When you open Kevin Hart’s new book I Can’t Make This Up, the first thing readers might notice is that the introduction is labeled “Mandatory.” The message is repeated in the first two sentences: “This introduction is mandatory. That means you have to read it.”
In this mandatory introduction, Hart introduces three words to readers that he explains are important for understanding the lessons he teaches in the book. They are as follows:
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Almost like a condensed version of the five stages of grief, repeating these three words became a recurring act in Hart’s tumultuous life, growing up poor and with a drug-addicted, unfaithful father. When it came to dealing with his struggles, he realized he had two choices: Cry about it and be bitter, or shrug, laugh it off, and press forward. He chose the latter. He couldn’t control what happened to him, but he could control his interpretation of those events.
Armed with a positive attitude and the unshakeable willpower nurtured (and sometimes beaten into) by his mother, Hart went on to become what he calls an overnight success 16 years in the making. He documents his journey in this pseudo-memoir, but more importantly, he highlights the life lessons he learned along the way.
Acceptance isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful tool in our arsenal
Every life comes with its share of obstacles, and Kevin Hart is no stranger to struggle. However, he acknowledges that he wouldn’t be who he is today without those struggles. For every time he’s fallen or been knocked down, he’s gotten up again, armed with a better understanding of himself and a greater appreciation for the positives in his life, even if they didn’t seem positive at the time.
Hart also learned over time to appreciate even the darkest parts of his life because they made him who he is now. When he decided he didn’t want to live with his overbearing and strict mother anymore, she dropped him off at his father’s apartment without arguing, much to his surprise. At first, he was elated at the idea of a life free from his mother’s tight schedules and harsh discipline.
However, once he arrived at his father’s apartment, he immediately realized he’d made a mistake. His father lived in squalor, surrounded by strangers. His tiny apartment was littered with garbage, animal feces, and drug and alcohol paraphernalia, and stank of cigarette smoke. His father’s rule of not having rules had resulted in filth and chaos beyond what Hart could have imagined. He moved back in with his mother the next day.
Stay faithful and finish what you start
As he got older, he realized that excessive discipline and strict schedule his mother kept him on had morphed into valuable life skills that serve him in his often-chaotic career. She taught him the importance of working hard, staying faithful, and finishing what you start.
His father was also a valuable source of wisdom. He taught him the importance of staying away from drugs, learning from others’ mistakes, and the power of acceptance. Hart couldn’t control when his father came home, bleeding from a head wound that had come from someone attacking him with an axe. He couldn’t control the response of his audiences. He couldn’t control when his mom passed away. In other words, he couldn’t control the “Huh? What?” moments of his life.
He could, however, acknowledge that those things happened, work to “Okay,” and keep moving forward.
Being able to shrug off the hard parts of his life also helped Hart’s career. When first starting out, he made up most of his jokes and got lukewarm responses from audiences. However, when he started drawing from his real-life experiences—even the nastier parts, like his toxic relationship with his first wife—his popularity started to skyrocket. People responded to his authenticity and candor, as well as his ability to keep smiling in the face of tragedy.
Get to “Okay”
Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Other times, terrible things will simply happen beyond our control. Life has too many variables for one person to control all its aspects. Eventually, we all meet situations that leave us scratching our heads and asking, “Huh? What?”
When we find ourselves in those situations, we have two options: Deny that it’s happening and face the consequences of refusing to acknowledge the problem, or say “Okay,” and move forward. What will you do?