Power Players

This self-made millionaire says not all masculinity is toxic

VIDEO1:3101:31
Scott Galloway: Not all masculinity is toxic

Mens grooming legacy brand Gillette unleashed a torrent of response — both celebratory and deeply hostile — on Monday when it released a commercial confronting toxic masculinity, the #metoo movement and bullying.

As the behavior of men is increasingly publicly dissected, Scott Galloway, a serial entrepreneur who sold his company L2, Inc., reportedly for over $130 million, says it is very possible to keep yourself out from under the masculinity microscope: Just be a good man, he says.

In fact, Galloway, 54, has had to evolve his own definition of what it means to be a man, he tells CNBC Make It.

Scott Galloway, lecturer in Marketing at New York University, speaking at the DLD (Digital-Life-Design) conference in Munich, Germany. PHOTO: TOBIAS HASE/dpa | usage worldwide (Photo by Tobias Hase/picture alliance via Getty Images)
picture alliance | picture alliance | Getty Images

"When I was younger, I thought masculinity and being a man was being ripped, being buff, if you will, sleeping with as many strange women as possible and generally just making a s--- ton of money at work," Galloway, who is also a professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, told CNBC Make It in September. "That's how I defined masculinity."

After graduating from UCLA with his bachelors in economics in 1987, Galloway got a job in investment banking at Morgan Stanley. He partied. Quite a lot. And he's frank about that time of his career.

"Every night we would pool our vouchers — we got $35 each to spend on a car and dinner and my other analysts friends from investment banks, we'd come downtown in New York and we would get s----- drunk with other successful people," Galloway says.

"And then we go home, wake up about 9 a.m. to be in the office by literally at 9: 20. I lived across the street from work…. greasy food…. find a conference room to catch some sleep, and then somewhere between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., would feel human enough again that I would take a call from a friend who said, 'Hey, we're meeting a bunch of models downtown at [the club]. And I would agree to go out again," Galloway says.

It was during those years that being a man was about excess.

And Galloway did go on to make "a s--- ton of money."

In 1992, he graduated from UC Berkeley with his MBA in marketing. He has founded multiple companies: L2, a subscription business intelligence firm that he sold in 2017; Red Envelope, an e-commerce firm which he took public and sold in March 2008; and Prophet, a global brand strategy consultancy with more than 250 professionals. He has served on the boards of directors of Eddie Bauer, The New York Times Company, Gateway Computer, and Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

As he became more successful, his understanding of being a man evolved.

"As I've gotten older, I've found that masculinity — or the rewarding parts of masculinity — mean different things," Galloway told CNBC Make It.

"Being a responsible head of household that provides for your family and is a real partner with someone and raising kids and checking that instinctive box — being a good father, being a good husband … raising responsible, civic-minded kids."

"Philanthropy," continued Galloway, "that makes me feel important, it makes me feel as if I am killing it when I can find time and money to give to other people." In 2017, for example, Galloway donated $4.4 million to his alma mater, UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business.

VIDEO2:1502:15
Prof. Scott Galloway: Do this and you're guaranteed to be rich

Also, "being a man" involves civic responsibility, he said. "Voting. Being a good citizen. These are the things, if you will, that make me feel 'strong like bull' now. ... Simply put, decide that you want to be a man not a boy."

Galloway acknowledges that not all successful men behave this way.

"In our society, we no longer worship at the altar of kindness and character. We worship at the altar of innovators and billionaires. And our new heroes are people like Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey or Larry Page [co-founder of] Google, but I would argue that they're not acting like adults, and they are not acting like men, " Galloway said.

Musk, said Galloway, needs to "put down the blunt," while CEO Dorsey had to testify before Congress on topics such as Russian election meddling and claims of political bias by Twitter. Page, who is now CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, avoided testifying on similar issues, sending Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Capitol Hill instead.

"It feels as if we need a collective memo ... to Elon Musk and to Jack Dorsey and to Larry Page that, one, put down the blunt. Put on a tie, and show up. Respect for institutions, humility — this is what makes a man."

— Video by Claire Nolan

See also:

Google billionaire Eric Schmidt: 'Almost anyone who's successful has to start by saying they were lucky'

'The most powerful woman in start-ups' reveals a key moment from college that launched her career

Legendary Queen guitarist Brian May is also an astrophysicist with a PhD

VIDEO1:5601:56
Ann Miura-Ko says this moment from college helped launch her career
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

CNBC.COM