If you want to start accomplishing your goals, you need to understand that your reputation, a.k.a your “personal brand,” is what you trade from in your personal and professional life.
As I take a moment to reflect and think about how my profile has expanded dramatically on Instagram, YouTube and iTunes through my Podcast and Playlist over the last 15 months, I have begun to see my audience and the attention that I have on social media shifting significantly younger.
As I realize that I am now impacting more 12-22 year-olds through the content that I produce, I am well aware that there’s a real opportunity to lay the foundation and set the blueprint on things like positivity, empathy, kindness, hard work, gratitude and more. My hope is to use the attention I have been gifted with to try to break through to at least one person on every single post, every single day for the rest of my life. That’s what I want. Hopefully, that will be my legacy.
As I continue to study consumer attention and try to reverse engineer what people care about in culture and why, I have started to notice an enormous amount of stress, anxiety, and misunderstanding for a lot of these 15 to 25-year-olds as they try to navigate the next chapter of their lives. On a phone call to a member of #FirstinLine I was able to create and articulate some of my points of view on specific pillars I think that everyone should be thinking more about when it comes to considering the traditional pathways to “success.”
As most people’s stress and anxiety in life stems from where they will potentially work or spend the majority of their adult life, trying to pay the bills and support themselves or their family, a lot of this advice centers around the traditional pathways of “getting a job.” Obviously, there are a million ways you could go about doing that beyond the standard 9-5 route but for many, this is still a concern.
For those of you that might not know, I’ve written two books, Crush It and Crushing It!, that give you an in-depth blueprint for alternatives to the corporate path.In this article, I am not talking about the endless ways you can pursue your passions but more so the three pathways I currently see that can set you on the right track.
When a lot of people think about being “successful” or achieving a major milestone in their life, they think about graduating from school.
This is by far the easiest one for everybody to understand, and probably the one my blog and others that read this will resonate with the most. I am more than confident that there’s a high percentage of my over-40-year-old crowd that will accept it, agree with it, believe it is the best, if not the only way to succeed, and I get that. I have a ton of empathy for the brand promotion of a top-tier college degree.
I still think a college degree has utility and purpose in a pre-2017 work-force and can definitely help sort you or validate you from a societal or historical point of view. That’s why so many of you still consider it the right move.
However, I would be remiss not to mention the topic of conversation around college debt and the fact that many employers, VaynerMedia included, aren’t over-indexing against where our employees, or potential employees, went to school.
School is certainly one path, but in a 2018 world, it’s certainly not the only one.
And look, I get it. For so long a college degree has been this symbol, and medal of some kind which serves as a line item on your resume and your LinkedIn profile that can bring instant credibility to your know-how and experience. It funnels you into a network and it gives you a common shared experience with other employers or employees and alumni who have gone through the same thing. I for one was a D and F student and chose option 3 for myself, which you will read about in a moment as a way to succeed. I did not go to a top-tier school, and I got terrible grades, yet I still turned out okay.
So my point is that there are definitely other ways, and if you can’t get into a good school, or you don’t want to go to college, you shouldn’t feel bad about that decision. Because of the internet, there is plenty of opportunity and access to the information you need to help you succeed.
Number two, as a new way of considering how you might enter the workforce, is this idea of working for someone you admire or want to be like, in any capacity for as little money as you possibly can.
One concept that has really emerged over the last five years is the question to myself that “If I had to do it all over again, what would I do differently?”
Obviously, I had the fortune, and the ability to go and work for and build my family business for my parents, but I also felt the gratitude and excitement to do so. In hindsight, the only option that I would have even considered besides what I did was if I would’ve gone and worked for some of the top entrepreneurs in the world at the time, even if it meant I had to be poor and get a job at midnight on the side to help support that lifestyle.
I think a lot of the time when I talk about providing value or working for somebody who you want to be one day, people often say, “Well, Gary… You can afford it.” But there are many many people in the world that are living on $10 or $12 or $15 an hour. I would do anything to work for Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Jack Welch at a low wage because I know the upside, the leverage, and the education from doing so would be enormous.
Not to mention that, unlike in 1998 when the only side-hustle you could have had to be done in person like shoveling snow, shining shoes, getting coffee, etc., today, you can have a side-hustle selling knick-knacks online. All of the opportunity is literally right there on your phone and your fingertips. If you just went on Craigslist and researched the free section, and sold things or flipped them on eBay, Amazon or Facebook Marketplace, you could very well make an extra $300 week from your iPhone or pc. You’d have to put in the work, but it’s definitely possible.
But here’s the thing. Working for and getting close to an Alpha operator is the single best thing you can possibly do in today’s 2018 world. They don’t have to be Diddy or Drake, they can be a high-level executive at a company you like, or an athlete, musician, startup founder or just someone you really admire. Once you build that relationship and provide value, it will set you up for a disproportionate opportunity down the line.
The fact of the matter is you can’t be romantic. As long as you get your foot in the door and find a way to provide value to the person you most want to be like, then you have a great chance. It is a whole lot better to get coffee for 4 years for Taylor Swift and then go on to manage or have the connection to work with all of these other high profile people than being a mid-level manager at a company you might hate.
I can’t stress enough how much it means to over-deliver for a “superstar” and what that can do for the rest of your life. There is no better springboard than to work for a mogul, getting into his or her inner circle, and then trading off of that equity for your future success. Because when you do it for LeBron, and when you did it for Drake, and when you’re doing it for Bobby Brown, then your equity in the marketplace becomes exponential.
A high percentage of the 25-year-olds that I respect that have been working for me have been eating crow for years but now they get a co-sign from me, not only in business but in my heart which means the world, and it is 100% the best way to win.
The way to go about getting that opportunity is to literally live on social media and DM, and tweet, email or use LinkedIn to hit up 50 people a day that you would like to get close to or help in any way. The thing that might surprise you, is that 1 out of 100 might say yes.
If you start a message with “Hi, xxx I love everything you do! I would love to come film for you and chop up the best moments of your day and distribute that across social media because I think your brand is important and it could be a lot bigger if you did A, B and C. I’m willing to work for free for 2 months and and if you like the value that I provide, I would love a spot on your team.”
It’s 1000% the 2018 strategy to succeed.
Half of the people on my team got their job through Instagram DM and Twitter. I promise that every person you know or want to be like has either a Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. Do your research and figure out how to provide value. Go in soft, provide value, provide value, make your ask and rinse and repeat. You might have to do this 5000 times but eventually it will lead to something.
Whether you go to college or not, I highly encourage you to give this a try.
This is probably the most difficult version of how to start the process of achieving your goals but it’s also the one that has the most upside and that is to simply go out and do it yourself. You just have to execute and build your own thing, which is what I did. Obviously, I’m a big proponent of this since it’s the model I took but that being said, it’s by far the hardest. The problem is, everyone’s out there doing too much talking and lacking the patience needed to really succeed. I think people’s mouths are way ahead of their actions and they’re not executing to build something substantial and real.
They’re talking in the short term to build themselves up because they’re worried about the judgment of others who criticize their “thing.”
But if you choose this option, if you can get your head into a place where you’re thinking about your game in ten-year terms, not in three-year terms, your outlook changes dramatically.
The beauty of building your own thing also means you are not at the mercy of anyone else. This equally takes the most ego and the most humility. This is the one that takes the most patience in the macro, but requires the most intensity and speed in the micro. This is the one I’m most romantic about.
But the truth is, not everyone can be a number 1 and not everyone should be. It comes down to self-awareness, and reverse engineering who you really are. My thought process is that great athletes are born with traits and body compositions and muscles that help them excel. Of course, they can train and learn and practice, but the fact that you are 6 foot 8 and naturally built to run faster than anyone you know gives you a big advantage.
Even though it’s obvious that I’m very into this path, it’s because I really do think I’m a pure-bred entrepreneur and I was meant to do this. My big concern right now above everything is how many of you reading this could have an incredible career by following the path of option 2 but you’re choosing number three because you lack the patience and you like the badge of being a “CEO” or “entrepreneur” in the short-term.
I promise you starting at number two creates far more people that go on to win than those who start at option three. Number three creates extreme success stories for a very small minority but the masses tend to fail and wind up having to go back to executing a version of number 1.
Not everyone can drop out and start Facebook. About 90% of startups fail.
So you really have to deploy self-awareness in this whole process and do what’s right for you.
There are many ways that these three models can take shape but they really do feel like the most clear pathways to begin to achieve your goals. And whether your goals are money, legacy, or going home at 5pm to play ping pong and be part of the local soccer league, then that’s the right thing for you. I have plenty of friends who have huge titles at big companies who just aren’t happy, and also have friends who make $50,000 a year and have great work/life balance, a family, and tons of happiness with 3 annual vacations.
Whether you’re thinking about going to school or you’re thinking about doing it yourself, these are the 3 ways I see it shaking out. You need to figure out which is the right path for you and deploy self-awareness to realize you are either an operator/entrepreneur, or you need time and you want to go to school to figure it out or maybe you’ll be the most successful as a number 7 or number 17 behind an A player who will help you win. There is nothing wrong with any of these paths, I just want to make it clear that as you navigate and try to mitigate your own stress and anxieties, these are the options you should consider. You need to quiet the voice inside your own head and realize you have a choice. These are 3 great options to help you get there. And the best part about this whole conversation is that you truly have time. You could do a mix of all three over a 10 year period from 18-28 and still have your whole life to figure it out. The fact that you are consumed by the stress of making the “right” decision at 18 or 22 or 26 is ludicrous to me and needs to stop. Deploy patience, self-awareness and an appreciation of the process by doing the thing that you have the most passion, energy and excitement for in the moment. Don’t overthink it! Slow down, take a breath and learn to “get there” day-by-day.
Note: This article first appeared on Gary Vaynerchuk’s Blog and has been reproduced with permission. The views/opinion expressed are solely of the author’s.
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