Will Smith is one of the biggest box office stars today. He gave an incredible interview in 2015…but sadly, it wasn’t to me.
(However, I feel it is incredibly timely and worthy of sharing with you today)
Will Smith’s “Failure”
Smith had a “huge failure” in 2013 when his movie “After Earth” premiered far below expectations.
“Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart.” “That was a valuable lesson for me a few years ago with ‘After Earth,’” Smith said. “That was the most painful failure in my career.” The Sony/Columbia pic, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, made $27 million on opening weekend and grossed a global $243 million on a reported production budget of $130 million.”
[Tweet “Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart. -Will Smith”]
One of our greatest fears is failure. During my Christmas Eve sermon at my church, I encouraged people to share their fears with me. After reading through nearly 1,000 responses, the fear of failure/not being enough/not measuring up was pervasive.
Will Smith on The Pressure of Success
For Smith, past success creates an almost suffocating expectation on each new venture.
In comparison, in 2008, “Hancock,” the Smith-starring fantasy drama from Sony/Columbia, raked in $624 million globally and made $62 million on opening weekend. His rom-com “Hitch” made $368 globally and $43 million on opening weekend. Smith said “Wild Wild West,” a pic that also opened with $27 million, was still a better experience. “‘Wild Wild West’ was less painful than ‘After Earth’ because my son was involved in ‘After Earth,’ and I led him into it. That was excruciating,” the 46-year-old said.
Many of us allow our expectations or the expectations of others to crush us. The fear of failing them or ourselves ruins our experiences and prevents us from enjoying life as it comes our way.
Will Smith on The Power of A Wound
Then Smith contemplated the importance of having films that topped box office charts. “I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was 15, my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one’s ever better than me, and I’ll have the love that my heart yearns for.
Smith was wounded deeply and instead of healing, he went looking success to do what only love could. He tried to satisfy his deepest longings with success, especially as compared with others. And even when he was on top of the world in his field, it still wasn’t enough. He was not satisfied. I wonder how many of us know that feeling. Now matter how hard we try, we still haven’t found what we’re looking for. I wonder if we’re looking in the wrong places.
How Will Smith Found Perspective
“And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of ‘After Earth,’ when I had to accept that it’s not a good source of creation.” Smith said when he received box office numbers the following Monday, he was “devastated for about 24 minutes,” and shortly after, he received a call that his father had cancer. “That put it in perspective — viciously.”
We struggle to maintain perspective. Sadly, it often takes a tragedy or painful crisis to introduce the perspective we’ve been missing. (In this video beginning at 27:00, you’ll hear how my friend Nona discovered this perspective during her battle with cancer.)
After a 90-minute treadmill session immediately following the news, Smith had an epiphany. “That Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole,” Smith said. “You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”
Learning from Will Smith – How Do You Fill the Void?
I believe that we will struggle to fill the void Smith mentioned until we come to know the unconditional love we have in our creator, through his son, Jesus Christ. I wrote a few weeks ago about my struggle to believe God loves me unconditionally. It just feels too good to be true sometimes. But when I embrace this love, I find what I’ve been looking for so fervently. I find enough.
This interview with Will Smith was so compelling for me. I saw so much of myself and the people I love in his words. I wanted to encourage you because far too many of us are running from our pain. We’re trying to fill our wounds in other ways, with deeply disappointing results.
I encourage you to decide what matters most to you today. Make sure you’re looking for success in the right place. Examine what you’re filling the void with and consider whether it is truly enough. As we all dream about the futures we want to experience, let’s make sure we pursue what truly is most important.
After all, when it’s all said and done, I’d hate for any of us to be sitting here like Will Smith did, realizing our highest goals could never satisfy us like we hoped.