Gary Vaynerchuk: A Hustler at Heart… Life & Lessons

This post is part of our Inspirational People series, covering the life stories and lessons from some of the worlds most successful and influential people. For more posts like this one, click here.

Gary Vaynerchuk Life Story, Lessons and BiographyGary Vaynerchuk. Perhaps not quite a world changer yet, but certainly an influencer and one of the many hustling New Yorkers who you may not have heard of, but who is quickly coming up from behind for success.

Vaynerchuk moved to New York as an immigrant, ran several business ventures as a child and spent most of his teenage life working in his father’s liquor store. However, he is now best known for his early online shows of and his intense knowledge and passion for business, success, online media marketing, wine and the hustle.

A Vaynerchuk Life

Gary Vaynerchuk was born on November 14th, 1975 in Babruysk, U.S.S.R (now known as Belarus) but following the arrival of the soviet cold war, finally moved with his family to Queens, New York at the age of just 3 years old. Here “It was hard-core,” says Gary, “It was super immigrant” but before long his father got a job as a stock boy in a Liquor Store in New Jersey and after some hard-work became both the assistant manager and then manger of the store.

Following the promotion of his father, Vaynerchuk and his family of 9 moved from their small flat in Queens, New York to Edison, New Jersey, where according to Gary, ‘his entrepreneurial career’ began at just age six.

It was here in New Jersey where Gary started his first business, the iconic lemonade stand. But not only did he start and run one lemonade stand, but instead seven, a Franchise he called it, and after he’d put his friends to work, he’d ride around New Jersey to ‘pick up his cash like Tony Suprano,’ he recalls at his 2011 Keynote speech at an Inc 500 Seminar.

A few years later and at the age of 11, Vaynerchuk once again began another entrepreneurial venture, selling baseball cards at the local malls and shows of New Jersey. He has claimed to of made up to $3000 dollars during a single weekend at the time, however on one Saturday morning, prior to one of his great money making shows, his Father told him he wasn’t going but instead coming with him to the store.

Gary remembers it vividly and on reflection remembers crying to his father all the way there. He recalls the point at which he came to terms with his losses and so asked how much he’d be getting paid there instead, his father told him how much and again he say’s, he turned to cry even more. It was nowhere near the sum he’d have been earning at the show.

But the weeks went by and Vaynerchuk got used to working in the Store. He was eventually allowed out of the basement to deal with customers upstairs and it was here, following the recognition of a particular wine in the Wine Spectator magazine, where Gary noticed the high numbers of people coming in for the wine and being turned away with no joy.

Gary Vaynerchuk 16 WineVaynerchuk couldn’t see the sense and thus introduced the store’s first ever back-order system and thus making the most of the demand. However, the back-order system was not the greatest result of his work, but his subsequent realisation that people not only collected baseball cards… but Wine to.

From here on in, Gary learnt everything there was to learn about wine and has since recalled how he spent many of his lessons in school reading the Wine spectator, while everyone else learnt about what they should have been learning. However, he has since been named many things including “the wine world’s new superstar” and “outside of Robert Parker, probably the most influential wine critic in the United States” demonstrating just how far an obsessional school boy can go.

Following Graduation

Following his graduation from Mount Ida College in Newton, MA, he went on to transform the Liquor store he and his Father had spent so many of his teenage years in. He turned the Liquor store in Springfield Township, Union County, New Jersey into Wine Library and in 2006, with growth in the web and online video sharing, started a video blog named Wine Library TV.

Wine Library TV Shows Gary Vaynerchuk BiographyWine Library TV was a daily Internet web show on the subject of wine and its first ever episode debuted on February 21, 2006. Through it, Vaynerchuk could give advice, answer questions from his Facebook page Ask Gary, host guests, run competitions and in the end promote and sell wine from his Wine Library Website.

However, it did not catch on straight away, as use of the internet was still growing and Wine Library was still yet to break through. But after a little belief and determination it did and it did so big time, aiding Gary in turning his fathers ‘Discount Liquor Store’ from a $3million a year business, to over $45 million a year. Wine Library became and still is, the biggest online Wine Retailer in the US, if not the world and in March 2009, Wine Library TV was nominated in the Streamy Awards.

After 1’000 episodes of Wine Library TV, each being watched over 100’000 times, Gary retired the show in March 2011 and replaced it with a similar podcast and APP named The Daily Grape. It had a shorter format of only two wine reviews and fewer guests but he thought it was better aimed at the modern ways of using and integrating the internet and life.

Gary Vaynerchuk Wine

During the show, Vaynerchuk would give his impressions on a wine and rate them out of 100, however on August 23rd 2011, he announced that Daily Grape would also be brought to an end. He said he was retiring from video blogging to focus on other things, including VaynerMedia, the social media brand consulting agency which he’d co-founded in 2009.


Vaynermedia logo Gary VaynerchukIn the spring of 2009, Gary and his brother AJ started VaynerMedia, what they call a ‘a new breed of agency’ to help Fortune 500 companies like PepsiCo, Green Mountain Coffee, the NY Jets and the Brooklyn Nets find their social voices.

Gary and AJ, who both have a passion, knowledge and a long lived experience of story-telling and promotion through the web and social media, plan to help these companies ‘build their digital brands through micro content and their own story-telling actions’.

“The idea took hold,” says Gary on, “what started as a 6-person project 4 years ago has swelled to a 250-strong team spread across the country.”

Angel Investment

“One of the 25 most influential investors on Twitter.” says CNN Money

According to CNN Money, Gary Vaynerchuk as poured “millions into start-ups like the black car app Uber, monthly beauty delivery service Birchbox, and the location services, Gowalla, acquired by Facebook.” And currently has substantial investments in over 30 companies including Twitter and Tumblr, and sits on the board of over 10 including HubSpot, Quirky, Spreecast and DISQUS.

When asked about his Return on Investment with Twitter, Vaynerchuk has famously said “People ask me about the ROI [Return on Investment] of Twitter and I say, ‘Do you think I got a million-dollar book deal because of my good looks?”

Widespread Books

Over the years, Gary has not only worked on Wine Library and Invested in other Tech based companies, but also gave back the knowledge and skills he has developed through these times in the publication of his books.

Crush It Gary Vaynerchuk

In March 2009, Vaynerchuk signed a 10-book deal with Harper Studio’s for over $1,000,000. Following this, he released his first book, ‘Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion’ in October 2009. The book encouraged people to determine what their true passion was and pursue monetizing their work around it on the Internet.

Crush it! was one of the first books released on the Vook platform and in it’s first few weeks following release climbed to #1 on the Amazon Best Seller list for Web Marketing books, #2 on the New York Times Hardcover Advice bestseller list and #7 on the Wall Street Journal’s Bestseller list. It was also featured on CBS News and Psychology Today.

In March 2011, Vaynerchuk released his follow-up to Crush It!, The Thank You Economy. In this book Gary focused on the need for companies to adapt to the Internet era, where he says ‘there has been a shift seen in the power of the consumer and in how businesses are expected to behave’. The Thank You Economy once again gave Vaynerchuk a #2 spot on the New York Times Hardcover Advice & Misc. Bestseller List.

“The skill set it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, a successful marketer, or a relevant celebrity is a different skill set than you needed ten years ago, even though that was the skill set that mattered for decades.” – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Jab Jab Jab Right Hook, Gary Vaynerchuk

In November 2013, Gary released his most recent book at the time of writing this now. In ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World’, Vaynerchuk shares how to connect with customers and beat the competition through social media. In the book he shows that while communication is still key, context matters more now than ever before.

“A mash-up of the best elements of Crush It! and The Thank You Economy with a fresh spin, ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook’ is a blueprint to social media marketing strategies that really works.” Says Google Books.

Life Lessons from Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary has lead a great and inspiring life to yet, full of hustle and energy. And yet while his lessons below are in their simplest formats very similar to those of other successful people, the way in which Gary expresses, means and sticks to them in his own life is actually so very different. Gary suggests not only to do things, but instead to do them like he does, with great intent and with an enthusiasm for action greater then you’ve ever felt before.

Keep Hustling

Gary Vaynerchuk is a well known and proud hustler, a hustler at heart and a hustler who’s being hustling longer than he can even remember. He once said “Stop crying… keep hustling’ and personally I love this quote, because many people will say ‘never give up’ or ‘just keep pushing’, but not Gary, because he has hustle in his blood and that true New Yorker zest oozing from him, creating a new spin on opinion and telling you to “stop crying… keep hustling” just like he would.

Gary Vaynerchuk Lesson, Keep Hustling Quote

If there were just two lessons you were to take away from Gary Vaynerchuk today, this should be one of them. Gary never gives up and neither should you, but while ‘don’t give up’ has become just another saying said by many in our world, Gary means it.

He knows that determination is needed to carry on, but with true New Yorker grit urges you to not only keep on progressing slowly and surely but instead to re-generate, re-emerge and push forward with some of that great enthusiasm, energy and passion that he and we all have inside of us.

Don’t Do Shit You Hate

“Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, what do I want to do everyday for the rest of my life… do that.” Says Gary, “There’s no reason in 2013, to do shit you hate. NONE.”

And again, this is another simple lesson at its basics and in fact one very similar to that of Steve Jobs when he said “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” But as you can see, Vaynerchuk doesn’t speak this one softly and finds, as do I to, that many people rather then doing what they love, in fact waste their lives on ‘sh*t they hate’.

Gary Vaynerchuk Picture Quote on Doing What You Love

This is something which many of Gary’s books suggest and explain, but just to recap it’s 2013 (or 2014 even at the time of writing this now) and “there’s no reason in 2013, to do shit you hate.” So learn your lesson if you haven’t already and do the work you love, not the shit you hate, because only by doing what you love will you live a successful and seriously fulfilling life.

Create A Legacy, Not Just A Fortune

Legacy is something hugely important to me and quite clearly in the way Vaynerchuk speaks is something of key importance to him to. I realise that things such as money, time and peoples personal opinions cannot last forever and will die out not much later than I do, as with legacy, well a good legacy will live on forever.

Gary Vaynerchuk Life Lesson Quote - Legacy is Greater than Currency“Legacy is greater than currency.” Says Gary, agreeing with my views on an everlasting legacy. The aim is not to just to gain a quick buck today but instead to achieve a legacy for tomorrow and that’s what Gary believes in to and strives for everyday. He has often made clear in the past how thinks about how his decisions of today will impact on his legacy later on in life and has also made clear that he puts this ahead of all else.

As said before, if there are just two lessons to take away from Gary Vaynerchuk today, the first is yes to “Stop crying… keep hustling.” but the second and in many ways even more important and vital to real success than the first, is that “Legacy is greater than currency.” Remember that and both myself and Gary can assure you that in your journey to self-fulfilment and success, you cannot go far wrong.

Wrote by Joe Brown