The Adventures Of The World’s Greatest Negotiator

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Marketing Podcast with Rich Cohen

In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Rich Cohen. Rich is the New York Times-bestselling author of several books such as Tough Jews, Monsters, and Sweet and Low. He is the co-creator of the HBO series Vinyl, and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Rich has a new book called – The Adventures of Herbie Cohen: World’s Greatest Negotiator.

Key Takeaway:

Herbie Cohen is known for many things like – being the World’s Greatest Negotiator, dealmaker, risk-taker, adviser to presidents and corporations, hostage and arms negotiator, lesson giver and justice seeker, author of the how-to business classic You Can Negotiate Anything, and of course, Rich Cohen’s father. In this episode, I talk with Rich Cohen about his latest book that honors his dad and the biggest lessons he’s shared with him throughout his life – The Adventures of Herbie Cohen: World’s Greatest Negotiator.

Questions I ask Rich Cohen:

  • [1:35] Your father was probably best known as the author of ‘You Can Negotiate Anything’. Would you say that’s why you’re a writer?
  • [2:19] You’ve written about a lot of topics – why write about this topic now?
  • [3:17] Some of the stories in the book were from the ’50s and ’60s – how did you collect these stories in such detail?
  • [4:33] So were you a Dodgers fan then?
  • [5:32] I’m going to go down a rabbit hole here – what’s your favorite baseball book?
  • [6:30] Have you written for TV at all?
  • [7:55] So who were some of his contemporaries in that space?
  • [9:40] My audience is primarily business owners and marketers. So what’s the business application of this book in your mind?
  • [12:01] If somebody were to come to you and ask you to list out five or six key negotiation lessons, what would those be?
  • [15:08] Would you say there is one or two of your favorite stories you’ve told them a hundred times and people still want to come back to them?
  • [18:11] You’ve mentioned Larry King a number of times, did he go to school with your dad?
  • [21:02] Where can people connect with you and get a copy of your book?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the duct tape marketing podcast is brought to you by the MarTech podcast, hosted by Ben Shapiro and brought to you by the HubSpot podcast network with episodes you can listen to in under 30 minutes, the MarTech podcast shares stories from world class marketers who use technology to generate growth and achieve business and career success all on your lunch break. And if you dig around, you might just find a show by yours. Truly. Ben's a great host. Actually, I would tell you, check out a recent show on blending humans, AI, and automation. Download the MarTech podcast wherever you get your.

John Jantsch (00:41): podcast. Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Rich Cohen. He is a New York times bestselling author of numerous books, including tough Jews monsters, the Chicago Cubs and peewees. Just to name a few, he's a co-creator of the HBO series vinyl and a contributing editor at rolling stone. We're gonna talk about his new book today. The adventures of herbi Cohen, the world's greatest negotiators. So rich, welcome to the show.

Rich Cohen (01:21): Ah, thanks for having me.

John Jantsch (01:23): So, so you are a writer. Um, you've written, I, I, my intro didn't do justice. It would've taken a long time to list all, all of your books and all of your contributions, this latest book about your father. He was probably best known as, as also an author of the how-to classic. You can negotiate anything. Is, is that why you're a writer?

Rich Cohen (01:42): Probably. I mean, the, the main thing, my father, isn't really a writer. He's really a storyteller and kind of a philosopher and a business kind of guy, but storytelling was always a big thing with him and in my family and sort of to keep everybody's attention. You had to tell basically a funny story. So I remember when I first got outta college, I got this job at the new Yorker almost by luck. And there was a story that the, the bio was that the writer is somebody who here who thinks being funny is more important than anything, even warm human relationships. And I realized this is a place for me.

John Jantsch (02:19): so, so you've written all about a lot of topics. Why, why now? Right about this topic?

Rich Cohen (02:25): Well, I always write about my father, tough Jew starts with my father and his friend sitting around a diner in Beverly Hills, talking about Jewish gangsters and peewees, which is my life as a youth hockey parent, losing my mind. I started with a epigraph for my father, which is from you can negotiate anything at a big part of this new book, which is the secret to life is to care, but not that much. So I think my father's philosophy and his general outlook is a big part of my life. And a couple years ago, I was writing a story for audible, Amazon. Mm-hmm, just something about him. And it felt so natural and so fun to write about him, that I just thought, this is what I should be doing. And this is probably what I should have been doing all along.

John Jantsch (03:07): So, as I read some of the stories, I mean, it was really as though you were there, but some of these stories were from the, like the fifties and sixties, you were not there. probably in some of the war stories and things. How did you collect these stories in such detail?

Rich Cohen (03:21): Well, the stories about Bensonhurst and his gang, the warriors and Larry King and Sandy Cofax and all those guys, right? That was like my mythology. I grew up with that, like instead of Bible stories and there was always lessons in him. And when I was a kid, Larry King had this incredible radio show on every night from midnight to 5:00 AM. And he would tell, I would lie in bed at night and he would tell these stories and then I'd meet him and I'd ask him about 'em. That's how I got those stories in the army. A lot of the stories about my dad's time, coaching basketball, right. And he actually saved the reporting, cuz it was, he was coached the league that consisted of guys who were division one college basketball players. Who'd been drafted into the army during the Korean war. And my father saved all the coverage from stars and strikes mm-hmm , which had a lot of photos of these games. Yeah. And it was, you know, very romantic to me to see it, but was interesting. When I looked at how my father was very successful, coaching basketball, it's just the same exact way he conducted himself in negotiation, which is, he always tried to sort of do something unusual, control the timing, you know, control the floor. It was interesting cuz you see this one through line that goes from the time he's 10, 11 years old in Brooklyn, all the way till now.

John Jantsch (04:34): So, so were you a Dodgers fan then?

Rich Cohen (04:36): I was a Cubs fan. I grew up in Chicago and it's a very funny thing where my father playing sort of says he was a Dodgers fan. He grew up in Brooklyn. He was really a Yankees fan. And he says, the reason he was a Yankees fan is the first game he ever went to. The first in person was babe Ruth Day, which is when he was like 11 years old at Yankee stadium when babe Ruth was dying of cancer. And um, my father took me to my first game, which was Wrigley field, which he loved because he said he reminded him of evets field. Yeah. Was after the game where the Cubs had a big lead and then the Cincinnati reds came back from behind and crushed him. He said, I wanna tell you something I'm being very serious right now. Don't be a Cubs fan. A Cubs fan will have a bad life. Cubs fan will accept losing as the natural state of affairs in the world. Do yourself. He a favorite.

John Jantsch (05:23): He was a prophet in other words.

Rich Cohen (05:25): Yeah. But then they won in 2016. So it did happen. Finally. I just had to wait till I was 50 years old.

John Jantsch (05:31): So what's your, I've got to go down a rabbit to hold here. What's your favorite baseball book?

Rich Cohen (05:36): My favorite baseball book. There's this book called? I think the glory of their times. You know that book. I don't my shelf cuz I know that I have it. There's a lot of great. I like the Roger Conn book, the boys of summer. I like all summer.

John Jantsch (05:47): I've got boys of summer written down here cuz I frankly, I, I assumed that was gonna be a Dodge. This

Rich Cohen (05:52): Book, the glory of their times is an oral history of guys that played early. Yeah. Like in the dead ball era and their lives are so wild, you know, like they would jump a freight train to get the spring training and stuff. And that is a unique book.

John Jantsch (06:05): Joe, are you familiar? Joe PO Naski the, the writer sports illustrator I think is his last gig, but he he's got a book called the baseball 100 and he covers a lot of those guys and it, they are some pretty neat stories,

Rich Cohen (06:15): But see it's so Brooklyn stories and my dad, all of it seems like it was like Paul bunion stories. It happened. Right. in such an exotic different time. Yeah. Yeah. When there was the big baseball team in Chicago was in rock, was in Rockford. I think, you know where the first pro it's just interesting.

John Jantsch (06:30): So, so do you write for TV at all? Or have you?

Rich Cohen (06:34): I have.

John Jantsch (06:35): And the reason I, uh, say that is because the book kind of reads like episodes of a sitcom I think would make a great sitcom

Rich Cohen (06:43): Originally cuz my father has all these great stories. Yeah. And originally I just wanted to do it like a hundred chapters. Each one is separate scenes. But then as I started to write them, I realized there was actually a bigger story, which is a story of his life. Yeah. But so I did see it originally episodically and kind of funny with his lessons. Right. Cause my father, when he'd tells stories far follows a very ASOP fables like structure, which is question story moral, you know? So, but then I realize his life is the big story. So I always think of when I write it's like, I dunno if you know those Chuck close paintings or all these made up of little tiny pictures, but when you step back all the little pictures that up to one big picture, that's kind of what the effect I'm going for.

John Jantsch (07:25): Your parents owned a business. Is that right? They were entrepreneurs as

Rich Cohen (07:28): Well. They owned my father's business. My, the business was my father with power negotiations. My, my father's the guy who sort of popularized win-win I believe which he'd taken from game theory where he, he taught at the university of Michigan and he worked on game theory. And, but my mother came up with the company logo, which was, I can't do it cuz I'm one person buts, two people shaking hands at their thumbs like that. Yeah. Yeah. So it was a little cheesy, but very effective, a little cheesy goes a long way in America. It's good.

John Jantsch (07:55): So, so who were some of his contemporaries then in that space? Zig Zigler or somebody and was in that space, right? Yeah.

Rich Cohen (08:05): But the, the people, I remember the people who were around when like one of the things he did was he worked for the FBI. He trained their people and he, and he, sorry, there's like, I can just hear my kids just got home from school. There's a whole hub up. He trained their people and there was a guy named Walt sire and together they created the behavioral sciences unit because his whole thing was, he used to quote this thing from Arthur Miller to understand the price. You have to understand the player. And if you're negotiating with somebody and you don't know what is valuable to them or what they're like, you can't really offer them something or pressure them with something that's valuable. Now he's really, as far as marketing goes, he's like, he always said to me, that life is 90% marketing always said that to me. And he always said that he'd rather have a piece of crap product

Rich Cohen (08:55): With a genius to sell it. Then a masterpiece with an idiot selling it. and that's something I always remember, you know? So, and he taught me little things. I think he taught like a little lesson. He taught me, which I think is kind of like marketing and is I would turn papers in at school. And I would say to the teacher always, and my father found this. I don't think this is very good. You're probably gonna hate it. But here it is. And I'd get a bad grade. And my father said, no, people are very suggestible. You say, I think this is great. It's a work genius. You're gonna love it. And you get a good grade so that's like a little thing that he taught me that I live by all the time.

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John Jantsch (09:32): So if somebody, I mean, because obviously the subtitle world's greatest negotiator hints at some business advice, my audience is primarily business owners, marketers. So what would be your pitch to them of, you know, what's the business application? Because again, it, this book is very entertaining. it? The stories are great. You're a great storyteller or retailer, but what's the flat out business application in

Rich Cohen (09:57): Your mind? Well, my father really worked in the business world. You know, he started out at Sears, he's the executive suite of Sears and he was a advisor mostly to fortune 500 companies and trained their executives and negotiated their deals. And he has a philosophy of business, which is summed up by the secret to successes to care. But not that much approaching life is a game remaining, detached, not becoming fixated on a particular outcome, looking for a win-win deal. Not because it makes you a better person, but as he would say, people will support something that they're part of creating. So you want to bring people in and create solutions together. But his whole training of me was about business. So like my grandfather, on the other side, my grandpa Ben Eisenstadt invented the sugar packet and then invented sweet and low, which is still a privately owned company.

Rich Cohen (10:46): He created out of his diner in Brooklyn and I saw the whole life of that business. So I feel like all my books are in away business books, all of them. So like this is a new book. Like one of my more successful books has been, was the fish that ate the whale about this guy, Samuel Zim Murray, who took over United fruit, started out as a fruit Petr. And I wrote a book about chess records, which was, you know, these are all guys that live kind of, by the way, my father believed, which is give the market something, it doesn't know. It wants, you know, fill in niche that you don't even know exists as, uh, what chess records did, which invented rock and roll is first you, uh, invent the product and then you invent the market, you know, so, and I really saw with sweet and low cause you saw it in the pharmaceutical industry, which is first invent the pharmaceutical and then figure out what you can possibly sell it to cure. And one of my favorite stories, I always tell my kids is the, uh, history of Viagra because it's such a backwards way to come up with a product. But, you know, so I felt like I always kind of understood that about building a business and what happens mostly because I lived through that with my father and read all this stuff.

John Jantsch (11:53): So if somebody were gonna say, there are, there are many books on negotiation, this is, uh, probably the, the most unique one. Well, one of the more unique ones on negotiation, if, if somebody were going to come to you and say, you know, list out five or six, you know, key negotiation lessons, what would those be from the book?

Rich Cohen (12:10): From my book?

John Jantsch (12:11): Yeah.

Rich Cohen (12:12): Uh, okay. The first is approach an every negotiation like it's a game and the, the key is to care, but not that much. Second is don't. My father is always worst person to negotiate for is yourself because you care too much. Don't become emotionally involved. It's not personal. Yeah. It doesn't matter. Okay. Another is, don't become fixated on a particular outcome. People have a single goal in mind and try to reach that goal, but things change and you might come out with something different or something better. Two is try to make your opponent part of the solution because people will support things that they create. You see that in Congress where you get these 50 to zero votes and the thing falls apart because half the people in power are against it and want it to fail. You have to want both sides to want it to succeed.

John Jantsch (13:05): It's an interesting example to bring up though, because it feels like it doesn't really matter anymore in that they, you know, that maybe what people are fixated on is win, lose rather than, uh, win, win.

Rich Cohen (13:17): Well, the thing, one thing that my father said is he was supposed to write a second book and my mom would say, you've already missed a deadline. and he'd go, when what happened? And she goes nothing. Then he goes, then that really isn't a deadline. and that's like a big thing about his, which is I used to quote Jimmy Walker. Who'd been the mayor of New York, like in the twenties, who said, as long as you get there before it's over, you're not late.

Rich Cohen (13:38): you know, so basically this idea that there are these certain rules that are arbitrarily created. And one thing he said almost says like a mathematical formula is things that are, the product of a negotiation are negotiable. So people get very intimidated by authority and they think they can't negotiate something. As he would say about the sticker price in Sears, it looks like it was put there by God. So you can't question it when you realize it's just a few people in a room randomly selecting this price almost you realize itself was ran, was negotiated so you can negotiate it. And one of his key lessons I stupidly left out when I gave you my list was one of his big things is realizing that you have power when dealing with what seemed like more powerful people or institutions. And he always said power is based on perception. If you think you got it, even if you don't got it. And that's the key to his whole thing, which is people have power. You can always make a move. There's always another decision to make. And like he said, as long as you get there before it's over, you're not late. Some can still be salvaged and done. And he saw all that, like, you know, a game.

John Jantsch (14:48): So , I'm trying to, well, I guess I was gonna ask you this. People ask me this I've write books too. People ask me this all the time. I wrote a book that had 366 separate stories. So, you know, the logical question always was, what's your favorite? Yours? I lose track of what are you? 50, 60? How many? 57, 58 what's would you say there's one or two that are you that really are your favorite stories that people you've told 'em a hundred times and, and people still want to come back to them.

Rich Cohen (15:17): Well, I'll have to, I'll tell you two very quickly. One is a famous story, which is the Moo story, which Larry King claimed was when my father learned to negotiate, which is a kid that they went to school with had gone to Arizona, cuz he had tuberculosis mm-hmm and the cousin was supposed to shut down the house, go to the school and get his records, transferred for a school in Arizona. And my father said, you don't have to go to the school to the cousin. They were gonna walk this kid. His name is Mao. He said, uh, we will tell the school, save you a trip. And then my father said, I got a great idea of how to make some money and we can go to coing island and celebrate. Instead of saying MAOS in Arizona, it would say, ma is dead. collect money for his funeral w reefa.

Rich Cohen (15:57): And it was a whole long story. But ultimately in the end, after a year, I just say that it ends up with a giant fiasco, with a bunch of sitting there for the Gill Mermelstein Mao's real name, Memorial award. The first winner of which is my father, Larry and another guy. And Mao comes back to school that day. And my father jumps up on stage and yells go home Mao, you're dead. You're dead. Mao go home. And they sit with the principal and the principal says you're suspended. You're expelled. You're done. And my father goes, hold on, you're being a little hasty here. Cuz he looked at it from his side. He said, you're right. What we did was horrible and we're expelled and we're done. But if you go through it, this like you're planning to, we're not gonna go to school anymore, but you're never gonna work in New York city again. And he explained to him what would happen to him and why it wasn't in his interest to expel them from school. And that was when he was in eighth grade. My father and Larry always said that was when he became a negotiator. And the other second story I'm telling him very quick, here is no

John Jantsch (16:56): That's good.

Rich Cohen (16:57): One thing my father believes in is the difference between the what and the how, right? That's a big thing in his life, which is there's what you do or what you say and how you do or how you say it. We used to go to this terrible restaurant all the time in the town I grew up in and finally said, why do we go to the worst restaurant in town? He goes because they always give us the booth. That's a difference between the what and the how. And when I was a kid, my father took me to buy my first used car and he wanted to show me how to negotiate. He created this big list of criteria of the car we should get. And the car he decided I should get was a Toyota Corolla with 70,000 miles or less on it. That's the car he thought I should afford and I should buy.

Rich Cohen (17:37): So he looked and we finally found this car and I said, this is it. This is the car. And he said, no, no, I don't like this car. And I said, what are you talking about? It meets all your criteria. And he goes, did you see all the writing and on the car, on the driver's side and cursive, it said Barry. And on the drive and on the passenger side, it said Billy, and on the hood of the car, it said, Chuck, that was like the name of the car itself. And I said, so what we'll have it repainted. He said, you're missing the point a schmuck own this car. and that was the what and a half.

John Jantsch (18:10): So, so you've mentioned Larry King a number of times. And were they, did they go to school together? Is that where they met?

Rich Cohen (18:17): They met together. They, yeah, Larry's father died. Larry was like a, in my light, like an, an uncle almost Larry's father died when he was a kid in a heart attack. And Larry kind of grew up at my parents, my grandparents' house and Larry and my father first met when they were nine. I think they both got in trouble at school and they were assigned to be crossing guards and they were together. And my father said, Larry said, this is a terrible job. It's a waste of time. They don't need a crossing guard here. My father said, I disagree. This job has a lot of power and importance. This is like, if you think you got power, you got it. And they argued. And my father to prove his point took the stop sign that you held, went out and just stopped traffic for like five minutes. There was instantly a huge giant traffic jam in Benson or Brooklyn fights breaking out on the sidewalks car talking. And they said they had their sash ceremony ripped off their jackets, but that's their meeting and then they were, you know, they remained, Larry was a big part of my life from I, I worked for his show, used to work for his show was, you know, very interesting.

John Jantsch (19:19): I, I bring that up primarily, uh, because it, I knew it would've, Elit a good story, but also to talk about the acknowledgement for Ellen Cohen, who never understand Larry ,

Rich Cohen (19:29): That's one of my, my father's problems with this book. He thought I should not have done it that way. but the fact is, uh, Larry's a big part of this book and my mom would always say, can't stand Larry because they, they knew each other, their whole lives, since my mother was 18 years old. But when my father got around Larry, my father acted like he was 10 years old. right. And my mom sort of felt like a third wheel and this is even when she's like 60 years old. Right, right, right. So, and I, and by the way, it wasn't just her. I had the same experience. Their favorite thing to do together was to go to a BA, he liked to go to a baseball game, like five hours before the game and watch batting practice. So, and they would get P passes and they'd get out on the field, which wasn't hard to do.

Rich Cohen (20:07): There was nobody there empty stadiums. And I was with them once and they saw a player that they really liked from the fifties. And they both got all giddy and ran off to talk to him. And batting practice was being thrown by Rick Ziff who played for the Cubs. Yeah. And Rick Ziff, I never don't know Rick. I mean, he knew him as a fan and he comes up to me and he goes, did your dad just ditch you? Because he had a chance to meet a celebrity. And I was like, yeah, that's what happens when he gets around Larry. But that's, that was my mom's main problem with him. And also he'd always get into trouble with Larry. They'd go out and do stuff and get in all kinds of trouble. And yeah, it's, it's almost like Ralph and, uh, Ralph Cramton and Norton those do

John Jantsch (20:45): Together. Yeah. It's funny how people do, you know, even, like you said, at 60 revert to kind of their childhood, uh, selves, when they, you know, get together with, you know, old high school friends and things

Rich Cohen (20:54):

John Jantsch (20:55): Well, rich, thanks so much for taking a moment to stop by the duct tape marketing podcast and talk about, uh, the adventures of herbi Cohen. You wanna tell people where they can connect with you. Obviously the books are available, uh, wherever you buy

Rich Cohen (21:06): Books. Well, you can write me on social media. You can write me on Twitter, or I have a website that links up to an email for me, which is author rich And the Twitter is, I think it's rich Cohen, 2003, cuz that's the year I peaked and then, uh, you can buy the book on Amazon.

John Jantsch (21:23): Awesome. Again, thanks for stopping by. And hopefully we'll run into you one of these days out there on the road.

Rich Cohen (21:28): I'll see you in golden. Yeah.

John Jantsch (21:29): Thanks rich.

Rich Cohen (21:30): Get a course.

John Jantsch (21:31): Hey, and one final thing before you go, you know how I talk about marketing strategy strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the marketing strategy assessment. You can find it @ not .com .co check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just I'd. Love to chat with you about the results that you get.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network and Drip.

HubSpot Podcast Network is the audio destination for business professionals who seek the best education and inspiration on how to grow a business.


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