The Autobiography you have been waiting for- a brave, inspiring and wildly entertaining memoir full of self-help lessons for readers, from one of the world’s most charismatic and much-loved actors Will Smith.
One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.
Will Smith’s transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes that will likely never be broken, is an epic tale of inner transformation and outer triumph, and Will tells it astonishingly well. 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 bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Will is the story of how one exceptional man 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’ve always thought of myself as a coward. Most of my memories of my childhood involve me being afraid in some way — afraid of other kids, afraid of being hurt or embarrassed, afraid of being seen as weak. But mostly, I was afraid of my father.
The North Philly streets had a way of hardening you. You either crystallized into a mean motherfucker, or the hood broke you.
But as it turned out, Daddio loved it. It was in the military that he discovered the transformative power of order and discipline, two values that he came to worship as the guardrails protecting him from the worst parts of himself.
Like many sons, I worshipped my father, but he also terrified me. He was one of the greatest blessings of my life , and also one of my greatest sources of pain.
He loved the poetry of his profanity — I once heard him call a man a “dirty rat, cocksuckin ’, low – down, mangy pig fucker” Mom – Mom doesn’t use profanity.
In his world, there was no such thing as a “small thing.” Doing your homework was a mission. Cleaning the bathroom was a mission. Getting groceries from the supermarket was a mission. And scrubbing a floor? It was never just about scrubbing a floor — it was about your ability to follow orders, to exhibit self – discipline, and to complete a task with the utmost perfection.
The constant fear during my childhood honed my sensitivity to every detail in my environment. From a very young age, I developed a razor – sharp intuition, an ability to attune to every emotion around me. I learned to sense anger, predict joy, and understand sadness on far deeper levels than most other kids.
This emotional awareness has stayed with me throughout my life. Paradoxically it has served me well as an actor and performer. I could easily recognize, comprehend, and emulate complex emotions long before I knew that people would pay me for it.
My father tormented me. And he was also one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. My father was violent, but he was also at every game, play, and recital. He was an alcoholic, but he was sober at every premiere of every one of my movies. He listened to every record. He visited every studio. The same intense perfectionism that terrorized his family put food on the table every night of my life.
In a family of fighters, I was the weak one. I was the coward.
How we decide to respond to our fears, that is the person we become. I decided to be funny.
That night, in that bedroom, at only nine years old, watching the destruction of my family as my mother collapsed to the floor — in that moment, I decided. I made a silent promise. To my mother, to my family, to myself: One day, I would be in charge. And this would never, ever happen again.
Comedy is an extension of intelligence. It’s hard to be really funny if you’re not really smart.
Living in your own little world with your own rules can be an advantage sometimes, but you have to be careful. You can’t get too detached from reality. Because there are consequences.
Kids could be cruel. And the more eccentric you are, the less mercy you will be shown.
The bigger the fantasy you live, the more painful the inevitable collision with reality. If you cultivate the fantasy that your marriage will be forever joyful and effortless, then reality is going to pay you back in equal proportion to your delusion. If you live the fantasy that making money will earn you love, then the universe will slap you awake, in the tune of a thousand angry voices.
Gigi didn’t make a distinction between your burdens and her own. She truly believed the message of the Gospel. She saw loving and serving others not as a responsibility but as an honor.
These three ideas — discipline, education, and love — would fight for my attention throughout the rest of my life.
I was raised to believe that I am inherently equipped to handle any problems that may arise in my life, racism included. Some combination of hard work, education, and God would topple any and all obstacles and enemies. The only variable was the level of my commitment to the fight.
The equation was now complete: DJing + MCing = Hip – Hop. And the world was not ready.
I never cursed again in my rhymes. And I got criticized and smashed for years for that choice. But there was no peer pressure that even came close to overriding Gigi pressure.
This was always my biggest strength. I had been cracking jokes my entire life. Now all I had to do was make them rhyme and people were flippin’.
“Nah, Miss Brown, we both know I am barely thirty seconds late. And if you don’t mind, thenceforth and hitherto do I demand to be known as the Fresh Prince.” The classroom burst out laughing. The name stuck.
In order to feel confident and secure, you need to have something to feel confident and secure about.
Internal power and confidence are born of insight and proficiency. When you understand something, or you’re good at something, you feel strong, and it makes you feel like you have something to offer. When you have adequately cultivated your unique skills and gifts, then you’re excited about approaching and interacting with the world.
As a teenager, outside of physical injury, you cannot feel worse than having your mother catch you and your girlfriend doggy-style on her kitchen floor.
I could go on and on. But I’ll stop and just say there’s a reason why many, including myself, consider Jeff to be the GOAT of hip-hop DJing. Even today, over thirty years later, he’s revered by DJing experts as one of the best in the world.
Jeff was flawless that night. And when it was all said and done, the 1986 World Supreme DJ was a kid who spent most of his life in a basement in Southwest Philly: my DJ, DJ Jazzy Jeff.
But by the time we drove home the next morning, New York disappearing behind us, I was struck with an overwhelming conviction: I am not going to college.
We didn’t realize that Dana didn’t even have a company yet. He had no distribution, very few connections in radio or television. And DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were his first foray into the music business.
Deep down inside, I knew that my dreams would be made or broken by the people I chose to surround myself with. Confucius had it right: It’s nearly impossible for the quality of your life to be higher than the quality of your friends. And by the grace of God, there has never been a single moment in my life when I have looked to my left or to my right and not seen an extraordinary friend, someone who believed in me and was down for whatever.
Our hopes had finally collided. And these hopes were inherently incompatible with each other. One had to give way. One of us was going to have our heart broken.
My mother’s college education saved her life, which solidified for her a fundamental premise: A college education is the only armor against the brutality of this world. And without a college education, I would be condemned to certain destruction. This was not her advice to me — this was” the truth.” To her, being a rapper was impossible. But I am not my mother. Just as her education saved and defended her from the hardships of her early life, performance and hip-hop had saved me from mine. It’s clearer when I look back now. While we were gridlocked and colliding and arguing, the reality was, both things were true — one was true for her, and the other was true for me.
“So, here’s what we gonna do,” Daddio said.” You got one year. Your mother said she can get all them schools to hold your acceptance till next September. We’re gonna help you and support you to do anything you think you need to do to succeed. But in one year, if it ain’t happenin’, you’re going to go to whichever one of them school’s your mother choose. That work for you?” In my mind a year was forever. I was ecstatic.
I ran outside; I wanted to grab somebody, to tell somebody,” THAT’S ME, Y’ALL, THAT’S ME.” But it was ten o’clock; nobody was out there. I started giggling, a knee-jerk reaction that I still have to this day when I find myself in extreme emotional circumstances. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was a joyous, blissful laughter. The pure joy of a child waking up on Christmas morning. The joy of discovery. Of renewed hope. Of a new life. The joy of being right about me.
People often say ignorance is bliss. Maybe … right up until it’s not. We punish ourselves for not knowing.
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.
“Can I help you?” Daddio said.” Where’s that muthafucka at?” Dana gruffly responded.” Well, if the muthafucka you’re looking for is Will, he’s in the house. You’re welcome to come in and kill him now. And the whole family’s home, too, coz if you touch Will, you gon’ have to kill us all …. But we ain’t acceptin’ no fuckin’ threats from you.”
What I’m saying is objectively, and factually true: The late 1980s was the greatest time in hip-hop history, period, full stop, amen.
We never even adjusted from our jet lag. We woke up at 4: 00 p.m. every day, hit the studio by 6: 00 p.m., worked until about 6: 00 a.m., grabbed some free breakfast from the Swiss Cottage buffet, and went to bed around 7: 00 a.m. We kept that schedule up for almost six weeks. And it was bliss.
He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper was released on March 29, 1988. Anchored by” Brand New Funk” and” Parents Just Don’t Understand,” the album would eventually reach # 4 on the Billboard 200, going triple platinum ( selling more than three million copies ).
We were red – hot, and unstoppable. At twenty years old, I was a world-famous rapper, a Grammy Award winner, and a Freshly minted millionaire (pun intended ). I would drop the mic, but I need it for the next chapter.
On the outside, though, I was strangely calm, because none of these thoughts were registering as actual feelings. I wanted to be angry — I mean, you’re supposed to be pissed when somebody cheats on you, right? But I felt nothing.
When you’re a twenty-year-old rapper from the inner city of Philadelphia who’s just made his first million dollars, the only people who can afford to hang with you are other rappers, professional athletes, or drug dealers. I picked drug dealers.
“Boy, why you need three cars?” he said. “You only got one ass.”
I have since realized the critical importance of environment. Choosing the city you live in is as important as choosing your life partner.
The thing about money, sex, and success is that when you don’t have them, you can justify your misery — shit, if I had money, sex, and success, I’d feel great! However misguided that may be, it psychologically permeates as hope. But once you are rich, famous, successful — and you’re still insecure and unhappy — the terrifying thought begins to lurk: Maybe the problem is me. Of course, I dismissed that foolishness quickly. I just needed more money, more women, more Grammys.
It is unbelievably painful for me as I write this chapter because these conflicts and misunderstandings had such simple solutions, yet our immaturity demanded that we had to suffer excruciating consequences in order to learn the most basic lessons of human relating. It’s so obvious to me today how hurtful it must have been for Clate to go from being my best friend and my creative right hand to someone who was increasingly being excluded and alienated and asked by photographers to step out of pictures. And what’s worse, we never even talked about it.
Imagine you were to secure a title fight against Mike Tyson in his prime. Fearful for your life, you hire legendary trainer Freddie Roach, you commit to the perfect diet, the perfect training regimen, you do everything within your power to prepare yourself to face Iron Mike. You step into the ring in impeccable physical and mental condition, and Mike destroys you within fifteen seconds. You did everything you could possibly have done, and still lost. You’re just not as good a fighter as Mike Tyson. That is a bearable loss; that is what I’m calling natural destruction. But if you were lollygagging during training, didn’t really eat right, and let your boy Pookie train you — and then Mike knocks you out in fifteen seconds — now you have to face an unbearable loss. You have to live the rest of your life not knowing what might have happened had you done your best. In the back of your mind, forever, you will know that you didn’t only lose to Mike Tyson, you lost to yourself. The fight wasn’t you versus Mike — it was you and Mike versus you. That’s how I feel about And in This Corner …
I didn’t pay my taxes. It’s not like I forgot, it was more like … I just didn’t pay my taxes. In January 1990, Uncle Sam decided that I’d had enough fun and he wanted his. I owed the IRS taxes on around $3 million of income. I think somewhere above a million dollars, Uncle Sam shifts from ornery to irritable and everything north of about $ 2.3 million makes him aggressive and cantankerous.
I was rich and famous, minus the rich, and minus the famous. I was worse than broke — I was in the hole. The walls were tumbling down. I had enjoyed Sodom and Gomorrah way more than I was enjoying Jericho.
As I write this chapter, I have never seen or spoken to Melanie again. I’ve reached out on multiple occasions over the years with no response. She was the victim of one of the lowest points in my life. Yes, we were young, yes, we hurt each other, but she did not deserve how I treated her; she did not deserve how it ended.
But as I sat in that jail cell, facing aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, simple assault, and reckless endangerment charges for a punch I hadn’t even thrown, I finally understood a term I’d heard many times before: Rock. Bottom.
” When I get my feet, you should roll out to LA.” Bucky chuckled the same knowing chuckle.” Sure, man, I’ll do that.” He gave me a pound. I made my flight. Three days later, Bucky was dead.
“But right now, everybody that needs to say yes to this show is sitting out there in that living room waiting for you. And you are about to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life.”
“NO PARALYSIS THROUGH ANALYSIS!” Quincy shouted again and again. He would intone this mantra nearly fifty times over the next two hours. It was the answer to every question, it was the response to ever stutter, it was the solution to every legal problem. Until, two hours later, when Quincy Jones, Brandon Tartikoff, Benny Medina — and Will Smith — entered into an agreement to shoot a pilot for a television show tentatively titled The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Six weeks earlier, I had been curled up in a ball in Marina del Rey, lost, depressed, and terrified. And just like that, the universe had given me a new family: James Avery. Janet Hubert – Whitten. Alfonso Ribeiro. Tatyana Ali. Karyn Parsons. Joseph Marcell.
(Just as a piece of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air trivia: In the opening credits of the show, when I get in” one little fight and my mom got scared,” the person I get into” one little fight” with, the guy who is spinning me around and precipitating my departure for California? That’s Charlie Mack.)
For example, the same angry, aggressive persona you cultivated as a child to protect yourself from bullies and predators will now destroy every relationship you have if you’re unwilling to let it go. Things can be perfectly useful and absolutely necessary during certain periods of our lives. But a time will come when we must put them aside or die.
I would later learn a term that resonated deeply with my experience at O’Hare that night: psychography, or automatic writing, is a theoretical psychic ability allowing someone to produce written words without consciously writing. (Skeptics call it self-delusion; I call it” another Grammy” and” my first # 1 record.”)
The war between desire and obstacle is the heart and soul of dramatic storytelling ( sometimes, the obstacles are internal — those are the fun ones ).
I came up with a way to describe what makes a great movie star character: I call it the three Fs of movie stardom: You have to be able to fight, you have to be funny, and you have to be good at sex. Beneath the three Fs are our deepest human yearnings: fighting equates to safety, security, and physical survival. Being funny equates to joy, happiness, and freedom from all negativity. And being good at sex equates to the promise of love.
When you know what you want, it clarifies what you don’t want. And even painful decisions, though not easy, become simple.
“J. That’s a lot of money, dude.” “Tom Cruise wouldn’t take this role,” JL said. We turned down 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag.
“Damn, J, you are hyped about this one!” “I’m tellin’ you, this is the one,” he said, punching his fist into his hand.” Word! How much?” “Well, this one’s different ….” “I get that, J, but, how much?” I said. I took Six Degrees of Separation for $300,000.
Will Smith is no more” real” than Paul — they’re both characters that were invented, practiced, and performed, reinforced, and refined by friends, loved ones, and the external world. What you think of as your” self” is a fragile construct.
Something broke in our marriage — something we would never get back. ( Sheree would later confide that was the most her feelings had been hurt in her adult life. ) Sheree and I deteriorated quickly after that. We argued about everything — nothing was too trivial to fight about: I recall criticizing how she washed a skillet …. Sheree and I would go days without speaking to each other. We even invented a” game” that we” played” when people came over called” You Know What I Hate About You …?” And the” winner” was whoever could make our guests” laugh” the most.
Am I having a fucking nervous breakdown? And slowly, my emotional truth came into vivid, three-dimensional clarity. I knew with absolute certainty that Jada Pinkett was the woman of my dreams. But I had committed my life before God to Sheree. And there was no version of me ever going back on my word. My tears were railing against the harshness of this reality. And my laughter was cursing its absurdity. But soon, my hysteria subsided. I wiped my tears, and I exited the stall fully prepared to spend the rest of my life with Sheree Smith.
I would never have gotten married if I thought divorce was an option.
The reason you say you’re gonna do it or die is because death is what happens when you don’t do it. Your mind is trying to protect you from hard things, to defend you from pain. The problem is, all of your dreams are on the other side of pain and difficulty. So, a mind that tries to seek pleasure and comfort and the easy way inadvertently poisons its dreams — your mind becomes a barrier to your dreams, an internal enemy. If it was easy, everybody would do it.
My sister Ellen stays in the mix; she always has. Every party, every piece of gossip, every rumor — she’s the girl on the block that when something happens, she has the scoop. If she worked for the police department, she would drop crime by 40 percent in her first week. She knows everything about everybody at all times.
The next ten years of my professional life were an absolute, unadulterated, unblemished rout of the entertainment industry. Bad Boys; Independence Day; Men in Black; Enemy of the State; Wild Wild West; Ali; Men in Black II; Bad Boys II; I, Robot; Shark Tale; Hitch; The Pursuit of Happyness; I Am Legend; and Hancock. Resulting in more than $8,000,000,000 in global box office.
It was the first time I had ever experienced a woman having a sexual reaction to my manness. Up until this point in my life, I had used comedy to attract women. And now I was being objectified. It was wonderful. All I could think was, OK, Michael Bay, you were right, I was wrong. Thank you. From that point forward, directors had to argue with me to keep my shirt on.
Imagine the following in the Arnold voice:” You are not a movie star if your movies are only successful in America. You are not a movie star until every person in every country on earth knows who you are. You have to travel the globe, shake every hand, kiss every baby. Think of yourself as a politician running for Biggest Movie Star in the World.”
So I would shoot The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air during the week, leave the set, go straight to the airport, fly to Europe overnight, land Saturday morning, do interviews all day, do a premiere, sign autographs all night, head straight back to the airport, hop back on the jet, memorize my lines for the next Fresh Prince episode on the flight, and land in LA just in time to go to sleep Sunday night. Then I’d wake up Monday morning and do it all over again.
Movie stardom also had effects on my relationships. When I was music famous, my family and friends saw it as cool and fun. When I was TV famous, there was a subtle distance growing between us, but Friday nights at The Fresh Prince felt so family-oriented that we would reconnect and feel as bonded as we always had. But when I became movie famous, something fundamental changed. Some friends and family I had known my whole life shifted into one of two camps: Either so respectful and deferential that it felt like we were strangers — I couldn’t find my loved one within their new behavior. Or, in the second camp, they became disrespectful to try to show me that I’m not no damn movie star round here.
They gave me a list of movies to watch and things to read and turned me on to what would become the central conceptual framework for how I chose and made movies for the rest of my career: Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth, the hero’s journey as laid out in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Will Smith was named Hollywood’s most bankable star in a survey of movie industry professionals …. The stars were ranked on ability to attract financing for a project, box office success, appeal to different audience demographics and other factors …. Smith was the only person to receive a perfect score of 10. — REUTERS
I always enjoy recounting the stories of my children’s births — partly to depict the harrowing journeys to parenthood, but mainly to embarrass my kids in front of their friends.
I have spoken over the years to many artists, musicians, innovators, athletes, thinkers, poets, entrepreneurs, big dreamers from all walks of life, and there is a secret conversation that always seems to arise: How can we fully pursue and realize our visions while at the same time cultivating love, a thriving family, and fulfilling relationships? And here’s the harsh reality for everyone who loves a dreamer: Everything comes second to the dream.
“Do not get comfortable with your back on that canvas,” he said. “You fight how you train.”
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 and 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.
The one year of training and the five months of filming of Ali was the most grueling mental, physical, and emotional test of my entire career, but also the most transformative.
I had experienced the magnetism of fame, I knew well the allure of celebrity, the attraction of money, but this was my first dose of the power of purpose and the radiance of service.
Purpose and desire can seem similar, but they are very different, sometimes even opposing forces. Desire is personal, narrow, and pointed, and tends toward self – preservation, self – gratification, and short-term gains and pleasures. Purpose is wider, broader, a longer – term vision encompassing the benefit of others — something outside of yourself you’re willing to fight for. There have been many times in my life where I was acting from a place of desire but I’d fully convinced myself that it was purpose.
I am a dreamer, and a builder. I picture grand visions, and then I build the systems to make them real in the world. That is my love language. I want to help the people I love build extraordinary lives for themselves. But it demands that they be willing to grind and sacrifice and most importantly, they have to trust me. And if they don’t, it registers as a complete rejection of my love.
Witnessing my parents’ struggles branded me with the impression that financial stability was an imperative for love and family to have any chance whatsoever to thrive.
The problem was, I’d conflated being successful with being loved and being happy. These are three separate things. And since I’d conflated them, I ended up suffering from an even more insidious version of the “subtle sickness,” which I can best describe as” more, more, more, more.”
So let me get this straight: You want us to believe that my character grew up bagging ice in West Philly, wins the first Grammy ever given to a rapper; becomes a TV star, then the biggest movie star in the world, breaking box office records every time he releases a damn movie; marries a beautiful actress, artist, performer, and poet; has three spectacular children; and the greatest hockey player in the history of the sport, Wayne Gretzky, just patted him on the back because his son just caught a touchdown pass from the son of the greatest quarterback in the history of that sport, Joe Montana?
So no, I did not push my kids into show business because I was an insane, overbearing father. It was only after they decided to be in show business that I became an insane, overbearing father.
When people are too worried about how they feel, they’ll never feel how they want to feel.
Back then, I made the troubling conclusion that questing with empathy was an oxymoron, and you could either worry about how people feel, or you could win. But you had to pick one.
It all slowly drifted into focus: Am I an addict? I don’t do drugs, I don’t really drink, I’m not hooked on sex like some ghetto hyena. But I did not know how to stop, or be still, or be quiet, or alone. I’m addicted to the approval of others, and to secure their approval, I became addicted to winning.
But you — if you could be master of the universe, and you could snap your fingers and have any life you wanted, what would it look like?” That was a really heavy question.
But neither of these identities is you. The question is, can you find safety in yourself and not from some external source of approval? Can you become a Freestanding Man?”
“Well, you know, mathematically speaking, ninety-nine percent is about as far from zero as you can get.”
Surrender transformed from a weakness word to an infinite power concept. I had 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, non – resistance, 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.
Minimizing my talking became my practice for maximizing my awareness. I had always seen the world as my battlefield; I now understood that the true combat zone was my mind.
“Hey, Dad,” I said nervously.” You did good.” “What you mean?” he asked. “With your life.” I don’t think he was expecting to hear that. He took a pull of his Tareyton 100, turned his eyes back to the TV. He didn’t seem like he was ready to go there just yet. But I was. “I’m sayin’ you did great with your life. And when you’re ready to go, I want you to know that it’s OK. You raised me well. And I got it from here. I’m gonna take care of everybody you love.”
“Daddio, what’s goin’ on? “He puts his cigarette down, pensively gazed out at the Ben Franklin Bridge arcing over the Schuylkill River.” Man,” Daddio said, “you tell motherfuckas you gon’ be dead in six weeks, and nine weeks later you still hangin’ around. This shit is embarrassing. “This was probably the second biggest laugh Daddio and I ever shared.
We simply look at each other. Twenty minutes of silence. Finally, I hear my sister Ellen in the background whisper to Daddio,” Dad — you’re just looking. You don’t have anything you want to say to Will?” Daddio searches for one last piece of wisdom. One final brick. But he’s empty. He slowly shakes his head, a final surrender.” Shit, anything I ain’t told this muthafucka already, he sure ain’t gonna get it from me tonight. “We shared a final laugh, we said goodbye, and forty-five minutes later, Daddio was gone.
There are no relationships, careers, or houses with a name that can fill the hole. There is nothing that you can receive from the material world that will create inner peace or fulfilment. The truth is,” the Smile” is generated through output. It’s not something you get, it’s something you cultivate through giving. In the end, it will not matter one single bit how well they loved you — you will only gain” the Smile” based on how well you loved them.
I’ve realized that for some reason, God placed the most beautiful things in life on the other side of our worst terrors. If we are not willing to stand in the face of the things that most deeply unnerve us, and then step across the invisible line into the land of dread, then we won’t get to experience the best that life has to offer.
So I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of. And this is scary. When Yes Theory challenged me to heli bungee, my heart jumped. And I’ve learned to recognize that feeling as a signal that the great gift has presented itself. As soon as my heart jumps, I’m in — I gotta do it. But I also can’t be outdone, so when Yes Theory said” Heli bungee,” I added, “Over the Grand Canyon … and on my 50th birthday.”
As I took in the dueling landscapes of friends, family, and Grand Canyon, and saw the faces of the next generation — Harry’s kids, Ellen’s kids, Pam’s, JL’s, Charlie’s, Omarr’s, Caleeb’s, Scoty and Ty’s — I realized: I’m standing in the middle of my dream. This is what I’ve always wanted: Everyone I love is here, together, as a family, and I had brought them to the Grand Canyon to witness the senseless and horrific death of their uncle Will.
It didn’t matter if it was raining, if it was hot as hell, if I was mad, if I was sad, if I was sick, if I had a test the next day — there were no excuses.
Some of the most impactful lessons I’ve ever received, I’ve had to learn in spite of myself.
The days dragged on, and as much as I hated to admit it, I started to see what he was talking about. When I focused on the wall, the job felt impossible. Never-ending. But when I focused on one brick , everything got easy — I knew I could lay one damn brick well ….