How Successful People Think
Listen, this is such a fascinating conversation for me because I think I have real perspective. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world didn’t necessarily start out with a grand vision. They started with an idea and an action. Bezos didn’t set out to build Amazon, he started by selling books online. Zuckerberg didn’t set out at 18 to build Facebook. He built a tool for his college that later became the thing. It was idea + action.. Constant iteration and execution. It was reacting to the market and tripling down on success. The vision came after.
So for me, I always knew that I was going to be big. At 6 years old, selling lemonade I knew I had something special. I was making thousands of dollars every weekend selling baseball cards and toys and items from garage sales before I even got to college. By 18 and 19 and 20 I had very clear picture that my business success would be enormous.
When I was 14 or 15 I realized that I was never going to be the quarterback for the New York Jets. Instead I was going to buy them, and so that was my vision.
That was my big north star.
So look, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an artist or someone who wants to be a number 2 or number 27 or number 47, I think the reality is exposed. For me, at a macro, it’s been one long game of self awareness. The more I understand myself, the more I try to put myself in a position to succeed. Coming out of school, being 22 years old, I thought of myself as a great salesman. I didn’t necessarily have the vision of starting VaynerMedia and building the best digital agency I could. I just knew I could sell and that it was going to be big.
I didn’t really think about emotional intelligence. That word had never come out of my mouth. I didn’t think about “operations.” I didn’t think about “leadership.” I didn’t think about “content creation.” I thought I could sell. Right?
So over the last 20 years I’ve gotten to know myself better and one thing that happens is success compounds on itself, and as you gain more confidence, you continually gain more momentum.
Doing was always my best strategy. I built my vision through taking action. One day at a time. The hard work, the hustle and the grind.
So if there’s anything I can instill through this article it’s not that vision is somehow bad or irrelevant but that it’s actually OKAY if you aren’t starting from that place. You can always execute and figure things out later. I think so many of you are crippled by “I don’t have the right idea” or “I don’t know where I want to end up” but the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Vision always builds by taking action. One of my favorite examples I like to use is Sam Walton, who started Walmart at 44. It just goes to show that you can literally suck shit, do nothing for the next 15 years.. NOTHING and then build the thing that puts you on the map. It’s really that simple.
So the the truth is, my vision was to buy the Jets and my strategy out of school was, “I’m going to work my fucking face off. I’m going to constantly be in motion.”
I am going to constantly do. Which became, great, I’m going to build Wine Library. I’m going to sell more wine. I’m going to be right about trends. I’m going to launch a website. I’m going to try e-commerce. I’m going to open up more stores.
I didn’t know which of these would ultimately work or where it would necessarily lead, but I knew the building blocks of what I was going to try to do.
And now, when I look at it, it seems comical to me, because obviously I am working harder than ever. My days are literally scheduled by the minute. I recently hired a great writer Colin and he can definitely give you the inside scoop. He’s been asking to interview me for this article for weeks and I just didn’t have the extra 10 minutes.
It’s why I do DailyVee… You all see how hectic it actually is. It’s action. I’m in constant motion. Everyday, always, forever. For the most part, and during the traditional work week, I have zero minutes of down time.
All of my strategy came directly from opportunity. It came from action. First It was building the biggest wine store for my family. Then it became, “Oh my god, I understand what people do. Maybe I should be an investor.” That got me into Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley got me into tech and understanding how the world is going to fundamentally change.
Once I understood that, I realized the biggest businesses in the world, were going to get affected. Then I decided that I wanted to disrupt that world. The quickest path of entry, of learning it, was to actually be an agency and do work. To interact with fortune 100 companies and learn by doing.
Do work. Do work. Do work.
That led me to my vision now which was like, oh my god… I can build a communications Death Star, that I can use for the rest of my life. That I can then buy smaller brands and run them through my marketing machine and turn 10M companies into billion dollar companies through brand.
Now, over the last three, four, five years it’s been very clear to me that I’m trying to build this thing, which is the entire macro strategy, but it came from all the actions.
It came through the obsession with continuing to sell. Winning more clients, building my personal brand, creating obnoxious amounts of content, and watching it all grow.
The funny thing is you can’t really decide. You can’t lay out your epic strategy until you are actually in the place to execute. I couldn’t talk about VaynerX until I built a 150M revenue business. It would have been a complete joke.
So that’s where I see the two align. Through action comes vision and through vision comes action. It all just builds.
Most great entrepreneurs, subtly have some greater vision (which for me was to buy the Jets) but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be a straight line. Every 22 year old wants me to tell them exactly what to do, how it’s exactly going to happen, and what they should do. That’s just not life. It’s just not the way it works.
You have to do, then react, then revise, then win.
What I knew was, I had a vision to buy the Jets, but I realized it was going to zig and zag and there was going to be 857 things that were going to help me get there. I was always okay and comfortable in the unknown, which has allowed me to navigate towards success.
It’s the obsession of the unknown and the acceptance of the unknown that allows me to navigate within it.
So the last thing I’ll say is I think that micro strategy is still grossly underrated. Everyone reading this is so worried about their years, while continuing to waste their days. It’s all execution. You have to do. You have to move insanely fast in the micro and be insanely patient in the macro.
I think the key is to know that. You can’t put yourself in a position where you have golden handcuffs. Where you limit yourself to what you can actually do. Where you enter traditional media and you start to do banner ads and then you begin to believe that it’s the only thing you can actually do.
But the key is to understand that things always change, and if you don’t recognize that, you are going to miss what’s next.
My execution today is to run VaynerMedia… In many way that’s my micro strategy… My macro vision is to buy the jets.. So if something tastes different tomorrow I would be happy to change. I’ll drop Vayner overnight if I truly believe there is a 10X opportunity that is going to help me achieve my vision, which is to have the best possible process of trying to and eventually buying the Jets… The good thing is I don’t believe that will happen :) but you can already see my strategy is changing as I start to become more public about VaynerX and the acquisitions I am going to make.
Vision means nothing if you don’t take action. But always let your action inform your vision because at the end of the day…
The strategy is the strategy, until it’s not. ;)