Gary Vaynerchuk on EQ, Storytelling, and the Value of Introverts

A couple of weeks ago I read an interview with extreme extrovert Gary Vaynerchuk, two-time New York Times best-selling author, and author of the upcoming book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy World. He mentioned something in the interview that really piqued my interest, and I was itching to get him to expand on it. I got that chance last Wednesday in an interview while Gary was between speaking engagements.

Gary Vaynerchuk

**The interview below is transcribed from a telephone conversation with Gary with minor editing for flow.

I’m excited to talk to you! I love this project you’re doing, this 365 interviews. Did you get a heads up on what I wanted to talk about?

I did not, I like to do improv.

Awesome. I want to talk to you about your thoughts on EQ, storytelling, and how you think introverts are going to play into these things in the next 5 years based on something you said in an interview with SkilledUp*, “We have been predicated on people being talkers as successful, right? The people that give information: talk, communicate, things of that nature – I think it’s going to be shifting very heavily for the listeners. And that’s why social is so important to me. That’s why Twitter became so important to me. You can listen and engage. I think that’s going to become a much bigger, much more valuable asset.” Can you elaborate on what you said there? How do you see EQ playing out in the workforce, in business, in entrepreneurship? What does that look like to you?

*SkilledUp interview link no longer appears to be working. Will update if this changes.

The funny part is, I actually don’t think this is a new thing, even though the way I answered it in that interview positioned it as a new thing. And here’s why.

I think we’re going through a techncial and data revolution. There’s more data than ever, and people are more efficient with the data they get. There’s a shift, because of the internet. A lot less of the actions we make and do and create are left to guessing, they’re actually quantifiable. Right? So Think about the way a shopper used to go into a store. You couldn’t really track (you know, there’s video cameras, and there’s some technology around this now, but not a perfect science) how you walked around a Wal-Mart. Right? You walked into a WalMart and you saw this or that endcap, and you walked down this aisle, then you did this.

You’re seeing more data, and more math, and more science around consumer behavior, but I don’t think what we have, and what we’ll never have unless we tap completely into the brain, is the “why”, right? The emotional why. The heart and soul and influence of why.

 We didn’t have the data on what we phsycially did, but now on any sophisticated website, we do. We know that you landed on the website, we track what you’re clicking, we track where you’re going, and we use that data to make decisions on how to make our products more efficient. I think over the next 1/2 decade to decade this is going to become a very very mature practice. And you’re seeing it, it’s happening every day. You’re seeing more data, and more math, and more science around consumer behavior, but I don’t think what we have, and what we’ll never have unless we tap completely into the brain, is the “why”, right? The emotional why. The heart and soul and influence of why.

With all this data now being mapped, what I think is going to be quite interesting is I think that there’s going to be a lot of value in people that have intuition. I think of data as something that tells the story after the fact, and can be used in theory to look at what you should be doing in the future, however, if data was completely mapping success, all the companies in the world that have been on data for a long time would have won by now. And to disregard the human element of that would be a huge mistake. and so I think that we’re going to go through something similar to how we’ve evolved to in society. If you think about it, in the 40’s, the 50’s, the 60’s, the man, the husband, the father was the central figure in a family. The Dad or the father or the husband was the “one”, and the mom, the wife, was the “two”. I think we’ve evolved, thank God, into a place where that is no longer the case and I think that’s what we’re going to see from the creatives and the EQ people. I think that they’re going to be elevated into a higher plane, much like the woman was in the 60’s and 70’s. I think we’re going to see the same thing happen towards people with intuition, people skills, motherly vibes, awareness, the structure around emotion. I think those things are going to have enormous value.

So that’s really exciting to me, and I meant to talk about this at the beginning, but the reason I wanted to talk to you is because you’re a self-proclaimed extrovert and love talking to people, and you have great intuition as well, but not all extroverts necessarily do. Introverts are naturally good listeners – and I indentify as an introvert – we do have strengths in intuition. But in terms of the workforce, and those things shifting, how do you list this on a resume, or how do you see this being tangibly sought after in business? What do you think employers are going to be looking for?

Honestly I think that’s education. I think that this interview is part of that process. I don’t think that’s going to happen over night. I don’t think you can write on your resume that you’re an extrovert, or your EQ skill is over index, and think that something’s going to happen, right? Or that you’re an introvert and you have listening skills that can be valuable. I just think the marketplace is not mature enough to consume that. 

I don’t think you can write on your resume that you’re an extrovert, or your EQ skill is over index, and think that something’s going to happen, right?

But there are leaders within organizations that are. So I think what it takes now is a lot of listening, and a lot of reading and a lot of keeping up on, to see who the leaders are. I mean you can get a job like that at Vayner Media because of that, right? Because I’m the decision-maker and I care about that and I’m talking about it outwardly. I would find the leaders and the companies that are talking about it. Zappos, you know, things like that. Find the companies that talk that way, talk about those things publicly, and try to get jobs there. It’s going to come from those companies.

If you’re going to put that on your resume or you’re going to reach out to someone and say that’s what you do, make sure it’s someone who actually has been talking about those kind of things, because if you do it out of left field for a company that hasn’t, it’s going to just seem too out of control.

Exactly and that’s why I wanted to get you to elaborate on this because I think it’s something that I wouldn’t necessarily advise somebody to put on their resume, but I really do want to stress the importance of companies starting to think about this more. I recently saw Susan Cain speak who wrote, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which is about the strength of introverts and how companies need to be shifting to recognizing those strengths and bringing both extroverts and introverts together. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the book, and you don’t have to be, but what are your thoughts on this?

I’m not familiar with the book, but obviously when that Ted Talk happened a lot of people reached out to me because I’m the reverse and they were asking me what my thoughts were. I haven’t consumed the video yet, but it’s not super hard to understand the value.

Ironically I think the business world actually rewards and understand introverts in a weird way more than they understand extroverts. Let me explain. Extroverts get the headlines, right? Extroverts get the headlines because they’re the PR person, or the face of the company or the celebrity endorser or they’re the charismatic CEO, but meanwhile every operations person is looking for introverts.  And honestly for an extrovert I’m also a very big operations person. I love building companies, I think about it a lot, I think about the efficiencies, I love structure, it’s how I’ve been able to build companies.

A lot of extroverts are a lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak. Every operator is looking for introverts, is looking for people that listen and most of all is looking for people that execute. A lot of extroverts are a lot of sizzle and not a lot of steak. And so it’s interesting, I oughta watch it to see where she goes with it, but I actually ironically think that most companies don’t have enough extroverts. I mean most of the people that I work with in corporate America, these fortune 500 compaines, the masses, the people that are executing? 80-90% are introverts or closer to an introvert than an extrovert. I think it just depends on how you look at the world. But I think executors, and people that have built companies, have long understood the value. I mean listen, you can’t have a company of everybody trying to glam for the headlines and sell the sizzle, you need a lot of steak producers and steak producers tend to be introverts.

Right. You know, I think about introverts that are in the headlines like Guy Kawasaki and Pete Cashmore of Mashable, and they’re crushing it in their own way and they are in the spotlight, but in a very different way than an extrovert might be.

So this is where it gets really interesting. You’re exactly right, this is such a good point.

I’m completely fascinated by the people that have become social media celebrities through the first age of Twitter, and how many of them actually don’t love people that much. That don’t love to go to parties and engage with people, that don’t stay for four hours after they give a keynote shaking everybody’s hands. I’ve always thought that that’s been my biggest competitive advantage. I’ve always felt like the reason I’ve been sticky and have clearly a long career ahead of me is because I do like that stuff and I do like people and I think that social is predicated on people.

On the flip side there are plenty of extroverts that just don’t like it, but are around the spotlight because its good for their business. You know, but there are varying degrees – 80%, 20%, 40%. and there are also people that for moments can be extroverts but prefer to be introverts, you know, I’m just extrovert at all times. But even I have my 3 or 4% of the time where I like to just put my headphones on and my hoodie on on a flight and not talk to anybody.  Nobody is 100 and zero except for the most extremes and probably they’re so extreme that very few of us know either one of them. I definitely feel like there are variations. I would say Kevin Rose, who was the original social media super star is pretty introverted in the scheme of things. So yeah, agree?

Yeah. I do agree. Susan Cain actually talks about how social media, or the internet in general, has been a really great tool for introverts because it’s not that introverts don’t like people, they just need to control the flow more. The internet really allows that. You can sorth through things and conversations and you get a little more time to reflect, and you don’t have to be “on” in the same way you do in person necessarily. So I think thats interesting.

I want to shift and talk about storytelling because this is another thing I’m really interested in and I love that you’re talking about it. I saw that you’ve got an upcoming book on this topic. For me storytelling is important in everything. In getting kids to learn something, in marketing, in every every everything. It’s all about understanding behavior, and how the brain works, and storytelling is a compelling way to get to that quickly so I just wanted to hear your thoughts and what’s coming up in this book. What prompted you to be talking about this and writing this book?

Storytelling is everything. It’s the only thing I care about, it’s what I want my tombstone to say, “he was a storyteller”. ~Gary Vaynerchuk I completely agree. That’s so funny. Storytelling is everything. It’s the only thing I care about, it’s what I want my tombstone to say, “he was a storyteller”. This new book talks about storytelling in the new world.  How do you tell stories in an ADD culture where people are spending more of their time on social networks than they are reading a book or a magazine or an article or watching a 30 minute television program or a three hour movie? Or at least recognizing that these platforms are in addition to these things that are taking time away from those things so how do you tell a story in a Facebook status update, a 140 character tweet, a 6 second Vine video? So I go through my thesis of why it’s important, I talk about how to do it per platform and the nuance of the platform and I do a bunch of case studies of status updates that are good, bad, or indifferent around each of the platforms that I think matter: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram. So that’s what the book’s about, it’s called, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. It talks about setting up those moments when you’re trying to story-tell something that you need for your business, by using the other stories that you tell that actually bring value to people and how to build a community and what the value is.

Awesome. I just recently spoke on the psychological context of all the different social media platforms and I think this kind of overlaps with that, at least what I’m hearing from you.

Yeah, it sounds like it.

Right, what is the mindset that people are in, the context that people are in.

That’s all I care about. When you’re in Pinterest, you’re thinking about buying things and you’re being aspirational. When you’re in Instagram you’re being an artist and expressing, so I’m with you. I mean, I think that’s all that matters.

In another interview you said, “being realistic is important, but being ambitious with realism mixed into it: that’s a winning formula”, and for me that sort of feels like a no-brainer, when you’re doing something you love, that those two things, the ambition and the realism will kind of naturally flow together. Do you think that’s true?

I think that people are shockingly black and white, and I think all the magic is in the grey.I don’t. I actually don’t. I think that’s where people struggle. I think it comes natural to you and I think it comes natural to me and I think that’s been great, but I think that people often fall into one category. I think that people are shockingly black and white, and I think all the magic is in the grey. So I think they’re either dreamers and not practical, or they’re so practical they’re crippled to do anything innovative, and I think the people that have a mix win and I think the grey is actually a minority not the majority. And what advice would you give to people to get into that grey area, if there was a way to sum that up. To find somebody that pushes you in the other direction. I had a very, very, very lucky upbringing. I was a dreamer and all that, but my Dad was so black and white practical the other way and I was influenced by that and so now when I look at the world I always have this notion, I basically don’t look at anything without thinking the way my dad thinks and that practicality layer has given me the balance that I needed to be successful. So go and seek somebody out that is actually quite different from you and pushes you into a different thinking, whether it’s a mentor or whether it’s a parent…always believe in yourself most, believe what naturally comes to you but start trying to create a filter that makes you think this other way because it pushes you and over time you transform into something in the middle.

This has been great, really, I could talk to you for another three hours. This is some interesting stuff, so last question. What are the three most improtant values to you in life, in general, whether it’s about business or whatever, in order of importance?

That’s a great question and the first two came super easy.

#1 Gratitude – I think that people are just not grateful enough and I think that when you really bet on gratitude and you become more grateful you become a much happier person and if you keep it basic, like if you’re grateful that you woke up and you’re alive and truly mean it and truly believe it, a funny thing starts happening. Everything else seems a lot less serious. and then you can level it up, I think that’s a very basic thing, I don’t think very many people can get to just that. For me it’s the health and happiness of everybody around me. The health of the first 15-20 people that matter to me in my life, if they have that on a daily basis, I can usually deal with any headache, any major issue, by just defaulting into reminding myself that that’s what I care about. And it always works. People should really spend a lot more time on this.When you start making all your decisions based on trying to make sure that every single person shows up to your funeral a funny thing happens - you start becoming a much better person.

#2 is self-awareness. I’m just obsessed with it. I’m very aware of my weaknesses, which is a shocking amount, and I spend a lot of time on my strengths. I know the self-awareness allows me to not be full of shit, self-awareness allows me to care about other people, self-awareness allows me to read the room and be entertaining and value-driven because I’m giving them things they want and not things that I want. So self-awareness is soemthing if you don’t feel you have, I don’t know how to teach it, but I sure recommend trying to figure out a way to teach it.

I would say #3 is the thing I think a lot about is legacy. You know, I’m not capable of thinking about my life in any other way than by how I’ll be remembered once I’m gone. When you start making all your decisions based on trying to make sure that every single person shows up to your funeral a funny thing happens – you start becoming a much better person. By becoming a much better person you start having a lot better things happen to you in business and I highly recommend it. And in life, by the way. I’m coming from a business filter, but also in life. So, yeah, gratitude, self-awareness, and legacy.

This was great, thank you so much! 

My pleasure, take care.

**Stay tuned for my thoughts on this interview, and an upcoming post on How to be an Introvert Ninja!

  • Linda Zimmer

    Even reading Gary’s comments can cause introvert anxiety – he’s so on the far end of the extrovert scale – and a delight to observe. :-)

    Being a “student” of visibility and its “currency” in modern life, I agree social media can be a leverage for introverts. Gary mentions analysis and execution as introvert strengths – but that tends to – and I sense he is unconsciously doing so – “sort” introverts into a “yes, but” category: “yes, but introverts are “good” at listening. At issue is the value placed on what is most visible versus those activities that are “supportive” in nature. Interestingly, even though social media is considered a collaborative, interest-centered medium, even in social media analysis there is a decided “extrovert” bias – for example, a “like” or +1 is “valued” less in platform algorithms, however a “like” for introverts may be as much a voice as a comment, video or share.

    The fact is that what is visible is rewarded and in a “real time” world, introverts have their work cut out for them. Social media is an enormously helpful tool – so developing the skills is essential.

  • Linda Zimmer

    To clarify what I mean (I hope) is that extroverts are more visible because of the nature and volume of their activity – and we tend to assign value to those things that are most visible. This is especially acute in a world in which what is visible one moment is invisible the next, so the more constant your visibility, the more value assigned to you. As far as metrics, platforms assign greater “engagement” value to comments over “likes” which again assigns greater value to more extroverted activities – not inherently “social” activities like “liking.”

    I completely agree introverts must recognize their strengths. Introverts are strong leaders, but in my opinion, we unfortunately believe “unleashing” introverts skills is equal to learning some extroverted skillsets (not a bad thing to do, btw). But introverts need leveraging skills more – and workplaces need to integrate “unconcealing” strategies into their leadership practices. Introverts happen to be great people to “see” that. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/Verilliance Verilliance

    “This is especially acute in a world in which what is visible one moment is invisible the next, so the more constant your visibility, the more value assigned to you.”

    So much yes to that Linda!

    And you’re right, I too think that introverts think they have to become more introverted. This is precisely why I wanted to get such an extreme extrovert to speak more on this topic, though I think this is only the tip of the iceberg (also, I think GV needs to read Quiet).

    I’m going to follow up this post with my thoughts on some of the things Gary said. For example, that introverts are good at executing things. Not true for me. As an INTP, I tend strongly towards idea generation and architecture, independent thinking, and problem solving. I always have to surround myself with people willing to execute because my mind gets quickly bored there, while it never tires of innovative problem solving.

    Which is really the point, isn’t it? That different people bring different strengths to the table, and if we’re only paying attention to the loudest, most visible person in the room, we’re potentially missing out on a LOT.

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