In 2019, I was fortunate to interview Gary Vaynerchuk in Las Vegas and Armenia after he performed keynotes at a smorgasbord of tech conferences. I nodded in all the right places as he talked about a future dominated by tech that would pave the way for virtual conferences, concerts, and remote working.
On the subject of podcasts, Vaynerchuk told me, “Joe Rogan is going to eventually sign a $100 million-plus deal to go exclusive on a platform because of the level of attention he has.” We all know what happened next. The world is now a very different place since we last spoke, and I find myself looking back and joining up the dots from our previous conversations.
Although he has an impressive track record of spotting the next big thing before most businesses, he continues to divide opinion. His brutal serving of the truth and New Jersey attitude is considered a little too loud and brash for some of his critics. Vaynerchuk’s rags to riches tale of transforming a humble liquor store into a wine empire and an ambition to buy the New York Jets is a back story that has been shared so often that his followers know it off by heart.
$2.3 million raised in a 12-hour TikTok stream
Nevertheless, having met him twice, I noticed a very different side of him that is seldom shared. Behind the tough exterior is a man who believes in patience, kindness, humility, gratitude, and helping others. Much of his charity work is deliberately performed outside of the public eye. But I caught up with him again after his 12 hours TikTok live streaming telethon for the All In Challenge.
The event raised nearly 900,000 on Vaynerchuk’s live stream alone. An additional 255,000 donation from Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the TikTok match deal meant that Meals on Wheels raised $2.3 million. He jokingly told me that, “going 12 hours straight with no food and bathroom breaks is a specialty of mine, so it was fun to put those talents into play.”
A responsibility to spread positivity
Thankfully, he practices what he preaches when it comes to self-awareness. His boisterous and excitable communication style puts him in the love it or hate it category, and nobody knows this more than Vaynerchuk himself. In a digital world where there are thousands of video clips of him swearing in front of large audiences, he admitted that he fully understands why some people may have a misperception of what, who, and what he stands for.
I know how I navigate the world, and it’s just so obvious to me that kindness breeds kindness. Good breeds good. We need to be louder about positivity. And I’m very focused on that.
Although he enjoys communicating about the merit of winning in the business field, his work for charities such as Pencils of Promise or the things he does for GoFundMe is deliberately private. He added, “pounding my chest and over-communicating my humanity feels a little bit more self-serving. I tend to stay quiet about those things.”
As a man who proudly wears his heart on his sleeve, the 12-hour TikTok telethon was much more than chatting with celebrities such as Howie Mandel, will.i.am, and Paris Hilton to raise $2.3 million. It was one of the rare moments when his online followers got a glimpse of his altruistic side, which is usually kept private for all the right reasons.
Why kindness is underrated
If you dare to look beyond the bravado, Gary Vaynerchuk has always spoken about the importance of humility, gratitude, and kindness. He chose to inspire rather than demonize the young and famously said, “Nice guys might be losing at halftime, but they win the game.” Despite being guilty of over-communicating to make sure he’s not being misunderstood, ironically, many still have the wrong perception.
Just don’t expect him to be cowering in a corner, feeling sorry for himself. Garry believes that if he is misunderstood, only he can change your perception of him. “It’s on me to create more narratives and more content for you to see what I am actually like.”
The global pandemic delivered a gut punch in terms of a massive financial hit with all of his speaking gigs now canceled. But as he attempts to steer his companies in the right direction, he notes that it’s actually about him. “If we build as humans, we keep getting better and stronger together.” These are just a few reasons why he is so focused on helping others right now.
Whatever your opinion or indeed perception of Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s clear to me at least that there is much more to him than the entrepreneurial hustle label that is often attached to his name. As we enter a period of uncertainty with a recession waiting on our immediate horizon, we need hope, optimism, kindness, empathy, and a selfless desire to help each other more than ever. Maybe that’s a message of Vaynerchuk’s that we can all agree on.
Published May 28, 2020 — 14:02 UTC