Jay Shetty and Will Smith like to spend time hanging out, studying the Bhagavad Gita, and traveling. They are committed to a brotherhood of service and support.
Smith and Shetty sit down together for the first time to dive into the heart and soul of the man behind the music and movies. They unpack what they have been studying and learning together for the past year.
Jay Shetty recalls the moment he realized that Smith possesses the ability to be present with everyone he meets. “The first time I met you was at Willow’s birthday a few years ago,” Jay Shetty recalls. “Everyone was dressed in costumes and stuff. You had a Zoro-type mask on your eyes, and I thought, well, maybe that's him, maybe that's not. Then you lifted your mask off. The thing I recognized about you from that moment was your ability to just be really present and deeply there with everyone you meet.”
Jay Shetty and his wife, Radhi, also attended a Thanksgiving get-together with the Smith family and felt Smith’s ability to be present firsthand. “Will was introducing us to everyone, making an effort for us to feel like family,” Jay Shetty explains. “Smith’s ability to care for each person walking in, making us feel welcomed and a part of things, is a human aspect that we are missing in today’s world.”
Childhood experiences can form adult desires. For Will Smith, kindness is part of his DNA. Dealing with the difficulties of growing up in a home filled with violence and the need to make sure that his father was okay instilled a very acute emotional sense for Smith. He used that emotional sense as a defense mechanism growing up. Often, people will take past experiences and use them as an excuse for their current negative behavior. When you feel mistreated, unloved, or disrespected, it is natural to want revenge. “It's tough for the ego to not click into revenge,” Smith tells Jay Shetty. “So the problem is that when you seek revenge, you destroy yourself. That's the paradoxical conflict that we all live in. Yes, someone has mistreated us. We want revenge. But if we take it, we hurt ourselves more. The only answer is loving-kindness. It's amazing how the thing we think that's going to help us feel better is actually what makes us feel worse.”
Smith was able to process his negative experiences into a positive outcome. He attributes this to the beautiful example of loving-kindness his grandmother showed when he was growing up. He always knew he wanted to follow that example in his life, not realizing that her kindness and giving were connected to her inner peace until he was older.
“It took me 50 years to figure out what the secret of that was,” Smith explains to Jay Shetty.“We need an example. Somebody has to be an example,” Smith exclaims to Jay Shetty. “Human beings are creatures of example. So that's where I am in my life right now. I want to show what it looks like to be loving and kind and giving and forgiving. I want to model those virtues as best I can.”
For some time in Smith’s life, he struggled to balance the mindset of achieving and loving-kindness. His mentality was military-minded. He was going to win at all costs. You could either be part of the victory or not be around. The more successful he became, the less happiness he felt. “I started to equate winning with happiness,” Smith shares with Jay Shetty. “I started to question that mindset. I have one of the greatest runs in Hollywood history, number one movies all over 100, biggest global movie star, all of that, and yet my family was miserable.”
Smith could not understand their unhappiness. In his mind, they were winning and winning equated to happiness. Smith’s kids fostered the transition to a loving-kindness mindset. They opened his eyes to what people care about and how other people feel about things. “There is a balance between the mindset of achieving and the mindset of loving-kindness,” Smith tells Jay Shetty. “At this point in my life, I've discovered the magical balance. It's really hard to get people to let go of the achievement mindset and trust that the care and concern for your fellow humans creates higher production.”
Jay Shetty can relate. There are times in his own life when he was about winning and success. Along the way, he realized that he was not becoming the person he wanted to be in the process. In fact, he didn’t even like himself. Today, he has also switched to a more loving-kindness approach.
Smith’s family set examples in his life that he now draws on with his own family. “Whenever I think about my father, mother, and grandmother, I picture a triangle in my mind,” Smith explains to Jay Shetty. “My father was the base as the discipline. My mother didn't care about anything but education. You had to learn, grow, study, and travel. My mother was really serious about educating the mind. My grandmother was love and God.”For Smith, his grandmother was a pivotal figure in his life. She was a woman deeply devoted to God in the form of service to others. She worked hard to love everybody. Smith recalls times when she would bring homeless people into her house and wash them in her bathtub. “She worked the graveyard shift at the hospital,” Smith shares with Jay Shetty. “She watched my brothers and sisters and I during the day while my parents were at work. Then when my parents got off work, she would take a little nap, then she would go to work at the hospital. She was the happiest person that I had ever met. Nothing phased her.”
At age twelve, Smith had dreams of being a rapper. He filled his notebooks with the lyrics from his songs, cuss words included. The day his grandmother found that notebook, she didn’t say a word. Instead, she left a note on the inside cover for Smith to read. Dear Willard, truly intelligent people do not have to use words like this to express themselves. God has given you the gift of words. Be sure to use those words to uplift people.Smith never used profanity in his music again because of that letter from his grandma. The best advice he ever received came from her. She said, “Hey, loverboy, remember, be nice to everybody you pass on your way up, because you just might have to pass them again on your way down.” Those words have stuck with Smith throughout his life.
Seeing the Other Side of the Coin
Smith grew up in a military household with a father very keen on rules, organization, and order. As a child, it can be very daunting living in a military-minded home. Everything was a mission, from lining up your shoes to making sure there were hospital corners on the bed sheets. “Nothing was a basic task,” Smith tells Jay Shetty. “You weren't just going to wash the dishes. It was a mission that had to be completed with military precision, right down to how much dishwashing liquid you're using. How much does the bottle cost? How many dishes do you wash with that amount of dishwashing liquid? How long are you going to be able to use this dishwashing bottle so you can relate that to how much work you have to do to be able to wash that many dishes.”
Even though Smith admits he hated his father’s strictness, the gift of structure and the ability to break tasks down into smaller manageable pieces is a blessing that he took into adulthood. Jay Shetty agrees. There are experiences in life that hurt or knock you down - things that make you feel uncomfortable or push you outside of your comfort zone. You don’t have to let the negative parts define the whole experience. When Smith’s parents got divorced, it was traumatic and debilitating for him. He contemplated suicide. Out of that pain and devastation, Smith realized he never wanted his children to have to go through that. His takeaway from that negative experience became devotion to life and his family. The death of his father was one of the most powerful, formative experiences of Smith’s life. Albeit difficult and painful, Smith feels he had a gift most people don’t get - time. He received a warning from the doctor that he had six weeks left with his father. Most people get a phone call. They don’t get a chance to say what they need to say. Those six weeks stretched into four months. In that time, he was able to prepare himself to say goodbye. He got to say what he needed to say to his dad, and they were clear. Each time Smith visited his father, he said goodbye like it was the last time. “The lesson was, it should always be like that,” Smith tells Jay Shetty. “When we say goodbye, we can't know if this is the last time we will ever see that person. You should never greet someone casually or say goodbye to someone casually. That lesson came from that experience with my dad. That's how you're supposed to live every day anyway. Every time you leave your house can be the last time. You're supposed to be in the richness of your hellos and goodbyes. Just the lesson of that kind of presence, and that kind of attention and that kind of recognition that tomorrow's not promised.”Make amends in the relationships where you may have regrets. Do not let another day go by, thinking there is always tomorrow. You are setting yourself up to wish you had said something before it was too late. “Negative experiences are the things that were awful at the time,” Smith explains. “There's always the other side of the coin. I've cultivated only positive things out of the most negative experiences of my life.”
What religion to raise their children in was a big topic of conversation when Smith and his wife got married. So together, they decided to study a different world religion every year. They read the Bible, the Quran, and studied Kabbalah and Scientology, just to name a few. They are currently working through the Bhagavad Gita.“We love the idea of spirituality and the study of the love of God,” Smith shares with Jay Shetty. “We don't necessarily believe in organized religion, we believe that the organizations kind of jump ahead of the spirituality. The Church of Christ is very different than Christ, the steps that Christ actually walked. We started to notice those kinds of differences. We just wanted to find the truth.”
Since the age of five or six, Smith has been centered on having successful, loving relationships. Chasing the secret of that success has expanded Smith’s desire to succeed as a parent, a leader, follower, and student. Along the way, he discovered the problem is the lack of understanding of other people’s perspectives. “If you have a difficulty with another human being, there's some point of ignorance and some point of delusion that is keeping you from being unable to see both sides,” Smith says to Jay Shetty. Smith believes there is one solution. Educate yourself. Free yourself from your ignorance. Things are not problems if you understand them. Comprehension leads to the truth of what is happening. “Life is school,” Smith shares with Shetty. “You're not getting the promotion you want at work. That’s school. Get it figured out. Life is the greatest teacher. You just have to be willing to learn. The world has programmed us to believe that life is for enjoyment, but life is for education.”
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Owning Your Truth and Unlocking the Power of Manifestation” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
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