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The GaryVee Matrix: Your One True Way To Win

On 29th of September 2016, I moved to Munich. Two days later, my mattress still lying on the floor in the middle of my room, I went to one of the many college libraries at 11 AM and opened my laptop. I worked on Four Minute Books all day until 6 PM, before going home and assembling my bed.

GaryVee Matrix Bed

(yup, left it like this)

Moving to one of, if not the most expensive city in Germany was an all-in move for me. No more half-assing. No more part-time freelance, part-time writing. It’s all-in or nothing on two fronts:

  1. Getting a (free) graduate degree from one of the country’s best schools in my favorite city while saving money on tax and health insurance is my practical all-in.
  2. Paying my own way through it, without taking on debt, while going for a full-time writing career is my impractical all-in.

What’s surprised me is the ease with which I’ve catapulted my work ethic into high gear. Today, I’d like to give credit to the man, who’s largely responsible for it: Gary Vaynerchuk. Welcome to the GaryVee Matrix.

The One Non-Debatable: Work

Once you know why you’re doing and what works for you specifically, your next step becomes obvious: do more of it. 10 days after my first library stint here in Munich, Gary said something in the 75th installment of his DailyVee series, which really stuck with me.

It’s a quote I’ve taken comfort in many times since:

The work. It trumps everything. It’s the one non-debatable. You can debate talent, you can debate luck, you can debate circumstance…you can’t debate if somebody’s putting in the work. Not subjective, motherf**kers. You either put in the 15, 16, 18 hours of work, that gives you the best position to succeed in what you are trying to achieve – or you don’t. ~Gary Vaynerchuk

My college degree is (technically) a full-time job. But so is making enough money for rent and food. Slap on writing every day and you easily end up with 1.5-2.5 full-time jobs. From day 1 of moving here, it was clear to me that I’d have to put in a lot more work.

The moment I heard Gary’s quote, I knew it was the right thing to do anyway.

Variables of Success

The older I get, the more I tend to trust my gut. But it never hurts to double-check, so let’s pull apart what Gary said and see if it still makes sense. Gary mentioned four variables of success:

  1. Luck
  2. Talent
  3. Circumstance
  4. Work

The two primary distinguishing factors among these, as I see it, are whether they are:

  1. Internal (meaning innate traits of yours) or external (part of your environment).
  2. (Somewhat) controllable by you or completely uncontrollable.

If we sort them into a matrix, we get something like this:

GaryVee Matrix 1

Taking a closer look at each factor, we can learn more about how each one correlates to your success and what that implies for your actions.

1. Luck

A synonym of luck is chance. When you go to a casino and play Blackjack with a 52-card deck, four aces will be somewhere in that pile. If none have been drawn so far, your chances of hitting one are 4/52, or 7.69%. It’s much more likely you won’t get an ace, so hitting one would be considered luck.

Luck is external, it’s not a character trait you carry, and you clearly can’t control it. Those who attempt to do so are called cheaters. Sometimes they get away with it (which also depends on luck), but if they don’t, most of the time they can expect legal consequences.

Since you can’t do much to improve your luck, let’s mark it in red.

GaryVee Matrix 2

2. Talent

Unlike luck, talent is indeed an innate character trait. However, it’s just as uncontrollable. You might be born with a genetic propensity to form more motor neurons, which makes skills that require dexterity easier to learn for you, or you might not.

Obviously, growing to seven feet would be a smart idea for a basketball player, but until we come up with fertilizer for humans, that’s up to mother nature, not you. So talent is out too.

GaryVee Matrix 3

3. Circumstance

At first sight, your circumstances are external. You live where you live, you work where you work, and whatever the local law and company regulations dictate, you must subject to.

The reason I put this in the “controllable” category is I gave it the benefit of the doubt: there are a few things you can do to at least adapt to your circumstances:

  • Moving to LA gives you more access to people in the entertainment and acting industry.
  • If genetic testing is illegal in your country, your biology startup can register elsewhere.
  • When you’re allergic to cilantro, you can switch from Chipotle to flipping burgers.

However, these actions require a big commitment to what you want professionally and are also limited in numbers. It’s hard to find more than 3-5 high level moves you can make to put yourself in a better position.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, but there will also be other factors at play, which might hinder this, such as family obligations, legal constraints you can’t circumvent, etc. So let’s give this a little bit of green, but mostly red.

GaryVee Matrix 4

4. Work

Optimizing your circumstances is fun, because once you’ve made the decision, making the change is straightforward. But what happens once you’ve moved to LA, live in the cheapest flat you could find and make just enough to pay rent and food?

Things start to look bleak quickly, once you realize the fun part is over. Not much easy work is left, and soon, you’ll find yourself in a dark place, full of fear, worries and excuses. And there it is. Staring you in the face.

Work. The one non-debatable. It’s scary as hell. But it’s also entirely internal and 100% controllable. How much you work is a direct result of your decisions and nothing else. You have the full power to:

  • Quit the softball team.
  • Get up earlier.
  • Sell your TV.
  • Stop going to bars.
  • Practice acting from 7 PM to 10 PM.
  • Arrive before your boss and leave after him.

Work is the variable of success you absolutely, unequivocally control.

GaryVee Matrix 5

Where does that leave us? What the GaryVee Matrix does is it gives you a framework within which you can best plot your actions to succeed. If we drew a line on where to put most of your energy for maximum results, it’d look something like this:

GaryVee Matrix 6

Adapt to the few high-level things that matter as best as you can and then work. Work, work, work. Oh, one last thing: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, as you work more, your luck and talent seem to go up. Of course more hours put in mean more chances for your environment to give you lucky breaks and talent exercised more often is like oil put on a fire: it amplifies your results, because whatever talent you have, it multiplies your results.

GaryVee Matrix 7

In a sense, work has a radiating effect on the other variables. They get better the more you work, but without it, they’re not going to do anything for you.

There is just one caveat to all of this. It’s…

Only for Complainers

We all live in our own little variant of the matrix. The good thing is, as opposed to the movie, we get to pick ours. Gary’s advice isn’t for everyone. He says it himself. How much we should work is up to each of us alone. But if this post makes you feel threatened or called out on being lazy, it’s time to ask a question:

How much do you complain?

The 1% of the world who are constantly pissed try to sell us on their point of view. Every day. It’s how the news work. It’s how the media work. It’s what spreads the fastest.

But if you’re happy working 40 hours a week, spending your weekends at soccer practice with your kids, rocking quiz night at the pub every Friday night and going on vacation three times a year, there’s no reason to march along to the drums of spite, just because they make the loudest noise.

Should you, however, find yourself complaining a lot about your life situation, an audit of your work ethic might be in order.

No, the laws in Texas won’t change for you. You won’t grow another foot at 25. And the odds of winning the lottery aren’t going up any time soon either.

To go from cubicle chimpanzee to guitar hero, Youtuber, stay-at-home Instagram dad or published author, there’s only one variable you control. It’s the start of all good things and the end of all complaining, your one true way to win:


Welcome to the GaryVee Matrix.

PS: You can find Gary here, here, here, and here, and basically everywhere else. The man drinks his own kool-aid.