I-Can’t-Make-This-Up: Life Lessons - by Kevin Hart
I guess the title of the book is meant to be a pun — it’s a collection of his life stories that are so wild that he couldn’t have made them up; they are also from the time when he stopped making things up as “Lil’ Kev the Bastard” to become the one and only Kevin Hart. Persistence is the key to his success.
Both Kevin Hart and Will Smith are from Philadelphia, and their parents gave them a “one-year contract” when they decided not to go to college: try whatever you wish but go back to school if things don’t work out in a year. And that has made all the difference.
Here are some text that I highlighted in the book:
At every moment in life, there is a fork in the path you are on. And you can choose to go right or you can choose to go left. Every right you take leads you closer to your best possible destiny; every left leads you further away from it. These forks are not just decisions that lead to actions, like saying yes to a job offer, but thoughts that lead to beliefs, like blaming your father for ruining your life.
I would have thought that a fight would escalate things. But the fact that it stopped the bullying taught me a lesson: Defend yourself at all times. Don’t let nobody mess with you. If you don’t stand up to them, they’ll just keep bullying you, and it will get continually worse as they push to the edge of what they can get away with. However, if you stand up to them, and they feel fear after knowing what you’re capable of, they’ll find someone else to belittle. Even if you lose or get beat up, at least you can go to bed at night knowing you’re not the kind of person who tolerates being pushed around.
Today, I’ve passed my brother’s lesson on to my kids and taught them to stick up for themselves and each other. “If someone is threatening to hurt you, and they’re bigger than you, pick up something and knock them in the head with it. Your problems will be gone.”
stopping a bully is different than being a bully. The real message is: You are somebody. You matter. And no one is allowed to take away your right to your property, your right to your safety, or your right to be yourself. Those are things that should be defended.
It turns out that the things I hated most as a child are the same things that serve me the most as an adult.
It’s easy to complain about your life—how tough it is, how unfair it is, how stressful it is, how everyone else has it much better. But if you step into the life of someone you envy for just a day, you’ll discover that everyone has their own problems, and they’re usually worse than yours. Because your problems are designed specifically for you, with the specific purpose of helping you grow.
Coach Jones would constantly tell me not to be comfortable sitting on the bench. But he also refused to let me start out of pity. Instead, he tried to instill in me the will to do better, the will to win, and the will to work hard for all of it.
I was eventually able to understand that if someone was making fun of my height or clothing, they weren’t making fun of who I was.
That’s the power of addiction. It is stronger than family, honor, and morality.
THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE THINGS YOU’LL NEVER DO
I pumped my fist into the air and did a victory lap around the stage. It was the third time I’d ever performed, and I’d beat out all the veterans.
“I believe in supporting anything you tell me you want to do with your life.”
“But you’ve got one year to be productive and figure out how to take care of yourself this way. And if you can’t, you’re going back to school.”
“Whenever you can get ahold of a microphone and be around people, it’s an opportunity to hone your act,”
“Say something that matters, rather than stuff you think the crowd wants to hear, and you won’t go wrong—even if it doesn’t go over well. All that matters is you.”
NOT AFRAID TO BE AFRAID
“How you gonna get out of this maze if you don’t know that you’re in a maze?”
What is commitment? Here’s what it means to me: keeping the promises you make to yourself and to others.
The unsuccessful get halfway to the finish line, then turn around. The successful get halfway, then keep going. Both run the same distance, but only one makes it to the finish line.
“I don’t think stand-up comedy is for you. I didn’t get it. The jokes didn’t resonate for me.” I stared at him, dumbfounded. “I’ve been watching comedy for some time. I’ve seen the best of the best. I’ve seen them all, and I don’t see it in you.”
Maybe I just wasn’t the type of comic that he liked. Maybe he was having a bad day. He could have just said, “You’re not right for this club,” instead of saying, “Give it up forever.”
To succeed, you have to see how good you’re capable of becoming before anybody else sees it. I’m one of those people that see it, and that’s all you need: just a couple people backing you who believe in you.”
Have a man’s intuition about taking care of business and go do what you’re supposed to do, which is work on your shit.”
Some people make fun of you because it makes them feel better about themselves. Others make fun of you to make you a better person. These comedians all belonged to the latter category.
Sometimes I traveled seven hours to do a college show where no one laughed and I wasn’t paid. But not once could anyone say that I didn’t try.
I remembered that the point of doing an underground club was to learn to survive in any situation. And if I could survive this, then I could definitely survive anything.
The entertainer who chooses the easy road, lined with cheering fans offering flowers and likes, won’t survive when the terrain gets challenging. The entertainer who chooses the hard road, lined with jeering haters throwing chicken wings, not only learns to survive any terrain, but to run even the easy road better than the competition.
Fortunately, Dave didn’t call what I was doing shit. He called it craft. One of the great things about working with someone young is that they’re not jaded, bitter, or cynical.
“With me, there’s no paperwork. There’s no contract. There’s nothing binding you to me. We just shake hands. If you believe in the things I’m saying, let me show you what I can do. If, later on, you don’t feel like I’m doing enough for you or it’s not working out between us, you’re entitled to leave. It’s that simple.”
I didn’t even have to pay him: He just took a percentage of my pay for the work that he brought in.
“Just keep getting stronger in comedy. The best way to get the right people’s attention is to hone your craft. Your stand-up is going to open up all the doors you need.”
I walked out of his office into the busy, nobody-saying-hello, strangers-won’t-even-give-you-directions streets of New York
The only thing that changed after the meeting was that every week or two, Dave would call to check in and ask how things were going. It was nice to have someone whose job it was to care.
But there was one other thing that gave me the winning edge, and will always give you the winning edge: being likeable.
The toughest transition is the transition to understanding that being yourself is all you need to be.
A good mentor learns as much from teaching as the apprentice does from learning.
What they were laughing at was my reactions. The humor was in my uniqueness, my personality—not the way I saw life, but the way I did life.
It was a way to get comfortable with something that’s an uncomfortable experience for anyone: being judged.
If you wait for certainty, you will spend your whole life standing still.
To keep my New York edge, I began letting my friends from the Comedy Cellar crash at my place when they were in town performing or auditioning.
One of the reasons I was able to survive all the rejection was because it was so familiar from my childhood. Can I play with my friends? No. Can I go to a movie? No. Can I check out that party for just a few minutes? Hell no.
Though people say to live in the moment, each moment leads to other moments. So treat each moment like a seed, and care for it so that something beautiful can grow from it.
So what are you to do in the face of a reality that can be indifferent, cold, even cruel? All you can do is play the odds. If you choose to give up, you can be fairly certain that life will pass you by. But if you choose to try your best, you can at least tip the balance significantly in your favor.
I’d rather be performing for five dollars again than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.
If you experience loss, it doesn’t mean you lost. It means you’ve been blessed with an opportunity to take a moment, realize how special someone or something has been to you, and go through new doors that were closed to you before.
You become ready by experiencing it
I could overcome the stigma of being a proven failure by becoming too popular for the entertainment business to deny
But I was fine with this outcome, because by now, I’d come to accept that endurance is key. If I stayed persistent and on my grind, I would make it out of this hole and my dreams would come true. I just didn’t know when.
A good idea with bad communication is as useful as a phone with a dead battery.
Do your best, always. Because you never know who’s watching. As Curtis Mayfield once said, “It may not come when you want it to, but when it does, it’s right on time.”
I formed a production company, HartBeat Productions, and began working toward this new goal. You only learn by doing. Everyone’s inexperienced when they start anything new.
I wasn’t given the freedom to express myself and follow my instincts. I’d spent the last seven years on the road earning that freedom.
For most people, mixing desperation and decision-making is like mixing vodka and painkillers—a dangerous combination.
I tell my kids that working hard earns you the right to play hard. No matter what happened in this intense period of my life, work always came first. But just because you work smart doesn’t give you the right to play stupid. And I played stupid. Real stupid. I could have lost everything I’d worked for because of one mistake I kept making and not learning from.
I was an overnight success that was only sixteen years in the making.
How you handle rejection is very similar to how you’ll handle success. If you’re strong enough to handle rejection without taking it personally, without holding a grudge, and without losing your passion and drive, then you’ll be strong enough to reap the rewards. But if you’re too weak to handle failure and disappointment, then you’re too weak to handle success, which will only end up damaging your life and happiness.
“Nothing’s been given to us,” I explain. “Everything that we have came from hard work. You’re a part of it because you’re my kids, but when you’re no longer kids, it’s up to you to go get your own stuff. You don’t have to be your dad, but you’re gonna have your dad’s will and you’re gonna know that whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve.”
This book is not the story of my life—it is the story of my foundation. The construction of my life is still in progress.
I refuse to relax. I refuse to get comfortable. I refuse to sit down. (Okay, sometimes I sit down, but when I sit down, I’m still working.) I’m on a quest to find the ceiling of what’s possible in this life and raise it, so that my children and their children and their children’s children will look at my accomplishments and go, “Holy shit.” I’m chasing after that Holy Shit Effect.
Persistence: More than anything, my willingness to be persistent is responsible for the success I’ve had. My mindset is: It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to quit. Struggle, rejection, failure, and doubt break most people. Your goal is to learn from these challenges without letting them diminish your motivation. The secret to accomplishing this is simple: Let yourself be driven by your will to succeed rather than your fear of not succeeding.
Finally, thanks to you for reading this entire book, even the acknowledgments. Seems like you don’t want this story to end. Fortunately, it’s just the beginning . . .