Finding the courage to embrace change and take chances is the only way to succeed. We’ve asked some of our favorite industry power players and business innovators to share stories of how #MakingChange worked for them, as it relates to the ’10 Rules to Future-Proof yourself, fearlessly innovate, and succeed despite uncertainty’.
Rule #10 Stay Relevant with Gary Vaynerchuk – CEO of VaynerMedia, New York Times’ Bestselling Author and Technology Investor
Q: Social media mavens didn’t exist when you first parlayed yourself into becoming one. What qualifies someone for the job?
Gary Vaynerchuk: I think that qualifying yourself has a funny way of working itself out. The question, “why me” is predicated on this enormous cultural shift; now we have platforms that allow people to break through and opportunities they would never have before. If you were to ask me, “why you?” Ten or twenty years ago, I would have said, “because somebody decided so.” An editor or producer.
There’s less serendipity of breaking out than ever before because as people become educated on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter it becomes more of their own initiative to have the perseverance of putting out the content that can change their lives. For me, why me is because I have a gene that makes me think about the long term and not worry about the short term ROI which enabled me to step away from my wine retail business and start creating content that takes chances without having a clear ROI in front of me.
Q: Why do you think more people don’t think several steps ahead? How was your business growing at that time?
GV: The business was growing very heavily. Social media obviously amplified it and grew it to the next level but my business was very healthy actually. It was growing 30% year after year for 5-7 years which is what makes me willing to shift away from it even more ridiculous, right? I wasn’t shifting away from something that was stagnant. As a matter of fact, what’s even more interesting is that the first month I started doing TV and trying to build my brand was completely correlated with a step back for the first time in 8 years. So it was one step backwards and seven steps forwards. The real answer is patience and having big ambitions. I want to buy a billion dollar sports franchise and that’s not going to happen with one or two quick moves.
Q: How much of this would have happened if you didn’t put yourself out there?
GV: At some level when you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t think of yourself as having [serious guts]. I don’t know any different. To me, I consider myself fundamentally conservative because I always want to have some money in the bank and by comparison I’m dramatically aggressive and take high risks. You don’t know any different when you’re an entrepreneur.
Q: What advice would you give others hoping to break through?
GV: I think that it is screw it. We’re going to be at a cross section of talent and effort like we’ve always been and the people that are going to win are going to have that talent and that hustle and that mix. My one piece of advice is to bet on your strengths. I think that is such a big deal. I am blown away by how many people continue to work on things they’re not as good at. I think that makes them much more in the middle and it’s a mistake.
Q: How much does formal education matter to success today?
GV: I was a very bad student. I talk about things predicated on my reality and not on theory. I was a crappy student, so what did I do? I didn’t try to read more science. I spent more time studying the prices of baseball cards and in high school I spent more time studying about wine, not less. That’s paid a lot of dividends for me and I can see it over and over again.
Q: Why doesn’t that pedigree seem to be as big a deal when it comes to success?
GV: Supply and demand. There’s so many people that are going through the education system and they’re being pumped out to look exactly the same. The curriculum has never been more outdated because the real world moves faster than ever and the education system is just not capable of keeping up with that innovation.
Q: What have you found that the most accomplished people tend to have in common?
GV: I think it’s the ones who are able to block out their weaknesses and just focus on their strengths because there’s a lot of variations. Some people are just grossly talented and others are such workaholics and hustlers and some predicate on their people skills. Think about how many people we know that are victorious 95% because of their people skills. The world is people driven. Other people are just so damn creative that they won’t be denied. Others are so math, operations, and utility smart that they won’t be denied. You have a mix too. The funny part is the people who know me best are actually mad that I have such heart for being an operator. I’m now running VaynerMedia, my creative agency with my brother AJ. I’ve been running it for the last 18 months and instead of more magic, I’m running a client-service business. A lot of people think it’s a waste of my time. I respect operations and the ability to build a business. If you’re like me and you want people to listen to you, you have to earn it by building a business. I think people can go at it a lot of different ways but the only common theme for me is blocking out what they need to work on and going all in on what they’re good at. Isn’t that who the celebrities of our society are? Actresses and actors, athletes, musicians? I think that’s something we need to pay attention to.
Q: What are the odds that people are going to be able to break through the noise today and do what they love and apply these principles?
GV: Without context you don’t really know. If you are under 25, for you not to make your first move trying to build some sort of business around what you love is ludicrous. The diminishing returns and the upside, the scale is so tilted. There is no time that you can waste three years of your life and not have it impact you as much as your first three years out of school. The context of one’s situation has a lot to do with that question.
Q: Is there any way to bridge that gap?
GV: 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
Q: Are we talking about pouring your time into learning and growth?
GV: Yes. If you don’t have a tangible something, you have nothing. Theories and ideas are a waste of time. Everybody is in the media business, which is a gateway to the service business or the commerce business. At 9:00 p.m. you can start creating content around a passion and it can lead to creating a service or commerce business. That’s what people need to really realize.
Q: How can someone tell which ideas are worth pursuing and which may lead to dead ends?
GV: The truth of the matter is if there was a syrup that you could inject into yourself that allowed you to have more self-awareness, everybody would win. The true answer to your question is self-awareness. The problem is how do you get more of it? I have no idea. If you have self-awareness, you realize if something is not that good of an idea. It is the trait that allows me to be successful. It allows you to never put yourself in a bad situation to begin with.
Q: They are comfy in their position, right?
GV: Good. That’s why they’re there. Do you know how many few millionaires there are in the United States of America? It’s a shockingly small number.
Q: Let’s say you start doing that. How do I know when to push through?
GV: That’s why I was such a big proponent of doing something you like. Making the shift of being a consumer and then being a content pursuer around it, that’s quite easy when you love what you’re doing. The people that just chase the money are the ones that give up after a year. The only thing that is driving them is the cash and the short term gains. The people who actually love seashells and writing about seashells, they have a funny way of actually having a business because they don’t jump off.
Q: How much of luck do you think is part of it and how much do we make ourselves?
GV: Jay Z would not be as famous as he is right now if Notorious BIG and Tupac weren’t killed. HOVA is extremely talented, has enormous hustle, executes, does all these things. Is he where he is today without those two guys dying? I don’t think so. It’s a mix of talent, effort, and serendipity. I do not believe any of them exist 100% by themselves.
Q: Is there any way to lose?
GV: No. That’s why I’m so excited about this. Happiness is a funny thing. I think that if you do things the right way and you do them around things you like, that netting out at $64,000 a year around a bowling blog that allows you to bowl more often where that’s all you wanted to do when you were at your 9-5 job. That’s a good situation. There’s not that many people that die that say “I wish I made more money.”
Q: Why are the daredevils increasingly succeeding in life and business at odds with traditional successes, i.e. valedictorians and highly-decorated work veterans?
GV: Because the game you play in the real world has nothing to do with the game you play for the first 18 years of your life. They’re just not the same game. From 6-18 you’re playing hockey, then you graduate, and everybody is playing basketball. That’s why.
Q: What are the new rules of the game? What advice would you give?
GV: What’s ironic is a lot of this context has to do with entrepreneurship and business. If you want to be a lawyer or doctor, you have to go to school. For certain industries some things haven’t changed or they’ve changed less. In business, you just have to do it. Sell lemonade, work retail, etc. Understanding the consumer is a big deal. Kids should work retail for one full year and stop their education. They’d all be dramatically more successful.
Q: How much entrepreneurial thinking plays into the job hunt? Let’s say I was a lawyer
GV: If I’m going through law school, I’d be documenting my entire journey, starting a video blog, because building a personal brand gives me some sort of edge.
Q: Is it a combination of visibility and value?
GV: Yes. I think every person in the world is a media brand or company. I just do. I think the more you put into that, the more doors open. Some close to a good thing. People need to value restrictions.
Q: How would you tell them to deal with fear, anxiety, etc.?
GV: To me that is called the bucket. To me that’s emptying the bucket. It’s all about recognizing where you’re not feeling great and using communication to empty your bucket. Find an outlet. I believe in the idea of psychiatrist or therapist more and more. It’s hard to do that to your spouse, family, friends, or coworkers. It’s easier to have that emotional dump on a stranger. It all comes down to communication. I think you’re emptying your bucket when you’re hitting those levels. Some people say the visit my blog talk and through me they can carry on their entrepreneurial venture. I couldn’t believe I could have that kind of impact. Go watch Rudy once a month. Whatever it takes to reposition your mentality. Communication or consumption is what allows you to stay the course.
Q: Is courage something you can learn?
GV: I lean toward no. I’m courageous in business but not in life. I don’t see myself evolving into the guy that’s going to run up and grab a guy’s gun.
Q: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that people should know?
GV: I’ve been surprised how much communication lends itself to victory for people that don’t naturally have it. It’s communication/motivation. It’s finding that balance of having someone to talk to and getting it off your chest and also being inspired to keep on going. There is something very magical there. Those things are what can make people evolve and be taught too. This book is for the ones who don’t do this.
How have you forged ahead in your life and career? Use the hashtag#MakingChange to share your stories with us, and find them on makechangeworkforyou.com/blog.