In 2018, I was the host of one of the biggest interview podcasts out there. I had an audience of millions of people, access to the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs, and a platform that allowed me to do what I loved the most.
Then, one day, I got an email from my business partners telling me I was fired.
Literally overnight, I lost everything: my livelihood, my calling, my very sense of identity. I felt helpless, bruised, and massively disadvantaged, robbed of the program and purpose I had spent more than a decade building.
After sitting on my couch for a couple of weeks, sideswiped by the news and staying up all night devising ways to get my show back, I realized there was one thing I hadn’t lost: my relationships with the incredible people I’d met over the past 10 years — through the show, at conferences, in my live seminars, and through my personal circle.
This network turned out to be the insurance policy I didn’t even know I had — an insurance policy that would save me at this precise moment in my career.
Desperate for guidance, I decided to reach out to my closest friends and colleagues. In dozens of emails and phone calls, I opened up about my recent experience and asked for their advice, hoping to work through the loss and chart a path forward with the people I trust and admire most.
This willingness to ask for support from my network took some work on my part. While I’ve always felt comfortable helping other people, I’ve often struggled to accept it in return. Once I reached out to my circle, I realized that asking for help is actually a profound act of vulnerability — and an essential one. Until I opened myself up to the people around me, I didn’t understand how deep and meaningful my relationships actually were — something I could only fully appreciate when I finally learned to ask for help.
Those early conversations gave me indispensable wisdom when I needed it most. One of my mentors, a broadcasting veteran, helped me see that if I created one show from scratch, I could do it again — and much more quickly. Another close friend, a serial entrepreneur, encouraged me to mentally and emotionally move on from the loss, rather than spending critical time and energy trying to recover what I had before.
In light of these eye-opening conversations, I decided to launch a brand new podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show, which would explore the most burning questions in psychology, success, and entrepreneurship. My plan was to take all of my fear and instability and use it to create an even better show.
But to make that show succeed, I’d need to rebuild my entire brand, audience, and infrastructure from scratch. And I’d have to do it quickly, with no start-up capital — a truly daunting challenge.
Connecting the Dots
Once again, my network became my greatest asset. Determined to build the new show as quickly as possible, I became very specific about what I needed from my friends and colleagues — and was overwhelmed by how generous they turned out to be.
My peers from other podcasts introduced me to their favorite authors, experts and entrepreneurs, many of whom agreed to be interviewed on the show. My previous guests returned for follow-up episodes, happy to share their time with me. Several of them even offered to lend me their support staff to help me build up my customer service and marketing, which was priceless. Meanwhile, countless friends emailed their favorite episodes to their mastermind networks, telling them to subscribe and listen to the show. Even our listeners became incredible allies by sending me feedback, questions, and a wonderful perspective on what our fan base really wanted from the new show.
Piece by piece, I rebuilt the entire architecture of the podcast over the following year, entirely through my network. Of course, that network was only so valuable because my team and I were dedicated to creating a terrific product. The support of a great circle is indispensable, but it only truly pays off when people trust you, like you, and believe in the product you’re providing.
And the only way to cultivate that trust and loyalty is to invest in the people around you all the time, with no immediate expectation of return — which I had been doing for years.
Digging the Well
I first learned that principle — which an old colleague of mine called “digging the well before you’re thirsty” — when I worked as an attorney on Wall Street. I intellectually understood its importance back then (and committed to it as a matter of policy), but I didn’t know just how profoundly true it really was — not until I lost my show and found myself, for the first time in my life, truly “thirsty.”
That’s why I’m always looking for ways to cross-pollinate ideas, opportunities, and people across my network. Just this week, for example, I introduced a talented freelance writer to an investor friend who’s planning a book, connected two newly engaged friends to the best wedding planner I know, and emailed a document with all my research and recommendations on podcast marketing to an entrepreneur who’s launching his own show.
My standard operating procedure, which runs like a program in the back of my mind, is to constantly identify people’s needs, find someone capable and trustworthy to help fulfill them, and plug those people into each other on an ongoing basis. That’s how I use the social capital in my network to constantly create value for the people in my life — and why those same people are usually happy to return the favor.
I’m committed to this practice because it brings me a great deal of joy and meaning — and because generosity is the lifeblood of this powerful insurance policy. By consistently digging the well before I’m thirsty, I’m renewing that policy for years to come, knowing that that value is compounding across my network, and eventually making its way back to me.
Once I saw just how effective that insurance policy was in a crisis, I decided to double down and scale my relationship-building, using a few key habits and tools.
To stay in touch with the outer circles of my network, for example, I created the “Connect Four” method — texting four people from the bottom of my text messages every day to reconnect and see what they need. I’ll literally send them a text saying, “Hey! Been a while. What’s the latest with you?” When they reply, we rekindle our connection, which leads to an organic opportunity to ask what they need and spot an opportunity to be of service.
To stay on top of my communication, I also use Contactually, a terrific CRM (built for real estate professionals, but useful to anyone). Tools like this help me track my emails, follow-ups, and scheduled conversations so I can follow through on my commitments over long periods of time. That might sound like overkill, but once I learned how important consistency and breadth were in my relationship-building, I realized I’d need to implement strong processes to manage it.
These habits and tools keep me engaged with my expanding network so that I continue investing my social capital on an ongoing basis. These investments are the “premium” I pay for the insurance policy of my network — a premium I actually love paying — which will help me in ways I can’t possibly imagine down the line.
The impact of these relationships has been remarkable.
A year and a half after launching the new show, we’re now enjoying six million downloads per month, generating a seven-figure revenue, and featuring incredible guests like Dennis Quaid, Malcolm Gladwell, Howie Mandel, and Kobe Bryant. The show regularly appears in the Apple Podcasts Top 50, receives numerous shout-outs in major publications, and continues to grow dramatically every month.
All because of my personal network, which turned out to be the greatest insurance policy money could never buy.
[Featured photo by Ryan Hartford of Ecliptic Media]
This story originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur.