If you’re up against adversity or overcoming challenges, this story is for you.
Will Smith’s first career as a rapper led to him going broke in 1990 when the IRS came knocking. Will says, “They wanted $2.8 million and I had two dollars and eighty three cents.”
“There’s nothing more sobering than having six cars and a mansion one day and you can’t even buy gas… the next.”
Overnight, his hip hop friends disappeared and he was left trying to figure out what to do next. Early success and fast spending had led to big failure.
It was producer Quincy Jones who became Will’s white knight. Quincy was planning a new comedy for NBC, and thought of his own experience bringing up his kids in Bel-Air. He remembered one call from his daughter who was away at camp: “Dad, the water here sucks. Please FedEx Evian.”
So Quincy put his experience together with Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” image, and created “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. Will auditioned while struggling with no money, and took the job. The series became a hit, but Will had to keep paying 70% of his pay to the IRS for the next 3 years.
Given a fresh start, with just enough to money to survive, Will threw himself into acting: “I was trying so hard,” he said. “I would memorize the entire script, then I’d be lipping everybody’s lines while they were talking… My performances were horrible.”
Will persevered, and set himself the goal of being “the biggest movie star in the world”. He threw himself into studying other movie stars and what they did. Then he picked the right movies:
“The biggest movie stars make the biggest movies, so I looked at the top 10 movies of all time. At that point, they were all special-effects movies. So Independence Day, no-brainer. Men in Black, no-brainer. I, Robot, no-brainer.”
His mix of failure, resilience, determination – and another 20 years of work-ethic – finally led him to his goal:
Will is the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office, eleven consecutive films gross over $150 million internationally, and eight consecutive films in which he starred open at the number one spot in the domestic box office tally.
He’s been ranked as the most bankable star worldwide by Forbes and set a Guiness World Record for attending three film premieres of films he featured in a 24 hour time period.
The path to success is never a straight path, and it’s the seeds we sow in our failures that create our success.
So cut out the noise on the outside, listen to the voice on the inside, and keep your eye on the prize.