- Michael Thompson
Towards the end of 2019, following the lead of Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo, I changed up my reading habits. Instead of reading whatever was hot, I decided to take one person a week and learn as much as I could about them.
Over the last few months, I’ve dug into the lives of some seriously interesting people.
This isn’t to slight Oprah, Roald Dahl, Warren Buffett, or Elizabeth Gilbert. They’re all tremendous. For me personally, however, when it comes to life advice, I can’t help but think my friend Niklas Göke is right — “Will Smith is tops.”
He doesn’t say anything we haven’t heard before. But he adds a nice twist. Plus, his words are on point.
Below are a handful of my favorites and what they mean to me.
“Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your life.”
If deep down you really want to do something, do it. Just because Randy from accounting thought it was a stupid idea, doesn’t mean it is. Your inner voice was meant to be followed.
You may get picked on and people may laugh at you. But who cares? For some people making others feel small is the only way they can feel big.
Get beat on the field. Being too scared to play because of what other people may think of you not only sabotages your own happiness, but it also robs the world of your talents.
“The keys to life are running and reading.”
Want to have more energy? Go for a run. Want to boost your creativity? Go for a run. Want to snap out of a rut? Hit the cement.
I’m yet to find a solution that helps me to be kinder to both myself and the people around me than exercise. It’s hard to yell at your kid for spilling the milk after you’ve made the decision to break a sweat.
The same goes for reading. You have to stay intellectually alive. Carving out time to read keeps us curious, makes our conversations more interesting, and saves us from a ton of headaches. Like Will said, “There’s no new problem that someone hasn’t already had and written about in a book.”
“There’s no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A.”
Having a back-up plan for where to eat is fine. When it comes to the impact you want to make, however, burn your boats. Nothing kills progress more than indecision. Having a safety net holds people back from jumping as high as they can.
If you aren’t sure what you want to do with your life, by all means, try A, B, C, and D. If you do know what lights you up, throw all your logs on the fire.
Perhaps it’s this commitment to go all-in that makes Will Smith, not just another Will Smith. Put his words up on your wall, “The second I decide something is done, it’s done. I just have to wait for all y’all to see it.”
“If you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time.”
You don’t need to have your life together in order to make a difference. Not all positive change is created by confident alphas. It’s also created by thoughtful and kind acts.
That young kid who shows promise on the basketball court, lift him up higher with your supportive words. Your friend who is going through a hard time, let them know you are thinking about them.
By prioritizing other people’s happiness you may not have to spend so much time worrying about your own. Being successful looks an awful lot like being helpful.
“Sometimes you have to forget what’s gone, appreciate what still remains, and look forward to what’s coming next.”
It took me until the age of 41 to realize that a major aspect of leading a good life is developing a short memory.
Bad things will happen. People will annoy you. Stewing over the past, however, is the fastest way to disrespect the present and sabotage the future.
A few times a day take a look around and remind yourself you have everything you need. You’ll never be happier with more if you don’t appreciate what you already have.
The next time someone drags you down, walk into your kids' bedroom and start tickling them. The memories we decide to hold on to have a funny way of determining the quality of the memories we choose to make today.
“Let your smile change the world. Don’t let the world change your smile.”
I used to work with this guy who complained about everything. He has a good job, a beautiful wife, and healthy kids. Every single time I ran into him, however, he would build a house with all the negative bricks he was laying.
If the sun was shining, he’d complain about it being too hot. If it was Christmas time, he’d bitch about having to spend so much money.
It takes just as much energy to talk about the bad things in life as it does to talk about the good things. Look yourself in the mirror and read off reasons why you love your life if it helps you to leave the house in a good mood each morning.
The world will give you plenty to frown about. Positivity, however, is a choice. The world rewards those who can learn to smile at trouble.
“I’ve trained myself to illuminate the things in my personality that are likable and to hide and protect the things that are less likable.”
Not everyone needs to love you. But you’ll seriously hurt your chances of accomplishing anything if a few people don’t like you.
Take the time to hone your self-awareness. Get clear on what makes you attractive to others and lean into those traits. Ask around if you need clarity on your behaviors that turn people off and make an effort to get rid of them.
People want to spend time and do business with people they like. By being the best version of yourself you won’t attract everyone. You will, however, attract the right people. Do what you can to leave each person you meet better than you found them.
“Life is lived on the edges.”
The things I am most proud of in my life all have one thing in common: I was scared to death to do all of them.
I was petrified to step outside my comfort zone when I took a sales job to get over my stutter. But it gave me a world of confidence.
I was terrified to leave everything I knew to move to Spain. But it led me to the love of my life.
I still get nervous when I publish an article. But shipping them has opened up more doors than I ever would have imagined.
You don’t have to jump out of a plane to get over your fear of heights. Start with sleeping on the top bunk and slowly grow from there.
Everything worth having is waiting for you once you make the decision to step away from the center. If you fail, so what. As Will said, “Failure is where all the lessons are.”
Prior to digging a bit deeper into Will, I hadn’t realized he’s been one of the key constants in my life. I grew up listening to him and I’ve grown older watching him. He’s bold, funny, and caring. I can’t think of a better representation of our generation.
Study the Stoics. Read about your favorite 19th-century authors.
Don’t be afraid, however, to also dive deeper into the lives of the people who make up our current Pop culture.
If they’ve been able to stay relevant despite all the noise, they can probably teach you a thing or two.