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Enitan Kehinde: Life Lessons I Gleaned from Will Smith’s “Will”

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Only a few of us will know the pressure of setting out to achieve a big dream, at really high stakes, and with all the odds stacked against you. Heck, even I didn’t get it until I was made to realise that the fuel that gets you through one leg of your race may not be sufficient to win the marathon.

But you know the darndest thing? Big dreams always seem so impossible until they are not.

This magic you’re trying to create, as Will Smith says in his new book, Will, requires awareness (having faith that it is possible), preparation (doing the work) and surrendering (watching the results unfold).

Remember the book, The Alchemist? The one unique trait of an alchemist is that they can do the impossible. You can too and that’s the one major thing I’ve learnt from Will’s 2021 memoir.

The scared little kid from Philadelphia, USA, with basic talent and skill (at best) armed with determination and will, has grown to become one of the world’s biggest movie stars winning his first Golden Globe this year for his role in King Richard and bagging several other recognitions, awards and nominations over the years. With a net worth of over $350 million as of 2021, Will Smith has enjoyed remarkable success in music, television and films.

Like Will, I grew up in a sheltered environment with limited outlets to explore. Armed with just my imagination, I was an early fan of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I particularly loved the quirky actor, because of how he expressed himself and boldly painted a visually stimulating picture with his bright aura and colorful personality. I could tell he had to steal the creative license to do half of the things he did on screen. And although the final episode aired when I was just three years old, I’ve rewatched the series and every movie and stalked every move Will Smith has made since then with rapt attention.

You can understand how geeked out I was when Will, who has been quite private about his personal life, opened an Instagram account on December 14, 2017. With over 1,300 posts and over 57 million followers and counting, the actor has, with his peculiar content, proven just why he is a marvel.

Will is undisputedly one of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment icons of our time and when he chose to open up about his life in his new book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Hearing the over 400 pages memoir was written with the help of Mark Manson, author of bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, made me all the more eager to read it.

This autobiography is ah-mazing! And no, I’m not just saying that. “Will” is a product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, self-awareness and self-discipline. The book gives you a front-row view of Will’s life and expresses something he has rarely shown in his over 30 years of superstardom – pure unadulterated vulnerability.

Will had a lot to share, and cutting down the number of lessons I gleaned from the book was real struggle, so I decided to share them all:

On Love:

  • Approaching love as a performance always never works. No one can make a person truly happy. Every person must wage a solitary internal war for their own contentment.
  • Love and relationships are subject to the universal law of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. Humans change and relationships do too.
  • Show everyone you encounter love. Be nice to everyone you pass on your way up. You just might have to pass them again on your way down.
  • The physics of love and happiness are counterintuitive. As long as you’re stuck in the need to receive, you will be locked into disappointment, anger and misery.
  • Cultivate care, concern and compassion in the most intimate and difficult of circumstances.

On Achieving Goals and Dreams:

  • The difference between a task that feels impossible and a task that feels doable is merely a matter of perspective.
  • Ninety-nine percent is the same thing as zero. Complete your mission or die trying. Anything worth doing is worth doing excellently well.
  • Things are always impossible right until they are not. This magic you’re trying to achieve requires awareness (faith that it is possible), preparation (do the work) and surrender (watch the results unfold).
  • Don’t skate through opportunities. Make the most of them.
  • Set your goal and make all the right decisions to not only prepare you to achieve it but to propel you far into the direction of that goal. Clarity of mission is a powerful cornerstone of success.
  • Achieving goals requires strict organization and unwavering discipline. This is a given right? (I put this in for those who surprisingly might not be aware!) Dreams are built on discipline, discipline is built on habits and habits are built on training. Do the damn work and watch the results unfold!
  • Never underestimate the power of what you do. Don’t undermine yourself or your abilities.
  • A noble aim engenders positive feelings. The best part of ourselves and others are stirred up in their pursuit.

On Taking Advice:

  • Advice at its best is one person’s limited perspective of the infinite possibilities before you. It is your responsibility to interrogate everything and decide.

On Fear:

  • How you choose to respond to your fears, ultimately reflects on the person you become.
  • Face your fears head on. It is better to die having tried than to live the rest of your life scared.
  • Bravery does not mean the absence of fear. Bravery is learning to push forward even when you’re terrified.
  • God placed the most beautiful things on the other side of your worst terrors. You have to push through.

On Maneuvering Life:

  • Living is the journey from not knowing to knowing. From confusion to clarity. Enjoy the ride but make sure to pick up on the lessons as overcoming ignorance is the whole point of the journey.
  • Internal power and confidence are born of insight and proficiency.
  • Be careful. Your vision can become skewed if you see the present through the lens of your past.

On Learning Through Life:

  • Always reflect on your choices, statements and actions and learn from them? How would you have approached those scenarios differently? Knowing what you know now.
  • We tend to think of our personalities as fixed and solid. But the reality is most of these things are learned habits and patterns most of which can be unlearned and relearned as we build ourselves.

On Change:

  • Everything is impermanent. Nothing and no one is immune to change. Change can be scary but it is utterly unavoidable.

On Finding True Happiness:

  • Don’t mistake your journey towards achieving a goal as a way to fill a void in your life or cover up an insecurity or emotional wounds. This kind of obsession is insatiable. Deal with the issues head-on or they can hinder you.
  • Purpose and desire can seem similar, but they are very different and sometimes even opposing.
  • What life would you create if you don’t give a fuck? Explore. Experience. Experiment. You need to figure out what makes you happy and nurture it healthily.
  • Surrender. Think of this as an infinite power concept. Letting go is equally as powerful as grasping.

If you enjoyed reading these and you’re like me, you’ll definitely be taking notes and asking yourself those hard questions. You only have one life to live after all. Why not do it right?

Enitan Kehinde is the Lead Consultant of the FMCG portfolio at BHM. BHM is a 14-year-old media and public relations company involved in reputation management, consumer engagement, content development, community and assets management, research and intelligence, and media relations, operating from Lagos, Nigeria.

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