#104: Building America’s Next Courageous Leaders: +More Perfect Union Founder Jake Harriman

Wednesday June 28, 2023

America’s leadership is more politically divided and divisive than almost anytime in our nation’s history. We sit at a generational and societal crossroad that will require leaders of courage, unity and vision to emerge and take charge in the best interest of the country; not for their own fame and fortune. 

+More Perfect Union Founder and CEO Jake Harriman spent years abroad solving world hunger and the effects of violent extremism, only to return home to a divided America; something this US Marine has vowed to change. Jake joins Fran Racioppi in the back of the 1944 Dodge live from Sandlot Jax & GORUCK Games 2023 for a conversation on the state of America today, and why he thinks military Veteran leadership in politics is the key to unifying the fabric of America. 

Fran and Jake dive deep into the driving factors for disunity, such as social media, generational change, and the loss of agency in our leaders who have too often become beholden to the extremes, forgetting about the 70% of the population who live in the center. Jake defines the perfect centrist leader and Fran presses him on how everyday Veterans with a passion for change can overcome the funding and support barriers to entry to jump into political races nationwide.

Learn more about +More Perfect Union on the web and on social media

Read the full episode transcription here and learn more on The Jedburgh Podcast Website. Subscribe to us and follow @jedburghpodcast on all social media. Watch the full video version on YouTube.

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Building America’s Next Courageous Leaders: +More Perfect Union Founder Jake Harriman

Jake, welcome to The Jedburgh Podcast.

I love it. Thanks for having me.

I appreciate you coming in. Before we even got in here, we had a pair of D’Ussé. We had to fully embrace Sandlot 2023. We created The Jedburgh workout. We’re going to do a different workout every day. Now is a shout-out to our mutual friend, Don Faul who you served with at the Naval Academy, now the CEO of CrossFit. We have a lot to make fun of him about. We’re going to do that later. He was on a couple of episodes ago, but since he sent me to the level one CrossFit certification, I feel empowered to develop these workouts.

You could be the first one to give me feedback on the first workout. We just did that. We did it with Ameet Shah the CEO of Wodify who was here before you. We did five clean and press with the sandbag. We ran 30 meters there and back out to The Jedburgh Podcast sign, and then run back. We did five sandbag burpees, which Jason McCarthy forced us to do.

Thank you, Jason. We were weak. Added some extra pain that was unnecessary, but it’s okay. It was great. I came in last. I was embarrassed but it was a great workout. Thank you for forcing us into that.

It doesn’t matter. You did it. We got people over here who are doing it now, which is awesome. I love it. Jake, a Naval Academy grad, spent some time in the Marines for seven and a half years. You were in the inventory of Force Recon two times to Iraq. Since then, you’ve dedicated a lot of your life to solving what are some of the most complex challenges in society. We talked to a lot of people about business challenges, but you’re solving societal challenges.

One is in the domain of how war-torn areas and extreme poverty and violent extremism affect populations. What do we do about it? In another world of this divisiveness that sits in our country in America these days, and I’m going to get into so many different aspects of that. I want to start with, after your time in the Marines, why move into this social aspect and this social arena to look at these complex challenges? What do you see and why was your heart there?

As a lot of us did when we were in combat, my guys and I had some pretty intense personal experiences that demonstrated. A lot of these groups we were fighting actually were fueled by this desperation that poverty created in the areas we fought. You had these families who were just desperate. They had kids that were serving to death, and the aid groups could not reach these people because in these gray zones, it’s too dangerous, they can’t get in there.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“The aid groups could not reach people because in these gray zones it’s too dangerous.”

Gray zone is the area that’s not a defined conflict but it’s not America.

It’s highly unstable. There’s a lot of insurgent activity. There are cells that are operating in the area, but it’s not day-on, stay on high-intensity conflict. It’s a little too risky for traditional weight groups to go and operate there. You end up having these individuals whose kids are starving to death and think about, “How far would you go with your kids? What would you do to be able to put a meal on the table for your kids and give them choices?” A lot of these guys were getting recruited in any of these cells, and we began to see. We would go out there and do DAs every night to take these guys out. Their movements kept growing and it’s because they were recruiting and preying on these populations.

We thought this was a pretty critical gap in our national security strategy. We thought, “What if you could take knuckleheads like us to no combat, and combine them with frontline development professionals who know how to eradicate extreme poverty?” We can embed these composite teams deep into these gray zones where nobody else could go work with local leaders, solve these problems of poverty, and build what we call resilience corridors, to stop the spread of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. That was the idea.

I want to ask you about different regions of the world because this looks different. We always use the term violent extremist organization. We think about poverty. There are natural places we think about like Africa and the Middle East. When you look at the Middle East and Africa, they’re wildly different areas in terms of not only geography but also the people, the composition of each one of the demographics, and the societal norms.

We were talking before about Africa. I had the opportunity to go to 26 countries in Africa over a course of a couple of years. Every country you go to is different, and they can border each other. They can be vastly different. How do you take this model that you’ve put together, and now in execution, you have the concept, but you have to now start to drill down into, “How are we going to solve this problem in this specific area?” I think about a country like Chad, they speak Arabic, French, and English. How do you communicate?

What we ended up doing was a framework. 1) You can’t go into a place with a rubber-stamped, fabricated solution and think it’s going to solve all the problems. You have to have a flexible model and a framework that you can use. 2) There are differences across all these different cultures, countries, and tribes but there are some fundamental tenants that make us all the same at the end. There are some fundamental things that we want, in the future for our kids. We want our kids to be able to have real choices, whether it’s food to eat, schools to go to, and medical facilities where they can get good health treatment.

[bctt tweet=”There are some fundamental tenets that make us all the same in the end. There are some fundamental things that we want for the future of our kids.” username=”talentwargroup”]

We have some of the same basic needs. A lot of those basic survival needs were the ones that were being exploited by these bad groups. You have different languages, cultures, and histories, but a lot of human behavior was the same. We would create what we called a co-creation, co-design process, where we would roll in. Number one, we, as outsiders, have to live there. You got to build trust. We would live in these areas for 5 to 7 years to build these relationships, and we would live in the village.

Otherwise, you’re an outsider.

You’re always an outsider unless you can live there, live life with them, do what they do, have the same food that they have, and learn the language. We learned all the local languages everywhere we operated and become part of the community. By that point, as you become part of the community, now you’ve earned the right to talk to them about what the needs are in the place. You start co-designing these solutions to address those needs. It’s not us telling people what they should do. They have some great ideas. It’s about unlocking that potential and creating sustainable frameworks so that once it’s built, it’ll last.

We talk about Special Forces and special operations. What are you doing at the end of the day? You’re going into an area. You’re understanding their problem. How do you understand the problem when you hop off a plane? You show up. You look around and tell everybody what to do and how to do it. That builds resentment. We did that. We watched this happen for the better part in so much of what we did, for better or worse, over the years. That’s not sustainable.

We talk to Special Forces about creating and building up our partner force to solve their own problem in perpetuity, and sustainability. That comes to the very first thing, understanding the problem, which takes immersing yourself in. We call it the G-base, the Gorilla base. How do you get in and build that trust in rapport?

We got to learn how to listen. Listening is not when you go into these villages and you’re nodding your head as the person’s talking, waiting for them to stop talking so you can tell them what you’re going to do. You have to actually listen. The best ideas I ever had when I was in these communities came from the leaders I worked with. At the end of the day, I learned that it’s not about building a clinic or a school, drilling a well, or dropping off food. It’s about building leaders. It’s about building the capacity of local leaders to do it themselves.

That’s what this sustainable asset is. They’re going to respect you. They’re not going to create an environment where they’re looking for money and stuff. They also see the challenge because for all the reasons that you just said, I don’t think we do a good job of understanding what the people want. Often, we go into places and think, “I know what they need.” In America, we have a park and we do fitness festivals. In Africa, they need a park and a well and do a fitness festival, when that might be the last thing on their mind.

They need what I have. They need exactly what I have access to. That’s never the right answer. They have their own ideas about their own dreams, what they’re lacking, and how to think about building it and putting it back there. They’ve got these incredible ideas. You just got to unlock that potential. You can’t do that if you’re trying to always impose my worldview on this individual and have them do it the way I want them to do it.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“The best ideas I ever had when I was in these communities came from the leaders I worked with.”

That takes an incredible amount of maturity, discipline, and thought leadership to do that.

Also, failure on my part. I failed a lot. The first week I was on the ground, I started our project and there’s a little area in Southwest Kenya that was under the influence of Al-Shabaab. We were going to launch our first project there. Here I was, I thought I was this badass operator coming here. I’m going to solve these people’s problems, just come straight fresh from business school.

I was a Marine, and I have an MBA. I know everything about this area.

I was such an arrogant idiot. The very first week I was there, I got jumped by a pack of thieves. I had black widow spiders in safari swarm my hut. I got malaria. We had an earthquake. On the last day of the week, which was also my birthday, I got struck by lightning. It was like a horrific week. You can’t make this stuff up. I was like, “I can tackle guys, I can fight guys, I can do whatever, but how do you fight lightning?” I was so humbled. I got to go out into these communities and meet some of these people who had survived far worse than what I’d been through. They had these challenges every single week. I had one bad week, but they were suffering from this stuff all the time. These enormously courageous people.

I’ve been hit by lightning four times. What’s your problem? You owe a case of beer, rookie, first time.

These kids survive malaria bouts with no medicine. It was unbelievable. Others sadly lost their lives because they couldn’t even afford the medicine. I was this hampered outsider that came in thinking I knew everything. I got so humbled. I learned so much about leadership doing this work. I learned that the most powerful lessons in leadership came from the people I had the chance of leading.

Once I got out of my own head and realized I wasn’t all that and I need to listen, I began to become a much better leader. In the same way, when we operated in the units, you come in as a new platoon commander thinking you’re the catch me out, and then your guys show you that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Until you are willing to listen to them and learn from them, that’s when you start to have success.

It happens to all of us. I give a talk on this. It’s called the Discipline to Prepare. One of the vignettes is my first day as a platoon leader, when I was a fresh Ranger School graduate, walking in, left shoulder first, “The leader’s here. Hello, men,” being told very quickly, “Who the fuck are you?”

I remember going into the unit in Force Recon, I’d only been in four years. My team leaders had on average between 15 and 18 years of hardcore duty. I got so humbled. I thought I was going to do all these programs. I had everything lined up. They took me on a rock run, our first run, and they buried me.

Let’s talk about More Perfect Union which is the company that you founded years ago, and you’re talking about the divide in America. I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on the divide in America, but what created in your mind, the transition from your social activism in foreign areas primarily to fight poverty into the divide that we have in America?

I had been living overseas for about fifteen years. I was always deployed down range as a Marine. I lived in these villages for Nuru, my organization for about eight years. I remember I was invited back to the US to participate in this new program that President Bush and Clinton were starting. It was called the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program. To do it, I had to move back to the States. I remember coming home to the States for the first time in a long time. I was shocked by what I saw. I didn’t recognize the country we left to fight for in 2000. There was this bitter fear and divisiveness, like ripping apart our communities. You had this political system that was destroying all value for American citizens. It was a government off-buying for the people and the people had no voice.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“I didn’t recognize the country we left to fight for.”

I was sad. All of us had been down range fighting for the idea of America against ISIS and Al-Qaeda, only to realize it wasn’t going to be them that beat us, it was going to be us. I got pissed off. I was like, “I am not about to watch all the sacrifices that our buddies made, and many of them paid the ultimate sacrifice for this powerful idea of America, torn apart.” That’s what inspired me to do something about it.

I want to ask you about something you just said there. You said, “It’s not going to be an existential factor that tears us apart. It’s going to be us.” I couldn’t agree with you more. We’ve seen so much of that over the last few years. This isn’t a new thing. We’re going to go back many years where you could see the start of this. I want to ask you about the political side of things right now.

We look at our political leaders on both sides of the aisle, what you are fighting for is to find the middle ground. What happened to the centrist? I estimate that myself all the time. What happened to the normal person who stands up, speaks with clarity, makes sense, and everybody says, “That makes sense?” Where are those people? How have we gotten to this place where you both can’t win? If you win, I got to lose. If I win, you got to lose. Why are we here?

My opinion is, there are several things that are happening at the same time. Our political system is set up to incentivize the most extreme behavior to win. To get a little bit detailed for a second, we have a primary election. We have a general election. In the primary election, you have Republicans running against Republicans and Democrats running against Democrats. When people go to vote in a primary, usually only 10% to 12% of the population vote in primaries. Those people that go out to vote in primaries are usually the more extreme or more ideologically pure individuals.

That means that if they’re the ones voting, the candidates get pulled further to the right and further to the left in order to win. By the time you get to the general election, you’re choosing between two people that represent the fringes of our country. Seventy percent of Americans in this country are not represented in government anymore. There’s this huge missing piece in the center of our leadership. Now those people are there in the country, but they don’t want to run. Why would they? Our politics are so toxic right now. People don’t run for office now to make a difference. They run for office to make a name for themselves to become famous.

[bctt tweet=”People don’t run for office now to make a difference. They run for office to make a name for themselves, to become famous media celebrities, and to spread misinformation on social media.” username=”talentwargroup”]

Media celebrities, disinformation and misinformation, and social media, they’ve actually helped to polarize the country. They’ve helped to dehumanize both sides of one another. It’s a tactic we use in combat. They would dehumanize the enemy to make them easier to destroy. Our media, celebrities, and political leadership have dehumanized the other side so that we not only have a difference of opinion, we hate the other side. That’s what’s tearing us apart.

We’ve forgotten what it means to be Americans. We’ve forgotten that there’s so much more that unites us than divides us. At this moment right now, we can’t wait for politicians in Washington to solve the problem. We, the people have to solve the problem right now. We’ve got to find a way to come back to the middle and find not just common ground, but higher ground in order to help this country heal.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“Our political system is set up to incentivize the most extreme behavior to win.”

I think about what you’re saying, all of the press conferences and speeches that you see where people get up on both sides. They’ll start the conversation with, “We need to come together. We need to unite,” but they’re tearing us apart. They don’t want what you want. You don’t want that. When we have that messaging, how do we stop that? How do we get everybody to understand that “Stick to the first half of your speech, not the second half?”

Two things. 1) We need the right leaders to run for office and I’m a big believer. When I first started looking at this problem set, I began to see that one of the greatest strategic assets our country is not leveraging right now is our veteran community coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. As vets, we need a hill to take. We need purpose and meaning. You got a lot of amazing men and women coming back from overseas and they’re having a tough time reintegrating because they don’t have that hill to take. There’s no better, tougher, more important hill to take right now than saving our democracy. We fought for our democracy overseas against our enemies. Now we got to do one more tour here at home to help save this country.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“We gotta do one more tour here at home to help save this country.”

We got to mobilize our veterans. We need country-first combat vets running for office. Now these are vets that are not beholden to a political party. They’re beholden to the American people that they represent. A common-sense approach, putting country over party. This political party stuff is nonsense. The way that we’re structured right now is tearing us apart. We need country-over-party individuals to run for office.

2) We need these veterans mobilizing people and communities, regular Americans all over the country to come together to do good work in the community. Veterans are one of the last trusted institutions that we have in the country. They pull every year like 60% and 70% high on trust whereas Congress is like 12%. People still trust veterans on both the left and the right. Veterans are the conveners. We can pull people together in our communities from the left to right around the common cause, around doing service projects for the community, or around learning how our elections work. Let’s learn together about how our government even works here at the local level to participate.

118th Congress started in the year 2023. I think 91 veterans are serving. It’s the most amount of veterans that have served in Congress since the supposed Vietnam era. Do you have hope that that is going to begin to change the needle or is that enough? Does there need to be more? What is the number?

There was a time when 75% of Congress were veterans just after World War II, and almost all of Congress were veterans. That’s important. I’m not just talking about men and women who served in uniform in the military. There are lots of other ways to serve the country. You’ve got people in the Peace Corps, people who are doing AmeriCorps in the inner cities trying to help out their communities. We need people with a service mindset and mentality who understand what the cost of freedom is if they’re going to lead in this country.

[bctt tweet=”There are lots of ways to serve, but we need people with a service mindset and mentality who understand what the cost of freedom is.” username=”talentwargroup”]

We can’t have these grand-standing celebrity types who are going in there just to make a name for themselves and get followers on Twitter and Instagram through social or all these different platforms. They’re literally just trying to get followers, make a name for themselves, and raise money. They’re not even governing. They’re not putting forward legislations. They’re just going on these ridiculous podcasts fueling the battle. I don’t mean to be alarmist here, but there’s a coming fight. We’re teetering on the verge of a civil war.

When I say civil war, I’m not talking 1860s types of war, but mass violence where you’ve got left versus right and we have got to stop that from happening. We’re in a moment right now of crisis in our country and we’ve got to do something about it. It’s going to take regular people to do something too. We all have to make a difference in this moment and we can.

You brought up social media. What role does social media play in this divide? In the past, you don’t have to go back that long. You can’t go back 20 years when you didn’t have this access to social media. You remember like I do when we didn’t have cell phones. We had a flip phone that didn’t do anything except call our parents. The generation of young adults now has always had this device that is a touchscreen that gives them instant access to everything with the rise of social media without real concrete checks on the information that went out. I was a Broadcast Journalism major, and I’d like to predicate myself on the fact that I host this show and created this show as a place where we can have real conversations in objective journalism.

I always bring this up and I always think about this because you used to trust the news. You used to trust information that went out into the public domain. We had the fairness doctrine. If you put information out, it had to give time to the other side. We don’t have that now. The fairness doctrine was repealed. Now in a lot of ways, mainstream media is also in a way, social media where you can put up whatever you want and say whatever you want. What role does that play and has that played in this divide? What’s the responsibility that you see these organizations have to either fueling or de-escalating this?

There are a lot of problems that you brought up, which are a major component of the crisis that we’re facing. I’ll start with the fact that one of the biggest challenges we face is the death of local media. You don’t have local newspapers or local publications anymore in small towns across the country. They’re all dying and getting beat by these digital media platforms. It’s hard for young men and women coming up through the ranks to learn journalism and learn about reporting the truth at the grassroots level. Now everything is about national politics. There are no local politics anymore. It’s all national politics.

In our technology now, everything’s instantaneous. Information is shared instantaneously all over the world. That information can be true or false, but it travels at the speed of light. We didn’t always have that. You can have falsehoods and lies now that can spread instantly and build momentum that can be very damaging. That’s the first problem. The second problem is, you talked about social media platforms. I have a lot of good friends in social media who help build these companies and are now still running them. There are some good intentions about a lot of people in the technology space who want to do good things in the world through these platforms. The problem is, it’s like creating Frankenstein. It got away from them.

There is a component of the leadership around what the revenue model is and the algorithms that drive profits. The algorithms that drive profits are the ones that feel hate and fear and they get the likes and shares, and that’s how these things spread. That’s what drives clicks, ads, and revenue. What you have now is a social media community that’s trying to backtrack from that and figure out a way to get out of this problem. It’s a massive problem because billions of people are on these platforms. Half the world is on Facebook. It’s ridiculous. It’s a major massive platform.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“The algorithms that drive profits are the ones that fuel hate and fear.”

Until we get some probably large-scale reform to be able to try to police information, not like Big Brother watching, but trying to find out what’s real, what’s truth, and what’s not true, with the rise of AI now too, with a lot of these deep fake videos and things that are coming out now, it’s getting even scarier. We need a way to be able to parse out what’s fact from fiction. Until we can do that, we’re going to have a real problem in this country trying to figure out who are the right leaders to get behind and what are people saying.

We’re approaching a time now where you go into an election and you’re not going to be even sure if what’s being said is real or not or even the person saying it is real or not. We’ve got to get ahead of this. There’s a big role for the technology community to really get ahead of this and try to build some solutions because there is a way out of it. We need some of the smartest minds out there to start creating some solutions around this.

What role do our elected leaders and the government have in the regulation? The tech industry, by and large on social media, is an unregulated industry. We watched the CEO of TikTok get brought in front of Congress, but that was more of a national security conversation than what you’re putting on there is relatively unchecked. It’s hard to verify what your actual messaging is. What role do the politicians and our elected leaders have in monitoring this?

It’s a hard area because you run into First Amendment freedom of speech. I’m a big believer as an American in the freedom of speech and the First Amendment rights. I’m also not a big believer that the government should step in and try to control everything either. However, there’s a role for regulation but if we’re going to do regulation, we need to have the brightest minds working on the problem right now, not a 26-year-old kid who just won a house election who has no background in technology at all, writing policy.

We need to have the right folks who are at least advising committees to advise on this type of legislation or regulation that can be done. We need to do it in a way that does not fringe on First Amendment rights because as Americans, we have to ensure that our individual freedoms are maintained. America’s all about the freedom of lasting meaningful choices for everybody everywhere. We need to make sure that that freedom is maintained but we do need regulation also to ensure that that freedom is maintained as well. It’s a double-edged sword.

More Perfect Union has a ten-year plan to “heal the divide.” What does that plan look like?

We are building a movement. When you think about the vision of what we’re trying to do, you’ve heard of Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis Club, VFW, and American Legion. These are all civic organizations that contributed enormously to the country and built our civic fabric during the day but those are all, sadly in decline. We’re losing the civic fabric of the country, it’s eroding. You no longer have people in our communities across the country gathering together in a place where you meet other Americans who are not like you. How many times do we go out throughout our week and meet someone who doesn’t think like we do? It is so rare now we are sorted into our echo chambers.

At More Perfect Union, we are building the next generation of civic organizations to help heal this divide. We don’t call them chapters. We call them brickyards because we’re building the country back brick by brick. We want a More Perfect Union Brickyard in every community and city all over this country, that’s the vision. These brickyards are run by regular people. Veterans are the catalysts, we train and equip veterans to launch these brickyards because we’re the conveners, and we’re the ones who can pull these communities together.

Over time, just like when we were in our battle zones over there, we transition power over to the local community. Even when I worked at Nuru International when I was working over in these gray zones in conflict areas, trying to eradicate poverty, I would bring two tribes together that hated each other and that were at war. We had to figure out a way to work together to stop ISIS from infiltrating this community. You had to find common ground, and because of who we were in our backgrounds and building that trust, we were able to do that.

It’s the same thing here. The veterans were training and equipping to launch these Brickyards, go into their communities, establish trust, and build out these relationships so that we can see these are other people just like me. They’ve got kids too. They’re worried about their kid’s schools and what college they’re going to get into. They’re worried about what job they’re going to have. They’re worried about the local community church or the local community center getting torn down. They want good things for their community, just like the person on the other side of the aisle does.

The trick is we have to physically meet together. This can’t be done over Zoom. It can’t be done over phone calls. We measure something we call butts in seats, that’s one of our metrics. People are physically together. You can’t do this in an academic setting in some university somewhere. This has to be in communities with real people getting together, having real conversations, doing real work, getting our hands dirty together, breaking bread together, and having tough conversations together. That’s the essence of who we are and that’s the essence of what we have to do to get out of this.TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

I would also argue that you brought up the fact that we surround ourselves with people who think like us. A lot of that too has come about because of the social media problems that we talked about. When you think about the algorithm. I like boats. I’ve got a boat, and I look at a lot of pictures of boats. When I go on Instagram or on Twitter, all of a sudden, I’m getting pushed ads for boats. If I look at pictures of a boat, now, the only thing in my feed are boats.

I realize this, but I think about all of those who don’t. All the people who go through their feed. After it learns them and understands the 3 or 4 things that they look at, in a month’s time, if you weren’t conscious of it, the only thing that you may think exists are boats in the world and there’s nothing else. That’s a super dangerous place to be.

Those are boats you’re talking about. Think about if it’s lies coming out, hate coming out on your feet. There was a time when you would look to your leader to tell you what was real and what was not real. You trusted that person. You respected that person. We don’t have that anymore. People hate government. They’re afraid of it and they hate their leaders. They don’t have any confidence in their leaders. Just as it was in the units we used to work in, this is an issue of leadership.

The way out of this is leadership. It’s not any type of leadership. It’s servant leadership. We have to be willing to put our own needs aside and be humble and come into these communities. Be able to admit you’re wrong. Don’t pass the blame on somebody else. Own your mistakes and failures because we’re going to make mistakes when we’re trying to bring these communities together. Own those failures, and then pivot quickly, fail fast and learn fast, and never do it again. Begin over time building that cohesiveness and healing process that needs to be done in these communities.

Two questions on the execution. Let’s say I’m that leader. I believe I’m that leader. I think to myself, “I want to do this. I want to get involved. I’m sick of what I see.” I see two barriers. I always talk about overcoming limiting beliefs. How do I fund it? You talked about the party and the parties who have, by and large, control of the money and have to back candidates. If you’re not on the fringes, you’re going to not get back. That’s one thing.

The other thing is, we’re in this culture now of this canceling. If they threaten me and they don’t say what I want, we’re going to shut them out, block them on social media, and they don’t exist. How do I overcome those two things? For all those people who are tuning in, all those people who are saying, “I believe I’m that leader,” how do I crest those two humps to get involved and have a chance to make a difference?

We have two components of what we do in More Perfect Union. The public-facing side of what we do is building this veteran-led movement. That’s the one that’s scaling rapidly across the country. We also do some quiet work in politics to help train and equip these combat leaders to be able to come out and start running for high-level offices. We don’t usually talk about that. We become a target because of the toxicity in the system. What we found is people with our background, there’s a hunger in this country for that kind of leadership.

1) You have the background, the story, the know-how, and the experience. That’s the first hump to overcome because a lot of these people have imposter syndrome. They think, “I can’t do it. I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know anything about how to run the government.” You have raw leadership skills that people would die for. That’s number one, you have the background and capability set.

2) There is a political consultant class in this country that understands how elections work that is not beholden to both parties who are trying to help build a center right now. You got to get tapped into that group. My team and I help folks do that so that they can bring together a team that can operate effectively to run a campaign because there is a political side to this. You need to know how to run a campaign. You need to know how to build a fundraising team and all that stuff. There’s raw technical know-how that has to be done, especially when you’re running for like a US Senate seat.

3) Capital. There are a couple of ways to raise capital. There are large donors who are looking for this type of leader to back, and there are a lot of them out there who are quiet but looking for country-first servant leaders to run for office right now. People are worried about what’s happening and I see a lot of capital moving into this new space to find this type of leader. Second and more importantly, 70% of the country is in the middle. They want change in people with our background running for these offices. They’re willing to do $10, $20, or $30 a month to try to help these folks run for office.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“70% of the country is in the middle…and they want change.”

In order to do that, you’ve got to step out into the arena and be willing to get out in every county in your state, running for these offices. You got to do the blocking and tackling. Just like in our old job, you got to have boots on the ground meeting the people, understanding their needs, listening, and being willing to represent them once you get to Washington. The barriers are very high to entry, but I will say that they’re overcomeable. There are pathways to do that right now. You just got to know where to go for the right connections.

What does the perfect centrist leader look like to you?

A couple of things. We have to separate leadership from policy. We’re all going to disagree on policy. You and I are probably going to disagree on policy. The right and left are never going to come to terms and agree on the same stuff. The leaders we need right now are not leaders that stand for a certain policy. In this country, you need to be a one-issue voter, and that issue is saving democracy. Leaders who will hold together the integrity of our institutions that run our democracy, who believe in American democracy. We have leaders in government who don’t believe in American democracy.

You have to have individuals who understand the fundamentals of our democracy, believe in its power, and believe in saving it. They have to be true servant leaders. I keep using the term servant leaders, but we need a new breed of leaders to step up and run for office individuals that are not worried about becoming a celebrity. They’re not worried about gaining power and money or fame. They just want to serve. They’re willing to push back against their own party in order to do the right thing when everything’s on the line.

[bctt tweet=”We need a new breed of leadership to step up and run for office, individuals that are not worried about becoming a celebrity but who just want to serve.” username=”talentwargroup”]

If you think about when we were in combat, many times we had to make morally physically difficult decisions, where we had to demonstrate moral courage or physical courage sometimes when nobody was watching. We have that battle rhythm in us. These individuals need to do the same thing when they get into government because they’re going to get enormous pressure put on them whatever party they’re in to be pulled further to the right or to the left. You have to resist that.

You have to be willing to say no and do the right thing. We need leaders who will serve, be humble, and do the right thing. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard to find those individuals who will do it. I’ll tell you the other reason it’s hard. Running for office sucks. It’s hard on your family. It’s hard on you. There’s a lot of hate and toxicity in politics. It’s an awful thing to go through.

What I tell a lot of the folks that I recruit is, “You were downrange fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda for our country when they were a threat to our democracy. I need you to do one more six-year tour, run for US Senate, go build the center, and then go home after that knowing you help save the republic, but the country needs you to do one more tour.” We are not done serving, whether it’s running for office or starting these Brickyards in this country. Our country right now needs our veterans to step up and do one more tour.

It’s a scary time. We have to spread that message and get everyone to understand that. I asked you what the perfect leader looks like. How do we get that 70% to understand, though? I agree with you that those are the people who have to get involved. I mentioned limiting beliefs. How do you get them to take a stand and do something and not just sit back and watch it on TV or think about it and then say, “Someone else will deal with it?”

That’s where our movement comes in. We need leaders going into communities and helping American citizens understand that they can do something. We have a pandemic loss of agency in the country. Americans feel like they can’t do anything. We can’t get out of this place that we’re in. If you have leaders who go into these communities and can rally the troops and inspire people to do something, be the best version of themselves, come together, and physically do things. I give this analogy a lot, but the teams in a crisis and something horrible is happening, a lot of people, leaders, and team members face decision paralysis. You freeze up.

TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

“We have a pandemic loss of agency in the country.”

The best way to get a team out of that is to get them moving. Get them engaged, trying things, physically involved, and engaged in helping solve the problem. By doing that, they can start to shake out of that decision paralysis and feel good about the fact that they’re part of the solution, that they’re going to be able to help get themselves out of this problem. You have something powerful come along, which is hope.

Hope is enormously powerful. It’s not hokey. It’s a real thing you and I both know. In some dark times, if you’ve got hope, you can do some pretty incredible things. At this moment, we need hope. We need people in our communities to have hope. The only way you can do that is we got to physically get into these communities and get people together. By doing that and doing good things together, we can get people on that track.

[bctt tweet=”Hope is enormously powerful. It’s a real thing.” username=”talentwargroup”]

I’ll take your concept of hope. For everyone who tuned in to me, they’ll know that always say that hope’s not a course of action because I want to quantify what you’re saying. We have to have hope, but that hope parallels action. You have to have action.

If you’ll notice what I said too, hope comes after action. You have to move, do things, get involved, and hope then comes. The action breaks us out of this paralysis, hope comes, and then you build momentum. You just can’t sit around hoping.

Someone else is going to solve it.

That’s not even hope. That’s just like being complacent. That’s throwing your hands up in there and giving up. As Americans right now, we can’t give up. There’s too much on the line right now. We can’t wait for somebody else to solve our problem. Every generation makes its own indelible mark on the country. It’s our turn and time. We have to make that mark now.

Jake, as we close out, the Jedburghs in World War II had to do three things to be successful, habits or core foundational tasks. They had to be able to shoot, move, and communicate. You probably heard these terms before. If those are your foundations, your fundamentals, you do them well. If Jedburghs did them well, then they could focus their attention on more complex challenges that came their way. What are the three things that you do every day that set the foundations for your success?

I’ll get tactical and personal for myself. This is the way that I’m able to continue pushing the envelope and dream big. 1) I have to work out. If I don’t work out, I lose my mind. I’m, sadly, fat and out of shape. I still am working out but not enough. It engages my mind. It keeps me sane. Working out is an important part of my life.

2) My faith in God is a foundation for me and the inspiration that gets me through a lot of dark times. You started out the show talking about how some of these things I’m trying to tackle seem pretty impossible, pretty dark, and we get in some pretty dark places. My faith is what helps me push past that and believe that the impossible is actually possible.TJP - E104 with Jake Harriman, Founder & CEO of +More Perfect Union

3) Always be learning. I try to learn from everybody I encounter. I try to read a lot, listen to podcasts, and talk to people who aren’t like me, my team that I lead, I try to learn from them. As a leader, we always have to be learning. If we’re in this self-improvement mode all the time. We won’t be stoppable because we’ll constantly be evolving to tackle the next problem.

That learning piece also correlates to where you’re talking about listening. You can’t learn if you can’t listen. I like what you said too about if we’re always learning and looking for a new way, a new solution, and making it better, we can’t be stopped. You can’t stop someone who wakes up every day with clear goals, vision, and mission and says, “I’m going to stop at nothing to get this done and do this.”

I’m willing to fail, learn from it, never do it again, keep going, and not give up. That person’s unstoppable. We need people like that all over the world, all over this country to get us out of this problem.

I wear this bracelet that says “Whatever it takes.” We’re there in this country. You’re right. I appreciate you joining me. I appreciate you rocking the Jedburgh shirt after we made you sweat out your other shirt getting over here. You said you didn’t work out yet. Now we gave it to you.

Thanks. I appreciate being here.


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