Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Will Smith – The Power of Believing

Posted by Orrin Woodward on January 18, 2011

When a person disciplines himself to align the conscious (ant) and subconscious (elephant) mind, success must happen. Willard Christopher Smith Jr. (Will Smith) is that type of person.  The actor and number one box office phenomena, has accomplished in Hollywood, something that has never been done before – eight consecutive movies have grossed over $100 million in revenue.  Smith learned early, to tap into his subconscious mind, aligning his ant and elephant.  Smith shares, “I don’t know what my calling is, but I want to be here for a bigger reason. I strive to be like the greatest people who have ever lived.”  Smith didn’t start with a silver spoon in his mouth, being born in a lower middle class West Philadelphia family, but he did start with something infinitely more powerful, a huge dream.  Smith’s dream to do something great filled him with hope, leading to an unquenchable hunger to learn.  Early in life, Smith learned the value of reading to borrow ideas from the greatest men and women who ever lived, stating, “The idea that there are millions and billions of people who have lived before us, and they had problems and they solved them and they wrote it in a book somewhere – there is no new problem that we can have that we have to figure out by ourselves. There’s no relationship issue, there is no issue with your parents or your brother or your government, there is no issue we can have that somebody didn’t already write a thousand years ago in a book. So, for me, that concept of reading is bittersweet because you know it’s in a book somewhere but you’ve got to find the right one that is going to give you the proper information.”

According to Smith, the turning point in his life happened at 16 years of age, after his first girlfriend cheated on him, “In my mind, she cheated because I wasn’t good enough. I remember making the decision that I will never not be good enough again.”  Instead of hosting his own pity party, Smith intuitively understood that massive success would be the best revenge, incubating, in his mind, a plan for world wide fame, fortune and excellence. How many other 16 year old kids respond to setbacks in this manner? Smith explains, “I think of the universe as this big, master computer,” he says. “The keyboard is inside each of us. I have a keyboard inside of me. I just have to figure out what to type, learn the code, to make the things happen that I want.”  Eschewing the engineering career available to him through attending MIT, Smith instead, partnered with DJ Jazzy Jeff, releasing their first album, while still in high school.  The pair’s PG-rated rap earned them the first ever Grammy award, for a hip-hop act.  Some may call this luck, but Smith, in an interview with Travis Smiley said, “Just decide, and the universe will get out of your way.  Your in a universe that says 2 + 2 = 4. 2 + 2 is going to be what I want it to be.”  Where others see limits, Smith trains his conscious and subconscious to imagine the limitless.  Remember, vision is tomorrow’s reality expressed as an idea today. Smith, displaying his vision for tomorrow, shared with Smiley, “I want to be an idea. I want to represent possibilities. I want to represent the idea that you really can make what you want.”

Later in his career, when Smith was on the set of the Ali movie, he had another breakthrough in the power of dreams and belief.  “When I was doing Ali, I realized that he kept saying, ‘I’m the greatest, I’m pretty,’ to make himself believe it,” Smith explains. “He doesn’t believe it, but he was dealing with racism. He was reacting to pain and rejection. He said it so much that he started to believe it. That’s what I’ve tried to do for myself.”  Aligning the conscious words, with the sub-conscious images, brings added power to all subsequent actions.  Will Smith’s success, is not by accident, but by design, a design available to all who hunger after a dream.  Smith understands the metaphysical nature of words, teaching himself to take command of his inner voice, “I said reading and running and the running aspect is how can you connect with your weakness. When you get on the treadmill you deprive yourself of oxygen. What kind of person you are will come out very, very quickly. You’re either the type of person who will say you’re going to run three miles or you stop the treadmill at 2.94 and you hit it and you call 2.94 3 miles, or you get off after a mile, or you’re the type of person that runs hard through the finish line and when you get to 3.0 you realize, ‘God, I could really do 5,’ and you go ahead and do two more. And that little person talks to you and says, ‘Man, do you feel our knee? We should stop. I feel we should stop ourselves right now. This is not healthy anymore.’ When you learn to get command over that person on that treadmill, you learn to get command over that person in your life.”  Smith took command of his inner voice, aligning his thoughts, talk and walk towards his goals and dreams, a true alignment of the ant and the elephant.

But Smith’s story isn’t a fairy tale of dream, victory and happily ever after story.  Rather, it’s more of an American Dream story, a kid with a huge dream, massive struggles, and sweet victories. A story similar to so many American Horatio Alger successes.  After winning his Grammy, Smith, still a teenager with no financial experiences, spent his income freely, leading to an Internal Revenue Services Audit, resulting in a Tax Lien of $2.8 million against his dwindling estate!  One can only imagine the pain and embarrassment felt by the young Smith, with the IRS seizing his assets and garnishing his future wages.  Few would have bounced back from this setback, but Smith’s vision refused to die, regardless of the challenges.  Facing the mockery of friends and nearing bankruptcy, Smith parlayed his popularity, as a Grammy winning rap act, into an NBC sitcom called, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The series became an overnight hit, surging his career forward, erasing his financial setbacks through his vision, character and work ethic. This show set the foundation for Smith’s meteoric rise in the entertainment industry.  But Smith troubles were far from over, he also endured a difficult divorce, leading to a $900,000 lump sum settlement to his former wife and a $24,000 per month for alimony and child support.  The depth of the setback overcome is directly related to the depth of the character displayed.  People either get bitter or better during challenges.  Smith views setbacks like a broken down car on a road, “every once in a while it’s your turn to be broken down. And you wait for the tow truck to come. That’s how I viewed that difficult time in my life.”  Smith understood, that it isn’t what happens to him, but how he handled it that matters.  His unyielding belief in his mission is what helped him bounce back, “If it was something that I really committed myself to, I don’t think there’s anything that could stop me becoming President of the United States.”  This life changing belief comes from Smith’s conscious and subconscious working together, he expresses, “I want to represent the idea that you really can make what you want. I can create whatever I want to create, if I can put my head on it right,study, and learn the patterns.” 

Both of these setbacks, a multi-million dollar tax lien, and a multi-million dollar divorce, could have knocked Smith down for the count, but instead, they only fueled his hunger to do and become more.  This is the power of the dream, turning rejection into further fuel for growth.  Only with true belief, formed when the conscious minds words align with subconscious minds images, will the multitude of setbacks, in the pursuit of any worthwhile dream, be overcome.  In fact, it’s the size of the dream that determines the size of the comeback.  What if Will Smith had surrendered to bankruptcy?  What if he would have surrendered to negativity, blaming the world for his problems?  This is exactly what the majority of people do when faced with setbacks, setbacks minuscule in proportion, to the ones faced and overcome by Smith.  One must never give up on a worthwhile goal or dream, never ever surrendering.  Smith set the goal early to become, “the biggest movie star in the world.”   In order to achieve this super sized dream, he had to overcome super sized obstacles.  Anyone desiring success at the highest levels must expect the same level of obstacles.  Remember, one becomes a champion long before the rest of society acknowledges it.  Smith explains that, “money and success don’t change people; they merely amplify what is already there.”  In other words, power doesn’t corrupt, but only reveals character.

With the success of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, one would have thought it an easy step into movies, but nothing is further from the facts. Despite his growing fame, Smith couldn’t buy a meeting with any of the studios or directors, having to work for over five years before successfully sitting down with a studio director.  In fact, Smith’s business partner James Lassiter, frustrated by the apparent lack of interest, explained the studios skepticism in this way, “Nobody cared. You’re a rapper. You got lucky, and you got this television show, but that’s all you can do.”  When Smith was asked, if he had ever thought of a Plan B during this time, since Plan A seemed closed to him, he responded, nearly horrified by the thought, “I don’t want to get too metaphysical, but by even contemplating a Plan B, you almost create the necessity for a Plan B.”  Smith is expressing the near mysterious power that a unified ant and elephant have in propelling people to their dreams.  He refused to contemplate a Plan B, knowing that by merely contemplating it, he was subconsciously surrendering his plan A, creating a civil war between the conscious and subconscious mind, a civil war that always leads to failure.

It’s been nearly twenty years since Smith made his sitcom splash as the humorous, fast-talking Fresh Prince.  Today, his films gross over $130 million per movie on average, making Smith one of the elite of the elite in his profession.  His most financially successful films have been Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, Independence Day, Men in Black, Men in Black II, I, Robot, The Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend, Hancock, Wild Wild West, Enemy of the State, Shark Tale, Hitch and Seven Pounds. He also earned critical praise for his performances in Six Degrees of Separation, Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, receiving Best Actor Oscar nominations for the latter two. Smith discusses the connection between the proper thinking necessary for success, combined with the hard work necessary to complete the success:

“Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist, which is my favorite book, talks about the whole of the universe, and it’s contained in one grain of sand. For years I’ve been saying that, and now it’s really starting to expose itself to me. My own grain of sand has been my story. The next 10 years will be my peak of innovation in filmmaking and just as a human being.  I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and he talks about the concept of 10,000 hours. That you don’t really settle into any level of mastery until 10,000 hours, and I feel like I’ve just completed my 10,000 hours of story structure and filmmaking.”

It’s scary to imagine, what Smith can accomplish next, having already, at forty-two years of age, broken many of the all-time records.  But one thing the world should understand about Willard Christopher Smith Jr., is to never bet against him.  He has aligned his ant and elephant, charging ahead with a dream, forging onward with is superhuman work ethic, and believing in his dreams while others are doubting theirs. We can all learn from Smith, setting our sails based upon our dreams and goals, not merely the direction of the wind.  Just like Jesus describes in Matthew, verse 17:20, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”  Isn’t it time to remove the mountains holding us back from our destiny? One final thought from Smith, “I consider myself and Alchemist. An Alchemist who took lead and made it gold.” Imagine if all of us, refusing to live with the lead in our lives, chose instead, to play the part of the alchemist, converting our leaden lives into golden ones.  What a difference we could make if we only believed by having faith. God Bless, Orrin Woodward

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