Review: Crush It!

Every other Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a book of interest not directly connected to personal finance.

crushI’m a big believer in following your passions, wherever they might take you. Part of doing that is preparation – saving money, making choices that pave the way – but another part is simply stepping up to the plate and hitting that fat fasball down the middle of the plate when it comes your way.

Gary Vaynerchuk is passionate about wine. He’s one of the best known wine evangelists in the world because he wears it and shares it. He built a $60 million business in the wine industry mostly on the back of sharing his enthusiasm about wine online. Crush It! tells the story about Gary’s experience in translating his passion into a real business.

Gary’s story and advice rings really true to me because, in many places, it’s a journey I took myself. I did wind up in an area without the mainstream appeal of Gary’s area (sorry, folks, but there aren’t as many frugal people as there are wine fanatics) but most of the elements are strikingly similar.

His conclusions are spot-on, too – but we’ll get to that later.

1 – Passion Is Everything
It’s incredibly hard to be successful at something without being passionate at it. Why? Success takes time – a lot of it – and that early time is often filled with a ton of failure. If you don’t have that true seed of passion that will help you get through those early trials and tribulations, you’ll never make it through. Passion keeps you going even in the face of repeated failure, and it’s only through repeated failure that you build the skillset necessary for success. I agree from experience – I failed as a writer for at least ten years before finding any sort of success with the written word. Without passion for writing, I would have given up and started playing World of Warcraft.

2 – Success Is in Your DNA
Every single person is unique and brings a unique perspective and set of talents to the table. That unique mix is something that is valued by others if you go through the process of mining it and isolating exactly what you have that’s valuable. It’s a long process, one that’s going to include a lot of failure along the way.

3 – Build Your Personal Brand
What do people think of when they think of you? The stronger you can make that theme, the better off you are. Why? Because if you’re able to conjure up something when people think of you, they’ll already have a strong preconceived notion when they see your name pop up in other places. You’ll be familiar – and if you’ve built a positive (or at least an interesting) brand, you’ll turn something ho-hum into something people want to engage with. This might mean books, products you make, speaking engagements, and countless other things.

4 – A Whole New World
As the costs for starting your own business get lower and lower, it becomes less and less of a sensible proposition for talented and intelligent people to work for other people when they could be using that talent and intelligence to build a business for themselves and collect the rewards from their efforts. The Simple Dollar was started on a shoestring with little more than my spare time invested in it, for example. I could have just signed on to write or produce content for another site – but if I had done that, I would have made much less and had much less control over what happened with my stuff. If you’re passionate, don’t sell that passion to others – ride it yourself.

5 – Create Great Content
If you’re not making things that other people want to read or listen to or watch or interact with, no one will pay any attention to you. The keys are straightforward: know what you’re talking about, be excited and passionate about it, and tell a story as you go. Those things work in any medium about any topic that you might be covering.

6 – Choose Your Platform
“If you build it, they will come” isn’t true. You have to make sure people know you’re there and are aware of what you’re talking about. Thus, to get started, you have to go where the people are – places like Twitter and Facebook. Go there before you even have a product and join in the conversation. Follow others who are interested in the things you are and converse with them. Ask questions. Say astute things. Get involved in topics of conversation. Eventually, you’ll start accruing followers yourself – and you can start building from there in whatever direction you want. The key thing is that your followers – the people interested in what you have to say – are your platform.

7 – Keep It Real … Very Real
Don’t put on an act or else that act will inevitably fall apart. Be as real as you can. Be who you are. If you have boundaries, decide what they are right off the bat and make them as clear and concrete as possible – and never cross them. Aside from that, be completely yourself, because your authenticity will defeat any sort of faux image you attempt to develop.

8 – Create Community: Digging Your Internet Trench
Community building largely revolves around interacting with people, engaging in discussions, answering questions, asking questions, and being involved. You create community when you listen to what people say, focus on topics that people want to hear about, involve yourself in conversations, and so on. Each time you connect with a person, that person becomes part of your internet community. The larger that community is, the more powerful of a support platform it becomes for whatever you choose to do.

9 – The Best Marketing Strategy Ever
I will quote this entire chapter: “Care.”

10 – Make the World Listen
Many people start a site and focus immediately on how to turn a buck on it. Don’t worry about it at all. Instead, focus 100% on coming up with interesting content. Content brings eyeballs and eyeballs begats regular readers. It’s much harder to get that ball rolling if you’re focusing some of your energy on monetizing what you’re doing, so don’t. Wait on it.

11 – Start Monetizing
Once you do decide to start making money (after you have a nice audience, of course), there’s a lot of potential avenues for income – advertisements, affiliate programs, speaking engagements, consulting, freelance work, writing a book, and on and on and on. All of that (except for perhaps the direct ads) builds on top of establishing a community of followers who are interested in what you have to say.

12 – Roll with It
Things will change over time. You might find yourself going in a different direction than you initially expected. If that happens, roll with it. Live with the changes and find ways to capitalize on them instead of letting them wear on you. For example, The Simple Dollar has changed drastically since I started in terms of how I split my time and, if it continues, I may actually hire an assistant to help me take care of tasks.

13 – Legacy Is Greater than Currency
In the end, remember that a lasting legacy is much more valuable than money in hand right now. Don’t sell yourself out for something that you don’t believe in. If you do that and maintain honesty with the people who follow you, they’ll respect and value you far more than if you’re into every money-making opportunity that comes along.

Is Crush It! Worth Reading?
If you’ve ever thought you could do what I do, Crush It! is pretty much an essential read. It outlines quite a lot of the process involved in translating a personal passion into an online-led endeavor that can be your primary source of income. It matches up very well with my own experience in doing much the same thing.

The real key behind it, though, is passion. You need to have a passion before you even start or else the book won’t ever take off for you. If you have a passion and want to share it with others and grow it into something that can financially sustain you, that’s where this book takes over.

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