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Fear of Death and the Unknown: What ‘Will Smith’s Bucket List’ Teaches Us About Eternity?

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Mortality. We fear it daily, but we never focus on how powerful we can be when we conquer our deepest fears. Will Smith takes a look at just that in his new series, "Will Smith's Bucket List."


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Will Smith and his family, including his wife, son and mother-in-law, gathered excitedly after safely landing from a skydiving expedition. They were laughing and talking together about how it felt to jump out of a plane and freefall towards earth, when they noticed Will’s father-in-law who was just landing had lost consciousness. They would later find out that he had a mild heart attack during the jump and needed to be hospitalized overnight.

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Mortality. We fear it daily, but we never focus on how powerful we can be when we conquer our deepest fears.

Will Smith’s Bucket List has a simple concept—conquer your fears. Fears come in many different forms and they don’t always mean placing yourself in a life-threatening or risky situation. In this series, which can be found on Facebook Watch, you find a beautiful exhibit of Will Smith looking inward, past the surface level of his fears and digging deeper to explore how to conquer them.

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His fear of attempting stand-up comedy wasn’t about not being funny or entertaining enough, it was a confrontation of his addiction to adoration and caring too much about what others thought of him. His journey to complete a half marathon was a therapeutic endeavor to keep his body conditioned and his mind strong when the recent death of his father led him down a not only emotional, but existential road that reminded him of his own mortality.

While watching the series and doing my best not to smile any time I heard Smith’s infectious laugh, I started to realize Smith’s bucket list is so much more than a list of a few risky or unexpected things he wanted to accomplish. It was a search for deeper meaning and connection to his inner self and those important to him. In episode two Smith says, “I’ve achieved everything I’ve ever dreamed and the major thing that I’m still seeking is [that] I know there’s more than that and I know that my fear of the unknown is keeping me from that divine wisdom.”

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Will consulted experts in the fields he was facing. Among these experts were the familiar faces of Laird Hamilton, professional surfer and endurance specialist, comedian Dave Chappelle and Formula One race car driver, Lewis Hamilton. When diving with sharks, he consulted Paul De Gelder, an ex-Australian Army paratrooper and Navy clearance diver turned professional shark diver. De Gelder, who lost two limbs to a shark attack while doing a counterterrorism exercise, explained to Smith that during the shark attack his fear was not of the shark that was attacking him, but of death and the unknown. Once he came face to face with that fear, he came to the realization that there was actually nothing left to fear.

When you’re not afraid to die, you’re no longer afraid to live. —Will Smith

Step out of your comfort zone. Set a goal that you normally wouldn’t. And if you don’t achieve that goal, don’t fret, instead, look at the lesson you learned and how much you achieved by setting that goal. Let go of all of your fears and have complete trust in your ability. Look inward and dig deeper. As Smith said shortly after his father-in-law was hospitalized following their skydiving expedition, “you [have to] live a certain way, you [have to] live a way that is most unique and organic for you, because you never know.”