Will Smith generates hit movies at a more prolific rate than any other actor in Hollywood. His most recent success was his role as the genie in Disney’s blockbuster remake of Aladdin. Will Smith rose to fame in the 90s playing the goofy teenager that couldn’t stay out of trouble in the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Since then, his on-screen character and real-life person have evolved. If you best remember Will Smith from his teenage years, you may be taken aback by the amount of wisdom he has acquired over the years. I know I was when I first heard him speak. Here I’ve transcribed a YouTube compilation of Will Smith’s best motivational life advice. It spoke to me, and I’m confident it will speak to you as well.
I’m motivated by fear. Fear of fear. I hate being scared to do something. It’s very simple. This is what I believe, and I’m willing to die for it. Period. You can’t be scared to die for the truth. The truth is the only thing that’s ever going to be constant. And you can’t fear what might happen to you if you were to tell the truth because what happens to you if you don’t tell the truth is worse than telling the truth will ever be. . .
The first step before anybody else in the world believes is you have to believe it. There’s no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A. . .
And I think, psychologically, the advantage that that gives me over a lot of people that I have been in competition with in different situations is it’s difficult to take the first step when you look how big the task is. The task is never huge to me. It’s always one brick. I believe, and I learned very young that you don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say I’m going to big the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built. You don’t start there. You say I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. There will not be one brick on the face of the earth that’s going to be laid better than this brick that I’m going to lay in this next ten minutes. And you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall. . .
I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic. You know, while the other guy is sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy is eating, I’m working. . .
The separation of talent and skill is one of the greatest misunderstood concepts for people who are trying to excel, who have dreams and want to do things. Talent you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours of beating on your craft. . .
I always knew that I could work hard enough. There wasn’t an issue with discipline. There wasn’t an issue with the ability to sacrifice or the willingness to sacrifice. There’s no easy way around it. No matter how talented you are, your talent is going to fail you if you’re not skilled. If you don’t study, if you don’t work really hard and dedicate yourself to being better every single day.
This one year my father had his shop and he decided for whatever reason that he wanted a new wall on the front of his shop. So he tore it down, probably about 16 feet high and 30 feet long. He just completely tore the wall down, and my brother and I had to dig a six feet hole for the foundation. We were mixing the concrete by hand. A year and a half. We were building this wall for a year and a half. Every day after school we were coming, mixing concrete, putting it in the hole, doing it, and it was just myself and my little brother.
And I remember standing back looking at that wall saying there’s going to be a hole here forever. A year and a half later we laid the final brick. And my father stood back with my brother and I, and I know he planned this. He says he didn’t, but I know he had been planning this and writing this for the past two years. We stood back and looked at the wall, and he looked at me and my brother and he said “Now don’t yall ever tell me that you can’t do something,” and walked into the shop. . .
As a child, my parents always told me you could be whatever you want to be, you can do whatever you want to do. And that office, that position, the highest office on the face of the earth. It was something I heard my parents saying it but I didn’t totally believe it. Yet I went out in the world and I carried myself and I held myself high and I stood there and I looked people in their eyes and I talked to people as if I was deserving of everything that this planet has to offer. I really want to say to children out there and to people who are watching. Confucius said one time, “He who says he can and he who says he can are both usually right” . . .
Having the opportunity to study greatness. Any time you have that opportunity, there are certain intricacies that will make clear who you are. It becomes that much more clear who you are. The definition of who I am is very clear to me, and it also redefines who I want to be in that I know for a fact that I’m stronger than I thought I was. You can’t help but ask yourself the question what would I do if I was in Muhammad Ali’s shoes. I’m not the best at anything. Eddie Murphy is funnier than I’ll ever be. Denzel is more powerful than I’ll ever be. I think that my strength is I can do everything well. I can do a little bit of everything and that’s what I concentrate on to be my strength. I’ll never be able to compete with Denzel. . .
Enjoy connecting with people and ideas. I have a mission statement. Every year for probably the past 10 years I’ve worked out a mission statement for myself. And for the last few years the mission statement has stayed the same, and it’s been improve lives. When I go into something I’m looking for how the quality of this piece could potentially improve lives, but it’s all along the way. It’s when you make the movie and how you’re interacting with people in the process, the concept of improving lives runs through the center of everything I do. And then I realize that the way to improve lives is to continually improve yourself. So with that every morning when I get out of the bed, I haven’t fixed everything in the world yet, so there’s always something to do. . .
I want my life, I want my work, my family, I want it to mean something. If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better. . .
A few months ago I said that I believed that if I chose to I could be the president of the United States. And I think as I’ve had the chance to intellectualize why I said that I think that there’s a certain delusional quality that all successful people have to have. You have to believe that something different than what has happened for the last 50 million years of history–you have to believe that something different can happen. The one thing that I truly try to communicate in the interpretation of Ali is the complex simplicity of greatness. How greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, illusive, God-like feature that only the special among us will ever taste. It’s something that truly exists in all of us. . .
Loss is bound to joy. Pain and suffering are bound to joy. Being able to survive something is actually a big part of being able to find that next wave of joy. You appreciate smaller things. . . I hated being scared. That I didn’t want to even take the meaning. I just hated being scared to do something. And I think what developed in my early days was the attitude that I started attacking things that I was scared of.