Colby Harris: Welcome to the “Grit.org” Podcast. My name is Colby Harris and I'm here today with today's guest Brian Harbin. Born and raised in Atlanta, Brian grew up as an enthusiastic athlete playing multiple sports through his young life. At 4.11’, 75 pounds as a freshman high school, what he lacked in size, he made up for in passion and effort. He had various jobs ranging from scorekeeping and refereeing to working in lawn maintenance. He graduated from business school at the University of Georgia where he was an active member in “Sig Epp” and participated in various inner sports.
At the end of his freshman year, he took a summer job selling books door to door in order to start developing his entrepreneurial and sales skills. He did this each summer through college while also building and recruiting a sales organization of college students. He averaged making 40 - $50,000 per summer. Upon graduation, he had 6 figures saved in the bank and backpacked through 13 countries in Europe in just eight weeks. He continued to build what will become a 64-person sales organization and finished the number one salesperson his final summer. He also set a recruiting record that stood for 40 years and finished in the top 10 all-time recruiters in the history of the 150-year-old internship program. He met his wife Jen through this program which she did for 6 years while studying in the University of Florida. Jen was also a part of the crew team for five years.
After getting married, they lived in New Zealand for six months and then moved to Jacksonville in 2006. Over the next decade, he built an insurance brokerage that produced over 20 million dollars in sales that still pays him a monthly income. He then started and currently runs a domain brokerage from the start seven years ago and was recently rated as the number three domain brokerage in the world. In 2018, in the span of just 48 hours, he brokered what was the fourteenth's largest domain sale of all time with “Ice.com”. A $3.5-million-dollar sale. At the age of 40 in the year 2020, he launched Grit. org which is a culmination of he and his wife's passion and purpose. He's an active real estate investor and has coached over two dozen seasons of flag football, basketball, and soccer and is currently going into his third year as the JV tennis coach at a local private school. He and Jen have been married for almost 16 years and have three boys ages 5, 9, and 13. So, Brian, super excited to have you on today as a guest.
Brian Harbin: Thanks, Colby. Glad to be here.
Colby Harris: So, yeah, just to get us kicked off. Kind of have an icebreaker type of question. Could you share with us a quick story of your best or worst performance in the moment whether it was a clutch moment in life where the game was on the line and you did it or you didn't.
Brian Harbin: Let's see. I would go with this is what I call the match. So, freshman year of high school I made the varsity tennis team and we're playing in a two-day tournament La Grange Georgia and in high school tennis you got five matches. You get three singles and then two doubles and I was playing two doubles. We won the first round of the tournament, so the second round of the tournament our 1 and 2 singles both won our three singles lost. So, we're up 2-1 and then our one doubles took the court they were up 6-4 by the time me and my partner got on. And in high school tennis you to eight games. So, me and my partner get started playing this other team and we very quickly get down 4-1 and we look over and our one doubles was now actually down 7-6 and up losing the match. And at this point my partner down, we're down 6-2. So, remember we only go to eight.
And all the people that were watching this other match end up coming over to watch ours were the only court I mean the only match left under the big lights. And so, we're down 6-2’s me and my partner we huddle up. We say, alright we got to pull it together here, we got to come back, we got to keep the ball in play to the weaker player and so we end up fighting our way back to 6-6, end up pushing to the 7-7 and a tiebreaker ended up winning in a tiebreaker by two points. Our team storms on the court and the next day we end up going on to win the tournament. My partner, he was the editor for the high school newspaper. So, he wrote an article about it called The Match. So, being a freshman in high school, that was a pretty memorable moment for me at that time.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I would believe so and I can't imagine what it was like when everyone stormed the court. I'm sure it was a sensation like no other. So, Brian I'm super excited to have you here today just sharing your story and how this culmination of experiences and insight has really helped you launch “Grit.org” and it's really amazing to hear about origin of all these principles and values that you have implement into our various programs that really make “Grit.org” different. So, diving right in just learning and hearing that story about the tennis match in high school. You obviously love playing sports and they clearly played a big part in your young life. Now looking back, what do you think you learn from sports that you've been able to continuously apply to your life today?
Brian Harbin: I would definitely say the concept of practice. I mean I was definitely not natural talent when it came to sports, but what I made up for and just practice. I remember being 10, 11, 12 years old and after school every day I would go up to our local church. They had the backside of the gymnasium right next to the tennis courts and it was this 30-foot-high brick wall. I would just take a handful of tennis balls and go hit forehands and backhands and volleys and serves. So, do that for a couple hours, come home and then I would get one of those skinny yellow bats and those golf ball size waffle balls and toss them up pitching to myself and hit them all over the yard and then after dinner my parents would pitch me balls in the yard. So, really just the idea of putting in the time and I saw that pay off because tennis and baseball were my two favorites. It just really put in a ton of time and effort. That was something that really stuck with me and I continued applying over the years to everything that I did.
Colby Harris: Yeah, practice is the only way to get better and it's definitely a huge confidence booster as well. You can understand the work you've put in and understand what's taken for you to progress. So, following high school, you go to the University of Georgia, you major in business. You had an amazing first year at Georgia and joined “Sig Epp” as previously mentioned and you end up getting a job to go sell books door to door during the summer. What led you to selling books and how did you get involved in that program?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so at Georgia, I actually had a scholarship so all my tuition was paid for but anything extra was going to be on me. So, I got a job restocking books at the library for $3 an hour and then about two weeks before school got out. I get a phone call from a guy telling me that I can make 5 - $600,000 dollars going to sell books door to door, 80 hours a week, somewhere in Kansas. He didn't know where yet, would have to knock on to find a place to live. And for whatever reason at that particular time I just knew that it sounded amazing and I was all in. So, just really the opportunity to learn about myself to really see what I could do and of course the opportunity to make some good money. So, went out and in 7 weeks made just under 13 grand and learned a ton about myself and got a lot of great experience.
Colby Harris: Wow that's incredible and clearly you excelled at as you nearly doubled what they'd really estimated your summer earnings for and You end up going on to do that every summer in college after that, correct?
Brian Harbin: That's right. So, I didn't have to go back to restocking books at the library but yes, so during the school year, I would recruit other college students to come and work me the next summer. And typically, I would recruit anywhere between 5 to eight other college students that would go out and work with me the next summer and really had a chance to see a ton of the country. So, went to places like Michigan, New Mexico, El Paso, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Montana. So, really was able to get a ton of great experience and was great for me at that particular time of my life.
Colby Harris: Yeah, sounds like a great opportunity and I can tell the experience was very hands on which is so important at that age as you're developing yourself. So, obviously you learned a lot but what were some of the key takeaways that you had at that time.
Brian Harbin: Well, I would say the first thing was the fact that similar to sports, I definitely was not a natural talent when it came to sales, but working hours a week, you're putting in the time. Malcolm Gladwell talks about putting in 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So, putting in 80 hours a week, I quickly got better at selling, communicating. So, that was a big thing for me is just being able to put in the practice. I think also learning the concept of perseverance. One of the things that we learned was the answer to every problem lies behind the next door. So, for me, if you got homesick, go to the next door. If you wanted to quit, go to the next door. And so, it's just this mentality of perseverance. So that was a big thing for me.
The second thing I would say we had, when I was recruiting and building a team, we had the student manager creed which is going to sound familiar to you because it's part of our group creed now. But when we were leading someone, our mantra was, I will never ask you to do something I'm not willing to do. So as a first-time leader and manager the idea of leading from the trenches, leading from the front saying, hey, I'm doing this with you this summer. You can come follow me. I watch you. You watch me and really teach you how to do this. So really the idea of leading from the trenches. So, in every organization I've run I've always tried to keep that at the forefront of leading from the front and leading by example.
And the other thing I would say is the fact that at during this time I learned the idea of you are five years from now a result of the books you read and the people you associate with. So really started this journey of me becoming an avid reader which to this day I am still. So, that a big thing for me and then just really the types of people that I surrounded myself with, people that could make me better, people that could push me, and really birthed in me this idea of being teachable and coachable which I think has been a big part of my success at this point. It's just always willing to learn and get better.
Colby Harris: Yeah, got to constantly learn and I love that part about being in the trenches with those you lead. Whether it's even currently going to those 6 AM workouts with the Grit University interns or leading alongside the counselors at Grit Camp. I can say that you definitely embrace that philosophy and that's something that few leaders incorporate yet are most appreciated by their peers when they do so in that manner. So, nonetheless, you spend the next few years working for the book company, recruiting during the school year, selling books during the summer. You end up graduating with your bachelor's degree in business and then end up backpacking through Europe. What led you to leaving the country just shortly after graduation?
Brian Harbin: Well, yeah. So, I had a buddy in college named Zach and we came up with this thing called The Deal. So, he had been wanting me to go backpack to Europe with him. I wanted him to come sell books me so we said, alright, if you come sell books me next summer in New Mexico, I'll go backpack through Europe with you the next summer. So, he came and sold books with me, had a great summer, and then the following summer, we backpacked to Europe. So, in 8 weeks, we saw 13 countries and just bought the Euro Pass, bought a one-way ticket to London and the plan was that we had no plan. So, flew into London, saw everything there was to do there. Stonehenge, we went up to Scotland, actually got to golf at Saint Andrews and randomly met Prince William in his dorm room.
We went over to Ireland, went to the Guinness Brewery, took the Chunnel over to Paris, went to beer Gardens in Munich, Amsterdam. We went skydiving in the Swiss Alps. We went skiing in Austria, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, the Blue Grotto which is one of the wonders of the world and so it was a pretty amazing trip.
Colby Harris: Yeah, definitely sounds amazing. I mean, not many people get to experience skydiving, golf at Saint Andrews, and meeting Prince William all in a single vacation. So, that's definitely a trifecta that few people can say they've completed. Again, at this time, you just freshly graduated from So, how do you think that Europe trip was so important for you to gain some perspective at that age?
Brian Harbin: I think the fact that we went out there with the plan was the fact that there was no plan was impactful for me and the fact that it really just we lived in the moment. One of our mantras we said of, hey, we're going to sleep when we die. We just wanted to see everything we possibly could and have all the experiences we could and really so that was a big thing is just being able to appreciate living in the moment. The other thing I would say that was really refreshing for us at that time was the mentality in Europe was people they work to live which is kind of different from the mentality here in the US where people live to work. So really seeing that first hand and how they live for experiences and the people year around and so that was very important for me to see and something that I've tried to apply still to this day.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I can definitely say that is true. I mean it's crazy to see the way that people really eat, sleep, and breathe. They're JOB here in the States. So, at that point though you have a ton of experience in business and sales and you're also fresh off this incredible Europe trip. You now had your bachelor's degree. Did you know what you were going to be doing when you returned to the States from that trip?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so the plan was I'd actually already applied to NBA school while we're in Europe and one of the things that so similar to how COVID kind of affected your generation with college and school. The fall before we went to Europe is when 911 happened and then also the .com bubble had burst so what was happening was the market, a lot of people with 5 years’ work experience. We're actually all going back to NBA school. So, I was actually competing with all these people that had all this experience and I was trying to come to NBA school straight out of school where they wanted more work experience. But my argument was, hey, I've got this sales and management experience. But anyways, while we're in Europe, I get an email that I've been waitlisted and at that time, I was like, well, I can either put fate in their hands and kind of see what happens in the fall or I can really make a decision about what I want to do. And the more I thought about it I'd never really gone all in on just one thing other than just during the summer. I said, “Well, let me just go all in with the book company let me recruit the biggest team I can possibly do now that I'm doing it full time. Let me go out and sell the most books I can possibly sell. Build a big organization do that for a couple of years and see where it takes me”. So, me and my buddy Zach we came back we sold books for eight weeks and I would replenish our bank accounts and then that January started full time with the book company.
Colby Harris: Yeah, that's awesome and over the course of the next five months you really did go all in setting a new company record that still stands this day by recruiting 30 people to sell books door to door that next summer. Which is quite impressive considering you were typically averaging maybe 5 to 8 recruits previously while you were still in school. So, more importantly though during those next 5 months when you started working full time that was also when you and Jen started dating as well.
Brian Harbin: That's right. So, Jen also sold books for 6 summers through college while she was doing crew. We worked in the same organization at different schools and we knew of each other but we never really spoken much and so our group did a get back meeting in Orleans. So, we're meeting up at Pat O'Brien's and I see Jen standing there at the bar. She's got these jeans on. She's got this purple and red sequence top and I go up and I ask her if I can buy her Bloody Mary. We just start talking and really at that time, that was the first time I noticed just her radiant smile and I mean energy. I mean, Jen well enough that she's got this incredible energy. She was so different from anyone I'd ever met and just so positive and happy. I knew she was also tough as nails, having sold books and doing a college sport and so I was hooked. So, we started doing long distance dating over the next few months.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's awesome. There's definitely a few like Jen out there and I love that you still even remember what she was wearing when you first saw her in the bar that night. So, it's awesome the way you both could connect and you know obviously meet other people but more importantly it connected the two of you. So, was it hard doing long distance in addition to both selling books and not really being able to see each other that much during the summer when technically that would be your free time during school?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, during the year we were six hours apart so we tried to see each other as much as we could and randomly so she was running an organization that next summer and so was I but we both happen to be in Ohio. So, one Sunday our groups did like a Border War and we were able to sneak off for about 30 minutes. We grab a blanket. We go sit by this lake and I asked her I said, ‘Hey, how would you feel about moving to Athens.’ Her plan, she was about to graduate and her plan was to move to California and pursue acting. That's what she wanted to do and fortunately for me, probably the best sale I've ever made was convincing her to move to Athens because she moved Athens after that and the rest is history.
Colby Harris: Yeah, history it is and that's a great leap of faith in her regard and definitely shows you guys had something special going on. So, you spend two more years with the book company and I can definitely understand especially when you've been so successful at that. It can be hard to take that leap of faith into the unknown but eventually the time was right for you to leave the book company. How did you really decide to move on and were there some key leading factors or what did life really look like to make that move?
Brian Harbin: Yes, we had just gotten engaged and we were going to be getting married to have our honeymoon and I'd heard about a guy that him and his wife after they got married. They went and traveled in Europe for 6 months and to me that sounded amazing. Jen was down for it, so then it became a matter of where do we go. So, we're actually in Charleston, having dinner with my parents actually having dessert. I never forget we're having green tea ice cream and we're asking my grandparents our grandparents, where are some of the best places you've ever traveled to. They start telling us about New Zealand and how they've got these snow-capped mountains and then two hours away you've got these beautiful beaches. So, we go back to their house and we start looking at photo albums and we said this is the place. Because North and South Island combined is the size of Florida and just had a lot of different things that that we wanted to try and see.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's awesome guys experience that feeling of this is the one. So, what was so important about that trip to New Zealand for you guys?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so I would say the fact that we prioritized us with the book company had gotten a really big promotion and had a really good opportunity in front of me. At the same time, it was going to require me to travel a lot and we just didn't want to start our marriage that way. So, the fact that we kind of left all that behind, sold our cars, no jobs, no cellphones. We're away from all of our friends and family. So, the fact that we really prioritized us in our marriage and putting that first. I think was very impactful. The other thing I would say is the fact that we really learned how to communicate because in New Zealand, if we had a 5-hour drive to the next town or we were doing a 4 or 5-hour hike one day but we got an argument, we were kind of forced to figure it out because hey, it's just me and you, you can't call anybody.
So, the fact that we were able to figure out how to resolve conflict smoothly and quickly is something that has carried over to today and I feel like is still probably one of our greatest strengths in our marriage is that we resolve things quickly. It all started from New Zealand.
Colby Harris: It's definitely two very important factors to leading a healthy marriage as well. So, and also correct me if I'm wrong. That trip to New Zealand is also partly where the concept of “Grit.org” really originated from.
Brian Harbin: Absolutely. I'll never forget where we were. So, we rented a car. We had this small little red hatchback Toyota. We caught it the Skittle, this little red car. So, one of the things would talk about is, hey, what do we want to do with our lives long term and figuring out where kind of our passions and overlap. And we both were very, the principles we learned up to that point through books and through sports, we're both very passionate about those principles we learned and the difference it made in our lives. We both were very passionate about pouring into young people. So, during those initial conversations it looked like some type of school or maybe some type of center but it was definitely the beginning stages of what “Grit.org” would eventually look like.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's awesome. It's really cool to hear about where plans can start and truly evolve over time. So, it's incredible to dive into the history of it and really hear the ideas that you and Jen both had and then coming together to formulate what would become “Grit.org”. But you guys get back from New Zealand. You decide to settle in Jacksonville, Florida. How did you decide what career path to take next and what did life really look like for you at this time?
Brian Harbin: So, yeah, a lot happened over the next 6 months after we moved back from New Zealand. So, we decided to move to Jacksonville from Atlanta from South Florida. We wanted to go to a smaller town in the Southeast near the water. So, we picked Jacksonville and within the first 6 months, we bought a house. We bought a dog, named it Kiwi after the Kiwi Bird in New Zealand. We got pregnant. We made this joint decision that Jen was going to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, which was a big decision to make at that point and then obviously figuring out what I was going to do for my next career. So, I knew I wanted to be in sales. I knew I wanted to build some type of organization. And so, the book company I'd work with was a sister company they owned an insurance company. So, the idea of starting an insurance company, had the opportunity to build and start a brokerage in the Southeast.
So, I knew I had a lot of relationships from the book business. I knew there be a lot of people that I could recruit into it, but also the idea of selling insurance and being able to earn renewals and get paid on those for life that made a lot of sense to me. So, kind of similar to being 11, 12 years old and that 30-foot brick wall. I just went to work put my head down and just put in the hours and started trying to build an insurance as fast as I could.
Colby Harris: Yeah, and creating an orchestra and a sales team was nothing new to you after all those years with the book company and although I'm sure it had its similarities to building the book business and selling door to door, what were some of the key things that you learned from building an insurance brokerage in comparison to selling books door to door?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, I would say the fact that I had to take all the things that I learned from being successful at selling books and apply them to really a totally different industry. Books are more of a tangible product, insurance more of an intangible product. I was recruiting people to do a three-month summer job versus recruiting people full time. So, really taking the things that I had learned in one industry and applying them into a different industry so that was important for me to learn how to make those adjustments. The other thing that was a big thing for me was really that work-life balance because my work life before was working 80 hours a week. I was all in. That was all I was doing but now, I had to do I all my production in half the time, right. 40 to 50 hours a week plus have a family. So, really had to figure out how to especially being self-employed, running straight commission business, you can always be working. So, I just set up healthy guardrails about, hey, when I'm working, I'm working and when I'm not, I want to be totally engaged with my family. So, making that adjustment was a big thing.
The last thing I would say too. So, with the insurance business, there was this leadership group called The Vision Team and there are people like myself that were building an agency and we'd have these weekly calls but then twice a year, we would do a retreat. The retreat was based upon personal development. So, about the age of 30, I was introduced to the Wisdom of the Enneagram which for me was very impactful at the time because it basically does kind of a deep dive into how you view the world and helps you start the process of addressing some things from your past that maybe are holding you back. So, as I kind of started that process of working on myself, I also started thinking about, okay, what am I going to do long term to really make a difference and make an impact. So, that really again kind of helped spur and continue the process of me figuring out what “Grit.org” would eventually look like.
Colby Harris: Yeah, and all travel aside, I mean, you definitely had a good thing going and you were clearly very successful at. So, I have to ask during this time period, were you still thinking about the concept of working with young people or was that really kind of put on the back burner as you were trying to balance the insurance brokerage and becoming a dad and all these new factors that were becoming day to day in your life?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, I definitely never stopped thinking about it. The insurance business had a lot of time in the car called it windshield time. So, just really had a lot of time to think about a lot of these different things. I still continue to read a time would read probably a dozen books a year all about personal development, leadership a lot of these different life and success principles. The other thing I found myself really gravitating towards were these certain types of moments. So, for example, like when the Olympics were on it wouldn't even matter the event, but that final heat where everything was on the line. These people had worked four years or their entire life for this one moment and really dissecting like how they performed in the moment. What were their habits? What were their schedule? What are their coaches talk to them about? What was their mentality?
Similar to the fact of the last two-minute drive of any NFL game, seeing that quarterback cool calm under pressure. So, just really started studying and reading about people that had these amazing achievements and the coaches that get them there. I just started to notice that all these ingredients were very similar to things that I had learned and experienced.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I'd love hearing about that passion and desire you had to learn about what successful people do and you talk about not just admiration for the players but the coaches as well. You recognize that the coach can make or break any team or organization. So, clearly, you had a desire to be in the driver's seat for the next generation in that regard. Can you tell me about coaching and why you've enjoyed it so much and kind of how you got in it originally?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, I remember my oldest son, those first couple seasons that he started playing sports and I remember being a spectator and watching and seeing either the coaches yelling at the kids too much or basically the coaches and the parents’ kind of sucking all the fun out of it and kids that weren't necessarily getting better weren't really having fun. My wife, she was like, ‘Well, you can't really complain about it unless you're in there doing something about it.’ My excuse up to that point had been, well, I'm building an insurance brokerage. I don't really have the time for it, but at the end of the day, she was right. So, I started coaching. Some of everything before, just started reading and studying and learning as much as I could about coaching and watching other successful coaches and of course, trying to impart some of these life principles that I learned up to that point.
I never forget there was the football game. My son was 8 years old and its halftime and we're down by three touchdowns. So, I asked the kids. I said, ‘Hey, can anybody tell me where your mental reset button is?’ They all give me this strange look and I said, ‘Alright, take your index finger and put it up to the temple of your forehead.’ The only thing I could think of Time is the Sports Center song and I said, ‘Alright put your finger up here and go do-do-do, and I said that's your mental reset button.’ So, anything that's happened prior to this doesn't matter it's in the past. The only thing we're going to focus on is the very next play. The kids go out, not only end up coming back but end up winning the game. And after that, every single half time or before game the kids be like, ‘Hey, coach can we hit the mental reset button?’ And so, for me it was important for me to see at that time that look these kids even at this age are starting to grasp and learn some of these principles that are way more valuable than whether or not we win or lose a football game.
Colby Harris: It definitely hold a lot of value and that's definitely another great comeback story and I feel like that's such great insight into what “Grit. org” is all about. Just trying to formulate and explain ways to people even 8-year-olds can better prepare themselves for any obstacle or triumph in life. So, that brings me to my next point really. “Grit.org”. Grit being a widely used term especially in such trying times we've been in these last few years. I have to ask, when did you first hear about the word grit and what did it really represent to you?
Brian Harbin: So, after my first son was born, my parents got me a book for Christmas called How Children Succeed. And in that book, they talk about this word Grit and how is the greatest determining factor in a kid's future success. When I read that I'm like, this is that word that I've been looking for all these years. When I was recruiting and hiring people, I was looking for that X factor of, hey, how is this person going to respond when things get really, really hard. I also saw this as something that I had developed over the years. I'd always set up to that point that my greatest strength was my threshold for misery was really, really high. So, when I read about Grit, I said, this is something that is really going to make a lot a difference for a lot of people and I said, this is one thing that if I can teach this to my kids, this is going to be way more valuable than any money or anything else I can leave my kids is if I can help them develop grit.
So, I just really kind of obsessed with the word and started reading everything I possibly could about it and I knew at that point that any business I had moving forward was definitely going to have the word grit in it.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's great and this is about the time that you got into brokering domains as well, right. Because you named it Grit Brokerage which to stay was our first branch around the grit name. How did you decide to break into the domain brokerage space?
Brian Harbin: Yeah. So, a friend of mine had actually told me about a domain he just sold for $100,000. For me, I was pretty fascinated because I had at that point I already gotten into real estate and buying homes and fixing them up. So, I definitely had an interest in real estate, but I said, man, this domain thing this is internet real estate and this is something that so few people even know about and nobody knows these domains are selling for this kind of money. So, the other thing that was amazing about it too is the guy that was selling these domains was not a sales person, he just happens to have a lot of good domains and he would sell them all through email. So, I said, well, hey why don't I take your incoming leads. I'll get them on the phone negotiate the best deal and then you just pay me a commission.
So, I would run my insurance business till 5, 6 o'clock at night and then eat dinner and then go to my home office there and then for spend the next 3 to 4 hours just learning as much as I possibly could about the domain industry. Following all the top brokers reading anything that was written about domains following all the top sales, learning about all the different trademark laws and of course part time helping make sales. And then when I would make a sale, I build a relationship with that new in and any big sales I make I'd publish it to get my name out there. And then like you mentioned the intro, then 2018 selling “Ice.com” that's when everything changed.
Colby Harris: Yeah, for a $3.5 million dollar sale when you were still part time, I mean that's incredible and having that sort of notoriety is huge and definitely shows how professional you are and were at the time. And looking back it really seems like Grip Brokerage taking off, puts you one step closer to being able to launch “Grit.org” with all the principles and vibes that you'd always vision. So, is there anything in particular that you felt like led you to go all in on the brokerage company and really start bringing your vision of “Grit.org” to life?
Brian Harbin: Yeah. So, at that point, I'd figured out kind of an exit strategy from the insurance business and with the domain brokerage, I said, if it took off doing this part time, I knew it was going to get even bigger doing it full time and we had just had our third son. So, working from home was going to be important to me as well which I could do full time from home with the domain business. But the other thing was also going to allow me more time, not only to coach my kids but also to devote more time to really figuring out more about what this grit thing was going to look like.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's awesome and you talked earlier about the idea of liking domain burn, because you saw it as something that you could excel in. Grit Brokerage in 2021 will broker over $7 million dollars’ worth of domains and you guys recently raid the number three domain brokerage in the world. So, congratulations on that. It's a huge accomplishment.
Brian Harbin: Thanks. Yeah, it's been a lot of fun learning a whole new industry, learning about the of online real estate. I mean we've seen especially with COVID just how that's become a lot more. A lot of companies understand the importance of it now of like having an online brand being able to make money when you can't see people in person. So, figuring out and understanding how to build an online brand. And then plus being a domain broker has really put me in a position to be able to acquire what I feel like are some of the best domains in the world for our specific brand especially “Grit.org”.
Colby Harris: Definitely degree and so you mentioned that this idea of “Grit.org” has been something that you've always thought about for a very long time and since you're even a young boy. So, throughout high school, college, selling books, selling insurance, has there been someone that you went to as a role model or a mentor to just kind of spit ball all these ideas that you had?
Brian Harbin: Definitely. So, through all these years, there's one mentor that I would always talk to about these principles. Somebody you obviously know very well. So, a lot of the listeners out there, if you don't know, Colby and I are first cousins, our moms, our sisters. So, we have the same grandparents and we have the same granddad, Papa, who was a very big mentor for me. I remember about 30 years ago, I asked my granddad, Papa, I said, ‘Hey, what is your legacy?’ And after that it just kind of spurred these deep conversations, we would have about life and purpose. So, I would just continue to share with him things that I was learning but also brainstorm different ideas about, hey what am I going to do long term and how am I going to give back to people. So, during one of these conversations he stopped me and said, ‘Brian everything you're talking about these are all principles.’
And when he said that he and he said, that's your message. When he said that it really simplified things for me where I said, okay, these principles is the message everything else is just a matter of how to teach a the person we want to teach it to. So, that really started down the path of making everything a lot clearer. What's interesting too is Papa probably took 25 years to come up with his final answer for what your legacy and what's neat to see now is that Papa said that his legacy is us, right. Meaning his 5 kids his 13 grandkids his 13 great grand kids. So, to kind of see where we are now the fact that here you and I are working together as cousins. I'm the oldest grandson, you're the youngest grandson. The fact that you know my First athlete that I was the mental performance coach for is my nephew who's now just signed yesterday to play division one golf at Furman. Your first coaching client, mental performance coaching client is my son and even your brother's been big with our video and photography. So, it's just fun to see how everything's kind of come full circle.
Colby Harris: It definitely has been fun and we just hope to fulfill that legacy in his regard. Papa was the same person for me and he actually gave me the best compliment I've ever received. He used to say that I would step to the beat of my own drum. And it was really cool looking back now because he would always refer back to you and say it reminded him a lot of you when you were young as well. So, you knew you wanted to help develop young entrepreneurs in the same way that Papa was there for you and really just be there to help someone take that next step. So, that's when Grit University was created. How did you know that you want to start an internship program for college age kids?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so I knew that 18 was a very pivotal age. First of all, because that was the age that I started learning these principles. My mentor was a guy named Dave Nest that was the guy that led me from the trenches and got me into reading and forming healthy habits. So, when I started recruiting and building teams, I would just teach them all the things that I learned that help me be successful. I think 18 is a very pivotal age because kids are kind of out from underneath their parents, are more independent and really have the time, effort, and energy to put to really learn and apply these principles. So, I knew that 18 was going to definitely be an impactful age to start teaching it.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I definitely agree. It was very pivotal for me as well and for those who don't know, I was a pioneer Grit University intern in the year 2020 before coming back in 2021 and now joining full time alongside you and Jen. So, I understand that learning these principles at just 17 at the time has definitely helped me kick start that next chapter of my life. But anyhow, you wanted to take that one step for and include kids even younger than college age.
Brian Harbin: For sure, because the way I looked at it is I'm like, hey, if I learned all these principles when I was 18 and they set me that much farther ahead of all these other people. Imagine if I learned all those principles even sooner. And in addition to that, my wife and I we had three boys and I really wanted to figure out, okay, if that was my rite of passage at 18 how can I create a rite of passage for them at a younger age. I'd already seen some success through kids learning it through sports. So, I said, hey, and if my wife and I are looking to help develop these skills in our kids at this age and I know other parents are too.
Colby Harris: Yeah, and one of the concepts that makes the Grit experience so unique is that you have these 6 to 12-year-olds learning from the high school age counselors, learning from the Grit University interns who can learn from you and Jen and all these various coaches and athletes and entrepreneurs that we would have come speak. So, it just brings me to my next point of in like a trickle-down system. I was just wondering is there a certain place that you learned about this method and kind of learned how effective it really is.
Brian Harbin: For sure, and so there was a book that I read called The Talent Code, that really put everything together. A lot of these different ideas that I knew to be true but really kind of simplified and so in the talent code, what he does is the guy looks at all these different hotbeds of talent. So, whether it's women tennis players in a certain town in Russia or whether it's this Allen of Curacao that puts out the top Little League World Series team year or the hot bed of talent in California in the computer industry. But so for example, like with the Island of Curacao that has all these Little League World Series. So, he goes there and at the baseball stadium, he's got the 6 to 7-year-old kids that are being coached by the 7 and 8-year-olds. The 7 and 8-year-olds are being coached by the 11 and 12-year-olds who have their World Series hat on that they're wearing. In the clubhouse, they have a TV with a VHS playing Andrew Jones hitting a home run in the World Series for the Braves.
Andrew Jones was from this little island as well. So, and I'd seen that type and so it's basically that and it's all orchestrated by this manager that helps kind of create this atmosphere. And when I read that, I'd seen that before with other organizations I work with like my last summer that I sold books in New Jersey. We had a 64-person organization that was very similar. All the different layers to it and just had a totally different synergy to it and I'd seen that with other organizations. So, I said, well, if you can combine people that have coached it with people that have done it with people that are currently doing it and then with people that have the desire to do it, then you can really help recreate this environment.
Colby Harris: Yeah, I love that and it definitely comes back around to that desire and I do think it's so important to be able to look at a person whether they are in athletics or business or the medical field and recognize that there are these consistent principles and values that each person carries with them that really helps them be so successful. So, now that you have these key ingredients and concepts, how did you decide on launch date of January 2020?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so I just turned 40 and the year of 2020 was around the corner and I knew what everything was going to look like. At this point, I just need to pick a date and I love the fact that 2020 was very symbolic it's easy to remember plus the fact it's 2020 Vision. The fact that I turned 40 was also a big deal because I said, this is half time of my life professionally. I said, I've spent the first 40 years of my life perfecting crafts and really learning and studying So, I really want to spend the next 40 years of my life teaching and helping other people and providing that service and so, it just made sense to kick it off in January of 2002.
Colby Harris: Yeah, never could've expected the whirlwind that came in 2020 but I think it does make it that much more monumental the mountain that we overcame in 2020 to get things going. So, can you explain to our listeners, what is “Grit.org”, the different businesses that make it up and what exactly we do here?
Brian Harbin: Yeah, so like you mentioned, Grit University was kind of the original concept. So, Grit University is an internship program for high school and college age students where they basically learn entrepreneurship and life skills. So, they live in our headquarters here in Jacksonville. They get up at 5:50, take a cold shower, workout from 6AM to 7AM, eat a healthy breakfast. Then for the next 7 to 8 hours run a business and then in the afternoon they're doing marketing, advertising, sales. Then there's also a reading schedule, a journaling schedule, meditating schedule and so really learning these life and success principles. But in addition to that, I really wanted to make it where they can make some money to help offset whatever cost they needed.
So, Grit University interns get a weekly salary plus profit sharing. So, our interns the first summer made 6,000 and then as a returning Grit University intern last summer, you made 10,000. So, really the idea is to learn these principles and then be able to turn that into to generating revenue and the business that they ran was GritCam. So, GritCam is another business that we have and that's a summer sports camp for kids age 6 to 13. Basically, teaching mental, physical, emotional resilience through field sports, court sports, and calisthenics. It runs 6 to 8 weeks every summer at a local school and it's led by these high school and college age athletes. Some of them division one athletes and we have a motivational movie each day that we watch. We have a healthy lunch just catered by a different restaurant each day and then we also have professional coaches and professional athletes come and speak the kids about Grit. So, that's Grit Camp.
We also have Grit Club which is our mental performance program coaching program. That's basically for middle school athletes all the way up to business professionals and people that have put in the time and effort to their craft. But really to get to the next level, they have to work on their mental game. So, that's we help them do with Grit Club is work on their mental game. We also have our revenue generating portions of “Grit.org”. like you mentioned Grit Brokerage, which is where I spend my time, the majority of my time when I'm not doing the other businesses is broker and domain names and have a few brokers that work with me there. Then also have a Tower Climber which is another online revenue generating business.
We also have a weekly blog that we've done since our inception January of 2020 and then we have this podcast which we're launching which really was kind of birth out of the idea of, hey, we have all these speakers coming to talk to the kids. We need to get this recorded. So that's the Grit Podcast. We also have “FHL.com” with stands for Faith, Hope, and Lunges. Which is a foundation my wife and I started where we really give back to organizations that share a similar value. So, really the idea is you take these people, you take these principles and the process is going to be different. So, 3 to 5 years from now, we might have more businesses that really, so again, it's not really about the business. It could be a merchandising. It could be some other type of business that we eventually launch.
Colby Harris: So, yeah, things are always evolving here at “Grit.org” which is one thing that I love about getting to be a part of the team here. And outside of all the businesses we do, I know you can recognize it. These principles have been around for centuries and kids have been playing sports and learning these values since the beginning of time. So, can you explain what makes “Grit.org” so unique in how we teach it and so much more digestible for these young people.
Brian Harbin: Yeah, there's definitely a lot of great information out there, but I feel like the way that we present it, it just makes it a lot easier to digest for these young people and really take these principles but then be able to immediately apply it and get immediate feedback. Kind of like a trade school for life. So, that's really the concept of taking these principles and then something that they can quickly apply it, put into practice because it's not what you know, but it's what you do with what you know. So, and the idea from that is okay. So, let's take you developing your skills as a basketball player, but then how can you translate that into becoming successful in business. Because a lot of times you see a lot of professional athletes that once they finish their career, they have a hard time translating what helped them be successful in sports to something else. So, that's really what we want to help them do and we really feel like life is filled with these game-on-the-line type moments, these rights of passage where you go through something and then you come out of it a change person. So, we really want to put kids through these rite of passage moments more often and so in that game on the line moment happens, they're going to be ready for it.
Colby Harris: Yeah, it's great and that's my favorite part about what we do or even from when I was a part of great universities, getting to experience this environment to learn and implement these life skills while also having all these great people to back you up to also learn from and influence and just really have someone to support you. So, it seems like also one of the big things that we also promote is positivity and it really seems like people kind of a misconception of what it means to be positive. Almost like they've heard it so many times. They just roll their eyes. It's kind of cliche to them. So, I really just have to ask, is it more than just having a positive attitude and what does positive really mean to you?
Brian Harbin: I would definitely agree with your statement that a lot of people have a misconception about what it means to be positive. A lot of people think it might be having to lie to yourself to make yourself feel better about something but it's really about being able to manage that inner critic. So, for example, like the voice in our head that maybe started off as like a mom's voice or a dad's voice or a coach's voice or a teacher's voice or somebody you competed with and saying something negative that over the course of time, it became our voice saying it. So, really first of all, just having awareness of that voice and then being able to change how you speak to yourself and take something that is negative and flipping it into a positive and figuring out how you can use that to your advantage. So, really changing your perception about how you see problems and being able to manage that voice in your head.
The other thing I would say is in order to be positive, you just have to feel better. So, big part of what we do is about the routine of you've got to be well rested. So, getting plenty of sleep, getting plenty of exercise, eating healthier. Because the healthier we feel, the more positive we can be and it really just becomes a way of life. Similar to how if a kid comes home from school and all they do is look at social media, then they're basically eating junk food for their emotions, right. So, just having that awareness but then feeding yourself mentally physically emotionally and spiritually healthier things to make yourself feel better.
Colby Harris: I totally agree about that part of how important it is of what you're consuming in all aspects of life and I feel like it really takes this almost like a hyper self-awareness to really continue to push in that positive direction so to say. So, Brian, through 24 years of sales, selling $1 million dollars plus in 5 different industries, a decade of coaching and now four decades of life. I need to know, what is one of the most impactful lessons that you've learned along the way?
Brian Harbin: I would say figuring out what you enjoy doing overlaps with what you're passionate about and what you're what you're good at and what and figure that out as soon as you can. What you're good at and what you're passionate about. And then once you figure that out, quickly figuring out how you can turn that into the service of others. I was guilty for a long time going after thinking that making a lot of money and fame, success, house, cars, all those things would make me happy. But really, it's about doing something and the service of others. And the sooner you can figure out how you can be in the service of others, I feel like life is going to be more fulfilling.
Colby Harris: Absolutely and so, we're running out of time here. I just got one more Question for you. Earlier, you talked about the whole inception of “Grit.org” was really built around these principles we have in our Grit Creed. It's a compilation of really 12 principles that you believe every person should live by. What part of the Grit Creed resonates most with you?
Brian Harbin: I would say I am someday going to be what I'm now becoming. That's the first part of our Grit Creed. Every kid that comes to Grit Camp, when they sign up, they get a T shirt and water bottle. They get a handwritten note from us and when they open up the card, it says, “I'm someday going to be what I'm now becoming”. All of our Grit Club members they get a card same thing, “I'm someday going to be what I'm now becoming”. And for me, it's a reminder that it's a process. The self-improvement is a process. It's a reminder that what happen in the past, we can't change. Focusing too much on the future things that we can't control but really being able to focus on the moment. And being a better person in the moment, you're either going to help your future self or you're going to hurt your future self. So, just that reminder of focusing on your daily habits.
Colby Harris: So, true. Brian, well, thank you so much for being on today. It's really been a pleasure.
Brian Harbin: Yup. Thanks, Colby.
Colby Harris: Absolutely.
Brian Harbin: Make sure to tune in to the next “Grit.org” podcast.