Will Smith’s 2 Simple Rules for Success

Musician. Movie star. Producer. In 2005 Will Smith shared the secret to his immense success at an unlikely place: The Kids' Choice Awards. Did you listen?

You may or may not be a fan of Will Smith’s work, but you cannot deny the man’s success in life. One of the few entertainers to have excelled in music, television, and movies, Smith can now command upwards of $20 million per film. And why not? So far, his movies have brought in over $6 billion worldwide!

He has a beautiful wife who appears to keep him on his toes, talented kids who have started to make their own marks in the entertainment world, and a wonderfully successful career. When a man like Smith decides to dispense some life advice, it’s worth taking a couple minutes to listen.

During an acceptance speech a few years ago, Will Smith stood in front of thousands of kids at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards and gave them The Key to Life. He said, “I want to say something that I want you to remember for the rest of your lives, okay? I want you to listen closely… The Key to Life is Running and Reading.”

See below for a few excerpts from that speech. You can watch/listen to a tribute to the speech here.


“When you're running… there's a little person that talks to you and that little person says, ‘Oh, I'm tired. My lung’s about to pop. Oh, I'm so hurt; I’m so tired. There's no way I can possibly continue.’ And you want to 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

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“The person that works the hardest wins.

While the other guy’s sleepin’, I’m workin’.

The other guy’s eatin’. I’m workin’.

The other guy’s makin’ love…

I mean, I’m makin’ love, but I’m working hard at it.”

– Will Smith



We’ve all been there.

“This is too difficult for me.”

“This problem is too hard.”

“I’m too lazy.”

“This is never going to work.”

“I’m not good enough.”

Let’s say you’re driving home and you’re excited to go for a run and sweat out some of your frustrations from a long day at work. Once you get home, though, you start to feel a bit sluggish. After sitting in traffic and mulling over your work day, you begin to think about how great it’d be to take a quick nap or just relax on the couch and “clear some space” on your DVR. So, when you get home, that’s exactly what you do.

After a few days or weeks of this, it becomes exceedingly difficult to break out of that phase of justified laziness. There’s momentum here, but it works against you. Now, let’s take a look at someone that experiences that same exact pull, but reacts differently and has the momentum work in his favor.

Dan had a pretty crappy day, too. He was also stuck in traffic and thought about how great it’d be just to relax when he got home. Dan’s no stranger to this desire. It took a while, but he’s finally trained himself to squelch this thought as soon as it arises. In fact, he has familiarized himself with this process so much that he now interprets this feeling as an even stronger reason to get out and exercise.

He’s accustomed to do this now because he can recall dozens of times when he’s always felt better after a run – even, or especially, the times he went when he really didn’t want to go. The same applies to going to the gym (or anything that recharges or energizes you). After he gets home from his workout, he’s ALWAYS glad he went. He keeps this in mind the next time he feels the slightest bit of self-imposed opposition.

Replace the negative chatter with positive thoughts. It will take some time to build up this reserve of positive reinforcement experiences to call upon, but the effort will pay for itself tenfold.

For more mindhacks on motivation, check out these posts.


“Reading… there have been millions and billions and billions and gazillions of people that have lived before all of us. There's no new problem you could have – with your parents, with school, with a bully, with anything. There's no problem you can have that someone hasn't already solved and wrote about it in a book.”

– Will Smith

“There ain’t no problem that some other dude didn’t have 1,000 years ago.”

– Will Smith

The timing may be off for certain problems, but Will’s right. Got a problem? There’s probably been a few books written about it… or a few hundred thousand blog articles.

Sure, this may be your first time running a marathon, or fixing your toilet, or starting a business, or buying a home, but it’s not mankind’s. Use this to your advantage.

“All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been… is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.”

– Thomas Carlyle

If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you'll achieve the same results.

– Tony Robbins

Knowledge is power.

Empower yourself by reading. These days, with pocket computers and search engines, you don’t really have an excuse. Don’t wallow in worry about something confusing or a task about which you’re unclear. Finally take Dad’s “lazy” instruction to “Look it up!” to heart and figure out what worked or, perhaps more importantly, didn’t work for other people before you who faced the same exact problem.

Once you not only understand the advantage of standing on the shoulders of giants but actually apply the knowledge, you’ll truly grow by leaps and bounds.

It may take years for the kids Smith first addressed to put these ideas into action, but you can put them to work right away. So, when you sit down to create your next To Do list, make sure you include both of the following: Running and Reading.

Want some more wisdom from Will? Check out this video.

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“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

– Lance Armstrong



What do you think about Will Smith’s Key to Life?

Do you have one you’d like to share?

What piece of advice would you offer to a room full of teenagers?

Douglas Wagner is a writer, entrepreneur, and freelance marketing consultant based in Los Angeles with a passion for adventure, advertising, and alliteration. He is an avid supporter of "learn something new everyday" and "don't knock it 'til you try it."


  • Reply October 16, 2011

    Erin @ Tandblekning

    I like Will Smith, I bet he’s an amazing dad. A piece of advice that I would offer to a room full of teenagers…Well, the might words of Steve Jobs, Your time is limited, don’t waste it.”

  • Reply October 17, 2011


    The “Starting A Business” link is dead.

  • Reply October 17, 2011


    1000 years ago eh? It;s really nice to know how smart and powerful some of these hollywood ppl are.

  • Reply October 17, 2011


    Hey Mack, Sorry about that, the link is fixed.

    Ella, not sure I get your comment.

  • Reply October 17, 2011


    It’s great to know how smart and powerful a few of these hollywood people are. I believe on your piece of advice which I would offer to some room full of teenagers. Well, the might words of Steve Jobs, Your time and effort is restricted, don’t waste it.”

  • Reply October 18, 2011


    The running thing reminds me of something I read in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” about high-altitude mountain climbing. It was something to the effect that, high-altitude mountaineering isn’t glamorous or exciting or adrenaline-inducing. Rather, it’s about successfully coping with the constant physical and mental suffering of living for weeks at a time in absolutely brutal weather conditions, in an oxygen-deprived state, while enduring the kind of grueling physical exertion that most people couldn’t accomplish at sea level.

  • Reply October 20, 2011


    I am trying to get back into running now and I do hear that voice! Hope to quiet down that voice this time with more wins by thinking positively and running. Running music also helps.

  • Reply October 27, 2011


    Remember… That first mile sucks. Get it over with and it’ll be much easier after that.

  • Reply December 23, 2012


    This is misleading bullshit.I won’t be reading.I’m out of here.

  • Reply March 5, 2016


    this amazing person have retard kids. lesson learned. never be awesome.

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