Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

  • It’s never a bad time to start a business unless you’re starting a mediocre business. I think economic downturns represent a huge opportunity for everyone to get their focus on and start to crush it. The person who can dominate during rough times is the person who can dominate, period.

  • Everyone—EVERYONE—needs to start thinking of themselves as a brand. It is no longer an option; it is a necessity.

  • If you’re passionate about your content and you know it and do it better than anyone else, even with few formal business skills you have the potential to create a million-dollar business. Here’s why: let’s say you love to fish, and you happen to know a load about worms. In fact, you’re embarrassed at how much you like worms and like to talk about worms. But there’s no way you can make money on worms, right? Wrong. You can use the Internet to build a platform where you can talk about worms to your heart’s content. Passion is contagious. If you channel it into creating amazing content and distribute that content using social media.  
  • Storytelling is by far the most underrated skill in business.

  • Wine Library TV was never about selling wine on the Internet. It was always about building brand equity.

  • Developing your personal brand is key to monetizing your passion online. Whether you’re delivering your content by video, podcast, or blog, it’s the authentic you, the one thing that is guaranteed to differentiate you from everybody else, including those who share your niche or business model. The thing that most people don’t realize is that in today’s world your business and your personal brand need to be one and the same, whether you’re selling organic fish food or financial advice or just your opinion. Monetizing a personal brand is not a new concept. A lot of the most successful entertainment figures in the world are personal brand geniuses, like Oprah, Howard Stern, and Emeril. They built their empires out of being who they are and never backing down from it. But the major benefits of personal branding are not limited to the A-list celebrities. In fact, personal branding is what gives everyone an unprecedented shot at joining their ranks. For example, think about what some people might consider second-tier celebrities like Ashton Kutcher or Kerry Rhodes. Kutcher was already famous from his stints on television, not to mention his marriage to Demi Moore, but there is no doubt that his brand has blown up since he started leveraging social networking tools. Rhodes, the New York Jets football player, has been using Twitter with incredible success to make his brand bigger.

  • The first generation built their brands on television and movie screens, radio, magazines, and newspapers, and the new one will do the same online at a much lower cost, with no need for a gatekeeper’s approval. Get into position, because the big killing is coming around the corner. The field may be different, but the game is just the same.   
  • Quality is a tremendous filter. Cream always rises, my friends, no matter how many cups of coffee you pour.

  • When you’re thinking about your personal brand, don’t worry that it will have to look anything like mine in order for you to crush it. You’ll crush it as long as you concentrate on being yourself. Besides, you can’t be like me. I like wines that you don’t. I like White Castle and the New York Knicks, and you probably don’t. I’d rather drink a V8 than any fruit juice, and I hoover my veggies. All of those quirks and preferences have shaped my brand. Your brand will be unique and interesting because you are unique and interesting. Don’t put on an act to try to imitate me or anyone else who’s had some success with social marketing. You will lose because people can sniff out a poser from a mile away.

  • Business in the future is going to be a field day for everyone with talent because they’ll no longer be forced to exist within the confines of old-guard institutions.

  • To monetize your personal brand into a business using social marketing networks, two pillars need to be in place: product and content. We’ve talked about how to choose your product, which should be whatever you’re most passionate about. Whatever it is, it should go without saying that quality counts in a major way. You can hustle and market and network all you want, but if your sports drink tastes like trash, or if you’re putting out bad information, you’re going to lose.

  • Great content is what you’re going to pump into your social media networks to draw eyeballs to your blog. It exists as a result of passion plus expertise, so make sure you can talk about your product like no one else. Do your homework. You should be reading and absorbing every single resource you can find—books, trade journals, newsletters, websites, as well as taking classes and attending lectures and conferences (you’re also going to visit and interact with other people’s blogs on the same subject, but there’s a method to that, which we’ll get to later). You can even make the learning process part of your content. Think of all those cooking blogs that chronicle disastrous culinary experiments. Those are fun, right? And a pediatrician who admits he is considering changing his approach to vaccines based on the newest studies coming from the APA isn’t giving his patients’ families reason not to trust him, he’s showing them that he’s on top of the latest research.

  • There’s only one test I can suggest if you want to be absolutely sure that the passion around which you’re building a brand is also a monetizable product. Can you think of at least fifty blog topics that you’re amped to write about it? That’s about the minimum number of posts you’ll need to give yourself enough time to get a feel for the situation. That said, I’m convinced that if something is your true passion you can find five hundred things—five hundred interesting things—to say about it. Most people talk themselves out of success before they even start. Their passion is stickers, but they think, “There’s no way I can make a hundred grand talking about stickers.” That’s why you’re going to crush it—because you’re the type who’s going to say, “Stickers? Hell, yes, stickers!”

  • If your passion is sales, talk to me about why you love it, your favorite persuasive technique, your most interesting clients, and your biggest challenges. Tell me your story, and if you’re good, I’ll come back for more. Then I’ll tell my friends, and they’ll come, and where my friends and I go, the dollars—in the form of ad revenue, sponsorships, and invitations to broaden your platform—will follow. Communicate with me, because whoever is the best communicator will win.

  • You can monetize any passion, but the level at which you can monetize will be affected by the size of your niche and whether you are able to differentiate yourself enough from the other players in it. There are a lot of pockets out there today, however, that can sustain a nice forty-to-seventy-five-thousand-dollar-a-year business.  
  • We’ve all watched and read and listened to boring blogs. Most of them out there, in fact, are really boring. Is it because the star doesn’t know what he’s talking about? No—he’s on message, he’s relevant, he’s informative. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, it’s that he’s talking about it at all. He probably should be talking about something else, something that makes him shine, that gets him excited, that allows his personality and his passion to burst through your monitor and demand that you pay attention no matter whether he’s an introvert or an extrovert. A lot of people add these blogs to their websites for visual interest and to offer a different way for their audience to get information, and that’s fine. But adding video or audio elements just for the sake of adding them isn’t going to send your brand and business to the moon. The only way these tools work is if you’re using them for the right job. Even the dullest introvert has pizzazz when talking about something he is passionate about, and when he’s using the right medium to talk about it. If you watch an engineer talking about engineering, and it’s boring, one of three problems is in play: he’s talking about the wrong topic, he’s using the wrong medium, or both. If I spent an hour with him, maybe we’d discover that his medium is writing, and his passion is baseball. Get him writing about baseball, and I guarantee he’ll get better feedback and financial results than he ever had when talking about engineering. There are people who belong in front of a camera, there are people who belong in print, and there are people who belong on the air. These are the extraordinary people. The ordinary ones, the ones like the vast majority of businesspeople and entrepreneurs out there, don’t have the showman DNA. That doesn’t mean they won’t succeed, as long as they are realistic about what success is going to look like. The extraordinary people will makes millions of dollars and the ordinary Joes will earn more in the midfive-figure range. Is that disappointing? Think of it this way: Oprah, who is without a doubt extraordinary, built her brand using the right medium and the right topic, and she made billions, and the massive majority made zero. Today, everybody else can make $40,000 to a million, so long as they can nail the correct combination of their medium and passion. In most of the country, earning midfive figures means you’re living pretty well, often exactly as well as you would were you schlepping into someone else’s office every day. Now though, you’re earning the same money talking about something you are crazy about. It’s a good deal. Take it. Know yourself. Choose the right medium, choose the right topic, create awesome content, and you can make a lot of money being happy.

  • You’re going to work your content in two ways. The first is as a lure, creating it, posting it, and allowing people to come to you as they discover it. The second is to use it as a lasso through comments on other people’s content that relates to yours, inserting yourself into existing conversations and actively creating reasons for your audience to come to you.

  • Your DNA dictates your passion—whatever it is you were born to do; being authentic, and being perceived as such by your audience, relies on your ability to ensure that every decision you make when it comes to your business is rooted in being true to yourself.

  • One of the silliest questions I get is, “What kind of mic do you use?” To that I reply, why are you even worrying about that? Your content has nothing to do with the mic, the camera, the lighting, or the set. The day I filmed my first Thunder Show I sent the stock boy out to buy a $400 video camera from Best Buy (now I use a fancy Sony that cost a few thousand bucks, but most of my recent shows I tape on a $150 Flip Cam and they look fine). Watch the show, what do you see? It’s me, sometimes an awesome guest ranging from my dad to Wayne Gretzky to Jim Cramer, some bottles of wine, and a Jets spit bucket. I only invest effort and thought into what I care about and what I need to create great content.  
  • My business blog, Garyvaynerchuk.com, is even less dressed up. A lot of times I’m filming from my office, which is usually a mess. I could clean it up to look more professional and polished, but it seems wrong to do that just because the Flip Cam is running. There’s nothing scripted and nothing staged about my blogs, and I always, always do only one take. No redos, no tweaks, nothing. People walk in and out of the office, I wave to folks passing in the hall—whatever happens during filming is what my audience will see. I’ve filmed posts from balconies, hotel rooms, the street, even my editor’s office—anywhere an idea strikes me. Sometimes the sound quality sucks. Sometimes the light is bad. As long as I get my point across and feel like I delivered the message in an authentic way, I don’t care. Once upon a time the most popular celebrities were boxed up in such slick, sleek packages it was almost impossible to get a feel for their real personalities. Every move was choreographed, even their love lives, and even when they weren’t on the red carpet they were red-carpet ready. Those days are long gone. The celebrities of today, the ones who are making it huge by connecting with their fans, whether on the screen or online, are all about keeping it real and being themselves. No matter how big or small you want to go, your authenticity will be at the root of your appeal and is what will keep people coming to your site and spreading the word about your personal brand, service, or whatever you are offering.

  • A lot of people get wrapped up in designing their blogs and writing or taping their content. But creating your content is the easy part. Of course your product should be as good as it can be, but it should also be the least time-consuming element of your whole endeavor. What you do after you tape a show or write or record is the whole game. Creating community—that’s where the bulk of your hustle is going to go and where the bulk of your success will be determined. Creating community is about starting conversations. When you move into a new house, you meet your neighbors by going out in the evenings and shaking hands with people walking their dogs or taking their runs, complimenting people on their gardens, introducing your kids if you notice a family playing in their yard with children of the same age. If you go to a conference, you meet your fellow attendees by introducing yourself and shaking hands with everyone else who’s milling about. You trade anecdotes and information, hand out your business card. Creating community online works exactly the same way. To create an audience for your personal brand, you’re going to get out there, shake hands, and join every single online conversation already in play around the world about your topic. Every. Single. One.

  • Building and sustaining community is a never-ending part of doing business.

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