Will Smith’s Key to Life

Published October 3, 2009 in General Self-Improvement - 5 Comments

Will Smith

I came across a very inspirational video featuring Will Smith talking about one of his life philosophies and I want to share this video with my readers. First, let me thank David from Il Cantone, where I first encountered this video. Okay, so here it is, followed by some of my thoughts about it:

Alright, the message of the video, the key to life being running and reading, is brilliant. I don’t want to elaborate on this because I couldn’t possibly express this idea better than Will Smith does in his speech. It’s a message to take to heart, to think about, to practice in your life (starting now, might I suggest). Feel free to stop reading now and watch the video again or go do something else, because the main thing I want you to get from this post is in that video.

For everyone still reading, here’s a little meta-analysis of the running and reading speech, because there are things in there that we can use to improve the way we write, speak and present our ideas.

Short and Sweet

The running and reading message is so powerful, partially because it’s so short and simple. Even though Smith is talking about “the key to life” a subject that could hardly be any broader, he condenses it down to just two simple actions. Be assured that this is not all Smith has to say on the subject of how to live successfully and happily, but he resists the temptation to be elaborate and verbose and gives us just this one, highly polished gem. It’s infinitely more valuable to convey one simple message that your audience will remember than to present a hundred ideas they will forget. It’s very beneficial to remember this whenever you are writing or giving a presentation.

Spoken Word

You’ve probably sat through a fair share of boring presentations and speeches, regardless of what career you’re in. If you managed to remain alert enough, you might have noticed that the worst presentations and speeches are often the ones that are overly scripted. A presentation read almost word for word from a prompter or from notes tends to be snore-inducing. We often forget that written language and spoken language follow different rules. Sometimes the very things that you need to avoid in written texts are things that can make a speech come to life.

Let’s see what a segment of Smith’s speech looks like in writing:

I’m giving you the key to life right now, this is the key to life, the key to life… the key to life… is running and reading. Alright? Now listen, I’m very serious, the key to life is running and reading, alright?

This is, grammatically, probably the worst segment of the entire speech. No teacher would ever let you get away with so many repetitions of the same phrase and such a fragmented writing style. But spoken out loud, with conviction and emotion, the words and sentences above just feel right. Repetition and fragmentation give this message emotional gravity. The lesson we can learn from this is simple and often neglected: Speak from the heart, speak with passion, don’t shy away from putting a lot of emotional emphasis into your speech. If it doesn’t look good on paper, throw away the paper.

Alright, that’s it. If you don’t have a speech or a presentation to prepare, you should probably go for a run now.

  • Is there a link to it somewhere besides YouTube? I can’t watch it as I’m behind the Great Firewall of China. 🙁

  • I only found one alternative video streaming site with the video: http://edublogs.tv/play.php?vid=458

    Hope that works for you.

  • Hi Shane and thanks for linking to my blog.

    You’ve done a great work here analysing the speech.Simplicity is the key to spread a message. We should try to make life as simple and easy as possible :).

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for posting about this video on your blog! I might never have seen it otherwise.


  • You’re right. We should speak from our hearts with passion. That’s a key to impacting others.