Two weeks ago I had the privilege of interviewing serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and 3 time NY Times best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk in front of a sold out crowd in Santa Monica at Startup Grind LA. For those of you who don’t know, Gary is one of the most well-known entrepreneurs of our time. He began his career by growing his family’s wine business from $3 to $60 million, co-founded one of the hottest ad agencies in VaynerMedia which is now worth over $65 million and growing, angel invested in some of the world’s best companies (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and many more,) and wrote 3 NY Times best-selling books. He is a true hustler and practioner of what he preaches. Gary is one of the only entrepreneurs with an actual fan base so I knew I had to really deliver for this interview to be special.
When it comes to Gary, hearing and seeing is believing. Watch the whole interview here.
Leading up to the big night I tried to consume as much Gary Vee as I could. I watched every episode of the #AskGaryVee Show (a daily YouTube/FB Series & Podcast where Gary takes questions on business, investing, and marketing). I spoke with his assistant and a number of his employees to get the inside scoop and I read his books. Instead of being at the gym with a playlist I would listen to Gary’s show while taking mental notes of what he’s already answered to develop the narrative for our talk. Over the course of my prep time I became a big fan of Gary’s. His charisma and brute honesty are striking from the get go. To some it can be quite a turn-off. But in fact, who Gary is and how he embraces it is his biggest strength.
Here’s what I learned:
Know Who You Are & Take Advantage of It
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. But too often we focus so much of our time and energy on what we lack rather than who we are. Gary doesn’t know how to program, he’s not a “techy” and he definitely isn’t the biggest fan of formal education. But he has never let his weaknesses slow him down. He has a very deep understanding of who he is and who he is not. Because Gary doesn’t waste time trying to learn things that aren’t going to play into his skill-set, he can hustle harder and more productively than most people.
You can always learn more and make progress as an entrepreneur but it’s crucial that your time is spent feeding into your strong hand. Time is truly our most valuable asset and if you don’t spend it wisely you will not live up to your full potential. Take advantage of your DNA and past experiences by going all in with what you are the best at and what you love.
Be Honest With Yourself
In my first few years as an entrepreneur I was so defensive about my business. Every challenge or disagreement felt like someone was peeling my skin back and exposing my worst fears. Over time I learned to embrace the criticism because answering the tough questions is really all that matters. If you lie to yourself it is impossible to perform under pressure or when sh*t hits the fan.
Gary’s ability to embrace his flaws is impressive. After interviewing him it’s obvious that he is his own biggest critic. By developing an internal checks & balances system he pushes himself to meet the highest standard in everything he does. Gary is a great example of how you need to consistenly “audit yourself” because no one intuitively knows the truth more than you do. Curb the emotion and just seek what’s real.
There is a huge difference between being good at sales and being a snake oil salesman. When you are gifted with the emotional intelligence to read people, understand your product and make a sale it can be easy to be dishonest or misleading. But the larger your business gets and the more people you interact with, the more your authenticity matters. Your word counts and people can intellectualize when you are lying to them or yourself.
Actions Over Words
“I almost needed VaynerMedia as much as VaynerMedia needed me."
Gary mentioned a recent negative comment he received 3 or 4 times throughout the night. He has immense respect for his haters because he can back it up. Today everyone wants to be a social media guru or blog until they are blue in the face, but they haven’t actually put in the work. Your actions matter tenfold to your words. If you can’t back up what you say then you really shouldn’t say anything. Gary’s success is not predicated on his words, but rather his actions. He’s paid his dues and now he can talk about it.
“I like knowing that I can build big businesses.”
Another entrepreneur I admire once told me “believe more in people’s actions than their words.” This was his response to the advice he would give himself 20 years ago. So many people want to receive the praise but few want to put in the work. Gary has built his career by performing and thus putting his actions strongly before his words. It’s better to be quiet, humble and hard-working than loud and flaky.
In conclusion, I think that we can all learn a lot from this interview. Gary’s success is a combination of DNA, experience and pure hustle. He is one of the most honest people I have met because he always tells himself the truth first. I hope that you can take away some valuable lessons from this interview as well. Share with your friends & feel free to leave a comment or email me and let me know how I can improve.