Impossible Is Nothing (video résumé)
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History of job application
In October 2006, Yale University student Aleksey Vayner applied for a job with UBS, an investment bank. Amused by Vayner's apparent puffery, an unknown member of UBS staff emailed his application materials to other investment banks. The video was posted on various blogs, then YouTube, where it became an immense viral Internet phenomenon.
The video opens with a staged interview between Vayner and an offscreen voice. However, the "interview" ultimately consists of a single question, to which Vayner gives a lengthy, rambling response. Using considerable amounts of business-speak jargon, Vayner praises himself and shares his various insights on success, talent, and overcoming adversity. Interspliced with the interview are clips of Vayner performing various feats designed to look impressive, including bench pressing, skiing, playing tennis, ballroom dancing, and finally karate-chopping a stack of bricks. The video ends with a dedication to Radomir Kovačević, and a fairly lengthy credits sequence.
Vayner's job application includes:
- Cover letter
- Resume: one and a half pages
- Writing sample: eight pages
- A glamour shot of Vayner
- Seven-minute video that features the following feats by Vayner:
Dispute with IvyGate
Legal threats by Vayner against UBS, YouTube, and various blogs did not slow its progress, and only provided further fodder, subject to the Internet Streisand effect. One blog, IvyGate, became famous from its disputes with Vayner. When Vayner emailed a cease-and-desist letter demanding that IvyGate remove "Impossible is Nothing" links from its website, the blog instead published the threat and taunted Vayner to sue them. In further investigating the incident IvyGate learned and published that:
- Youth Empowerment Strategies, a charity Vayner said he started, claimed a "four star" rating by Charity Navigator on its website, when in fact the charity did not exist (other than an organization by the same name unrelated to Vayner) and did not receive the rating. According to The New York Times, Vayner defended himself by saying that "he had outsourced the design of his charity's website to companies in India and Pakistan and had no role in placing the Charity Navigator banner on it. Vayner told a reporter that he had the banner taken down immediately when he learned that the group had disclaimed the banner, some time around September 15. When a reporter then told Vayner that the banner was still on the site as of the preceding week, Vayner clarified that he had sent notification to take down the banner." Trent Stamp, the president of Charity Navigator, has stated that he believes Vayner should be expelled from Yale for this.
- Vayner Capital Management LLC, a hedge fund Vayner says he started, had a complete website describing its personnel and investment strategies. The firm did not exist and the website content was plagiarized from a firm in Denver, Colorado.
- Women's Silent Tears, a book Vayner self-published on the Holocaust, contained passages lifted verbatim from various Internet sites. Vayner claimed that the text was a "pre-publication copy".
Other investigating publications learned that Vayner has variously claimed the following
- He won two games against tennis great Pete Sampras, and taught Jerry Seinfeld and Harrison Ford to play
- He is an expert in Chinese orthopedic massage
- The Dalai Lama wrote his college recommendation letter
- He was an action stuntman and professional skier
- He is a professional model and has appeared in promotional ads for multiple clothing stores including Ann Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue
- He worked for the Central Intelligence Agency
- He is a master in the art of Tibetan bone-setting
- He forged passports for the Russian mafia
- He participated in Tibetan gladiatorial contests
- He is one of four people in the state of Connecticut certified to handle nuclear waste
- He was the original developer of Napster
Aftermath and development of meme
The Internet meme surrounding "Impossible Is Nothing" spread in typical fashion: by word of mouth on blogs and by Internet, then covered both as a meme and a human interest story by major newspapers, which further accelerated growth. After the first phase of popularity, blog posters and others began adding their own fanciful contributions to Vayner's legend. These include several classic meme features:
- Hyperbolic statements of accomplishment: Vayner is licensed to handle nuclear waste, must register his hands as lethal weapons, and participates in Tibetan gladiatorial contests.
- Actor Michael Cera created a parody video, "Impossible is the Opposite of Possible".
- The U.S. sitcom How I Met Your Mother featured an episode entitled "The Possimpible" in which a main character has a video resume that is a clear parody of "Impossible Is Nothing."
Cracked.com, an Internet humor site, pointed out that his book is extremely similar in layout and content to a book titled Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker in their article "Where Are They Now: Six "Stars" From Embarrassing Viral Videos," about the aftermath of several viral videos.
Vayner appeared in Winnebago Man, a 2009 documentary about Jack Rebney, whose profanity-laced outtakes from a Winnebago industrial film also became an internet meme. In it, Vayner discusses his video resume and seems to accept that his unwelcomed fame is simply a part of who he is.
On 23 January 2013, the Ivy League blog IvyGate reported, and Gawker.com later confirmed, that Vayner had died of unknown causes. A relative later said he had been told Vayner apparently had a heart attack after taking medicine of some kind.
- McGrath, Ben (2006-10-23). "Aleksey the Great". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- "Craaaazy Prefrosh Lies, Is Just Weird" (PDF). Rumpus Magazine. May 2002. Retrieved 2007-08-05.[dead link]
- Lener, Lisa. "How Not To Get A Job". Forbes. Archived from the original on 3 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- Kaplan, Thomas (2006-10-25). "Vayner faces public criticism". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- de la Merced, Michael J (2006-10-19). "The Resume Mocked 'Round the World". The New York Times Dealbook. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- Stamp, Trent (2006-10-10). "I'm Not Laughing". Trent Stamp's Take. Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- Cera, Michael (2006-12-20). "Impossible is the Opposite of Possible". YouTube. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
- Rovzar, Chris; Pressler, Jessica (2008-01-07). "The Return of Aleksey Vayner". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
- Aleksey Vayner. "Aleksey Vayner". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
- Howard Perez. "Where Are They Now: 6 "Stars" of Embarrassing Viral Videos".
- Aleksey Vayner reported dead in New York, IvyGate, 23 January 2013.
- Confirmed: Aleksey Vayner, the Yale Grad With the Infamous Video Resume, Is Dead, 2013-01-24.
- Notorious video resume job-seeker Aleksey Vayner, of Queens, died Saturday at Jamaican Hospital after possible drug-induced heart attack. New York Daily News, 25 January 2013.