Publication Date: November 9,
Narrators: Will Smith
hours 16 min
Buy: Kindle | Audio
Will Smith’s transformation from a West Philadelphia kid to one of the
biggest rap stars of his era, and then one of the biggest movie stars in
Hollywood history, is an epic tale — but it’s only half the story.
Will Smith thought, with good reason, that he had won at life: Not only was
his own success unparalleled, his whole family was at the pinnacle of the
entertainment world. Only they didn't see it that way: They felt more like
star performers in his circus, a seven-days-a-week job they hadn't signed up
for. It turned out Will Smith's education wasn't nearly over.
This memoir is the product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, a
reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave
behind. Written with the help of Mark Manson, author of the
multi-million-copy best seller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
Will is the story of how one person mastered his own emotions, written in
a way that can help everyone else do the same. Few of us will know the
pressure of performing on the world's biggest stages for the highest of
stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of
our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home.
The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that
is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts Will; the book, like its author, in a category by itself.
I'm going to set aside the whole Oscar thing since I started reading this before that took place. Will is the story of the man Will Smith not the character that we he portrays as the actor/rapper etc. He grew up with an alcoholic father and who physically abused his mother. He always felt weak, and cowardly for not being able to stop the abuse that went on. He became the entertainer of the family hoping that by keeping people laughing they wouldn't be fighting.
This book is insightful and honest. Will has been a story teller his whole life, often not knowing what is a real memory or one that he created in his head. His father was taught him discipline and the drive to always keep doing. His mother taught him to create. Together these lessons created the man we know as Will Smith. I've seen many reviews say that the second half of the book is like a brag book of his accomplishments but if they finished it they missed the point of all of it. Yes he does talk about his box office sales and his back to back movie hits, but he also uses that to illustrate how his need to keep doing broke apart his family. His inability to just be, to listen and to appreciate what he has. With all the money, prestige and power he still felt unworthy, and unhappy. He didn't stop because to be with yourself means to get to know yourself and Will didn't like himself.
As his marriage to Jada became rocky both of them were reminded that the only person who can make you happy is yourself. So they both went on their paths to make peace with themselves and ultimately decided to continue to love each other unconditionally and remain together in whatever configuration that looked like.
I really enjoyed reading Will's account of growing up. As a Philly girl myself I could appreciate the neighborhoods and when he went to a private school his feeling of not quite fitting in at school or at home. The code switch it required to go from one place to the next ultimately helped him navigate his career but its difficult and leaves you feeling like an island as a child.
Life is a journey and I think Will is still finding his way but there is no doubt about his work ethic, drive and care for his family. It helps me see him in a very different light.
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