Twelve and a Half Book Review

April 19, 2021 Length: 5 min Back to Posts

Gary Vaynerchuk is a guy that is all over YouTube if you are get into marketing. He is similar to a Seth Godin type of thought leader. Sharing nuggets of wisdom from his experience as a business owner and entrepreneur. Where he differs a bit from Seth Godin is that he spend more time on concrete examples and real life situations to help teach his message and ideas. Seth always seemed kind of in a higher, ideological, plain of existence at times with his ideas.

Gary’s book Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the emotional ingredients necessary for business success shows off this style. Many business and personal development books seem to take one concept like grit, devotion, or charisma, and draw out the content until it hits a certain page number. I recently finished a popular book Atomic Habits by James Clear which suffers from this. The content is great, but you can see a number of instances where it seems the author is repeating himself again and again to fill a page count. Spend a chapter on a concept. Spend another chapter on inverting the concept to see how it applies. Atomic Habits could have reduced the page count by 50 and it would have had the same impact. I was was a bit worried Twelve and a Half was going to suffer from this same fate, but it didn’t for a few reasons.

Basic Ingredients

The premise of the book shows that various attitudes and emotional approaches should influence how you communicate and deal with issues. Each topic is an ingredient that can be used later to create a solution to a problem:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Accountability
  4. Optimism
  5. Empathy
  6. Kindness
  7. Tenacity
  8. Curiosity
  9. Patience
  10. Conviction
  11. Humility
  12. Ambition
  13. Kind Candor (the 1/2)

Breaking apart communication styles into these types of subjects is a pretty interesting concept. The real world is complex and muddy. You don’t usually use one tool or approach when working with people. People are complex, and you often need a recipe of approaches to arrive at a solution.

The first half of the book goes over each of these ingredients, and a few examples explaining how it translates in the real world. The examples and perspectives are all from Gary’s point of view – which I enjoyed. Most books give examples from old famous inventors or other famous scenarios throughout time. Gary’s points and explanations seem less grandiose and more relatable as a result which I appreciated.

Part Two: Real life scenarios

The chapters go pretty fast in this book as Gary is pretty concise explaining each of the ingredients. The book quickly goes into real world problems that come up, and how he would deal with them with all the ingredients that were introduced in the first part.

I really enjoyed this pivoting and building blocks approach to the writing. There were a number of ingredients, so it is nice to approach them from a different angle. There are also times Gary separates out some of the similar ingredients like empathy and kindness which can be easily confused when it comes to applying them.

If you don’t own a business, many of the situations won’t directly apply. It is great, though, seeing the thought process on how decisions and approaches are made. There are many things I read on the news about a company decision, and wish I could be a fly on the wall understanding how they came to that solution. This gives a perspective on the process and why the approach was taken.

Leveraging your Strengths

A number of times in the book he mentions to leverage your strengths and have self-awareness with your weaknesses. This is not a new concept at all, but he shows this concept in a poignant example as he brings up his writing. Gary states he is not a very good writer. My mind originally shot to the front of the book to see all the books that he has written. Doubts came into my mind with his self-awareness. Continuing to read, he points out that he is currently in a room talking with a writer who is actually doing all the writing.

This “Aha” moment really sunk in with me. It started to make sense why his writing tone seems so conversational. Since I am more of a writer than a speaker, I never thought of doing writing with that type of approach. I could see that be more comfortable for someone that is better at speaking than with words.

After 30+ scenarios that he outlines, I was getting a bit burnt out. He probably could have kept the examples to around 20 and that would have been plenty.


This section is very short, with an idea on how to improve a certain aspect of the skills he has outlined. I wish the author would have spent a bit more time on this section than he did. I really like this idea of exercises, but the section just wasn’t very fleshed out. I think if there were a few more pages devoted to each ingredient on how to develop it, this could have worked. I would have rather had a more developed exercise section than so many scenarios in part 2. I think it is nice how he separated out exercises in a separate section at the end.

Most books tend to put exercises immediately after they go over a concept. While this is nice, it also doesn’t give some breathing room to take it in. Coming back later and see the exercises days after I read about the core concepts helps that reinforcement and repitition with learning things.


For a book I randomly picked up at the library, I was actually pretty surprised with how much I enjoyed this. I have been trying to take a break with a lot of these self-improvement type books in the past as they have been getting dull for me. The emotional intelligence angle Gary takes is refreshing. He doesn’t claim that his writing is authoritative, while adding he is still learning about many topics. I also really appreciate this style knowing that growth is always happening. Just because someone wrote a book doesn’t mean they are a master on a topic. It is ok to do something without being perfect.

Hi, I'm Scott

I mostly keep this blog to help me remember things. Writing is also a great way to understand things at a deeper level. I would highly recommend it if you don't write at all.