I came across this book via Morgan Housel, who pulled out some one of the best lessons:
But this isn’t the main story of the memoir. What I really got from reading Will is that, first, Will Smith is psychologically a very interesting, and very different, person. He’s on the extreme side of empathic, or emotionally attuned. He’s a guy who has obviously been a seeker and someone who has gone to an extraordinary amount of therapy and put a lot of time into finding himself.
He’s also a driven person, a workaholic, someone who aimed to be the best in his field and he put in the work to get there.
At times I think that coauthor Mark Manson’s influence was visible in a bad way. I didn’t like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck very much, mostly because it seemed to make a very small point at great length. Similarly, Will has a tendency to elaborate and repeat ideas that are pretty standard fare. Which is a shame, because otherwise Will Smith has so much interesting history and personality to share. His stories about his marriages are honest, but they’re less revealing than what you’d read from other sources. His relationship with Jada Pinkett is written like a typical problematic marriage, without mentioning that it’s one of the more prominent examples of a (functioning?) open relationship.
And, no – this book was published before “the slap,” so it doesn’t discuss the slap, but it does make you understand why Smith would do something like that, with his overwrought instincts for protecting his loved ones.
Overall, this was an interesting read and Will Smith is such a central figure of our culture: one of the highest-grossing movie stars in the world, as he repeats many times. It’s revealing, but not totally transparent. It has some interesting life lessons, but mostly it’s not very profound. It’s a good memoir because it has good material.