Gary Vaynerchuk gets a bad rap. 

Sure, this serial entrepreneur and content creator’s in-your-face attitude and propensity for dropping f-bombs is a massive turnoff for many. Maybe his being all-in on NFTs has some people skeptical, or having a book titled Crushing It creates a perception that he’s nothing more than a “business bro” or hustle culture guru.  

It’s understandable if you don’t care for Gary Vee’s delivery. He’s definitely not for everyone. But don’t judge him until you’ve spent time paying attention to his actual messages. A great example of content that demonstrates what lies beneath his brash demeanor is his most recent book, Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success

Vaynerchuk’s sixth business book counters the notion that the path to success must include arrogance, cruelty, and cutthroat competition. Instead, he argues that the “hard skills” taught in business school must be balanced with the even more crucial “soft skills” that constitute emotional intelligence. 

In the first part of the book, he devotes a short chapter to each emotional ingredient and an explanation of why each one is so important to develop. His twelve ingredients are: gratitude, self-awareness, accountability, optimism, empathy, kindness, tenacity, curiosity, patience, conviction, humility, and ambition. He also includes kind candor, the ability to deliver honest, constructive feedback in a kind way, as his “half,” meaning the one he realizes he still needs to work on. 

Yes, some of these seem contradictory. For example, if you’re building a business, how can you be both ambitious and patient? Shouldn’t you be striving to achieve your goal as quickly as possible? As Vaynerchuck explains, ambition is essential, but without patience you’re apt to hastily make poor decisions and then quit when you fail to reach your goal fast enough. Patience, tenacity, and optimism work with ambition to keep you moving forward. 

Gary Vaynerchuk

In the second part of
Twelve and a Half, Vaynerchuk provides 35 scenarios to demonstrate ways of mixing these emotional ingredients to solve real world problems. For example, he lays out a scenario of someone who’s stressed out from working on a constantly short-staffed team and frustrated that management hasn’t made good on their promise to hire more employees. Vaynerchuk notes that he understands this frustration and that sometimes managers do take advantage of employees, stretching them thin to save money.

But, he advises approaching the situation with empathy, kind candor, and curiosity. Start a conversation with your boss by calmly explaining the problem, acknowledging that you don’t have all the context, and asking for help understanding what’s going on. This, Vaynerchuk argues, will be more productive than complaining or casting blame. Best case, the boss sees your perspective and works harder to hire more staff. Worst case, you decide to be accountable to yourself and your family and look for a new job. 

Gary Vaynerchuk’s Twelve and a Half should be required reading for any employee, CEO, or aspiring entrepreneur. Regardless of where you are on your own career path, this is a book you’ll find yourself returning to frequently. After all, developing and strengthening these emotional ingredients is a lifelong pursuit, and the more people we have putting these so-called “soft skills” into action, the better off we’ll all be. 

Support local booksellers. Order your copy at our Bookshop page.