Kelly Corrigan sits down with entrepreneur, author, and professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, Scott Galloway, to have an unfiltered and insightful conversation about the state of tech, business, education, and politics in today's world.
Spring--I know your kids
just applied to school--
used to be a time of nervousness but joyous.
Now it's become the season of despair,
where good kids who play by the rules
don't get into their university of choice,
and they end up basically buying a Hyundai
for a Mercedes-like price. Yes.
Because the most corrupt and well-enforced cartel
in the world is not OPEC.
It's Higher Ed in the U.S.
I am not usually a fan of full-throated conviction,
but when it comes to essential truths, I'm all ears.
Scott Galloway is someone who will happily claim his talents
and in the same breath point out the systematic advantages
that favored his success.
He's a public school kid who's founded 9 companies
and sat on the boards of the "New York Times"
and Urban Outfitters.
But to his nearly 100,000 NYU students to date,
he is the wildly entertaining Prof. G.
I'm Kelly Corrigan. This is "Tell Me More"
and here is my conversation
with the bracing and persuasive Scott Galloway.
Are you in the ear of any politicians?
I get invited to D.C. a lot, and what I find with our
elected representatives, every time I go down there,
I'm actually inspired. I generally--
Really? Oh, yeah.
Generally find that they're good people
wanting to do the right thing.
And do you talk to people on both sides of the aisle?
Yeah, a lot, mostly about big tech.
Where their eyes really get wide is when you talk
about the scale of things-- a 30-something-year-old-man
who's a college dropout whose first professional endeavor
was a website evaluating women on their physical appearance
now controls the content of a population of
the Southern Hemisphere plus India and could be with us
for another 50 years.
When I type in "how to overthrow a government,"
do I get instructions on how to build a dirty bomb
or a voter registration form?
93% of that time, it comes from one company.
Amazon has added the value of all retail in Europe
and Africa in the last decade.
That's when you really see them start to recognize
the scale of this problem.
We afford these companies a lot more license than we've
afforded any other companies.
Why? Because we need Gods,
and the closest thing to mysticism is technology.
I mean, it really is.
I don't understand how this stuff works.
Google's our God.
Jack Dorsey is our new Jesus Christ.
That is not healthy.
These are individuals, and the majority of their doctrine
is not love the poor.
It's whatever is required to move their stock price up.
To me, it's this fetishization of innovators
and this idolatry of the dollar
is really unhealthy.
Kelly: But of course, there are tons
and tons of millions of people
who point the finger at Zuckerberg and Bezos.
Like, it's not universal applause.
Yeah, it's pretty close.
I think that these individuals have effectively
These companies are just held to a different standard than
any other companies in history.
And one of the key steps to tyranny is when private power
There are more lobbyists, full-time lobbyists
in Washington, working for Amazon
than there are sitting U.S. senators.
Who should we be following?
I mean, everybody has their heroes.
I'm a big fan of Angela Merkel because she kind of does
the work and is quiet about it.
I'm a big fan of the co-founder of Amazon
MacKenzie Scott, who decided to give
$1 billion away quietly
to places like Cal State Fullerton.
I mean, there's inspiration literally everywhere.
Val Demings, Senator Michael Bennet.
I find these people--
I think there's inspiration everywhere.
I want to talk about wealth and opportunity
and happiness. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
And I feel like you've lived a couple different lives.
So can you tell me about growing up
and who were your people and what did they do
and what did you want?
So I would describe my household as
upper lower middle class,
raised by a single immigrant mother
who lived and died a secretary
and used to think that I'd overcome something big.
Then when you realize as you get older is that
yeah, you're the child of a single mother,
but you were born in America.
You're born in the sixties as a white,
male heterosexual in California.
It's fun to talk about what you've overcome,
but the reality is, I was dealt a pretty good hand.
And you guys were living on 800 bucks a month,
you and your mom and your sister.
Yep. We weren't in poverty.
We didn't have an opulent life,
but we could take vacations, we had health care.
You could go to UCLA.
There was much more mobility. Do you think?
Yeah, I think so. I'm not a humble person.
I think I'm remarkably talented,
but I didn't have good grades,
but I didn't test well either,
but I still got-- Nice to meet you.
Good to see you. That's right!
You join the club, and you went to a great school.
And I went to a great school. When I applied to UCLA,
the admittance rate was 70%. Now it's 9%.
So I don't think the opportunities are nearly,
for a certain demographic, as strong as they used to.
Me and my colleagues had become drunk on luxury.
The deans of our university stand up every year
and brag that "This year,
We turned away 88%, 90%, 92% of our applicants."
That's nothing to be proud of,
because it creates artificial supply
such that we can raise tuition
1,400% in the last 30 years.
Right. What did you do with your UCLA education?
Well, I returned the generosity of California taxpayers
with a 2.27 GPA, but it was good enough to get me a job
at Morgan Stanley. It was?
Yeah. Boy, that's changed.
Yeah. Well, I lied about my grades.
You did? I did.
Yeah. Not proud of that. Mm-hmm.
But then I got into Berkeley.
And again, Berkeley is a public school.
Yeah, another public school.
So you probably didn't go into debt.
I had no money When I went to UCLA.
I showed up to Berkeley with a 1984 Honda Accord, 700 bucks,
and my total tuition undergrad and grad was $7,000.
Everything was doable. You didn't have this fear
of coming out with hundreds of thousands in debt
and wondering if you didn't get a job
in investment banking
how were you ever gonna pay this off.
So you talk about income mobility.
That is decreasing mobility because people
aren't always going to where they should be going.
They're going to where they have to go
to try and pay off their student loans.
What's a real solution that might actually happen?
So, 2/3 of students, Higher Ed students,
end up at public universities.
Florida State or Ohio State are going to graduate more kids
than the entire Ivy League.
So, the way we move the needle is the public universities.
And we need to take UCLA back to where it was,
70% admittance rate, not 9% where it is this year.
We need to force the universities, hold them
accountable to not reduce their costs, which I think is
impossible, but use a mix of small and big tech and remote
learning to dramatically expand their supply.
So if you take 50% of your courses online, and you could,
then you overnight effectively double supply
because it's not only a cost issue.
It's an opportunity issue. And that is, Spring--
I know your kids just applied to school--
used to be a time of nervousness, but joyous.
Now it's become the season of despair,
where good kids who play by the rules
don't get into their university of choice
and they end up basically buying a Hyundai
for a Mercedes-like price. Yes.
Because the most corrupt and well-enforced cartel
in the world is not OPEC.
It's Higher Ed in the U.S.
That's quite a statement.
And so then you came out of HASS.
Yep. And what did you do?
My second year, I took a course
with a professor named David Aker.
He taught brand strategy, and I thought,
"This is what I want to do with my life."
I talked about-- Why?
Well, he just talked about the importance
of yellow in Caterpillar and it meant rebuilding Europe.
And he talked about what it meant that you could take
12 cents of sugar and caramel syrup in a can.
And if it meant America and youth,
you could sell it for a buck.
And I thought this is what I want to do with my life.
And so I started-- It's kind of trickery.
Yeah, I bet it was very attractive.
It was attractive trickery.
Yeah, promise on top of performance
to get irrational margins.
"Choosy moms choose Jif."
So we'll take 20 cents, a peanut butter paste,
and turn it into $2.00 of maternal love.
Ha ha ha ha! I mean--
It's a good bargain, right?
Uh-huh. Yes. Yeah, for sure.
You're so aware of the trickery,
but you're such a consumer of it nonetheless.
Oh, yeah. No, do as I say, not as I do.
I knew I wanted to be in it, started in my second year
a firm called Profit Brand Strategy.
And so, yeah, started a consulting firm.
I think you started 9 companies.
Have you started 9 companies?
Yep. What's your record?
Generously, I'm probably 3, 4, and 2.
And 2 pushes?
But yeah, they weren't losses.
They were firing balls of disaster.
Ha ha ha!
And what I realize is that one of the many wonderful things
about America is no one failure was fatal for me.
Why is that? What values make that possible?
We're believers in second chances.
We not only embrace risk, but we tolerate failure.
Yeah, part of your secret sauce clearly is nerve.
Would you say? I mean, you seem very gutsy to me.
Like you seem like a person that could walk into a room
and kind of razzle-dazzle 'em...
and walk out with some money.
Go on. So I was a young male
with a shaved head in nineties San Francisco.
Yeah, I was optimized to raise a ton of money.
We tend to romanticize entrepreneurs that they're
people with additional skills.
My entrepreneurship was a function not of my skills,
but my deficiencies.
I wasn't going to be successful at a big company.
I was too insecure.
If people went into a conference room, I thought
they were talking about me.
And so for me, and I think most entrepreneurs,
entrepreneurship was a defense mechanism.
And were you happy?
Yeah. I was...
I don't think I can point to
any time in my life where I was unhappy.
I was pretty happy. Yeah.
Let me put it this way, every--
every year, I've hated my life less and less.
Ha ha ha!
There's something about that phrasing that
definitely implies that there were unhappy times.
Yeah, well, look,
I mean, I decided to reset my life.
I got divorced.
I left the board of my company RedEnvelope,
another company I'd started.
Let's pause on RedEnvelope,
because that was sort of a big--
As long as we're not pausing on the divorce!
RedEnvelope was a big dust-up.
I mean that was a lot of tension and stress.
Yeah. We were the only retail IP of 2002.
And I got into a war with the probably the most successful
venture capitalist in history who was chairing our board.
Who was that?
God, you're really gonna get me in trouble.
I am. Mike Moritz,
arguably the most successful VC of all time.
I felt like he was using the company as a dumping ground
for the failed products of his portfolio companies.
I said that in a board meeting,
and on the way to the airport,
they called me and told me I'd been kicked off the board.
Did you see that coming?
Did you think "If I say these words--"
No. Totally flummoxed.
I remember getting out of the car at SFO
and being paralyzed not with fear or anxiety,
but just not knowing what to do.
That was kind of a professional low point,
you know, living in a seniors community with my dying mom,
and having spent a lot of money on a failed bid
to retake control of what I saw was my company.
But here's the thing.
You just never know what's gonna go.
A year later, a bunch of activists
hedge funds called me and said, "You're crazy.
but you're our kind of crazy," and they backed me to do
a bunch of other activist deals and I ended up doing
that for several years.
So you just never know where even those types
of disappointments are gonna take you.
How long did you live with your mom?
7 months and 2 weeks.
That's a long time.
My mom said when she got diagnosed for the third time
and we knew this was it, you know, I said,
"Well, what do you want to do?
And she said, "The only thing I want
"is I want to die at home.
"I don't want to die surrounded by strangers
under strange lights."
How old were you?
I was 38.
How old was she?
You know, it's tough to be a 38-year-old...
and you think of yourself as a master of the universe,
kind of alpha male
who can't get over the death of his mom, right?
That's not something that's a good rap.
I didn't cry. I just felt nothing.
And I also didn't feel any motivation.
I didn't feel any desire to get on with anything.
I just felt like I was hollow, like I could pop.
And what got you past it?
You know, speaking to people and grief counseling--
I joined a group of other people--
and making a concerted effort to talk about it,
and then ultimately meeting somebody that I
fell in love with and had kids with.
This is waiting out there for everyone, I hope.
Because if that type of grief isn't waiting for you,
it will have meant that you haven't had really
So we have a special segment on "Tell Me More."
It's called Plus One, and it's our way of reminding everyone
that we have a tremendous effect on one another
and that nobody gets anywhere alone.
You have talked about the importance of picking
a great partner. Mm-hmm.
You have a wife, but you also have a work wife.
Mm-hmm. I do. Tell us about Kara.
You know, she's-- I owe Kara a lot.
I sort of work my ass off for 30 years,
and now I'm an overnight success.
And a lot of it was, she had a vision for this podcast.
So I'm really grateful to Kara.
She's got a very big ego, but she's egoless
in the interviews.
She makes people seem more insightful than they are.
We went to talk to your Plus One,
and here's what Kara had to say about you.
I love tech for its ability to transform people's lives
in really positive ways.
When it really hit the nail on the head,
I was at Duke for a fellowship, and I downloaded a book
onto my crappy compact computer, and I was like,
"Whoa, I just downloaded a book" and I messed up the system.
I messed up my computer, everything else, and I kept
saying, "I downloaded a book," and the system engineer
at the school was like, "You suck. You ruined--"
And I was like, "No, I don't. I downloaded a book."
And I kept saying that, and he's like, "So what?"
'Cause they were like computer people.
And I was like, "Well, if you could do that,
you could download anything."
And so I kept saying, "You could do music,
you could do everything.
I think I did see it early, early on,
and I kept seeing it.
I was like, "This is a big deal,"
and that's why I changed my life completely.
I started my career at the "Washington Post."
I was walking out of an interview for a book
I was working on on AOL, my first book on AOL.
It was a beautiful day in New York, and I walked out,
and I thought, "I'm leaving the 'Washington Post.'
"I'm gonna write about the Internet, like this is
gonna be so big, this Internet thing."
This was super early in the 1990s.
You could see how bad it could go and you could see
how good it could go, and I hate what they've done to it.
It's very hard to regulate a lot of it
because of the First Amendment that protects these companies,
not people, which is fine.
They should be able to do what they want on their private
capitalistic platforms, but their ability to grab
all kinds of information from you is really disturbing
on every level.
Obviously, our history is littered with powerful people
who make decisions for people who are unelected,
but in this case, they can see every bit of your life.
One of the things, when I start off in reporting,
you do suspect people like, what are they trying to spin me?
What are they trying to say? What's their messaging?
What do I have to like get past to get to the real story?
But actually, the real question is what they're lying
to themselves about.
What do they need to have said about themselves
so that they can feel good about talking.
And everybody has a thing.
So if you figure out what everybody has to have known
about themselves, you can even learn a lot more.
You have to respect the person's point of view.
You don't have to agree with them and you have to
say it out loud.
What I hate is when interviewers sort of
shake their head and then add on layers of narration.
That's really obnoxious.
Like, I hate that. You better not do that here.
My favorite interview is with Elon Musk.
Interviews. There's been so many.
I met him when he was a nobody,
So, we have kind of a really interesting relationship.
Silicon Valley has a lot of big minds
chasing small ideas.
And I think he's a big mind chasing big ideas.
And I've interviewed Mark Zuckerberg several times.
I think very few people are capable of handling
the responsibility he has, and he's certainly not up to
the task of massive sociological issues.
There's political issues.
He's like a world leader without any world leader experience.
And by the way, our world leaders are very good,
and they're good at-- better than him.
He wants to create an all- enveloping universe around you
of reality, and he's really bad at it.
Interviewer: Ah, but you like him.
I do. Why do you like him?
Because he's a nice boy from Chappaqua, New York,
but I think he's lives in a bubble and he doesn't tolerate
dissent very well, which is normal.
Scott Galloway. Ah ha ha!
Great moment in my history.
From being a lesbian, it's kind of--
some of my most productive
relationships have been with men.
I was at a conference in Germany, and he came up
and gave one of his very funny presentations.
And he started talking, and I thought, "What a ..."
Then I'm like, "He's right," so I invited him on the show
and we had a great time.
We had such chemistry. It was crazy.
We were both improving each other.
It's like a romantic relationship,
but it isn't romantic in any way, by the way.
And so I said, "I'm gonna do a show."
I'm gonna do it with him," and that's how we started
and that was that.
Scott, you're welcome.
I made you famous, and you can't do anything without me.
Just so you know. You keep trying, but you can't.
It's you and me, baby.
Do you love working with her?
Yeah, I do.
When I'm with her, it's fun. It's really easy.
It's really fun.
So, that's a blessing.
Are you surprised that you work with her,
like that that came together?
They gave her a list of much more famous, credible people
than me to be the co-host, and she chose me.
I admire Kara a great deal.
She's a leader in her community.
Kara wanted to go to work for National Security Apparatus,
but she refused to be closeted.
Everyone respects her because she was very brave.
So, you know...
She couldn't be a spy and be gay?
No, it was don't ask, don't tell.
You weren't allowed to say.
She refused to stay closeted.
OK, I'm gonna give you 4 quotes of yours
and let you defend or retract.
This is called Defend or Retract.
4 quotes from Scott Galloway--
OK. to Scott Galloway.
1--"We are barreling toward a nation
"with 3 million lords
being served by 350 million serfs."
Yeah. CEOs. make 300 times
what an average worker makes,
and we've exploded minimum wage from $7.25
to wait for it...$7.25.
So we have decided that we want to go back to Central America
in the fifties and sixties and have a Hunger Games
where a few people have a remarkable life
and everybody else kind of dies a slow death.
Some people say that the existence of a middle class
is just kind of an aberration.
100%. Like, it isn't natural.
It's not organic.
You have to commit to holding that together.
The middle class is an anomaly, and we have to decide
if it's a gray ballast for the democracy and the incredible
prosperity we have and it is, and we have to make
We have to make infrastructure investments.
We have to make investments in education.
We have to have a progressive tax structure.
To think that it's just gonna survive on its own,
that it's just an organic thing,
you're absolutely right.
It requires a massive investment.
All right, let me give you another one.
"To put it simply, our nation has said
to people under the age of 40, "... you."
Yeah, I got mine. You get yours.
For the first time in U.S. history,
a 30-year-old isn't doing as well
as his or her parents were at 30.
That has never happened in our history.
The percentage of wealth controlled by people
under the age of 40 as a percentage of GDP
has gone--in 30 years-- has gone from 20% to 9%.
We've cut their wealth in half.
Why young people who make all their money from working
as a bartender or working as a home health aide,
why do they pay a higher tax rate
than people who make money on stocks?
Who owns stocks? Older people.
This bailout--$7 trillion to ensure that the NASDAQ
and ensure that the Dow went up.
And when we reach these levels of income inequality
and a dearth or desert of opportunity for young people,
the good news is, it always self-corrects.
The bad news is the mechanisms of self-correction
or correction are war, famine, or revolution.
We have, in my view, revolution.
I think a lot of these social justice movements
are all warranted,
they're all righteous, but the underlying incendiary
is income inequality.
If you're attaching to a relationship.
If you're attaching to a job, if you're attaching to school,
if you're attaching your country, you don't protest.
I mean you're civically minded,
but you're not angry.
The most dangerous person in the world
is a young, broke, and angry male, specifically,
and we are producing too many of them.
My generation has decided that future generations
and younger people should pay to keep me rich.
What's 3 changes you would make to tax policy?
Well, immediately eliminate capital gains.
I think one of the things I would do has been done,
and that's child tax credit.
46% of the people on food stamps are kids.
And we're the wealthiest nation in the world.
We should start acting like it.
And I think a recognition that 2/3 of young people aren't
gonna end up with a traditional college degree.
So a massive investment in vocational training.
Kerry: OK. So here's another Scott Galloway quote.
"The response would have been different
if it were killing thin, white people."
Yeah, we've largely outsourced this pandemic to old people
in seniors homes, not deliberately,
but if you look at the response and who this has
really taken a toll on, it's disproportionately
overweight people of color in low-income neighborhoods.
If Amazon stock had gone down 60%, you would have seen
a different reaction.
When the van with the smile rolled into my driveway
to deliver my Nespresso pod,
someone in a white coat would have jumped out
and jabbed entire family.
I think the response would have been much different.
Well, you made this great point that
within days of World War II breaking out
that Chrysler was manufacturing tanks.
But in this moment, this global pandemic,
there wasn't a surge of patriotic activity
in service of the country.
The dirty secret of this pandemic is that if you're
in the top 1%, much less, the top 10%, this pandemic
has meant more time with your family and your wealth
If the NASDAQ had been cut by 50% or 60%,
if someone had walked into Walmart without a mask,
we would have tased them first
and then had a conversation around liberties after.
We have conflated liberty with selfishness and an inability
to sacrifice like previous generations have.
In 1941, when the draft went out,
a lot of young men understandably said, "My dad
"went over there 20 years ago and was maimed or killed.
"My mom is widowed. We're impoverished.
I'm not going back."
And we put 5,000 of them in jail.
And now we don't want to ask people to mask?
We don't want to demand that people get vaccinated?
We let organizations distribute
I think we have totally lost the script around
the sacrifice that's required to maintain the prosperities
we take for granted.
You know, it's funny when you read about Jonathan Haidt,
your colleague at NYU,
and "The Coddling of the American Mind"
and all of the risk for professors right now
to offend or trigger.
You seem like a person that might get into a little
trouble here and there with the way
you phrase things, but so far, OK.
Mmm, I've gotten into trouble. What I've been blessed with
is the leadership at NYU when I say something stupid
or I cross the line and they start getting--and I'm not
exaggerating--hundreds of e-mails from angry alumni.
I've always had deans who have always protected me.
Academia is meant to offend people
as long as it's data-driven,
as long as your heart's in the right place.
We're meant to provoke.
Universities were initially put outside the city center
so they could say provocative things.
The whole basis of tenure is you have cloud cover
to say things that may not be in vogue at that point,
and universities have gone exactly the opposite tack.
I think it's very dangerous right now.
What will stop it?
I think there's a recognition among parents and even among
the students themselves
that we shouldn't be graduating wokesters.
We should be graduating warriors, and warriors are
deadly, they're trained, they see both points
of the argument, they get incredibly strong,
and they leave their sword in their sheath almost always.
We need people to be strong, not safe.
Systemic racism in the U.S. is a really terrible thing,
but the question is, how do we fight it?
And I worry that in the places that are most diverse
and inclusive in the world,
we've decided to declare war on each other.
Kelly: This is the "Tell Me More" speed round.
Are you ready? All right.
If your high school did superlatives,
what would you have been most likely to become?
I was voted most comical and Steve Martin, so a comedian.
Ha ha. If I looked at your Spotify playlist,
what would be at the top?
"Even Losers" by Tom Petty.
Right on. If you could change one law
or flip one Supreme Court case...
I'd want to double down on "Roe v. Wade."
Who was the last person to make you laugh really hard?
I'm a transistor.
When I hear other people laugh, I laugh.
What's your go-to mantra for hard times?
Nothing's ever as good or as bad as it seems.
The Go-Gos, Greek Theater.
Ha ha! The last book that blew you away?
Yeah. When was the last time you cried?
I cry all the time.
I cried last night, watching Loki.
My son came over and started rubbing my head,
and that was a nice moment.
I cry once or twice a day. It's wonderful.
A piece of advice I would give to young men
is embrace the sloppy side of you.
It's really rewarding.