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Johnny Interviews AJ (Episode 699)

Last week we learned all about AoC co-host Johnny Dzubak (@dzubak).

This week, we’re turning the spotlight around to hear the life story of AJ. How did he go from science wiz to football player? And then from cancer biologist to The Art of Charm co-founder? Tune in to this episode to hear the story behind your co-host’s unique trajectory.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Who is AJ Harbinger?
  • How did navigating difficult family dynamics shape AJ’s emotional fingerprint?
  • What did facing rejection from girls teach AJ about confronting fear?
  • What does a PhD student do when something else is calling?
  • How was The Art of Charm formed?
  • And so much more…


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Who is AJ Harbinger? And what is his life story?

In this episode, we dive deep into AJ’s past. Born into a broken family unit, AJ quickly developed an empathy and understanding for other people. Today, we dive deep into how his lens was shaped with each chapter of his life.

Please Scroll down for Full Show Notes and Featured Resources!

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More About This Show

A Passion for Science (and Girls!)

One of the first things I got from my dad was a set of encyclopedias. I read them feverishly and memorized every species of fish and shark.”

As a young boy growing up in Michigan, AJ found himself obsessed with all things related to science, or any school subject for that matter. A nerd by definition, he excelled in his early years of school. But then puberty hits, and even our most raw childhood passions get muted with other interests.

“Her name was Rachel. It was my freshman year of high school, and I wanted to go to the dance with her,” AJ recounts. “My heart was racing, my cheeks were bright red, and my whole body was shaking like a leaf. I sat down at her lunch table and blurted out, ‘Rachel, will you go the dance with me?'”

This was AJ’s first rejection, but more important, it was a valuable lesson on tackling his fears.

His passion for science took him through high school and into the University of Michigan, where he studied pre-medicine with plans to go to medical school and become a doctor. Like most of us, our plans shift, and AJ soon found himself applying for cancer biology PhD programs.

A Distracted PhD Student

Accepted into the University of Michigan’s cancer research program, AJ began researching the mutations of cancer cells. But trapping yourself in a laboratory behind a microscope isn’t so glamorous.

“I was struggling with impostor syndrome. I had a lack of confidence. I had low self-esteem issues,” AJ recalls what he was battling during that time. In a decomposing relationship that ultimately ended, AJ started to find himself socializing at bars.

“I felt good when I was in conversation. I could be witty and funny, but I relied a lot on women approaching me to handle the approach anxiety I was feeling being introverted.”

And this was the same problem most of his peers were having. So they started talking through their issues, discussing social skills and confidence, and people were learning and listening.

Then podcasting came out. And they started recording these conversations.

How The Art of Charm Was Formed

“We got a stack of business cards and were putting them on top of men’s urinals.”

Like any startup, the initial hustle was guerilla marketing and word of mouth. But it wasn’t long until the AoC team had a feature in iTunes and a substantial enough spike in viewership to warrant setting up headquarters in New York City.

But AJ was still a PhD student in Michigan. Flying to and from on the weekends, his double life as a cancer researcher and AoC co-founder soon came to an end.

One Monday morning, when he was setting up his equipment, a professor knocked on the door.

“Why are you setting up that experiment? The results are right here.”

That professor held up a report, and then threw it at AJ’s face. The findings were from the weekend; while AJ was out in New York trying to get AoC off the ground, his colleagues were committed to their studies.

It wasn’t long until he made the decision to drop out. “I called my dad. I said, ‘Dad, I’m dropping out of school. I’m going to go pursue this podcast in New York.'”

And since then, he has grown The Art of Charm into the company it is today. From running bootcamps to setting up networking events to now being a co-host on the podcast, AJ is integral to every part of The Art of Charm business.

Tune in to this episode of The Art of Charm to learn his full story!


If you enjoyed this session with AJ Harbinger, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Instagram:

Click here to thank AJ Harbinger at Instagram!

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