyline in pictures. Cause they didn’t want anybody to see it. Unbelievable.

Mark: (laughing) They don’t call it the Hermit Kingdom for nothing. That is just bizarre.

Jordan. Exactly. They just try to control the image of everything. And there’s no cars, really, in the city. So you keep the window open in the hotel, cause the A/C doesn’t work for shit. You keep the window open and you realize in the morning you can hear people singing. Because the whole city, the workers and stuff like that, they sing the national anthem in the morning.

Which sounds really weird, until you realize that as kids we sing the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. But it’s like… the whole country does it.

And so you can hear them doing that, because there’s no city noise. There’s no industry, there are no cars. So you hear construction equipment that’s 2 miles away. You know, it’s very, very strange.

And, yeah, you leave the hotel to go to tourist sites. Which are things like flower exhibitions, the mausoleum where Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung are interred in state. Which means, in a big glass box like Mao. Very strange.

And there’s a lot of other strange things that you have to see. Like, these museums they kind of make you go to. That are very socialist. Socialists are big on propaganda. And it’s very unsophisticated propaganda in that you’ll go there and they’re like… I ask a lot of questions there. And I toe-the-line, if you will. Where we’ll see a painting and it’ll be a baby in the arms of a man shooting. And they’re like, “This is Kim Il-Sung. He’s holding baby general Kim Jong-Il. And he’s fighting the Japanese. And in this battle he killed over a hundred Japanese.”

And I said, “With a pistol?”

And they’re like, “Yes.”

And then I said, “How come he didn’t get shot?”

And they’re like, “The Japanese were not able to hit him because he’s such a good fighter.”

And I said, “Even with a baby in his hands?”


And I said, “Why did he bring a baby into a battle?”

And then it’s like… pause… talk amongst each other for a while. The guides. De-de-de-de-de. They’re talking. They’re talking. They’re talking and they say, “Let’s get back to you on that.”

And then 20 minutes goes by, and then she goes, “I have an answer to your question. He brought General Kim Jong-Il there so he would learn how to fight even as a baby.”

And I’m like, “Got it.” You didn’t Google this, you didn’t read anything. You just thought of this shit on your own. You realize I’ve been with you the whole time since I asked this question of you, right? I know you didn’t refer to any history after I asked you the question.

They’re just thinking at the time, “Crap! I better figure this one out. I can’t not know the answer to this question.” So they just make it up.

And I found endless entertainment in these questions. I remember thinking, “Man, I could get in trouble for this. I better tone it down.” And I was drinking with our tour guide as we did every single night. And I said, “Hey look. Am I doing anything that’s rude? I don’t want to get in trouble.”

And they said, “No. You’re clearly the only one who’s really interested because you’re the one who’s asking the most questions.” And I thought, “All right. As long as I look interested, we’re good.”

Mark: (laughing) Oh, man. You can’t make that stuff up. That is too good. Wow.

The Art of Charm


Mark: All right. So let’s shift tactics a little bit here and talk about “The Art of Charm.” I could go on and on with your stories cause they’re fascinating. And I love going to places like that too. Or at least I did when I had my team of 16 guys toting a lot of weaponry with me. Not sure I’d want to go alone like you did.

But that’s another point. AT any rate, let’s talk about communication strategies. And I remember when we first did our podcast–our aborted effort–we talked about charm school for adults. And how like in the military… anyone who gets selected to flag rank–that’s either a general in the Marine corps, Army, Air Force, or an Admiral in the Navy. They send you to literally what they… they don’t call it officially, but all the operators call it “charm school.”

And this is where they literally… so if you’re having a state dinner in China and this is the protocols. If someone serves you a drink, you drink it. Know what I mean?

And if you’re in Korea and they serve you a food that looks like it comes from some body of water, but it’s got 16 eyeballs and 27 limbs, you eat it. Regardless. Because it’s disrespectful not to and stuff like that.

But your charm school is mostly about communication, is that right?

Jordan: Yeah, it’s about non-verbal communication. Body language, persuasion, influence and the things that I discussed talking about… when we were talking about changing to the logical brain versus the emotional brain. Very practical psychology that will help people in specific situations. Whether those situations are sales or self-preservation.

Mark: Right. Okay. So let’s take a couple scenarios if you will. Let’s say someone is really shy and timid. What are some strategies that they can use to project a little bit more power and to overcome that timidity?

Jordan: Sure. So here’s something that we call the doorway drill. Which I think is great. This is a really good drill to sort of wrap on, because it’s very practical and anyone can do it.

This is called the doorway drill, and at AoC, this is something that we have a billion of these types of drills. We know that our non-verbal. Let me just sort of back up the truck.

We know that our first impressions are important. That kind of goes without saying. It’s almost a cliché. “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” And all that jazz. We know that these are crucial, and we know that these are important things that most people don’t necessarily know how to manage.

“What we espouse here at the Art of Charm is that your first impression is not verbal. It is completely non-verbal.”

And if you don’t believe me, the way to test this is to go to the mall or walk down the street, and you’ll find that you’re making judgments about the people that you see. So you’ll walk through a mall and it’ll be like, “Tall. Overweight. Friendly looking. Attractive. Athletic. Scary. Threatening.”

And if you don’t believe me, just go ahead and try that for yourself, and then come back and listen to this part again after you’ve proven to yourself that you do make silent judgments about other people. And that it’s okay. And, you know, if you’re feeling guilty about it, it’s something that you’ve evolved. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Cause I know the regressive left…

Mark: Well research has proven that out, right? So brain research, and work on the system 1, system 2 mind. There’s so much information flooding your mind that what he says with system1 is that quick reactions. Subconscious mind that’s primed to think a certain way based upon the patterns that you’ve been living in, so to speak. So yeah, one person can see tall and think attractive. Another person can see tall and think scary, based upon how they’re primed. But those are all pre-cognitive almost, like you said.

Jordan: Precisely. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so we know that this is true, and I know that a lot of people have a problem with this. Cause society says now that judging people before you know them is wrong and stuff. So I just want to dispense with all that.

We know that the first impression is made that way. So what that means for us is that a lot of people go, “Okay, I need to have great non-verbal communication when I make a first impression. So next time I go to an event, I’m going to remember to have good body language. The End.

And that’s where most people fail. Because they leave it there.

So what we do is say, “No, no, no.”

“Great open positive body language is something that you can’t just decide to do on cue.”

Because if you try to do it on cue what happens is, you look at the interaction, and you go, “Great. I’m going to go to this mixer, or this workshop and I’m going to look really positive and stand up straight and smile.” And then you go, “Crap. I’ve gotta micromanage now all my non-verbal communication while listening and being present in the conversation. And talking. And thinking about my agenda for this conversation. Etc.”

That’s a big problem. You can’t do that. Your brain doesn’t have enough bandwidth to do that. And so we have to relegate and delegate our non-verbal communication to the level of habit. And the way that we do that is by automating it. And the way that we do that is through the doorway drill.

So that doorway drill–right now, as long as you’re not driving–stand up straight, chin up, shoulders back, chest up, smile on your face. So standing up straight, chin up, shoulders back, chest up, smile on your face.

You don’t have to exaggerate this. You’ll look like an idiot. It’s not necessary. We’re just trying to find open, positive body-language that makes us look confident but friendly and open.

And now, this is what we’re trying to go for. Now the problem is if we just try to remember to do this when we walk in somewhere, we will…this is also, I think, a SEAL saying–and you’ll correct me on this one if I’m wrong–but we don’t rise to the level of our expectation, we default to the level of our training. Right?

Mark: Mm-hmm.

Jordan: So we can’t think, “Next time I go to a mixer or an event, or my office, I’m going to remember to do this.” No. You’re going to default to hunched-over the computer position just like you are right now, most likely… for a lot of us.

And if you’re athletic you might have an overly physical presence that’s intimidating, so you might have the confident part down, but you don’t have the positive part down. So we want to create that open, positive, confident body-language. We gotta create that habit.

So what we do is every time we walk through a doorway in our own house, in our office, no matter where we are, you reset to chin up, shoulders back, chest up, smile on your face. And you keep that very natural. And I know the problem is people are going to hear this and they’re going to walk out their door… or into… from their car into their office and they’re going to forget to do this. Because we walk through doorways all day. We’re on auto-pilot. We need to break that auto-pilot.

So grab a set of post-it notes. If they’re bright pink or bright blue or whatever, even better. Rip them and put them at eye level in the doorframe. So when you walk those door frames, the ones you see most often, in your home and in your office, you see that post-it note. You don’t have to write anything on it. You see it and you go, “What the heck is that doing there? Oh right, doorway drill. Open, upright, positive body language. If you do that through every doorway throughout the day, you’re going to create a habit where your default body language and non-verbal communication is open, upright and positive.

That is huge. Because now when you walk into doors that don’t have a post-it note, you’re going to notice. And you’re going to have that as your default, non-verbal communication. And what this does… not only does it make you look open, upright, positive, confident and friendly… what this does, is it informs… now that we know our first impression is non-verbal.

We know that other people are judging us by our non-verbals just as we are judging them by theirs. So this causes other people to treat us differently. They treat us as if we are confident, open, upright, positive, friendly, etc. That in turn informs the way that we think about ourselves.

Because the way that we are treated informs the image we have of ourselves. So now we start to think of ourselves as confident, open, friendly people. We’re treated as open, confident, friendly people. And that is a virtuous cycle. And then eventually you can take those post-it notes down, because you’re experienced what we at AoC like to call a “core level” or an “identity level” shift.

And that is huge. It means it’s changed who you actually are. You’re no longer pretending to do something. You’re no longer manually a part of this process. This is actually who you are now. And it’s a change for the better.

“You’ve built a habit that’s changed the mindset, which has changed the way that you view yourself.”

And that creates great non-verbal communication that you don’t have to think about, that then informs who you are as a person. That make sense?

Mark: Yeah, I think that’s terrific. And yeah, we used to have a saying, “Fake it ’til you make it.” And it’s easy to take that the wrong way, but the reality is you may not feel open, confident, positive… but the more you pretend to be, the more you get your physiology and your mindset into that position. And your posture, like you said, is the best way to do that. Then eventually you’re going to get that positive feedback loop going and then all of a sudden one day you’re going to be like, “I am open, confident and positive all of a sudden. So I faked it, until I made it.”

We do drills like that to develop courage at SEALFIT. One of the things that we do is a practical way to force people into the habit of standing up straight is to punish them, so to speak. It’s not punish, but to have some sort of consequence that the team must participate in, and it usually looks a lot like a burpee.

When anyone on the team is caught with their hands on their hips… cause hands on your hips, you know… I’ve heard actually, someone say, “Hey, this is a position of power. You put your hands on your hips…”

I’m like, “No. That’s a position of weakness.” For a couple of reasons, that you’ll get. One is, it does close… rounds your shoulders. You get an internal rotation on your shoulders. It shuts off your chest cavity. And it leads to kind of a slight hunch in your posture.

So hands on hip is a bad, bad idea. You want to have your hands off hip, facing forward, shoulders back, chin up. Smile on your face, like you said.

So anytime we find someone with their hands on their hips, just kind of loitering around, it’s another 100 burpee penalty. So we can accrue usually several thousand burpees this way. That have to be worked off.

So kind of harsh way to get to the… to get the same results. I think probably the sticky on the door jamb is preferable to most people. But anyways, that’s our thing.

All right, Jordan. That is pretty interesting. I would love to continue on with this discussion about how to develop confidence and power through the Art of Charm but we’ve kind of run out of time. So why don’t I ask you to tell folks where they can find more information about you. And about your seminars. And your practical drills. And your online training, and stuff like that.

Jordan: Sure. So you’re already listening to a podcast, so I would love it if people would come to “The Art of Charm” and check out some of our interviews. Everything we’ve got there is designed to help you with something like the doorway drill. There’s practical, use and application in everything. Whether it’s Shaquille O’Neal talking about how he has a panel to help him make tough decisions. We had General McChrystal on talking about making tough choices. That’s a guy who’s had to make some tough choices in the past as you might imagine. And there’s a lot of folks there that are just extremely knowledgeable and have amazing, unique stories as well. And we offer practical stuff like this all the time.

So, yeah, you’re listening to a podcast. I’d love it if people would check out “The Art of Charm” podcast as well.

And also, as well, at the we have challenges and things like that. Like the doorway drill, that are just all practicals and there’s a lot of resources there as well.

Mark: Awesome. So check out “The Art of Charm” podcast, and Jordan, super-stoked. Thanks very much for doing this take 2. I look forward to meeting you in person. And keep up the great work, buddy.

Jordan. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Mark: All right. Hooyah.

All right everyone, that’s it. Thank you so much for your attention. Really appreciate it. Stay focused and train the courage and I challenge you to practice the door drill for 30 days. That’s actually… that’s money. I can see a lot of value in that.

And until next time. Train hard, stay focused and hone that Unbeatable Mind.


Divine out.

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