I spoke to Gary Vaynerchuk today as part of his “Hey, why don’t I give an interview to someone every day?” project. Gary is a ridiculously successful entrepreneur who writes and talks about marketing in today’s world. I asked him about his heroes and his advice for kids and parents on how to be heroic.
There was no hesitation to this answer. His parents were his heroes when he was a kid and they remain so now. His parents moved the family to America from the Soviet Union when he was three and worked fiercely hard to make ends meet. They were young, spoke barely any English, and were new to Edison, New Jersey. Their work ethic saw them through. They took an enormous risk to make their kids’ lives better. And it worked.
Gary knows his stuff – he said there’s a temptation for people to offer up people they admire as heroes. Anyone who has been reading here for a length of time knows I loved hearing that. Admiring someone is very different to describing them as heroes.
Advice for Kids
Heroes need teams. If you read about a hero, you will find a team that helped them achieve their goals. Look at MLK, Gandhi, or Irena Sendler and you will find a team. I asked Gary what his advice would be to a budding hero looking to build a team.
He said the key to building a team is to be a good leader and that a good leader is one who is always willing to be the bigger person. A leader-hero has to be quick to apologise, willing to give without needing to receive, able to lead by example, and be self-deprecating. He suggested this set of traits is rare and it’s easy to agree with him.
If you look at Gary’s interactions online you will notice he never rises to the taunts of people. He said that’s because he honestly respects people and their opinions. If someone thinks he’s said something wrong, he can appreciate that and learn from it.
Lastly he suggested that someone wanting to attract people to his or her cause needs to balance humility and bravado. At the same time, a hero needs to show extreme confidence and refuse to present themselves as being better than everyone else. That’s a tough balancing act, but if you believe in yourself, you’ll see people being attracted to your leadership.
Advice for Parents
Gary has a daughter less than a month older than my daughter, so I was interested to hear what role he was playing in her development. I asked if he was deliberately curating heroes and stories to present to his daughter. He said absolutely not. While many parents try to control the world around their kids, Gary is watching what his daughter is getting excited about and then reacting. Being reactive allows him to participate in the development of her character instead of guiding it.
Rather than present a series of people you want your child to take on as their heroes, why not find out who they’re interested in and then have discussions about those people. Are they heroes? What do they do right? What do they do wrong? I can’t get my kid to like cricket, as hard as I try. But she loves soccer, so I need to focus my conversations on that. See how much easier that is?
This video from last year shows Gary talking about his heroes.