Your mom and stepdad split up when she caught him trying to take pictures of you — at age 16 — in the shower. Now he’s remarried with new stepchildren and a baby on the way. How can you warn his new family about his predatory proclivities before he ruins their lives too? This and more here on Feedback Friday!
And in case you didn’t already know it, Jordan Harbinger (@JordanHarbinger) and Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) banter and take your comments and questions for Feedback Friday right here every week! If you want us to answer your question, register your feedback, or tell your story on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com. Now let’s dive in!
On This Week’s Feedback Friday, We Discuss:
- The stepdad who was caught trying to take pictures of you in the shower when you were a teenager now has a new family, new stepchildren, and a new baby on the way. How can you prevent him from preying on them?
- You’ve discovered hard evidence that your toxic, soon-to-be-ex-business partner is guilty of fraud. The vengeful part of you really wants to report her to the authorities, but you don’t want your other partner, who you like and respect, to suffer blowback. What’s the right thing to do?
- Your significant other’s anxiety has only gotten worse over the years, and their constant need for validation and reassurance is draining. How can you support their quest to become mentally healthier without becoming emotionally exhausted yourself? [Thanks to clinical psychologist Dr. Erin Margolis for helping us with this one!]
- You consider yourself a strong, knowledgeable, take-no-crap woman, but you’ve been fired from two jobs this year for “not fitting with company culture.” So you started your own business, which you love, but you can’t overcome the guilt of providing less for your family than you did as someone else’s unsatisfied employee. What should you do?
- You really do love your future mother-in-law, but you’re not jazzed about her plans to live in your backyard guesthouse permanently when you tie the knot with her son. Is it wrong for you to want boundaries between yourself and your extended family while building a family of your own?
- Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share with us? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHarbinger and Instagram at @jordanharbinger.
- Connect with Gabriel on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi.
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Miss our conversation with the American photographer who survived seven months under captivity by Al-Qaeda? Catch up with episode 217: Matthew Schrier | How to Survive in a Secret Syrian Terrorist Prison here!
The Psychology Podcast with Scott Barry Kaufman gives you insights into the mind, brain, behavior, and creativity. Check it out here or wherever you listen to fine podcasts!
Resources from This Episode:
- Bill Sullivan | Pleased to Meet Me | Jordan Harbinger
- Reid Hoffman | Surprising Entrepreneurial Truths | Jordan Harbinger
- Bob Saget | How Comedy Continually Changes His Life | Jordan Harbinger
- Do the Math: Am I a Psychopath? | Feedback Friday | Jordan Harbinger
- National Child Abuse Coalition
- When Your Employee Defrauds the Government | Feedback Friday | Jordan Harbinger
- Report Fraud | US Dept. of Justice
- Erin Margolis | Thrive Psychology Group
- How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome | Deep Dive | Jordan Harbinger
- Modern Family | Prime Video
- “Who Wants Crème Brûlée?” | SNL
612: Cautioning Creepy Dad’s Current Clan | Feedback Friday
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to Feedback Friday. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with Feedback Friday producer Gabriel Mizrahi. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how amazing people think and behave. Our mission is to help you become a better informed, more critical thinker. So you can get a much deeper understanding of how the world works and make sense of what's really happening, even inside your own mind.
[00:00:34] If you're new to this show on Fridays, we give advice, we answer listener questions. The rest of the week, we have long-form interviews and conversations with a variety of amazing folks from athletes, authors, thinkers to performers, spies to CEOs. This week, we had Bill Sullivan on what makes us, us from DNA to gut microbiome and bacteria, a really fascinating conversation here. Also, we had Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist and founder of LinkedIn. He returns to the show with advice for founders, business owners, and entrepreneurs alike on parsing great ideas, how to interpret different kinds of No's from investors or other stakeholders. He's a brilliant guy to talk to. I know you'll dig that one as well, even if you're not a business owner or a startup founder. So make sure you've had to listen to everything that we created for you here this week.
[00:01:18] By the way. I know a lot of you probably heard this already, but Bob Saget sadly passed away. No idea why yet they haven't released any info on the cause or anything like that. But he was one of my favorite guests of the show that was episode 372. We'll link it up in the show notes. It was a lot of fun to do. And it was also really funny because the backstory behind it was just ridiculous. Like he got suggested to me and then he kind of didn't really want to do it. And he was very forthright about that, but it wasn't rude or mean. And he was just very busy and there was a lot going on and he didn't have working Internet. And then the day of, the Internet wasn't working at all, so he calls me on my cell phone from a blocked number. And of course, I'm not answering it, but then I realize, oh, it's probably him. He can't reach me. I can't reach him. So every time he calls me, I answer and I'm, you know, who the hell is this block number? And he just says, "Saget," like not, "Bob Saget here." It's just Saget like really sort of loudly, and obviously he was just also messing with me and frustrated at the Internet. We chatted for a really long time. We ended up having to reschedule, but he was such a friendly, fun guy. He was cracking jokes a lot of the time, but he also was able to have, as you heard in the episode, if you heard it, a serious conversation, which surprised even him, and he was just a lovely guy, we kept in touch a little bit after the fact. We had plans to meet up after the pandemic. He invited me to a bunch of his shows. He's just a very generous giving guy and the world has lost not only a cultural icon, but a good human being. So I just wanted to give him a shout out. Bob Saget, you will be sorely missed, my friend.
[00:02:48] All right. I don't know how to transition to the rest of the shows. But the show indeed must go on. Alright, Gabe, what's the first thing out of the mailbag?
[00:02:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: Dear Jordan and Gabe. When I was 16, my mom caught my stepdad trying to take photos of me in the shower. I grew up mostly comfortable with him. I had a happy childhood and apart from some questionable comments he made towards me, I was unaware that I was being preyed upon. Once I found out that this happened though, a lot of things started to click in my head and I realized the extent of the abuse. Long story short, my stepdad was creeping on me as well as my mom, while we were asleep. My mom called the police the night she caught him, but he must've deleted the photos because they were unable to find anything on his phone. He was the only quote-unquote, "father I had," and as you can imagine, this completely shook me. All of this led to their divorce. And I haven't seen or talked to him in over seven years. Since then, he has married a woman with two young daughters and she's pregnant with a new daughter of his own. I'm terrified for these girls. And I don't know if there's anything I can do to protect them, or at least make the new wife aware. I have two half-brothers who belong to him, who aren't aware of the situation. They are both developmentally delayed and were too young at the time. But I plan on telling them now that they're older. How can I deal with this trauma without hurting my brothers or myself? And how can I prevent his new children from getting hurt as well? Signed, The Wavering Watchdog.
[00:04:08] Jordan Harbinger: Holy smokes. This is a dark story. I'm so sorry this happened to you. It's so gross. I can only imagine how disturbing and violating it must have been to learn about all of this. It sounds like it through your entire childhood into a very different light. And I hope you're doing okay now. It's interesting. Gabe. I'm thinking about the woman from a few weeks back who went through something similar with her stepdad and then told her mom about it. And the mom was like, "Okay." And then said she didn't believe her and then moved to a different state with the husband and just never told the daughter. Just a horrible backwards reaction.
[00:04:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, that was super sad. Episode 592, jordanharbinger.com/592. At least the mother in this story though, believed her daughter and divorced. Although the difference is in this situation, she caught him red-handed and she was a victim herself. So I guess it would be much harder for her to deny that this was going on in the first place, right?
[00:04:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, of course. I mean, in any event, what I'm saying is I'm glad to hear that he's out of your lives and that you guys have moved on. Except now, you've learned that he has this new family and he's in close contact with two young girls with another one on the way. And I mean, obviously strong molester vibe, and you want to protect them from him, which I completely undressed.
[00:05:19] I'm sure his new wife has no idea about his history, especially since he was never arrested or charged with anything. So unless she hears from someone who knows him, it's possible he could continue abusing more victims. So is there a way to prevent his new children from getting hurt? And sure, look, you have a few options here.
[00:05:39] Option one, you reach out to his new wife by phone or email, or even freaking Facebook anonymously or not, depending on how much risk you feel comfortable with and tell her your story. I would be as detailed and as straightforward as you can focus on the facts. I would tell her that you have no other agenda besides helping protect her and her children from somebody that, you know, to be a threat. Answer her questions. I'm sure she'll have a few and try to be patient with her as she processes all this. You've got to help her fill in the blanks of the man that she's married to. My guess is this will be a pretty intense conversation for her and for you too. And if you tell her what happened and she's like, I don't believe you, or she just won't even engage, you might want to have your mom also write to her or hop on the phone and corroborate your story. Tell her the same thing happened to her. I imagine that it would be hard for this woman to dismiss two women telling the same story. Although you never know, right?
[00:06:35] Your former stepdad has a grip on her, or maybe she's very naive or she confronts him and he's like, "Oh yeah, they're crazy. They've always had it in for me. And they're trying to destroy my reputation and our happy relationship because they're jealous." Right? He's got to say that. And she might just be like, "Okay, that makes sense. I'll just ignore it." Sadly, that kind of thing happens all the time. If that does happen, it would be great to have some solid evidence. I would contact the police department that came to the house that night and see if you can get your hands on the police report and/or the incident report. They might be lost by now, but probably not. And you never know it's worth a shot. The report isn't going to prove that your stepdad actually did something wrong, but it would at least show that you guys are on record as saying that he did this terrible thing and that it was bad enough in the moment to call the cops. That should get her attention, the new wife, right? It's not like, "Oh, it came out a decade later that this happened. And it's just all nonsense." Like in the moment, you called the cops on your dad, that's more.
[00:07:34] Option two is you report this to another agency like the Department of Children and Families or CPS, whatever the equivalent in your state and tell them why you're concerned about this guy. That you know he has a history of sexual abuse to his own kids, step kids, and that you're concerned that he might be doing it again or could be doing it again to his new family. All you need to make a report to CPS is suspicion that a guy you know as a pedophile has access to young children. Then it's up to CPS to follow up on whatever they want to do to take the report, what to do about it. When you call, ask CPS if you also need to call the police. CPS might say, "No, it's not a legal issue. It's just a child abuse situation," or they'll say, "Yeah, and we've got it from here." You might need to do both, but that depends on your jurisdiction. And who knows? They might even ask you for your own police report about that incident as well. It might go into file. And hopefully the system will kick in and do its job.
[00:08:33] Just keep in mind that CPS, DCF, and the police will need evidence of abuse in order to intervene. And who knows if they'll actually find it. I hope they do find it if in fact it's happening, but they might not. And that's sort of the limit of your influence here. All you can do is bring it to the right people's attention. And that includes his new wife. If you tell her your story and she decides to stay with this guy and keep the kids around, that's her choice. And you'll have to accept that as potentially horrible and heartbreaking as that actually is.
[00:09:05] As for your two half-brothers, I think it's fair if you want to tell them what happened with their dad, it's your story to tell. And if you feel that they should know, then you can reach out. I would just be very clear about what your expectations are for that conversation. If you want them to know the truth, because you think they might be at risk somehow, or because you want to know if they've been hurt by him too, or because they might have kids soon and you're concerned about them being around him. Those are all good legit reasons. But if you're telling them for some other reason, for example, you want to get revenge by turning his sons against him or ruining his reputation in their mind or something like that, I would just take a beat and really think about it. Not because you're wrong to have that impulse. I mean, I would wreck this guy. I would totally get it if you did, right? But because telling his sons, it just might not give you the closure or the satisfaction that you're looking for. That can only really come from processing what happened to you, working through that experience, and taking appropriate action with any new victims.
[00:10:05] So what I'm really saying here is just be thoughtful about your reasons for dropping such a huge bomb on these two guys.
[00:10:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: That is a really, really good point, Jordan. It's a super interesting question. You know, who actually really needs to know about this? Does everybody in the family need to know just as a matter of, you know, policy because we're all connected? Or does she only need to tell people who might be affected by this guy in the future? It's very complicated stuff. And I could also imagine different people coming to different conclusions about that. So we'll let you make up your mind, but that actually brings us to your last question: how can you deal with this trauma without hurting your brothers or hurting yourself? And sadly, I think the answer is that you can't, you can't really.
[00:10:44] I mean, first of all, look, you're already hurt. This happened to you. It obviously made a big impact. And by telling the story to new people, old feelings could resurface. It could even be potentially re-traumatizing in some ways. And you know better than anybody, you have to be prepared for that if you're going to have these conversations, and if you haven't done this already, I would definitely talk to a therapist about all of this. So you can prepare for that. Maybe develop some coping strategies in advance if the conversations get really.
[00:11:11] But also, I don't think that there's a way to tell your half-brothers about what happened without hurting them at all, either. I mean, this bomb you're about to drop it's painful. There's no way around that. I imagine that it would be devastating for them to learn that their father isn't the guy that they thought he was, especially if they have any intellectual disabilities now. I know you said they were developmentally delayed, so maybe that will play a role too. Something to consider if they're really equipped to understand this big revelation.
[00:11:37] And I guess that's what makes this choice so difficult, Jordan, but the truth is going to hurt people. Of course, it's going to hurt people, including her sometimes.
[00:11:44] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. There's no easy or low drama way to do this. The revelation is dramatic, right? So the real question is: is the potential damage worth it? Is it better for this guy's new wife to be devastated if it means her kids stay safe? Is it better for your half-brothers to know the truth, even if it changes their relationship with their father? And also, is it healthier for you to tell your story and protect other people even if it brings up difficult feelings for you? Those are the questions I'd be asking. And they're really questions that only you can answer, but I can tell that you've come a long way in processing all of this. You strike me as very secure, focused, balanced. So I know that you'll arrive at the right answer.
[00:12:25] And, you know, Gabe, I'm wondering if maybe warning her ex-stepdad's new wife about him. If that's maybe a way of maybe making meaning out of this gross, terrible experience. You know, like if she can save a few other kids from going through what she went through or worse it'll also help her process and make sense of the abuse that she endured, which is painful as it is. That can be very powerful. And I'm so sorry this happened to you again, but I really admire your conviction and your courage in looking out for other people here. Take care of yourself. We're sending you and your mom hugs from California.
[00:13:00] Gabe, you know, the guy raises a girl to 16, from extensively when she was little, right? And then takes photos of her in the shower. That's a guy that would almost certainly do that to his own kids or other step kids as well. You know, people don't get divorced if they're not damn sure that when they caught him in the act, that's what he was doing, right? If she was like, "Wait, were you just doing what I thought you were doing?" This was, "Oh my God. I can't even like sweep this under the rug, lie to myself, rationalize it. This is as bad as it looks." There's not a lot of ambiguity here. This dude is a predator and so pervy. Look, if you are — I got to phrase this delicately. If you're like some guys staying at a house and there's a girl who's 16 and she's attractive, and you're like, kind of feeling it. It's illegal. It's statutory to do anything because she's young, but it's not your kid. This is a girl you raised for a long time from a little kid. You shouldn't have that. You shouldn't be feeling those feelings that make you want to take nudes of this person. That is just dysfunctionally, broken and creepy and predatory. So hopefully she's able to convey that to the new wife, but I worry that look, this woman is pregnant. She's incentivized to not believe a word of it because it's going to wreck her world while she's pregnant and married to a guy with two step kids, possibly in a precarious financial position as well, right? So she still has to try though for the sake of the kid, she has to try to convey this yucky, yucky message and make something out of this situation.
[00:14:34] Well, you know, who's not at all likely to end up on the sex offenders list? The products and services that support this podcast. We'll be right back.
[00:14:43] You're listening to Feedback Friday here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
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[00:16:52] And now back to Feedback Friday on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:16:57] Okay, next up.
[00:16:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: Hi, Jordan and Gabe. For the last two years, I've owned a business with two other people, let's call them Hansel and Gretel. Gretel and I ended up having a very toxic business relationship. She thinks she's the center of the universe and does very hardcore gaslighting. And we basically hate each other. Things are not going well. So I've decided to leave. Now, she's also decided to leave the company, leaving Hansel with the business. I was doing some diligence before parting ways to make sure that there are no liabilities. And I found some hard evidence that Gretel might've committed fraud with respect to government aid. I've pointed this out to Hansel. He says, "I'll look into it," but he doesn't do anything. This wouldn't spill over onto me if there were ever an investigation, but it could definitely put the partners in a bad spot. Gretel could even face a hefty fine or jail time. I know that fraud is a serious crime, but my motivation would be purely revenge in this case. I really want to see her pay, but I'm also afraid that I might cause collateral damage to Hansel who's a nice person. Should I just leave and let things sort themselves out on their own or should I make an anonymous tip to the authorities just to make sure Gretel pays for all of the emotional damage she caused me. Signed, Burning Down the Gingerbread House on My Way Out.
[00:18:08] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Super interesting question. I got to say in general, I have zero qualms about reporting somebody for engaging in fraud, especially government fraud. To me, it's unconscionable, it's gross. And it's unfair to everyone else. All of us have to pay for that assistance. That's coming out of all of our pockets so that she can, what? Like go on a vacation.
[00:18:28] Gabe, you know, remember that Feedback Friday we did a while back? About the guy who found out that his employee and his employee's wife were getting like 40 grand in government aid. What was that? The COVID, something with the COVID aid and they didn't qualify for it. They were just buying like DSLR cameras and a new deck on the freaking house or something like that.
[00:18:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's right. Yeah. They claimed unemployment too, right? And then they got a PPP loan and then they installed a new deck on the house and went to Hawaii or something like that. Yes. So of course, that was, by the way, if you guys are curious, that was episode 472 if you guys want to check. People do this stuff. It's wild.
[00:19:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's totally ridiculous and entitled and selfish. Basically. I was like report these scumbags and drag their ass because I cannot stand people like this. If Gretel did fraudulently receive government aid and then she tried to hide it from you. You only found out because you were digging, which in addition to being illegal also could have put you at serious risk as a co-owner of the business and she didn't care. So yeah, I have very little sympathy for this person. I definitely appreciate your desire for justice/revenge, but you're going to have to think through a few things before you pull the trigger here.
[00:19:39] First of all, you said that you found hard evidence that Gretel might have committed fraud. I do your damnedest to make sure that it's fraud before you decide what to do next. Maybe it's hard to tell from the paperwork or the bank records or whatever, but maybe you even need like a forensic accountant to look at it, but I'd want to be 90 percent sure that Gretel really this, because the last thing you want is to report her and compromise Hansel or yourself if it turns out that she didn't actually do anything wrong.
[00:20:09] One thing you could do is just ask Gretel point blank about what you found. I would just play dumb act innocent, just be like, "Hey, so I was looking over our bank statements and I noticed a 30 grand deposit last July that just like popped in and out. I couldn't remember what that was. Can you remind me?" And I bet her reaction to your question is going to tell you a lot. As soon as she starts sputtering and battling and making up some nonsense about blah, blah, blah, the check went to the wrong place. I'm Googling the SBA fraud tip hotline. And on that note, I know you said that this wouldn't spill over onto you if there ever were an investigation, but I would also be very sure that that's the case.
[00:20:46] We obviously don't know all the facts here, but if all three of you were owners of the business and Uncle Sam got wind that the company benefited from an illegal PPP loan or something like that. I don't think it's inconceivable that you'd be caught up in that. At minimum, you would have to prove that you didn't know about the money or that you didn't apply for the aid or that it was part of the business that you weren't directly involved in. That could be tough. So my advice is, book a consult with an attorney even if it costs a couple hundred bucks, it'll be worth it. Tell them your story, how you're thinking of reporting Gretel. See what they say. A lawyer will have a much better sense of how insulated you really are from this. And also the ramifications of reporting a business partner for fraud in general.
[00:21:30] My gut, Gabe, says there's probably whistleblower statutes and stuff that shield you from this, but I just don't know.
[00:21:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, and if there are, then that would probably put her at ease. That's a great point. Yeah, she's a whistleblower. So she can't really be at fault. Yeah, they probably protect people like this. The other thing you have to do is balance your desire for revenge against Gretel, against the likelihood that Hansel will be left, holding the bag. And that's a really tough one. I get why you want to take Gretel down after being such a crappy partner to you, possibly being a criminal/probably being a criminal, but it would also suck for Hansel to go down for something that he didn't even know about. I mean, I'm just putting myself in his shoes. Like that's a terrible situation to be in.
[00:22:08] On the other hand, you did tell Hansel about all of this. And he said he would look into it and he didn't do anything. So I think you did right by that guy. You gave him a heads up. The ball's in his court. He needs to take care of himself. But if you do decide to report Gretel, there's still a chance that he would be collateral damage, which there's no two ways about it. It's bad news for him. So one solution is maybe you approach Hansel and report Gretel together. Then at least you look like the good guys/the whistleblowers and you're on record together as saying, "Look, we found some potential fraud. We reported it immediately. We want to make this right. Gretel's the one who did this. That might be a smart, you know, CYA move for both of you. And your attorney will be able to advise you on the best way to do that if of course they think that it is a smart strategy, definitely run that idea by them.
[00:22:53] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Just make sure that it's your lawyer, not yours and Hansel's or yours and maybe someone from the company, because you want the duty of care and responsibility and privilege, you know, attorney-client privilege, that sort of confidentiality thing. You want that from that lawyer to be yours and yours alone. You do not want to share a lawyer because if sh*t hits the fan, you can't use them against the other party if they also represent them. And you, even if you're not fighting with that party the lawyer has to do what's best for both parties as one. So you really want somebody who's just looking out for you and has no other concerns and isn't going to be like, "Oh, I shouldn't tell my client this because it prejudices the other person." You just don't want to deal with that. Just get your own lawyer. Don't try and nickel and dime it. I've made this mistake before.
[00:23:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. Good call, Jordan. That's actually really good advice. All that said, though, the biggest thing you're going to have to figure out is how much of this choice is about personal revenge and how much of it is about doing what's right. I get the sense that you're motivated by both, but revenge is clearly the main objective here. And look, I get it. It must hurt to think about Gretel, just moving on without paying a price. But I don't know, Jordan, I'm kind of wary of getting people back just for being sh*tty. I mean, look, there's sh*tty people everywhere, right? in the world. You can't change everybody. And usually the best policy is just don't get caught up in their bullsh*t because that could take you down. The best thing you could have done in this situation was just get away from this person. If you want to hold her accountable for a crime though, and for taking money from other taxpayers as Jordan pointed out and for putting you at serious risk as her partner, then I think you're on more solid ground or more objective ground, anyway. So maybe just do a little soul searching there, make sure that you're doing this for the right reasons.
[00:24:35] Jordan Harbinger: I hear you there, Gabe. Yeah, it's a good point. But also I totally get that desire for revenge. I've mentioned that at the top. I've worked with toxic people. That thirst is real, but I'm also of the opinion that the best revenge is moving on and finding success without them. Because you can easily get dragged down, trying to take someone else down, even if it's just, you know, having to spend 18 months filing paperwork and sending in documentation and sitting for depositions while the government does its thing. Not that's going to happen to you. I still encourage reporting of crimes generally, but you know, it's not just going to be like simple phone call, wash your hands of it. She gets what she deserves. It rarely ever works like that. Whatever you decide, just make sure you're protecting yourself. And now that you've been through this kind of toxic partnership, just promise yourself. You won't get into bed with another personality like this ever again. That's the real lesson here. Good luck.
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[00:25:53] All right. What's next?
[00:25:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: Dear Jordan to Gabriel, my partner and I are in our early 30s. And we've been together for over seven years. On the whole, we have a good relationship. He's always been a bit anxious, but in the last couple of years, his anxiety has increased dramatically. He was in a somewhat toxic work environment until recently, and he always believed the source of his anxiety stemmed from work. But when he received a great job offer from a new company, he had a full-blown panic attack. His anxiety has only increased since taking his new job. And I think that some of his imposter syndrome isn't helping. It's gotten to the point that before he can make any decision, he has to have as many people as possible confirming that he made the right choice. He even refuses to decide what we watch together in the evening or what we have for dinner. I am now emotionally exhausted. My partner needing constant validation and reassurance, me having to make decisions about everything in our lives. It's really depleting me. Also, if I try to get some time for myself or I don't react in a quote-unquote, "positive way," he takes it as complete rejection and spirals. He's a very black and white thinker. There's no in between for him. And when I told him that I felt that a qualified person could help him more than I could, he interpreted that as saying that I thought he was too much of a bother and vowed to never mention his feelings to me again. Of course, this didn't last long and eventually he agreed to see a therapist, but I'm not sure he's fully engaging with that journey yet. How can I support my other half to become mentally healthier without becoming emotionally exhausted myself? Signed, Bankrupt Beloved.
[00:27:22] Jordan Harbinger: Wow, Gabe, quite a complex relationship and a very complicated partner to be with. He's obviously wrestling with some pretty serious anxiety, but I'm also picking up on something else here, not sure what. The need for constant validation, the emotional lability, the black and white thinking, the "whole I'm too much of a bother and I'll never talk about my feelings again," that sounds like there's something deeper going on here. Maybe some personality stuff. And if I were him, I'd want to get to the bottom of that.
[00:27:48] But let me start just by acknowledging you're playing a very tough role here. It's incredibly difficult to be with a partner with intense mental health challenges. And it sounds like you've been handling it quite well all things considered. It's even harder if your partner doesn't feel that he has the resources to manage this stuff himself, because then it feels like the burden is on you to fix or help them when it is not. So you feeling totally exhausted, I get it. It makes perfect sense. We wanted to run your story by an expert. So we reached out to the one and only Dr. Erin Margolis, clinical psychologist, friend of the show.
[00:28:21] And her first thought was — if you haven't done this already — it might be time to take the onus off of yourself to fix this problem for your boyfriend. Anxiety big emotions, these are not problems to be solved. People often approach them that way, but you don't have to be the one to find the answer on your boyfriend's behalf. He has to find the answer. And that's a tough pill to swallow because if you let him go through whatever he's going through and let go of this need to fix it for him, that might mean just listening and saying, "I'm so sorry." This sounds really hard and that's frustrating. You want to help him. You sound like a very empathic person and you want him to get better, but you can't do the work for him because the things that you are doing, like giving him a lot of reassurance all the time, taking control of all the decisions, talking them down that might not even be helping as much as it seems. I get the sense that he looks to you to do that. And then he's just less and less able to do that for himself in the future. And then you're pulled into this dynamic where you have to sort of prop your boyfriend up, be the proxy personality he needs to function. And there's a certain codependency in that, or at least a very dysfunctional and exhausting dynamic for you.
[00:29:32] So Dr. Margolis' insight was that more than anything, you need some stronger boundaries right now, boundaries around the limits of your responsibility and also boundaries around what you're willing to tolerate from him. And your challenge in setting those boundaries will be to tolerate your boyfriend's reaction. Because the truth is you cannot save him. You cannot fix his anxiety. You cannot make him engage fully in therapy. He has to do that himself. So you need to figure out how much to support him and in what way, and to risk him lashing out at you or having a panic attack or whatever response he has so that you can protect your own energy here.
[00:30:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, I'm with you a hundred percent Jordan, because that's the other crucial part of this equation, the impact that this relationship or the way you guys are relating to each other is having on you. And whether that even feels sustainable. I think, you know that the way things are going, it's probably not sustainable. I mean, sure, you can continue to play this role for him, but it sounds like it's coming at an enormous cost to you. So I would look into some resources to help. Couples therapy might be a great idea, individual therapy to figure out how this relationship is operating, how best to support a partner like this, or it might be time to consider if this is really the relationship you want to be in.
[00:30:46] Just to be super clear. I'm not saying you need to leave this guy tomorrow. Not at all. There could totally be some great work for you guys to do here, but I'm saying that you do need to consider your own needs. Maybe look at your own ways of engaging with somebody else who has a lot going on. And while you do that, I would definitely keep encouraging your boyfriend to talk to his therapist about the roots of his anxiety, and also all of these other tendencies you mentioned. As Dr. Margolis put it to us, he needs to learn how to soothe himself so that that responsibility doesn't fall entirely on you.
[00:31:16] Jordan Harbinger: I agree. So that's the bottom line. You can't fix your boyfriend. You can only support him while also protecting yourself. Maybe pulling back on your responsibility will actually open up some space for him to step up, do the work, engage with his therapist, or maybe he'll melt down and throw up his hands. And then you just have to decide if this is the partner you actually want to be. Either way, it's his journey. I would give him the gift of struggling in order to get better. In the meantime, take care of yourself, keep an eye on those boundaries and stay connected to what you need as well. Sending you good thoughts.
[00:31:50] Also, Gabe, not to be too harsh here, but this actually— I feel bad saying this. It sounds so freaking annoying. Like this would break me for real. I couldn't, I can't placate someone all the time. It would drain me, I already know. Hearing about it is draining. So living in it, it's just —
[00:32:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:32:06] Jordan Harbinger: I couldn't do it.
[00:32:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's a difficult, difficult partner to have, but also I have so much compassion for him because like you said, there's definitely something going on beyond just your garden variety anxiety here. Something in his personality is not quite working and he needs to figure that out. So like compassionate up to a point but also if he's struggling and suffering this month and it's showing up in his work, he needs to do the work and he can't look to his partner to fix all of that for him. So, yeah, ah, tough relationship.
[00:32:33] Jordan Harbinger: Indeed.
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[00:32:42] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show, and this is Feedback Friday. We'll be right back.
[00:32:46] This episode is sponsored in part by QuickVue. After returning from the Amazon Jungle for the peace of mind and my pregnant wife and family, I made sure to get tested for COVID-19. Did you know that with QuickVue at-home OTC COVID-19 tests, you can get rapid results in just 10 minutes in the privacy of your own home? You can pick one up over the counter at your local retailer or online and testing is really easy. Instructions are clear and simple. Essentially, you swab each nostril, put the swab in a tube of solution, put the test, strip in the solution and then wait and check for the results. Whether you're feeling under the weather, seeing a loved one, returning from a trip, or you just want to check your COVID-19 status. It's always a good idea to test with QuickVue at-home OTC COVID-19 test. Take 10 minutes, take charge, visit email@example.com for FDA emergency use authorization only. Pick up a QuickVue at home OTC COVID-19 tests at your local retailer.
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[00:35:13] Jen Harbinger: Progressive Casualty Insurance Company and affiliates. National Annual Average Insurance Savings by New Customers surveyed who saved with Progressive between June 2020 and May 2021. Potential savings will vary. Discounts vary and are not available in all states and situations.
[00:35:27] Jordan Harbinger: Hey, by the way, Spotify just released the ability to rate the show in the Spotify app. You search for the show in Spotify, and then you click the little dots on the right, and there's an option for rate the show. Please rate us five stars. I think it helps. I know a lot of you using Spotify wanted to rate and review and didn't have a chance because it was only on Apple and other platforms before, but please in your Spotify app, search for The Jordan Harbinger Show. If you need to do that and then click the little dots up there on the right and rate us five, six. I think those ratings are going to matter for the charts. So if you want to help other people discover the show, I would really appreciate it. It would be super helpful. Thank you so much.
[00:36:00] And now for the conclusion of Feedback Friday.
[00:36:05] All right. What's next?
[00:36:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Hi, Jordan and Gabe. I've always seen myself as a high achiever and a hard worker. I've been promoted at nearly every job I've held and pour my heart and soul into my work. But this year I've been fired from two jobs for quote-unquote, "not fitting with company culture," and that's a direct quote from both. In fact, both of my managers said that they acknowledged that I'm fantastic at my job and they don't know how they'll replace me. Personally, I think this has happened because I am a strong, knowledgeable, take-no-crap woman. I have often been described as aggressive, but if I were a man, I think I would be described as assertive. This has been a problem my whole life. People just don't know how to handle a woman who is confident. So in an effort to stop trying to mold myself to other people's expectations, I decided to open my own business. It's incredibly small, just an Etsy shop for now, but I'm really pursuing my passion. I've always loved gardening and natural remedies. And in this shop, I am making things with materials that I harvest from my own land in Oregon, but I have massive guilt about not providing for my family like I used to. When I was working in the corporate world, my husband and I were comfortable now after several financial setbacks that cleared out our emergency fund, I feel like I should give up my dream shop and return to corporate. My husband has been amazingly supportive and he's not pushing me one way or the other. I just can't seem to overcome my guilt about this. So what should I do? Signed, A Corporate Refugee, Wondering Whether to Flee Plea or Go Back For Round Three.
[00:37:28] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny, Gabe, I totally thought this question was going to be, how can I be strong and confident at work without coming across as super aggro? But then the question was really about whether to give up her business and go back to a traditional job. What I find interesting is that she wanted us to know what drove her out of corporate life in the first place. And actually those two things might be related. So let's start with your main question and then work our way back.
[00:37:51] First of all, I can definitely appreciate the bind that you're in. You're basically torn between running a business on your own terms and making more money in corporate life. And there are practical reasons to consider that. So it makes sense. Welcome to the entrepreneurial conundrum. The guilt piece though is interesting to me. You said your husband is super supportive and he's not pressuring you to give up on your dream. So this conflict is really coming from you.
[00:38:15] So my first question is: why you feel this conflict, why you feel it's on you and you alone to make sure you guys are financially secure? Whether being an entrepreneur is bringing up other thoughts and feelings, like for example, some anxiety about giving up income to create a long-term business, maybe even some feelings around prioritizing your own happiness. All of that would make sense to me. I'm not questioning the logic, but if you want to resolve the guilt. I'd explore where it comes from, especially since no one else in this story is punishing you for starting your own business. It's all you.
[00:38:47] On a more practical level, you guys are living an entrepreneurial life right now, and entrepreneurial lives, as you know, they're riskier, they're often more unstable and there are going to be periods where you're stretched thin. That's just the reality of life, especially as a business owner. So maybe you guys need to make some adjustments to get through this period. Maybe cut some costs if you can. Build your savings back up a little, get that little buffer again, I can't offer finance advice and I know you're not asking for it, but I do wonder if you would feel less guilt if you and your husband found a way to balance your finances just a little more. So there isn't as much pressure on you to go back to that nine to five. Just a thought.
[00:39:25] Okay. All that said, I do wonder if the guilt you're feeling is connected to your experience back in your old jobs. You were fired twice for being, what? Aggressive, intense, authoritative, whatever you want to call it. And after the last one you basically said, "Screw it. If they can't deal with a confident woman, I'll just work for myself. I'm tired of bending over backwards to fit in," which to be fair, that might've been the right move. Maybe the same traits that were a liability in corporate life are actually huge assets as an entrepreneur. You see that all of the time.
[00:39:56] Look at me, for example. If I talk this much or this wildly at a law firm, I'd be disciplined by HR every other week and fired within a year. And I did get in trouble at my law firms, especially the British one. I tell stories all the time. I got in trouble like every week. Saying something, "You shouldn't have said that." "Oh, you can't talk to that guy that way." "Ah, you can't even be like this and do that." It was like every week. That was a British law firm, fine. My New York one was kind of boys' club, like get away with anything. But eh, most companies aren't like that.
[00:40:23] When you do say you feel guilty for continuing to run this business, I wonder if what you're really saying is I feel guilty for prioritizing my desire to not have to change over our need to make more money. You see what I'm getting at? The guilt you feel it's not just about the opportunity cost of not making more money. It's also about your decision to leave an environment that didn't suit you or that you didn't suit, because it was so frustrating and maybe even hurtful on some level. And now you're wondering if that was really a fair choice or if maybe you could have, or should have worked on this aspect of your style and maybe found a better home in corporate life.
[00:41:02] So, if any of that fits, and I'll obviously let you decide if it does, then I would explore this choice you've made some more. Talk to your husband, really get clear on whether both of you are comfortable with this trade off. And if you do some soul searching and you realize that you started this Etsy shop, because you're actually quite anxious about going back to corporate, maybe because you'll have to revisit this personality and style stuff or risk being fired again, well, then you've got a choice. Either you go back to corporate life, but with a new openness and willingness to work on this assertive style of yours.
[00:41:33] Try to find a way to be authoritative without being domineering. And just to be clear, I'm not saying you were totally in the wrong or that women don't get judged by a different standard than men, or even that there was a problem with your style. That's a whole other episode, probably a whole other question here. I don't doubt that you were a super effective employee. I don't doubt it at all. But when you get fired from two different companies for the exact same reason, I do think it's worth taking a look at that quality, getting some more feedback, maybe some coaching and figuring out if you need to calibrate your style a little bit. That's fair. Tons of executives have to learn how to do that. So that's option one.
[00:42:08] Option two, you stick with your own business, knowing you don't want to have to change. Maybe even knowing that your assertiveness will make your business successful and you throw yourself into it with a lot less of this guilt, you and your husband, do whatever you need to do to make this venture successful. Maybe you even agree to give it a year or two and see how it goes. And you just work your butt off to generate as much revenue as you bring in from a traditional job.
[00:42:33] And if you do that, then the guilt will probably go away because then you'll have eliminated the main opportunity cost, the financial one. So that's what I do. Get clear on what's keeping you out of corporate life, but also what's drawing you to entrepreneurial life. Decide if this business is really a way to chart your own path and capitalize on your unique talents, or if it's just a clever way to avoid doing the hard work of evolving as an executive. And figure out if this guilt is just about the money or if it's about something deeper, your own needs, your husband's interests, what role you feel you play in your marriage. Whatever you decide to do, I admire your hustle and your confidence, and I wish you the best. Good luck.
[00:43:14] By the way, if you're joining us for the first time, or you want to tell your friends about the show and I love it when you do that, check out our episode starter packs. These are collections of top episodes organized by popular topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started.
[00:43:32] All right next step.
[00:43:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Hey guys, I have a lovely mother-in-law who I actually get along with wonderfully. She's so sweet, generous, and she truly considers me her new daughter. I'm 23. My fiance is 28. We're planning on getting married next year. We both know we want children pretty soon and we'll likely buy a new house when raising kids becomes a priority. The issue is my mother-in-law really wants to live close to us. And by close, I mean, she wants to have a guest house in our backyard at our new home, for her to live in permanently. I'm really not hot on this idea as I would like us to live our own lives and not feel like we are never alone. Is it unreasonable of me to want our own space in our marriage and in our life? And how can I get my point across to my mother-in-law without damaging the relationship or creating bad juju? Signed, Pumping the Brakes On My New Roommate.
[00:44:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, this is awkward. I mean, I'm super close with my in-laws. I love them. We get along great. But if they wanted to move in with us, I think that'd be a bridge too far. I actually find it pretty strange that your mother-in-law is just assuming that this is what's happening and she's not even asking you what you think of it, which seems tone deaf and actually pretty self-centered to me, although we do have to recognize that different cultures handle this differently. In some cultures, families living together is very common. Oftentimes, it's expected. And if your husband comes from one of those cultures that would explain this quite a bit.
[00:44:54] So Gabe and I might be biased as Americans who grew up in the states, but regardless your mother-in-law isn't thinking about what this move would be like for you. So I'll just answer your question right off the bat. No, you're not being unreasonable. You're not disowning your mother-in-law. You're not telling your husband he can't see his mom anymore. You're not throwing her out into the freaking street. You love her. You have a great relationship with her. You honestly sound like the dream daughter-in-law, but that doesn't mean you guys need to go full modern family here. In fact, her moving in permanently with you guys, that could actually compromise this great relationship that you have. So if you're feeling any guilt or conflict about that, I would just release that right now. This is your life. This is your family. This is your future home. And you absolutely get to decide what they look like.
[00:45:42] Also based on your letter. It doesn't sound like your mother-in-law's in trouble or anything. She's not battling cancer. She's not broke. She's not super lonely or depressed or anything like that. If she were, this decision would be harder and you might have to accept that you need to help your mother-in-law out, but she just wants to be more involved in your lives, which is super sweet but that's a bonus. It's not like she isn't involved in your lives now.
[00:46:07] So yeah, you and your husband need to get clear on what you guys were. I'm guessing he's on the same page as you, but if he isn't then have a good talk, figure that out, then you can present a united front when you decide to break the news to his mom. The last thing you want is you being like, "Well, we decided this," and he's like, "Oh yeah, my wife, she just doesn't want you here. Sorry, mom. It's all hers." Like throw you under the bus. You need to make damn sure you're on the same page. Honestly, I would let him break it to her since he is her son. That decision might go down a little bit better if she feels it's coming from her son and not her daughter-in-law, who's turning her son against her, right? from her perspective. Or you could join them for this conversation, but honestly, I'd probably let him take the lead and then just chime in as needed.
[00:46:50] You guys could say something like, "Listen, mom, we love having you in our lives. We can't wait till you get to be a grandma and spend tons of time with our kids. Maybe we can revisit that then I'm just so happy you have such an amazing relationship with. We both feel really lucky, but now that we're making plans for after the wedding, we've decided that we want to get a house and we just want that house to be ours. It's not that we don't love you. It's not that we don't want you to come over. We just feel very strongly that it's important to have some privacy and independence at this stage of our marriage, so that we start out our new lives as a married couple, just the two of us. And I'm sure you can understand that." Something like that. And then I'd reassure her that you still want her to come over. You don't want your relationship to change in any way you could even offer to help her find a place that's closer to your house. If it makes the commute easier. Basically make her feel loved and wanted even as you draw this boundary.
[00:47:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yes, such good advice. And if she does push back or she gets mad or she gets sad or just resentful quietly, which is possible, just be prepared for that, don't react too strongly to it. You know, definitely don't capitulate or hold it against her. Her reaction to you drawing the boundary that doesn't determine whether you guys are right or wrong in this situation. It's possible that she might need a couple of weeks to accept your decision, realize that you guys have a point and you do have a point. And that's actually healthy for her to recognize your autonomy and also for you to allow her to work through her feelings on her own. And then for all of you guys to just come back together, once she's accepted your choice. If you can do that, you'll definitely get your point across without damaging this relationship or creating bad juju as you put it, at least not from your end.
[00:48:28] Your mother-in-law, she might have her own experience of this and you can't control that — seems to be a bit of a theme on today's episode. If she doesn't respond well, just keep inviting her over, keep treating her well, you know, call her a couple of times a week to check in. I'm guessing that she's going to ease up. In fact, you guys, protecting your new life together when you get this new house, I'm with Jordan, I think that's actually going to keep you closer to your mother-in-law over the long term.
[00:48:51] Jordan Harbinger: I agree. Because also Gabe, I can't imagine this arrangement would even play out. I mean, how are you going to have children? If you think your mother-in-law might walk in any minute? I don't even think I could get it up if I thought somebody would bust in all of a sudden and be like, "Who wants creme brulee?" Anyway, congrats on the wedding and all the exciting plans. We're wishing you guys the best.
[00:49:09] And by the way, mom, I know you're listening. This is not about you. This has nothing to do with you. Our situation is different.
[00:49:14] I hope y'all enjoyed that. I want to thank everyone who wrote in this week and everyone who listened. Thank you so much. Go back and check out Bill Sullivan and Reid Hoffman episodes if you haven't yet.
[00:49:23] By the way, we're not going to be making worksheets anymore. I know I mentioned this last week. It's too much work creating them. It's been very difficult. We had to give up, something had to give. So no more worksheets moving forward. We're going to keep the old ones up though. Hope you did find those useful. I know a lot of you did use them. They're at jordanharbinger.com in the show notes.
[00:49:43] Speaking of resources that are free here on the show, our Six-Minute Networking course is over on the Thinkific platform at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty, create and maintain relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use every single day. I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. It has been crucial in my life. Again, all free jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:50:08] A link to the show notes for the episode is at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram. And you're welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn as well. You can find Gabe on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi or on Instagram at @GabrielMizrahi.
[00:50:23] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and of course, Gabriel Mizrahi. Our advice and opinions are our own. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. Dr Margolis' input is general psychological information based on research and clinical experience. It's intended to be general and informational in nature. It does not represent or indicate an established clinical or professional relationship with those inquiring for guidance. Remember, we rise by lifting others. So share the show with those you love. If you found this episode useful, please share it with somebody else who can use the advice we gave here today. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show. So you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
[00:51:11] If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into, here's a trailer for another episode that I think you might enjoy.
[00:51:18] Matthew Schrier: This silver Jeep Cherokee just cuts across from the oncoming lane and forces us to stop. The doors popped open and they got out. The guy in the front seat, you know, he was clothed head to toe in black. He had an AK in his hand, dude in the back seat, just this pock face guy, sweater with a chrome pistol in his hand. They jumped out and I knew exactly what was going on. I was just like in shocked.
[00:51:39] Dude in the black came over, opened the cab door, took me out, led me up to the Cherokee, put me in the back seat. He gets in after me. I looked at him. He reaches up, he pulls the ski cap I was wearing. Because it's cold in Syria in December, this is New Year's Eve. He pulls it over my eyes and leans me forward and presses the barrel of the rifle to my head. And we took off a couple seconds later.
[00:52:00] I still didn't know who had me. So, you know, the way to figure out who has me was I asked for a cigarette because like pretty much everyone in the Syrian army smokes and anyone in the gang will smoke. And when they told me I can't smoke. That's when I knew I was really deep trouble with the Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda. And they bring me up to haul it to the boiler. And that's where they tortured me.
[00:52:20] There's kids everywhere. There's a guy hanging from a pipe in handcuffs. They sat me down with my knees bent up to my chin and they forced up a car tire around your knees. And they take an iron rod and they slide it over the tire, but under your knees and the crook and that locks it into place. And then they flip you over on your stomach and so you're cuffed. And your feet are in the air and you can't move them. And they take this thick cable and that's what they use. They start wailing on the bottoms of your feet. Let me tell you something, it freaking hurts. And I got 115. That was the beginning of our punishment.
[00:53:06] What are you out of your mind? We're trying to escape from a terrorist prison here. We have more to worry about getting our arms around between a rock and a hard place for 127 hours. And he's like, "Well, I never saw that movie." And I was just like, "Ugh."
[00:53:18] Jordan Harbinger: To hear about how Matthew survived captivity and escaped being held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Syria, check out episode 217 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:53:29] Wanted to take a second and tell you about The Psychology Podcast. If you want to get an understanding of yourself and others in the world that we live in, which is probably why you listen to this show. My friend, Scott Barry Kaufman, and he's an American cognitive scientist, author, podcaster, and a popular science writer who hosts a podcast again called The Psychology Podcast. In each episode, Scott explores the depths of human potential by talking to inspiring scientists, thinkers, other self-actualized individuals. I think you really will see similarities between that show and ours. And if you like ours, you'll like this one. For example, he's interviewed renowned psychotherapist and author, Esther Perel about love and relationships, spoke about the true essence of the word arrows and freedom in the context of romantic relationships. He's also interviewed biologist David Sinclair about aging and longevity, and the notion that aging is a disease itself that we need to reverse. That's a little more heavy on the science because Scott is a scientist like a real one. And so if you like the science episodes of The Jordan Harbinger Show, I think you'll dig this show as well. So listen to the psychology podcast on Stitcher, Sirius XM, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you're listening now.
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