Have you ever encountered a book, a place, or a person that from the very moment of contact, causes a dramatic paradigm shift in your life? I have.
There is no single person living who has had a greater impact on my life within the last 5 years than Gary Vaynerchuk. I thought long and hard before writing that last statement, but in every analysis I’ve done, Gary comes up as being most influential (by far).
What’s most fascinating to me about his influence is that, even though I have been incorporating many of his winning lessons into my life for the past 5 years, I just met him yesterday for the first time.
I first saw Gary speak 5 years ago on the first stop of his Crush It book tour at American University in DC. It was a fluke encounter. I was on campus for another meeting and got invited by a friend to check out an “internet guy” talk about this “social media thing.” I was immediately interested in the topic because I had been evaluating ways to enter a new industry and thought at least I could pick up a few tips. So, I walked over to join about 100 mostly college students in a small lecture hall.
Gary was New York City police officer loud, he cursed like the Wolf of Wall Street, wore one arm band (which I thought was unusual), and, quite honestly, came off as slightly obnoxious.
So why did I stay through his 1 1/2 hour talk? Because I was sitting near the front row and didn’t want to be embarrassed by being “that guy who leaves after the first 15 minutes.” So I sat. As I listened to Gary, gradually, his story started to connect with mine. We had emigrant parents (his from Belarus, my mother being from Jamaica), we both had odd first hobbies as youth (he took flowers from people’s yards and sold them back to them. I did the same thing but with people’s lawn), we both loved Biggie (and both claimed to have been the first in our respective crews to “discover” him), we both were considered underdogs growing up, and the list went on.
Then, he hit me with a combination knockout when he continually emphasized his passion for (the art of) human communication and love for his family.
Hook, line, and sinker.
In hindsight, I attribute his talk and subsequently reading his book Crush It with creating an inflection point in my life.
Since that day in October 2009, I’ve consumed every last bit of content from Gary – every video, every tweet, every blog post, every Instagram photo, EVERYTHING. And guess what? His “virtual” advice and winning lessons have delivered serious results! I entered a new career and industry as a complete layman 5 years ago. Now I’m considered a thought leader and top influencer within the space.
Gary spits truth and if you can’t spend late nights like me staying up and binging on his content, here are 5 winning lessons I’ve learned from Gary over the years that equally apply to life and business success:
1) Accept that you will suck at most things, just be great at one.
Gary often tells the story of professional baseball player Mariana Rivera (widely known as only having one pitch). Rivera was a terrible pitcher, otherwise, but no one could hit/figure out that one pitch. As a result, he’s considered one of the most dominant relievers in major league history. This is a concept I completely agree with. Attempting to be a jack of all trades makes us a master of none .
2) EQ wins over IQ.
This is one of the winning lessons I’ve been trying to articulate most of my life but never put it as succinctly as Gary Vaynerchuk . Emotional intelligence trumps everything. I recall taking a battery of tests in middle school, never quite scoring high enough for the “smart kids high school” so I instead went to the “normal” kids high school. Checking now on many of my friends from both schools, there are an equal number of people “winning” or “struggling” in life from both schools. But, the standouts ALL have one thing in common, they are the ones (regardless of IQ) who had the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.
3) Learn to Story Tell
Effective communication, especially through social media requires storytelling. Even more so, Gary drives home the concept of “native” storytelling in his latest book. Stories are powerful: They give meaning and context to what would otherwise be a collection of easily forgettable facts. In fact, there’s ample research that points to the power of narrative not just as a way to engage people, but as the only way to change deeply entrenched views.
4) Set BHAGS.
You can’t hear Gary Vaynerchuk speak for more than 15 minutes without him say in all confidence that he will someday buy the New York Jets. Now, does he have the $1.5 billion it will take to buy the team? Probably not (at least, not right now). However, he still talks about it…he still believes it. BHAG stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal, an idea conceptualized in a favorite book of mine. BHAGs are bigger, bolder and more powerful than regular long- and short-term goals. They typically take a 10- to 30-year commitment, but they are exciting, tangible and something everyone just “gets” without any further explanation. BHAGS change your mindset and mindset is critical to sustained business success.
5) Give a Damn.
Do you really care about your audience (or customer), or is your relationship with them simply transactional? If it’s the latter, all good, do your thing. But know that thing you do will be short-lived. We’re in a new economy now, one that places a premium on adding value. Be obsessed with being useful . Proactively add value in the lives of the people around you and your future path will be paved with gold.
To learn more about Gary Vaynerchuk , check him out here. He’s a person who I and so many others admire. I know I speak for many when I give thanks to him for allowing me to not only envision, but live a life I only once dreamed about. As a matter of fact, I’ve only come across one person in the last 5 years who hasn’t sipped the Gary Vaynerchuk Kool-Aid…my wife hates him.
What other winning lessons have you learned from a key influence in your life? Let’s talk about them!