Wecrashed (2022), is a recently launched AppleTV+ docuseries that relates the story of WeWork, a coworking space start-up. Adam Neumann and Rebekah Neumann (nee Paltrow) an eccentric couple, played by Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway, co-founded WeWork in 2010.
In less than a decade Adam, with his wife’s help, expands WeWork from a single location in Manhattan to a worldwide brand with coworking spaces in 111 cities and 29 countries. Adam is an Israeli serial entrepreneur and CEO of WeWork who turns the concept of shared workspaces into a lifestyle. However, Adam's reckless spending, hard-partying lifestyle and questionable business decisions lead to his board of directors urging him to resign as WeWork’s CEO.
Upon reflection, this series reminded me of some important elements that drive success. I have captured my learning points.
PASSION – You must care about your work and it should be meaningful to you. If you believe in it, you can ‘sell it’. Adam can probably be considered the best salesman of all time. Early in the series Rebekah advised him that if he wanted to become a successful businessman he had to ‘care about what he is selling’. Adam tapped on the millennial need for ‘meaning and a community’.
REPETITION – by repeating your conviction - your why and your message- this will cement your concept. ‘It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.’ - Muhammad Ali
Being BOLD, COURAGEOUS AND DARING – Adam took various gutsy decisions and never looked back. He put in all his effort to ensure that the decisions he took worked in some way or form. When he believed in something he went for it. He did not shy away from reaching out to investors or other individuals or business associates that could springboard him to achieve his goals.
DISCIPLINE – you must create habits and rituals that support you to achieve success. Adam is shown as a creature of habit. He had various rituals including celebrating success, and making ‘Mondays’ the new ‘Fridays’. Needless to say, he also had some not-so-good habits.
FLEXIBLE & RESILIENT – when you get a curve ball or the outcome of a situation is not as intended, be ready to use Newton’s Third Law – ‘For every action (force), there is an equal and opposite reaction’ and you must use this ‘force’ to your advantage. Be ready to change, adapt and be resilient. Quoting a Japanese Proverb ‘Fall seven times and stand up eight.’
High Degree of SELF-COMPASSION – Adam treated himself as a friend, focusing on his strengths, believing in his abilities, and creating an idea of excellence that he could define. He had his ways of anchoring himself and being in control.
However here are a couple of lessons from what Adam could have done better:
LISTENING – He did not listen to others, people feared him and agreed with his crazy ideas without questioning or challenging him. In episode 7, during a tense moment, Adam brings Rebekah a latte, which she informs him is a cappuccino. “My assistants call them lattes,” he tells her. “Because you call them lattes and no one wants to tell you that you’re wrong,” she responds angrily. Adam also had a reputation for blasting music at all hours of the workday. “Our paying customers would be complaining about how loud the music was,” one former employee told Business Insider in 2019. “But if we turned it down, we’d get screamed and yelled at by Adam and his team.”
Being OPEN TO OTHERS' EXPERTISE – Adam could have better used Miguel McKelvey (played by Kyle Marvin), who helped found the company and seemed more dedicated to the work. Miguel was a trusted advisor and partner however he started closing an eye and diverting his energy from Adam's stubborn, questionable business decisions and reckless spending that ultimately led to Adams’ downfall.
WeCrashed is an entertaining series inspired by actual events that reflect the American dream of rags to riches and how ‘success’ may come crashing down. The series depicts our current lifestyles and the illusions we are after. I enjoyed this series and would absolutely recommend it to CEOs in the start-up world or anyone looking at coming up with a disruptive idea or concept.