Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion, by Gary Vaynerchuk, HarperStudio, 2009.
As a case study in how social media can revolutionize business and create whole new careers, there are few better examples than Gary Vaynerchuk. A wine merchant by trade, he became a new-media icon after starting a daily video series to talk about wine. His new book, Crush It!, argues that virtually anyone can replicate his success, given the right mixture of passion and hard work.
Superficially, at least, Crush It! is a fairly standard business book of inspirational encouragement and practical advice. Like The 4-Hour Workweek, which it somewhat resembles, Crush It! draws from the author’s life and business experiences for much of its content. At 160 not-very-dense pages, the book is a quick read and may feel a bit disappointing at first. But for me, at least, it repays second and third readings.
Although Gary Vee, as he’s known to his fans, makes efforts to direct at least some of the advice in his book to established businesses, his real target lies elsewhere. He is speaking for the most part to early-stage and wannabe entrepreneurs, to disaffected or unemployed workers, and to other individuals who may be contemplating striking out on their own.
His premise is that the Internet “represents the biggest shift in history in how we do business.” Online social networking applications, he argues, have given individuals the tools they need to go into business for themselves and live their passion. Even if you like your job, he says, “you should aim to leave it and grow your own brand and business or partner with someone to do so, because as long as you’re working for someone else you will never be living entirely true to yourself and your passion.”
Underlying his argument are what might be called Gary Vee’s three Ps: passion, personal branding, and patience. All three are essential elements in his vision of new-media business success.
Passion. Even if you have only a passing acquaintance with Vaynerchuk, you probably associate him with the word passion. In his view, passion “is the whole key to staking your claim in the new business world we live in today.” Before the rise of social media, a lack of business experience and training would have been steep hurdles to success; now, he says,
“Don’t worry; skills are cheap, passion is priceless. If you’re passionate about your content and you know it and do it better than anyone else, even with few formal business skills you have the potential to create a million-dollar business.”
Though living your passion may lead to considerable wealth, that’s not the point for Vaynerchuk. Crush It! is not about making loads of money. Rather, he says, “It’s about ensuring your own happiness by enabling you to live every day passionately and productively. “
Personal branding. Vaynerchuk takes as an unspoken given The Cluetrain Manifesto’s thesis that markets are a conversation. He offers his own version of this in Crush It!: “Social media = business. Period.” Thus, he argues, in the social media world, “everyone—EVERYONE—needs to start thinking of themselves as a brand. It is no longer an option; it is a necessity.”
Living your passion may be its own reward, but it can only lead to an income through personal branding: “Developing your personal brand is key to monetizing your passion online.” In today’s world, he says, “your business and your personal brand need to be one and the same, whether you’re selling organic fish food or financial advice or just your opinion.”
Patience. Throughout his book, Vaynerchuk takes pains to temper his enthusiasm for the potential of new media with stiff doses of reality. It’s almost as if he fears his readers, perhaps like you as you read this review, will start to suspect that his vision of business is excessively rosy—or worse, that he’s just another purveyor of get-rich-quick nostrums.
To begin with, he says, don’t expect success without a lot of hard work, perhaps more than you’ve ever done before. And, moreover, don’t expect too much too soon: “As hard as you’re going to push yourself, don’t plan on seeing results right away.”
Accordingly, he warns his reader that “if you contact me within a year of starting your business to complain that you haven’t made the money you thought you would, you’re not listening.” In some cases, he even argues that purposely delaying making money can be wise: “The longer you hold out to monetize your blog, the better.”
A few words for journalists. Although he writes about the opportunities for a wide range of industries and disciplines, GV dwells at length on the situation of journalists. Just because old-media platforms are crumbling doesn’t mean journalism is history, he says: “Everyone who is screaming that journalism is dead because newspapers and magazines are folding is insane. The old platforms are in trouble, but that’s the best thing that could happen to journalists…the good ones, anyway.”
In his mind, the opportunities for journalists are decidedly not to be found in the traditional roles of freelancer or paid staffer:
“Their opportunity is not as a work-for-hire, where they scramble to earn a few bucks here, a few bucks there writing pieces for various online publications, nor as a staff writer earning pennies while the company keeps a disproportionate amount of the ad revenue brought in on the backs of poorly paid talent.”
As alternatives, GV sketches out several scenarios for how journalists could start up their own businesses, earn at least as much as in those more traditional roles, and have a far greater share of equity and control.
You’ve bought the message. Now buy the book? Crush It! is an example of the new-media mantra that people should have content when they want it, where they want it, and how they want it. There’s little if anything in this book that you can’t find in Vaynerchuk’s various videos, recorded presentations, or blog postings. You could, for example, read my earlier post on Vaynerchuk’s lessons, watch the linked videos, and get the gist of Gary Vee for free. But if you appreciate the unique advantages and convenience of the book form, Crush It! may be right for you.