When I think about Will Smith, I think about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, blockbuster movies, and “Gettin’ Jiggy With It.” Then about five years ago I discovered another side of Will Smith — the inspirational, thought-provoking side.

He always struck me as a cool dude you could chill with and learn from. Then after watching his interview with Tavis Smiley (as well as a few YouTube clips), I realized why he is successful. Here are a few of the lessons I picked up that you can apply right now to your life.

“From The Specific Comes The Universal”

That’s a quote Will Smith said he got from Denzel Washington. This is somewhat of a business/branding lesson more than a life lesson. It’s one of those reminders not to stretch yourself thin.

Sometimes we try to make our story and our business appeal to everyone; in Will’s case it was his movies, his roles. But when you focus on being specific, you actually appeal to more people than you would have otherwise done.

Follow The Patterns

Will views himself as a student of patterns. The reason he keeps choosing Sci-Fi movies is because the films early in his career had a pattern of success. So it’s not a surprise that his biggest movies are somehow related to science fiction.

That gem alone gave me much to think about. What are the patterns to successful businesses in my niche? What’s the pattern that leads to a successful friendship?

There’s a practice that even Warren Buffett tells people to do when looking at people you admire.

“Pick out a person you admire the most, and then write down why you admire them. You’re not to name yourself in this.[…] And then put down the person that, frankly, you can stand the least, and write down the qualities that turn you off in that person. The qualities of the one you admire are traits that you, with a little practice, can make your own, and that, if practiced, will become habit-forming.

Deciding Is Believing

“Just decide what it’s gonna be, who you’re gonna be, how you’re gonna do it.”

This is Will Smith’s version of the law of attraction. He feels that simply marking a decision about these three things and working towards them is the key to success.

Being very decisive about the future you want means that you strongly believe it. Andwhen you believe that much, the universe will get out of your way.

Will Smith credits Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist as influencing his way of thinking.

Hard Work Beats Talent

This is my favorite thing learned from Will. He recognizes he may not be as talented, smart, sexy, and praised as the next man, and he refuses let the next man outwork him.

I connect with this one the most because, as a kid who grew up with little money, a single parent home, and no mentors, it’s the one thing that helped me. Just knowing that a good work ethic – something that’s FREE and anyone can get – is the biggest recipe of his success. This should inspire you.

“If we get on a treadmill together, there are two things: you’re getting off first or I’m gonna DIE. It’s really that simple.”

Don’t Set Out To Build Walls

This gem kind of feeds off the last one. Working hard on your skills and goals are important, and we also have to be realistic.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Will shared how his father tore down the brick wall in front of his business, and had Will and his brother rebuild it. When they finished, is father told him. “Now, don’t you ever tell me there is something you can’t do.”

The lesson Will got from this is you don’t set out to build a wall. You lay each piece as perfectly as you can, and you do that every day until you make a wall. It took Will and his brother a year to build back that wall.

What kinds of walls are you trying to build? Focus instead on that one brick today.



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