People ask me how I constantly stay so competitive and motivated. It’s tough for me to answer this question for others because for me, being motivated is hard wired. It started for me at a very young age. Whether it was playing AJ in basketball or negotiating the best spot to sell my baseball cards, I was always hungry for the win. I always hated the look on somebody’s face when that person beat me at something. I am very visceral to that feeling; I hate it.
But when I really think about it, being hungry is a perspective. It’s the genuine understanding that you only have one life and a certain amount of time to accomplish everything you want to do. Because of that, there are two major factors (that seem at odds) that can drive your motivation: 1. Selfishness and 2. Gratitude. You have to be selfish with the time you have left and grateful for the time you’ve had.
When I say “being selfish” I’m not talking about money. I’m looking for legacy. If you told me that I could have $500 million and the narrative of my career in the advertising world at VaynerMedia was, “He did a nice job—He did well for himself and he made money” or I could have $200 million and the narrative would be, “He mentally changed how the industry thought about attention,” there’s no question which one I would choose. It’s more important to me to have the impact and the legacy. I’d much rather be known as the guy who changed the wine or advertising industry than the dollars associated with either.
What makes this easy for me is that I genuinely enjoy the process more than the things the process can get me. I love putting in the work. I love the grind. I always value the victory over the fruits of the victory. It’s a great mindset to have and if you can shift your perspective that way, it will help you stay motivated too.
Most of the time when people ask me about motivation, 80% of the time I attribute it to gratitude. If you want real fuel to win, be grateful.
Gratitude is what has gotten me through my toughest moments in business. Whenever I have lost a deal to a competitor, or an incredible employee, or millions of dollars in revenue, I default to gratitude. Why? Because I recognize that even if bought the Jets tomorrow, none of it would matter to me at all if I got a call the next day that someone I love was sick or had died. You’d be surprised then how quickly I would stop giving a crap about business. It comes from a dark place, but it’s true.
Knowing that I was born in Belarus in the former Soviet Union, probably the least capitalist place in the whole world—and having had the serendipity of being able to come to the most remarkable country on earth when I was three—I have a full perspective on where I come from. I got really lucky that what I’m great at (entrepreneurship and business) is really appreciated in the US.
My perspective on both the health and wellness of my family, as well as where I came from, allows me to handle anything and everything. My gratitude allows me to step away from any issues and remind me of all the great things I’ve been given.
It’s impossible not to stay motivated or get too down when you’re feeling grateful.
Being motivated is all about a mental shift in perspective. It’s the understanding that time is your number one asset; you have to do right by it by being grateful with the time you’ve had and selfish with the time you have left.
You have to make the most out of the one life you get. This “you’re going to die” mindset might be considered dark, but it helps me stay motivated very easily. The selfishness of legacy over the currency, along with the urgency of a limited amount of time, adds up to competitiveness and drive. Because, who really knows what tomorrow brings? That’s what keeps me hungry.
Motivation isn’t everything—it’s only half the battle. It’s easy to get motivated, but it’s hard to execute. Remember: Ideas are shit until you execute. For more on that, check out this episode of the #AskGaryVee Show: