Thoughts on Crush It!


Crush It, originally uploaded by seanmccann.

Let me preface this by saying I’m a big Gary Vaynerchuk fan. I find him to be inspiring, motivating and insightful. I also want to say that this is not meant to be a big slam on his book.

So, I’ll start with who SHOULD buy his book:

  • People who are new to social media: if you are just now learning about the power of social media and how to put it to work for you, this book is a great primer.
  • If you are thinking about going into business for yourself and/or if you want to make money off of blogging, then this is a great book for you.

The people who would be better off reading something else are:

  • Social media experts: if you have a job in social media, you’re going to find this to be really boring.
  • If you already understand the power of Twitter, Facebook and all of the other platforms out there, no need to read this.

But, I will say that you should always take any chance you get to see Gary speak or meet him in person. The guy gets it and really does work his ass off for everything he gets.


Self-Promotion vs. Personal Brand

I got a chance to catch one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s speaking engagements as he’s out on the road promoting his new book, Crush It! As he normally does, Gary took questions from the audience and someone posed an interesting question about one of knocks on him: he’s a selfish self-promoter.

Gary met the question head on and said something along the lines of  “I gotta sell. I put too much work into this book not to get out there and sell it.”  He made no apologies for building his personal brand.  At that point, I got it.  There’s a big difference between “self-promoting” and “building a personal brand”.

“Self-promoting” is bragging in a way that undermines the greater good of your team or company.

Building your “personal brand” is building your reputation, showcasing your work and networking.  Anyone who is interested in building their career and reaching for new goals should be building their personal brand.  And there isn’t anything wrong about that.

What’s Your Elevator Speech?

How many times have you been at a conference or cocktail party and had someone ask you a totally simple question that should know like that back of your hand…and you freeze?  It’s happened to me and I’m sure it happens to a lot of other people.  That’s why you need elevator speeches: loosely pre-prepared answers to questions someone is probably going to ask you.

A good elevator speech should:

  • Be concise – less than 30 seconds
  • Make sense to anyone – you’re probably talking to someone outside of your industry and area of expertise
  • Be interesting, memorable and repeatable – do your best to send that person away thinking that they know more about your business
  • Demonstrate passion – people gravitate and remember excitement and passion

Here’s a short list of elevator speeches you should have ready at any time.


  • What do you do at (insert company here)?
  • What is (insert brand here) all about?
  • How do you market (insert brand)?  – even if you’re not in marketing, you should have an answer to this question
  • What’s new in the (insert business category here) industry?


  • What kind of music do you like?
  • Seen any good movies lately?
  • What are you reading these days?
  • What do you do when you’re not working?

As you start to prepare these elevator speeches, there really isn’t a need to write anything down.  Just take some time and think about these questions and anything else that you’re asked on a regular basis and commit it to memory.

Most importantly, be confident in your responses.

Thank You, Old Style

When will Cubs fans learn?  You don’t fuck with the curse.  The minute you think you have it beaten, it comes back to bite you in the ass.

1984: The Padres suck, we’re going to sweep them!

Whoops, a ball through Leon Durham’s leg and all of the sudden Alan Wiggins, Kurt Bevaqua and the Padres win three in a row to boot your ass out of the playoffs.

2003: Let’s have Bernie Mac come and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the 7th Inning Stretch!

What did you say? Bernie is actually a Sox fan? And what’s that guy thinking in trying to catch a foulball? Next thing you know, the Marlins are World Champs.

And now 2008: The Cubs are the class of National League.  Getting to the World Series will be easy! We better buckle down for the crazy celebrations that will erupt in Wrigleyville!

So the city of Chicago gets a little presumptuous and suspends liquor and beer sales in the city for one hour after the 7th inning, assuming that they would be in the World Series.  And my old friends at Old Style get wise and come out with an 80oz can to create their own little loop hole – again ASSUMING that the Cubs would go deep into the playoffs. (click the image below for the full story)

Not so fast, Cub Fans

So, now the Cubs are down 2-0 and head to LA having to win three in a row just to advance to the NLCS.  But, I’m not going to say that it’s over.  I’m a Cardinals fan and way smarter than that.  But when you see a whole bunch of 80oz “Clinch Cans” at a dump in Joliet, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Is R.E.M. the Greatest American Band of All-Time?

If you get a chance to catch REM this summer, do it. I got to see them at Red Rocks last week and it was a great show.

One could make a strong argument that they are the ‘greatest” American band of all time. Before you jump my case, let me explain.  First off, I’m not an uber-huge REM geek.  I like them and own a couple of their records, so I feel like I can make a case for them from an objective standpoint.  Second, I’m not talking “best” – I’m talking “greatest” – with the descriptors being: best, biggest, longevity, defining a genre, can do a stadium tour.

Who else can you throw into that conversation? I’ve heard people say:

Metallica – Yeah, I think Metallica is in the conversation.  They’ve been around for over 20 years now and will probably fill stadiums when they tour to support their new record

Grateful Dead – Longevity? check. Talent? check. Polarizing? yes.  That would be my only knock against them.  They are probably even more polarizing than Metallica.

The Beach Boys – They really defined a sound and as a friend mentioned, they got better until Brian Wilson freaked out.

Guns n’ Roses – Could have been.  Probably don’t have the longevity to be in this conversation.  But damn, Appetite is a solid record.

When you stop and think about it, the US pumps out more, big solo acts than bands.

Who would you throw into the conversation?

How We Use Web 2.0 to Start Brand Conversations

I’ve looked all over the interweb for a simple, social media/web 2.0 flow chart-diagram-type-thingy.  Most of what I have found is really technical (like this) and goes on the theory that everyone knows and uses EVERY social media application.

So I got to doodling today and came up with this:

Web 2.0 Brand Communication Flow Chart

Maybe this is overly simplified, but this isn’t intended for all you blog-reading geeks.  It’s more for people who work on the brand side, with small budgets and want to get the word out.

Here’s how it works:

  • Content is developed.  It can come in the form of photos, in-store displays, videos, promotions and more.
  • That content is packaged up and formatted for a blog. (I really considered adding “website” in that box, but decided against it).
  • From there the content is shared in your favorite social networking and bookmarking websites.
  • THEN, the content is promoted on Twitter.  Personally, I see Twitter in a world of it’s own and different than blogs or social sites.
  • That’s it.  Pretty simple.

But give me your thoughts.  This is by no means perfect or finished.  It’s just a starting point.

Sorry, but Will Farrell is Overrated

I promise, I’m not trying to be contrarian when I say this, but Will Farrell is overrated.

Outside of Old School, which was great, his movies are just “ok”: Night at the Roxbury was a grease fire, Anchorman only had a few good lines, and Talledega Nights didn’t meet my expectations.

So, why all of the hoopla around his next flick, Semi Pro? Is it me or are all of his movies the same character with a different name and purposely cheesy costumes?

Let’s face it, Farrell is a modern day Chevy Chase or Bill Murray.  Those guys were good in their time, but I don’t think they got kind of exposure that Will Farrell gets today.  Of course the media and advertisers are more of a factor in 2008 than they were in 1988 – but still – I expect more when there is this kind of media onslaught.

I really get the feeling that people want a comedic superstar right now, and so whenever this guy is on a talk show or a commercial, everyone gathers around and forces themselves to laugh.  Is there that big of a void in comedy?

Will Farrell’s improv stuff is awful.  He’s been doing cameos on ESPN all week and they’re just terrible.  (Quick, get the writers at Wieden & Kennedy to come up with something, this guy is flopping).  And his talk show appearances aren’t much either. (Where’s Chris Elliott when you need him?)

My Education Sucked (Part 1 of I don’t know how many)

This entry probably won’t help me impress any prospective employers, if I ever go to look for a new job, but what the hell?  It’s the truth.

I want and need to come clean with this: My education sucked. I am a product of boring and institutionalized learning. I’ve always been really ashamed of my education and it will be nice to get this off my mind.

All of this started when I watched a video with Ira Glass, of This American Life explain how to tell a story. As he started to explain the storytelling process, he makes mention of how we are (wrongfully) taught in high school to put a title at the top of the page and lay out the facts underneath. This conjured up my frustration with all of my boring teachers who just went along with the boring system and taught us what “the man” taught them.

So here’s my educational background. In all of it’s glory.

Grade School – William Holliday / Pontiac Jr. High, Fairview Heights, IL

My grade school was below average. The teachers were eternally cranky and not really willing to adapt to the differences in how different kids learn. The guy who was our Math teacher in 7th and 8th grade was an angry Army vet who had absolutely no patience for students who couldn’t quite grasp that letters now represented numbers.

The Lit and English teachers were way past elderly. They churned out unchallenging multiple choice tests like Brian McNamee passed out needles. The good news for me was that these multiple choice tests were the kind that you could figure out if you did them backwards.

High School – Belleville (IL) East High School

My high school was a collection of mediocre teachers who had a hard time connecting and stimulating most students. I seriously don’t recall admiring or respecting any of them. How can that be? You would think that there would be ONE that motivated me in a four year period. Nope. They just wanted to go along with the system and collect their checks on Friday.

College – Southeast Missouri State University

In college, there was a pretty wide disparity between the good and the bad. I was an Advertising/Communcations major and there was one professor who managed to get me off my ass and actually read the textbook. He also managed to make his lectures somewhat interesting. The problem was that he was a complete asshole who was nearing the end of his teaching career, and he really didn’t give a shit anymore. Sad to say, but he was the best professor I had.

On the flip side, the rest of the Mass Comm Dept. was filled with a bunch of clowns. I took “Basic Radio” and the nimrod who taught that class relied on the nerds who ran the college radio station show the rest of the class how to operate the controls. The guy who taught the 300, 400 and 500 level advertising classes was a complete joke. I remember in our Media Planning class he would use a local pizza place as the case study for mapping out a media strategy. WTF? How much does a local pizza place actually have to spend on media and how strategic can you really get with that budget?

Lucky for me, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of really smart people in my career and I have learned a ton from them.  With this being the case, why would I go back to school for more institutionalized learning?  My strategy has been to work with smart people, read books and blogs by smart people and attend seminars/workshops featuring smart people.  I would rather be in control of what I learn and how I learn it instead of the knuckleheads who run most universities.

Falling Bridges, Sink Holes, What’s Next?

When I heard the news of the sink hole on I-25 earlier this week, I couldn’t help but think about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis last year.

In the United States, we don’t expect these kinds of things to happen. Barring weather, construction and (more recently) terror threats, we expect our infrastructure to be safe and functioning properly. Is it time to launch a governmental agency, much like the Department of Homeland Security, to study possible infrastructure and engineering problems?

Minneapolis and Denver are not exactly the oldest cities in the country – and that’s exactly what worries me. What about the aging pipelines, bridges and tunnels in cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Given the recent bridge and sink hole events, doesn’t logic say that there is a disaster coming our way in one of these cities?