Five Super-Important Life Lessons From Philosopher-Stars Will and Jaden Smith

Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images Will and Jaden Smith

After Earth, Will Smith’s second team-up with his kid Jaden — and his first with, um, M. Night Shyamalan — doesn’t seem like a very good idea. But that’s quickly becoming completely unimportant. Even if After Earth is the worst movie ever made, its promo campaign will have already justified its existence.

Last week, Will got Jazzy Jeff and Alfonso Ribeiro to come to London to do this:

Sure, it was emotionally manipulative and coldly calculating of Will to target our nostalgia weak spots by making Carlton do the Carlton dance. But he made Carlton do the Carlton dance!!! I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

This week, we get another bit of wonder, in the form of a joint, surprisingly candid Will and Jaden interview with New York Magazine. Please, do read the whole thing when you get a chance. It’s fantastic, and you will learn things. For now, though, we’ve gone through and plucked out a couple of key moments. Warning: This might change your life forever.

1. The universe is mappable.

Will: I’m a student of patterns. At heart, I’m a physicist. I look at everything in my life as trying to find the single equation, the theory of everything … Like for Best Actor Oscars. Almost 90 percent of the time, it’s mental illness and historical figures, right? So, you can be pretty certain of that if you want to win — as a man; it’s very different for women. The patterns are all over the place, but for whatever reason, it’s really difficult to find the patterns in Best Actress.

2. Snakes can kill you. But only if you let them.

Will: Do you know what a fer-de-lance is?
Jaden: It’s one of the most poisonous snakes in all of Costa Rica.
Will: There were a couple of days where there was a high concentration of snakes [on the set].
Jaden: Fer-de-lances, not snakes! I was doing a scene, going through some tall grasses, and they said, “Hey, we caught some fer-de-lances around there, and there seems to be a lot more, and I think we should move the scene.” I was like, “How many fer-de-lances did you catch?” He’s like, “Eight.”
Will: I said, “Well, you got them all, so it’s fine. Let’s just shoot it.”

3. Be your best you. Every day.

Will: For our family, the entire structure of our life, our home, our business relationships — the entire purpose is for everyone to be able to create in a way that makes them happy. Fame is almost an inconsequential byproduct of what we’re really trying to accomplish. We are trying to put great things into the world … We’re trying to become the greatest versions of ourselves in the process of doing things we love … Essentially … my position with my children [is] you can choose anything that you want to do, anything you want to be, and you can decide you want to act crazy and run around. I respect your ability to choose a life for yourself that does not have value to the world. I respect that. I’m just not going have [sic] a lot of time for you.

4. Choose what “being your best” means carefully.

Will: Willow chose singing and then un-chose it. She said, “Daddy, I want to go to school with my friends during the week, and I want to hang out with them on the weekends.” At the peak of “Whip My Hair,” she’s like, “Daddy, I’m done.” I was like, “Wow, wow, wow. No, baby, I got Annie [the upcoming movie remake, co-produced by Jay-Z], you know. It’ll be New York, you’ll be with Beyoncé. You can bring your friends.” And she said, “Daddy, I got a better idea. How about I just be 12?” At the end of the day, it has to be their choice.

5. But once you choose: Never half-step. Ever. NEVER.

Will: Our whole dream for our home was for it to be an artist’s haven. So there are paint supplies; there’s a piano with a microphone and a recorder right there to capture things right in the second. There’s editing equipment. There are cameras. I think the only thing in our house that people would be surprised by is the efficiency.

Like staffing?

Will: No, just how serious we are about how the microphone at the piano has to be on and the recorder has to be ready to go for when somebody gets an idea. The paint supplies have got to be kept up — you know, you cannot go to paint something and a color’s empty.

Is it true that you alphabetized your laser discs?

Will: Yeah, I’m very, very serious about systems supporting creative inspiration.

Filed Under: After Earth, Will Smith

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad

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