You’re in an online community that chats about erotic roleplay (ERP), and inadvertently engaged in conversation with a couple of minors. When you discovered their age, you immediately broke off contact — but you’re still worried this could have legal repercussions. Should you be concerned? We’ll tackle this and more here on the first Feedback Friday of the year!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Now let’s dive in!
On This Week’s Feedback Friday, We Discuss:
- As James Clear wisely says: Momentum is a double-edged sword. Listening to our interview with BJ Fogg might help you ensure you’ve got the right edge sharpened.
- You’re in an online community that chats about erotic roleplay (ERP), and inadvertently engaged in conversation with a couple of minors. When you discovered their age, you immediately broke off contact — but you’re still worried this could have legal repercussions. Should you be concerned? [Thanks to Corbin Payne, Esq. for helping us with this one!]
- Your possibly mentally ill sister is stirring up fabricated drama on social media to turn your family against you, but you’re worried you’ll just make things worse by not inviting her to your wedding. Is there any happy medium here, or is this a no-win scenario?
- A great update from the firefighter who wrote in on episode 438 about advice for dealing with a crooked boss, and an additional question: when your demeanor defaults to passive and easygoing, is there a way you can be an effective leader without compromising your personality?
- Your cousin plans to go teach English in China, but you worry his wealthy, well-traveled background might make him a target for compromise by Chinese intelligence or ransom by organized criminals. Are you just being paranoid? [Thanks to Zak Dychtwald and Matthew Tye for helping us with this one!]
- You’re trying to overcome the guilt and shame you feel for enjoying pornography — which you fear may classify as an addiction. But the group therapy program you’ve reached out to for help seems like a scam. What do we think? [Thanks to Steven Hassan for his help with this one!]
- Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share with us? Drop us a line at email@example.com!
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHarbinger and Instagram at @jordanharbinger.
- Connect with Gabriel on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi.
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Miss the show we did with Bill Browder — one of Vladimir Putin’s sworn enemies? Catch up here with episode 3: Bill Browder | Hunted by Putin!
Resources from This Episode:
- Javier Peña and Steve Murphy | Taking Down Pablo Escobar | Jordan Harbinger
- BJ Fogg | Tiny Habits That Change Everything | Jordan Harbinger
- How to Deal with Unsolicited Underage Nudes | Feedback Friday | Jordan Harbinger
- Your Place to Talk and Hang Out | Discord
- Internet Relay Chat (IRC) | Wikipedia
- Where Work Happens | Slack
- Relationships | Reddit
- How to Straighten Out Your Crooked Boss | Feedback Friday | Jordan Harbinger
- Edward Snowden | Wikipedia
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Kidnap Me Once, Shame on You | Stereo Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- Jordan & Gabe | Kidnap Me Twice, Shame on Me | Jordan Harbinger
- Zak Dychtwald | How Young China Will Change the World | Jordan Harbinger
- Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World by Zak Dychtwald
- Brokedown Palace | Prime Video
- Homeland | Prime Video
- The #1 Chinese Dictionary App | Pleco
- Learn to Write Chinese and Japanese Characters | Skritter
- Free Messaging and Calling App | WeChat
- Matthew Tye | YouTube
- Taiwan Vs. Mainland China | laowhy86, YouTube
- The Differences Between Taiwan and Mainland China | Culture Trip
- Why I Changed My Opinion on China | Laowhy86, YouTube
- Should You Move to China? | ADVChina, YouTube
- How to Identify and Treat a Pornography Addiction | Healthline
- Dr. Drew Pinsky | Give the World the Best You Have Anyway | Jordan Harbinger
- Steven Hassan | Combating Cult Mind Control Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Steven Hassan | Combating Cult Mind Control Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- Justin Ramsdell | How to Detect and Disarm Pseudoscience | Jordan Harbinger
- The Truth About Addiction and Recovery by Stanton Peele and Archie Brodsky
Transcript for Dodging Criminal Liability For Erotic Roleplaying | Feedback Friday (Episode 454)
Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to Feedback Friday. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Today, I'm here with my Feedback Friday producer, my accomplice in advice, 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 these amazing people think and behave. And 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.
[00:00:36] If you're new to the show on Fridays, we give advice to you and answer listener questions. The rest of the week, we have long-form interviews and conversations with a variety of amazing folks from spies to CEOs, athletes to authors, to thinkers and performers. For a selection of featured episodes to get you started with some of our favorite guests and popular topics, go to jordanharbinger.com. We'll hook you right up.
[00:00:56] This week, we had Javier Peña and Steve Murphy, the actual narcos DEA agents from the Netflix series. Of course, not the actors, the actual guys with some behind the scenes info on chasing and killing Pablo Escobar with the help of the Colombian National Police, of course. So make sure you had a listen to everything we created for you here this week.
[00:01:15] You can reach us for these Friday advice shows at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep your emails concise, include a descriptive subject line. That makes it a lot easier for us. If there's something that you're going through, any big decision you might be wrestling with, or you just need a new perspective on stuff like work, love, life — what to do you feel you lied in your security clearance interview. Whatever's got you staying in up at night lately, hit us up email@example.com. We're here to help and we keep everyone anonymous.
[00:01:43] So this is the first one Feedback Friday of the whole year. And I'm just glad — look, we recorded it a little bit early. It's still December where I'm at right now, but as far from what I understand, as of December 31st, this whole COVID 2020 stuff is over. So hopefully—
[00:01:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:01:57] Jordan Harbinger: —you're listening to right now, after all that has expired and we are back in a completely normal world. Right? Isn't that how it's supposed to work, Gabriel?
[00:02:04] Gabriel Mizrahi: Absolutely. I think we all agree that everything should just be contained to 2020, and then—
[00:02:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:02:08] Gabriel Mizrahi: January 1st it's like, we're good.
[00:02:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:02:10] Gabriel Mizrahi: You don't even need a vaccine.
[00:02:11] Jordan Harbinger: Back to the mall.
[00:02:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, back to the mall.
[00:02:12] Jordan Harbinger: Back to the mall, back to Chili's, TGI Friday's, whatever it is. This year, though, for real, what we should be thinking about is momentum. Momentum is a double edged sword. It can either propel you to new heights, get you where you want to go, keep you moving forward, or it can keep you locked into previous choices, previous habits, destructive habits, negative ideas, negative headspace. So here in 2021, think about where you have healthy momentum right now and where you have unhealthy momentum right now. And this little anecdote here is from BJ Fogg. That's our interview on habit change with BJ Fogg, episode 306. If you want to go and get to the roots of that. But think about where you have healthy and unhealthy momentum here in the beginning of the year.
[00:02:56] All right. Gabe, what's the first thing out of the mailbag?
[00:02:59] Gabriel Mizrahi: Hey, Jordan and Gabriel, I listened to your recent episode about receiving unsolicited nude photos from a minor — that's episode 418, by the way, if you want to check it out — and it reminded me of something that happened to me recently on Discord.
[00:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: Discord is a communication platform where you can call and message and share files and private chats. They call them servers. So think of something like — if you're old, like me, it's Internet relay chat or IRC, if you're young, it's Slack. And if you're really young, you probably know what Discord is. Just think, chat client private room where people can be anonymous. So there's a lot of just people that don't know who each other is chatting and sharing on there.
[00:03:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Exactly. So he goes on—
[00:03:36] I am in a server for erotic role play or ERP for short, and naturally we discuss sexual things. I only play with people who are verified to be 18 or over. But when I got into a chat and image sharing server from a YouTuber I watched, I got to know two individuals. We were good friends and I invited both of them into the ERP server, not knowing that they are both 16. When it came out, I immediately banned them from the server and stopped talking with them about sexual topics. Other staff members of the ERP server approved of my actions. And I have heard nothing of it so far. I know that in 10 years, this will count as not relevant under German law, but I'm still anxious and afraid despite the fact that there's nothing connecting my Discord account to my real identity. So what should I do? Signed ERP-eeing my Pants.
[00:04:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yikes. Well, I understand why you're concerned and you absolutely did the right thing here. My hunch is that you're probably going to be okay. You disengaged, as soon as you found out these people's ages, you didn't participate knowingly in anything illegal and nothing has come of this since. But since there's always risk in situations like this, we consulted with a defense attorney in front of the show, Corbin Payne about what to do in a situation like this. And he had some solid advice to share.
[00:04:52] First, save and document everything related to these interactions, especially the part of the messages where you kick these people out of the ERP server. If you messaged them, if they tried to message you and you didn't engage, if you messaged with other members in the server about not communicating with them anymore, all of that is crucial evidence. Screenshots, text, transcripts, timestamps. I would include all of that along with dates, times, participants in these chats, and any relevant notes to add context and commentary, you basically want to create a document that says, "Look, I didn't knowingly do anything wrong. And the second I found out that this was wrong, I did the right thing and I stopped." Have that document stored as a PDF in a couple of places. So the cloud, it's always safe and accessible. And be ready to share it at a moment's notice if you ever have to interact with law enforcement about this.
[00:05:42] The other thing I would do is consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Even one phone call to get some high level advice would be worthwhile. A local attorney will be able to pinpoint any criminal liability you might be exposed to and counsel you on the steps you should take to protect yourself. So book that call with an attorney and let them take care of you. An attorney will also give you some peace of mind if it turns out to be nothing to worry about here.
[00:06:04] Gabe, how should he handle this moving forward? Or if anyone having these types of relationships online.
[00:06:10] Gabriel Mizrahi: I think the lesson here is just to go way out of your way to make sure you're talking to somebody who's of age, which is obviously quite difficult on the Internet. So I guess there's always a risk in a situation like this. Don't just take somebody's word for it, or rely on the rules of the platform such as they are, that you're engaging on. Those rules are, they're usually a joke, right? Anyway, I mean, you can just easily click the I-am-18 button and you would never know who you're talking to. So I'm not quite sure how to handle this myself.
[00:06:36] The craziest thing that I do online these days is lurk in the relationships subreddit, you know, for some juicy breakup drama, you know, getting real edgy over here. But I am thinking that you should ask these people you play with in the ERP server for maybe a photo, probably a photo of two different IDs, just to be doubly sure. You really cannot be too cautious. Then again, I'm not sure how eager someone is going to be to share personal info with you in an ERP Discord server but you know, you get the idea. And if you ever come across someone who's not of age, then the best thing you can do is type back clearly and unambiguously that you do not play with underage people and that you're ending the conversation right then and there.
[00:07:12] And then like Jordan said, document, document, document. Those rules should be non-negotiable. They'll keep you out of a ton of trouble. They'll save you loads of stress down the road because if this story proves anything, it's that you can expose yourself to criminal liability, even when you are not looking for trouble, even when you do the right thing like this guy did in this situation. So either stay away from servers and platforms like this entirely, or be 150 percent certain if that's even possible that you're talking to someone appropriate. You know, you always take on some kind of risk like we said. I think this guy though, he's probably going to be okay. He's obviously a decent person who did the right thing, but there's a good lesson in here for sure.
[00:07:48] Jordan Harbinger: It's also case in point for maintaining anonymity online, right? Because if you accidentally do something bad and then people go, "Who are these weird adults that you're talking to?" It's just impossible to find out who you are, right? Without like nation state level resources.
[00:08:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Totally.
[00:08:02] Jordan Harbinger: So maybe keep things on the low, low in that ERP server. Secret's safe with us. All right, what's next?
[00:08:10] Gabriel Mizrahi: Dear Jordan and Gabe, I wrote you guys a while back regarding unwanted attention from men. Apparently, it just took isolation from the public for me to meet an incredible person who I am now going to marry.
[00:08:20] Jordan Harbinger: That's amazing. Well, I won't take full credit for that but you're welcome.
[00:08:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: There are certain people in my family, however, who are not pleased by the news. My sister, who is 15 years older than me, has been increasingly hostile towards me over the years because she believes that our parents treated me better than her. For example, I was allowed to play sports and go to prom. And that somehow ruined her life. Since the engagement she's been trying to win family members over to her side, by sending them profile screenshots of somebody who shares my fiance's name, but as an older married man. Her daughter also made up stories about my fiance to discredit him before he met the family. My sister then went off on social media posting how it would be fake to be happy for me. And when, as far as to convince my other niece that I hated her, which got me shoulder shoved at the next family function. I have long suspected that my sister has a mental illness. My brother agrees that it's out of hand, but the other brother who is the only one she'll listen to, he won't get involved because he doesn't want to be seen as taking sides. My dad passed away four years ago. So I feel like I'll regret it if I don't invite my sister and my nieces to the wedding, but I'm not sure I want to manage the regular stress of the day with the possibility that I might have to ask park rangers to escort them all out. If I invite them, I have to cut friends out. If I don't invite them then other family members may boycott in solidarity. There was another family wedding happening before mine and my mom who supports me either way thinks I should see how they react then, but decisions need to be made now. Is there a happy medium here? Or is this a straight, no win scenario. Signed, Little Sister Tired of Being the Bigger Person.
[00:09:58] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. I am sorry. You're dealing with this, especially as you're about to start your new life with this awesome guy. Again, I don't want to take full credit for but we know we played a role in you finally getting a great guy.
[00:10:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: And if you don't invite Jordan—
[00:10:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I mean, I didn't get the invite, but I assume, like you said, you're just making a decision now.
[00:10:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Dude, the park rangers are going to have to escort us out.
[00:10:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, if someone's getting kicked out of your wedding, it's this guy.
[00:10:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's going to be us.
[00:10:24] Jordan Harbinger: So pretty sure that it's hurtful. It's super weird all around. Based on what you're describing, it sounds like your older sister has been a problem for most of your life. And her crazy is just reaching fever pitch right now. Probably because you're happy. You're getting married. It's setting her off. I mean, here you are. You're clearly the normal nice sibling, just trying to celebrate your happiness. And here comes your bad shit crazy sister subtweeting about you and inventing drama and hijacking your niece in getting you shoved at the family 4th of July barbecue. This is like one of the stories you probably read about on the relationship subreddit—
[00:11:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh yeah—
[00:11:01] Jordan Harbinger: —isn't it.
[00:11:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: —totally. That's exactly what it sounds like, yeah.
[00:11:03] Jordan Harbinger: And then there's your brother who's kind of this chaotic neutral type, adding to the drama by refusing to get involved on principle. And then your older brother, who's like, "Yeah, this is a little out of hand, but I'm not going to do anything to stop it." Families, man. I really feel for you. Unfortunately, this is a no win scenario. Whatever you do, someone's going to be upset. But that doesn't mean there isn't a good solution here in my opinion. So let's get into that.
[00:11:27] Given everything you've shared, my strong feeling is that your sister does not deserve to be at your wedding. It's not like she's just this odd duck who's kind of hiding and needs a vegan entree and might have one too many glasses of Pernod and snap at the caterer for bringing her the wrong kind of fork. This is a mentally ill woman, or you said you suspect she's mentally ill, who deeply resents you for no good reason, who's acting really trying to turn your family against you and your fiance. Who could very well derail your wedding day was some crazy outburst or at least just sapped the joy out of the day. I mean, if she's willing to ruin the impression your fiance makes on your family and try to interfere with your married life before you get married, do you think she's going to behave herself at your wedding? Why would she do that?
[00:12:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: Nope.
[00:12:11] Jordan Harbinger: Why would she? Like you said you don't want to have to manage the regular stresses of your wedding day and worry about what kind of shenanigans your sister's going to pull. This day is just about you and your fiance. It should be as joyful and as stress-free as possible. So as far as I'm concerned, she doesn't deserve to be there. That's just me. I know other people might feel differently about family. And if you decided to include everybody to avoid rocking the boat and like, "Hey, in 10 years, you're going to be sad that she wasn't there." Look, I get it. But I worry that including your sister could actually ruin the day and even if she doesn't actually ruin it, it might make you feel kind of gross and hypocritical to include her after everything she's done to you guys, and that's not fair either.
[00:12:52] But since writing your sister could create a rift in the family of some kind, which again, I think those people were making their bed, but here's an idea. What if you wrote a brief email to your whole family explaining what's been going on with your sister, you can tell them about the lies, the posts, the backstabbing, all of it. You can say that while it makes you very sad, your sister has made it impossible for you to include her in the wedding. If you want it to, you could mention that she probably has a very different version of events. And that if any of them want to talk about it, you're happy to have a conversation with them.
[00:13:24] Basically with this letter, you can control the narrative a bit and get ahead of your sister's rampage about not being invited because that's definitely going to happen, right? There's no way you're not going to come out looking like the normal one if you do control the narrative and you write a letter. And it shouldn't be something like really slandering her, just keep it as real as possible and say like, "Look, here's these things that she's done. This is why she's not invited. You're going to probably hear a different version of events from her about why she's not invited, but these are my reasons. And if you want to call me and talk about it, cool. Do not call me to try and convince me otherwise," you know, one of those.
[00:13:57] And look, if it feels a little icky to send this letter behind your sister's back CC her on it. She'll probably get wind of it anyway. You might as well include her. So she knows what's happening. That way she can't turn around and accuse you of being the manipulative one because she's going to do that anyway. But you can say, "I CC'ed you on this. I'm not talking behind your back. I told you to your face along with everyone else." Just get it all out in the open. Let everyone know where you stand.
[00:14:22] Now, if some of your family members still boycott the wedding after that, then I say, good riddance. Honestly, it is their loss. My personal experience, you're not going to remember them at your wedding. And for the next several decades, they get to say, "Oh, I wasn't there because I was being a petty asshole. And I took sides with respect to some beef her sister had with her way back then, because her sister's jealous." "Oh yeah, the one that in the last 10, 20 years has done a zillion, other crazy things and eventually outdid herself as the weird one." Because if people don't notice now and they probably do a little bit, they're going to know later. And then it's going to be, "Ooh, yeah, probably shouldn't have taken sides. Probably should have just gone to the wedding." You're not going to miss these people. No one's going to be missing at your wedding unless you're very, very close to them.
[00:15:06] Those people just don't need to be there. They've heard both sides of the story now, and they're choosing the crazy one that is less stress for you. Less money you have to spend on people who aren't going to have your back and more energy you get to spend celebrating with the people who love you and invite more friends, frankly. So this letter, I think it'll actually accomplish a few things and hopefully make the whole experience even better.
[00:15:28] Gabe, what about the sister moving forward? Obviously, there are issues here that can't really be resolved by sitting down and being like, "Jeez, so you hate me for playing field hockey in sixth grade. How can I fix it?" That's not really what's going on. This is not her problem.
[00:15:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:15:41] Jordan Harbinger: It's the problem with the other person. It's not going to go away after the wedding. Like, ah, you got married. Guess I'm going to stop being nuts."
[00:15:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: Exactly. I think that you're going to have to consider what role your sister plays in your life after this and the bigger picture. Because I have a feeling that this wedding, it's going to be something of an inflection point in your relationship. You've been very patient with her. You've been extremely diplomatic from the sound of it, which is what a normal person does, but that's also left you exposed to her extreme toxicity. So standing up to your sister here, that's going to be a big step in redefining your relationship. She might stop talking to you for a little while after this, or you might stop talking to her. Or who knows? Maybe not being invited to this wedding will shock her into realizing what a monster she's been. And she'll have to take a good hard look at herself. I don't have—
[00:16:21] Jordan Harbinger: Sure, that's going to happen.
[00:16:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, I do not have high hopes for that.
[00:16:25] Jordan Harbinger: That happens all the time when crazy people get presented a reason list of reasons why they're being horrible, they just straighten up. Yeah. It doesn't happen a lot. I don't think so.
[00:16:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: The reason I say that is the sense I'm getting is that nobody in your family has ever really stood up to your sister in a major way before. So she has learned that she can get away with pretty much anything and control situations whenever she wants to. So I do wonder if maybe the first person who says, "Hey, this is not okay. And now you can't be part of the family," might be how it gets through but I think she's pretty far gone. I don't know. I don't know if that's going to happen, but you could be the first person who does stand up to her. And that alone could change the whole dynamic. And even if she doesn't change. Drawing that boundary will still be big for you. It'll probably be intimidating. But I think in the long run, it'll actually be liberating. You just can't let people like this affect your life or your wedding day. Right? You just can't. It's your day. It's the beginning of the rest of your life with her husband. She hasn't done anything to prove that she deserves to be there. That she has your back or that she's sharing in any of this happiness. So I think you certainly have license to make that call.
[00:17:24] Jordan Harbinger: So get clear and how you feel about all this. Obviously, talk to your fiance and come to a decision that you are both comfortable with. And don't be afraid to be a little selfish here. This day is about you. If there's any day that you can be selfish, it is on your wedding day. You are not obligated to include people in it who are actively trying to hurt you and possibly ruin your wedding. And do us a favor, please write in with an update after the wedding. I'm so curious to know what you decide and how it plays out. Whatever you decide, I want to know, especially since, you know, partially we're the reason that you're getting married in the first place after all. If we're not there in person to find out the update—
[00:18:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: We deserve that at least, yeah.
[00:18:02] Jordan Harbinger: At least.
[00:18:05] You're listening to Feedback Friday here on The Jordan Harbinger Show. We'll be right back.
[00:18:10] This episode is sponsored in part by Moshi. Like everyone else, I sometimes have a little bit of trouble falling asleep. And my son, Jayden, who is 17 months old, he also doesn't always want to go to bed, and doesn't feel sleepy. Moshi has been a game changer for both of us. Moshi is the number one sleep and mindfulness audio app for kids. It's got bedtime stories, soothing music, relaxing sounds, mindful meditation tracks to relax kids whilst nourishing their creativity and imagination, which is important because you got to keep them paying attention to the thing and not just run around. Moshi is backed by science and proven to help kids fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and reduce night waking. Sounds like something I could use. And there's a lot of variety. They add a new track every single week. And there are thousands of five-star reviews from parents that have seen their and their kids' lives improved, thanks to Moshi. So if you're feeling anxious about your little ones heading back to school soon, 95 percent of surveyed users say that Moshi makes bedtime less stressful.
[00:19:06] Jen Harbinger: Download the Moshi app on Apple's App Store or Google Play Store and get access to a free one-week trial of Moshi Premium.
[00:19:13] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Better Help. New year can be a good time for a mental health check-in. And I think a lot of us could use a little bit of therapy. The thing I say all the time on the show here is therapy is not just for people who are off their rocker. I think the sanest, most grounded, highest functioning people have their one foot in the therapy waters here. And if you've always wanted to try therapy or you want to try it again, or you need to talk some stuff out, Better Help is a great option. They offer licensed professional therapists who are trained to listen. They can help with any issue. Finding a therapist. One of the biggest pains in the butt is it's so time consuming, it can be intimidating. Then you got to drive across town and park, et cetera. With Better Help, you fill out a questionnaire. They'll assess your needs. They'll match you up in a couple of days. The sessions are video on their phone. You can chat, text. Everything is comfy. You can be on your own couch when you do therapy. Everything is of course confidential. If you don't click with your counselor, get a new one at any time. A lot of people are doing the therapy thing. You should be one of them. I am one of them and I really think it's a great way to maintain sanity or regain sanity depending on where you are on the sanity spectrum at the beginning of 2021 here.
[00:20:17] Jen Harbinger: Better Help is a convenient and affordable option. And our listeners get 10 percent off your first month with the discount code JORDAN. Get started today at betterhelp.com/jordan. There's no shame in asking for help.
[00:20:30] Jordan Harbinger: And now back to Feedback Friday on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:20:35] All right, next question.
[00:20:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: So this next one is actually an update. A few weeks back, we took a question from a young firefighter who was dealing with a corrupt fire chief who was making his life a living hell.
[00:20:45] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah, that kid, that poor kid.
[00:20:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yep. That was episode 438. By the way, if you want to check that out, it was a really great question. Super interesting story. The guy who wrote in, he was asking for advice on how to report his chief to the city. And we advised him to get a whistleblower attorney and think very carefully about his whole strategy. Well, he sent us an update on his story and it was not what we expected at all. So he writes—
[00:21:06] Hey guys, I come with a rather unexpected Feedback Friday conclusion for you. My fire chief got fired. He had just come back from a big two-week hunting trip and had a scheduled meeting with the town administrator once he got back. I was shocked when he came in early that morning and told us that effective immediately, he was let go from his job and was told to clean out his office by the end of the day. He said it was due to disagreements with town hall and speaking up when he shouldn't have over certain topics. The town administrator, however, claims that the chief had made the decision to quote-unquote retire, which I'm assuming meant he was given the choice to either quit now or get fired. I quickly discovered that the wool the chief had been pulling over everybody's eyes wasn't limited to just us, but almost everyone he was in contact with. Our town administrator, who I thought was colluding with the chief. He turns out to be a great guy who really has our backs and is open to new ideas and information. The best part is once the chief was fired, my partner/shift, captain became the interim fire chief, and we were finally able to start cleaning up the department. We immediately put in the paperwork to get the corrupt mechanic fired, gave the unqualified firefighter a strict timeline to get certified, and are having discussions about me being promoted to shift supervisor. Being a 22-year-old trusted to supervise new hires would look pretty good on my record, which actually brings me to my new question. Although I'm excited to become a supervisor, it is not lost on me that it's hard to earn respect as a leader when you are as young as I am, especially when I'm most likely going to be in-charge of somebody older than me. I'm afraid that if they have more fire experience than me, or just older in general, they won't take my ideas or my suggestions seriously. I'm also a very passive easygoing person. So I'm not a natural-born leader. I don't get into fights or arguments, and I'm great at de-escalating situations. But when I'm in conflict myself, like with the unqualified firefighter, I mentioned earlier, who often unfairly delegates his tasks to me, I find myself getting passive aggressive and locking up. And I often end up writing stuff down after the fact, which doesn't really help me in the moment. How do I stand up to someone like that? I want to be able to hold a conversation about concerns, thoughts, or feedback without being reserved. Is there a way I can be an effective leader without compromising my personality? How can I lead without adopting a whole new persona or just pretending to be a leader with this new title? Signed, Survived the Backdraft.
[00:23:21] Jordan Harbinger: Clever. It was a question masked as an update, right? I like it. Well, congratulations. This worked out really well for you. I thought you were going to have to go full Edward Snowden to get rid of the crazy chief, but the system actually worked. It's actually a great reminder that when you're dealing with somebody truly problematic, you're usually not the only person who sees it, even if it feels like you might be. It's easy to doubt your experience. And it's easy to wonder if other people are seeing what you're seeing, but they usually do.
[00:23:49] Somebody does. And that's great news, man. It's created some amazing new opportunities for you on top of it. So that's pretty exciting. By the way, does anybody else, Gabe, think it's a little suspicious that the guy had a two week vacation with a scheduled meeting with the big boss—
[00:24:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Definitely.
[00:24:03] Jordan Harbinger: —right afterwards? That's that doesn't sound like a spontaneous hunting trip. That sounds like—
[00:24:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: No.
[00:24:07] Jordan Harbinger: —you need to leave while we decide what we're going to do with you and do an investigation that you're not supposed to interfere in.
[00:24:11] Gabriel Mizrahi: 100 percent.
[00:24:12] Jordan Harbinger: One of those like leave of absence—
[00:24:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yep.
[00:24:14] Jordan Harbinger: —type of thing.
[00:24:15] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, that was not a fun trip to come back from.
[00:24:17] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:24:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: For sure.
[00:24:17] Jordan Harbinger: No, I'm sure his hunting trip was great where he was like trying to figure out what he was going to pack and furiously texting the mechanics to get back to work. Right? "Hey man, pretend you're fixing the trucks. The jig is up."
[00:24:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: Actually, it's funny you say that because I think in the letter we had to trim it down quite a bit, but I think he actually touched on the fact that there was something weird going on while the chief was away because the creepy mechanic who was watching porn in his office and not doing anything suddenly started logging a bunch of hours and not just totally abdicating on his responsibility. So, yes, I think that's exactly what was going on.
[00:24:48] Jordan Harbinger: As for your questions about developing as a leader. Here are a few thoughts: first, I would totally embrace this opportunity to step up and think of it as the beginning of a lifelong process of learning how to lead. So you're not always going to get it right. You're not going to get it right from the start. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to say things you wish you hadn't, not say things you wish you had. You're going to stand up to certain personalities and fail. They're going to sidestep conflicts you wish you took on later on. It's all a learning process. The more you can get comfortable with trying and exploring and learning, the faster you'll improve and the more effective you'll be as a leader. And there's just no way to become a great manager without putting yourself in uncomfortable situations, experimenting with different approaches, figuring out what works along the way. So that's just a mindset shift that I would make right now.
[00:25:33] Second, I would get clear on your goals and your values here. Every good leader, every good manager, they have a grasp of what they believe is important. So I would take some time to figure out what those values are for you. What are your expectations of your team? What kind of behavior will you put up with from your colleagues and what kind of behavior will you not put up with? How do you want people to treat you? How do you want to treat them? Do you want to be a super hands-on involved supervisor or do you want to set expectations and empower people to make their own decisions without you? There's no right answer here. Although there are tons of best practices and philosophies and management books and stuff like that, which I definitely recommend checking out. But these are the questions I would explore on your own because they will help you figure out how to handle conflict when it inevitably arises.
[00:26:20] Gabe, what should he be doing about the passive aggressiveness that he was talking about before?
[00:26:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: I would explore that too. I would ask yourself why you feel you're shrinking away from situations where you need to step up, you know, why you get uneasy around conflict? Is it because you're afraid of pissing somebody off? Is it because you don't trust your instinct? Is it because you need other people to like you all of the time? I mean, those are very common problems that most people can relate to. I know there's a big question, but if you really dig into them, you will learn a lot about yourself. And by the way, most people, they wrestled with all of this to some degree. It's not natural for human beings to enjoy conflict. I think if somebody enjoys conflict a little bit too much, it's usually a sign that there's something else going on. So it's a skill that most of us need to actively learn something we actively need to work on.
[00:27:02] As you do all of that, start to use your conflict avoidance as a sign that you need to be more assertive. So whenever you notice that passive aggressive, people pleasing, keep things on an even keel thing coming up for you, I will take stock of that. Make a conscious effort to speak up in the moment if the situation calls for it, obviously, and see what happens. Picture yourself writing it down furiously in your office later, and feeling frustrated that you didn't speak up when it actually mattered. If that helps, you know, you could be like, "Ah, I don't want to be that guy in 15 minutes who's like stewing in his office and wishing he just said the easy thing when it actually counted, this will probably take you five, 10, 15 times to get comfortable with because conflict avoidance, that's a very strong impulse, but after a few practice rounds, you'll start to get more comfortable with the idea.
[00:27:45] And you might be surprised, the worst-case scenario that you're picturing when you usually keep quiet, that doesn't always play out. It usually doesn't play out the way you think it will. You might ruffle some feathers in the department. You might disappoint a couple of people when you turn them down or whatever, but you might be surprised by how well your colleagues respond to you when you start to hold your ground. Ultimately, they'll probably respect you more too, because the truth is everybody deep down wants to work for a good leader. At the same time though, I wouldn't completely discount your ability to de-escalate conflict. I know you feel that that's a weakness of yours, but I actually think it's a strength because there are people out there who don't know how to do that.
[00:28:20] People whose instinct is to pound their chest and escalate a fight and get in somebody's face and just hope that they come out on top. But somebody like you, somebody who has a good head on his shoulders, who isn't looking for a fight, wherever he goes, he wants to be part of the solution and not just create more problems, that is a very valuable personality to have, especially in a high pressure environment, like a fire department. So I think your goal here should actually be to balance out these two skills to integrate them both into your personality. You want to be the guy who doesn't escalate conflicts unnecessarily but who also doesn't shy away from them either. Someone who can stand there with that difficult firefighter you were talking about while he tries to pawn his work off on you and say something like, "I know you want me to do the checklist on the truck for you again, man. But I just can't do that today, but I'm sorry." And when he guilts you about it, you can say, "I hear you. I really do, but that's your job. And I have my job and I can't do two people's jobs." And if he gets into your face and he asks you why you won't play along, because he expected you to just roll over the way you always did. You could say, "Because I don't think it's fair and because I'm not outsourcing my work to anybody else and because I'm your supervisor. And in this department, we all do the work we're supposed to do." Whatever version of that feels right to you.
[00:29:27] Do you see what I'm getting at? You can really hold your own in a conflict without escalating it, and you can stand up to somebody without turning it into a battle. That's the kind of balance that makes a great leader. And I think it's also key to stepping up into your new authority here without feeling like a fraud.
[00:29:42] Jordan Harbinger: That's how we'd approach this. There's a lot here, but of course, most of it's going to come with practice. And if you keep those principles in mind, I think you're going to do fine. Be willing to take chances and make mistakes. Get super clear on your style and your values. Find leadership resources to help you grow and balance your deescalation with your conflict resolution. If you do all that, you'll be great, but I know that it's not going to happen overnight. Right? You're still very — you're very young. I mean, that is a compliment you're 22 years old. Your age will probably be a factor for a few more years and there will always be people who are difficult to manage. I'm 40. I have a very small team. You guys are awesome, but you know, I deal with other contractors here and there and I go, "Jeez, how did these people get by?" That's just par for the course. Try to think of it as a process and a practice and try to get a little better, just a little better every single day. I love that this opportunity is opening up for you. It's really exciting. I'm proud of you for taking it on. And I think it's very fortunate that you went from, "How do I leave this department because the chief sucks?" to, "Hey, I'm being promoted and he got fired." I mean, that is sweet. That's a count of Monte Cristo turning around right there, come back. So good luck, man. All right, what's next?
[00:30:53] Gabriel Mizrahi: Dear Jordan, my cousin is in his early 20s and living his best life. He plans on going to China to teach English in a couple of months. He's American, but he spent a number of years living in Israel as a kid and is fluent in Hebrew. Since graduating high school, he has spent his time traveling around the US making friends, working various odd jobs, building a stack of skills, and taking stock of himself. He spent a year at college, but he put it aside, both because of Corona and because he felt like it wasn't taking him anywhere. He's good-looking, easy to get along with, very mindful. He's never been conned. He's never been confronted with violence or anything like that. His latest plan is to go to China and teach English. He likes the idea of exploring China and learning Mandarin. He asked me for my thoughts and I shared a few of my reservations, including the fact that he comes from a family with a high net worth, his passport shows a lot of international travel, including Israel. He's finding English language jobs in China via Indeed. And he's connected with his family, but he's relatively unattached to them. My fear is that he'll be putting himself in a precarious position in China. I think he has the perfect profile for being put on a list before he knows it and winding up being compromised by Chinese intelligence or held for ransom by organized crime. All it takes is an accusation that he has a gram of anything on him. Not that he didn't tend to use anything while he's there and he could be thrown in prison. I encouraged him to think about doing the travel, teach English thing in friendlier countries like South Korea or Japan, or at the very least hooking up with an American-based program that can act as some kind of sponsor and support in China. Am I crazy here? How would you advise him? Signed, Coaching a Manchurian Candidate Cousin.
[00:32:26] Jordan Harbinger: Well, your cousin sounds like a super interesting kid. He's definitely somebody I'd have a beer with in a hostile, sketchy hostile, of course in China. And look, it's sweet of you to be looking out for him. It sounds like you're really concerned about him, which I can understand. Gabe and I definitely had family members who freaked out when we were going back and forth to North Korea for a while, and probably rightfully so. I get it. Although I have to say in all of my travels to weird places over the years, most of the fears that people had, they just never came to pass. And even the ones that did come to pass were not nearly as bad as they sounded. And I say that as somebody who was kidnapped two separate times, okay. I just told those stories for the first time, by the way, if you want to check them out, that's episode 443 and 444 but. I'm biased. I tend to lean into adventures, or at least I used to much more before I had my son. Now, my calculus is completely different. I understand that not everyone has the same appetite for risk.
[00:33:20] Gabe and I spend a decent amount of time in China, but we've never actually lived there. So to make sure we were really getting an accurate picture here, I wanted to consult with two experts on China these days. The first person we talked to was Zak Dychtwald. He's the author of the book, Young China, and the founder of Young China Group, which is a consulting firm and a think tank. He has been on the show, of course. And he said that this fear that your cousin will be targeted or compromised, it's almost certainly overblown. It's tempting to imagine the worst since there are so many spy thrillers about Asia and so many sensational news stories, especially about China these days. As Zak pointed out the whole if-it-bleeds-it-leads thing means that we generally only see the awful parts of China in our media. But imagine if somebody formed their perception of the US just based on our crazy news cycle, that'd be pretty ugly. And we'd all know that this is not the full picture of life here. It's not even close. And the truth is most people aren't important enough to land on the radar of the Chinese government. So unless your cousin works for, I don't know, a think tank that advises foreign governments on their China policy, or he's a journalist with tens of thousands of readers and a substack newsletter, that's critical of the Chinese communist party. He should be fine.
[00:34:30] You know, I'm critical of the Chinese Communist Party, but I still would go to China. I love Chinese people. I married a woman from Taiwan who's Asian, so if he's just a 20 something guy with a purple fohawk, teaching English in Sanlitun or whatever. Seriously, I doubt the government cares what he's up to at all. And if your cousin wants to go to China to grow up a little bit and understand a largely misunderstood culture, that has a ton of amazing, really interesting, cool things about it that are going to be hugely important in the world, much more so than they are now, at least to the West and explore a very interesting and very consequential place. Those are great reasons to go to China, especially according to Zak. And I agree with that.
[00:35:09] He did have some specific tips though. First, he recommends not moving to Shanghai. Yes, it's the metropolis. It's the New York of China. He's just a fan of moving to a city with fewer foreigners and avoiding the expat bubble. And I am very familiar with living abroad as well. The expat bubble will kill his ability to learn Mandarin. It'll kill some of his cultural learning. If your cousin is going there just for that Zak recommends going to another country. Now, that said Gabe and I have friends who have had incredible experiences in Beijing and Shanghai, although to be fair, they did have to work very hard to get out of the cozy expat bubble and not all of them actually succeeded in breaking out of it, which can be fun, but definitely is not like experiencing the real China.
[00:35:51] Zak's other recommendations for your cousin in short read up on stories about people who went to jail in China for selling drugs, then don't sell drugs. Last thing you want is for your cousin to become Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace, which incidentally is a lot more likely than your cousin becoming Claire Danes in Homeland. Download and pay for a premium version of Pleco. It's a dictionary. Start obsessively studying Mandarin and Chinese. I use Skritter, which is a paid Chinese app with flashcards. It uses space repetition. That's a whole language learning rabbit hole that we don't have to go down, but he should definitely be learning Mandarin. I'm happy to refer him to my language coaches that are very reasonably priced. They're like 20 bucks an hour. One-on-one lessons on Skype. Teach your family here in the States how to use WeChat. It's the Chinese app that's not blocked everywhere in China and you can use it just like we use WhatsApp, which is blocked. Have him check in with his family when things are good, as well as when things are bad.
[00:36:45] When I was living abroad, especially the first time, I really only checked in with my family when things were bad. And Zak pointed out as I would also point out, most young expats only call home during hard times. So their parents have a terrible exposure bias and they end up thinking, "This place is miserable. We got to get them home as soon as possible." When really it's just, "Oh yeah. I didn't tell you about the other five days is this week that we're great. I only called you on Sunday night when I felt homesick and lonely." So show them the good too.
[00:37:11] We also spoke with Matthew Tye, aka C-Milk aka Laowhy86. He's a good friend of mine, an American documentarian, YouTube star. And he lived in China for a long, long time. I think like, eight years, maybe longer, something like that. He had a really good perspective. Him and I are much more critical of the Chinese Communist Party than Zak is who lives and works in China. So I don't know if it's because Zak has less exposure or disagrees or because he has to operate in China. And so he doesn't say as much about them. I've had private conversations with them. So I kind of know where he lands, but Matthew's take, Laowhy86's take, is that although your cousin will be safe traveling in China, he might not like it as much as before.
[00:37:52] Apparently, now, there's a pretty hostile attitude towards foreigners these days, not only Americans, any foreigners at all. And that's making mainland China a much less enjoyable place to live. And also, I don't know what ethnicity your cousin is, but if he's not white, it's going to be worse than if he is, so that may change things as well. Under the current leadership, according to Laowhy86, there's a feeling of suspicion on the street towards foreigners and it can be even worse than that. It's not necessarily dangerous. But the rampant nationalism and the us-versus-them mentality that the Chinese Communist Party keeps pushing. It's not making China a very attractive option right now. China is still full of wonderful people. Everybody we spoke with, Laowhy86, Zak, of course, everybody was very clear on this. It's just the current anti-foreigner climate makes it feel less welcoming.
[00:38:41] Instead he recommends living in Taiwan. He says it's fantastic. I've been to Taiwan. I really like it. It's very clean and safe compared to China. If your cousin wants to see Chinese culture in terms of the temples traditions, politeness, Taiwan is definitely the place to be. Yes, he'll miss out on the expansive mass that China is, but people will treat him as more of an equal in Taiwan. They'll have more patience, they'll speak more Chinese with them, although there's also a higher chance that they will also speak some English, which could be good, especially when he's just starting to learn.
[00:39:12] Now, if he's dead set on going to China, though, my recommendation is that all of our recommendation actually is that he travel there for a few weeks, at least before making up his mind, he may love it. He may also go, "Ah, this wears off pretty quick," but it's important to get a feel for the place before taking on any sort of long-term contract or a job. And also keep in mind, it is not 100 percent easy to get a reliable job that actually pays you on time. Doesn't break the contract or jerk you around. This happens all the time. In fact, Gabe, didn't this happen to your cousin?
[00:39:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, that just happened to my cousin like a year ago. He moved to, I want to say — he moved to Beijing with his wife and his two young children, like under the age of five. And I think they're two young dogs, landed in Beijing. They called up the school because they like to hook them up with some apartment. It turns out the apartment fell through, the contract fell through, and they were like standing outside of some really shady, like short-term housing place on the outskirt and like the farthest away ring from the school that they were supposed to be teaching, and calling his mom being like, "I have no idea what to do right now. I'm in China and I don't speak Mandarin and I'm screwed basically."
[00:40:18] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my God,
[00:40:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: I've heard a lot of stories like that. That's probably one of the worst stories that I've heard, but it can happen or some version of that could happen. Yeah, it's too bad.
[00:40:27] Jordan Harbinger: I've talked to a lot of readers that have gotten screwed on language, teaching contracts in China and overseas, in general. I've gotten screwed on language teaching contracts in other countries, but apparently it's rampant in China and it's probably rampant everywhere. I've just heard about it more with China because more people are moving to China to teach English. And there's a lot of like, "Well, we don't have to pay you. What are you going to do about it?" kind of situations in China with foreigners, especially with the influx of — there's like visa scans and stuff. Laowhy86 and SerpentZA on YouTube who we'll link in the show notes. They have videos all about this. And these are guys that are, have been in China for 10 years, 14 years. They're probably the longest standing English vloggers that have lived in China for the longest time. They're really, really knowledgeable.
[00:41:11] All that is part of the weird and unpredictable charm of China though. Taiwan probably won't carry as many of those risks. Matthew, Laowhy86, he also shared two great YouTube videos for people thinking about moving to China. I highly recommend these videos. One's by him. One, I think, is SerpentZA. We'll link to both of those in the show notes, as I mentioned. So the bottom line, it's great that you have your cousins back. I think that's awesome. He's lucky to have someone like you looking out for him. But your fear about him getting set up or turned into an asset by the mafia or something, probably not going to happen. I wouldn't let your fears get in the way of his growth.
[00:41:44] The bigger question is whether China is really the most interesting place for him right now, especially if he's very green and hasn't traveled much. It does make sense for him to sort of wet his whistle a little bit, dip his toes in the water in Taiwan and be like, "Okay, I speak Mandarin now. I kind of get the culture. I understand the manners. Now, I'm going to move to China for six months," and then he can get around and go, "Hey, this isn't normal, I'm getting screwed." And then when he has to fly somewhere, he calls his homeboys in Taiwan and flies there. And isn't trying to reach his mom at four o'clock in the morning with a collect call to pick them up from Cheyenne prison, whatever. So encourage him to do his homework, empower them to make smart decisions, stay in touch with him while he's abroad. Let him learn his lessons for himself. I promise you he's going to come back as an even more interesting well-rounded person, which is really what traveling abroad is all about.
[00:42:33] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show and this is Feedback Friday. We'll be right back.
[00:42:38] This episode is sponsored in part by Public Rec. Okay, so I told you, these are the sweatpants I've been living in for the last — well, now it's been kind of an embarrassingly long several months of pretty much only wearing these, but I love these Public Rec sweatpants. A couple of you have written into me to say that you bought them and now you are living in them. So I'm sort of starting the sweat pants revolution, or the upgraded sweatpants revolution here. Look, these Public Rec pants, they look really good. You can leave the house. You don't look like a gross person walking around in sweatpants that you've worn for weeks. They're cool. The waist isn't too big or too small. They don't stretch weird. It's not something you get to change if you run out for coffee. You're going to walk the dog. You don't want to see your neighbors wearing your raggedy old sweats. It's not like that. These don't look like sweats at all, but they are also the most comfortable sweats you will ever have. So they don't get too hot. They don't sweat. They're breathable. I could go on and on, but I highly recommend you try these. If you're a sweat pants aficionados like myself, then I highly recommend these Public Rec pants. Jen—
[00:43:38] Jen Harbinger: Public Rec rarely discounts, but right now they have an exclusive offer just for Jordan Harbinger listeners. Go to publicrec.com/harbinger and use promo code HARBINGER to receive 10 percent off. That's Public Rec R-E-C and use our promo code hARBINGER for 10 percent off.
[00:43:54] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Brother. Jen, this is an ad for a label maker. So I think you should read it because you love label makers and you're going to be giddy with this one.
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[00:44:43] Jordan Harbinger: And you better believe that everything in our house is labeled. Jen insisted on doing this because we have a label maker and we use it for everything. Funny side note, I am actually the furriest member of our household because our cat doesn't have any hair.
[00:44:56] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going. Who doesn't love some good products and/or services? You can always visit jordanharbinger.com/deals for all the details on everybody that helps support the show. And now for the conclusion of Feedback Friday.
[00:45:14] All right, last but not least.
[00:45:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Hey guys, I have a small lustful side of me that has brought me to watching porn over the course of my life. I'll be honest. It doesn't align with my beliefs or my values. I have strong guilt and shame when I engage with it because it doesn't align with how I see women or the world. I talked to my wife about this and she found a sort of group therapy/live program designed for people struggling with various forms of sex and pornography addiction.
[00:45:39] By the way, the guy who wrote in with this letter shared a link to the program's website, but we're not going to mention the name of it, right?
[00:45:44] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, spoiler alert. We're not about to recommend this one, just so you know,
[00:45:48] Gabriel Mizrahi: I've reached out to them to see what kind of meat is on their bone—
[00:45:51] That's an interesting choice of words.
[00:45:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yup. I was going to say — I wasn't going to say anything, but I was thinking like, "Oh really? Hmm. Okay." Maybe it's our minds that are in the gutter though.
[00:45:59] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:45:59] Jordan Harbinger: Do you ever think about that?
[00:46:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Maybe we need this program.
[00:46:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: We should reconsider everything.
[00:46:03] I've reached out to them to see what kind of meat is on the bone of their program. And I'm having a hard time understanding if this is scammy self-help or legitimate self-help even after some email correspondence outlining their course. I know you guys are in the know about scammy places. So I wanted to ask. Is this a scam or is this real self-help? Signed, Trying to Look Away Without Falling Into a Trap.
[00:46:23] Jordan Harbinger: So look, there's a ton of research and a lot of different opinions out there about the best way to treat addictions, whether it's to substances or to situations or to pornography. Gabe and I are not experts in addiction by any means. My addiction qualifications are I listened to a hell of a lot of Loveline with Dr. Drew growing up. I mean, that's actually a huge influence on my life, but it doesn't mean I know squat about this particular type of situation and I wouldn't pretend to. I do know that treating addiction is a very personal thing. So we really can't weigh in on whether this specific program is the right one for you. But in terms of the potential for scamminess, we can share a few things to look out for. We also consulted with mind control or anti-mind control, cult expert, and friend of the show Steven Hassan to get another angle here and you can check out my two-part interview with him. That's episode 237 and 238. We go way back. And by the way, what we're about to share, it also applies to a leadership course, a religious seminar, really any kind of self-development program that caters to people in need. So these principles, they're good to keep in mind, wherever you go.
[00:47:30] First, look for solid science and credentials, wherever possible. The program you shared with us, it's a little fuzzy on the details. The program description is kind of vague. The website copy is designed to be appealing. It's promoting a ton of anecdotal evidence from Internet marketers, you know, who've written this. It doesn't seem to have a lot about the credentials of the people who developed this so-called system. And actually legit programs, they have scientific research going on. They have clinical trials. They have people with long track records with recovery on the team. We're not seeing much of that on the website.
[00:48:06] And if you want to get even deeper on this, check out our episode with Justin Ramsdell, it's about detecting pseudoscience. One of the tells of pseudoscience is that, "There's only one way to learn it. This is the only place you can learn this proprietary system." So that alone is kind of sketchy. What we're seeing is a whole lot of marketing. That's another red flag, again, not on its own, a big deal, but testimonials from past participants while helpful at the end of the day, they're really just marketing especially if they're being promoted by the program itself. It's not like they're going to include a review from a guy who came into the program, felt like he got conned and then gaslighted, had a hard time getting a refund and then went home and immediately opened 37 tabs of PornHub. Right? You're only going to hear from people who liked the program. And yeah, that does mean something. I doubt they're making up all these screenshots of people's endorsement or anything. I mean, it does happen, but you don't know why the program worked for them. If they were able to break their addiction permanently, we have no idea. We don't know if they had any intellectual or cultural biases toward the program. There's just a lot of context missing from marketing materials. So you really do have to take them with a huge grain of salt. I would also be on the lookout for any other agenda going on here.
[00:49:18] In a few places, looking at the site you gave us, I got the sense. There might be a religious angle to this program and that's not inherently bad. Look, there are plenty of people who swear by programs that are informed by religion. I've gone to some 12-step programs to check things out as an observer because obviously I've been interested in that stuff. And I want to say that AA has a little bit of a religious element of it. It depends where you go, of course, what your meeting is, but there's a lot of things like that. That doesn't mean that the program is bad. It just means you've got to keep your guard up a little more, especially the more religious it tends to be. The more you should keep your guard up about it. And again on its own, not a huge deal, but if they're trying to lure you in by promising you addiction treatment, but the program is actually a sales funnel to save your soul and pull you deeper into a church or something that is concerning. Not just because they have an ulterior motive, but because that motive will probably infect the parts of the program, that might've actually been helpful.
[00:50:12] Also — and I know I'm painting with a broad brush here — but programs with a religious angle they often tend to be less rigorous. Like if you let Jesus into your heart and walk in the light of his path, then you don't need to explore the root of your problems. You don't need to understand the biology of chemistry free and addiction or follow a scientifically developed process and so on. And again, I know I'm generalizing, but that is a danger with a lot of these types of programs. So be on the lookout for that. There are plenty of non-religious scientifically backed programs that focus squarely on solving the problem at hand so to speak.
[00:50:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: Nice.
[00:50:49] Jordan Harbinger: If you were thinking about joining a meditation circle at your church on Thursday nights, great. I wouldn't be as concerned about this but you're looking to treat an addiction. That's serious medical business for a medical professional who specializes in addiction recovery. This is not a job for somebody who decided that all you did was lose your way and that they can bring you back by reading scripture and stuff like that.
[00:51:13] Another thing to look out for is any program that revolves around one central charismatic leader. These are the groups that tend to be super scammy and highly manipulative. Again, going back to the Ramsdell episode on pseudoscience being able to only learn it from this one person or one small group of people is always very telling. Usually these types of groups are designed to benefit the leader or leaders rather than the participants. If you get the vibe that you're there to prop up some guru-like figure who claims to have the perfect cure for porn addiction and seems to be basking in the attention a little too much, that's a good clue that you need to walk away. And if you find that they're demanding more and more of your time and energy. Like, if they say, "You have to keep coming back or you'll relapse," or they coerce you into handing over your money or volunteering your time in order to stay healthy. That's another red flag. It's not that constant treatment. Or like go to AA every week, that's not a red flag that you're joining a cult, but saying, "Hey, you need to volunteer at a bunch of meetings. You know, then it starts to sort of creep into your life. Again, walk away. That's not a treatment program that is a scammy/culty organization.
[00:52:18] Gabe, there's more. What else should he be looking out for?
[00:52:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well like you said the literature is just too big for us to really dive into fully on this episode, but I would do a ton of research on your own about treatments for porn addiction. You'd be amazed how much you can learn on your own. Look for peer-reviewed studies in major medical journals. Study which models have been proven, actually proven to work. Look for programs that are developed and run by people with solid credentials, relevant experience, whether they're MDs onsite or licensed psychologists and therapists with expertise in addiction. And look for programs that have been certified and reviewed by patients and third-party organizations, not just on their own websites but on other websites too. Google every program, Google every practitioner, see what comes up, good and bad. Get a whole picture. Don't just rely on their website because their website is marketing basically.
[00:53:06] And by the way, it's Steven Hassan, he recommends a guy named Stanton Peele, his approach to addiction. Peele wrote a book called The Truth About Addiction and Recovery. So we'll link to that in the show notes. I got to say just full disclosure. We haven't read the book and we can't fully vouch for this guy Peele but Steven, great guy. He's done a ton of work in this area. We generally trust his recommendations. So check it out, see if it resonates.
[00:53:27] And finally, I would find a therapist if you don't already have one, talking to someone might be enough to help you break this addiction on your own. It'll certainly help you understand why you find yourself in the grip of the addiction right now, depending on how severe it is, that could be the way to resolve it. But even if you do pursue treatment, formal treatment at a recovery center or a meeting or something like that, I would definitely find somebody to work with along the way. Addiction is usually just the tip of the iceberg. There's always more going on beneath the surface as we know. So I would get deep into that. I would get super deep into that. Sorry, I had to—
[00:53:56] Jordan Harbinger: You went all out with the puns — you're blowing your water on all these puns, buddy.
[00:54:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: You know, it's just right there. I had to do it.
[00:54:03] Jordan Harbinger: It's right there. It is too easy. it is too easy.
[00:54:05] Gabriel Mizrahi: In all seriousness, I would get into that with a professional and let them help you navigate this decision as well.
[00:54:11] Jordan Harbinger: Good luck, man. Look, I'm proud of you for wanting to rewrite this pattern in your life. Porn addiction, it's real, it's a real thing and it can really take over your life. So I do hope you find the help that you need. If you find a program that works, talk to a therapist on your own and create a system, maybe even with your wife's help. It's awesome that she's there for you, by the way, instead of being super judgy or being mad at you. A system that breaks the cycle keeps you away from this stuff if you can't use it in a healthy way. I have a feeling you're going to be okay.
[00:54:38] Hope you all enjoyed that. I want to thank everyone that wrote in this week. Go back and check out the episode with the two narcos, those guys are super interesting if you haven't checked those out yet.
[00:54:47] If you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage the relationships, it's about systems. It's about tiny habits executed each day. So consistency. We've got a Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. It's very short. It's very easy. It's over there on the Thinkific platform at jordanharbinger.com/course. Now the problem, if you kick the can down the road, you can't make up for lost time when it comes to relationships and networking. The number one mistake I see people make is postponing this. Not digging the well before they get thirsty. Because once you need relationships, you're too late to leverage them. You have to do it before you need it. The drills take a few minutes a day. I wish I knew this stuff a couple decades ago. It's been crucial for me. You can find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[00:55:30] A link to the show notes for the episode can be found at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this Feedback Friday on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn. You can find Gabe on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi or on Instagram at @GabrielMizrahi.
[00:55:51] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and of course Gabe Mizrahi. Keep sending in those questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. I'm a lawyer, not your lawyer. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others, 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 the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:56:31] Stay tuned after the show, we've got a trailer for our interview with Bill Browder. He was one of the first investors in Russia after the fall of the iron curtain and became a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin, who to this day has him looking over his shoulder after he uncovered a massive fraud inside the Russian government. This is one of our most popular episodes, so check out episode 3 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:56:54] Bill Browder: Making 10 times your money is the financial equivalent of smoking crack cocaine. And once you do it once, you just want to repeat it over and over and over and over again. It was completely, absolutely wild West chaos, gold rush type of situation.
[00:57:09] The companies were run by these oligarchs. And these oligarchs said, "Well, we might as well just cheat everybody on everything. "And so while I was sitting there down 90 percent, they were going to steal my last 10 cents on the dollar. I took a decision which nobody had ever taken before, which was to take on one of the oligarchs. I did. I fought back big time.
[00:57:30] I ended up with 15 bod guards. There was a lead car, lag car, a sidecar, three armed guys in my car. When we got close to the home, they would go and scout the rooftops for snipers. They look for bombs under the cars and secure the stairwells, and then escort me into the apartment. And then I had two guys with automatic weapons sitting in my living room. It was very, very intense, very scary.
[00:57:53] And after that I hired a young lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky to help me investigate it. Sergei and I expose the crime. The same people who Sergei testified against arrested him and then tortured him to try to get him to withdraw his testimony. And they thought, "Here's a guy, he buys a Starbucks in the morning. He wears a blue suit and a white shirt and a red tie. And he works in the tax practice of an American law firm. He'll buckle in a week." And it turns out that they got him wrong completely. He's the most principled guy in the world. He was really a man of steel.
[00:58:25] On the morning of November 17th at 7:45 a.m., I got the call from Sergei's lawyer, and it was the most horrifying life-changing soul destroying news that I could have ever gotten.
[00:58:38] Jordan Harbinger: And if you want to hear more about how Bill Browder took on one of the most powerful men in the world, Vladimir Putin and continues to fight for change, check out episode 3 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
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