The Will to Rise Again

I grew up with the Fresh Prince – the TV show, the music, the movies, all of it. I’d heard good things about, Will, Will Smith’s autobiography and I wasn’t disappointed. There were lots of great stories and lessons from his life. I was ready to give this five stars until a disappointing ending. More on that in a minute.

But first, two thoughts on the two most interesting aspects of the book (to me).

One. I was fascinated by his implosion following his first album which generated a Grammy award for DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. They squandered their fame and the follow-up album was a bomb that had Smith broke and out of work. Ultimately, he got a second shot at stardom with the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire and the rest is history (biography).

My first thought about that rise, fall, and rise, was that I didn’t know about that despite the fact that I was a consumer of his music, TV, and film career. Which prompted the second thought: what if that fall had happened today? The only thing the media – especially celebrity gossip media – loves more than a fast rise to fame is a precipitous fall. If Smith’s fall had come 20 years later like, say, oh, I don’t know, Wesley Snipes, would there have been a quick return to fame or would Smith’s reputation have spent a decade or more to recover?

The second was the constant back-and-forth in his life between pushing himself and everyone around him (including his family) to success and being satisfied with where he was in life. Ed Mylett calls this “blissful dissatisfaction” and it’s followed me my entire life. Behind Smith’s fame was a constant striving for more, a trait that he was likely born with (he’s got to be an Enneagram three) and was definitely cultivated by his intense (tyrannical) father.

I was constantly enjoying this book, even in the presence of a consistent stream of F bombs (an Amazon.com search came up with 63), which might reveal as much the influence of his co-author Mark Manson, best know for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.

Then, we got to the end. After all the fascinating steps in his life and career, the emptiness at the top and bottom of fame, he finds redemption in maybe the most stereotypical modern Hollywood star “soul-searching.” It would be like me writing this breathless history of the twists and turns in my life only to end with finding truth in the Bible (as someone who reads the Bible nearly every day of my life). It just fell a little flat for me.

But that doesn’t erase the many life lessons and interesting stories in the book. I still recommend the 16 hours of listening. Just don’t hold your breath for a plot twist at the end.

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