What You Can Learn About Success When You #AskGaryVee — 7 ideas on what it takes to make it in business from Gary Vaynerchuk

“Your attention is my oxygen.” Gary Vanerchuk

If you’ve never seen a YouTube video of Gary Vanerchuk, who made himself known through Wine Library TV and now runs his own cutting-edge media company VaynerMedia, he is an envelope-pushing marketing genius, as well as a serial entrepreneur and best-selling author. If I could bottle his manic energy, I’d have it every morning instead of coffee. Check him out on his YouTube channel and you’ll get where I’m coming from. Watch a few of his videos in a row and you’ll get exhausted like you do at a Bruce Springsteen concert – he’s “The Boss of Personal Branding.”

Seems like he’s everywhere these days, and after stumbling across him on LinkedIn, Medium and YouTube, I’m now one of his fans. His new “question and answer” book, #AskGaryVee, is loaded with down-to-earth advice on everything from starting a business to maintaining your edge. Below are 7 solid ideas from the book that can apply to your business. I’ll start with a question he was asked, a quote from him (“GV”), then my commentary.

  • How much of success is confidence, how much is skill, and how much is luck?  GV: “I have been lucky, that’s for sure. I have a lot of confidence and bravado. But those wouldn’t be worth much if I didn’t also have the skills and hustle mentality to execute.”

What comes to mind is the quote from golf legend Gary Player: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” There’s no way around paying your dues, often for years, until you “get lucky enough” for your business to be profitable.   I’m sure you know stories of flash-in-the-pan one-hit wonders who busted out on the scene and were all the rage for their 15 minutes of fame. But if they didn’t do what it takes to sustain the initial momentum, their luck quickly ran out. I like to say that I started my coaching practice in the mid-1990’s – I’m still on my way to becoming an overnight success someday.

  • How do you define hustle? Can it be taught?  GV: “Hustle is maximizing the energy you put into what you are passionate about. I don’t know if it can be taught so much as it can be inspired. Look at your level of hustle and evaluate it. Ask yourself, ‘Am I working as hard as I could? Am I doing great work?’ If you work for yourself, it should be really easy to give yourself that high-grade hustle since you’re pumped to be running your own show.”

No matter what business we’re in, it’s up to us to hustle. In my coaching practice, I eat what I kill, so if I don’t hustle, I don’t eat. Luckily, I love coaching, can’t imagine doing anything else, would do it for free, and often do. I make a point to feed my head daily by reading inspiring business books and listening to Nightingale-Conant audio programs for the ideas I and my clients need to thrive. I realized early on that success is like riding a bicycle – to stay upright, you have to keep pedaling, figuratively, and peddling, literally. Are you enjoying the ride?

  • I read Think and Grow Rich – it changed my life in a positive way. Have you read any books that have influenced you?  GV: “A lot of people think that one of my weaknesses is that I don’t read (books), and I waver between believing they’re right or they’re full of it. The truth is that I do read; I just don’t read the things other people like to read.”

Those of you who know me know that I read at least 40 business-related books a year – Think and Grow Rich is at the top of my list of recommended reading. So while it may appear that Gary Vee and I disagree, he’s actually a voracious consumer of practical information in short, easily digestible formats, which he applies at lightening speed. Make no mistake: Leaders are readers. If you want to make it in business, you must constantly take on new, useful information in the medium of your choice, even plain old books, and then apply it. PS – Don’t have the money to buy books? I got this book out of my local library, so get a damn library card. Free should work well within your budget.

  • What would you prioritize as a one-person business?  GV: “There is only one thing that transcends everything else: Cash. Your first priority is sales because it generates cash, and cash is what allows you to do everything else.”

A lot of employees have what business guru Michael Gerber (author of The E Myth) calls an “entrepreneurial seizure”: The idea that because they are technically good at their craft, they can start a business around it. What they never had to do was sell a product or service. They weren’t aware that while drawing a paycheck, someone else was out beating the bushes for sales. In this regard they are reactive – if you want to make it your own business, you have to be proactive about bringing in customers/clients. I believe this is the number one reason 9 out of 10 people go out of business in their first five years. If you’re sales-adverse, don’t quit your day job.

  • Any tips on getting a mentor?  GV: “If you want a mentor, I think you have to do more than just ask people to let you follow them around or learn from them. People are busy, and mentoring people properly takes time. Your first step should be to show them that you could provide them with something of value, that they will benefit from having you around.”

I’m always happy to help people, no matter what their circumstance. Having said that, I don’t have unlimited time for pro-bono work, whether it’s with an aspiring coach, a college student looking for an internship or a recently-downsized executive in transition. The best people I’ve assisted appreciate that I’m paying it forward for them and, when the opportunity arises, they will return the favor. This often results in introductions to people in my Financial Advisor niche. Always keep in mind that what goes around comes around – if you find a way to help your mentors, they’ll make time to help you.

  • How do you stay constantly motivated?  GV: “One, I love what I do. It’s easy to stay motivated when you know your day is filled with things that are getting you closer to your goals. Two, I’m grateful every single day. I’m grateful for my parents, my wife, and my kids. Gratitude is amazing fuel.”

As I said before, I love coaching people so much that if I could find a way to do it for free, I would. (Ask yourself if you would do the same.) The real kick comes when I share ideas that move my clients toward their goals, step-by-step, ultimately helping them to close more deals more often. It’s the same feeling as coaching athletes to win at whatever game they play, the thrill of victory. Since I love sports, this suits me to a “T.” And I give thanks every day for the privilege of coaching people who, six months before we started, never heard of me, to becoming one of their closest confidantes, their biggest supporter and trusted teacher. (Sure beats working for a living …)

  • What was the biggest decision in your life that made you successful today?  GV: “It was the day I made the choice to suck at school. Fourth grade. I got an F on a science test. And then it hit me, the thought that changed everything: ‘Screw school. I’m a businessman.’ Even at that young age, I was self-aware enough to realize what I was born to do.”

I describe myself as a formerly shy, low self-esteem underachiever with a bad attitude – in other words, a normal Chicago kinda guy. Graduating from high school with a 1.74 GPA, I was mostly frustrated and depressed about my prospects for success. Little by little, the information I took in from the books I read, the audio programs I listened to and the personal development workshops I attended began to sink in, until it dawned on me that it was time to BET ON MYSELF. Back in the mid-1990’s when I started, there were very few one-on-one business coaches. So the challenge of getting people to understand what I did was daunting, to say the least. (Everybody and their dog is a coach today – that’s the challenge I face now.) A number of people thought I had lost my mind, asking me if I had a back-up plan. But by going all-in, I found a way, and am still standing today. It’s all in the decision to go for it – have you made up your mind yet?

Bottom line Gary Vanyerchuk’s ultimate goal is to buy the New York Jets. If you’re thinking that’s some kind of cockamamie pipe dream, I advise you not to bet against him. His unbridled enthusiasm is contagious, and many of his answers will challenge your assumptions about how you engage with your followers, your contacts, your customers/clients. He’s already called me out on several of my backward approaches that need changing. (Heck, he even calls himself out on several pages – how’s that for keeping it real?)

Don’t just read this article. Do yourself a favor and buy the book – it’s the most engagingly useful business book I’ve read in years, and will be added to my recommended reading list. You may find that one nugget of information you’ve lacked that will propel you to the next level. (Make that several nuggets – this book has dozens of in-your-face tactics tested in the trenches.)

If nothing else, he’ll drag you kicking and screaming to start hustling again. And that would bring a smile to Gary Vee’s face.

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