Will Smith, Rumi, and Finding the Balance of Success
Silence brings wisdom, clarity, and peace. But it's also risky.
If you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend it. It captures the voice and internal struggle of a flawed (but awesome) human whose flaws just happen to fit in like a puzzle piece with society’s specific recipe for success. Work really, really hard (no matter what), value success over all other things (and people) and screw smelling the damn flowers (they can’t pay for your estate in Thousand Oaks).
Toward the end of the book, Smith steps into a series of ayahuasca journeys that bring to light the flaws of this approach to life. Luckily for Smith, this realization isn’t too late in his life and he can make some changes to step away from his previous way of living.
I must say that kind of thing must be easy to do once you’ve made billions and billions of bucks. But still.
One of the quotes in the book (from Rumi - duh) struck me as particularly poignant.
“Why are you so afraid of silence? Silence is the root of everything. If you spiral into its voice a hundred voices will thunder messages you long to hear.” - RUMI
Silence brings wisdom, clarity, and peace. This is apparently something Smith learned later in life, but it’s powerful.
I must add that it’s also risky.
What if we take too long to hear the voices within the silence? Life carries on while we’re listening for voices. In fact, life barrels forward at a pace that increases in velocity every millisecond. Voices in the silence won’t pay our bills. Deep down, we all Rumi is right, but I guarantee Rumi wasn’t worried about posting a story to his Instagram account every six hours so he can grow his following.
The things of the world seem silly when we look at them through the lens of a thirteenth century poet. But, we can’t escape the world we live in. We are all in the trenches of the societal construct within which we exist. Whether we like it or not. Every one of us. Even Will Smith.
So, what are my takeaways from this book? Well, I have three.
Work ethic is everything. Smith was willing to do what other musicians and movie stars weren’t. He dug into the research. He did global press for years when other actors and musicians were partying at Bootsy Bellows. The faster we run in life, the more people we pass in the race.
Empty success is lonely. It drives those close to us away. It drives us away from ourselves. The pursuit of “more,” in any capacity, is like allowing Tantalus to talk us into hopping into his pool of water while he runs to Starbucks. Once we’re in it, we’re stuck - wanting - forever. The important things in life are friends, family, smelling the flowers, and yes - silence.
We all need to find our comfort zone on the sliding scale of bullet points one and two. Will Smith might have been a ten on the scale - working all the time and ignoring the beautiful simple parts of life. Rumi (after meeting Shams-e Tabrizi) might have been a one on this scale. For me? I’m comfortable right now at a sensible 7.5.
So, what’s up with the picture of the flowers at the top of this email? Well, I took that picture while on a run on Sunday. I was working out in the early morning, noticed these beautiful flowers, and snapped a picture.
Will Smith probably wouldn’t have stopped his workout to enjoy the beauty of nature. Rumi would have stopped and stuck around for a couple of hours to write a poem about it. I stopped for 30 seconds, appreciated it, documented the moment, and kept running.
I think life is all about finding your perfect balance of success. It takes experimentation because we can’t have everything. We just need to choose what we value the most and then tailor our lives to match our values.
Have a wonderful week, friends!