Everyone influences thousands of people — you don’t need to be a public figure, a celebrity or a professional Instagram or YouTube influencer. Your friends read your content and you influence them. They influence the people in their lives, who are ultimately impacted by your influence. Everyone can make a difference and it starts by being positive.
As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Adam Mendler. Adam is the Chief Executive Officer of The Veloz Group, where he co-founded and oversees ventures across a wide variety of industries: Beverly Hills Chairs, a leading office furniture e-tailer; Custom Tobacco, a one-of-a-kind cigar customization e-commerce platform; and Veloz Solutions, a technology consulting and software development practice. Adam remains active in each portfolio company, providing strategic guidance and support. Adam also provides business thought leadership as a contributor to Forbes, Inc. and Thrive Global; as a speaker to businesses, universities and non-profit organizations; as an expert cited in national media outlets; and as an advisor and board member.
Adam utilizes his professional, entrepreneurial and managerial background developed through a unique set of experiences. Adam worked for D.E. Shaw, then the largest hedge fund in the world, and Credit Suisse; for the strategic planning groups at William Morris Endeavor and Universal Pictures; at TWC Sports Management, a leading sports agency; and on a successful presidential primary campaign. Adam served as the Executive Producer of Virtually Israel; as a Strategic Partner and Advisor to Here Media; and as a consultant to the LAUSD. Adam is currently an advisor to the accelerator Fusion LA and to several early-stage companies. Adam created the Lessons in Leadership interview series, where he has conducted over 300 one on one interviews with many of America’s top leaders and influencers, including current and former Fortune 500 CEOs, founders of household name companies, decorated generals and admirals, and Hall of Fame and Olympic gold medal winning athletes. Adam graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California, earning a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Political Science, and earned an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, where he received the UCLA Anderson Fellowship Award. Adam serves as Chairman Emeritus of the USC Alumni Entrepreneurs Network; on boards for the USC Alumni Association, the UCLA Master of Applied Statistics program, the USC Casden Institute and Startup Grind USC; and as a founding member of the UCLA Anderson CEO Forum. A Los Angeles native and lifelong Angels fan, Adam loves sports, classic movies and TV, politics, physical fitness and backgammon.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Adam! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thanks for having me in this series. I’m looking forward to talking about a topic that is becoming more important by the day. Like most people, I’m still writing my story, but my upbringing was shaped by the people I spent time with growing in Tarzana, CA, a suburb in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. I actually named my company, The Veloz Group, after the street I grew up on, Veloz Ave. I stayed in LA for college and came back for business school, and after time spent working and interning for four huge companies, left the corporate world to become an entrepreneur. I have since built three different businesses in three different industries — Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions — serving customers across the country. In addition to running my different businesses, I write, speak and have an interview series; a lot of my work is focused on leadership and building better, more effective leaders.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Each chapter of my career has been filled with interesting stories and many lessons learned. What story is the most interesting? I am working on a book, so stay tuned.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out, and while I don’t think other people would necessarily find them funny, I can’t help but look back and laugh at myself. An important lesson is that everyone makes mistakes, so rather than pretending that you are immune to failure, embrace your missteps and learn from them.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am. I’m working on several exciting new projects, including a new podcast and a book. My goal is to share insights and advice that can help people become their best selves and become the best leaders they can possibly be.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
I have definitely posted comments that while good natured on my end have had the potential to be misconstrued, and I will usually delete them as soon as I realize that my humor might not be well taken. I have learned that a dry sense of humor doesn’t always translate digitally.
Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?
Social media has become a great way to communicate and stay in touch with friends, and it can be natural to crack the kind of joke you would between friends in person on a social platform. But in reality, posts are public and are written rather than spoken, so you are playing on different terrain. Even when you have the best of intentions, you can come to regret a post you make.
When one reads the comments on Youtube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?
Most people have a tough time being on the receiving end of even gentle, good-natured critiques by people they know in private settings. Unless you are the kind of person who embraces all forms of attention, brutal public criticism is all the less enjoyable.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
The biggest difference between the two is that online attacks are on public display. Verbal arguments in real life take place in confined settings and are thereby more easily contained. The effect of an attack online is magnified.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
People have literally killed themselves because they were embarrassed online. It pains me to even think about it, but it is a sad reality that everyone should be aware of.
Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever. Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?
There are a few factors in play. The internet allows people to feel more anonymous, and in turn, less subject to accountability or blowback. If I anger you, but you don’t know who I am, how are you going to hurt me? If I yell at someone twice my size in real life, I run the risk of getting beaten up, because that person can easily identify me, locate me and inflict revenge in real time. But when you pester someone from behind a computer screen, you are a ways away from the person you are targeting, often anonymous, and free of fear of repercussion. The internet also allows people to create versions of themselves that are disconnected from who they are in real life. People who struggle in real life can turn to the escape of a woke internet persona. They can act tough, throw elbows and take shots online that they never would in real life, as the online person they created and are pretending to be is distinct from who they actually are.
If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?
1. Use your social media platforms to spread positivity. Everyone influences thousands of people — you don’t need to be a public figure, a celebrity or a professional Instagram or YouTube influencer. Your friends read your content and you influence them. They influence the people in their lives, who are ultimately impacted by your influence. Everyone can make a difference and it starts by being positive.
2. When something touches you, share it. If you come across a heartwarming or inspirational story or message, share it. There is a good chance it will uplift other people too.
3. Be nice to people online. The world would be a better place if there were more kindness in it. Help by being nice to people, online and offline.
4. Avoid spreading fake news. Unfortunately fake news is rampant on social media, especially on Facebook. My Facebook feed is filled with stories shared by people I know that are not true. Do not become part of the problem.
5. Be your best self. The internet allows people to present a version of themselves to the public. We are all far from perfect, and most of us have more weaknesses than strengths. Play to your strengths and not your weaknesses. Social media can bring your goodness to light and you can make social media a better place by channeling the most noble aspects of who you are.
Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?
I am not a constitutional lawyer, though I did take a couple of constitutional law classes in college. I definitely appreciate the wisdom of the First Amendment in facilitating a marketplace of ideas that allows the best ideas to rise and the worst ideas to speak for themselves. But just as free speech is not absolute offline — yelling fire in a crowded theater is the most commonly used example of the legal limitations of free speech — I am supportive of limiting certain forms of speech on the internet. Bullying is bad and platforms should work to stop it, even at the expense of free speech. The same goes for hate speech, racism, bigotry, sexism and threatening others. I would also extend this to fake news and the spreading of false information, but my personal view clearly differs from those of the proprietors of websites that thrive off of the trafficking of negativity, even when the information shared is provably false.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
One of the biggest impediments to limiting attacks on Facebook and Twitter is the selective enforcement of the rules governing them. When the most prominent users use their platforms to bully others, they should be held to the same standards as everyone else.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love David Halberstam’s favorite quote, which he heard from Julius Erving: “Being a professional is doing what you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing it.” This quote is relevant to me on many days. When I don’t have my best fastball, I still try to work with what I have.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Barack Obama. I hope he reads Authority Magazine.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @adammendler and I am on LinkedIn and Facebook under my name, Adam Mendler.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!