What's driving Mr Beast?
If you have teens and/or an enquiring mind, you'll have come across Mr Beast, the alter-ego of YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson. As well as his entertaining money-splurging, risk-taking set pieces, he's known as an environmentalist, philanthropist and mentor.
But there are aspects of his approach that people like less. His stance of 'accepting everyone' - which on the face of it sounds laudable - leads him to keep some dubious company, and some of his activities can feel exploitative.
How does he align the two sides of his approach?
Donaldson's choices are deconstructed in this entertaining, well-informed and balanced critique by fellow YouTuber Jimmy Robins, who asks the question 'Is Mr Beast Ethical?'.
My observation is that Donaldson is leaning most strongly into his vision when he makes his choices. Whilst from outside his perceived values seem to be in conflict, I think that is looking into the wrong direction, and confusing commercial decisions with ethics.
His vision is quite clear. If you follow him on LinkedIn you'll see this goal: "On a mission to be the biggest Youtuber of all time." Now, whilst he also says "I want to make the world a better place before I die" - and indeed many of his actions support this - if we look at his overarching ambition can contextualise what his values actually might be.
If Donaldson decided to write down his core values, perhaps one would be 'To make an impact'. This underpins the dizzying scale of his YouTube numbers goal, the changes he makes to people's lives (most recently paying for cataract surgery for 1,000 people), the planting of 2m trees, the sheer scale of his generosity - all the positive stuff. It also aligns with less pleasant aspects of his work, like his partnerships with people like Andrew Tate, IShowSpeed and Joe Rogan; divisive people who cause a stir.
Another might well be 'To be happy'. As he says himself "Do not email me asking for money, I give away money because it makes me happy :)". Since it's increasingly understood that meaningful relationships, purposeful work and giving back to people are the key drivers of happiness, Donaldson is doing the right things to bring himself that reward. His colleagues are largely close friends and the joy in their work is palpable.
With 131m subscribers he's advertiser catnip, which has so far delivered a personal fortune of between $25-100m dependent which reports you read. Late last year he valued his business at $1.5bn. He's given away $1m in one show, committed $2m to supporting emerging content creators, given away an island, the list goes on - and on the way, he's become YouTube's highest-subscribed individual with 20m more subscribers than his closest competitor PewDiePie.