Jay-Z’s 4:44 Footnotes: Self-reflection on ego

Jay-Z releases weekly footnotes for each song on his new album.  The footnotes are an opportunity for listeners to hear from Jay-Z’s notable friends on various subjects.  The latest footnotes are about the song “Kill Jay Z”.  In the 4:28 minute video clip, a question is asked to Trevor Noah, Anthony Anderson, Michael Che, Charlamagne Tha God and political commentator Van Jones: “When has your ego hurt you and when has your ego helped you?”.  Each of them gives their candid opinion. Once again, I watched and related right away.  My ego made me a true New Yorker. I wanted the best of everything; vacations, entertainment, career, etc….  It pushed me, and helped me to overachieve in many areas of my life.  At the same time, it was also the reason why I could not enjoy the simple things in life.  Just like Michael Che joked:

“white guys, they don’t try to be cool, they dress up for Halloween. But my ego won’t let me enjoy holidays like Halloween. Sometimes I want to do that sh*t”

I am that guy. Thinking that I need to be cool all the time.  Wondering what other people would think of me. My ego strikes again!

What’s the connection to negotiation? Your cultural background has an impact on how you are influenced and how you influence people.  Let’s build on Jay Z’s reflection of being black in America to understand our situation better and get what we deserve.

Van Jones: “I think your ego is always your best friend and your worst enemy. If you’re an African American man…you have to have ego twice, because the grade is steeper, the obstacles are bigger, and if you are not your own hype man, you do not have a hype man”

Check.  That’s my experience.  I felt the steeper grade and bigger obstacles for 20 years on a daily basis.  And that made me feel inferior. Want to get in the hottest clubs? Nope, rejected.  Want to shop for new sneakers? Not that enjoyable when the security guard is tracking you.  Want to work in a friendly environment?  Not that easy when your bosses make racist jokes. So yes, I am lucky to have been my own hype man initially.  My learning: Trust and invest in yourself no matter what, the downsides are better then if you were to do the opposite.  By doing so, you will have the confidence to shoot for the moon!

Mahershala Ali – “Your ego will have you stranded, I believe we need people, I believe we work best when we recognize our limitations.”

That’s the other side of the “ego coin”.  You want to prove yourself so much that you want to do it all alone. As if having the support of someone else will lessen your achievement. I tried, and even if in some cases it works, the reality is that I could have had 100 times better results with the support of a handful of people. Do the math.  That second option is much better.  My learning: A group of people is more likely to have the right answer than an individual.  Sometimes there is not a right or wrong answer. It is more a matter of what most people believe in.  Guess what, the more people you involve the more your idea will prevail.

Jay Z : “it’s about killing off the ego so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability”

Vulnerability is a key topic in Jay-Z’s latest album. The last blog post touched on it. For most urban black men, showing vulnerability when growing up is a sign of weakness. Weakness in some environments is not good.  So I became excellent at hiding my emotions.  The problem is that by pretending to be invulnerable, it makes you look fake.  Learning to become vulnerable after 20 years of being invulnerable is hard.  Jay Z even said that this was by far the hardest thing he has done in his life, and he grew up in The Marcy projects. My learning: Don’t pretend to be perfect.  People will not relate to you if you are perfect. Because they know nobody is perfect.  And if you can not build rapport with people you cannot influence them during negotiations.

Anthony Anderson – the conclusion “Ego is something we can keep in check, but we can’t kill it”

During negotiations, never kill your ego. This is your best ally, it will reinforce your self-esteem, make you more convincing and push you to new heights.  But make sure that your ego serves you. Avoid that Kanye West moment when you refer to yourself as Yeezus. This is a sign that you went too far.

Ayobade Adebayo