Playing Dirty With the Miners of 'Gold Rush'
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It’s that time of year when I get inspired to go out to chase my dreams and my son gets inspired to go into the backyard and dig holes in my lawn. I’m talking, of course, about the premiere of the new season of Gold Rush. Now in its tenth season, Discovery’s no. 1 show follows the ups, downs and exploding machinery of the men and women tasked with digging for treasure in the Yukon permafrost.
This season features all of the cursing, equipment breakdowns and “Get that @#$%-ing camera out of my face!” moments we’ve come to expect, but there’s a new twist no one saw coming: government regulations that kick many of the miners off their reliable grounds.
You want to talk about risk? How about betting your multimillion-dollar season on a new mining claim that may or may not have any shiny yellow stuff hiding in the dirt?
Gold miners Parker Schnabel, Tony Beets and Rick Ness stopped by the Entrepreneur office in New York to discuss taking big financial gambles and leading men and women in seriously dirty and dangerous work for a new Entrepreneur podcast that will drop in the coming weeks. Here are some moments from that conversation.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Dan Bova: There are certainly jobs less taxing on your body and less stressful. Rick, you were previously a musician. When you told your family you were going into the gold mining business, were they just like, “Wait, what?”
RN: Oh yeah. My first year up there, I don't think my dad believed in it at all. He just didn’t get it. And I understand that. When I meet people and they ask what I do and I say I’m a gold miner, they’re usually like, “People still do that?”
And Parker, you grew up around gold mining your whole life and were mentored by your grandfather, who viewers came to know and admire on the show. Was there ever any other option in your head to do something else?
Parker Schnabel: Well, my mom always hated the idea of me not going to college. So I always intended on going and not pissing her off. But then I met Tony Beets and went to the Yukon —
Tony Beets: You’re blaming me?
PS: Yes, now I blame Tony so Nancy can be pissed off at him!
And Tony, what’s your gold mining origin story?
TB: I came from the Netherlands, of course. I hung around Alberta and BC for a bit, then I went to the Yukon for the money. They said you can make a thousand bucks a week, so I thought: If they get that, I'll get a little more. And that’s what happened. I guess I really like the lifestyle; that attracted me to it most. You do whatever you want, yell at people whenever you feel like it. And then there's the hunt, the treasure. I like it.
Rick, last season we saw you running your own crew, which was made up of friends of yours from back home. Is it tough transitioning from friend to guy-yelling-at-you-for-screwing-up?
RN: You know, sometimes I think it would be so much easier if it were just some guys I didn’t know as friends. But you do live in with them as well — it's not like you send them home at the end of the day — so I’d rather be with my buddies. I’m not much of yeller. I was as a kid but outgrew that.
Parker, you are … somewhat of a yeller.
PS: Rick outgrew blowing up at people; I didn’t. But I've tried to limit my outbursts in the last few years. They tend not to get you anywhere, I've found. And the biggest thing for me is just trusting that people are trying their hardest. That took a long time for me to realize. If you've got good employees who are invested in the operation, they are trying their best. And when they screw up, it's something I look at and think, a lot of times, that I probably would've screwed it up, too. So it should be much more of a conversation rather than a bollocking. The biggest asset any business has is the people who work there. When a bulldozer breaks down, you don't go with it start beating it with a sledgehammer.
TB: Well, sometimes you do!
Any embarrassing moments you know were caught on camera that you dread seeing on TV?
RN: I don't know about dread, but they caught me screaming at the top of my lungs at somebody. That’ll be interesting to see because that is not natural to me.
PS: I don’t get embarrassed; that’s my problem. Oh wait, I backed into a conveyor in my pickup this summer and destroyed a part that had just gotten replaced — for the second time!
How quickly would you have fired you if that was someone else?
TB: What did you say when you got out of your truck?
PS: "Well, I guess we’ll do what I was going to do later!" Jumped back in and drove off.
TB: I would have said, “Who the fuck parked that thing there?”
That's leadership, folks.
Gold Rush airs Fridays at 9 pm on Discovery.