On August 31, 2018 Eminem dropped a surprise album Kamikaze with no previous warning, marketing, or announcement. And that album has shaken up the entire hip-hop industry.
Since Eminem first appeared on the public scene in 1999, he became known for dissing and criticizing other celebrities and musicians. In fact, this angry and merciless “Slim Shady” persona is what made him famous in the first place.
As years went on, a lot of shit happened and Eminem grew older and grew up. He dealt with some personal shit, got clean from drugs, and changed the tone of his songs. In 2017 he dropped Revival, an album which was heavily criticized by the music industry… especially a lot of his fellow rappers in hip-hop. This didn’t sit with him well.
Less then a year later, Kamikaze enters the scene. The entire album is basically a response to critics of Revival, in which Eminem fires off rounds of verbal attack against… well, everybody. Surprisingly, most of hip-hop ubiquitously praised the album, especially for the raw, rugged and direct raps Em became known for when he entered the scene — only this time, they are much more profound.
Why am I telling you this? You either already know this or you don’t care. Well, because you’re going to do the same thing (in a sense).
All of us have certain values, i.e. notions we care about above everything else that guide our actions and behavior. Or so we’d like to think.
The truth is, most of like to think we’re hot shit, but when the time comes, we don’t stand up for what we believe in. We don’t speak up for fear of being ridiculed, getting fired, or being rejected. We blend in with the crowd, even if we hate everyone in that crowd.
It’s a human thing. We want to be liked and respected.
Without a proper backbone, this can go too far. Instead of choosing your battles, you just quit the war. You don’t stand up for yourself or your beliefs. You don’t speak up when someone disrespects you. You don’t stand up for others who cannot defend themselves.
Are those really the traits of a strong person who should be respected?
This can, of course, be a double-edged sword. If “who you are” is someone with low-quality values, then being unapologetic and refusing to change will really make you unlikeable. But if you are aware of your flaws and you have defined your values, then you should never feel bad for acting on them.
I’m writing this to tell you to do something which is going to put the proverbial hair on your chest (yes, you too ladies). And the way you’re going to achieve this is by losing your sense of shame.
Become shameless: Meaning, never go against your values.
Shame is an emotion you feel when you believe you did something you shouldn’t have. As a result, you feel humiliated and embarrassed.
I mean, you’ve felt ashamed more than once, right?
At its core, you feel ashamed when you act against your values. This doesn’t just mean doing something stupid, it also means not doing something you should have. If your value is “stand up for myself” and when the time comes, you don’t, you will feel ashamed for not acting on that value.
In fact, defining your values and standing for them is such a big deal that they comprise two of the 12 Rules of Mental Strength.
The term “shameless” is often used for people who are out of touch with reality and disregard social norms without regard to the consequences of their behavior. Clearly, this should not be your goal. But if you look at how shame is defined, being shameless isn’t actually a bad thing.
If you look at the world, people who are shameless in their approach are oftentimes successful and make big waves of change. Sometimes they are positive (like Rosa Parks), sometimes they’re not (like Kanye West). The ethical burden is on you, to make sure that the values you act on are worth it.
In any case, shameless people make an impact.
Those who stay in the shadows, who never speak up and run away from conflict… they are never heard. They never make a change. And they are eventually forgotten.
HOW DOES ONE “BE” SHAMELESS?
Good question. Since I like to talk about myself a lot, here’s a personal example:
In 2014, I was an overzealous 22-year old kid who was fed up with bullshit being fed by the self-help industry. Having been the sucker myself, I wanted to voice my opinion and debunk all of the bullshit ideas that are constantly paraded around in self-improvement.
So I started Mind of Steel to give the world a piece of my mind. And it was a sharp piece.
Nobody was safe. Think you can’t do anything? Fuck you, that’s a bullshit excuse. Oh, you think you’re fine the way you are? Fuck you, no you’re not, work on yourself you prick. Oh, you got problems? Fuck you, everybody’s got problems so stop complaining.
Nobody read what I wrote. Fuck it, I kept writing.
Some people started reading. Then I got a few comments. Then more people, more comments, more emails, and soon it took me weeks to reply to everybody.
Over time, I started relying more on the psychological aspect of what I was writing about rather than telling people the harsh truth. On one hand, that’s good because I’ve matured in my writing and my expression, and research-backed facts are worth more than just motivational “hype me up” content.
But people didn’t start following my blog because of psychology or because I’m such a great wordsmith. My harsh, fiery, profanity-filled truth bullets were the main reason. People liked what I said because I was willing to tell them the harsh truth.
I was willing to go against the grain and contradict the most popular self-help tropes AND back what I was saying up with measurable facts, not just my own opinion. In other words, I was willing to stand for my values and what I believed in, even if it meant being disliked or less popular. Ironically, this is what made me popular.
I was shameless in my expression because I believe in my values. Therefore, there was nothing for me to be ashamed of.
PUT UP OR SHUT THE FUCK UP
So wait, what does Eminem have to do with any of this?
Well, I’d like to draw a comparison between the two stories I’ve mentioned to help you see just how powerful of a concept this is and to help you implement this yourself.
In 2017, Eminem performed a freestyle cypher on BET in which he attacked Donald Trump and basically slashed his fan base in half, disallowing any fans who voted for Trump. The backlash was huge.
A few years ago, I did something similar. The article I’ve gotten the most emails about is, without a doubt, Motivational Letter to You. And amongst all other “clean” and “polished” and “researched” articles, this one hits close to home the most. To this day, the quote people mention the most is:
“Think the world fucked you over? Good. I’m here to tell you to wipe those tears off and use them as lube to fuck the world right back.”
I wrote that article on my phone, when I didn’t have a laptop, when I was broke in my shitty apartment in New York. Unlike many other articles, I didn’t write it for some other agenda. I was depressed and felt hopeless, so I decided to write myself a motivation letter. You know, something that I’d read on a site like this if I wasn’t the one writing it.
My unpolished “freestyle” of sorts turned out to become more popular than all of the other polished and researched content I put out. Because it was brutally honest and direct.
This way of expression surely polarizes people; some people will leave my site as soon as they see the first use of profanity. But you know what? That’s fine. In fact, polarizing people should be encouraged.
As Mark Manson noted in his book Models, you cannot be a life-changing presence to some people without being a joke or an embarrassment to others.
You should do the same. Define the core values you care about — make sure they are quality values — and then make it your mission to always act on them. Don’t be an uncompromising asshole, but unless proven otherwise, stand by your decisions and don’t back down from conflict.
If you’re not willing to stand for your values and you aren’t willing to fight for what you believe in, well…
But there’s an important caveat to this: do not be stubborn.
Even Eminem later realized he should’ve worded his Donald Trump freestyle differently and explained himself better, as it was Trump who took advantage of people… they just didn’t know better. The same way, if I’m just yelling at people, I’m not going to change their opinion. It takes the perfect combination of the”good cop” and the “bad cop” to actually reach someone. So this is what I’m setting as my mission.
Do not back down from conflict and do shy not away from your values, but realize that just getting in a shouting match won’t change anybody’s mind.
On Kamikaze, Eminem went against the popular opinion. He criticized the current state of hip-hop despite its soaring popularity. He gave everybody a piece of his mind and stood by his values, even though he knew it would cause a huge backlash.
The backlash was inevitable. But you know what also happened? People loved him for it, because he did it with finesse. Yes, he talked a lot of trash but he also showcased the level of skill the people he criticized couldn’t.
He showed us instead of just telling us.
Become shameless. Act on your values even if it’s not popular. Especially when it’s not popular. But realize that there’s a fine line between “being determined” and just “being a stubborn asshole”.
One of my friends, who has the highest level of confidence I’ve seen, describes it like this: “I am completely open and unapologetic with people I know because they understand me. I am the same way with people I don’t know, because their opinion doesn’t matter to me.”
Know who you are and what you stand for it. Otherwise, what are you really doing?
P.S. If you want to learn all 12 Rules for a strong mindset, check out Mind of Steel Handbook: The Essential Rules of Mental Strength.