“I teach people how to become better thinkers and to use critical thinking skills.” with Jason Hartman & Jordan Harbinger

I teach people how to become better thinkers and to use critical thinking skills. I teach people how to parse information, figure out whether or not things are true, and how to detect deception. I also interview brilliant people and basically make sure that they teach something to the listening audience. I want the listener […]

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I teach people how to become better thinkers and to use critical thinking skills. I teach people how to parse information, figure out whether or not things are true, and how to detect deception. I also interview brilliant people and basically make sure that they teach something to the listening audience. I want the listener to be able to apply something new that they have learned after every show, not just to be entertained.

As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Harbinger.

Jordan Harbinger, once referred to as “The Larry King of podcasting,” is a Wall Street lawyer turned talk show host, social dynamics expert, and entrepreneur.

After hosting a top 50 iTunes podcast for over a decade that enjoyed nearly five million downloads a month at its zenith, Jordan has embarked on a new adventure: The Jordan Harbinger Show, where he deconstructs the playbooks of the most successful people on earth and shares their strategies, perspectives, and insights with the rest of us. 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.

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 spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, and he speaks five 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.

Today, Jordan receives over six million downloads per month, making The Jordan Harbinger Show one of the most popular podcasts in the world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?

Iused to be a Wall Street attorney. I was told that I needed to learn how to network to bring in new business for the firm. I had absolutely no idea at all of how to do that.

So I began taking classes on networking and soon realized that it was all garbage. It was basic information such as ”Look him in the eye and have a firm handshake”. I didn’t find value in the classes and I just knew that it wasn’t the real thing. For instance, if someone’s not giving you a $1 million dollar law deal or contract, it’s not because you didn’t have a firm handshake.

This led me to my next step of researching psychology, persuasion, influence, body language, and non-verbal communication. The other lawyers at the firm were really interested in this new information, so much so that I actually started to teach it to them. Word of mouth happened and they began to refer me to others, like special forces, military and sales teams. As I continued sharing, I had the realization that I should be recording these conversations. I then burned these recorded conversations onto CDs.

I took the knowledge that I learned and started applying it to dating. It turns out that people were really interested in the dating information and I ended up giving away a lot of CDs. I did that until in 2006, when I discovered podcasting. Podcasting was really new at that time. I started uploading the audio of my talks as a podcast and then it just got really popular. I decided that I loved podcasting and 13 and a half years later, here we are.

Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?

The most interesting thing that’s happened to me is that I actually met my wife because she was a fan of the show. I don’t know if that’s the MOST interesting thing that’s happened to me, but it’s certainly the most life-altering and dramatic thing that’s happened as a result of the podcast. My wife wrote in some fan mail to the show …and now we have a child. So, that worked out pretty well for me.

Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?

There were times when I was really overly excited about an interview and then completely forgot to hit the record button, and some of those were my biggest interviews. I remember one time years and years ago I had a guest who was a major A-list celebrity. I don’t want to name them but I was so excited that I remember thinking “Don’t forget to hit record, don’t forget to hit record” — and a friend was even there with a backup recorder, and we were both saying “Don’t forget to hit record. Don’t forget. Don’t forget…” and somehow that is exactly what I forgot to do! And my friend ALSO forgot. We ended up missing half of the interview. Unbelievable. Ridiculous. And that wasn’t even that early on in my podcasting career. We had been doing it for a couple of years so we really had no excuse.

How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?

I’ve been recording for thirteen plus years. I’ve aired over one thousand of my own shows.

What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?

I teach people how to become better thinkers and to use critical thinking skills. I teach people how to parse information, figure out whether or not things are true, and how to detect deception. I also interview brilliant people and basically make sure that they teach something to the listening audience. I want the listener to be able to apply something new that they have learned after every show, not just to be entertained.

In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?

Well, one of the things that makes us unique is that we are the only show that creates worksheets for each episode so you can apply what you’ve learned directly from that show. We also don’t have sales pitches. Many other hosts just have casual conversations. Then you have to buy their product or mastermind to be able to learn from them. We make each episode like a course in itself, but it’s still a conversation so it’s easy to listen to and really light, but you can actually take the information and retain it.

What makes us binge-listenable? We cover a variety of topics and we’re really deep. We do a deep dive. Our data shows that our audience will listen to hundreds of episodes in one month.

As far as what makes me special as a host? I don’t think I’m particularly that talented as a host. I listen better than most hosts and I ask real questions because I spend about 20 hours preparing for each interview. And I think most hosts spend about 20 minutes, maybe less, preparing for an interview. Since I really prepare, I know how to get the greatest nuggets out of each guest.

Basically, I’m not necessarily that talented, I just out-work other hosts because I value the listener’s time. As an attorney, I treat the listener like I would a client. I have to value their time and earn every minute of it. Therefore, we edit mercilessly. We do a deep dive, but then we cut out all of the fluff. The signal to noise ratio is really high.

Also, we have great guests. We were one of the last shows to interview Kobe Bryant. We’ve had guests like Howie Mandel, Mike Rowe, and Chelsea Handler on the show. There are not a whole lot of shows that get that caliber of guests.

Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?

As far as discipline is concerned, I treat my calendar like it is a religion. If it’s on there, it gets done. If it’s not on there, it doesn’t get done. So I get more done in a day than most people do in a week. And the reason I do that is because I’m working from home and every bit of my day is broken into 15-minute blocks — and there is something going on in each of those 15 minutes. Now it might be lunch, but it might also be recording commercials. I think you might say I’m a workaholic. I don’t get burnout because I love what I’m doing, so most of what I’m doing doesn’t even feel like work to me. And I also make sure that I get enough sleep at night. I get eight hours of high-quality sleep every night. I’ve worked on the quality of my sleep a lot, so I don’t get burned out because I’m well-rested.

What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?

I don’t really believe in inspiration, or at least I should say that I don’t really believe in motivation. I probably do believe in inspiration. The place that I get inspiration from would be from reading a ton of books. I probably read two to three books every week in their entirety. I don’t skim or speed read. So, I get plenty of inspiration from learning from the authors who’ve created all those incredible books.

Ok fantastic. Lets now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?

A model of how to run a fantastic podcast? No, not really. I started very early. Now I do think that there are plenty of great podcasts. I just don’t think anyone is a model for it. It’s an art, man.

You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

  1. Advocate for the Listener: Many people spend all of their time on marketing. What you really need to be creating as a podcaster is something that’s sticky and will get shared by word of mouth, which is the number one way that podcasts spread. My advice is to work really damn hard on the final product and make it awesome. Most people don’t really do that. If you don’t know how to do that, hire a producer who does — or learn that skill. There’s no excuse nowadays for just recording something on your iPhone or in a basement, and then putting it up and expecting people to deal with the rough around the edges part. That is not how this works. There is too much choice out there. So, advocate for your audience and make sure you are earning every minute of their time and respecting it too.
  2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare and Don’t Make it About You: People will say, I don’t want to sound too prepared. That’s fine. The secret to not sounding too prepared is to prepare even more so that you sound natural. The secret to not sounding “too prepared” is by not just winging it, thinking you’re good at it. A lot of people think they can wing it because they’re good broadcasters or good performers. I can tell who those people are because it shows — it really shows. And you’re not going to be able to do that. Let’s assume you’re not Joe Rogan who can just walk into a conversation and wing it, and still come across as entertaining. Bear in mind, Joe Rogan has 20 plus years of TV, standup comedy and podcasting experience. Let’s assume you’re not in that same boat.
  3. You have to do something that is unique: There are so many people who are like, “Oh, I interview entrepreneurs”. Who cares. Why should I listen to you over the 100,000 other shows that interview entrepreneurs? Also, going back to advocating for your audience, I think a lot of podcasters are asking about things that they’re interested in. That’s great. You’ll sound interested, BUT you also have to think for your listener. So don’t ask a bunch of questions that will end up with you talking about a thing that happened to you, unless it really illustrates a point that the guest is talking about. I hear a ton of hosts who do this. They’ll start turning the show into their own counseling, consulting, or therapy session. That’s great if you’re being relatable, but most hosts will just dive into the unrelatable, and then suddenly the show’s about them again, and the listener doesn’t need to be there. It’s extremely boring and irritating.
  4. Great Audio and Editing: Your audio has to be great. There is no excuse now for having echoes, having a bad microphone, mouth noise, mic noise, cars outside. Edit your show. Run it through plugins. It’s not that hard. If you don’t know how, use something like Skillshare or some YouTube videos to learn how to do it. There’s just no excuse for bad audio. And it’s not just snobbery. We know that the brain fatigues when it has to parse noise and dirty audio. So if you have a clean sounding show, people will be able to listen for an hour or two hours, multiple episodes in a row, no problem. If you’ve got noise and breathing and this-and-that, it’s going to get irritating. The ears/brain will fatigue and people will turn you off. The bar for quality of audio is high now — so don’t mess it up! You don’t have to have music for everything, but you need to sound good.

You asked for five things. There are four good things. Let’s see what we can do with that.

Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement; and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

Booking great guests is all about your network. You have to be constantly networking like crazy. I created a whole course on networking. It is all about that. Your numbers will be great for that. If you can say to a potential guest, ”I’ve got 6 million downloads a month” — Great! But most of you don’t, so having them on your show will have to be a favor to you and you’re not going to have anything to offer most of these great guests — so you’ve just gotta have a good rapport with them.

Actually, how’s that for number five [above].

5. You have to have good rapport with your guests: There are a ton of ways to do that.

So going back to booking great guests: You need to be creating a network and have a great rapport with them.

Best way to increase Listeners: People will share by word of mouth. Yes, there is social media, but don’t rely on that too much because it doesn’t work THAT well for converting people to listeners. I’ve tested it. What does convert well is having a great show and going on a ton of other podcasts? You should go on as many OTHER podcasts as you can because people will find you and then listen to your show.

The best way to produce a professional show is to hire a producer. If you can’t hire a producer, learn how to produce really good sounding audio. You can learn using YouTube or Skillshare. Producing a podcast is a whole art.

To get the high engagement it’s really simple. Tell your audience where to find you. And answer your email, Instagram inbox, LinkedIn messages, and tweets. People say they don’t have time. If you don’t have time, what are you doing? You are serving an audience. If you don’t have time to serve that audience, get another job.

I don’t really have example stories about the best way to monetize a podcast, but here are some really simple tips:

Get ads. I joined a network and went from not making any money on ads, to making millions of dollars off of ads. Join a podcast network and have a sales team sell the ads for you. If you’re in sales, then you can sell the ads yourself, but it’s still going to be easier to outsource that. Join a network. I joined Podcast One.

For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?

Start with simple equipment. Make sure you don’t get one of those USB microphones that everyone is using. They sound terrible. There are mics that are cheaper. I recommend Audio Technica 2100 or some similar model. Those are really cheap and easy to use. They’re also USB, but they’re not the ones that everyone is thinking of, and I don’t want to name the company, but start with something as simple as the Audio Technica 2100 and record directly to your computer.

You also don’t need expensive audio interfaces or microphones. You don’t need all that expensive equipment. The most important thing is to start with that basic equipment.

But room noise can be a problem. If you’ve got an echoing room, throw a rug down. Buy a couple hundred dollars worth of acoustic panels, put some curtains around the room, do something like that. It’s all about the room. If it sounds like you’re in a bathroom, that’s bad, and no amount of quality microphone is going to help you with that. Or if you’re in a room that sounds pretty good because you have curtains, acoustic panels, and a rug, or some mixture of that, then you can use a pretty cheap microphone for 50–80 bucks, and you’ll sound just as good as anyone else.

Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

This is a movement. I’m teaching people how to think critically and how to parse misinformation. The more intelligent critical thinkers we have, the better citizens we are going to have because they will think better. They’ll know how to vote better. They’re going to govern their businesses better. They’re going to be better parents. They’re going to spread these skills along to their children. So, I want to help people see the matrix when it comes to how amazing people think and behave. That’s the key to a better world. Because right now everyone’s getting duped by the media, grifters, and con-men. They’re working for companies that are screwing them over. We’re voting for policies that are against our own interests because we don’t understand them or know how to think about them properly. We don’t think long term.

I’m teaching those skills on The Jordan Harbinger Show.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me online at https://www.jordanharbinger.com/

The Jordan Harbinger Show is on any podcast app, Spotify, etc.

Find me @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram.


You can also add me on LinkedIn.

Thank you very much.

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

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