Jordan Harbinger shares his journey from a pickup artist to a self-reflective, emotionally intelligent, all-around better man after co-founding the Art of Charm and pinpointing the value of authenticity and self-development.
Law school. 2005. I’m shy, bookish, and not particularly good with women, but I know enough to know I could teach myself a thing or two. I look at AJ, who spends his days in an oncology lab, and marvel at my best friend’s social grace. I can ace the brutal interviews I’ve lined up at top law firms, but I can’t approach the girl sitting across from me at the bar.
It’s settled: AJ and I are going to teach each other how to be great in all areas of our lives.
Like most men who set out on this journey, meeting women was the immediate goal. Let’s be honest: Becoming good with the opposite sex, landing a relationship—these are the things that motivate us in the beginning. But like any meaningful process, that’s just the hook that leads you down an extraordinary path. I had no idea what was in store for me. All I knew is that I would embrace it with everything I had.
To document the process, we start a podcast in a basement. Just AJ, me, and my MacBook Pro. The Pick Up Podcast starts humbly, candidly: What worked today, what didn’t, and why? How is it that I can now make friends with someone in a bar, on the street, in an interview? Why did I land that job offer today? Is it a coincidence that the more fun I have in life, the more I become my true self, the more I get the things I always wanted?
New York. 2007. The show has become an underground phenomenon. Thousands of men are downloading our episodes. Hundreds of them are writing us. Can we come out with you? Can we study what you do? Of course you can. The Podcast grows into a live, informal group of dedicated men that want to become better.
Los Angeles. 2007. AJ and I fly out for a friend’s birthday. A bunch of famous so-called “pick-up artists” will be there, and we’re curious to know who these guys are. The podcast has grown into the first digital “life school,” but we’re still largely focused on what men obsess over—how to meet women—and for that reason, we’re peripherally tied to the pick-up artist community. Hey, for a guy who couldn’t ask a stranger on the subway for the time, I’m not exactly complaining.
I sit next to a brawny dude hunched over in a corner, avoiding eye contact. “You really tried that?” he giggles, when I tell him that one of his well-known icebreakers has been failing miserably. He tells me he’s an internet marketer selling supplements to the men gullible enough to buy his seduction programs. “It’s all fake,” he says, taking another sip from his drink.
4 hours later. Back at the hotel. AJ and I realize these guys we just met are actually closet misanthropes, deeply insecure, totally fraudulent. After our birthday with the con artists, we wonder: If everyone wants to learn the truth about social dynamics, why are these guys selling a mean, narrow-minded, toxic system? If they’re going to make it all up, why not at least make it helpful?
Is it possible that because we’ve based our program on our own experience, our little podcast has been teaching the only real, authentic, field-tested philosophy of attraction?
The next day. Flight to JFK. We finally get it: The pick-up artist community, despite its best intentions, is predicated on a massive lie. That you can fake your way to authenticity. That women are “targets.” That other men are your enemy. That the easiest and safest form of self-development is the most effective.
But we know better now. Men all over the world—and, interestingly, more and more women—are tuning into our show. SiriusXM has picked us up for a satellite radio show about dating, relationships and self-improvement. I’ve left my job on Wall Street to build The Art of Charm, our tailored, immersive self-development program. Our lives are becoming full, exciting, fulfilling. Our students’ lives are transforming before our eyes.
We’re in a position to build the best men’s bootcamp in the world. So we do.
2010. Los Angeles. Every single week, men from every continent fly in to our headquarters for a week-long residential bootcamp, where we get down to the deepest, most fundamental levels of social programming with our full-time staff of experts, therapists and coaches. I get letters from my alumni every day. You’ve changed my life. I’ve met my wife. I landed my dream job. We’re not teaching pick-up anymore—not by a long shot. We’re teaching hard work, emotional intelligence, self-reflection, social instinct. If our guys are getting girls, it’s because they’ve become better men.
2014. The Art of Charm podcast is the number-one Self-help and Health podcast on iTunes, a staple in the iTunes Top 100. One of my listeners, whose brother graduated from one of my bootcamps, writes me a note. I adore your show, she says. We meet up. As it happens, I adore her. We move in together. She builds financial models in my living room while I interview awesome guests on my talk show. She’s part of the life I always wanted.
AJ and I—along with The Art of Charm team—continue teaching men how to be the interesting, authentic people they are. The show is still growing, broadening our community of people who want to be the best versions of themselves. The gifts of becoming more socially skilled never cease to amaze me. It’s a lifestyle I deeply believe in, a career I truly love. And I’m thrilled to share it with The Good Men Project.