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The Surprising Side of Mark Cuban You Never See

Here's what you didn't see--or read about--from his appearance at GrowCo.
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Mark Cuban does an interview with Inc. President Eric Schurenberg during the GrowCo conference. 

Maybe you've heard about it. (Here's the full video.)

Maybe you heard Mark say, "I know I'm prejudiced, and I know I'm bigoted in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I'll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos (on the side he now is on), I'll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses."

And maybe that comment bothers you.

That is certainly your right. While I felt he was saying we all have our flaws, our blind spots, and our preconceived notions, and recognizing we do is the first step towards change...you could dislike him for what he said. Just as Mark has a right to say what he thinks, you also have the right to decide how you feel about what he thinks.

But there's something that happened at GrowCo you didn't hear about.

Volunteers are often the backbone of huge events. A number of young entrepreneurs, many of them associated with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, helped at GrowCo in exchange for access to some of the sessions.

The day Cuban appeared one young man spent the entire day manning the green room door. I started to feel sorry for him; here he was at this cool conference and yet he was stuck in a chair guarding a door in a lonely hallway.

At one point I stopped to chat. The volunteer knew Mark was coming in that afternoon. He was excited. He hoped to get a selfie with Mark. I didn't say so but I knew that would never happen: Cuban's time was tightly scheduled, plus local and national media were angling for time. The constant crowd of people, all wanting something from him, would make that impossible.

Mark arrived, did some taped interviews, came to the green room and chatted with Eric, talked to people with enough juice to get in the door--he could not have been nicer.

Then it was time to go on. Scratch that. It was past time to go on. People were hustling him to the door. Bodies were in motion. Urgency was in the air.

I happened to be just inside the door as they were sweeping past, noticed the volunteer sitting outside, and thought, "Oh, f-- it."

"Excuse me, Mark," I said.

A number of eyes narrowed. Didn't I know he needed to get to the stage?

He said, "Yes?"

"There's volunteer who's been stuck out there all day guarding the door. He would love a picture with you. Can I run him in here really quickly?"

I've been in situations like this enough to know it almost always goes one way: 99 percent of the time the celebrity mumbles, "Sorry," (if he or she says anything at all) and sweeps past.

Not this time. Mark stopped, smiled, gestured to David Head, and said, "Hey, let's get a picture together." And they did.

And here it is.


I've met Mark Cuban. But we only talked for 10 seconds, so I don't know Mark Cuban. But I like him.

Why? Just like you, just like me, Mark is the sum of all his parts. Yet we experience him in slices. One slice is what he said at GrowCo. You may not like that slice. Another slice is how he runs his businesses. Another is how he performs on Shark Tank. You may like or dislike those slices.

That's cool. We shouldn't like--much less admire--the same things. We shouldn't always agree with each other. We shouldn't always like each other.

But one slice that is hard not to like is a guy who, even though pressed for time and seconds away from going onstage in front of a packed auditorium, stops to do something nice for someone he doesn't know--just because he can.

That slice is really hard not to like.

I guarantee David won't forget that slice. And someday when he's a successful entrepreneur, I guarantee David will treat young entrepreneurs with the same grace and kindness.

I won't either forget that slice either, since it provides two great reminders.

One, it's easy to view people through the lens of one slice: a mistake, a misstep, a blunder... and then forever view them through the lens of that moment. Yet we're all a sum of our parts, and if we view people through the lens of that one slice we miss the rest of them.

Just as importantly, that moment is a reminder of something we can all do. Sure, we can't always provide significant help to people. We can't always write a check. And we can't always offer major chunks of time to those who ask, no matter how desperately they may need.

But we can always take a moment to be nice, to be gracious, to be kind, for no other reason than because we can.

And because the impact might make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

IMAGE: Corbis
Last updated: May 23, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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