Wisdom From Will Smith

The video below includes a compilation of Will Smith interviews where he shares many ideas regarding skill, success, work ethic, and more.

I highly recommend taking the time to watch the video. Will Smith is one of the most successful actors in the world. I actually featured one of his past performances in a previous entry. He is clearly talented, but his success didn’t come by accident. He has worked extremely hard to become who he is today.

I still remember listening to his music in the late 1980’s. He came out with the Parents Just Don’t Understand song in 1988. I also remember watching the first ever episode of the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. No one in their right mind could have guessed how popular the show would become in the early 1990’s. Will Smith was not even considered an actor. Twenty years later he has become one of the most notable actors in the world.

As you watch the video above, you’ll notice that his interviews are filled with quote worthy one liners. A few that stuck out to me are listed below.

First, I agree with his assessment of talent vs. skill. Talent will only take you so far. It’s amazing what a relentless work ethic will allow you to achieve. Unfortunately, hard work is a phrase that has different meanings for different people.

“I’ve never really viewed myself as particularly talented. Where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.”

He then speaks on the importance of constantly striving to improve. On paper, the concept appears obvious, but in reality, it is often a rarity. So many people get lost in habit. They go through the motions without ever attempting to move forward.

“Dedicate yourself to being better every single day.”

I also appreciate and can personally relate to his ideas about somehow improving the world. When I look at my kids, I want them to be proud of their father. When I leave this world, I’d like to think that there are people out there who have benefited from my presence. I never wanted to blend in with the crowd. I want to be different and make a difference.

“I want the world to be better because I was here.”

Finally, I believe I’ve saved the best for last. No one becomes great by doing what everyone else does or expects you to do. I’ve always thought that no one knows what I’m capable of achieving. Everyone is welcome to an opinion, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not listening. If I set my mind to something, it isn’t a matter of if I’ll accomplish the goal, but rather a matter of when. I’m everything but realistic, and that mindset has taken me to places that I never would have found if I listened to everyone around me.

“Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.”


  1. EPIC!!!

    HONEST, SYMPLISTIC & RAW!! Invaluable INSIGHT from a MAN Who TRULEY knows what it takes to “LIVE” Life with purpose…
    Will is An exceptional MODEL for any Human Being who wishes to have a Meaningful and Free Spirited LIFE!!! Awesome post!!!

    One of your best yet Ross.

  2. Will Smith is a good actor in action films. He seems like a passionate and dedicated human being–and he’s likable. However, let’s not apotheosize the guy for being a very popular film actor. How does that have anything to do with greatness? Now there’s an illusion. As for his criteria for greatness? That’s also what terrorists might advocate. And dying for the truth? What truth? Whose? Smith perfectly embodies and represents Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will to Power. That is what separates him. He goes for what he wants relentlessly. He is an extremely competitive and hard working individual, but I wish he wouldn’t hammer on about greatness? Edison he ain’t. The Wright Brothers he ain’t. And philosopher he ain’t.

    That said, he says what he says with great passion and conviction. People need to be reminded again and again about what it takes to succeed in any endeavor. And that’s why I read your blog. Cheers!

  3. I’ve been watching the vid 2 times. It’s very inspirational. When he said ‘I Love Live’ I was recognizing my own feeling about life. After I had a car crash, my life changed. I love life as well in all its aspects. I had a sort of a second chance to learn the real value of everything that concern life.
    When others sleep, I work as well. And when others sleep, I am learning and working.

    Thanks for sharing

  4. @Tom, who has apotheosized him? Quite the critic? Greatness can be defined as remarkably skilled, or marked by enthusiasm. To be remarkable in effectiveness is to be great. One can be great at a given task. A great baseball player, a great actor, a great marathon runner. Why twist words to suggest that anyone is heralding Will Smith as a divine power.

  5. Another great quote I personally recognise him for is:

    “Why bother to get ready if you can stay ready”.

    I am not sure if these are his words or his exact words, but they had a nice ring to them at the time. I think he was being interviewed on a radio show in the UK about a film in which he was the lead role; the conversation targeted his athleticism.


  6. Ehhhhhhh. I hate to interupt the circle-jerk here (actually, I don’t), but honestly, I think that all of this “you can do it” lip service is irresponsible. Let’s face it, some of us (yours truly included), can try, try, try again every day, but still fall short despite of our efforts.

    Everyday it’s the same. You try hard. You work hard. The motivation and desire is there….. But at the end of the day, you are still Mr. Mediocre.

    I think a lot of this “strive to achieve” silliness is only epoused by those who wish to feel superior to “average joes”.

    Yeah, yeah… Will Smith can act. But he’s been doing it all his life. Anyone who has been doing anything all their life will no doubt achieve a level of comptenece that your “average joe” does not have. It’s not “MY DEDICATION TO SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT AND UNMATCHED WORK ETHIC” that defines success for most people.

    How about this quote: “Eighty percent of success is simply showing up”. How many dingbats do you know that are successful, that are also the type of people you wouldn’t trust to take care of your dog for the weekend? Yeah, it’s like that. These people simply show up, and without working hard – they are successful. It’s total BS.

    My point: Regardless of your percieved “superior work ethic” or “dedication to excellence” your success is largely determined by this law and this law alone:

    There are winners, and there are losers.

    That’s it. In order for people like Will Smith to achieve success, hundreds, if not, thousands of other talented and hard-working actors MUST remain un noticed. I wonder how many actors there are out there that are 100x better than Will Smith, that will NEVER be in a movie simply they will never catch a break……….. Probably thousands……….

    I’m not sorry for my defeatist attitude. I am not a defeatist. I am a REALIST, and we all need to take a step back and smell that pile of steaming BS for what it is.

  7. Dr. Adequate,

    I strongly disagree with your comments (comments that you have made many times before).

    First, you have skewed the true message. Success doesn’t fall out of the sky. And no, not everyone will be successful at everything. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Not everyone can fight, not everyone can run, not everyone can act, etc. Far more people can be far more successful in a given trade however than many realize. Is the work easy? Hell no. Can it be so difficult that it breaks you down physically and mentally? Most definitely.

    Once again, different people have different interpretations of hard work. Consider yourself for a prime example. You are quick to label yourself a failure who tried. Assuming this was true, how does the nonsense that you regularly post to the forum play into your repeated and diligent attempts to improve? Based on what your IP address has posted to the forum, I can’t tell if this is even a serious post.

    As for your comments about Will Smith acting all of his life, that too is false. When he first got his break on the Fresh Price of Bel-Air, he wasn’t even considered an actor. Many “experts” didn’t expect the show to last. He wasn’t a natural. He was said to stay up all night at times, memorizing his lines, the lines of others, etc. He was fanatical about the time that he put in to prepare, learn, and improve.

    As for the fact that there are winners and losers, no one can win at everything. The greatest football player in the NFL would fail in a boxing ring, just as the greatest boxer in the world would fail on a baseball field. Part of becoming successful involves finding where you have the greatest chance to succeed. If there isn’t anything there, you go out and create something. Once again, opportunities do not fall out of the sky. Yes, hard work is obviously important, but the ability to bounce back after failing is also important. Most success stories come after countless failures.

    Smart work is also a must. Working hard in the wrong direction isn’t going to get you anywhere. Unfortunately, many don’t want to own up to the fact that perhaps they didn’t put in as much work (and as smart work) as others. It’s easier to cry “poor me” and say it wasn’t meant to be.

    Calculated risks must also be considered. There will be times when you must take risks to move forward. Not everyone is willing to take such risks. That is their choice. Not everyone wants to be great (at anything). Many are satisfied being part of the majority. That does not make these people losers. They simply have different desires in life. I don’t fault anyone for having different desires. We as people are all unique.

    As for real life stories, here is an example from a successful restaurant owner that I personally know. He came here from another country with nothing. I worked at an old job with him while I was still in college. I worked part time, but he was there all day in a very draining job. He would then leave and head to work at a restaurant as a waiter. He’d then stay on and work in the kitchen or bar afterward. He would be working until midnight daily, but was always back to his other job the next day. At the time, I thought he was crazy. I asked him why he was working so much. He told me that he was going to open his own restaurant one day. I forgot all about him until years later I took my wife out to eat and we were eating in HIS restaurant. He has apparently opened two gas stations as well and is living VERY comfortably. He is now a successful businessman, but the work that he put in would have broken down MOST people.

    Perhaps he was a “loser” throughout his life in many areas. That is irrelevant now, as he found a way to succeed. No, he isn’t great at everything, but he doesn’t need to be. He found/made something work for him and worked relentlessly to make it happen, finance the start up, learn about the restaurant business, etc.

    Don’t be so quick to accept defeat. You act as if you’ve maxed out your potential, and that simply isn’t true.

  8. i love watching stuff like this. sometimes when i feel like there’s no point in anything, stuff like this makes me feel great, puts me back on the road so to speak.

  9. Real life examples are existing.

    My Recommendations are the movies:
    Hurricane(Denzel Washington), Invincible(Mark Wahlberg), Robroy (Liam Neeson) .

    These are just some example that happened.
    I´m not wrote down these names to motivate anybody.
    But what had happened if these persons did give up.
    They would not be remembered for what they achieved.

    I saw these Movies a lot, but i ask myself every time, how they found the strength to move forward.

    I had that give up and “poor me” feeling a lot and did give up a lot but everybody moves forward some time. And if you don´t give up and you´re patient just good things will happen in the end.

    I´m a Muslim. Many people don´t know that it´s a sin in my Religion to be HOPELESS.

    I wish all the best to everyone !!!

    Thanks for the post Ross.

  10. Just another real life example recommendation:

    “A sense of the World- how a blind man became histories greatest traveler”

    This a book about James Holman, who´s dreaming since his childhood day to travel the whole world. When he was 12 he joined the Royal Navy. When he got adult he got completely blind. But he did not complain, he made his dream come true. The rest is history!

  11. I find Will Smith to be an incredibly inspiring both as an actor and just as a human being. If you’ve ever had the chance to sit down and watch Seven Pounds or The Pursuit of Happiness, it would be difficult to not be inspired by this person. I’ll sometimes watch them when I need a little boost of determination. And I wouldn’t say he’s being arrogant or anything by the way he uses the term “great.” I think he’s just trying to say that greatness is unique to the individual who has worked extremely hard to achieve something.

    As for the post above by Dr. Adequate, I think you’re really missing the point. I understand what it feels like to try repeatedly and fail at something. Being able to breeze right through any challenege does not make you great, it is when you refuse to accept defeat. You say you’re a realist, but what is real? What someone else tells you? About the most real thing I’m willing to accept about ANYTHING I set my sights on is that it may just take some time, and that’s it. The only limitations you have are those that you set for yourself.

    I come from a rather troubled upbringing, and was an F student pretty much all through school. I remember a teacher, of all people, pulling me aside once and telling me I would grow up to be an alcoholic and do nothing with my life. I’m now graduating from college, and have accomplished numerous other things as well in spite of what she said.

    I’m really not trying to offend you or rub your nose in anything. In no way am I perfect by any means. I just hope that you can let go of that sort of attitude and realize that it will indeed be what holds you back in this life. We don’t have much time, but every single day is a chance to step up to what ever obstacle that is thrown at you. I know I’m not gonna sit and watch the world pass me by like many other people I know.

  12. Southern Trainer, yes, I am quite the critic, but I am not a closed critic. I don’t see any problems in categorizing and defining greatness as a high degree of effectiveness in sport or skill. That is fine, but he is clearly situating himself with individuals of outstanding importance, eminence and value. In particular, with mavericks and iconoclasts, with creative originals. And this doesn’t follow from his contributions to society above and beyond philanthropic deeds, afforded to him from his immense popularity as a film star. It is a rarefied category. And “apotheosis” is a fitting word when it comes to “silver screen” stars and the manifold effects such individuals have any ordinary people. A large dose of proportionality is in order.

  13. Thanks Ross; that’s exactly what I needed today! In response to Dr. Adequate, I would say that of course there are limits to our success, and the way we become great is precisely by pushing ourselves so hard that we find those limits. We may not achieve exactly the goal that we set out to do, but by give it our all, we will have achieved something greater. But in the end I think there is more potential in all of us than we realize. As Will Smith quoted Confucius, “The man who says ‘I can’ and the man who says ‘I can’t’ are both usually right.” To tap that potential you first have to say, ‘I can’.

  14. It’s very easy to look at someone who’s achieved any sort of success and think that it comes easy to them. But what is so often missed is the tremendous amount of work they put in when nobody’s looking.

    One example that jumps to mind is Tom Brady, the Patriots’ quarterback. As a Bostonian, I’m obviously a fan. To the casual observer, Brady appears to live the charmed life of a man to whom everything comes easy. What isn’t reported is the countless hours he spends practicing, conditioning, watching film.

    Here is a man who is so dedicated that, unlike most of his teammates, he comes to the practice facility on the team’s off day to meet with his coach and watch even more film. As a rookie 4th string quarterback, he was so dedicated that he would practice his drop-backs at night in his bedroom. His quest for mental greatness is so strong that a precondition of his first endorsement deals was a one-on-one meeting with each of the CEO’s of the companies he endorsed – because he wanted to find out what made them so successful.

    I can think of my dad, who spent 10 years in night school, earning advanced law degrees, all while working full time and taking on his own clients. I consider myself a hard worker, but I can’t honestly say that I’d have that level of dedication – to go an entire decade on 4 hours’ sleep in pursuit of a goal.

    Ross is right: we will not all be elite athletes. What we can be, however, is the best athlete of which we’re physically capable. And that is what greatness really is.

  15. @TomG & Dr Adequate
    Why such bitter comments??
    While you are wasteing your time with such Grandoise (lol)Words you fail to see the meaning behind this post!!
    Yes, succeeding can somtimes be dependent of luck and circumstance, but, there is no better way to enhance your chances of experiencing luck than to work extremley hard (and also having an open mind and resisting the urge to judge). Maybe,this is where the problem lies?? Could it be, that your inabillity to comprehend what WILL and ROSS speaks about is due to your constant assessment of others, which enables you to divert your attention away from gaining your own personal insight??
    Guys, how about being a little mindful of other people who may look to this blog in need of insparation!
    You have absolutely no idea who does veiw this blog and there reasons for doing so. Ease up on the Negativity!
    Not all individual battles revolve around succeeding competitively. Relax Fellas!!

  16. Damien, I’m not bitter not at all. I applaud Will Smith’s success–to a certain degree. I wouldn’t be reading Ross’s otherwise excellent blog if I didn’t believe in hard work and success. However, I know how illusory and many-mirrored the world of Hollywood and its actors are. Accolades from Hollywood are not of the same caliber as awards and prizes from other domains of artistic and creative success. Movie actors are a special breed in that they don’t require high intelligence, a particular creative aptitude, or a set of skills grounded in years of painstaking effort and competence. This is not to say that Smith may not have all of these qualities and attributes, but based on his career and the above interview, I’m not convinced. The evidence isn’t sufficient. Does that in itself make me bitter because I’m not jumping on the bandwagon or spouting warm and fuzzy superlatives? An unpopular opinion doesn’t mean it’s wrong just as a very popular opinion has anything to do with being right. I do believe in meritocracy and competence, but film actors need to show a bit more in terms of ability before the evidence is sufficient. There are many precedents. Take actors who have gone on to direct, to write screenplays, to write novels, to paint, to hold high political office, to design buildings. This is not to say that Smith may not have it in him, but the evidence simply isn’t there. Philanthropy may indicate that he’s a good human being who’s been extremely lucky, but does that really set him apart?

  17. Damien, you are right above keeping the posts positive. That’s the nature of these blogs. Apologies. Maybe I’ll register to use the forum instead. Cheers!

  18. Will Smith has come a long way since his 1980’s rap career. No, we shouldn’t all worship the man, and that isn’t the point of this entry. Will Smith has worked very hard however, and has many useful thoughts regarding work ethic, attributes required to succeed, etc.

    He has been successful as an actor, a producer, a writer, etc. This didn’t happen by accident. No one could have ever guessed his success if they saw him rapping in the 1980’s.


    No, we shouldn’t worship the man, and I honestly don’t believe he wants us to. I do however believe that many can benefit from at least some of his advice (hence the purpose of this entry).


  19. I just want to say this. With regard to success…more people will succeed if they just stick with what they say they want to accomplish. Most people who ‘make it’ have went through hard times like everyone else…but for whatever reason they chose to continue. Maybe some couldn’t continue due to financial constraints, or health concerns, or whatever. But those who ‘made it’ found a way and stuck with it (whatever ‘it’ is or was), despite those constraints. The people who have ridiculous levels of success in their ‘it’ typically sacrifice more time, effort, and money in their pursuit of ‘it’…much more than the typical person is able to commit to. Commitment is either all in or it’s not commitment. There’s a difference between ‘commitment’ and ‘interest’. A person who who has absolute dedication to something just won’t quit…a person who has interest or dying commitment will quit when they reach certain roadblocks. We have to be honest about our shortcomings to realize the truth that’s in what Will Smith said. To make it plain…’IT AIN’T ABOUT WILL SMITH’. It’s about you. What are you willing to sacrifice to get what you say you want…is it lip service and interest or are you truly committed to what you say you want out of life?

    Put time on your side and start going after what you want out of life TODAY!!!!! We all have something we wish we would have started on earlier but accept that you didn’t and if you really want it (if you have the guts to commit to it) start TODAY!

    Here’s a poem…

    It Couldn’t Be Done
    By Edgar Guest

    Somebody said it couldn’t be done,
    But he with a chuckle replied
    That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
    Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
    So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
    On his face. If he worried he hid it.
    He started to sing and he tackled the thing
    That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
    Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
    At least no one has ever done it”;
    But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
    And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
    With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
    Without any doubting or quiddit,
    He started to sing and he tackled the thing
    That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

    There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
    There are thousands to prophesy failure;
    There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
    The dangers that wait to assail you.
    But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
    Just take off your coat and go to it;
    Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
    That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

  20. I grew up as an army brat in Germany, speaking mainly German, some English (bilingual family). In school, I was not interested in classes, loved martial arts…..I failed a grade, had to repeat, was once also told by a teacher that I’d never amount to anything. After high school, I decided that I wanted to become a doctor (based on a number of experiences outside the classroom). I began college in Germany, transfered to this country with two bags and a backpack (though I always had the U.S. citizenship, I had never lived here, and the rest of my family stayed in Europe…..I was on my own). I worked like a dog in college (with a dictionary in my backpack for the first year), studying fridays, weekends, summer sessions, winter sessions….graduated after a two and a half years having gained entrance to med school. There too, I worked hard, got a residency at Johns Hopkins, worked as a resident and fellow for seven years in training…. I now am professionally successful, have a wife and kids….Many more things are possible than not, if one really wants it….even for ex-flunkies like me……..
    don’t give up, my friends…….

  21. Mr. Ross:

    Thank you that was like a mental shot of t-boosters. Seriously, I will revisit this video again so please don’t take it down. This video was what I needed to hear today. Thanks bro, thank you.


  22. Awesome! I have great respect and admiration for Will Smith. I actually saw his interview with Tavis Smiley, last year, and ended up reading, ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho, after he mentioned it(if I’m not mistaken, I think Will’s film, ‘I Am Legend’, was inspired by that book written by Mr. Coelho) .

    Thanks for sharing the sweet wisdom behind his success, Ross!

  23. Such a bummer that youtube has to remove videos that serve only to impart wisdom to people. I’m bummed out that i couldn’t see the clips of the interviews, but at least i got to read the highlights in your blog.

  24. Didnt like it. All this worldly Oprah logic is just something for people who dont know God to try and find a way to pretend they are in control of their life. We are only in control of our choices…..we are not “benders of the universe” lol
    I’m a successful guy who has worked hard, has an amazing family…..but I do, not because I deserve any of these things, or have pretended like I can control everything around me…I have them because of God’s grace and his blessings for my obedience. Found strength in him. I find it sad to see that so many have bought into this kind of thinking……No matter how “on top of it” or “in control” this guy seems to be, trust me, when his head hits the pillow at night, he knows he’s full of it. Just my opinion.

  25. “Most success stories come after countless failures. ”

    It’s interesting to me that certain words, and stories have meaning to me now whereas years ago they were cliches, meaningless, or even false. It took me until I was 25 years old to understand Shakespeare.

  26. Still reading this in 2016! I really am intrigued at this discussion above. I thoroughly enjoy reading respectable arguments back and forth without all the name calling and judging on other people’s opinions. Nice to see a mature conversation. Love Will Smith and love this post!

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