I’m a big fan of the movie 8 Mile. For those that know me well…this may surprise you. I’m not exactly a rapper. Okay FINE, I am in no way a rapper. My friend Ruth Burr is, in fact, a rapper or at least she is when we end up at karaoke, but I digress.
I love the movie. I love Eminem in the movie, I love the struggles, and I love the story. For those of you that have seen it you might understand what I mean when I say “have your 8 Mile moment” but for those that haven’t lets run through the gist of it – a guy starts on the streets, has a horrible life, makes himself into something, is fighting to reach his dreams. He finds himself in the final “battle” (aka when two rappers…rap off) and the goal of these is to blast each other in super witty ways, with rhymes, and mortify the person so much they can’t come back with a rebuttal.
Rapping is hard, right?
Anyway, they get to the final battle (beware there is some uhmmm bad language in there). Eminem gets up there and rather than blast his competitor…he blasts himself. He calls out his own faults. He covers his own mistakes and failures. He does it so beautifully, so well orchestrated…there is nothing left for the competitor to do. It’s a “drop the mic and wait” sort of moment. I’ve watched the movie a dozen times…tearing up at that part…every time.
There is a power in being vulnerable. We forget it sometimes. Opening up about where you came from, what you failed at, your weaknesses not only robs your competition of ammunition (which can be very powerful, particularly in big brand building) but it’s also a kickoff to a 1-to-1 moment between you and someone else. Being vulnerable breeds authenticity. Authenticity breeds trust. Trust is at the heart of everything.
Whether you are a company or a person, you should have your 8 Mile moment. If you are a company you should stop ignoring where your product falls short and get in a room, face it, and learn how to spin it. Not “spin in” like as in “fake, manipulative, marketing.” Spin it like as in “honest, transparent, campaign marketing.” How can you share where you are falling short and ask your customers for feedback and help to improve? If you messed up your communications as a company and offended someone – don’t do press and say you’re sorry – build a campaign that makes a promise to do better. Opening up about being human is just that — being human. The last time I checked, every consumer in the world was human. So there is that. And it is powerful.
If you are a founder, or entrepreneur there is a good chance you appreciate – hustling. You are doing it. You are getting it done. You are also likely faking 50% of what you “know.” I get the fake it until you make it mentality. I’ve done it in the past. I’ve also traded it in for this 8 Mile moment philosophy. I’d rather be open about where I fall short, staff in people to support me, ask for help when needed, and double down on what I know. I find my startups have moved faster for it.
There is a misconception out there that we should hide what we have failed at. Screw that. I’ve been a part of 6 startups. The only one I personally co-founded…was the only one that failed (yes I just bolded that for the world to see). I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. I’ve danced around it in conversation. I’ve marketed it a millions ways. The truth is…I was young, and I made a lot of mistakes, and I failed. I let a lot of people down. I lost 2 years of my life to it. But the “loss” of two years was the gain in knowledge of ten. If I ever find myself in a battle (no that was not an open challenge to the rappers out there) I sure as hell will bring that.
2 years lost, 10 years gained…
It takes a lot of courage as an entrepreneur to identify where you fall short, and even more to face it, but I am asking you to do both AND THEN market it. Both our companies and ourselves are the sum of many parts – some are prettier than others – but it required all of them to get us where we are.
Embracing your 8 Mile moment isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. There is an awareness, and acceptance that comes with owning up to your shortcomings. Only then can you really build your story. And your story? …Well damn, that’s a whole other post…but let’s just say, it’s everything.