Will by Will Smith, A Book Summary

I finished this book and wrote these book summary notes before the whole Will Smith slap ordeal. Up until that point, he had an almost spotless reputation and track record of massive success in his career. He was a positive, vibrant role model, and a clear candidate for someone who I can learn from through his book. I do not want this comment section to turn into a frivolous fight about whether he’s a good or bad person because of the slap, so please refrain from that behavior. I do not think one slap should completely tarnish his whole reputation. There is a still a lot to learn from the book, and you even learn more about his trauma and past relationships, which tell a story of why he did some of the things he did.

  1. He had such a strong imagination that his fantasies would feel real to him as a child. Other people in this community, including friends and family would call him a chronic liar, but to him, he believed in it so much that he thought it was real. One time, he said there was an entire parade that passed him after school when his sibling said it was like two people.
  2. He developed a people pleasing attitude and strong imagination to cope with his brutal world. His dad was violent, had a temper, and was abusive to his mom. His dad had good qualities too. He was the smartest man that Will ever knew and one of the hardest working. But his dad would often beat his mom to the point where his mom spit blood.
  3. The issue with following your delusions is that it’s like poison honey. It taste good at first but then it hurts you. And reality has a way of smacking you in the face with the truth eventually. Will have delusions about how making more money would solve all his problems and keep his marriage and love life perfect, and that obviously wasn’t true as he found out. He also chased a delusion for years which is that becoming rich and famous would solve all his problems, which also turned out not to be true.
  4. Will Smith had a overactive imagination that would make him believe things that happened I didn’t exist. It was his coping mechanism to make people feel how he thinks they want to feel to please people. Well it helped him, could also hurt him. They helped him because if you don’t believe something is impossible, you just do it. And that’s what helped him succeed later. When studio directors told him that an African-American lead doesn’t sell to international audiences, he didn’t believe them. When his parents told him that no one makes a career in hip-hop, he didn’t believe them. Where I hurt him is when reality didn’t connect with imagination. For example, he bet money against all his friends that  he could dunk a basketball. In his mind, he believed it so much that I was gonna happen. But he failed tremendously. He didn’t have that much talent and he love wearing cowboy boots which made play basketball worse. If you think that making more money with solve a marriage and your love, reality will pay you back. If you think that your marriage will be forever joyous and happy, reality will slap you in your face.
  5. Will had unhealthy ideas about how a successful romantic relationship would work. With one of his first girlfriends, he felt that everything was his responsibility and that was the epitome of love. He became very needy. He believe he had to shield his girlfriend from all the troubles of the world. If she was unhappy, he was a monster. If he was happy, the world was right.
  6. You don’t sit out to build a wall. You tell yourself you’re going to lay one break and you’re going to lay the brick as perfectly as you can. Once you have finished that break, you lay another brick. There is no wall. Focus on just the brakes. And eventually, you have a wall. Don’t let anyone tell you something is impossible.
  7. Will smith really turned into a people pleaser in every area of his life as a child. He used it as a tool to survive. If people were laughing, they weren’t being racist. If he performed and kept his family laughing, he was succeeding and his dad wasn’t beating people. While this would bear financial fruit later in life, it caused a lot of strife in his romantic life. He exhibited extreme neediness through coddling and performing when his wife didn’t need it. In his mind, he thought that a relationship was about performance. If they weren’t enjoying it, he was failing. But he found that this doesn’t work in relationships.
  8. Will’s dad came from a military background so he had a very militaristic attitude and world view. He instilled this extreme discipline in his kids and other kids who worked for his ice business (child labor laws were different then). It had its pros and cons. While it instilled discipline, it also lead to extreme discipline sometimes. Will often felt that some of his beatings were undeserved. He would forget something unintentionally and get beaten for not “completing the mission.” It made him feel like he wasn’t a good person.
  9. Will was excessively needy in his romantic relationships, which isn’t a healthy way to maintain them. He did because he believed that love was a performance and if the other person wasn’t uploading all the time, something was wrong.
  10. You are the average of the five people you hang around most. We were in neatly understood desk and he was always blessed to have someone beside him that was down for whatever and supported him. He had a great manager and producer that came into his life as his music career continued.
    Wills mom always wanted him to go to college. She was one of the most educated people in the state and works for the state Board of Education. She did so much research on various colleges that will could attend based off proximity, cost-of-living, and chance of being excepted. But we all told her mom the worst thing she could hear which is that she he didn’t want to go to college. He wanted to pursue his rap career, which you think would take off and become legitimate. His mom thought that it was just a hobby and not something that could turn into a career. This was very tough on her because they came from generations of African-Americans suffering to become middle class, Austin is the bureaucracy of education and segregation.
  11. Advice is at best someones limited experience oh what might happen in a world of infinite possibilities. They’re basing their advice on what they think you should do if they were in your situation and what they can perceive and what they can do. And while there are universal laws that are somewhat predictable, you are the first time that you has ever happened. You are unique occurrence. You are the most reliable measure of all possibilities.
    • To Will’s mom, a college education saved her life and gave her security. To her, this was the only way to protect yourself against the brutality of the world. But Will is not his mother.
  12. We are laughing masters anxieties and fear with bravado. When he moved to a new high school, Overbrook, here now it’s to the entire room of 200 students that he was finally here. He’s trying to show off our call he was, but one person didn’t like that, telling him that no one gave a F that he was there. He reply was smart alec comment that lead to him getting punched in the face with a makeshift brass knuckle an hour later. That guy got expelled. He felt bad because even though he didn’t cause this guy to possibly ruin his life, he did provoke him.
  13. In rap battles, nothing beats funny. You can spit tough, gangster stuff, but if you make the crown laugh, the other person is done. Will explains how hip-hop came to be, as a way of life. It started with someone inventing disc jockey in, which was playing the instrumental parts of a song on two different days to keep that part going and then adding rhyming words which came from MCs trying to rile up the crowd. Rap fit well since he had been making up jokes his whole life, now he just had to make them rhyme and everyone would go crazy. Rap changed Will because for the first time, he was popular and respected.
  14. Humor is universal and defeat racism. You can’t have hatred for resentment in your system when you’re laughing.
  15. Will was a great rapper and would compete locally at school and add competitions locally. Wow some people were more clever, had more flow, he was always the funniest. He always had a funny punchline, and you can’t beat funny. No matter how clever someone else was, we won because he got them laughing.
  16. Will feel shame when he got a note from his grandmother telling him that he shouldn’t be using curse words in his rap notebook because his talent should be used to lift others not bring them down. From then on, he found never to curse with his rapping. He held onto that despite a lot of backlash because nothing was stronger than what his grandma said.
  17. Will has always been looking to find a perfect joke that would make everyone laugh regardless of their race, skin color, or background. He feels like laughter unites people.
  18. Wrapping changed his life because the guy who used to pick on him we’re rooting for him since he represented their area in rap competitions.
  19. We will first realize he was blessed with the power to craft words and the impact of it on his first day of high school. He was insecure so he showed his false bravado by announcing to the whole class that he had arrived, which caused a confrontation with another kid who ended up punching him in the head with a makeshift brass knuckle. That got the kid expelled, and he felt ashamed that he had played a part in causing it. It was then that he knew his words had a lot of power, but he didn’t know how to control them yet. He wanted to use them for good.
  20. He found that white people laughed a different thing than Black people. Black people cared more about the hard truth and life lessons and how tough the world is, and he didn’t mind laughing about themselves. White people care more about silliness, caricatures, and acting like an over exaggerated character.
  21. Confidence takes a lot of work. It’s born from proficiency and inside. After you have cultivated your craft for a long time, you start to feel confidence and power.
  22. Will took his learnings from his father’s work ethic into rapping. He would spend hours every day in his room practicing his wrapping and delivery. While the other kids were smoking weed, he was practicing, which is why his raps were better than theirs.
  23. Scared money can’t make money because a life motto of his.
  24. His faulty mentality that “if others aren’t happy or life isn’t going well, it is his fault and he should be unhappy” stayed with him and caused a lot of destruction. His happiness was tethered to his girlfriend’s mood. He felt he wasn’t performing well if she was ever unhappy.
  25. Wills parents gave him one year to make it as a rapper or else he had to go to college. Wow this was exciting, it was also meant game time. He realized now that he was on his own and he had to make it happen. He started going out on the road with his team including his bodyguard Charlee Mac to different venues insurance across neighboring states to perform for money.
  26. Will and his team discovered a lot of things that they didn’t know when performing. He didn’t know that venues with skim money off the top and lie to you about how many tickets are sold, do you know that you had to pay off the security guard saw your stuffed in your missing, and they didn’t know that people were throwing stuff at you including explosives on rare occasion if they didn’t like your performance.
    • We often lament about what we could’ve or should’ve done or known and the mistakes we made in the lessons we should’ve known. But that’s what life is. We come into this world not knowing certain things in an uncertain world. Our goal in life is to go into the unknown and become wise to experience. Life is like school but with one important difference. In school, you learn first and then you take the test. In life, you take the test first and then you learn something after.
  27. Will never wanted to sleep around. His goal was always to live happily ever after with one woman. He fought with his team when they would tour because he was fervently devoted to not allowing any groupies or women near him or his room while the others wanted to fool around.
  28. Wheels and tires self-image and self-esteem was tied up in the approval and respect of women. They brought him a first class ticket to Missouri when he was cheated on. He was under the delusional idea that his performance equates to love. If he was cheated on, and met he was a piece of shit and he did something wrong it wasn’t worthy. His false ideas led to a lot of misery. His happiness was tied to the mood of other people. After he was cheated on, he tried to Overcompensate by sleeping around, but it was so antithetical to his being that he developed a gag vomit reflex each time he ejaculated.
  29. Will has seen about 50 times in his life when people wouldn’t elevate with him because of various reasons such as their self sabotaging behavior or looking at things from a short term perspective. He inevitably waves goodbye to some of them as he elevates to the next level.
  30. Despite his devotion on the road, he came home to hang with his girlfriend and felt something was off. He accused her of cheating and she admitted it. He was a wreck. He believed he had done something wrong and wasn’t good enough. He felt if he was better, it wouldn’t have happened.
  31. He was making money hand over fist. They had a 1-900 phone number that fans could dial into. Two dollars for the first minute and then a minute for every dollar after. He tried to bury his pain by sleeping around and spending exorbitant amounts of money. Before, he had only slept with two women. It was against his inner values, so he would retch or gag upon orgasm. He ended up getting back together with his girlfriend eventually, feeling that his forgiveness would be the ultimate gift and he just had to be more amazing and it would never happen again. The secret vow he made with himself is that he would be so amazing that it would never happen again.
  32. The thing with money, success, and sex is that when you don’t have them, you can justify your misery by the lack of them. When you do have them, and you’re still unhappy come then you have to face the idea that maybe the problem is you. Will immediately snuffed out that idea with another faulty idea which is that he just needed more money, fame, and success.
  33. He hit rock bottom when the government seized most of his cars, assets, and equipment to pay for his unpaid taxes. He also got thrown in jail for a couple days because of a brawl during one of his performances.
  34. He ended his relationship with his girlfriend after she ignored his request to not go out dressed in a revealing way. She was vague with where she was going out to and came back at two in the morning.
  35. His next album failed because he spent more time partying and spending money, haphazardly creating an album only after his father found out he was goofing off.
  36. he fled the east coast for LA after some people he partied with were being monitored by the FBI. He was out of money from taxes and didn’t know what to do but thought he may try acting. He spent most of his time just bumming by until his new girlfriend Tanya told him to do something with his life and go on the Arsenio Hall show, which was the top show in the country. At first, Will was confused how that would help at all. Him and his friend Charles went to the show everyday and networked with people. Anybody famous went through that show at that time so they met a lot of people.
  37. He met Benny Madina at the Arsenio Hall show. The conversation turned to if he could act for a couple minutes. Benny said he would keep in touch because he had something for him. Will brushed it off because people say this all the time insincerely. This time, it was the most important three minutes of his life. It lead to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air show, which is based on Benny Madina.
  38. The universe is magical, not logical. Sometimes, things happen and you demand a logical explanation. But the universe is illogical. It doesn’t function with logic. It functions with magic.
  39. Wilmette Quincy Jones the night that he was called to audition for the fresh prince. He was flown to Quincy’s house that night from Detroit and asked to audition on the spot in front of some of the industries top executives. Will throws up in the moment and said that he couldn’t do it right there in then. But Quincy Jones understand the magic of the universe. He’s able to position himself like a lightning rod and except those opportunities. His job is usually to help prevent others from missing those opportunities. Quincy had a small talk with Will and I convinced him to do the audition. Wills grandma GG had a similar saying, “don’t block your blessings.“ Sometimes, there are possibilities floating right there in front of us and we missed them.
  40. Magic requires preparation, faith, preparation.  You have to get out of your own way and then surrender yourself to let the magic do it work
  41. A big gangster came calling to try to get a cut of Will Smith’s money from tv. Will’s partner told him they could do a deal as long as they worked something out with the FBI. He never called again.
  42. You can have a skewed perception of the present if you see it through the lens of the past. Will almost got into a fight that affected his career because a creative argument with an old executive seemed like it would get violent. He came from a violent background so he was sure this guy would swing but that didn’t make sense afterwards since the executive was 60+ years old and just haf major surgery.
  43. Will didn’t have a clear singular goal. He was all over the place and going with the wind until his friend JL pressed him. Will told him something he never said out loud before: I want to be the biggest movie star of all time.
  44. The three Fs of a movie star = fight, funny, fuck. They equate to protecting, delivering joy, and represent love. Will found out that eight out of ten top grossing movies of all time had special effects, love, creatures.
  45. We tend to think that our beliefs, values, and personalities are fixed. But they are really learned habits and malleable. Will used method acting to perform in his first big movie role but he realized it was changing how he was in his personal life without him realizing. He was enunciating things differently even when filming for the Fresh Prince.
  46. JL advised Will not to take a ten million dollar role because it was not the right look for his goal of being the biggest movie star of all time. It was a hard decision and he passed on the role.
  47. Achieving goals requires strict organization and discipline.




  1. Compared to other biographies, this one is a lot more vulnerable, honest, and raw. He shows his weaknesses and failures. But that’s also partially because he may have been more psychologically screwed up than others. Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed pretty mentally stable so he didn’t really touch as much on psychological difficulties as Will.
  2. I was surprised to find the psychology that Will had growing up. He wasn’t excessively screwed up. He just had faulty thinking and coping mechanisms because of his father. He was a big people pleaser and carried that idea of “I did something wrong if others are unhappy” later into his life. It is relatable. That thinking is corrosive and can lead to your happiness being at the whims of other people. I kept thinking “Will, read no more Mr. Nice Guy!” That book really helped me and addressed a lot of similar issues. Nice guys, as profiled in the book, believe that if they do everything right, then the world should work out for them and that if they do something for others, they should expect something back, both faulty ideas.
  3. Will also had a tendency to spend excessively when he was young, a common behavior of young people given a lot of money and never educated on personal finance. Similar to what happened in Kevin Hart’s memoir, he found out that there was a limit to his seemingly unlimited income and overspent, owing a lot of money in taxes that he couldn’t pay.
  4. Choosing your city is as important as choosing your partner. Will realized how impactful your environment is when he visited LA. The city’s vibration just fit who he was. He ate better, felt better, and performed better there.
  5. The music business is fickle. The track you think will pop doesn’t and the one you barely spent much time on will go crazy. That’s the natural state of the universe but what matters is what you control and doing everything possible.
  6. Will has seen hundreds of people he has given jobs to crumble by the pressure of possibilities. Pressure bursts pipes.
  7. Scared money don’t money.
  8. Self destruction is a crime. Natural destruction is fine. Self destruction is when you slack off and don’t do everything in your power to achieve your goal. You will always have to live with what could’ve been. Natural destruction is doing everything you can and still failing.
  9. Will’s grandma Gigi told him to be kind to the people on the way up because you will meet them on your way down.
  10. There were a lot of surprises too. I imagined Will to be this perfect man never flinching and always working hard on his pursuit of his goals. However, there was a big lull after he got rich off his first album when he spent his time spending money and goofing off with friends. There was another lull after he fled the east coast for LA after some people he partied with were being monitored by the FBI. He was out of money from taxes and didn’t know what to do. He spent most of his time just bumming by until his new girlfriend Tanya told him to do something.
  11. Acting unleashed his talents and passion. He liked music but he loved acting.
  12. There are methods of behavior and thinking that helped you in the past that you must toss away because they no longer serve you. Many people fail to adapt. For example, the behavior that protected you from predators as a kid could destroy any relationships you have as an adult.
  13. I was surprised that Will got so far without a clear goal and vision and organized plan. He was kind of going with the flow which lead to  music and tv acting until he decided to become the biggest actor in movies.
  14. Will was addicted to approval, which meant he was a Will was addicted to approval, which meant he was addicted to work. He was taught by his dad, life experience, and getting cheated on that if he was given space, something bad would happen or he was lazy. He became a workaholic which meant that he couldn’t turn off and he was always frantic if he had a moment where he wasn’t doing something. When you realize this, he got into a bunch of things to recharge, including going to the Bahamas for the first time without an entourage of 10 people on his own with his exes family, looking into meditation retreats, cooking on his own, and so forth. He was an addict, but not of sex, drugs, alcohol, but of work.
  15. Will had achieved a level of success in various areas of his life that he couldn’t even believe himself. It went beyond his expectations.
  16. Therapy calls him to reflect on axioms that had driven his life but that may no longer serve him. For example, his dad used to drill into his head that 99% is the same as 0% effort. He just took this for granted but now that you actually thought about it, that mathematically didn’t make any sense at all. It caused him to question a lot of things that he just accepted.
  17. He realize he had a false memory about his mom saving him from drowning in a swimming pool. His mom claimed it never happened, and he realize he might’ve made up the story. He realize that memory is more of an abstract representation of things at best, not a definitive recollection.
  18. He ultimately craved for approval and happiness from others, including his wife. He had to learn that you can’t make someone else happy or depend on someone else for your happiness. You can make someone smile will be joyous for a moment, but they themselves are responsible for their own happiness. Trying to go to others with an empty cup to fill your happiness is just a recipe for disaster.
  19. We will also end up trying Ayahuasca which is a psychedelic concoction that you drink as part of a day long ceremony in the Amazon with a shaman that helps you face any psychological challenges you’re having. He’s a good friend recommended it after she found out it had healed years of guilt from having an abortion. I’d like that at this point, we will highly recommend consulting a medical professional before trying It. He emphasizes that he does not recommend or condone the use of it. He’s only mention in this book because it is truth, but he had debated not mentioning it.
  20. He had a hallucination when he went to sleep from Ayahuasca which put him in a mystical universe with incredible stars that looked like they were painted by Van Gogh. A spirit told him that this universe was himself. It was the most beautiful thing he saw. It let him purge his insecurities since if he could be this beautiful, he didn’t need #1 hit records or movies to be loved or be seen as worthy.
  21. Love has different rules. You need to give love to get love. It is by giving that you serve and you leave a mark after you die, not by your accolades.
  22. I believe the slap and the drama with his marriage with Jada is misunderstood. The general public doesn’t know much about him, doesn’t read, and makes judgements off the little info they know about this man’s public image. You learn that his childhood upbringing lead to his success, but it also added trauma and motives that lead to him valuing a marriage without divorce beyond many other things and his extreme fear of being seen as a coward.
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By Will Chou

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