An illustration of Gary Vaynerchuk in a white suit with his hand over his chest, looking upward as flowers surround him
Illustrations: Guillem Casasus

GaryVee Is Still Preaching the Hustle Gospel in the Middle of a Pandemic

His message is what so many desperate people want to hear right now. It’s also dangerous.

For more than a decade, Vaynerchuk has been an evangelist for a branch of entrepreneurism known as “hustle culture,” a philosophy that looks a lot like meritocracy, but with punchier slogans.

Now, as the unemployment rate hits historic highs, small business owners are fighting for survival, and Americans are settling into an uncertain, pandemic-driven recession, the call to hustle and grind our way through it seems even more seductive.

His ultimate goal, he says, is to acquire a legacy brand like Tootsie Rolls or Reebok, turn it into a $3 to $5 billion company, flip it, and use the windfall to achieve his life-long fantasy — buying the New York Jets.

Most of the people I interviewed struggled to pinpoint any tactical business advice they’d gleaned from Vaynerchuk. Instead, what people cite are his bombastic Jersey persona, and the feeling that someone had spoken to them with honesty.

Maybe, for better or worse, the point of a guru is less about dissecting reality than ignoring it.

Critics of hustle culture often talk about how it is used as a prop of the meritocracy myth, to explain who succeeds and who fails, ignoring racism, sexism, and other inequality in the process.

Author and journalist, writing and editing at Medium’s OneZero.

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