Book notes: Twelve and a Half by Gary Vaynerchuk

Twelve and a Half by Gary Vaynerchuk book summary review and key ideas.

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Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success by Gary Vaynerchuk


“For decades, leaders have relied on “hard” skills to make smart decisions, while dismissing the importance of emotional intelligence. Soft skills like self-awareness and curiosity aren’t quantifiable; they can’t be measured on a spreadsheet and aren’t taught in B-schools or emphasized in institutions. We’ve been taught that emotional intelligence is a “nice to have” in business, not a requirement. But soft skills can actually accelerate business success, Gary Vaynerchuk argues. For analytical minds, it’s challenging to understand how to get “better” at being self-aware, curious, or empathetic – or even why it’s important to try. 

In this wise and practical book, Gary explores the 12 human ingredients that have led to his success and happiness and provides exercises to help you develop these traits yourself. He also shares what the “half” is – that emotional ingredient of leadership he’s weakest at and makes the most effort to improve. Working through the ideas and exercises in the book, he teaches you how to discover your own “halves” and offers insight on how to strengthen them. 

Gary’s secret to success is using these 12 traits in varying mixtures, depending on the situation. But how do we know when to balance patience with ambition? Humility with conviction? Gary provides real-life examples involving common business scenarios to show you how to use them together for optimum results. 

This iconoclastic book will help you refine your ingredients and improve your leadership capabilities. When implemented in the proper situation, these ingredients can help leaders land promotions, retain core employees, move faster than competitors, win the loyalty of customers, and build successful organizations that last.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I’m a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan so I was excited when I saw that he came out with a new book. I have no idea what this book is about but I’m sure it’ll be good. I’ll also link the book summaries I’ve written on his other books at the end of this post.

Key notes:

  • Business leaders nowadays tend to find safety in the black-and-white analytics and what looks good data-wise
  • When you can eliminate fear from your organization, very good things happen 
  • He does believe that the strong survive, but he believes strength comes from leaning into the humanity which will help you survive and flourish
  • Patience is the foundation or the crust of this pie when baking in these 12 ingredients for your success

My Half: Kind Candor

  • All of his unhappiness in business and life was because of his inability to deploy kind candor when necessary
  • The growth potential of most businesses is limited by the emotional intelligence of their leaders
  • Anyone who is responsible for another person is a leader
  • All ingredients when cooking are important, but they must be deployed in different proportions in different situations
  • When you value life as a whole over success in business, the game gets dramatically easier and wildly more enjoyable
    • When you put happiness over money and all of the material achievements, your day-to-day work becomes sustainable over the long haul

Part One: The Emotional Ingredients


Defined as the quality of being thankful. Readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness

  • People look upward at those who rank higher but they don’t look downard at the billions ranked lower
  • Positive emotional ingredients provide more sustainable fuel than negative ones
    • If you draw energy from gratitude, you’ll find that it lasts much longer than energy drawn from insecurity, anger, or disappointment 
    • Insecurity and anger can be tremendous drivers of success, but he doesn’t believe they lead to happiness


Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires

  • Self-awareness has a close relationship with self-love and self-acceptance
    • Self-awareness is acknowledging a weakness but not being hard on yourself
  • When you fully accept yourself, you’re no longer scared of other people
    • In real life and on social media, people tend to feel uncomfortable when they feel out of place
  • While you do need to have an acceptable baseline of improvement for your weaknesses, it’s also important to triple down on your strengths as well 


  • People love to deflect blame from themselves onto other people
    • The greatest misconception is that avoiding accountability will lead to happiness when in reality the reverse is true
  • When you blame others, you’re admitting to yourself that you’re no longer in control
  • Accountability is the most challenging ingredient for most people because their self-esteem is predicated on the outcomes of their actions


Hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something

  • Choosing optimism over pessimism is wildly practical
    • It doesn’t mean being naïve or blind to the downsides. It just means having confidence that you are capable of navigating any challenge
  • Ask yourself: what is your defense mechanism is when things don’t go according to plan?
  • Groups who have been historically repressed tend to draw optimism from the other successful people who look like them
    • This is one reason why representation is so important
  • Optimism makes playing the game more fun and enjoyable than winning


The ability to understand and share the feelings of another

  • When you’re more empathetic, you realize why people behave the way they do
  • Being kind is easy when it’s easy
    • Being kind when you’re under pressure is tough
  • Those who judge themselves harshly tend to judge others harshly as well
  • Some people confuse kindness with someone who is a pushover when they are not the same thing
    • You can be kind, candid, and hold your ground at the same time
  • Candor must come with kindness. How you deliver the medicine matters
    • There’s a reason why most people choose a doctor over another is based on their bedside manner


The quality or fact of being very determined. Determination

  • Tenacity and hustle should never equal burnout
    • Peace of mind and happiness are more important
  • What if you worked on a goal that truly meant something to you and that you loved instead of trying to buy something to prove something to someone else?
  • Conviction and tenacity work hand-in-hand


A strong desire to know or learn something

  • Curiosity mixed with empathy can lead to intuition
  • An inflated ego suppresses curiosity
  • He believes education is the foundation of success, but that you also have to weigh the value of the type of education you choose
    • Education can come in many forms 


The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset

  • When you have a good relationship with time, the pressure is lifted and you can do much more
  • Patience is one of the most important ingredients that children need to develop


A firmly held belief or opinion

  • Stating your convictions out loud is a vulnerability. You might be wrong
    • To him, conviction is like religion because it is like a strong belief
  • You need to love your work first because hard work isn’t sustainable without love and passion
  • Self-awareness can lead to conviction about your ambitions


A modest or low view of one’s own importance

  • He doesn’t like this definition because he sees it more as a modest, accurate, and compassionate view of oneself
  • Humility is a requirement if you want to cultivate a lasting positive reputation and leave an admirable legacy
    • Leaders can’t sustain success without it 
  • Humility is one of the most attractive traits human beings can have
  • Downgrading your lifestyle makes it more realistic to follow your passion or take a calculated risk in your career
  • His definition of humility would be “a comfort in one’s own understanding of one’s position in the world


A strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work

  • Ask yourself: what you want to achieve?
    • And more importantly: why you want to achieve it?

Part Two: Real-Life Scenarios

  • Cutting your losses is important, but limiting regret is important too
  • Becoming less pessimistic or more optimistic is all about who you choose to spend your time with
  • When facing your own life and business decisions, you need to deploy perspective
    • He gives aggressive examples of “what ifs” because these intense situations really occur
    • He wants people to think about their choices with the proper perspective
  • Gary asks his managers and others: it’s easy to be nice when things are going well, but are you nice when things are going poorly? Are you deploying gratitude when things are challenging?
  • Freedom comes from either extreme wealth or extreme perspective
    • Extreme wealth is extremely rare. But even then, many find that destination to be less of a cure-all than they had imagined
    • Extreme perspective is truly liberating
  • Have the humility to stay curious upfront and not divert the conversation when you hear something you don’t know about
    • Then be curious enough to learn more
  • Being kind, being gracious, being good is always the right strategy

Part Two: Real-Life Scenarios, continued

Part Three: Exercises

  • Gratitude – Record a selfie video talking about the five things you’re most grateful for in your life
    • Send it to a handful of close people to send back to you when you are complaining about something
  • Self-awareness – Answer a list of questions detest your level of self-awareness against people who know you best and their opinions on what the answer should be
    • awareness
  • Accountability – Think about a time when you deflected blame onto someone else for something that was your fault
    • Post on the social media platform you have with the most followers apologizing for it
  • Optimism – Find a handful of the most optimistic people in your contact list and reach out to them asking why they are so optimistic and use specific examples for a 15-minute conversation
  • Empathy – Reach out to one close family member and one close friend or colleague and ask about a time when they were hurt because of your lack of empathy
  • Kindness – Practice allocating part of your time and part of your finances for kindness
    • Find causes you can support financially and also causes you can support with your time and skill
  • Kind candor – Think about somebody in your life that you need to talk to with kind candor and draft an email as if you’re talking to them directly
    • Send it to
  • Tenacity – YouTube how to have good push-up form and do a 55 day push-up challenge
  • Curiosity – Ask your followers on a platform of your choice that you’re curious about a topic that you don’t know about that others may be passionate about and to request links and resources so that you can learn about it
  • Patience – Create a recurring calendar event that pops up at 9 AM every six months telling you you have time
    • Next, post positive statements about your 10, 20, or 30-year goals on social media and communicate how excited you are to still be on your journey
  • Conviction – Say out loud one strong belief you’ve doubled down on over time. Then say a believe you wavered from
    • Create and post a video on your thoughts on what you learned about convictionConviction. Say out loud one strong belief you’ve double down on overtime. Then say I believe you wavered from. Create and post a video on your thoughts on what you learned about conviction
  • Humility – Spend five minutes running on every single thing you’re not good at. Put this list up somewhere where you can see it every day
  • Ambition – Record a selfie video talking about your biggest ambition in life and post it on social media


Closing thoughts:

As expected, I really enjoyed this book. I’m glad that Gary has been consistently preaching the message of kindness, compassion, and empathy, and that this book is a continuation of that message outside of what he posts on social media.

I think this book was a great breakdown of the essential emotional ingredients that people need to be successful. Note that these are all “soft skills” and concepts, not necessarily hard skills that one would list on a resume. However, I agree with Gary in that these are more important.

Even though this book explicitly states that the ideas are geared towards leaders in a business or organization, be also heavily implies that these are actually needed for general happiness and success in life. I appreciate that the insights are applicable even to people who just want to improve their own mindset and happiness.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who deals with people and wants to have a more fulfilling working career with others. Since most people in this world will eventually work with others in some capacity, I see the ideas outlined in this book being relevant to pretty much everyone.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

I had three top choices for my one takeaway, but I ended up deciding on this one:

  • Positive emotional ingredients provide more sustainable fuel than negative ones

I chose this one because I used to think I needed to harness the negative energies in my life in order to motivate myself to achieve. I thought I needed to hold on to the feelings of insecurity to push myself, or the anger and competitiveness to keep the fire burning. In the past, I’ve also used the pain of regret and the fear of loss to drive me forward.

Nowadays, however, I try to focus on positive emotions to fuel me such as gratitude, joy, and compassion. It’s not easy, because many times it’s easier to harness our “dark sides” towards action. But I totally agree with Gary in that the positive emotional drivers are much more sustainable and have led to more happiness than the negative emotional drivers.


Gary Vaynerchuk describes the 13 emotional ingredients needed for success and happiness, as well as how to develop these traits.

Similar books:


Rating: 4 out of 5.


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