‘Candour has been a kryptonite for me’: Gary Vee

A serial entrepreneur, author, speaker and Internet personality, Gary Vee talks at length about how changing our attitude towards technology can liberate us from our own biases

By Yasmine Mustafa and Laraib Anwer

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Published: Fri 31 Mar 2023, 6:37 PM

As cryptocurrency, NFTs, online investing and AI are subtly replacing college degrees and nerve-racking job interviews, there is a new route to moneymaking and success rising in the 21st century. A face frequently seen on the Internet, Gary Vaynerchuk, more famously known as Gary Vee, is someone you might have seen on your reels. A serial entrepreneur, author, speaker, and Internet personality, he is the Chairman and CEO of VaynerX and VaynerMedia respectively, a contemporary global creative and media agency, and the creator of VeeFriends. He was recently named among the Top 50 Influential people in the NFT industry by Fortune.

Having humble beginnings, the Soviet-born American went on to start his digital ad agency in 2009 and is now someone who has helped kids get out of their basement and lead a better life. Having an Instagram following of 10 million, Gary is known for his insightful advice on using technology and latest trends to carve a path to success and offers advice on all that is business on his podcast, The GaryVee Audio Experience. During his visit to the city, the New York Times bestselling author talked about the secret to success in the new age, how important empathy is in the world of business, and the often-ill-perceived notion of technology among GenZ.

Empathy Versus Decisiveness

In his sixth book, Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success, Gary Vee unravels the 12 emotional tools that are vital to both business and life, and help in laying a strong blueprint for a successful future. When it comes to the ratio of empathy and decisiveness that one must possess, Gary views empathy as a medium to decisiveness rather than a counter. “If you can actually feel the other person and take in their feelings —whether it’s one person or the world or a target you’re going after — leaning on that curiosity and empathy leads to decisiveness.”

It is often assumed that leaders must keep a stoic face, rather than unleashing their vulnerabilities. Gary is here to quash that stereotype. Asking for feedback from your employees is one way to do that. “Leaders should be looking for feedback because that’s how you make better decisions. I think what’s more interesting is that you can put your employees into a place of feeling safe to give you the truth,” says Gary. That, to him, is the most interesting challenge.

Leadership rituals

In the current new world order, which is drastically contrasting to what the business environment looked like in the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, Gary strives to build something meaningful. He introduces the unexpected side of kindness in using candour as a leader and remembers how he always struggled with candour and being honest with his employees as he was never someone who enjoyed conflict. “I don’t like hurting people’s feelings. I’ve run my own business my whole life and so I know when I’m telling somebody something , say they’re going to get fired, they’re likely to go home and have a tough night, and I think that’s on me.”

In his book, the author unpacks the term kind candour as a means to finding a way to tell someone they aren’t good at their job without hurting their feelings majorly. “I always say ‘in my opinion’ because you’re making a subjective call. First 20 years of my career, I tried to tell them in roundabout ways. Candour has been a kryptonite for me and I’m in the process of getting better at it.”

On the other hand, criticism is a crucial aspect of work when it comes to managing a team. “If you’re constantly telling them it’s great, or not giving any feedback, the entitlement can seep in. You also create a lot of internal dynamics that are not healthy if your A players are seeing that your C players are being treated the same way. It eliminates the ambition to be an A player,” says Gary, while maintaining that candour should be used as an excuse to be manipulative or unkind to someone.

Should everyone become an entrepreneur?

With the terms influencer and solopreneur on the rise, and the wide access to resources, becoming an entrepreneur may seem like everybody’s cup of tea. But Gary disagrees. “I think everyone should consider it, but one must deploy self-awareness. The biggest reason I’m scared to say everyone should consider it is that most people will not achieve success in it.”

Trolling, criticism and bashing ridicule have become the side-effects of social media, and Gary believes that most people are not ready to face it. That is the price that comes with the visibility that these platforms give us. “You’re not deeply self-confident. The reason most people are failing today at it is because they don’t have the stomach for it. They do it for a couple of weeks, somebody says they’re not smart, they’re not pretty, they’re not good, and it kills them,” says Gary. Selfishness and the greed to achieve materialistic things in a brief span of time is another reason why people must consider taking up these roles. “People’s selfish reasons often manifest in their content and all their content is filled with aspects like richness and beauty. If anything, it leads to our own insecurities, and people have contributed to this ecosystem in a very selfish manner and I don’t think that’s sustainable,” says Gary, as he emphasises on the notion of finding a balance between selfishness and selflessness while improving your self-esteem.

Forecasting the future

Rather than predicting trends, Gary sees himself as an observer. When NFTs boomed, and billions of dollars were spent on them by people hoping to make it rich quickly and easily, Gary had started making videos about how the industry would go back to zero.

“Everyone is getting captivated by AI and ChatGPT. Yet, we are demonising it because we’re scared of this big new technology. It is going to have a great impact on our society,” says Gary.

He explains how he thinks we are currently in the pre-era or the beginning of Web 3, where one can sense that new technologies are in the horizon. “A lot is going to change in the next 30 years, and what I would tell people is that instead of being an ostrich and putting your head in the sand and saying this is bad without any education, spend 20-30 hours getting educated on the new things and then make an educated decision for yourself and your family.”

So what trends is Gary observing these days? Currently, he’s immersed into following the attention that platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and TikTok are gaining. The culture that is heavily prominent on these platforms and the human interests that are gaining the most traction.

Where is the youth headed?

‘Quiet quitting’ is not so quiet, after all. Why is a growing population of the youth moving towards these changes in worklife? “I think it’s a game of options. The youth is not doing anything other than living out their options. If you can, in very simple business terms, make $80,000 a year being a creator on TikTok and getting ad revenue with brand deals versus making $57,000 a year doing a job that you don’t love, you are going to pick the former every time,” says Gary.

At a time when millennials and boomers are quick to call the youth entitled or lazy, the entrepreneur believes that the Internet has given ‘kids’ options that didn’t exist before, and rather than being disinterested, they are aware of these options, which is challenging businesses to provide more value.



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