A video by Gary Vaynerchuk has been circulating over the last few days. and it has me concerned. The video is called “A Rant from the Heart, Hip, and Head,” (warning, a lot of Not-safe-for-work language) and in it, Gary argues that he is a winner because he was born to be a winner. It’s in his DNA.
On the one hand, the temptation is there not to disagree with this guy. After all, he is a best-selling author, a huge force in the online world, and a much admired speaker. He has accomplished more in 35-36 years than many do in a lifetime. Is there something to his “DNA” statement? Maybe.
I think, however, that given the times we live in, this is a dangerous and potentially harmful sentiment to spread. Here is why.
If I’m not winning now, I must be incapable
During the very very early years of European colonization in what is now the US, the Puritans were here looking for religious freedom. The Puritans believed in pre-destination. In other words, as soon as you were born your fate was sealed – you were already set on a path that would lead you to heaven or hell, and there was nothing you could about it. The Puritans spent all of their lives searching for signs that would tell them if they were good people or bad people, and they believed that their actions, rather than controlling their fate, simply reflected it.
If we say that winning is in our DNA, I feel we could suffer the same fate. Am I a winner? Well, depending on how you define “winner” maybe your answer is no. Does that mean the capacity to win is not coded in your DNA? Does that mean you can never be a winner?
Any person who has experienced a “rags to riches” story (and they still do happen) would probably disagree.
Working hard is not enough
The other thing Gary says in this video that I fear could misguide people is that working hard is only part of the equation. You need to have the right kind of DNA that will enable your hard work to pay off. I see where Gary was going with that statement, but I fear that that could fill a lot of people with a sense of disillusionment or even despair.
Actually, what came to mind was the movie Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith. In looking at the story of Chris Gardner, whom Will Smith plays in the film, it would be tempting to say that he had nothing but bad luck in his DNA. He undertook an aggressive project and mostly failed. He lost his home. He lost his wife. He worked hard during the day while sleeping in the bathroom at a subway station during the night. What about this man’s innate life story would point to his eventual success?
Nothing, really, except his desire to make life great for himself and his son.
But Gardner did the impossible. He learned skills that were entirely new to him. He learned how to wine and dine. He learned how to balance his difficult personal situation with his professional life and he learned how to toughen up for the business world.
I would argue that Gardner recoded his DNA. He reset his program. He put himself on a path towards something new. It wasn’t a DNA thing. It was a hard work, self-confidence, defeating the impossible thing.
In hard times, leave the door open
Even though a lot of us are living comfortably, there are tons of people who have it super tough right now. They have a family member who chronically ill and they don’t have health insurance. They’ve been unable to find a new job since they were laid off in 2009. You know these stories. To say that following an established business model will lead you to be a C or D player is irresponsible, in my opinion. To say that hard work is not enough to make you a winner is irresponsible me during these trying times. In fact, using words like “winner” is kind of tough to stomach during times like these, when so many people who really are winners are living in situations that simply have escalated beyond their control.
There are no silver bullets out there. Very few people can snap their fingers or scratch a lotto ticket and find themselves with millions of dollars. But there are a lot of people who are working their butts off. They are trying to change the story that their lives are telling right now. They are trying to reprogram what their situations have instilled in them. They are trying to win as they define that word, which may be what Chris Gardner wanted – a safe neighborhood for his son to play in, a roof over their heads, and a great, stable job.
Is now the time to say that winners are winners because it’s in their DNA? I don’t think so.
What do you think?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/439737660/ via Creative Commons