What Gary Vaynerchuk Learned About Masculinity From His Mom

The CEO of VaynerX on how he defines masculinity and why he teaches his children to be good, rather than masculine or feminine.

Changing gender roles are key to accelerating the culture shift around changing the way we work and live. Redefining Masculinity is an editorial package that investigates what it means to be a man in 2017—and beyond. As part of it, we’re asking a wide range of men across industries, ages and background to answer 6 questions about what masculinity means to them. Read more about the project here. Here’s Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerX.

Thrive Global: How would you define masculinity?
Gary Vaynerchuk: That’s a good question. I think, for me, it’s best described as a strong partnership. Someone who brings value to relationships, somebody who’s a listener and can team up with other men and women in whatever the task at hand is. I associate it very closely with confidence, mixed with humility.

TG: Who in your life shaped your view of masculinity?
GV: Probably a mix of my mom, my dad, and 1980s and ’90s U.S. culture. We’re all a byproduct of the media we consume. I think it would be naive to think that the images of male leadership I saw on television in the ’80s and ’90s didn’t have an effect on me. I’m sure that defined, in part, how I see masculinity. I do think that being part of an immigrant family, where I didn’t see my dad for the first 14 or 15 years of my life because he worked so much, had a huge influence on me. I also saw what a man was through the eyes of my mom: The way that she described my dad, my uncle, the male figures in my life… I feel like my mom had a big impact on my view of that.

TG: Was there a particular moment you felt you’d become a man?
GV: A good business friend of mine Harmon Skurnik (president and COO of wine distributor Skurnik Wines and Spirits) once said something to me on a wine business trip a decade ago: ‘You don’t really become a man until your dad dies,’ and that really stuck in my mind. I don’t know if there’s one moment for me—not getting married, not running my own business, not the birth of my children—that made me a man. It hasn’t worked that way for me. It’s kind of been running in the background at all times.

TG: How has society’s view of men changed since you were a kid?
GV: I think that society’s become more accepting of men being sensitive and emotionally supportive. I think men are getting more involved in the household and the raising of kids. We’ve definitely seen a trend going towards the middle, from both the male and the female side, away from the norms of the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. So, I think there’s been a progression toward a middle ground for both sexes.

TG: Does masculinity influence your work? If so, how?
GV: I’m sure in some shape or form it does, but when I think about myself, I don’t think about being a man or masculinity. So, it’s probably running somewhere subtly in the background, but it is super far away from the top of mind for me.

TG: What do you try to teach your son about what it means to be a man?
GV: Having a boy and a girl, I don’t really think about raising them as ‘being a man’ or ‘being a woman.’ I think that both boys and girls should strive for the best virtues of what the historic positioning of masculinity has been, which includes responsibility, and leadership, and work ethic, and providing for others, and being on the offense. They’re just good traits in general. I equally want to impress those traits on my daughter and my son.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of digital agency VaynerMedia. In addition to running VaynerMedia, Gary is chairman and CEO of parent company VaynerX, which houses VaynerMedia and The Gallery, a new publishing company started after Gary acquired leading women’s lifestyle property PureWow this year. Gary rose to prominence in the late 90’s after establishing WineLibrary, one of the first eCommerce wine sites. He is a venture capitalist, 4-time New York Times bestselling author, and an early investor in companies such as Twitter, Venmo and Uber. Gary recently launched his podcast, “The Gary Vaynerchuk Audio Experience” and appears with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Will.i.am on Apple’s first original series “Planet of the Apps.

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