Recently I’ve been consuming a great deal of Gary Vaynerchuk’s content. While we’ve never met, his message resonates with me. I recall a few years back, when he hit the social scene, there was a surge to be a thought leader in social media, or as some wanted to put it, a “ninja”. This white space has become rather noisy but Gary has extended beyond this niche, and it’s apparent he is having success outside of just consulting on this channel. I appreciate this hustle and most recently, his voice on passionately owning your journey.

The underlying story of Gary is the new age American dream. He took a family business and built what is trending to be a media empire through social media. He is paying forward advice and his opinions in his normal hustling fashion, publishing frequently into different social platforms. But a recent theme of his makes me cringe–the concept of not addressing weakness.


I grew up in a competitive environment. My athletic calling started at a young age with pee-wee wrestling, proceeded 3 sports during high school and hustled my way into a Division 1 lacrosse program. In my prime, at 5’8”, 205lbs, there wasn’t abundant natural ability here. But I had a strong work ethic with a foundation of dwelling on weaknesses:

Establishing a personal advisory board
The inherent byproduct of being a competitor, as Gary mentioned, is feedback; the good, the bad, and mostly the ugly. The higher level you reach, the greater focus on the ugly. Coaches and critics have no shortage of things to improve on. I was fortunate to be surrounded by a group of childhood friends in which we made it our prerogative to be critical on any aspect, in an amusing and often exaggerated manner. My nickname was Chesterfield Johnson; don’t ask. This rapport still stands. They recently took a video of me playing Kan Jam. I’m not as agile as I once was. Well in this feedback loop, I never was. This environment quickly put layers of skin on my confidence and forced me to face the reality of my strengths and weakness as an athlete. If I didn’t face these truths, I never would have acquired serenity in my skills, particularly the internal peace that I will always have weaknesses.

In my professional life, I’ve developed mentor relationships with a number of professionals. Some are within my organization, some external. I have cultivated relationships in which they provide open, unfiltered feedback. As I did as an athlete, it’s a necessity at my core for actionable feedback. It’s not always easy to absorb but knowing my current state provides clear direction in defining my path forward. Without this trusted advisory board, I’m guiding a ship without a compass. Being self-aware crucial for me to stay the course.

The importance of self-awareness
I have taken a few personality tests over the years, but Personalysis provided a great deal of insight into my personal drivers and instincts. One portion of the read-out specifically calls out the triggers and defense mechanisms. Everyone has these negative behaviors when in stressful situations but having comprehension to challenge these personality traits not only makes me more dynamic but a better partner professionally and personally.

Finding white space
In business, we try to identify the white space and the greatest opportunity for growth. Coincidentally, white space is negative space. My foundational strengths will not carry me to my highest level. I need to develop my weaknesses to reach maximum potential. I view my weaknesses as my white space. Gary has described weaknesses as “cancer”. I am all for fighting cancer. In my experience, athletically or professionally, being my biggest critic enables me to fight negative emotions that can depress drive.

I have the utmost respect for Gary. He pays forward a great deal of time and motivation to his audience. I understand my approach may not work for everyone and will not work without having confidence in your skillset. But we can agree to disagree on the importance of focusing efforts strictly on strengths. I will continue to seek feedback from mentors, be ultra self-aware of my current state, and continue to develop in my white space. This is me passionately owning my journey by dwelling on weakness.