There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, “Kidnap me once, shame on — shame on you. Kidnap me — you can’t get kidnapped again.” But Jordan doesn’t know any better because he comes from Michigan, so he’s actually been kidnapped twice. Here, Jordan tells the story of that second time.
Here, We Talk About the Time Jordan Got Kidnapped in Serbia:
- Kidnapping victims don’t always live to tell the tale. The reason Jordan is still alive after being kidnapped (twice) is due to the fact he saw security expert Gavin de Becker on Oprah discussing what to do in just such a seemingly unlikely situation.
- After almost getting kidnapped in Mexico in 2000, how did Jordan find himself in a position to get kidnapped in Serbia in 2004?
- How did Jordan escape whatever dire fate was surely awaiting him at the dreaded second location?
- What are your best chances for staying alive if you ever find yourself in a similar, unenviable condition?
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHarbinger and Instagram at @jordanharbinger.
- Connect with Gabriel on Twitter at @GabeMizrahi.
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider leaving your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
Microsoft Teams lets you bring everyone together in one space, collaborate, draw live, share, and build ideas with everyone on the same page and makes sure more of your team is seen and heard with up to 49 people on screen at once. Check out microsoft.com/teams for more info!
Miss the last time we had Navy SEAL leadership authority and Extreme Ownership co-author Jocko Willink on the show? Make sure to check out episode 93: Jocko Willink | Leading on the Line Between Extreme and Reckless!
Resources from This Episode:
- iOS & Android | Stereo App
- Kidnap Me Once, Shame on You | Stereo Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- Gavin de Becker Teaches Oprah About the Gift of Fear | Oprah’s Lifeclass
- Gavin de Becker | The Gift of Fear Part One | Jordan Harbinger
- Gavin de Becker | The Gift of Fear Part Two | Jordan Harbinger
- The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker
- Teaching English Abroad 2021: The Ultimate Guide | Teachaway
- Secretary of Defense Executive Fellows (SDEF)
- Timeline: Serbia, 20 Years Since Milosevic Came to Power | Reuters
- Police Reform in Serbia (2004) | OSCE
- Pablo Escobar, Dead Drug Baron, Is Still Seen by Many Colombians as a Hero | BBC News
- EXIT Festival 2.0
- The Hard Life of Roma People in Serbia | Scholars Strategy Network
- Prepositions | Academic Guides at Walden University
- Everyday Expressions | George Carlin
- Gendarmery (Serbia) | Wikipedia
- Going to North Korea: Part One | Stereo Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
- Going to North Korea: Part Two | Stereo Sunday | Jordan Harbinger
Transcript for Jordan & Gabe | Kidnap Me Twice, Shame on Me (Episode 444)
Jordan Harbinger: This podcast is brought to you by Microsoft Teams. When there are more ways to be together, there are more ways to be a team.
[00:00:06] Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:09] These guys get even more angry. I don't know what happens, but they get even more angry and they bring us down into like the basement area. And at this point, I'm like, "We're trapped in this place." And my friend is basically unconscious. I can't leave him here by making a run for it and jumping through a window or anything like that. Right? I'm stuck. They take us to separate rooms. I now hear my friend is getting his ass beat, like hard. I'm talking to this guy and trying to keep him chill and calm.
[00:00:38] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional war correspondent, arms dealer, drug trafficker. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:04] Today, this is the conclusion of our two-part series on me getting kidnapped in foreign countries. First time was Mexico. Today, I'm telling my Serbia story. It's a lot longer and more involved, and I think more interesting probably as far as story value is concerned. This is our final Stereo Sunday. Unless, of course, Stereo decides to renew their campaign with us. We would love that because I do enjoy doing these live. I think it's a lot of fun. Maybe live again next Friday at 2:00 p.m., but either way, check out the Stereo app, IOS store, or Android, and follow along with us next time. The Stereo app, we'll also link in the show notes. You can listen to us live there during this, and you can ask questions directly of us in the app. We do that every time we do one of these live.
[00:01:44] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these guests for the show that are celebrities and authors and thinkers, I'm teaching you how to build your own network for free, whether you use it for work, business, pleasure, whatever it is. Go to jordanharbinger.com/course, I've got a free course in there. You don't have to enter your credit card or any of that. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[00:02:06] Remember if you're listening to us live at the end, we're going to do 15 or so minutes of Q and A submit those in the Stereo app for us at any time. There's a button on the chat there. Submit your questions. It doesn't have to be about kidnapping or anything like that. It can be any question for me at any time about anything.
[00:02:20] All right now, here we go with Stereo Sunday's segment on getting kidnapped twice part two here with Gabriel Mizrahi.
[00:02:26] Gabriel Mizrahi: So this story in Mexico was like kidnapping training wheels — this was the dress rehearsal for the full performance that ended up happening four years later, yeah?
[00:02:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, pretty much.
[00:02:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: So talk to us about that.
[00:02:39] Jordan Harbinger: All right. So in Serbia, I was working as an English teacher initially. And then, later on, I decided to go back there with a fellowship from the US government, the Department of Defense sponsors it. It's not anything that necessarily has to do with espionage or defense, but they pay for it. And that was the lap of luxury, man because they gave me a great budget and they let me live there for several months. I was there for 14 months, total or something like that, and they let me live there and paid for everything. It was such a really awesome deal.
[00:03:13] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:03:14] Jordan Harbinger: Back then in Serbia — which by the way, before I tell this story, I want to say, I love Mexico. And I think it's a great place and has great people and great food and great culture. Serbia, same thing, I've got great friends there. I love the place. The Balkans are fascinating. It's a beautiful country. I want to say that because I've told this story before in pieces and then Serbian people will send me email. Like, "Hey man, we don't need you to kick us while we're down," or like, "You bomb us and now you're telling us this and that." I love Serbia. This is a bad thing that happened to me in a country that could have happened in many different countries. I don't think it would ever happen in the United States, obviously, but I could be wrong there. I'm sure people get kidnapped in taxis in the US too. It's just a very common thing in Mexico, especially in Mexico City. And in Serbia, at the time 2004, they had some police officers that were pretty crappy and corrupt, and that's a legacy of socialism and communism and of the Civil War that they had there. I'll talk a little bit about that in a second.
[00:04:07] But anyway, so in Serbia at the time — I don't know if it's still like this — if you're foreign and you're traveling on a foreign passport, that's not Serbia, and every time you leave the country and you come back, you have to re-register with the police. And what that means is you go to the police station. You fill out a form, you tell them where you were. You tell them that you came in and how long you're staying and the address where they're staying and who you are staying with. If you stay at a hotel, the hotel does this for you. But if you are staying with private citizens — this is sort of a peek inside a not-so-free country. Now they're more or less free, right? But, of course, back in the days of communism, they were far from it. Better than most communist countries but far from it. You had to tell people where you were living because the police want to know where every foreigner is in the country at any given time, which is crazy to me, at least where they can be found at night.
[00:04:56] So I would have to go in and it was this huge pain and took forever and they were rude and the cops were dicks and they didn't know how to do it. And they'd make us come back. And then they'd say, you're too late. You got to do it within 24 hours. And they try to get money from me. So I just got really sick of it. The final straw for me was when I came back from Austria or something like that. I'd spent like a couple of days there visiting a friend. And when I came back, they'd said, "Hey man, you have to wait over here." And like, "Don't talk to me. I'm busy." And they were just kind of jerks. And then they did a shift change at the police station and the new guy who had come in said, "Okay, everyone's getting locked up." And I was like, "No, no, I'm just here to register." And he's like, "I don't care if you're sitting here at 11:00 PM. You probably did something." Because he thought I got brought in there by the cops. So he was like, "I'm locking you up overnight." And I was like, "Dude, what?" So he locked me up overnight, but he locked me up with a bunch of prostitutes and a pimp. They were fine, but they were chain-smoking and they were talking loudly in Roma language all night long, smoking like unfiltered cigarettes constantly.
[00:05:58] And I was like, this is total BS, man. Like I didn't do anything. And now I'm like getting lung cancer and staying awake all night.
[00:06:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:06:06] Jordan Harbinger: And I can't even talk to these people and commiserate it's like such bullsh*t. So I was like, "You know? I've had it with your bullsh*t bureaucracy. Look, I'm not expecting everything to be America, but like—"
[00:06:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, you just threw me in a cell for no reason just because it was not the right time of day for you. That's not cool.
[00:06:22] Jordan Harbinger: He's in a bad mood and didn't want to fill out the form and didn't want to call anyone.
[00:06:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: You're just following the laws they told you that too. Yeah. Okay.
[00:06:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I worked the next day. I was so pissed.
[00:06:31] Gabriel Mizrahi: I love that you're there on this like fancy fellowship, but then you're getting thrown in jail just for showing up and registering when they asked you to.
[00:06:38] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Exactly. Exactly. I'd had other issues where I had an immigration violation and they were like, "Oh, you know, your visa has expired." so they would treat us like crap. I remember cops shoving me down. And then when I finally saw the judge, he was like, "Oh, I'm sorry, you're a student. I hate doing this, but I have to fine you, 50 euros. Please go get a proper visa." I'm like, "Ah, it's okay. I understand." And he's like, "Was everything okay?" I was like, "No, the cops like shoved me down and tapped me in the freaking leg with a nightstick." And he's like, "What?" So I had to call the embassy. I mean, there's all kinds of issues there. When the government has too much authority over people and they hire the biggest dumb asses in the world to become — and in Serbia, getting a job in the regular police is one of the worst jobs you can get.
[00:07:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, wow. That says a lot.
[00:07:22] Jordan Harbinger: If you are a bad student in school, you get sent to the police high school. And the police high school is where all the dumb ass kids go, who don't try. Imagine that's your governmental authority.
[00:07:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: those are the people that you have to answer to. That's a recipe for disaster.
[00:07:37] Jordan Harbinger: So you get bullies that are dumb as hell, and now have the authority that is essentially unquestioned—
[00:07:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: And are bitter.
[00:07:44] Jordan Harbinger: —by people and are super bitter and hate Americans because, you know, we bombed them in the '90s.
[00:07:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:07:49] Jordan Harbinger: It was not a good situation for me to be with all the time.
[00:07:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: Okay.
[00:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: Anyway, I went to the embassy, got an appointment — by the way, if you're ever abroad and especially in a developing country, go ahead and make friends at the embassy, the US embassy or your country's embassy because they hire locals. And those locals are extremely well connected. So I called the embassy and they were like, "Hold on." And then I talked to the Serbian gal who was probably like 30 working there as an administrator. And she straight up called the chief of police. And I got a meeting with them and she came with me to the meeting and he's like, "If you ever have any problem, call the number on this card."
[00:08:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh wow.
[00:08:21] Jordan Harbinger: "It's my phone number. It's my cell phone."
[00:08:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's nice. That's a huge asset. Yeah.
[00:08:25] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. So I had problems at borders before, and I was like, can you call this guy? He's a friend of mine and they'd be like, "Uh, no need, no need, sir. Go ahead." Because they were just like, "Do I want to get my ass chewed out by this super high-level guy—"
[00:08:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:08:37] Jordan Harbinger: "—to try and get 10 bucks out at this guy? No, thanks."
[00:08:39] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right, right.
[00:08:40] Jordan Harbinger: Or, "To like throw my weight around after a beer? No, thanks." So anyway, I was registered and I got sick of doing that. I stopped registering the next time I came back and I was like, "Screw these guys. What are they going to do? They're so disorganized." Well, they started showing up after a few months to the houses where I was supposed to be registered and had not reregistered. Because they knew I came back in the country, but they were like, "Oh, you're kind of like a ghost now. You're an unregistered foreign agent inside the country. You're not at the house where you said you were last time." And then I told my friend, "Ah, just tell him I'm over here at another friend's house." So the police went there and then she said, "Oh, he's not here right now." She called me right away after that. They came back again. They go, "Where's his stuff?" And she goes, "Ah, he doesn't really have any stuff here." The cops were like, "If he's not back here tomorrow at this time for us to talk to him or registered with the police, you're in trouble." And so my friend Yelena called me and goes, "You have to move now." And I wasn't really living with her, but she was like, "Go register with the cops." I was like, "Okay."
[00:09:42] So I go and I finally re-register, but they're like, "Yeah, you know, this doesn't work. You can't just skip it. You're in trouble. I'm going to come to visit you." And I was like, "Fine." So I just put down a different address and I moved again because I was like, "I'm not going to let these cops find me." And the guys that I was living with, they said, "If the cops come here, we're just not going to cooperate with them," because they had gang affiliate and they were like, "These cops aren't going to mess with us."
[00:10:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:10:08] Jordan Harbinger: So I said, "Okay, great." So I basically was under protection from this kind of gangster guy that I stayed with. I was renting a room from their parents and they lived there in that neighborhood. It was crazy. They had these Zastava pistols and stuff, so we would go shoot these Yugoslav pistols. And I was like, "Crazy. You guys can just have guns here." And they were like, "Yeah, we can't just have guns here." And I was like, "Oh yeah, right — in a gang and all that."
[00:10:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:10:34] Jordan Harbinger: "Got it. I forgot you guys are in a gang."
[00:10:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: You're in better hands with these guys than you were at the cop in the station that night.
[00:10:41] Jordan Harbinger: What's funny about this. And I tell this to people all the time in the United States, the police protect us from gangs. In developing world countries, especially Slavic countries, Eastern Europe, where there's a lot of mafias. You need the mafia to protect you from the government. Criminals protect people from the government in many cases in those countries. They also victimize people. But in my case, in Serbia, I needed criminals to protect me from the government because the government was the people that were messing with me constantly.
[00:11:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right. There are spots in Mexico where the same thing is true.
[00:11:10] Jordan Harbinger: Absolutely. Why do you think the drug cartels are so popular among people? They aren't universal because they kill so many people. But if you look at Pablo Escobar — I know it's Colombia, but kind of the same deal here. He had a base of support in Medellin, right? Because he developed it and paid a lot and wouldn't let the police abuse the people in the town. He made sure that they were taken care of instead of just abused and taken advantage of all the time.
[00:11:33] So in this case, I had the same thing. I was being protected in many ways by this gang who was just like some dudes that I hung out with. I went to this concert, which is called Exit. It's a music festival and it's awesome. It's on an island that is an old Turkish fortress from the Ottoman empire. I believe. It's something else, man. There's a huge, huge, huge open-air fortress. So there's like 20 stages and you can see everyone from all your favorite DJs, to like the white stripes are playing there. It's four days long and it gets 140,000 people or something like that. Going to this festival called Exit. I hope they still have it because it's one of the coolest experiences, man. It's really, really something.
[00:12:11] That sounds dope, yeah.
[00:12:12] And one of the days we were leaving probably the last day. Although now I can't really remember exactly. I guess it must have been the last day. We see this black jeep driving on the island. Now, there's no cars allowed on the Island itself. And that's a very sort of red flag. Also, this is one of these jeeps — I can't remember. I think they're Mitsubishi Jeeps and those are government vehicles a lot of the time. Normal people can buy them, but there's often government vehicles and this Jeep has government plates. And I thought, "Oh, it's some dipsh*t government guy throwing his weight around." Because whenever you see anybody sort of driving recklessly in one of those things, it's always cops. It's always like their version of the FBI. It used to be called state security like drzavna bezbednost is how we would pronounce that. Drzavna bezbednost or something like that. They're not nice and they're kind of like the FBI meets CIA but also meets the kind of like Stasi. So they spend much more time terrorizing their own people than they do foreigners.
[00:13:09] So they were just bugging people, trying to get bribes from people, trying to hit people with their car, quote-unquote gently, to like mess with them, chasing girls around throwing bottles out of their car. I mean, you can imagine what kind of great people upstanding citizens these guys are. Right?
[00:13:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: Sure, yeah.
[00:13:25] Jordan Harbinger: And it's like eight o'clock, 8:30 in the morning.
[00:13:27] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:13:27] Jordan Harbinger: So I'm going to meet my friend for coffee and we're walking and we see these guys. We were with a bunch of girls and these girls are cute. And so the Jeep comes over to us and is trying to drive over my buddy, literally, like knocked them into the mud with a Jeep car, dangerous, right?
[00:13:43] Gabriel Mizrahi: Real public servants, these guys,
[00:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: Real public servants, yeah. And so finally I told the girls to go left and I just smacked the car top with my hand and ran to the right, because I knew that would get their attention. And then I thought, "Okay, I'm either going to talk my way out of this or just bail on these guys. And they're not going to be able to find me and it won't matter." And I ran with my buddy. It wasn't just me. I was also a little nervous because I knew they were cops. And I was like, "Oh, what if they ID'd all of us? And they find out that I'm unregistered, it's going to be such a mess."
[00:14:13] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, that's right. You're unregistered at this point still. Like, you're still doing that dodgy thing where you're not—
[00:14:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:14:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: —giving them a location. So if they stop you and ask you what's up, you don't have a great status right now in the country. Okay, cool.
[00:14:23] Jordan Harbinger: I don't have a great status. And of course, it was a mistake for me to be doing that dodgy thing. Like just do what the government tells you to do in those countries—
[00:14:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:14:29] Jordan Harbinger: —within reason. It sucks. It's like paying taxes, you just do it, you suck it up.
[00:14:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: You just do it. You spend the night in jail and you deal with it.
[00:14:36] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You just hang out with some gypsy prostitutes, man, Roma prostitutes.
[00:14:39] Gabriel Mizrahi: Exactly. You got a story. It's one day in your life. Yeah,
[00:14:42] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. So finally, they stopped me. They stopped my friend. My friend is a Serbian guy, but he lives in Italy. He used to have all these organized crime connections, but then his family sort of fell out of favor with the current regime after Slobodan Milosevic ended or whatever, and he had to move. I mean, you're hanging out with these kinds of dodgy folks, but that's what started. It was kind of like for me back then, I don't know. I was just hanging out with those kinds of people. They weren't bad people. It's just that a lot of people had stories and history like that.
[00:15:12] Like my boss, when I was an English teacher, she had spent time making IEDs or something like that to blow up UN jeeps in Kosovo. And she would tell us about that kind of thing. And she's like, "You're the only American I haven't tried to kill, ha-ha-ha." I'm like, "Ha-ha-ha, funny."
[00:15:28] Gabriel Mizrahi: Ha-ha-ha. what a laugh. Cool. You want to grab lunch or—?
[00:15:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, what we did, she was like a super close — she was like my second mom. Super nice. And she'd say all these nasty things about Americans. She's like, "But I don't mean you. You know that right?" and I'm like, "Kind of, but I'm getting sick of hearing about it, you know?"
[00:15:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Great cast of characters, okay.
[00:15:43] Jordan Harbinger: Great cast of characters, yeah. So these guys decide to mess with us and then they — I don't know if they're radioing it in or calling it in or anything like that. I don't even think they could do that, but they basically decide that my friend and I are going to be taken in and they're taking our phones and they're taking our personal belongings and stuff like that. Again, I should not have given up these things because these guys are almost not real cops. I should have just sort of been like, no, but it's, it's hard to say. And then they're like, "Get in the car, get in the car, get in the car." Well, they're saying, "Get on the car, get on the car, get on the car." And I'm like, "Ugh, okay."
[00:16:18] Gabriel Mizrahi: Are you trying to figure out if they're asking you to just climb on top of their car or you were just like—?
[00:16:22] Jordan Harbinger: Well, wait for it.
[00:16:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: Okay.
[00:16:23] Jordan Harbinger: So I'm thinking, okay. And I tried to open the back door and I noticed in the back there's a gun and a bag of Doritos. I just remember this bag of Doritos. And I felt like, "Oh, okay. They eat Doritos," and a gun on the seat in the car. So I thought if I get back here, I need to escape or something. I literally am armed. So I was trying to figure out a way to see if I could sit on top of the gun so that they couldn't see that I had it. And then I would have to see, is it loaded? Is there one in the chamber? Is the safety on? What kind of gun is it? And also, not just get my ass shot, like by holding it—
[00:16:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: Sure
[00:16:59] Jordan Harbinger: —and not be planning to use it. So those things were going through my head, but I couldn't open the door and I'm like, "Why — what's going on? And he said, "No, get on the car. No room for foreigners in the car." And I was like, "Oh, you're not just misusing a pronoun—" or not a pronoun — what are they, like in, on?
[00:17:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: It's a preposition.
[00:17:15] Jordan Harbinger: Preposition.
[00:17:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Anything you can do to a creepy foreign government vehicle, that's a preposition.
[00:17:21] Jordan Harbinger: That's a preposition.
[00:17:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: On, under—
[00:17:22] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:17:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: —by. around.
[00:17:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:17:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:17:25] Jordan Harbinger: Preposition.
[00:17:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: Okay.
[00:17:25] Jordan Harbinger: I thought he was misusing a preposition because prepositions are really difficult in foreign languages because you say like, "Get on board," but other languages will say, "Get in," or, "Get through."
[00:17:35] Gabriel Mizrahi: Sure.
[00:17:35] Jordan Harbinger: Like they change. They're totally nonsensical. These guys were saying, "Get on the car, get on the car." And I thought they must meet in the car. Right? Like getting on the plane. No, I'm going to get in the plane.
[00:17:44] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:17:45] Jordan Harbinger: Evel Knievel is going to get on the plane. I think that's the George Carlin thing, right? So. I'm trying to get in, I can't get in. He goes, "No room for foreigners in the car, no room for foreigners." And I'm like, "Okay." Because these guys hate Americans. They were talking about how they're going to beat up an American. "We bombed them." I'm like, "Yeah, you have a real sophisticated and nuanced outlook at foreign relations, buddy. I was probably 11 when that was happening, but cool." What I realized he meant was you have to stand on the running board, which is that little thing between the tires where you step on it to get into a vehicle.
[00:18:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:18:16] Jordan Harbinger: Step on the running board and hold on to the sunroof, which was open.
[00:18:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God, yeah, okay.
[00:18:21] Jordan Harbinger: And again, it was a very muddy, off-road no real streets island where this Turkish fortress was. So they were going very slow and it just didn't matter.
[00:18:31] Gabriel Mizrahi: Okay.
[00:18:32] Jordan Harbinger: Because I thought, okay, I can get on the side of this and they can go like a maximum five to seven miles an hour. So I can just jump off and I'm gone. They got out. They robbed a popcorn vendor and a beer vendor. They just took the guy's stuff. Threw it in the car, cracked open beers, and handed us beers. And I thought, "Oh, okay. They're just messing around now." Like we're drinking beers, we're eating popcorn. Like just we're clowning. These guys are just bored.
[00:19:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: They wanted a couple of friends for the night. You're not in danger yet. They're just messing around and they wanted company.
[00:19:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:19:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: Okay.
[00:19:07] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, exactly. Not yet.
[00:19:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show. I'm talking about getting kidnapped. We'll be right back.
[00:19:17] Jordan Harbinger: Now, there are more ways to be a team with Microsoft Teams. Bring everyone together in a new virtual room, collaborate live, building ideas on the same page, and see more of your team on the screen at once. Learn more at microsoft.com/teams.
[00:19:31] And now back to me getting kidnapped on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:19:35] Gabriel Mizrahi: I'm not going to lie so far this is actually sounding kind of weirdly fun.
[00:19:40] Jordan Harbinger: It was exciting, but it was also scary because you don't know what's going to happen. But I even told my friend over the top of the Mitsubishi — whatever it was, you know, car — I look at him and I go, "So far, it's a great story, but we have to keep our wits about us and be really careful."
[00:19:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: Fair.
[00:19:56] Jordan Harbinger: He goes, "I don't know what's going to happen. I'm listening." And I go, "Yeah." And I go, "Maybe don't mention that you speak Serbian too." And he's like, "I know you either." So we're not letting on that. We spoke Serbian." Which, by the way, I guess before I forget, that's one of the major lessons is anytime you have an advantage in a situation like this, never let the other side know what it is because then they can try and mitigate what that is.
[00:20:18] Gabriel Mizrahi: Smart.
[00:20:18] Jordan Harbinger: Right? So like these guys, they weren't trying to hide what they were saying because they thought, "These foreigners don't speak Serbian." So you don't want them to know that I do because — you know, I thought like, "Oh, what if I impress them with my language knowledge? And then they know I don't hate Serbia and that I live here," and I was like, no, no, no, no, no.
[00:20:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:20:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right now, I'm going to hold that close to the vest because they're like, "Yeah, let's go for a drink with these guys. And then we'll let them go." And then they were calling people on my cell phone that were in the saved numbers and they were like, "Hey, we have your friends." And the people were like, "What?" And they're like, "Don't worry, don't worry. We're just going to have a drink and then let them go." And then I was like, "Okay, cool. We're fine."
[00:20:53] Well, as we're getting on the street now, I'm like, "Oh crap, we better be careful." Like we're on the road now driving and we have a beer in one hand and we're holding on with another. And there's like motorbikes passing us like, "Yeah." Because we're drinking, hanging out the side of a car. There's a bus behind us. That's like honking. The people are laughing and the bus driver is rolling his eyes. I mean, it's just silly stuff like that because we look like we're just clowning it up.
[00:21:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:21:19] Jordan Harbinger: And then we get into a neighborhood and the guys go, "What should we do?" And then the other guy goes, "Yeah, I don't know. You know what, screw these guys, let's just throw them in the river or something. I'm sick of this. I don't want to deal with this. Do you think there's going to be any problems?" And the other guy's like, "Nah, just put a tire around them and throw them over the bridge or something like that."
[00:21:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: Whoa, that took a turn.
[00:21:38] Jordan Harbinger: And then I was like, "Whoa, that took a crazy turn." Like nothing even happened. They just got bored of us or something, or they were like, they just decided to like, be violent. I think they were on
[00:21:46] Gabriel Mizrahi: meth.
[00:21:47] On drugs. I was about to say that they sound like they're on drugs. Yeah.
[00:21:50] Jordan Harbinger: They were very, very, very, very weird. And they would turn on a dime. They'd go from laughing to like, they would stab my friend with these sharp objects later on and they would laugh about it.
[00:22:00] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, man.
[00:22:00] Jordan Harbinger: And then they would put the blood off on a tissue and hold it up and go, "Aah," like yell. They were just high as hell.
[00:22:06] Gabriel Mizrahi: That sounds like meth. Yeah.
[00:22:08] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And they kept saying, "Do you have any drugs?" And we were like, "No, no." And then I remember them turning to each other and going, "Oh, too bad. Too bad they don't have anything."
[00:22:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: There you go.
[00:22:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So I think they were like looking for us to have something that they could party with as well. And these guys were really — you know, they'd been up all night, their eyes were bloodshot red. Like I really think it's straight at meth. It's a very meth-up situation.
[00:22:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: Definitely.
[00:22:31] Jordan Harbinger: And so finally we're in this neighborhood. You know, we're getting sort of stopped — here's where I knew things were really bad. This is before they said they were going to put us in a tire and throw us over a bridge. That would have been a good clue. But before that, we passed traffic police and in Europe, traffic police have these like signs. They hold up that say like slow, and they can signal you to pull over. And they're just on the side of the road wearing those hi-vis vests. And we passed these cops in a car and they yelled like, "What are you doing?" Because we're hanging out of the car, drinking the cops, get in the car, turn on the lights and start chasing us. And these guys in their government cars slowed down a little bit, reach out the window and just wave these guys off. And they stop, turn off their lights and turn around.
[00:23:15] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, man. That's not good.
[00:23:17] Jordan Harbinger: And I go, "Oh, damn."
[00:23:18] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:23:19] Jordan Harbinger: Like they could tell just from the car that we were not only not stopping, but that these guys could just do whatever they wanted. And they were like, "Screw it."
[00:23:27] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:23:28] Jordan Harbinger: Like imagine hanging outside a car with a beer and a cop chases you. And then the driver just goes, "Nope, not dealing with you." And they're like, "Okay, good. I guess that settles it."
[00:23:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: Fair enough. On my way, yeah.
[00:23:39] Jordan Harbinger: So I knew these guys were above the law. We didn't even stop. They just sort of slowed down so they could run the roll down the window and be like, "Nah, screw off," to the traffic cops. That was scary. So I turned to my buddy and I go, "Man, we're in for it. That's not a good sign." Because we thought, "Oh good, the cops are going to pull us over." And we'll be like, "Dude, these guys are bugging us." And if they're like, "Well, we don't believe you." We'll be like, "Please just take us to the police station then. Arrest us, get us away from these psychos."
[00:24:03] That didn't happen. So we ended up going into this house that was — and again, never go to the secondary location. I should have thought of that. But again, these are cops, right? So I didn't know exactly what was going on. That was a little bit of a problem. Had there been regular people and never would have happened this far, but these were state security officers. So you don't think you can do anything.
[00:24:21] Gabriel Mizrahi: That makes sense. I would have done the same thing. I'm not about to run from these guys, yeah.
[00:24:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So we ended up at this house and the house had a bar in it. And I remember there was a bartender and it was really early in the morning, which is really weird. And the guys like, "What?" And he opens up these little — you know how like some buildings have those metal shutters in front of the windows when they're closed. They closed at night and they're like metal protective things for the front glass. They banged on that. This guy opens it up. And then lets us in and he's like, "What are you doing?" And they said something to him in Serbian that I don't remember, probably I didn't understand. And the guy looks at us and he looks kind of normal. He's a really big guy. He looks kind of normal and he goes, "Don't worry. I think you're going to be okay." And I went, "Okay." Because he could tell we were scared sh*tless at this point. And he's being really cool and he's being really nice.
[00:25:09] And then these two idiot cops go, "Bring us water and keep bringing them rakia," which is like this homemade slivovitz, like homemade liquor. That's really strong, like Schnapps. And they were like, "Well, let's have a drinking contest." And I was like, "Okay, they're going to drink me under the table." And I go, "Can I have a bottle of water too?" And the guy goes, "Glass of water?" I go, "Do you have a bottle? Can I have a bottle?" And I pointed to the bottle. He gave me a bottle of water. I slammed about, I don't know, 75 percent of it to hopefully slow down alcohol absorption. Not sure if it even works, but it's probably better than an empty stomach. And then every time I would take a shot, I would quote-unquote chase it with water, but I would spit a bunch of it into the bottle.
[00:25:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh nice.
[00:25:48] Jordan Harbinger: So I was diluting the alcohol with what was left of the water—
[00:25:51] Gabriel Mizrahi: Smart.
[00:25:52] Jordan Harbinger: —in the bottle. And I ended up going to the bathroom with the bottle, dumping it out, and filling it up again in the sink.
[00:25:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: Super smart. Damn.
[00:25:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Well, I figured that was — I can't be passed out drunk because then—
[00:26:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: What are you going to do then? Yeah, exactly.
[00:26:04] Jordan Harbinger: Right. My friend is not — I have no way to tell my friend to do the same thing. And I have no way of getting my phone. I have nothing I can do with this guy at all. So he's getting wasted, even though he knows what's going on because we understood the Serbian when they told the bartender. The bartender finally goes, "Enough of this. I'm not serving you guys anymore." And he left and I was like, "Oh man, we're so screwed now." These guys get even more angry. I don't know what happens, but they get even more angry. And they bring us down into like the basement area. And at this point, I'm like, "We're trapped in this place." And I don't know how to get out at all. So they take us in the back and my friend is basically unconscious. I'm like, I can't leave him here by making a run for it, jumping through a window, or anything like that. I'm stuck.
[00:26:50] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:26:51] Jordan Harbinger: So they take us in the back in the guys that are now — one of the guys is kind of being cool to me because we're just talking about food and about like, "Serbian girls," and like, "Oh, America sucks. We bombed you. I don't understand why." "I love Europe. I love Serbia. I love sarma," which is like this food right? We're talking about that. My friend is a bad drunk and he's like belligerent and argumentative. And I'm like, "Oh, this is going so poorly." So they take us to separate rooms. I now hear my friend is getting his ass beat, like hard.
[00:27:22] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh God, that's dark.
[00:27:23] Jordan Harbinger: I'm talking to this guy and trying to keep him chill and calm. And I'm in the back talking and trying to keep the guy calm. So what I was doing was staying as calm as possible. Not again, too calm that I’m like, "Everything's going to be fine," not delusional so, but I'm a fan of the line of thinking that in a stressful situation, whoever thinks the clearest wins. And so I'm chatting, I'm trying to control the frame of the conversation. So for these cops, I could tell they're getting carried away with everything. They're starting to fight with each other. They're yelling. I'm keeping my guy calm because I'm staying super chill. So I'm essentially controlling the conversation. And remember, I'm talking to him in English and I'm making him repeat himself. And I'm trying to wear him down emotionally and wear him down, I guess, intellectually so that he gets tired because I figured this guy is probably coming down from whatever drugs he's been on. And he's probably thinking really hard trying to use English. That's really bad. And I'm telling him, I don't understand any Serbian. He's jumping through my hoops.
[00:28:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:28:24] Jordan Harbinger: Right. He'd be like, "I'm going to beat you up. You bombed us." And I'd be like, "It's where we met like this, huh? We could have had a drink together. Where's the best restaurant in town?" And he'd get mad and then he'd come back and he'd be like, "I'm tired." And then he'd start telling me about his favorite food. And I just realized he's exhausted. He's beat. He's on a comedown, like I said, from the drugs and alcohol. And I just basically made the bet that I had more energy than he did.
[00:28:48] And I had a caffeine tablet from the night before because we were staying up all night, listening to EDM at this festival. So I popped one of the caffeine pills in the morning as soon as I saw that things were going downhill. Because I was like, "Oh, I'm going to go to bed after this." As soon as we ended up at like the safe house area, I was like, "I'm popping this because I need my wits about it."
[00:29:07] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, yeah.
[00:29:07] Jordan Harbinger: So I was sharp and I knew I had probably six hours of caffeine pill or whatever. And these guys were tired, so good for me. And at this point, you know, my friend's getting beat up. He's really not doing well. I can't see him, but I can hear it. And I'm humanizing myself to the captors. I'm saying things like, "Look, man, I had nothing to do with the bombing of your country. I was 12 when that happened. That was a lie. I think I was really, it's probably like 17 or 18.
[00:29:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, you're a little older, I think if I'm doing the math correctly.
[00:29:33] Jordan Harbinger: But I wanted them to imagine a 12-year-old kid in their head rather than like a military-aged male—
[00:29:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: Totally.
[00:29:39] Jordan Harbinger: —who's sitting in front of them. I told them one of the reasons we rushed away from the police car, we were worried about the girls we were with because we've heard that some guys can be aggressive. You know, I'm basically making it about others and sort of trying to put us on the same team. I'm using psychology as much as I can at this point, with this dumb, drunk, meth-out cop. And again, these aren't regular cops. They're kind of like the FBI type.
[00:30:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:30:02] Jordan Harbinger: I guess so humanize yourself to your captors, control the situation, speak foreign languages. That's a huge asset. Right? I spoke Serbian so I could understand what they were saying. Game-changing advantage. You never know when the language you speak is going to suddenly become a saving asset. I think I said this before, Gabe, right? Keep information close to the vest. And acknowledge that your captors may not even have a plan and exploit weaknesses in that. So if it's a planned kidnapping, it may matter a little, right? If it's a planned kidnapping, they probably have much better logistics in place. They've got a place where they plan on taking you. They've got an idea of what they're going to do with you.
[00:30:39] In a spur of the moment type of abduction, which is more rare, I would imagine — if you're dealing with people with no plan, this becomes very important because if you have a massive, massive advantage if there's no plan. They probably just brought us here on a whim at this house where we were at. They didn't have restraints. They probably don't have any security in place. They had restraints, but they didn't have proper restraints, which was great because that plays later on. They're constantly bickering with one another. So I was looking for opportunities in those cracks. And there's a point where you can decide if you've been defeated and just have to wait for rescue. And there's also, of course, the idea that you can outlast your captors. So you can also find holes in the plan. You can figure out how to take advantage of them. These guys had no clue what they were doing. That was the beginning of my opportunity. We can just confuse them and we can run out their plan. And then eventually look for opportunities to escape.
[00:31:32] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:31:32] Jordan Harbinger: Unfortunately, my friend was getting his ass kicked, so I knew he was going to be in a worse condition, which is not good.
[00:31:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: So he's in the other room, you're in the other room. And are you making progress with this guy? Like what's happening?
[00:31:43] Jordan Harbinger: So I'm keeping him calm. And eventually, the other guy gets sick of beating up my friend, I think. And I was like, "Look, man, I'd love to keep talking, but I feel sick." And he's like, "Oh." And I was like, "I need water." And he goes, "Uh, let me get you some water." I was like, "Can you go get me something to drink? I feel really, really sick," and I basically stopped cooperating. I was like, "I feel really sick. I feel really sick." And so he goes — and I thought he was either going to go get me some water from the sink upstairs or check with the other guy or something. They ended up getting in their car and leaving, and I don't know what the deal was, but they ended up leaving. And I don't know if they went to go get water or if they just gave up on us or what. And I ran into the room where my friend was, he was out of it. And they had injected him with something—
[00:32:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: No.
[00:32:29] Jordan Harbinger: —also, which really sucks.
[00:32:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's scary.
[00:32:31] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, he had an injection mark on his arm—
[00:32:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, God
[00:32:34] Jordan Harbinger: —from hopefully not a dirty needle. So he had to go to the hospital and get blood panels done and stuff got toxicology.
[00:32:40] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God.
[00:32:40] Jordan Harbinger: It turned out they gave him heroin.
[00:32:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh no.
[00:32:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So I grabbed my friend. We get out one of the windows of this bar house thing — it's like a big window, like a veranda almost. And we've run to this restaurant. We're in like a random place. We ran and ran and ran. And we go to this restaurant area. And I knew we looked bad because the waitress came up to us and went, "Hi, can I help you?" And like mid-sentence, she turns around.
[00:33:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, God.
[00:33:09] Jordan Harbinger: And me and my friends sit down in the outdoor chairs and then suddenly the police come and we're like, "What?" And they were like, "Get out of here, you dumb junkies." And I was like, "Oh, hi. So we got attacked by the police." And they were like, "What? None of this makes any sense. You're just a junkie. You're a stupid junkie. You're a stupid junkie. You come here to do drugs." And I was like, "No, we got attacked by the cops." And what was interesting was I'm seated in the back of the police car, the traffic cops called Militsiya or whatever, which are like the more armed, like heavily armed cops like this more serious cops. Those guys were in the back of the car. The guys are calling me stupid junkies, stupid idiots, blah, blah, blah. They didn't believe it. They called the ambulance for us, my friend — the ambulance driver is like, "I want to help you, but you have to tell me what drugs you were doing." And I was like, "I didn't do anything. They injected my friend with something." And he goes, "They? Who's they?" I was like, "The cops." And then he was like, "You guys are idiots. I can't help you if you're going to lie to me."
[00:34:06] So then we ended up in the back. I am in the back of the police car with this younger cop and I go, "The police beat me up. The police beat me up." He goes, "You liar, you stupid junkie. This didn't happen." I go, "No, it was the cops. It was the cops." He goes, "Really? We did this to you?" I go, "No, it was the guys in the black Mitsubishi Jeep." And he stops and goes, "Oh, man, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I'm really, really, sorry." This is a cop, like a young cop.
[00:34:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: He recognized who that must've been.
[00:34:31] Jordan Harbinger: So he knew right away that I wasn't lying because when foreigner comes and says, "I got beat up by the police," and names the exact make and model of a car.
[00:34:38] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right, right
[00:34:39] Jordan Harbinger: With sort of terror squad cops.
[00:34:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, and he knows of these people, whoever they are.
[00:34:44] Jordan Harbinger: And what I found out later from Serbian friends was these guys don't just pick foreigners. They go after Serbian men and women all the time. They steal people's stuff. They beat people's asses in the road. They shoot people.
[00:34:55] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God.
[00:34:56] Jordan Harbinger: They do all kinds of horrible stuff.
[00:34:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:34:58] Jordan Harbinger: So yeah, they're like secret police, you know, they're like not so secret police. And the ranks that these guys are drawn from are not always, but at least during that time in the '90s and a little bit later. These guys were from Bosnia and have Bosnian accent. They were Bosnian Serbs. So during the Civil War, in all likelihood, these guys were in a Serbian Militsiya, which, you know, killed a bunch of Croatians, old people or whatever, or Bosniak Muslims. And then when they lost that Civil War or the area where the civil war was, you know, maybe it got taken over by Bosniaks or Croats, wherever they lived in Bosnia, they were relocated to Belgrade. And since they were in the Militsiya, they needed a job and they needed a job where they couldn't be prosecuted for crimes committed against other people that they'd committed during the Civil War.
[00:35:43] So what the geniuses in the Serbian government did at that time was they made these guys policemen at the state security level, which I think gives them immunity from prosecution.
[00:35:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God.
[00:35:55] Jordan Harbinger: So they made a bunch of PTSD, war criminals, damaged Militsiya guys from the middle of nowhere country town. Bosnia, they brought him to the big city and they said, "Here's a regular salary and unlimited authority that screws with whoever you want. And absolutely no future prospects whatsoever.
[00:36:12] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh God.
[00:36:13] Jordan Harbinger: Have at it.
[00:36:13] Gabriel Mizrahi: That is terrible.
[00:36:14] Jordan Harbinger: So these guys just run around, terrorizing the local population.
[00:36:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Terrifying imagine being policed by those guys every single day. That's rough.
[00:36:22] Jordan Harbinger: And I found all this out 20/20 hindsight, of course, because one of my students, when I was an English teacher, he was like a UN delegate for Serbia and the cost of a war crimes tribunal. And I called him and I was like, "Dude, can you do anything about this?" Because the guys who we escaped from, they knew who we were and they were still threatening us after we escaped.
[00:36:41] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, wow.
[00:36:41] Jordan Harbinger: So I was like, "Can you do something about this?" And he's like, "I can't even touch these guys." And he's like a UN delegate, you know. He works directly with the foreign minister of Serbia.
[00:36:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's wild.
[00:36:53] Jordan Harbinger: He couldn't do anything about it. And that's what really freaked me out because these guys would like, they would call like friends of ours because they had the phone numbers still and they would be like, "Hey, where is Jordan? I want to pay him a visit," You know, stuff like that. And so what we did to take care of the situation went to the US embassy. They were so useless. They said, "Hey, we can't do anything about this. It's really hard to get anything done in Serbia already. So we're not going to make a big deal about it." They were really, really useless. And I have to say to this day, I'm extremely disappointed, but I found out the hard way that the US diplomat, you know, embassy staff, they don't give a sh*t about people in the country.
[00:37:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh really.
[00:37:31] Jordan Harbinger: They don't give a sh*t about Americans who are there, no. They're just trying to get their stupid stuff done, their diplomatic stuff was done. Later on, when the media — they told us, "Don't go to the media." The media started writing stories about this saying like we were picking fights with these guys, or like we attacked women and the cops were rescuing the women, just bull crap like that
[00:37:51] Gabriel Mizrahi: Local media started writing about it.
[00:37:52] Jordan Harbinger: Local media.
[00:37:53] Gabriel Mizrahi: They were like, "Over the weekend, this happened with these guys." Oh wow.
[00:37:59] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show. I'm the guest today. I'm talking about getting nabbed overseas. We'll be right back.
[00:38:05] Now, there are more ways to be a team with Microsoft Teams. With together mode, you can bring everyone together in one space in the same virtual room. You can bring the power of true collaboration to your projects with whiteboard, drawing, sharing, and building ideas in real-time all on the same page. And with a large gallery view, you can see more of your team all at once with up to 49 people on screen all at the same time. You can even raise your hand virtually so everyone can be seen and heard. When there are more ways to be together, there are more ways to be a team. Learn more about all the newest Teams features at microsoft.com/teams.
[00:38:40] Thank you so much for listening and supporting the show. It's your support of us and our advertisers specifically that keeps us going. So if you like any of the products or you're buying some gifts for our friend, or you want to check out what we've got, go to jordanharbinger.com/deals. That's where all the sponsors are, all the codes, everything all in one place. Please do consider supporting those who support us and make this all possible. And don't forget, we've got worksheets for every episode with the takeaways and some drills and exercises. This episode is no exception. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:39:12] And now the rest of my story about getting kidnapped in Serbia.
[00:39:15] Gabriel Mizrahi: Do you have those stories? Were they on the Internet?
[00:39:20] Jordan Harbinger: No, I mean, they were on — one, it was front-page news of their newspaper Politico because people were calling me. It must've been on the Internet because I got a call from my friend in Australia who is Serbian. And he said, "Are you okay?" And I said, "What are you talking about?" He goes, "I'm reading Politico, dot—" you know, Serbia, you know, whatever Serbian website. I wish I still had the story.
[00:39:37] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, man. That would be cool.
[00:39:38] Jordan Harbinger: It would be cool. And he's like, "Are you okay? Your name is in the newspaper on the front page." And I was like, "Oh God." And he's like, "Yeah, it sounds like the police had a run-in with you and all this stuff." And I was like, "Oh my gosh." So yeah, the US diplomatic staff didn't care at all. They expressed some sympathy but then, later on, they colluded with Serbian media and said, "We're just going to say that you lied about this." And when I confronted them, they said, "Dude, you're alive. We don't want our jobs to get any harder. "
[00:40:05] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:40:05] Jordan Harbinger: "So just whatever we say with the media, just ignore it, man. Just be grateful. You're alive."
[00:40:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:40:10] Jordan Harbinger: That's what this counselor security officer said to me.
[00:40:12] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God.
[00:40:12] Jordan Harbinger: And I said, "I hope that this happens to you and nobody gives a shit." And he was like, "Well, f*ck you then, buddy."
[00:40:17] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God.
[00:40:18] Jordan Harbinger: You know, like he was just a dickhead, like a total dickhead.
[00:40:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:40:20] Jordan Harbinger: What we ended up doing — and I said, I'm taking this into my own hands because if you guys can't help me be safe, then I have to figure this out myself. I was thinking about leaving, but my friend who had the organized crime connections and lived in Italy, he was like, "No, screw this. You know, there's only one way to get respect. And these guys are going to come after you." And he also told me, "Look, these guys, if they want to mess with you, they're going to come after you in the United States too, because there's tons of Serbian gangsters and stuff in the United States. And what are they doing? They're calling people. They're not going to stop calling." He goes, "The only safe way to do this is to do this in a Serbian way." And I was like, "Okay, I'll trust your judgment." I shouldn't have done that but luckily, nothing bad happened.
[00:40:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: The most Serbian sentence I've ever heard in my life.
[00:40:59] Jordan Harbinger: Pretty much, yeah, pretty much. It's just like some Grand Theft Auto.
[00:41:03] Gabriel Mizrahi: The only way to do this is to do this the Serbian way.
[00:41:06] Jordan Harbinger: So we go to the Italian embassy, carabinieri guy, really surprised, really upset, says, "I can't do anything about this. Serbian police and law enforcement never care when we report crimes against Italian citizens." Because my friend has Italian citizenship and Serbian citizenship.
[00:41:19] Gabriel Mizrahi: Same story for them.
[00:41:20] Jordan Harbinger: Same story, but less of an a-hole. Like the American guy was a straight-up, just dick about it. The Italian guy expressed sympathy and got us some coffee. And then here's the most Italian thing ever, carabinieri goes, "You should tell the gardener." And I'm like, "Okay, that doesn't make sense, but okay." My friend is translating because I don't speak Italian. "Tell the gardener, tell the gardener." "What do you mean tell the gardener?"
[00:41:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah, what gardener?
[00:41:42] Jordan Harbinger: "Tell the gardener, what are you talking about?" So then finally carabinieri guy goes, "Go across the street to the Italian coffee shop. It's where the embassy staff go to get coffee. It's the best coffee around and I'll send over the gardener." And I'm like—
[00:41:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: What?
[00:41:54] Jordan Harbinger: "All right." So I go and sit down and I have coffee and my friend orders coffee, and he's so upset. And this super tall, very white guy comes out of the embassy and sits down and he's so calm and so nice and so caring and so cool. And I'm like, "What do you do?" And he goes, "I'm the gardener." And I'm like, "Why the f*ck is anybody — why are you sending the gardener? What is anybody going to do? What is this gardener guy going to do?" And he goes, "Here's what I'm going to do. Do you guys have 1200 euros?" And I was like, "Yeah, I mean, why?" And he goes, "I need to bring some friends with me and we're going to take care of this and make sure that it's fine. And you should come so that you can sleep at night because then you'll see that it's fine." I'm like, "Okay."
[00:42:35] So this guy gets these super gangster-looking like thuggy guys who, I think, were Albanian, finds these guys, calls us at like 10:00 p.m., has us drive 90 minutes out to where they are. And he's got these guys and they are more scared than anyone has ever done been scared in their whole life.
[00:42:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, wow.
[00:42:54] Jordan Harbinger: And he goes, "What do you want to do?" And I go, "I want to throw him off a bridge with a tire around it. Like they said they were going to do to us." And the guys were like, "No, no, no, no, no." And I was like, "Maybe we should let them live. What do you think?" And then the guy is like, the gardener goes, "I don't know. It's up to you. Jordan says we have to kill you." Basically, he's saying this in Serbian with an Italian accent to these guys. And they're like, "No, no, we're sorry. We're sorry. We're sorry. And then we're never going to do this again," all this stuff. And I'm like, "I don't know. I still kind of want to throw you off that bridge. You were going to do this to us." And the guys were so scared that I felt bad for them.
[00:43:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh, wow.
[00:43:31] Jordan Harbinger: And I was like, "What are you going to do?" And he's like, "I'm going to lose your number. I don't care. I'm sorry." I deleted my number out of their phones myself. And then I thought better of it. And I threw their phones into the rivers.
[00:43:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: Nice.
[00:43:43] Jordan Harbinger: And I said, let them walk home while they're still restrained because we're in the middle of like, I don't know some town.
[00:43:49] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:43:49] Jordan Harbinger: And it was kind of cold if I recall correctly, like at night, And I was just like, "Let them walk home while their hands are tied up. Like I don't give a crap." So the gardener and these Albanian dudes or whatever, they didn't say anything. They looked sort of Albanian. There's a lot of like dark-featured folks there. So I just assumed that they were, maybe they were Italian. And then we drove back to Belgrade and then I left because I was like, "I just want to be damn sure."
[00:44:12] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:44:12] Jordan Harbinger: But my friend lived there for a while and he's like, "We never heard from those guys ever again."
[00:44:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow. I'm surprised that he stayed actually.
[00:44:19] Jordan Harbinger: He lived there.
[00:44:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: He lived there, okay.
[00:44:21] Jordan Harbinger: And he had a lot of organized crime connections.
[00:44:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: I was going to say he knows the gardener.
[00:44:25] Jordan Harbinger: The thing that I don't understand to this day is, is the gardener a nickname, or is the gardener like their slang term for their Italian state spy agency that the guy was from? Or is the gardener just like a mafioso? That knew some mafia guys. And he just happens to be on the payroll of the embassy as the gardener. But obviously, there's — where was he gardening? The embassy is in the middle of Belgrade. It's a city. There's no lawn.
[00:44:52] Gabriel Mizrahi: I mean, there's no lawn. And I mean, you didn't walk up to this guy holding some gardening, sheers, you know what I mean?
[00:44:58] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:44:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: I think that's a role.
[00:44:59] Jordan Harbinger: And do you hire a local landscaper to take care of the embassy flowers? Like why do you need your own gardeners? So the whole thing made no sense.
[00:45:05] Gabriel Mizrahi: They don't fly out the greatest gardening artist of Milan—
[00:45:08] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:45:09] Gabriel Mizrahi: —for this job.
[00:45:11] Jordan Harbinger: I think it's just a guy whose job it is to sort of like take care of business that's off the books.
[00:45:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah to trim the hedges.
[00:45:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yes, to trim the hedges, if you will. And they call him the gardener and he probably gets paid a small salary from the embassy, but he took our 1200 euros and he probably paid these thug dudes a hundred euros, and pocketed a thousand.
[00:45:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: Jesus.
[00:45:30] Jordan Harbinger: And then took care of business, and we had that guy's phone number and he's like, "If there are any problems, call me."
[00:45:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:45:34] Jordan Harbinger: "I'm the gardener." And I remember being like, " What—?"
[00:45:36] Gabriel Mizrahi: Would it be funny if you called them? And you're like, "Hey, do you mow lawns?"
[00:45:40] Jordan Harbinger: "Do you still do gardening?"
[00:45:42] Gabriel Mizrahi: He's like, "Yeah, I could help." "No, no, no. Literally, I just moved into a really nice house and the lawn needs a little work."
[00:45:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're going to end up with some Albanian guys coming over with facial scars and giant muscles who are going to cut your lawn.
[00:45:56] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh my God, dude.
[00:45:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:45:58] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's wild.
[00:45:59] Jordan Harbinger: It's terrifying. We do lots of weird stuff that happened in Serbia. I love Serbia.
[00:46:02] Gabriel Mizrahi: Did you go back after that trip?
[00:46:04] Jordan Harbinger: I did go back again and only after having my friend — my friend worked for a Japanese tobacco company and they had a security guy who was a former state like a spy in Serbia. And I go, "Can you have him look in their systems and see if I have any problems?" And the guy did, and for a hundred bucks, he gave like a full track and I'm nowhere to be found—
[00:46:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh wow.
[00:46:24] Jordan Harbinger: —on any computers.
[00:46:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well, I got to say you made it out of these two stories, pretty well, unscathed.
[00:46:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:46:30] Gabriel Mizrahi: You're luckier than some other people I know in those situations.
[00:46:33] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:46:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's extraordinary. That is truly extraordinary. Do you feel like you're a different person because you went through those experiences?
[00:46:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I'll tell you what, after the Mexico one, I was like, "Wow, that was really scary. Stuff happens. I'm fine. I'm great." But then after the Serbia one, I started to be like, "I bet that I can die really easily. And that everyone thinks they're immortal at 24." The day I went to that festival, I was like, "Nothing can stop me. I'm invincible. Stay up all night drinking," you know, the young people stuff. After that, I was like, "My body can get holes put in it and the holes don't heal up and I can get shot and killed and I can get thrown into a river and die."
[00:47:12] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow.
[00:47:13] Jordan Harbinger: You felt your mortality at that level. I felt my mortality at that level. So strongly that I realized that was like the death of my innocence when it comes to, "I'm going to be fine. Everything's going to be fine." I was like, "There's a lot of situations that don't end up fine."
[00:47:29] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah.
[00:47:29] Jordan Harbinger: And this is one of those that could have been — it was so close to not being fine.
[00:47:33] Gabriel Mizrahi: It could have gone such a different way.
[00:47:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:34] Gabriel Mizrahi: That's so crazy. You must feel grateful on so many levels. I mean, just to come out of something like that with a good story and not something worse or not at all, you know?
[00:47:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. No kidding.
[00:47:44] Gabriel Mizrahi: You're the one who brought me to North Korea, actually the first time. Did any of these stories make you second guess going to North Korea?
[00:47:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, the first time I went to North Korea, I was like, "How bad can it be? It's probably going to be fine." Bear in mind that there were no Westerners who had been held or anything. But now people, since that show aired, the North Korea episode, people are like, "Ah, I want to go, I have a Portuguese passport. Maybe I should go?" And I'm like, "Go ahead. You know, a lot of people go and it's uneventful," but I don't think I can go again until things really open up and Kim Jong-un is no longer in charge of running things.
[00:48:16] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:48:16] Jordan Harbinger: Because I stopped going in 2016, 2015 — when did we stop?
[00:48:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: 2015 — 14, 15, 16 — something like that?
[00:48:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I stopped going because I was like, "Hey, this is getting too heavy duty. People are getting stopped here and arrested here." So now I'm much more careful. Now, I have a kid, so it's a totally different story.
[00:48:35] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:48:36] Jordan Harbinger: But even before, even before I'd met Jen, where I still just theoretically should have been in my I'm invincible phase of life, this Serbia story made damn sure that I was no longer thinking like that.
[00:48:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right. I don't know what to say, man. Those are crazy stories. If I heard that I would be like—
[00:48:51] Jordan Harbinger: Crazy.
[00:48:51] Gabriel Mizrahi: —you hired the best writing team and this is going to be a great show.
[00:48:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, hired a good writing team.
[00:48:57] Gabriel Mizrahi: The details are incredible though, like the gardener and the—
[00:49:00] Jordan Harbinger: The gardener.
[00:49:01] Gabriel Mizrahi: —gardener and like the—
[00:49:02] Jordan Harbinger: I don't get why, yeah. That I remember because it was so weird.
[00:49:05] Gabriel Mizrahi: And the Mitsubishi and the man, like it's so vivid, it was just wild.
[00:49:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There's a lot more to the story, but none of it is interesting. Like the regular cops came and interviewed us and then they were like, "Hey, we can't do anything because these guys are state security officers." It's not like we never went to the cops.
[00:49:20] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:49:21] Jordan Harbinger: You know, after that, it's just that they were like, "This is fruitless."
[00:49:24] Gabriel Mizrahi: Right.
[00:49:24] Jordan Harbinger: There's nothing we can do about it.
[00:49:25] Gabriel Mizrahi: Well, that's what's wild is like you come from a country, like the States, you think, "Things are going to work the way they should. Systems are going to be in place for stuff like this. I can rely on custom and habit and like basic decency." And then you get to a place like that where it's truly lawless and so many levels, and you get caught up with the people, who are supposed to be protecting you, who are messing with you. And it's like, what do you do? Then, it's really all on you and a big dose of luck, I guess, to get out of that situation okay which is wild. And I'm glad you did because I don't know — we wouldn't have been friends if you didn't. So that's sad.
[00:49:55] Jordan Harbinger: That's right. That's true. You know, what's interesting here is I told this story a few times, probably more than 10 years ago right when it happened in 2004, I told a few people. And I remember, especially Serbian people in America would be like, "This is BS, whatever. I don't believe it." These are Serbian Americans. There were a couple of people in law school who were Serbian from Serbia. And when I told them they instantly were like, "Oh yeah, that happens."
[00:50:23] Gabriel Mizrahi: Oh interesting.
[00:50:24] Jordan Harbinger: So I thought that was interesting because you know, I'll meet somebody in Chicago who's like a second-generation Serb and they're like, "Yeah, BS. I love Serbia. Everybody's nice and friendly. It's an awesome place." And I'm like, I don't disagree with that. But when you meet an actual Serbian who lived in Serbia, they're like, "Dude, that happens all the time," especially during the Civil War when Bosnia and Croatia and Serbia, the breakup of Yugoslavia, crazy stuff like that happens—
[00:50:47] Gabriel Mizrahi: Really?
[00:50:48] Jordan Harbinger: —all the time.
[00:50:48] Gabriel Mizrahi: Wow. That makes sense.
[00:50:49] Jordan Harbinger: Because there was — and under Slobodan Milosevic, I mean, dude, of course, that stuff happens.
[00:50:54] Gabriel Mizrahi: Yeah. It's not going to work properly. The thing about corruption is that there's so many layers to it, right? Like there's the culture of the country in which it happens, the fact that they don't pay police well. The fact that you mentioned in this country, particularly they're hiring the worst people to be the people who were supposed to be protecting everybody, which is insane. I mean, like once you get three or four of those problems together, it's a recipe for disaster.
[00:51:14] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly.
[00:51:14] Gabriel Mizrahi: How was it going to work? Anyway, that's craziness.
[00:51:17] Jordan Harbinger: So crazy. Look, I love doing this one.
[00:51:20] Links to anything we mentioned, we'll link into the show notes as well at jordanharbinger.com. Worksheets for the episode are in the show notes. Transcripts in the show notes. There's going to be a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or hit me on LinkedIn. You can find Gabriel at @GabeMizrahi on Twitter or at @GabrielMizrahi on Instagram.
[00:51:44] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, that's free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty, you got to build relationships before you need them.
[00:51:59] 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 Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in, I don't know, weird kidnapping stories or just stories in general, please do share this with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of the show. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen — I hope you never have to apply what you learn today though. I got a caveat that, right? I hope we never need any of this. But if you do apply what you hear on the show, especially in the other episodes, I would love that to live what you listen and we'll see next time.
[00:52:46] We've got a preview trailer of our interview with Navy SEAL and veteran Jocko Willink like you've never heard him before.
[00:52:52] Jocko Willink: Leadership is the most important on the battlefield. Every characteristic that you can have for a leader can be taken to an extreme, even the most important characteristic that I thought about all the time, which is humility. You've got to be humble as a leader. You've got to always look, "Okay, how can I improve? I need to listen to other people." Well, as a leader, you can actually be too humble where you don't stand up when somebody is telling you to do something that you don't think is right, but you're like, "Hey, I'm humble. So I'm going to do it anyway." Well, if you don't think it's right, you actually shouldn't do it. Every positive characteristic can be taken to the extreme that it becomes negative. And that is why as a leader, you have to be balanced.
[00:53:28] Jordan Harbinger: Be humble or get humbled is a term that I love. Can you tell us what this means?
[00:53:33] Jocko Willink: The nature of the work world is if you're not humble, you are going to get humbled. So that's a good attitude to have, and it's a good attitude to always, you know, "I need to stay humble," but that this is the dichotomy. This doesn't mean that you're completely passive. And there are times humble as you should be, there are times when you need to stand up and say, no. You know, Leif and I joked about it sometimes the most we'd get to sleep was when we were in the field. There's a funny picture of myself and Dave Burke on a rooftop. It's probably, it looks like it's about 11 o'clock in the morning and we're both sitting there. We're both asleep. We're both sitting there.
[00:54:10] Jordan Harbinger: 110 degrees.
[00:54:11] Jocko Willink: It's 110 degrees and we're both asleep. And clearly, this was the first time we had to rest and 24 or 48 hours. And you've learned to sleep anywhere on concrete and floors and stairwells and whatever else.
[00:54:23] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Jocko, including why we should stop being the easy button for those we manage and lead and the concept of leadership capital, how to build it, when to use it, and when not to use it, check out episode 93 right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:54:40] Now there are more ways to be a team with Microsoft Teams. Bring everyone together in one space with a new virtual room, collaborate live, drawing, sharing, and building ideas with everyone on the same page. And make sure more of your team is seen and heard with up to 49 people on screen at once. Learn more about all the newest Teams features at microsoft.com/teams.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.