A few months ago, I was doing some research on social media marketing and came across a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk, known my many as “Gary V.” From what I learned in my initial (and clearly half-hearted) research on the guy, he was a dude who created exponential growth in his family’s (already-successful) wine business via a YouTube channel called Wine Library. Blah blah blah, snooze. What I was interested in (as I began my search for a book agent) was how to use social media to create a platform for myself as a writer. I bought the audio version of Gary’s book, “Crushing it” and headed out for a bike ride, which is usually how I listen to audiobooks.
I try to get at least a third of the way through a book before I give up on it. And to be fair, I made it almost to the halfway point of what ended up being a series of testimonies from young entrepreneurs, aggrandizing Gary V, while he occasionally chimed in with some self-congratulation of his own. The gist of this book is this: If you want to make it big like your pal Gary, you need to be willing to “eat shit.”
Eating shit is a common suggestion that Gary spews from his enormous platform, which seems to mostly consist of [young and impressionable] folks in their 20s. In fact, if you google “Gary Vaynerchuk” and “eat shit” together, you’ll see what I’m talking about. In a Facebook post that was shared over 1500 times, Gary says,
“You need to be willing to eat shit, bleed, get laughed at, judged, snickered at, whispered behind,bet against, misunderstood …If you believe in yourself and what you are doing and are acting like life is long and if you do the right things it’s plays out then DO YOU … I wish you heard and saw what people said about me from 1988-2003 … I knew who I was and I was willing to be patient and work my face off to say “Now what assholes” .. stick it to the world if the world sleeps on you…BUT DO IT THE RIGHT WAY AND KNOW .. it’s gonna be painful before it’s amazing.”
In this post, I want to talk about why this message is so misleading, combative, and not the way to achieve success. The grind is a lie. I’ve done the grind. And I make a lot more money now, as a reformed grinder. And I assure you, no shit has been eaten on the path to my success.
The grind and I
Back in 2013, I leapt (and landed) face-first into motivational self-helpery. Leading the charge at the time (and still now, as he purports to be a top motivational speaker in the world) was Eric Thomas, known by many of his followers as “ET.” I was going through this drink-jet-fuel-and-take-over-the-world phase. My motivation was on-key, but motivation hasn’t really ever been an issue for me. I was seeking strategies for making it big. I started listening to some of ET’s motivational talks. I bought his poorly-written book, a lot of which made me scratch my head. Motivational speakers often try to make you believe they’ve overcome some unimaginable hardships to get to where they are in life – and many have. But ET talks all the time about growing up in Detroit and being homeless… after reading his book, it sounded more to me like he was a teen runaway. He wasn’t struggling financially… he hadn’t been gripped by addiction. He didn’t suffer a major physical tragedy… he was a kid who ran away. Similarly, Gary V isn’t a rags-to-riches story. His family business was already generating $3 million per year in sales when he got involved. Yes, he did contribute to impressive growth of the family business, but the hard part for most people is getting off the ground. Gary has never had to “eat shit” or “bleed” for his success. He was born into it. Has he worked hard? I’m sure. But I think the narrative he lived and the advice he gives others are not aligned.
When I was going through my ET phase, I started getting up at 4 in the morning and was at the gym by 4:45. Mind you, I worked for myself. I had no office to report to or particular schedule to follow, but ET talked all the time about how he got up at 3am, and that his dream was more important than his sleep. I thought, “my dream is more important than my sleep, too!” So 6 days a week (even on Saturday), I was at the gym doing fasted cardio at 4:45, usually on about 5 hours of sleep. And I’d be in such a haze for most of the day that I’d have to amp myself up on caffeine and yohimbine to be able to get any work done… and then take a double dose of pre-workout to get through my afternoon workout. I was cranky and irritable. I couldn’t think. I spent about a year in a state of sleep deprivation.
I was grinding. If I wasn’t on my laptop working, I was at the gym lifting weights or doing cardio. I experienced immense guilt if I did anything for fun because I felt like that was time I should have been spending working on my “dream.” My laptop went with me everywhere. Grind, grind, grind. I’d get defensive if anyone commented about how all I ever did was work and workout… they didn’t get it, I told myself. I was working on my dream, I told myself.
What I was really doing was burning myself out.
The Grind propaganda
Before I go any further, let me be clear that there is value in the messages of ET, and even Gary V. But I have a problem with the grind propaganda they spew. Here are the facts about success for anyone who isn’t a trust-fund baby or who didn’t married rich – success takes work. And vision. And commitment to working toward that vision. Every. Single. Day. But there’s a world of difference between visualizing and putting in the work and “grinding.” Is there sacrifice when working toward your goals? Certainly – but not the sacrifice of your happiness and well-being, and that’s the current that flows through these grind propaganda messages from folks like Gary V: “You need to be willing to eat shit, bleed, get laughed at, judged, snickered at, whispered behind,bet against, misunderstood …it’s gonna be painful before it’s amazing.”
The misleading message of the grind propaganda is this: Success is hard, and only people who are willing to eat shit and bleed will ever achieve it. I believe this is dangerous propaganda, especially for young people who are fresh out of college or just starting out in the world, feeling like they have to scratch and claw each others’ eyes out to make something of themselves. They’re fed these messages that if they work themselves to the bones, sacrifice everything for years, become obsessed with obtaining success (which is almost always defined exclusively as the achievement of material wealth), forfeit sleep, love, friends, and happiness, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, they’ll be successful.
Why “grinding” doesn’t work
Grinding doesn’t work because of the forces in nature that always pull us back to equilibrium. You can only grind so long before you’ll burn out, and when that happens, the pendulum tends to swing far in the opposite direction. A good metaphor for grinding is crash dieting. People go on extreme diets, depriving themselves of nutrition and calories, exercising like maniacs – and what happens? They lose weight, of course. Then what happens? They gain it back. Their bodies are trying desperately to bring them back into balance, often over-correcting and causing them to gain back whatever weight they initially lost. The same often happens with the grind. People get motivated toward a goal, become obsessed with its attainment, develop tunnel-vision that blocks out everything else in their lives, completely losing balance and dedicating every ounce of energy they have toward achieving their vision. And then they burn out and get snapped backwards, sometimes back to square one.
This is what the grind propaganda teaches us – unless you’re willing to sacrifice all pleasure and all balance in life, you will never become successful. This mantra is a dangerous lie because… are you ready for this?… life is supposed to be enjoyed. We’re wired for pleasure. We’re not robots or machines – humans need things like rest, love, and community. Without these things, we become unhappy and unbalanced. People cannot achieve true success if they’re unhappy, no matter how much money or power they possess.
What are you grinding for?
Back to me and my 2013-14 grind… let me tell you what I was grinding for: a perfect body and money. And a new car. My body got pretty damn close to perfect (by my standards, anyways), I bought a new Camaro at the end of 2014, and I managed to save up a little money. Great, right?
Sure, if being sexy and driving a sports car were my only criteria for success. The car was fun. Wearing size zero jeans was great. But I’d totally missed the bus on the happiness thing. I was sure that these superficial goals would foster in the happiness I so strongly craved, but at the end of 2014, even as I drove down the road, breathing in the smell of new car leather and being exceptionally pleased with my svelte physique, I wasn’t really happy. I was tired. And burnt out. I felt accomplished, but not fulfilled. Before then, I didn’t realize there was a difference between the two.
Here’s where I went wrong – my goals weren’t aligned with the fulfillment I hungered for. I’ve since spent a lot of time soul-searching, trying to understand the purpose of my life, my mission, why I’m here, what makes me tick, and I’ve radically re-routed my goals as a result. I still work my ass off, but I have a clear vision for my next chapter that is aligned with my life purpose. And I take time to relax, to explore, to breathe… to live. I now understand that part of my life purpose – part of everyone’s life purpose – is simply living. Not existing, not grinding, but living a life full of the experiences and sensations I can only have while I am temporarily rooted in this human body. Yeah, I can use my body to fling myself into the grind everyday, thanklessly working it to the bones and essentially squandering the life I have been blessed with in pursuit of things that will mean nothing after I die. Or… I can use my life to… live.
A better way
Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with money and financial success. Money is certainly part of the equation for me; not because I long to wear Jimmy Choos, but because I look at it as a tool to experience my life more fully. Further, the path to success – monetary and non-monetary – is not a freaking battlefield. It is not hard. It should not be a struggle. It does not require you to eat shit and sacrifice all fun and happiness. If you understand the law of attraction, which I’m going to blog about more in the near future, you know that if you believe success is hard and that money is hard to come by – IT WILL BE. Guys, buying into the grind propaganda won’t set you up for an easy life of luxury because if you’re grinding, you view success as something that requires total sacrifice… and that’s what it will always require for you. If you believe success is hard, it will be. That is the reality you’ll create for yourself.
If, on the other hand, you spend time creating a clear vision for your life – one that’s based on the attainment of both material and non-material success – and understand that those things and experiences are easily and readily available to you, you will begin to know what real success and balance are. I’ve created a clear vision for my life and I put in the work for it, but I also take plenty of time to savor experiences, smell the roses…. take pictures of mountains and lakes (haha). There’s a balance. By not viewing money as this thing I have to give up everything to obtain, it seems to just flow into my life. Do I work for it? Yes. And the work I do for it is part of my life purpose and fulfillment at this point in my life. I get plenty of sleep. I spend plenty of time on the things I love because the fulfillment and joy I get from things like walking through the woods make me a better person. Seeking joy puts me in a higher vibrational state that makes it easy to manifest the things and experiences I once believed required total sacrifice.
The grind is a lie. There is a much better way to achieve the things you want…. stay tuned.