• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Will Smith’s 3 Motivation Techniques That Propelled Him to the Top

Will Smith

It’s a Friday night in suburban Philadelphia and house parties all over town are bustling with high school and college kids, coming together to drink and dance.

Homes taken over by high school kids with parents out of town or college kids acting like grown ups for the first time, the night is filled with the beats of hip hop that blare from speakers as kids spill out onto yards with patios and lawn furniture.

A lanky kid runs down the street, going from house to house, cassettes stuffed in his pockets. He’s still in high school, but already knows he just needs that one chance to perform, at the right party with the right people.

Eventually, his tape will get into the hands of a music producer, and the lanky kid from Philly and his sidekick, who form the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, will be on their way to stardom.

Will Smith would look back on these years and sum it all up with one of his many telling quotes on success:

“In my mind, I’ve always been an A-list Hollywood superstar. Y’all just didn’t know yet.”

Rapper, actor, producer, and overall superstar, if you grew up in the 80s or 90s, Will Smith is a part of your pop culture, whether he’s rapping about high-school growing pains or battling aliens on screen.

His parents, however, had other plans. Will Smith wasn’t just a talented performer, he was also showing academic potential. A little bravado goes a long way in life, but Will Smith wasn’t just bragging. He was bright, and his SAT scores backed that up.

These scores piqued the interest of universities that were looking to diversify their students. At the time, educational institutions were hard pressed to find and recruit young African-American students. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass, was calling.

Will Smith was offered the chance to become Will Smith, engineering student, and turned it down, much to the dismay of his parents. In fact, he didn’t want to go to college at all.  He was focused on two goals: be a rapper, and conquer Hollywood.

It might seem incredible that Will Smith would decline the opportunity for a college education at a prestigious university. But, like many successful people, he was developing his own motivating strategy for success.

That strategy would morph into somewhat of a personal philosophy, a lifestyle that would eventually lead to enormous success: Grammy awards, Academy Award nominations, and a net worth as of 2017 of a solid $250 million.

Starting in his teens, Will Smith demonstrated a motivation well beyond his years, and a keen inner perspective on what made him tick, which he loved to share with others. He realized that not only had his personal motivation brought success to his life, he could articulate his methods in a way that resonated with people.

This would lead to books, interviews, and YouTube video mashups of all of his killer quotes.

Celebrities are known to wax poetic about life. Celebrity biographies and motivational books come and go. But Will Smith continues to be respected for his views on success, fame, and motivation.

Will Smith’s motivation can be attributed to many things, but there are three practices that we can utilize in our daily lives. Like many successful people, Smith embraces qualities that have a proven track record of results:

  1. He adopts the inevitability mindset.
  2. He exercises on a regular basis.
  3. He practices mindfulness in his daily life.

Will Smith’s motivation rituals inspire us to move forward in our personal goals to be better people, friends, or parents. Let’s look at how Will Smith’s motivation aligns with the rituals of successful people, and how we can apply these practices to our daily lives.

  1. The Inevitability Mindset

“I’ve viewed myself as slightly above average in talent. And where I excel is ridiculous, sickening work ethic.”

As much as we’d like to believe in inherent talent, a “gift,” Will Smith doesn’t see himself as scoring very high in that category. Hard work and seeking out the right people and situations has been a key to his success.

This is a principle we’ve talked about at Asian Efficiency. The inevitability mindset is the strategy of putting yourself in situations or with people where it’s inevitable that you’ll succeed.

Will Smith, at a young age, and perhaps without fully realizing, embraced this principle that would propel his success.

In the late 80s, rap and hip hop was dominated by bands like Run DMC and Public Enemy. Rappers like NWA packed guns, drove low riders, and openly admitted to dealing drugs.

The world of drug running and drive-by shootings, the lives of hoodrats and runners, was unrecognizable to Will Smith, who grew up in a community with two-car garages, PTA meetings, and curbside recycling.

What Will Smith had was his own experience. He could rap about his life and his world. In finding his own voice, Will Smith’s songs with Jazzy Jeff soared up the charts.

He made videos poking fun at being a teenager wearing hand me downs on the first day of school. Instead of guns and low riders, he rapped about high school and summer time. Will Smith’s first-world problems resonated with an entirely new audience.

Finally, suburban, middle-class kids all over America could not only enjoy hip hop, but felt that the message was something they could relate to.

Will Smith tailored his music and his message to the kids in his community, so he could develop a strong local following. He placed himself in situations where he knew key music producers would hear his music. And once he got his record deal, he continued to surround himself with successful people in the music and film industry.

Barely out of high school, Will Smith became the golden boy of the record industry. Huge paychecks from the record company were spent on million-dollar shopping sprees. Smith gleefully ignored the grownup tasks of taxes and accountants and ended up getting hit with a whopping IRS lien in the millions.

Smith was successful, but he was still young, and like many kids, irresponsible.

Financially crushed, and his career just beginning, Will Smith could have packed it in. He was potentially facing years of IRS payoffs, liens, and fines. Any ordinary person would have been racked with terror at the thought.

Here’s where Will Smith again shows us the power of motivation. Unfazed by the IRS judgment, Will Smith set his sights on goal #2: become a movie star.

The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s style and music had the kitschy, catchy kind of personality that complimented 80s sitcoms, and Will Smith quickly became a television star on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Smith excelled as a comic actor and began networking with movie producers to look for opportunities on the big screen. The television role led to his major breakthrough in the blockbuster film Independence Day. His performance and the success of the film immediately catapulted him to A-list status, something that continues to this day.

Not all of us want to be Hollywood stars, but it’s possible to integrate the inevitability mindset into our daily lives.

The question I want to ask you is: how can you put yourself in an environment where it’s inevitable that you’ll get the outcome you’re looking for?

Take a moment to think about this.

If you want to work out more, what would you need to change about your environment to make it inevitable that you’ll work out?

Want better eating habits? How can you make it inevitable that you’ll eat healthier? Sometimes addition is through subtraction, like eliminating all bad foods from your home. What about only precooking healthy meals for a whole week in advance?

To be successful, surround yourself with successful people. You’ve probably already heard that “you’re like the 5 people closest to you.” So how can you translate this into real action? Is it by de-friending people on Facebook? By actively declining invites to social events that don’t help you?

The longterm benefit of the inevitability mindset is that you’ll start integrating rituals into your life without realizing it.

Will Smith’s work ethic and motivation are key factors in his success, but the inevitability mindset placed him in situations where he would succeed. It provides him with an edge in the entertainment business even today. He constantly engineers his surroundings to provide him the best opportunities for success.

  1. Regular Exercise Is a Must

“When you’re running and you are there, there’s a little person that talks to you and that little person says ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ ‘My lung’s about to pop,’ ‘I’m so hurt,’ ‘I’m so tired,’ ‘There’s no way I can possibly continue.’ And you wanna quit. Right? That person, if you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running you will learn how to not quit when things get hard in your life.”

Will Smith is known for his ability to bulk up physically, best seen in his role as legendary boxer Muhammad Ali or mutant slayer in I Am Legend. There’s a philosophical bent to Will Smith’s exercise regimen, as he compares the race of life to running, something he highly recommends.

Exercise is a key component of success for Will Smith. On numerous occasions he’s spoken about the benefits of running as a key tool for his success.

Why is exercise so important to the success of someone like Will Smith? Because it strengthens his motivation. Exercise strengthens the body, which enables the mind to function better.

As a celebrity, the appeal of an attractive physique would also not be lost on Will Smith. Celebrities rely on their looks as part of their success, and as Will Smith moves into middle age, being in good physical shape allows him to stay relevant for more active movie roles.

You don’t need to take on running or weight lifting to get a good workout. The great thing about exercise is that there’s so many options. The key is to find a form of exercise that motivates you, in the way that running motivates Will Smith.

Will Smith has the resources to hire personal trainers and expensive equipment, but for regular people like you and me, any kind of exercise can be beneficial. Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started.

If you’re having a hard time creating an exercise routine in your life, check out our Habits Crash Course.  We’ll teach you how you can start any habit in an hour (or less). You may not end up as buff as Will Smith, but the stronger you are physically, the more energy you’ll have to keep going and face whatever comes your way in life, (it’s probably not going to be aliens or Darkseekers, which makes things a bit easier!).

  1. Mindfulness

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other people’s lives better.”

Will Smith has spoken on many occasions about his passion for reading and doing good for others. He credits the inspiration and influence for this to his grandmother.

Mindfulness is also a term for meditation, but here we’re going to stretch it to improving the world around you.

This is important and unique because most “secrets of successful people” focus on a very self-centered narrative. Do this for yourself and you will go places.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Meditation can help with anxiety and bring increased focus and clarity. A happier, more focused person will be a positive influence on others and the world at large.

Will Smith takes this a step further and sees himself as a steward to do good works for others. It’s as if his success has promoted the need to “pay it forward.”

Like meditation, mindfulness is open ended in its possibilities. One of Will Smith’s passions, reading, is a loose example of meditation. Volunteerism is a form of mindfulness.

The more we focus on clarity of mind, the more content we will be, and that increases our motivation. In turn, our motivation can encourage our mindfulness, which creates a positive effect on others.

A dedication to mindset, exercise, and mindfulness. Three key rituals that Will Smith has relied on to catapult him from a suburban teenage rapper to world-famous superstar.

When we study the motivation rituals and the principles of a celebrity like Will Smith, it helps us demystify how he has become so successful.

This can motivate all of us, because we can all use these principles — whether at home or on the movie set.


Rohn, Tony. Will Smith: How To Be Successful In Life – 100 Success Lessons From Will Smith (Will Smith Biography, Photos, Jersey, Will Smith Books, Posters, Movies) (Kindle Locations 88-90). Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Photo credit: Walmart Corportate https://www.flickr.com/photos/walmartcorporate/5794093238/

You may also Like

Read More

Last Updated: March 14, 2023

Read More

Last Updated: October 20, 2022

Read More


Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}