New Look, Same Great Show (formerly Systems Made Simple)
Nov. 1, 2022

The REAL Reason You Haven't Achieved the Success You Want with Jordan Harbinger

The REAL Reason You Haven't Achieved the Success You Want with Jordan Harbinger

If you’ve been struggling to grow a business and create the success you crave as an online entrepreneur, this episode is for you! 7-figure business owner and social dynamics expert, Jordan Harbinger unpacks surprising success myths and reveals the single most important step you must take every day.

As an online entrepreneur trying to grow a business, what does success look like for you?

For most of us, it’s not  about a bigger paycheck (although, that definitely doesn’t hurt!), it’s also about the greater influence we can have.

Jordan Harbinger, a former lawyer turned 7-figure entrepreneur and prolific podcaster, definitely knows a thing or two about success, and today, he’s sharing the secrets behind how to grow a business and create a massive impact in the process.


  • Why it’s so important as an online entrepreneur to be devoted to your craft
  • The REAL reason you may not currently be finding the success you want 
  • How to grow a business and create a life you’re proud of with a single daily step 

If this episode inspires you, leave a review and share your biggest takeaway with me. And while you've got your phone out, make sure to follow me on Instagram @thecourtneyelmer for more quick tips on how to streamline your business systems and spend more time in your zone of genius.

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All Rights Reserved | © The EffortLESS Life®


Courtney Elmer 0:00  

Welcome back to the System's Made Simple™ Podcast, you're listening to Episode 146. And Jordan Harbinger is here on the show with us today. Now if you don't know who Jordan is, Jordan was formerly a Wall Street attorney turned seven-figure entrepreneur. And he is one of the most prolific and popular podcasters of our time, he gets over 15 million downloads a month to his show, and he has his own Wikipedia page. So it is safe to say that Jordan knows a thing or two about how to grow a business. And today, he's going to unpack the surprising myths about success and the single step that you've got to take every day to guarantee your success to grow a business and in life. 


Courtney Elmer 4:03  

Jordan, welcome to the systems made simple podcast. 

Jordan Harbinger 4:08  

Hey Courtney Elmer, thanks for having me on to talk about how to grow a business.

Courtney Elmer 4:11  

I wanted to bring you on today, Jordan, because I've been a fan of yours for some time now. And one Sunday, a few weeks ago, I found myself deep in the archives of your blog, I think I was reading posts about how to grow a business from back in like 2019 like pre pandemic. And there were several grow a business posts that you put out that really spoke to me. One of the grow a business threads that I kept picking up on throughout all of your articles was this idea of being a master at your craft and what that really means when you grow a business. Because to take a look at one little tiny slice of your life, not counting your Wall Street career as a lawyer or being called the Larry King of podcast and you setting all those things aside? 

Courtney Elmer

You've had your podcast for 14 years. You get over 11 million downloads per month. You are someone to me who is living the definition of grow a business and being a master at your craft. And something you said once is that you have to find your joy in the doing. And then the action towards whatever it is that you're working towards. And so those who are listening today, they've all got big dreams for their life, like leanring to grow a business and you're one of those people who has achieved those big dreams. So tell us what do you really mean when you say you've got to find your joy in the doing?

Jordan Harbinger 5:36  

So it's been a while since that grow a business article was written, but let me give you an example Courtney Elmer. When I first started to grow a business, I there was no such thing as podcast Analytics, you couldn't measure how many people were listening. And people said, Well, how many people listen to your show? And I said, I don't know. And they're like, What do you mean, you don't know? And I said, I really don't actually know the answer to that question. And a lot of people said, Oh, well, alright, I guess it doesn't matter. And I thought, it's a hobby. Why do I have to ruin it by looking at the numbers and everything. I don't have to treat it like when I grow a business. I worked really hard at interviewing, and I got better at prep and note taking and reading and outlining and all that other stuff. And then they invented podcast analytics, and I obsessed over them.

And I thought, is this really helping me create this? Not really, Courtney Elmer, and then I started to focus on marketing and things like that. And I realized real quickly that you can, you can focus on marketing something to the detriment of creating that thing that you're marketing. And it wasn't as appealing. And I know a lot of podcasters to stick with my own sort of craft here. They do that same thing to themselves, though. Start a show they do 10 episodes, or five episodes or one episode. They're like, Oh, man, only 300 People listen to that. That's this sucks. I'm not having fun. And it's like, well, wait a minute, you had fun up until you knew how many people looked at it? Why is it different? People dance, when they listen to music, do you have to dance on a stage in order to enjoy dancing.

The point, Courtney Elmer, is that people should do things for themselves, especially when they're starting off because you're working on that craft for your whole life. So why put the pressure on in the beginning. And you never we don't do this with other hobbies, especially with creative processes. This really comes into play, right? We don't do that. Nobody says, Alright, I'm going to be I gotta monetize my model train hobby, I got to figure out what I'm gonna get paid to put LEGO sets together, said no kid ever. So why are you doing that when you grow a business where you're crafting things and selling them on Etsy? Why are you doing that when you grow a business? Where you're creating a podcast, and you're talking to leaders, and you're enjoying every minute of that? Why does it matter if 100 People saw that or listened to that, or 1000 or 10,000, it matters because you're trying to monetize it.

But outside of that, it didn't matter when you were creating it. So it really shouldn't matter to you at all, unless it's your only form of income, in which case, you've already made several mistakes. Right? If you're trying to desperately grow a business and build an airplane, after what does that they say like jumping off a cliff and building the airplane on the way down. Like, that's not how you're really supposed to grow a business. So that's the way that I look at it and not optimizing for those specific things Courtney Elmer. But optimizing for enjoying this craft and getting better at it has been a recipe for longevity in the industry, it's been a recipe for making sure the audience is taken care of because they don't care how much you're making, they care about the quality of the product. And it turns out that longevity and a good quality product are so happened to be the ingredients of a successful show. So you get you end up getting exactly what you want by focusing not on monetizing it, but focusing on the other the other elements of the craft.

Courtney Elmer 9:03  

Something you said there a moment ago was this idea of desperately trying to build something. And I think when we have that energy of desperation, , I think back to the early days when I started to grow a business, I gotta make money, I gotta make this profitable. And we can get so caught up in that. And I think this is one of the things that really can mess people up especially when they start to grow a business because we're starting things but we're never continuing them long enough to see the results. So what you describe there to me in my mind to operate that way, there's so much freedom in that, which is really beautiful thing to think about. So with your podcast, 14 years, so that was 2006. That's like two years after podcasting was even a thing. Did you go into it with the idea of making it something big and great? Or did you go into it with the idea of like, Hey, this is a cool thing. I want to try this out.

Jordan Harbinger 10:34  

Yeah Courtney Elmer, I was basically looking to figure out how to put the conversations I was having with friends and other people that I was teaching. In real life, I was at work, and I put these on the internet for other people. That was it. No. And then it started to get downloads from other places. And I thought, Oh, weird. I thought we were gonna tell local people about this. not have it be downloaded by people in South Africa, Germany, and Canada. So okay, let's turn it into a radio show. That's kind of fun. And then it was like me and my friend having drinks in a basement and uploading the audio. And nobody in their right mind would have said, we're going to be huge. What are you talking about? YouTube didn't exist, there were no such thing as influencers, Twitter didn't exist. Are you going to be huge on the internet, that wasn't a thing that anybody was enjoying Courtney Elmer.

At that time Courtney Elmer, there was no such thing as being famous on the internet in 2006. Not really, in fact, if you were famous on the internet, because you were famous in real life, and you happen to also be famous on the internet, there wasn't they didn't have online fame. And so that was really liberating. Because the idea that we were supposed to be something we weren't was, that didn't make any sense. You might, you might as well have said it it was science fiction to grow a business online and be famous. So it never was even on our radar. And that was also liberating, because we weren't thinking, Alright, we got to do audience analytics and get metrics for this and figure out how to do these sales and all this, that we weren't doing any of that we didn't think about email marketing.

And it's funny Courtney Elmer because a lot of our friends we met through this. They were doing sales, copy, and online sales and sales funnels, and affiliate marketing and all this stuff. And none of them really went anywhere. Because they were always thinking about how do I get more another dollar out of everybody who is subscribed to my email list? How do I sell harder. And, audiences don't like that long term. And I remember talking with my original business partner, and we were like, Let's give everything away for free. Let's not hide the ball like these other guys are doing what's not right copy. That's like three amazing things you can only find out if you click here, let's never do that. It's cringe. It's annoying Courtney Elmer. A lot of people don't have money. Why do that? Let's give it all away for free.

And then I remember like five years into starting the show, all these online gurus were like, You need to give things away for free to grow a business, and then people will really trust you. And I was like, Yeah, I said that in 2006 And everyone's like, you're an idiot, you give everything away for free, you need to put it behind a paywall and have a blinking red button that says click here to buy in a Pay Pal check to grow a business. And I was like, nah. And then of course, they all shifted to what we were doing. Except they're still doing it wrong. It's like it's still free. But it's really a lead magnet. And then you have to do that to grow a business.

And I understand there are reasons to have sales funnels, I get that sales funnels have to exist Courtney Elmer to grow a business. But a lot of people do it. It's an afterthought. I remember going to one conference, and there was a talk about how to make your product in 20 minutes. And I'm like, but isn't this the thing that your whole business is based on? And they're like, Yeah, but who cares, get it done as quickly as but don't waste any more time creating your product when you can be spending the time optimizing your sales copy and your marketing funnels to grow a business. And I thought this person must have churn and unhappy customers that you could line up to the moon and back. There's no way this guy has a bunch of satisfied customers if he's spending 99.9% of his time to grow a business, marketing and the product is an afterthought that he thinks he has to get out of the way as fast as possible. And I think a lot of people try to grow a business like that Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 14:08  

So many people do try to grow a business like that. It's interesting that you say that because like you said the trend became okay, give everything away from free, give your best stuff away for free, do it all for free. And then people want to buy and etc. And we know that yeah, it works to grow a business. But you'd have to be genuine, it you have to go into it with the intention of doing that to grow a business and serve your community. Otherwise, they're gonna see right through it, especially nowadays, right, like fast forward 14 plus years later, doing that back in 2006 versus doing it now people are so much more savvy online, that they see right through it, and they can see that and I think a lot of people struggle for that reason as well.

Jordan Harbinger 14:45  

Courtney Elmer, when I look at it, I go how can I talk to a smarter, more sophisticated, more intelligent, more discerning, more skeptical, more engaged audience? Not how do I find the dumbest people on the internet and trick them into buying something from me and I feel like so many online businesses operate that way. There's so that try to grow a business like that Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 15:14  

Yeah, it's crazy. And I read something the other day, that was like, ethical urgency. And like, what is that ethical urgency? Like, you're going to create a false sense of urgency for someone to buy your product, but in an ethical way, and it kind of blew my mind because I'm like, here we are. Now, people are teaching this stuff. One of the things I respect about you, Jordan, being a systems person myself is that you take all of these kinds of catchphrases or buzzwords in this manifestation, right?

Courtney Elmer

Or like, I'm gonna go out there and tell people about my goals, all of this, and really take it to the next level one layer deeper, and actually give it some teeth. And this is where, I really resonate with some of the things that you teach, when you talk about like this idea of operating in alignment, what does that even mean? are following our intuition. So let's take one of these buzz phrases for a minute, unpack this, because I feel that a lot of our listeners here today, they've heard this, they know this, myself included, but probably all thought that to some degree, right? If I can create this big, beautiful vision board and put everything out there, then it will all eventually come to me. But why is it that this mindset can only get us so far?

Jordan Harbinger 16:49  

Well, I don't really believe in most of that stuff Courtney Elmer, because I'm a science guy. So manifestation. It's funny, whenever I sort of confront people on this, they try and change the definition of manifestation. They'll go oh, no, I mean, it's not like, I'm putting out there to the universe and getting it back. It's about like, well, if I focus on this goal, and I'm like, well, that's not what you said, you're selling a product to grow a business. That's about writing something on a sheet of paper and going in the backyard with some essential oils and lighting it on fire and giving it as a gift to the universe or whatever. 

That's not what you're talking about now. I don't believe in that stuff. When I write about it, I try and be respectful. But it's really difficult Courtney Elmer. Because it's largely designed by online coaches to sell things to people that don't know any better and it creates a creates victims, and I really don't like anything that creates victims. You can empower people and grow a business without lying to them. And you can empower yourself and grow a business without lying to yourself. So I really don't, I don't love those kinds of self help topics.

Courtney Elmer 18:45  

When you're writing as well, you're very objective. And you say, Okay, this is how I see it, this is what I think about it. I'm not I'm not giving an opinion, but I'm asking the questions that we all should be asking. And one of the things that I find really interesting is that in the business space, and I'm guilty of this, is where we become so attached to the outcome, the thing that we want the thing that we're trying to manifest, right, and putting that in air quotes, everybody listening, we become so attached to the outcome, that we fail, to focus on the action that leads to the outcome. And this kind of circles back to where we started this conversation with really finding joy in the process of doing of simply showing up every day, and doing the thing and getting better at it and not always trying to do it from an outcome based mindset. What would you say to that?

Jordan Harbinger 19:46  

Yeah, look, I'm with you on this Courtney Elmer. It's hard to tell somebody who wants to grow a business and make money that they need to not worry about the outcome. I understand that. But on the other hand, the real secret to doing something fulfilling that you can do long term that ends up being something of value for a large enough audience is usually something that's fulfilling. If you're talking about a creative pursuit, that's the only way to do it. I don't know that many creators that create something that they don't really like, because it makes a lot of money. I'm sure that there are a bunch of them out there. I think a lot of them have bad Mental Health and Mental Hygiene. In fact, Alex Jones is the Kooky guy who does all those conspiracy theories. And he's in trouble right now. He's getting sued for 200 plus million dollars, for harassing the Sandy Hook parents.

I think that he makes up his stuff. I think he does it because it's lucrative, and I think he hates every second of it, which is why he drinks so much and does all these other things. And I think he's a miserable, unhappy person Courtney Elmer. And I think the reason for that is because he's a selling every bit of his soul to make money, and it hurts other people, and he knows it, and he still can't stop because he's either addicted to the money or the attention to the fame or whatever, all of it, probably. And so you don't want to put yourself in a situation like that. And the way that you avoid that is you do something that's fulfilling, and not follow the money trail.

I mean, I This goes for corporate people who grow a business too Courtney Elmer. I used to be an attorney, I worked in finance. And I was like, this is never going to be something I love. And do, I need to grow up and realize that I'm never going to have a job that I love. And then I'd started the show the podcast in law school. And I thought, there is this other thing I really like, Can I make a living doing that, because if I can, I should do that and not try and make high finance dollars. Because I don't care about the money, I care about the fulfillment, it's much nicer Courtney Elmer.

I got into radio. And I was like, I don't even care. If I take like an 80% pay cut. I'll figure this out. And in the beginning, I did take an 8% pay cut. And now that's not a concern. I'm doing much better than any of the partners at any law firm, really, that exists anywhere in the world. But I got there by doing something that was fulfilling now have I got lucky breaks? Of course, was I early to market Courtney Elmer? Yes. Did I end up building enough skill in this area, and I probably had maybe some natural building blocks to be a good talker. Sure, who knows, it's hard to quantify that. But at the same time, I also knew that I didn't have what it was going to take to be naturally or even not net unnaturally good at spreadsheets, financial calculations, documents, investment vehicles, I didn't have the interest didn't have the passion, knew I'd never get there could barely pay attention when people were even explaining to me how they work, let alone innovating in this space. And I think most people, they don't listen to those clues Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 24:19  

I wonder how many people start to grow a business thinking that and how many are maybe on an unconscious level grow a business simply because they want the internet fame or they want the money or whatever is linked when they grow a business. What about so in your career? What are the things that we need to know to be able to continue doing the work, to stay focused on the action to stay focused on showing up and doing the thing that we want to become a master to grow a business?

Jordan Harbinger 25:03  

Yes Courtney Elmer, there's curveballs to grow a business always. They tell you, there's going to be curveballs when you grow a business, you feel like you can't handle the curveball, you handle the curveball, and grow a business, rinse and repeat, right Courtney Elmer? So for me, I have to stay putting one foot in front of the other, if I start getting stressed out. When I get in those situations, I realized I'm like a blender with the top off where there's a lot of energy, but it's splashing upwards, and all over and you end up with a mess in the kitchen. And you're like, Wow, I'm never doing that to myself, again, you want to have that sort of laser energy. instead write where it's like, okay, everything around me is so chaotic, and I can't really handle it. But instead of spinning around and exploding in the kitchen, I'm going to make a list of the things I have to do today, tomorrow, the next day, the next day, the next day and plan out my week, and then I'm going to go through that week.

And that's a really big relief for people like me, I'm not going to say that this is going to work for everyone when they grow a business. I think a lot of people maybe are wired differently, who knows. But for me, I really need to feel like I'm making progress to contineue to grow a business Courtney Elmer. At the beginning, sounds like a hallmark greeting card, you're at the beginning of the next leg of your journey. It's an illusion that you were at the peak in the first place it plays and it's an illusion that you are needing to get back to that same place. Both of those things are completely not real. And they are actually illusions you've made up in your head Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 27:31  

Jordan, which is what was the most unexpected lesson that you've learned along the way?

Jordan Harbinger 28:02  

I would say, your reputation, your network, that people Courtney Elmer , it's really the best insurance policy that money could never buy. And what I mean by that is, when you think you've lost your business, you lose your house, maybe you lose some other elements of your life. Courtney Elmer, the people around you, if you still have your reputation, you're not accused of some horrible crime or whatever. Like those exceptions aside, if you if you still have your reputation, you still have your friends, you still have the people around you.

And it makes you realize that you're never really in this alone. You always have people that are willing to have your back Courtney Elmer. You didn't even reach out and ask for their help because you never thought that you would need it and you never thought that you could. So that for me was kind of a big lesson Courtney Elmer. When I had to sort of restart to grow a business a few years ago, you alluded to some setbacks. The first thing I did was call everybody I knew who I thought could help and explain my story and I was really out there with my host Are you not trying to hide it out of shame, I was like, This is what happened. This I have to start over, I need all the help I can get spread the word tell your friends, and so many people did. And we were back on top. And that was, that was pretty darn cool. That was really, really, really cool. I realized no matter what, I have all these people behind me, even though it feels like you're alone, you can't see them. Right Courtney Elmer? They're all behind you. That was wonderful. So again, I always say prioritize the people around you prioritize, prioritize your relationships, your reputation, because it really is the best insurance policy that money could never buy.

Courtney Elmer 30:36  

Very powerful. And which actually brings my one last question. I know, when was the last but this brings something up to me that, because with what you've done in your career, going through that process and the work that you do and the mission that you're on, and your last name. Have you ever thought about how those dovetail?

Jordan Harbinger 30:59  

Yeah, sure Courtney Elmer. people have mentioned that.

Courtney Elmer 31:01  

What is it that you feel that you are the harbinger of in a most positive sense? Not in a negative doom?

Jordan Harbinger 31:07  

Yeah, I mean, usually people put like of doom at the end of that, right Courtney Elmer? I think for me, I try and be really transparent, really open and honest with people on my show, I try and illustrate that the path to success is the cliche winding road, I try and be open about the way that I'm feeling about things. I try to help people with their issues.

I think a lot of people online, they try and present a curated image. And it's like, You're not helping anyone. You're fooling plenty of people. But at the end of the day, it's a bunch of nonsense to make you relatable. And I can't stand that stuff. So I like to be honest, there's not that many people being honest, but also compassionate, and polite. I think people will go, I'll be honest, and then they like cuss you out about something, this mistake that you made. And I'm like, that's not right, either.

So Courtney Elmer I look at it like, Here I am, I am a healthy, functional adult, I am living a pretty good life, I've got a wife and two kids, it's healthy, I have a healthy relationship with them, I've got a good business that does well, you can have these things. I'm not any more special or less special than you. You can also do the same thing. I'm not here to sell you a course on how to do it either. I'm going to be open, honest and transparent. And that's sort of I think, that's what I focus on. That's what I feel like I can, how I can serve, so to speak. And so I'm very happy doing that Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 33:00  

Where are you most active on social media?

Jordan Harbinger 33:21  

Oh, Instagram. Yeah, Twitter. I'm on those Courtney Elmer

Courtney Elmer 33:25  

thank you so much for being here today for this grow a business talk.

Jordan Harbinger 33:41  

Thanks Courtney Elmer.

Courtney Elmer 33:43  

Coming up next week on the show, we're talking about the one system that every online business owner must have in place. But unlike the other systems that we often talk about here on the show, this one has nothing to do with your sales or your marketing or client fulfillment. But it is one that you will absolutely struggle without. So join me back here next Tuesday to find out what it is and until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®.

Jordan Harbinger


Can use the info in his about section on Jordan's website: and/or any of the below:

Jordan Harbinger, once referred to as “The Larry King of podcasting,” is a Wall Street lawyer turned interview talk-show host, and a communications and social dynamics expert. He has hosted a Top 50 iTunes podcast for over 14 years and receives over eleven million downloads per month, making The Jordan Harbinger Show one of the most popular podcasts in the world. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, he deconstructs the playbooks of the most successful people on earth and shares their strategies, perspectives, and practical insights with the rest of us.

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