Already a member? Log In

VandeHei in Full

Jim VandeHei
Jim VandeHei possesses an irrepressible penchant for evangelism that, for more than a decade, has compelled him to preach the gospel of self-confidence and competitive spirit, first to his employees and later to Axios subscribers. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
April 24, 2024

In the first chapter of his new business and self-help-ish book—appropriately titled Just the Good Stuff: No-BS Secrets to Success (No Matter What Life Throws at You)Jim VandeHei, the Axios and Politico co-founder, reveals that he recently acquired a tattoo on his right shoulder. It’s a seemingly unexpected corporeal modification for a Midwest-bred, D.C.-based media executive who typically favors the town’s drab and flareless sartorial style. The tattoo reads “Zotheka,” a Malawian term he first encountered during a mission trip to East Africa with his two sons, which translates to, “It is possible.” Zotheka “nails the animating spirit of my view on work, life, health, and the purpose of this book,” VandeHei writes. (It is also the name of his wife’s foundation, which provides mentorship and financial aid to the underprivileged.) “You might roll your eyes at this cheesy lens,” VandeHei continues, betraying some self-awareness, “but the mere fact that a middling dipshit like me could rise to the pinnacle of American journalism, then become C.E.O. of two highly successful media start-ups—and then persuade you to read this—shows that truly anything is possible.”

These opening lines actually reveal a lot about VandeHei’s character, which I know from having worked for him, circa 2011-15, at Politico, and having covered his various exploits ever since. Jim is at once fiercely self-confident, optimistic, and competitive, with a whatever-it-takes professional ambition reminiscent of an earlier, glorified generation of media executives. He also has a penchant for straight talk that, at its best, yields pithy and cutting assessments of his competitors. (The words “middling” and “dipshit” are not reserved only for himself).