When you read someone else’s story you get the benefit of wisdom it took them their whole life to acquire. It’s one of the reasons I love biographies. I loved Will Smith’s new book, I couldn’t recommend it more. It was entertaining and also contained wisdom that really resonated with me. Below are all his words, I have no need to add to it.
The thing I’ve learned over the years about advice is that no-one can accurately predict the future, but we think we can. So advice at its best is one person’s limited perspective of the infinite possibilities before you. People’s advice is based on their fears, their experiences, their prejudices and at the end of the day their advice is just that, it’s theirs not yours. When people give you advice, they’re basing it on what they can do, what they can perceive, and what they think you can do. But the bottom line is, while yes it is true that we’re all subject to a series of universal laws, patterns, ties and currents, all of which are somewhat predictable, you are the first time you’ve ever happened. You and now are a unique occurrence of which you are the most reliable measure of all the possibilities.
– Will Smith, Chapter Five: Hope
We punish ourselves for not knowing. We always complain about what we could and should have done. And how much of a mistake it was that we did that thing, that unforgivable thing. We beat on ourselves for being so stupid, regretting our choices and lamenting the horrible decisions we make. But here’s the reality – that’s what life is. Living is the journey from not knowing to knowing, from not understanding to understanding, from confusion to clarity. By universal design you are born into a perplexing situation, bewildered, and you have one job as a human – figure this shit out. Life is learning. Period. Overcoming ignorance is the whole point of the journey. You’re not supposed to know at the beginning. The whole point of venturing into uncertainty is to bring light to the darkness of our ignorance. I heard a great saying once. Life is like school with one key difference. In school you get the lesson and then you take the test. But in life you get the test and it’s your job to take the lesson. We’re all waiting until we have deep knowledge, wisdom, and a sense of certainty until we venture forth, but we’ve got it backwards. Venturing forth is how we gain the knowledge.
– Will Smith, Chapter Six: Ignorance
The universe is not logical. It’s magical. A major aspect of the pain and mental anguish we experience as humans is that our minds seek and often demand logic and order from an illogical universe. Our minds desperately want shit to add up but the rules of logic do not apply to the laws of possibility. The universe functions under the laws of magic.
– Will Smith, Chapter Ten: Alchemy
An alchemist is a spiritual chemist, a master of transmutation. The great feat of an alchemist is that they can do the impossible. They can turn lead into gold. This concept erupted in my mind – the ability to take anything that life gives you and turn it into gold. Gigi could take the last half glass of welch’s grape juice and mix it with the last swallow of dole pineapple juice, throw in some kool aid packets, dice up some lemon and the other half of the orange she was just eating and swirl it all together with a blast of canada dry ginger ale, freeze it, and hand you the best damn popsicle you’ve had in your life. This was after you’d looked in the refrigerator five separate times and each time told her there was nothing in there.
– Will Smith, Chapter Ten: Alchemy
Change can be scary but it’s utterly unavoidable. In fact impermanence is the only thing you can truly rely on. If you are unwilling or unable to pivot and adapt to the incessant fluctuating tides of life, you will not enjoy being here. Sometimes people try to play the cards that they wish they had instead of playing the hand they’ve been dealt. The capacity to adjust and improvise is arguably the single most critical human ability.
– Will Smith, Chapter Eleven: Adaptation
“Do not get comfortable with your back on that canvas!”, he said. “You fight how you train.” You fight how you train was one of Darrell’s central axioms. “You do everything how you do one thing”, he’d say. Darrell didn’t want me to get comfortable with my back on the canvas in case I ever got knocked down. He wanted lying down in a boxing ring to feel utterly foreign to me just in case I ever found myself lying down in a boxing ring. His position was dreams are built on discipline, discipline is built on habits, habits are built on training, and training takes place in every single second of every situation of your life. How you wash the dishes, how you drive a car, how you present a report at school or at work. You either do your best all the time or you don’t. If the behavior has not been trained and practiced then the switch will not be there when you need it. “Training is for the purpose of habituating reactions to extreme circumstances”, Darrell said. “When situations get hot you can’t rely on your thinking mind. You must have habituated reflexive responses that kick in without the necessity of thought. Never detrain your killer instincts.”
– Will Smith, Chapter Sixteen: Purpose (Darrell Foster who trained Will to portray Muhammad Ali)
Surrender had always been a negative word for me, it meant losing or failing or giving up. But my burgeoning relationship with the ocean was exposing that my sense of control was actually an illusion. Surrender transformed from a weakness word to an infinite power concept. I had a bias toward action – thrusting, pushing, striving, struggling, doing. And I began to realize that their opposites were equally as powerful – inaction, receptiveness, acceptance, nonresistance, being. Stopping was equally as powerful as going. Resting was equally as powerful as training. Silence was equally as powerful as talking. Letting go was equally as powerful as grasping. Surrender to me no longer meant defeat. It was now an equally powerful tool of manifestation. Losing could be equal to winning in terms of my growth and development. I began to understand a perplexing phrase that Gigi used to use – “let go and let God”. That had always seemed wrong to me. It felt like absolving yourself of your responsibilities, like something that people say when they are too lazy to do what’s necessary to build the life they want. But all of a sudden it took on new and magical meaning. There is an energy that is at work while you were asleep, the energy that fires the sun, that moves the ocean and that beats your heart. You don’t have to do everything. In fact most of the things that get done you didn’t have anything to do with them, and actually it’s a great thing that you were asleep because if you had been awake you probably would have messed it up. Then a new wording of Gigi’s axiom came into mind, not just let go and let God, it’s let go and let God work. The surfer and the ocean are a team. The mountain and the climber are partners not adversaries. The great river is going to do 99% of the work. Your 1% is to study it, to understand it, to respect its power, and to creatively dance within its currents and its laws. Act when the universe is open and rest when she’s closed.
– Will Smith, Chapter Twenty: Surrender