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1. Officially Announcing: My Book With Will Smith – Three years ago, Will Smith was looking for an author to help him write a book about his life. His team reached out to me and next thing I knew, I was sitting next to him on a plane, listening to him tell me about his father and childhood fears. My first reaction was probably something like, “OMGOMGOMGOMG, it’s Will Smith!!! Ahhhhhh!!!”
But then I got my shit together, pulled out my computer and furiously started taking notes.
I never aspired to co-author a book with someone famous. There are professional ghostwriters in the publishing world who specialize in these kinds of projects. Besides, celebrity books are often glorified PR trophies.
So, that first meeting, I told myself that I would only take the project if two things were true. First, I had to genuinely like him as a person—i.e. the first rule of Mark Manson Fight Club is to never work with assholes. And second, he had to want a book for the right reasons.
He and I hit it off immediately. He was candid and open about his life. He was funny and insanely charming. I genuinely liked him. And when we sat down to discuss what he wanted for a book and he started telling me about his life—stuff that he’d never shared publicly before—it was immediately clear: this was one of the most resilient human beings I’ve ever met.
From hardship and trauma and dysfunction in West Philly to the heights and perils of Hollywood stardom, he let absolutely nothing stop him. It’s for that reason, I said, the book should be called Will. It’s the most defining characteristic of one of the most defining humans of our time. The book would be about resilience and emotional mastery. And the lessons would be true stories drawn from his life.
The book will come out in November but you can pre-order your book today. There will also be a huge book tour that will be fucking crazy. Stay tuned for details.
As amazing as Will’s story is, most of what I personally learned from him had more to do with being a professional—how he works with his team, how he approaches the creative process, how he interacts with the media, how he thinks about fame or talks to his fans, etc.
For example, he once told me, “I’m world-class at only a couple of things. And every hour I’m not doing those things, I am doing a disservice to myself and the world.”
He went on, “There are people out there who are world-class at other things—cooking, marketing, writing, whatever—and for me to not hire them and support what they do, also does a disservice to the world.”
This kinda blew my mind. Every business book ever talks about the efficiency of hiring and outsourcing well. It improves the bottom line. Economics 101 teaches us that specializing in skills creates better outcomes for all. It’s basic supply and demand.
But I had never seen this idea phrased in ethical terms: You have a moral responsibility to do what you do best, because that is your service to the world. Similarly, you have a moral responsibility to support others in what they do best, because that is their service to the world.
3. The Psychology of Celebrity – But as an observer of human nature, perhaps the most fascinating part of hanging around Will is simply observing how people respond to celebrity.
If you read enough evolutionary psychology, you will inevitably come across a preoccupation with the fact that primates organize themselves along status hierarchies and these status hierarchies determine much of their social behavior.
A lot of evolutionary psychologists make a big deal out of interpreting the silly and bullshitty things humans do to each other in these terms, like, “Oh, of course your wife left you for the billionaire, he’s higher on the status hierarchy than you. Duh.”
But obviously, human behavior is way more complicated than this. You can’t reduce human relationships to mere status. After a number of years reading convoluted theories about status and “alpha males” and hypergamy and whatever else, I came to the conclusion that these theories were overrated.
But hanging around Will changed my mind a little bit. Watching him walk through a hotel lobby and seeing people lose their collective shit makes it impossible to ignore the fact that we’re primates. This is what we’re wired to do.
If you love people-watching and ever find yourself around a really famous person, my recommendation: don’t watch the famous person, watch people’s reactions to the famous person. It’s ten times more interesting.
To see the reactions on people’s faces, the ear-to-ear smiles and irrational shrieks of excitement, the way grown men stammer and giggle like school girls, how some people spontaneously burst into tears. And then, a moment later, they all become embarrassed as they realize that their reaction was completely involuntary.
Even if you are able to outwardly keep your cool around a celebrity, your nervous system is heightened around them—you are more aware, more self-conscious, more discerning. Little movements strike you as significant, side comments as hilarious. Celebrities are like blackholes of attention and supernovas of joy, they completely alter the space/time of whatever room they walk into.
There’s a weird high you get from being around them, too. It’s similar to the high after a rollercoaster ride or a great first date or some really good cocaine. You feel more important for no other reason than you are around them, in the same room as them. And trust me, I recognize how fucking stupid it is to feel this way, yet I can’t lie. You do feel it.
I spent weeks with Will before my nervous system and brain stopped having these sorts of reactions. And even then, it still occasionally hits me. I’m like, “Wait, why am I laughing so hard—his joke wasn’t even that funny.”
Then I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m a fucking primate.”
Until next week,
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