This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur's Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness
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On July 31, 2014, as J.K. Rowling celebrated her 49th birthday, Israel and Hamas agreed on an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Far from the spotlight, one of the world’s first business Q&A video blogs launched: a YouTube channel with no more than 30,000 subscribers. It opened with a guy dressed in a blue-striped golf shirt smiling into the camera and saying: “Hello, everyone, and welcome to the first ’AskGaryVee.’”
As you might have guessed already, the guy in the golf shirt was marketing and business genius Gary Vaynerchuk, a Belarusian-born American entrepreneur, often described as a social media pioneer and one of the foremost internet personalities of the 21st century. And the show – “AskGaryVee” – became an internet phenomenon in itself and is still quite alive and well: on the last day of 2019, it aired its 331st episode!
Unsurprisingly, the book “#AskGaryVee” is directly inspired by the show, distilling and expanding on Vaynerchuk’s most urgent and finest answers to some of the most useful and interesting questions he asked during the first two years. So, get ready to learn what Vaynerchuk thinks about marketing and social media platforms, and discover what his trademarked “clouds and dirt” philosophy encompasses!
If you want to be a good husband and an even better parent, you need to have one clear high-end objective: family first. However, if you want to translate that goal into the desirable outcome, you need to show up and stay present, you need to communicate well with your loved ones, you need to apologize when you mess up and, even more, you need to make sure that this doesn’t happen too often. Great ideas are wonderful things, but they require hard work to become a reality; conversely, no matter how hard you work, in the absence of a big picture and proper objectives, chances are you will never really succeed.
This is the essence of Vaynerchuk’s way of life, which he sums up in two words: clouds and dirt. “The clouds are the high-end philosophy and beliefs that are at the heart of everything I am personally and everything I do professionally… The dirt is about being a practitioner and executing toward those clouds.”
Vaynerchuk’s clouds are neither too numerous, nor too complex. However, they are what has moved him forward throughout these years and what will continue to move him in the right direction in the future. In order, they look like this:
Now, it is important to note that these eight commandments are not merely goals, but all the different aspects of Vaynerchuk’s core business philosophy. Goals, almost by definition, can be moved and set aside or can be irrelevant to how you run your company. However, the clouds are there from the beginning to the end of your business journey, unchangeable and definite. They are not only what moves you forward, but what structures your present life as well. That’s why, “if you religiously follow just the few core business philosophies that mean the most to you, and spend all your time there, everything else will naturally fall into place.”
Of course, to paraphrase a famous Thomas Edison quote, success is 50% inspiration, but 50% perspiration as well. And that’s what the dirt is all about: executing toward the clouds, being a practitioner, knowing your craft. In Vaynerchuk’s case, that means everything from understanding the return of investment of Vine and the nature of Facebook ads to noticing social media trend to knowing that infographics over-index on Pinterest. In your case, it will probably be something else entirely. The point stays either way: you can’t reach the clouds without getting your hands dirty.
Now, the problem with the vast majority of people is that they tend to get stuck in the middle: after some time, they either lose sight of their clouds or get lost in the clouds – or even lose the appetite for success and scaling up altogether. Losing sight happens because of all the administrative politics and day-to-day minutiae, and getting lost is a product of neglecting the skills they need to execute things properly.
“Let me put it this way,” writes Vaynerchuk in his signature no-nonsense manner. “If you have pages and pages of notes, but no product, you’ve got nothing. If you can’t tell me how you’re going to build your product, you’ve got nothing. And if you are only thinking three years into the future, you’ve got a huge vulnerability. That’s what people in the middle are doing. The middle keeps everything going the way it always has. The clouds and the dirt break things.”
A great and all too common example: numerous entrepreneurs waste countless hours coming up with a creative name for their company believing that, if they find the right one, they will immediately “stand out” and “disrupt the category.” In truth, a product’s success has nothing to do with a company’s name. That is, it has, but it’s the other way around: build the right product, and people will remember the name, no matter what it is. Do you think Apple and Facebook are “earth-shatteringly clever names”? No, they are not. They’ve just earned the right to be. Follow their example.
Wasting precious time on choosing a name is only one of the common mistakes young entrepreneurs make. The biggest one? Building a business that only works during best-case market scenarios. Just like the best generals are the ones who prepare for a sudden outbreak of war during the most peaceful times, the best businesspeople are the ones who plan for an economic downturn during periods of great economic upswings. Bad times will inevitably come, so protect yourself before you have to face them by building solid teams, by fashioning great products, and by excelling at sales.
“Anyone who follows sports,” writes Vaynerchuk, “knows that less gifted competitor can outplay even the most naturally talented athlete if that competitor has more hustle.” Just pick a 4-digit number starting with 19 and browse through that year’s NBA or NFL drafts. How often has the 13th, the 28th, or even the 199th pick overshadowed the first five or 10 draft picks? Yes, we’re talking about guys like Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, and Tom Brady – do a little investigation, and you’ll see that they are not the exception, but the rule.
The differentiator between them and the guys picked before them wasn’t the talent or the skills, but the hustle and determination. Well, it’s the same with entrepreneurs as well: the guys who do the hard work and allow reality, and not some professor somewhere, to grade them will always outperform those who attend expensive colleges and can list, in their resumés, coveted MBA degrees.
Vaynerchuk is one of the former. He was never into school, barely ever getting a degree higher than an F or a D. However, even then, he was already making a ton of cash, trading baseball cards. “There were just so many more interesting things to think about than the Pythagorean theorem or grammar,” he writes in retrospect. “I just didn’t have the patience or the interest to study what was in my books. I knew that wasn’t where I was going to learn what I needed to know to succeed.”
Whether you like to admit it or not, our school system is outdated: it might have worked perfectly in Victorian England and might have been necessary in the pre-Cold War world, but nowadays, everything moves at such a high speed that numerous university programs can’t keep up.
Whether you’re in information technology or in sales, whether you’ve studied a year to earn an MBA or several to understand the economy, there’s a great chance that – not long after your graduation – all that knowledge will be worth a little short of nothing. “Within a month of your graduation,” warns Vaynerchuk, “there will always be a new platform, a new app, a new channel for doing business that didn’t exist before. Nothing except hustle, prescience, good instincts, time, and patience is going to help you master them. And none of those things can be taught anywhere except the School of Life.”
Even though the market and the world change at dizzying speeds, human nature seems to remain constant. And one of the things that have defined it ever since time immemorial are stories.
The Greeks recited them, the medieval bards sang them, and, between the 15th and the 20th century, everybody could enjoy them in private – courtesy of Gutenberg’s printing press. Then came the radio and the TV and suddenly people were able to not only hear and see but also experience the stories they liked and loved. Video games and social media made this experience more immediate and more interactive. But the big picture hasn’t changed: stories are still what excites us, which is why stories will always be the way to every heart, regardless of whether that heart belongs to a lover, a poet, or a consumer. And, contrary to what economists say, people don’t buy – in every meaning of the word – with their heads; they buy with their hearts.
Consequently, no matter what happens, content is, and forever will be king. Just as well, quality content will always be defined by these four traits:
Especially because of the last two, up until no more than a few decades ago, content marketing was expensive, and not everybody could afford to run a media company in addition to everything else. Only big brands had the money to share their stories in magazines and newspapers, on radio and TV commercials. It’s far more democratic today, of course. Ironically, it’s also much more difficult: there are too many platforms, and almost everybody has access to the internet, so, even though for a completely different reason, it’s difficult to be original and break through the noise.
Speaking of noise – Twitter is probably the platform with the most acute problem of this sort: since it is, in the words of Vaynerchuk, “a busy, busy place,” it is exceedingly difficult to get noticed there anymore. Facebook has solved this problem in a far better way, which is why it is the biggest social network worldwide. It is also the best place to start your marketing campaign due to its highly sophisticated ad platform, which allows you to target your users in a way no human being thought possible until just a decade ago.
However, “marketing today is for the forward-thinking, the brave, and the young at heart,” which is why you need to look somewhere else if you want to ride the first wave of the next big thing. At the time “#AskGaryVee” was published, that thing was Instagram, and not much has changed in the years since. According to Vaynerchuk, this is because “no social network in the world right now has more of its users’ attention than Instagram.” The platform is winning not because its numbers say that it is the fastest-growing social networking service in the world, but because it has more depth than any other – including Facebook. Meaning: when people are on Instagram, they are there to wholeheartedly consume content.
Think that Gary is wrong? Well, think again! In this book, he predicted the demise of Tumblr and Google+, long before anybody could. So, you better listen to him and heed to his advice.
To quote a review – although “‘#AskGaryVee’ reads like transcripts from the show,” and even though we don’t really know how some of its chapters relate to the subtitle (or even why they deserve to be a part of any book), Vaynerchuk’s enthusiasm – as ever – is highly contagious and communicable, and his answers are not only straightforward and real-world related, but also quite appropriate, applicable – and even anticipatory.
“‘#AskGaryVee’ will make you uncomfortable and get you excited about your discomfort,” states a review back from 2016 in Forbes. Somehow, even though a lot has changed in the social media world since then, the sentence still rings true.
Spend all of your time in the clouds and the dirt. Meaning: be a dreamer and a practitioner at the same time. Those are the ones who succeed.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a Belarusian American vine critic, author, and entrepreneur. He managed to grow the business he inherited from his father, a liquor store, from making 3 million dollars a year to making 60 m... (Read more)
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