Book Reviews

Twelve Lessons I Gleaned From Will Smith’s Memoir

This post is part of my podcast series THE SPOTLIGHT If you prefer, LISTEN NOW.


Reading Will’s memoir really blessed me. In honour of him, as he celebrates his birthday today – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL! – I want to share twelve things I learned from his life and his book…(in no particular order).

1. It takes extraordinary discipline to achieve extraordinary results. If I do not apply myself and submit myself to the necessary discipline, I will not attain my goals.

Honestly, guys, there’s no substitute for discipline in our lives. We can’t get around it or think we will have a justifiable excuse why we didn’t submit ourselves to it. It’s a lesson I’m learning over and over, and this book really highlighted the benefits of being disciplined.

2. Feelings are important, but must be surrendered to the will. If you allow them, feelings will incinerate your dreams! Acknowledge your feelings and that of others, but be guided by wisdom in everything.

I think one of the worst things you can do to yourself is to allow what people feel or think impact your decisions. This is a mistake I’ve made severally, as I sought to please or appease or to be seen a certain way. At the end of the day, it is YOU who will have to live with the decision or the consequences of it.

3. Do not overthink your decisions. Get attuned to your instincts and build your character by making informed and wise decisions, so that when you are faced with an opportunity or a choice, you can easily identify the right course of action and are not paralysed by fear or anxiety, which lead to overanalysis and paralysis.

So, I got this lesson from reading about Will’s interaction with Quincy Jones. Quincy saw something in Will, and he gave him an opportunity to audition on the spot, but Will felt he needed more time. So, Quincy was like, “Next week, this person is going to have an emergency…” Will didn’t get it and thought, “In two weeks then?” Quincy replied talking about how other people would be busy in a couple of weeks; “But look, we’re all here now!”

I think it’s really also a lesson about preparation. The saying goes, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity…” The decision makers often make their decisions as they interact with the world, not waiting till they get to the boardroom. We need to be so disciplined that we are always ready.

4. The company you keep will determine who you become. If you hang around people without a vision, who incinerate dreams, you will never rise to fulfil purpose. The people who you walk with should believe in you and in themselves, and submit themselves to a disciplined life too.

I saw that a lot as I read his book. He reminded me of David and his mighty men! Like, he just surrounded himself with talented people, who were determined, and he didn’t let himself be discouraged by people who didn’t have the vision.

I know it can be hard when you have attachments to people. But it’s really about how much time your give to them. There are some relationships that you can keep on the back burner, but the people that you ride with every day, they have to be the ones that are going where you’re going.

5. Some friendships are for a season. The trick is identifying when the season has ended and moving on in peace towards your dreams. You can’t take everyone with you, and you have to be open to meeting new people.

Sometimes, we are forced to move on, even from good people who have been influential to us, because we are no longer going in the same direction. I saw this with Will’s relationship with his trainer, which was severed when Will had to work on his relationship with his son, who needed him to exercise more patience and leniancy. It can be painful letting go of the past, but new birth always comes with labour pains.

6. Quoting Will, “If we don’t adapt, we become extinct. What worked yesterday may not work today. Be ready to learn and change and keep looking forward.

The way Will communicated this lesson was so inspiring, I had to share the page on social media. It kinda follows on from the fifth lesson I gleaned. It is easy to get stuck in our ideas; that this is how you do it, this is how it has always been done. We need to try to think outside the box and learn new things. An outdated idea or strategy could end you…

I think this is also important in raising our kids. We need to recognise how this world is changing and move with the times to equip them for survival and empower them to thrive in it. Will grew up at a time that rap was just coming on the scene. His parents had every reason to be afraid and doubt, but they gave him a chance to prove himself.

7. Your childhood experiences do not determine your altitude in life. Even the bad things can be purifiers and transformative in the way they shape and motivate you to succeed. If you believe for it, you can and will attain to it with determination and preparation.

Sometimes, we think that we have been disadvantaged by what we went through as kids, but for a lot of people, their disadvantage was their propeller. So, even though Will Smith saw himself as a coward, what he ended up doing, trying to entertain people, trying to make people laugh as a way to cover for his inadequacies, turned out to become his gift. The gift he could give to the world…a hurting world. So, sometimes, the skin we develop when we go through hardtimes is what makes us special.

8. “YOU and NOW are a unique occurrence, of which you are the most reliable measure of all the possibilities. This was the first quote I shared from the book on my Instagram page. Basically, believe in yourself. Do not disregard your belief, desire, instinct. Trust yourself and trust God to work it all out.

Will Smith’s self-belief was probably the determinant of his success. He knew what he wanted, and he chose to bet on himself. Even though he could have been accused and ignored for being a child at the time, his gamble paid off. The lesson I take from this is to listen to my kids, watch their giftings, and help them develop in all areas, not simply academically. As with myself, I must work with their strengths to build their confidence and help them find their place in society.

9. Quoting Jesus, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Though you succeed materially and physically, remember that you are more than flesh. You can’t feed your spirit with riches. You need nourishment from above through a relationship with your Creator.

Now, Will didn’t talk about having a relationship with your Creator, but this was a lesson I gleaned from his experience and his search for happiness and spirituality. Even though he had achieved so much, he was still dissatisfied… We can’t forget that we are made of more… We are made for more.

10. No relationship can make you happy. You are responsible for your own happiness. So as not to drain your partner in marriage, present yourself happy, and do not exhaust yourself trying to make them happy.

So, this was a lesson that Will shared through his relationship with Jada. He talked about some of the things he did as he tried to make her happy. How she was upset with him, even angry. And he had to realise that he wasn’t responsible for making her happy. He also realised that he too wasn’t happy, as he thought making her happy would make him happy. Eventually, he had to find out how to be happy without depending on his relationship or his spouse. This is a common experience in marriage, and it is a lesson we should all take away and apply to our relationships, not just marriages. We need to own our happiness.

11. The key to happiness is love; giving and building up others. It is through giving that we receive and find fulfilment. Quoting Will, “Giving and receiving become simultaneous.”

I think we are so in want that we are unhappy, not realising that we already have so much to give… God has blessed us with so much, including out talents and gifts, our abilities… And it is through giving, becoming all we are supposed to be, pouring ourselves out, that we are able to receive from above; contentment and joy – the things that make for happiness and peace.

12. “Let go and let God work. At the end of the day, you are in control of very little. It is wise to recognise this and surrender to the One who is truly in control, and trust that He knows what He is doing. You just need to do your part in obedience and faithfulness.

This is such a powerful lesson to draw from a book about a man who has it all, who’s living on top of the world, yet feels lacking. It’s a humbling reminder to those of us following behind him, who desire his success and believe we will be happy when we get there. Be happy now. Be content now. Learn to follow God’s lead, without letting that mindset limit your own responsibility to work to bring your dreams to reality.

I wish I could go on, guys. Honestly, there is so much more… So many more life and business lessons to be gleaned from Will’s amazing autobiography. He has really become my mentor. I hear his voice in the morning, when I don’t want to rise early saying…

I don’t want to get up at 5am every day, but I do it anyway…

If you had a choice, who would choose to exercise…?

Your feelings will incinerate your dreams!

His words spur me on, because I too am a dreamer with a vision, and I’ll be damned if I don’t fulfil it.

Thank you, Will, for this amazing book. You poured yourself out so generously. May God bless and replenish you, and ultimately satisfy you!

Happy Birthday Icon 🙌🏼 I wish you long life and more prosperity.

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If you liked this post, you might like THE SPOTLIGHT: A REVIEW OF “WILL” THE BOOK BY WILL SMITH

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