Will Smith On Work Ethic, Delusion & Achieving Big Things

Will Smith, like Richard Branson, is another of my greatest role models. He’s a man of enormous drive and I think the things he says are testament to the mindset that people need to have if they’re going to achieve things that most people would call impossible.

I have not yet had an opportunity to speak with Smith directly, so I’ve pieced this transcript together from various other interviews. As usual, my favourite parts are highlighted in bold.

Will Smith…

Not a fast reader? Here (above) is the video that most of it came from…

On Delusion…

“I think that there’s a certain delusional quality that all successful people have to have. You have to believe that somethng different than what has happened for the last fifty million years of history – you have to believe that something different will happen. And I think that that’s a huge part of me.

I truly – honestly – as I sit before you right now, I truly believe that I could be the president if I wanted to. And as bizarre as that may sound to people who have travelled the path before me, who know how difficult it is, foolish Will Smith honestly believe it sincerely.

I truly believe that there are certain gifts and talents that God has blessed me with which I believe it would be spiritually criminal to only use to make money. My travels in Africa and spending time with Mohammed Ali and spending time with Nelson Mandela there are certainly issues that are important to me and things that I have been blessed the vehicle to change and to – as sappy as it may sound – make the world a better place, however minute the change. And that’s something that is important to me but I don’t believe that politics is the best use of my energy and time, right now.

On Achieving Great Things

I believe and I learned very young from my parents that 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 am 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 is better laid than this brick that I’m gonna lay in the next ten minutes. And you do that every single day. And soon you have a wall. 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 know how big the task is.

My father owned – it actually was an old bakery – when I was growing up, my father was an electrician and a refrigeration man. We would install supermarkets. You see the long freezer cases in supermarkets. We would install the long freezer cases and all the lights. That what we would do every summer. So this one year my father had this shop and he decided that for whatever reason he wanted a new wall on the front of his shop, so he tore down probably about 16ft tall and probably about 30ft long – he just completely tore the wall down. And my brother and I had to dig a 6ft hole for the foundation. We would mix the concrete by hand. A year and a half. We were building this wall for a year and a half every day after school. Every day after school we would come home, mix some concrete, put it in the hole. And it was just myself and my little brother. And I remember standing back ,looking at that wall and just thinking, ‘There is gonna be a hole here FOREVER. There will never be anything but  a hole here. And a year and a half later we laid the final brick. And my father stood back with me and my brother – and I know he planned this, he said he didn’t but I know he’d been planning this for the past two years but we stood back and looked at the wall and he turned to us and said, “Don’t y’all ever tell me you can’t do something. And walked into the shop.”

On Becoming Better

I think both of my parents and my grandparents were achievers. My mother worked for the school board of Philadelphia. So growing up we could not say “Y’ALL”. So there were rules and there was a constant desire to be better. We didn’t grow up with the sense that where we were was where we were going to be. We grew up with the sense that where we were, really didn’t matter because we were becoming something that was better than that.

On Work Ethic

I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. I viewed myself as slightly above average in talent and where I excel is ridiculous sickening work ethic. While the other guy is sleeping I’m working. While the other guy is eating, I’m working.

You can look at the first six episodes of The Fresh Prince and I was just so hell bent on not failing that I memorised the entire script and you can see in certain shots that I am mouthing the other actors’ lines. It took six episodes for someone to tell me to stop doing it.

On His Biggest Dreams

My biggest dream growing up was that I wanted to hear one of my records on the radio. And I wanted to see someone hear my record on the radio. And in June 1986, outside my father’s shop, I saw a man bopping his head and ever since then, I’ve been beyond my greatest dreams.”


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