Neither academese nor legalese can compete with BS.
David Foster Wallace described BusinessSpeak as dealing in “mangled pieties” which involved such things as missions and skills and resources and optimization and growth. This still exists, but there is now a New BusinessSpeak which has found its breath on Youtube.
Gary Vaynerchuck (known as Gary Vee to subscribers) and Tony Robbins are perhaps two of the most famous businessmen who are famous because of their online presence. They spend a lot time telling people how to be successful in business and in life, and there seem to be many other businessmen (and they do all seem to be men), who have also decided to do this too. They appear on my Youtube adverts and splurge advice for five irrevocable seconds before I can click on the skip-ad button. The form which this advice takes? This New BusinessSpeak. To watch any two of Gary or Tony’s Youtube videos is to come away with the vague suspicion that you have only watched one and a half videos. The reason for this feeling, (revealed once you have watched three, four, five of their Youtube videos), is because you spend most of your time trying to navigate an unedited word maze…
In these videos you will find a variety of Dying Metaphors, “you’re the last line of defense”; Phrases instead of Words, “the fact that”; Pretentious Nonce Words, “the flipping mentality”; Meaningless Sentences, “do everything and then allocate attention and resources based on the reality of everything”; Repetition, “fat watch”, “fat watch”, “fat watch” and “more, more, more, that is the answer”; Truisms, “there’s nothing that beats passion…nothing… because what passion creates is energy, and what energy creates is a lot of output in a short period of time”; Tautologies, “you’ve got to be fulfilled with your process, not with what you’re trying to get out of your process, if you do something to get something out of your process, you will always lose”; Platitudes, “the core to the foundation is patience”; Pleonasms, “have hunger that’s insatiable, always expanding”; Contradictions, “having the confidence to know that you’re special” / “you’re not entitled to be successful”; and Sporadicity. In this context, this last one describes how they jump from one thing to the next quickly, and, whether they know it or not, this makes their ideas dependent on them as individuals, as it is harder to criticise advice if you don’t know which position a person actually holds (see, contradictions).
To produce the amount of content that these people produce in this format might be suggestive of a certain superiority complex. To illustrate – a clip of Gary Vee. See how everything he says could have been said by a Russian Babushka talking to her granddaughter in the 18th century?
Gary Vee: “Getting closest to the sun is where all the leverage is, people don’t understand.”
Babushka: “Go and work for the landlord on the hill for leverage, the other serfs don’t understand.”
Gary Vee: “People will pay me $200,000 dollars a year to work for me in five years.”
Babushka: “Have sex with him too, and he might let you stick around for five years”
Gary Vee: “Right now, the biggest steal of all time, is to get Mark Cuban’s coffee.”
Babushka: “Right now, it’s the best you can do. Learn from your superiors.”
For all of Gary’s credentials, I’m almost certain that what he says here is bad advice. It can’t be practical for everyone to go around hunting for millionaires in the hope of getting them coffee (and presumably this is advice for everybody because it was uploaded online). Comparing himself to the sun is slightly arrogant. But if it is arrogance though, it’s not an arrogance that is unaware. Gary Vee once said (with complete conviction) to an audience of hundreds or thousands: “Nobody thinks less of me in this room than me.” Does the very fact that he has the audacity to utter this statement say otherwise? Superficially, yes, but it’s more that he felt the need to say it at all…
Because Gary Vee spends a lot of time thinking about what other people think of him, and, although my upcoming claim might seem paradoxical, what this means is that although he presents himself as a people person, when he actually does is treat the world with indifference.
Youtuber’s like Gary Vee know a lot less about the world than they pretend to, and the problem is that they know this to be true, and they don’t even care. A similar indifference was revealed in Mark Zuckerberg when he sat down in front of Congress and was made to look like a child who had been caught out by a surprise spelling test, but a child who knew that if he could just sit tight and guess his way through the questions he’d be able to escape without having to confront his own ignorance. BusinessSpeak Youtubers have countless moments such as this, in which their indifference is captured by their own camera. For example, in one video Gary Vee meets someone whose passion is for stock trading but who says that stock trading is really all about money. Gary corrects him and says it isn’t all about money. It’s about arbitrage. Okay, the man says, but what if the source of his passion was actually “palaces and bullet proof cars?” Gary’s responds: “Well then, do that. Just because I’m not into that doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. You do you.” In other words, Gary Vee doesn’t really care about the people he says he cares about, because as soon as the next guy walks in the door, if that guy is ambitious and his ambition would damage the world, (or the person who Gary last talked to), then Gary would help him do it. Gary’s Congress moment in which his indifference became startlingly clear was when he said: “Everybody wants to be a motivational this and a motivational that… they say they want to inspire people… and in the back end, they just want to make money out of those people… now, let me say, I don’t get to judge that, I don’t even get to say that its necessarily wrong… but it’s wrong to say you care about something when it’s a façade for something else.”
Gary Vee seems particularly non-reflective, but being indifferent about people while pretending for five-minutes that all you really care about is people, is something reflected across this particular online industry. Take Stephen Bartlett, who sometimes advises people who he doesn’t know on whether or not they should drop out of college. Maybe they should drop out, but he surely doesn’t know them well enough to be able to give meaningful advice in each case. People who come to him for advice already know he will tell them to consider dropping out of university, so he is mainly meeting with them to draw attention to the fact that he dropped out of university. That has to be his primary purpose, otherwise he could just direct everyone to one single hyperlink. Stephen Bartlett runs a influencer company called Social Chain, and his Congress moment was when he said in a vlog: “All of our content wherever its going to be has to be shocking, polarizing, inflammatory.”
Neither Gary Vee nor Stephen Bartlett seem to be bad people. They got lucky. The real problem lies with the platform – that of the vlog – which promotes BusinessSpeak people who are excessively indifferent to the lives of others.
Take Tony Robbins. He exhibits the same New BusinessSpeak traits: “We are made to be creators of our lives, and anything we can dream about we can create, and I know that sounds like positive thinking and just BS, but in your soul there have been times in your life I know….” blah blah blah (Tony, pointing out that your two-minutes on positive thinking was BS, does not negate the BS). Tony Robbins, however, uses BusinessSpeak not only to not care about other people and their understanding of what he says, but to charge extortionate fees for his conventions, conventions which he runs like an ecumenical preacher. He says things like: “Today you need a business map. The map is only valuable if you know where you want to go and you know where you are. If you know where you want to go but you lie to yourself about where you are trying to make it better than it is, you’re never gonna get there, who knows what I’m talking about here say ‘Aye’? Hands go straight up in the air. Of course they do. And people cry. They stand up and confess their business sins, and once they’re finished he talks about their “scabs of failure.” You have to see it to believe it.
Further on down the slide into Hell, and BusinessSpeak is employed by outright scam artists. These people do not say that for some, dropping out of college might be the best thing, they say that you, (‘yes, you’), you seventeen or eighteen year-old, you should consider dropping out of high-school. Iman Gadzhi – who self-promotes as a seventeen year old Dan Blizerian – has apparently built multiple businesses since dropping out of school at seventeen (despite, apparently, not coming from a rich family, and despite, apparently, growing up in a single parent household) and GUESS WHAT! – he wants you to do it too!
BusinessSpeak empowers people who are, to varying degrees, indifferent to society. Insofar as they are interested in people, they are interested only in the person in front of their face. Essentially, they are promoters who are uninterested in philosophy, and although many of them pretend to be philosophically minded, they, like Pangburn, won’t be missed. According to Richard D Altick: “The inviable rule of good scholarly writing is: Say what you have to say, and when you’ve said it, quit.” This rule is not so stringent for speaking as it is for writing, but if it were to be followed at all, then they should have all quit a long time ago.