The Hustle Guy monetizing his midlife crisis
The YouTube channel TechLead hit rock bottom in a video uploaded in early June entitled "Living with my parents in my 'man cave' (as a millionaire.)" Patrick Shyu greets the camera with a stein filled to the brim with inky cold brew, and as always, he informs his audience that he is "ex-Google," and "ex-Facebook," with a net worth north of seven figures. Once again, he's here to whip us into shape; to show us how to live a life as enviable as his. Today, that means giving us a tour, MTV Cribs style, of the exiguous spare bedroom in his mother's household that he's currently shacked up in, due to an intensifying storm of personal calamities.
Shyu begins by superimposing a spreadsheet on screen that details exactly how much money he is saving now that he no longer needs to worry about rent, utilities, or groceries. It totals to about $27,000 over the course of six months, which, he says, represents about one fifth of the salary he made at Facebook before he was fired. "I don't have to cook, I don't even clean, really," argues Shyu. As far as he is concerned, moving home with your tail between your legs is a no brainer for any millennial coder still trying to cut their teeth on Union Street. "How can you beat this lifestyle? Maybe it's just too alpha for you."
He dismounts the camera for a quick spin tour. The living space is unvarnished and unloved with that unique, newly divorced energy, save for the centerpiece; an ancient La-Z-Boy chair moldering away in front of a whirring PlayStation 4. The austerity is intentional, asserts Shyu, so that he can maintain razor focus when he's gaming. If his fellow humans are unable to spend more than five minutes in this man cave without succumbing to a gauzy sense of dread, then that is a job well done. He pays special attention to a fluorescent lamp that dangles over his standing desk. "This light is probably my most prized possession, it's like the light of success." he says. "I essentially traded in my ex-wife for this, and it was a great deal."
Even here, deep into a phantasmagoric nadir, after all of his hedges went bunk and his bridges were burned—as his life twists away in a rapidly swelling crisis—Shyu rests easy. He still has full confidence that he's crushing it harder than everyone else.
Ages ago, TechLead was a normal YouTube channel. You can find the residue of its former demeanor if you scroll deep enough into the archive. Shyu presented himself as an ordinary Successful Tech Guy, advertising all of his implied laurels and bona fides whenever he had a chance. He proudly paid Palo Alto-sized mortgages, he sported a wardrobe exclusively made up of lithe, marine layer-ready North Face jackets, and he casually flaunted a deep portfolio endorsed by the FAANG powertrust. Shyu had played the game and won, and now he was here to help you get on his level. The typical TechLead video offered actionable wisdom for Stanford undergrads who meld Python literacy and Vaynerchukian psycho-hustle into that homicidal class of nouveau Bay Area capital spiritualism. He would recommend textbooks to read, and tell you what programming languages to learn. He pulled back the curtain on the watercooler drama of the Google campus, which is pornographic contraband to those who masturbate to the Social Network nightclub scene. "How to learn to code (quickly and easily!)" reads the title of a video uploaded in the summer of 2018. Shyu is sitting in an extremely Central Coast living room—replete with coarse river rocks and warm, homely beige—steepling his fingers, and educating the public on his rise to power. He was never quite the alpha that he'd later claim himself to be, but for a time, he let his credentials speak for themselves.
That all started to deteriorate last summer. TechLead's descent to giddy madness is a convoluted tale, but the first chapter of the derangement was a video posted on August 1 called, "My wife left me, (how success destroyed us.)" I have to imagine that this upload came out of left field for the channel's loyal fans. They were here to learn about app development and startup philosophy and now, this? What even was this? Shyu, for the first time in his YouTube career, appears entirely swaggerless while he wrenches through the saga. The apartment was empty—both his partner and his three-year old son were gone—and now, he needed to pick up the pieces. What went wrong? Well, in one of our first insights into the man's avaricious worldview, Shyu believes his relationship with his wife deteriorated because she simply did not appreciate the financial privilege of being with an ex-Google, ex-Facebook millionaire.
"Money makes small acts of kindness garbage. When I messed up, I tried to apologize by taking my wife to a seafood restaurant, getting her some chocolates, buying her a diamond Tiffany necklace," he says, towards the beginning of that video. "But she did not appreciate any of this stuff, because when you have tons of money, all of that doesn't really matter anymore."
Shyu continues, adopting a deliciously gluttonous, Drake-like myopia. The manifold libertine opportunities of being rich could be goddamn wearying, he says, especially when the other tech guys edged him out for a reservation at Dorsia. "How come everyone else is going to this $100 restaurant and we're not going there? Are we valuing each other? Do we still love each other if we're not going out to the best experiences that people, at our level of success, are attaining?"
Look, divorce is traumatic, and I am not here to assassinate a father for a questionable moment of public-vulnerability-as-content. That said, this was the moment where his YouTube platform entered the void. Shyu's confessional did over two million views, far more than the majority of the content that hits the TechLead channel, and naturally, the man decided to keep giving the people what they want. A month later, Shyu released a new video called, "Why my wife left me (how our marriage collapsed.)" It did an additional 1.2 million views, described an absurdly chaotic living situation wherein his ex-wife and mother were locked in an irremediable feud, and opened with a quote from Warren Buffett. Shyu added to the trilogy with another upload, "Managing & protecting money in a relationship/marriage," which kicked in 300,000 more views. That one, of course, focused entirely on the tyranny of alimony, which I think is the most illustrative genesis of Shyu's Jokerfication. He found a way to generate child support money by complaining about child support. Anything is possible with a fully monetized midlife crisis.
Within this period, Shyu uploaded videos with some of the funniest titles in the history of YouTube. "How to make hard choices, (as a millionaire.)" "What I wish I knew about side hustles, (as a millionaire.)" Yes, all of them end with that same parenthetical punctuation—"as a millionaire." I'm not sure if that's some sort of craven SEO bid or a weirdo personal tic, but the format certainly begets some incredible palindromic tongue-twisters. "The Millionaire mindset and the rules of money (as a millionaire.)" "5 Millionaire habits that will change your life (as a millionaire.)" My personal favorite: "Why I'm a Millionaire (as a millionaire.)" Shyu clearly recognized the tactics of other YouTube success-porn staples like Tai Lopez and Jay Shetty, but saliently, he merged those instincts into his newfound penchant for dangerous oversharing, frigid irony, and performative self-flagellation into a bizarre monopoly all his own. "Why I have no friends (as a millionaire.)" "How I became Confident (as a millionaire.)" "Why I only wear North Face (as a millionaire.)" And then, out of nowhere: "I haven't seen my kid in 8 months."
The actual content here is about what you'd expect. Shyu dispenses proudly bland life advice, advertising a rapacious dedication to ambition, dedication, and money mentality, over the cultivation of any sort of interiority beyond the vindictive motivation to crush those who cannot code as hard as you. (There is a post-crisis TechLead video called, "Why I am an 'Alpha' programmer," for example.) In that sense, the overarching philosophy of Shyu's videos hasn't changed much—he still believes that by dominating Python you may dominate life—but now, he augments that core belief system with a bro-Machiavellian bent. "What really puts me ahead is my testosterone," he says, in that aforementioned video. "And by testosterone I mean, intelligence." It is impossible to determine exactly how serious Shyu is being; if the new definition of his channel represents a post-modern examination of misplaced tech-sector hubris, or if he is simply enjoying the dissociative thrills of an extended breakdown, but his viewership numbers have only swelled in the meantime.
The market that Shyu is angling towards is clear; the past few years on the internet has given way to a number of quacks who believe that the red-ass male spirit, at its most id-driven, unlocks the universe's many sacred truths. It is the magical thinking that drives Mike Cernovich's weird gorilla fixation, or Jordan Peterson's sodium-poisoned all-meat diet, or all those bad Adam Carolla tweets. The grift is simple and efficient, and it begins by telling aggrieved millennial yuppies that their corporeal self-fulfillment is under siege. Shyu, as a crucial part of his metamorphosis, adopted all of that political thinking wholecloth. Now, alongside his rants against friends, or his ex-wife, or whatever the fuck a "beta programmer" is, you may also find a triad of TechLead videos calling out Black Lives Matter for "reverse racism." That's just another checkpoint in Shyu's glow-up; one does not truly master the reigns of the YouTube algorithm before demonstrating a worldview in line with the average Joe Rogan guest.
It's important to remember that throughout the entirety of Shyu's ubermensch rebrand, his life was very clearly and publicly falling apart. He is living at home with a PlayStation and a mechanical keyboard, wearing the same North Face jacket day, after day, after day. As an ex-Google, ex-Facebook, ex-husband, he has decided to go all-in on an increasingly disconcerting YouTube production that is centered around the bootstraps ideology of getting rich and demeaning those who are unable or unwilling to match your success. Thing is, it's brutally apparent how Shyu's proposed belief system isn't working for him, and how his relentless commitment to "Alpha-ness" has left him high and dry in every metaphysical sense. Who can preach from the Pulpit of Hustle when we can clearly see the Warzone match on pause in the background? Tai Lopez at least had the common courtesy to rent a Lamborghini.
That contradiction has led some within the TechLead orbit to wonder if his channel is actually a miles-deep work of performance art. Like, on the Andy Kaufman echelon of genius, serving as a devastating satire targeting the inherent deceit of the Keynote Speaker class. And frankly, there are plenty of moments—Shyu referring to himself as a "brogrammer," Shyu releasing a video called "My response to coronavirus/Covid-19 (as a millionaire)"—where I am completely onboard with that thinking. But what is funnier, and far more troublesome, are those in his comments who buy his pitches hook, line, and sinker. "This is unironically good advice," writes one commenter. "I've been back home with my parents since the outbreak and it gave me all the benefits you mentioned." (To recap: Those benefits include no cooking, no cleaning, and no rent.)
Shyu has done the impossible; he managed to repackage moving back in with your parents into an elite, technocratic lifehack. It’s just more evidence of how kind the post-truth era has been to the hustle industry; you can be literally anyone, and say literally anything, and there will still be plenty of easy marks happy to hail you as a visionary. And so, a sizable portion of Shyu's audience will hang on his every word, horny for Seven More Easy Steps To Become A Millionaire, (as a millionaire.) Every aspect of the man's life is in total freefall, and it's culminated in more influence than he's ever had before. What an incredibly cynical paradox. It might make you a little brainsick, too.