I’ve known about Gary Vaynerchuk for a few years now; being in the restaurant industry and selling a lot of wine turns one onto new approaches in the name of the almighty dollar. But I avoided his business book Crush It! for several months because his manic style just wasn’t all that appealing to me. But after one of the professors on my thesis committee recommended it to me, I finally found myself, copy in hand, wondering if the principles he lays out for building a personal brand can really help me and if I have the energy to fully exploit them.
Vaynerchuk wants you to find the one thing you want to do more than any other and then build a personal brand around it. The immediate problem for me? I have no idea what I want to do more than any other. In fact, I think such a dilemma has been a struggle for a long time now, as I am unenthused about this blog yet unwilling to abandon it. How does someone with near equal fascination with foreign policy, Green Lantern comics, NASCAR, and Scrooge McDuck supposed to figure out what he is truly passionate about? However, one thing seems to be overarching in not only my academic research but also the above wide ranging interests: narrative. I dig how stories are told, how events unfold and are presented to an audience. Currently, I am blowing through LOST at an incredible pace, not only because I want to figure out what happened with the Dharma Initiative, but also because the use on nonlinear narration gets me literally excited.
So Vaynerchuk wants me to build a brand around this interest. First is to set up a blog and start reaching out to likeminded individuals by coming up with the topics for fifty posts. I already have a blog, though honestly I think I may be moving it soon to a domain with more freedom (more on that when and if it comes). But I wonder if I really can sit down and come up with fifty topics. That’s ten weeks at five posts a week, a total that I have been aspiring to without actually really trying. So this evening, as I sit and watch the Super Bowl, I am going to brainstorm certain topics that might fit these parameters. Even if I can't come up with fifty, maybe I can come up with twenty and at least get started.
Getting your name out in the community is another of Vaynerchuk’s missions for the entrepreneur. Not only does he want relentless promotion of your content across a wide range of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of other sites I’ve only heard of, he wants you out there on specific forums, responding insightfully to others discussing your interests. I’ve already adopted a few of these myself, but what I really don’t do is participate in the larger conversations about narrative. The reasons are plentiful, but they boil down to a failure to remain comfortable with the unstructured communication blitz one encounters in all sorts of places online; it’s hard to parse what is relevant and real. However, joining Twitter has helped me adjust to this slightly, so perhaps I am moving in the right direction. And if I am engaged in discussion about narrative with others, that seems less a task to be completed as it does a passion to be fed.
Monetizing such an enterprise is where Vaynerchuk seems a little weak. For a person who does not offer tangible goods for others to purchase, there seems little one can do really make a living off something like this. Sure, you might end up getting some advertising revenue and be asked to speak at a few places, but pulling in something in the mid-five figures seems nigh impossible. That said, if I pursue my research further in getting a PhD and working in academia, branding myself as one of the guys to talk to when you want to know about disjointed narratives will serve me well. Perhaps I couldn’t earn my living purely through a thriving blog about narrative and technology, but it could supplement my work as a scholar and give me the opportunity to attend conferences on someone else’s dime.
Writing everyday will also help me hone my personal style, hopefully working out some of the disastrous kinks when it comes to me writing humor. Again, a study in narrative.
This post is not a review of Vaynerchuk’s book, nor is it likely to be of use to anyone reading it. It’s merely a way for me to work through the issues that Crush It! inspired after I finished it, and to formulate a plan on where to go from here. Let’s see how it goes.