I am a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s energetic, sincere, generous, funny and accomplished. Gary is a New York-based entrepreneur who started by growing his father’s business, brilliantly invested in start-ups like Facebook and Uber, runs a successful international marketing enterprise and has mastered the art of personal branding. One of the traits he lays claim to, and I admire most, is EQ (emotional intelligence); Gary has excellent interpersonal skills, is explicitly aware of his influence on the ambitious young men in his audience, and often says he intends to make “kindness cool” because “doing the right thing is always the right thing.”
Because of his influence and his legacy aspirations, it was especially distressing to hear Gary endorse exploiting other people in direct contradiction of his message of doing the right thing. In episode #315 of his YouTube podcast, Gary interviews celebrity basketball trainer Chris Brickley. At the start of the episode Chris describes how hard it was to break into in his career, being broke, eating crappy food for years and, unfortunately, living with a woman and acting as though he was her boyfriend when he “really didn’t like her like that”, and who “maybe she might have thought” he loved her, so Chris would have somewhere to live near his work.
I don’t know how Chris really feels about doing that but, when I watch him in the video he seems to feel uncomfortable about it, to realize exploiting this woman was wrong. He describes it as “fucked-up” when he ended the relationship as soon as he got a promotion at work and no longer needed free accommodation. Chris’s guilt and regret are a credit to him. Gary’s reaction is where things go wrong. Instead of allowing Chris to express his regret and taking the opportunity to ask Chris what he wished he'd done instead, Gary defends the exploitation of this woman by saying it’s common practice. But Gary, is doing the right thing always the right thing...unless doing the wrong thing common practice?
I was really horrified was when Gary begins to defend Chris further by speculating that perhaps this woman was exploiting Chris in return, or enjoyed her experience of that year. Apparently, this is “real talk” because “people make trades”. I wasn't the only person hearing this who was shocked as Gary mentions that his entourage “are stunned” by the story and Gary's justifications. A credit to them. Who knows how this woman viewed the experience but Gary, is doing the right thing always the right thing...unless the other person is doing something wrong too? Yes, people make trades but, there are fair trades and unfair trades - a fair trade doesn’t include cultivating one-sided affection with someone.
Let’s just make this really clear. Allowing, even encouraging, someone to believe you love them when you don’t is wrong. Taking advantage of someone financially is wrong. Occupying time in someone’s life when they could be using that time to get closer to their real ambitions is wrong. And defending your own wrong-doing is wrong. If you’ve ever met a person who is wary of relationships because someone used them, you know the effects of exploiting another person is real and long-lasting. Exploiting a woman (or man) doesn’t make them distrust you, it makes them distrust all men, distrust their perceptions and distrust the very idea of relationships.
You do the right thing even if it makes you feel bad. The purpose of life is not to be happy but to be worthy of happiness.
I still believe Gary is a good guy. I think I know what happened during the interview; Gary could see Chris was feeling bad about exploiting this woman and, being an EQ guy, Gary wanted to make Chris feel better. I feel exactly the same way with my friends; I want to explain-away problems so they feel better, but mostly, so I feel better - it’s really uncomfortable watching your friend struggle. However, the truest resolution of the situation is to explore the mistake, accept responsibility, learn, correct yourself and compensate the other person.
In episode #315 Gary made a bad trade, he traded a small good thing for a big bad thing; he chose to console his friend and simultaneously told tens of thousands of young men who admire him it's okay to exploit women to get ahead. Please pull the video Gary. I reckon Chris would appreciate a chance to re-do the interview and express his regret and Gary could take the opportunity to make sure everyone knows that there are plenty of ways to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing to do.