This A-lister is revered for his leading role on the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as the arsenal of blockbuster films to his name. But perhaps less widely known is his gift for motivational speaking. A quick YouTube search of “Will Smith motivation” or “Will Smith interview” or a peek into any of his current Instagram highlights will illustrate this better than I ever could. But if you don’t have time for the full download, here are 11 of his most transcendent lines.
1.“You cannot make a person happy. You can make a person smile, you can make a person feel good, you can make a person laugh but whether or not a person is happy deeply, totally and utterly out of your control.”
I have been in relationships where I felt responsible for someone’s happiness and burdened to stay, and I have pursued relationships where I was not wanted but felt dependent on them for happiness. We often only allow ourselves to feel self-love when we are appreciated by significant others, but true happiness can actually never be given or received by anyone else at all. The beautiful thing is, it is already yours for the taking.
2. “If you’re not making someone else’s life better then you are wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other people’s lives better.”
Focus on being a good friend, a loving son or daughter, a valuable employee and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders. Because let’s be honest, you’re going to run out of steam quick if you judge all your actions and efforts by how much it gets you alone.
Thankfully, you are not the only person to have ever lost their job, been cheated on, struggle with substance abuse, or to not know what they want to do with their life. Seek out the stories of people who’ve gone through similar struggles and learn from them. Put new voices in your head to quiet your anxiety and make you feel less alone because you’re no special snowflake of failure.
4. “Self-discipline is the center of all material success.”
Getting your first “big” job after school is a thrill. You can finally make your own decisions with your hard-earned money and you likely have no pesky kids or spouses to drain it! But, this also makes it one of the best times in your life to grind out savings. Consider living by the 50/20/30 rule: 50% of your paycheck to fixed expenses (i.e. bills), 20% to savings and/or investing, and 30% is things that make you happy. You’ll thank yourself later.
No longer being bound within a college campus means you can be much more selective with who you surround yourself with. Consider if your best friends bring positivity and light to others and if they challenge you to educate and be honest with yourself. You are who you continually spend your time with, so be picky.
6. “You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build 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.’ You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”
Start small and build. Wake up and make your bed, stay up to date on doctors’ appointments, pay your bills, and keep a clean space. These tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment over and over (and reaffirm each day you are prioritizing yourself). Once the ball is rolling, you’ll escalate to greater feats.
7. “God placed the best things in life on the other side of terror.”
Nobody ever looked back and wished they lived more conservatively. Travel alone, get a spontaneous tattoo, move to a new city, tell someone your true feelings. Remember what Benjamin Mee, a writer who rescued a failing zoo after the death of his wife, said: “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” (Fun fact: often that courage is best used saying “no” to something.)
When I was considering law school, I took countless four-hour long LSAT practice tests, as well as a three month long (expensive) prep-course. The kicker? I never ended up taking the real test. I knew your LSAT score is recorded as-is for five years, and automatically reported to law schools since June 2012 (meaning you can’t take it multiple times and pick your best one). I was so obsessed with achieving a perfect score, I never even tried. Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good, and don’t live in fear of failing so much you never try. Failure is your greatest teacher, and you should be striving for goals that make you experience it routinely.
Smiling and laughing when times are hard has so much more cathartic and immediate power then people realize. Try it.
10. “I never viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening, work ethic. You know, while the other guy’s sleeping, I’m working.”
Don’t buy into the myth your 20’s are for being careless. Be wild, yes, but also put in work to chase your dreams while you have time and stamina to do so. Try different passions and again, don’t be afraid to fail.
11. “When you lose something…you have to understand that nature has no other way, there is a rebirth. The death is painful, it doesn’t change the pain of the death, but you got to stay awake and focused for the rebirth that God is about to offer you.”
Let go of the past in order to love what you have now with the ferocity it deserves. True greatness can come from being broken down to your core, and starting anew. And for every loss, there is an opening in your life to fill with more. Your best days and most beautiful, life-altering adventures are still to come; and is there anything more earth-shatteringly exciting than that?