I Failed All My Classes and that’s Why I’m Winning
In hindsight, the fact that I was considered a failure for the first 18 years of my life has become the foundation of my success.
I wasn’t a great student, and I wasn’t well read, and honestly that was my advantage. There are a lot of things I don’t know. I say things and people think they’re brilliant statements, but people have said all those things before, just differently (and I’d be happy to quote them if I knew how they actually said it!). This is actually something that I think about a lot:
That I get credit for a lot of things that are actually grounded in my weaknesses.
It is my honest belief that our educational system strips young people of their creativity. When you know what the rules are, you end up playing within them, so when you haven’t even read the rulebook, you have no choice but to do things your own way. Sometimes those things don’t work out, but sometimes you do something that would have been considered unacceptable by the old rules, and it works perfectly. You’re considered “disruptive” or “rogue” when in reality, you’re just doing what makes sense in that moment.
When you’re an 80 year old company, you have a lot of strengths, but you have a lot of weaknesses, too. You’re doing well by the old rules, so you don’t want to hear it. The guy who was making a fortune selling horses probably heard about that “Henry Ford thing”, but he was doing well, he thought he knew the rules and didn’t want to worry about that… and then technology and innovation killed his business.
Borders didn’t want to hear about what whole “Amazon thing” back in 1996. Blockbuster was aware of what Netflix was doing, but they didn’t want to hear it.
Not wanting to hear it is very very dangerous.
That’s what happened here at VaynerMedia. I didn’t know anything about the agency world when I started it, and that is weirdly why we’re growing faster than any other agency out there. I showed up without any preconceptions and asked dumb questions, but those dumb questions were grounded in business.
Ultimately, when your compass is oriented toward the consumer, and achieving actual business results, it will lead you to great things. So don’t be fearful when you enter a new environment. As long as you’re grounded in ideals that drive value toward the consumer and revenue toward your company, you’re going to find success.
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