The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Kevin Hart — The Unstoppable Combination of Positivity and Relentless Improvement (#435)

Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Kevin Hart (@kevinhart4real), one of Hollywood’s box office powerhouses, opening ten films as the number-one movie on opening weekend. Kevin’s memoir, I Can’t Make This Up, debuted at number one on The New York Times Best-Seller List and remained in the top 10 of the Print Hardcover Best-Seller List for ten weeks straight. The Decision: Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success—an Audible Original launching May 21st and a follow-up to his memoir—helps people get mentally fit using the same tools and rules he’s developed to elevate his own life. 

Kevin can next be seen in Sony’s Fatherhooda movie that he is not only starring in but also producing through his production company, Hartbeat Productions. He most recently starred in the Sony franchise Jumanji: The Next Level. In 2019, Hart reprised his role as the white-haired rabbit, Snowball, in Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets 2Before that, Hart starred in STX Entertainment’s The Upside alongside Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman. In 2018, Hart co-wrote, produced, and starred in Universal’s Night School, all under Hartbeat Productions. 

His last live stand-up comedy tour, “The Irresponsible Tour,” was released as a Netflix Original Stand-Up Special in April 2019.  

Transcripts make contain a few typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can also watch the interview on YouTube.

#435: Kevin Hart — Life Lessons from a Comedic Powerhouse
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Tim Ferriss: Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin Hart: Yes, sir. Thank you, man. Thanks for having me.

Tim Ferriss: I thought we would start with a quote from a mutual friend. I won’t mention his name unless you want to mention it. But I asked him about you and he said, “You are the person he would most like to be like.”

Kevin Hart: Wow.

Tim Ferriss: Coming from him, that is very strong praise. He knows a lot of people. He suggested that I learn more about your mother.

Kevin Hart: Wow.

Tim Ferriss: I have done a whole lot of homework, and I feel like she was a very powerful influence in your life. I’d love to just hear you describe your mother and your relationship with her, if we could.

Kevin Hart: Cool, cool. Who is the friend? Do I get to know who the friend was, or not?

Tim Ferriss: It’s Neil.

Kevin Hart: Oh, Neil? Okay.

Tim Ferriss: Yes.

Kevin Hart: My mother. God, where do you want me to start about my mom? That’s my reason for the way that I move at the level that I move, and how I move. I think I can just sum it up for you in a nice nutshell to where it’s not the longest run-on sentence that you’ve ever heard. Just one of the most determined and strong-willed individuals to ever walk the earth. She was someone that just wanted to always improve.

Wasn’t content with just being complacent in a position because this is the position that I’m given or that I have. Was always searching for the next set. So whether it was in education, whether it was in health, whether it was in family, it was always trying to figure out how to improve when most would be okay with just being okay.

We didn’t live a lavish lifestyle, we didn’t come from money. We were poor. We had enough to eat and she put clothes on my back, but that’s about it. We didn’t live an astronomical life. And the extra money that she did have, she poured into extracurricular activities for me. Her priority was her kids, and it showed. Where some mistakes were made, fixes were immediately figured out and implemented on the next child.

So it’s a woman that I have so much respect for, and admire. But she’s basically the definition of my mindset. It comes from my mom.

Tim Ferriss: I was spending a lot of time exploring your mindset. I’ve followed you for a long time, but I wanted to dig into your books and your writing. Obviously, a lot of what you’ve done in terms of interviews. In the back of your book, I Can’t Make This Up, subtitled Life Lessons, there is a beautiful little chapter called The Blueprint. I want to just read a paragraph from that and give people a taste because I think it speaks to what we’re discussing.

It says, “Life is like a pack of cards. There are 52 cards in the deck, but only four of them are aces. The goal of life is to make your way through a crowded deck where the odds are stacked against you and draw an ace. Looking back over decades covered in this book, I’ve picked out eight qualities that put me in a position to draw aces. These characteristics won’t work alone. Like a recipe, they only create success when combined together in just the right amounts.”

So I’m just going to list them real quick and then I want to dig into one. You have persistence, patience, class, commitment, learning, passion-centered competitiveness, positivity, and discomfort. I want to talk about positivity, or hear you talk about positivity. Because for instance, I was reading a piece in Variety that seemed to indicate that you are a master of managing energy and avoiding energy leaks.

For instance, the decision to allow your children to get to know their grandfather, your father. The quote that stuck out to me was, “It takes too much time and energy to keep hate alive.” For those people who don’t know, your father was an addict. You’ve spoken about him publicly before, a contentious relationship. How have you developed that positivity? Was that mostly from your mom? How do you think about that?

Kevin Hart: Well, when you come from the bottom, and when you work your way up to the place that some people refer to as the top, what do I have to be angry about? What do I have to really bitch and complain about, and harp on? I really do come from nothing. I’m a part of a very small percentage. In understanding that and knowing that, the things that are supposed to act as triggers to things that are supposed to be life-changing, threatening, altering, are just lessons. It’s just education. It’s stories, for lack of a better word.

You’ve got an amazing story under your belt, and I don’t choose to stay in one particular paragraph of my story. It’s a long story. The life is as long as, of course, we are all given the chance for it to be, because that’s something that we have no control. We only try to enhance the opportunity of longevity or success. We don’t have no control. You can walk outside and something could happen. Boom, and that’s it. So I just have a realistic approach and understanding to that.

I come from nothing; I got something. I’m appreciative of my something. I don’t look at this something as if I’m supposed to have it because that’s not how it works. I’m very fortunate and blessed too. It could all go away. If it did and I had to start all over again, that’s life. I don’t harp on it. I don’t bitch and complain about the things that I can’t change. And the things that you can change, why spend time bitching if you’re going to change it?

When you look at, for example, the relationship with me and my father, did my father fuck up? Yeah. Did my father get himself clean and straight? Yeah. Does my father feel bad about some of the stuff that he did? Yeah. Could you still be angry at the lack of parenting that was done, or the time that was spent? Yeah. But why? It doesn’t change it. It doesn’t change anything that happened. It doesn’t make it right.

That anger that you’re giving off into that, it’s not going to change these things, so that’s energy that I feel like I can put into something else. That’s energy that I feel like I can get a lot more use out of that energy that would have been negative, by finding a way to say, you know what? I do forgive you and I mean that. And that life now hopefully, is better for us. If it’s not, I know that it’s not because of me.

I don’t like putting myself in a position to easily be affected. I think life is too short. It’s too short, and if you just spend time being affected all the fucking time, those are tough days, man. If you’re bothered all the time, there’s a lot of shit to be bothered about the day. You’re going to be bothered by a lot of shit. If you’re the person that’s really bothered, then how pleasant are you to be around?

If there’s just so much anger and so much negative energy, I just choose the opposite — direct and approach. That doesn’t make me perfect. I’m nowhere near perfect. I’ve fucked up, I’ve done stupid shit and I’ve apologized. If those apologies can be accepted, then great. It’s fantastic. If they can’t, well, I can’t do anything about that. I can’t put any more energy into the things that I’ve tried to do or make right. If you choose to still feel a certain way, God bless you. I’m going to keep living. That’s my attitude.

Tim Ferriss: It seems like you’ve practiced this consistently over time. Then when you run into something like the catastrophic car accident you had not terribly long ago, could you speak to not being able to put on your socks, and what your self-talk was like? What are you saying to yourself in your own head when you’re experiencing something like that?

Kevin Hart: That’s when you truly realize that you’re not in control. Right now, I said that to you, that’s because I really understand that. But there was a moment where I lost sight of reality, you feel like you are. You’re not in control, but you feel like you are. I can make this happen, I’ll do this. I’ll get this, easy. I’ll get it done. I got it, I’ll do it. I’m at it, I’m going to work hard. I’m going to do it.

I, I, I, I, I. Everything is I, I, I, and you get lost in that. You really do get lost in that. For me, that car accident was much more than any and everybody can see. For me, that car accident, it was a reason to sit down and really process what’s around me. And by what’s around me, the things that only matter, and that was my wife and my kids, my family. All of the things that I put the significant value and tremendous amount of — I’m going to call them — you put the things that come with success on a pedestal for a minute. The things that you feel you need, and the things that you feel you have to have.

But when life hits you with a real curveball and you’re in that room with four walls, none of that stuff that you thought was important, or that you thought you needed, is ever brought up in conversation. When it comes to life, when it comes to health, when it comes to an emotional support, none of it is materialistic. It’s all person to person. And when it was my wife and my brother and my kids, and we were just in this hospital room, that gave me a different look and insight into life. So it made me shoulder shrug negative shit even more.

I already had no tolerance or patience for negativity. I already was a guy that never feeded into the world of nonsense, and it’s something that I pride myself for. But then after this, it was even more. I don’t have time to be upset. Even if I am upset, I’m going to figure out what I can do to make this better. I don’t have time to do that. It’s not valuable.

Tim Ferriss: One of the things that most fascinates me about you, and this has shown up over and over again in what I’ve read in preparation for this, also what I see is that you have, say, as one of the aces so to speak, you have discomfort. Never being complacent. If you want to get far in life, you never get too comfortable. Don’t stop, don’t rest, don’t be satisfied.

I’ve heard that when you hit these various pinnacles of success in different areas, that one of the first questions you ask is, what’s next? Where do we go from here? And yet, for instance, Neil, I asked him, I said, “Do you think that he is genuinely happy?” He said, “He is. From what I can tell, he’s a genuinely happy guy.” And in my experience of interviewing high performers, those two don’t always go together.

You find people who are never able to appreciate what’s in front of them, or to rest from home because they’re constantly focused on what’s in the future, what’s next. How do you combine those in the sense of appreciating what you have, but still, deliberately building in discomfort, or not getting too comfortable and looking forward? How do you think about that?

Kevin Hart: Well, you’ve got BA and AA. So you’ve before accident, after accident.

Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kevin Hart: Before accident, that engine ran. That engine is still running. I can’t sit up here and act as if it’s not. I’m just an ambitious person, and I’m in love with understanding the definition of history. What fascinates me is when you watch something from the past that’s attached to an individual or a person in a monumental moment in history, that’s fascinating.

This man walked on the moon, on this date, such and such. A regular guy who wanted to be an astronaut was the first man to ever walk on the moon. And for years after his life is over, it’s a discussion. It’s a discussion, it’s information that people need to know. That’s fascinating to me.

Right now, we’re in a pandemic. Our world has been hit with a catastrophic stomach punch that’s put us all in a position where the economy is dropped. And we have been put on quarantine, huh? And we’re home for how long? Now it’s going to be this long? This is history. This moment in time will be talked about 30 to 40 years as one of the worst things to hit the globe. When COVID and X, Y, and Z, and check, it’s history.

So my hard work in my craft and my hard work is for me playing the game in my head of, “Are you going to be a conversation attached to history? How long will the work that you put in be a discussion? Are people going to one day look back and say things about the things that you did? And if they do, what would it be?” I like not knowing it, but I like knowing that I put a lot of shit in that conversation. I like knowing that you’re going to have a lot of shit to talk about whether you like it or not, because I’m in love with just doing that.

I’m in love with the resume, I’m in love with the boxes that can be checked off, I’m in love with the thought of success, and more importantly, the benefit that comes from hard work. I’m in love with being a testament to the conversation as preached to so many that some don’t necessarily know if it’s true. I’m a product of truth, I’m a product of hard work pays off. I like that.

I like the fact that that was instilled in me, and I didn’t get it, but now I do get it. And it’s thank you, Mom, at the highest level. I like the fact that my kids get to see me operate, and that I get to talk and communicate with them. And whether they do it like I do or not, it’s embedded in them. It’ll kick in somewhere, in something. It’ll kick in, whether they like it or not. It’s embedded in you. So my joy definitely comes from being able to see the benefits of my work, and being able to create a story that can possibly be talked about years after I’m here. For me, that’s a happy place. And if and when I decided to not do it anymore, I’m happy with that decision.

After my accident, it did make me say, “Let’s be conscious of your family. Let’s make sure that we put the time and energy into this, that matches the time and energy that I’m putting into that.” This should never outweigh that. There was a moment where I was guilty of that, and the accident made me realized that.

So Kevin, you make sure that if you go on at 1,000 percent over here, you don’t come back at 900. You better match that 1,000 on both sides, and that’s why I’m much more conscious. I’ve always been a great family guy, a great dad, minus my fucking bumps in the road of just stupidity. But I’m a good dad; that’s never going to be compromised. Never. Never going to fucking be compromised.

Tim Ferriss: It seems like you have done an excellent, consistent job of cultivating your physical vehicle for giving 100 percent in many areas of your life. Has that always been the case? When did that start for you?

Kevin Hart: I would say for me, I don’t understand how you do something halfway. I did that through high school, and doing that, I saw the instant consequence. There was a moment where after high school where my friends went on and they started going to college, and I was the guy that didn’t even know that we applied. I didn’t know we was applying to college, you want a job. I thought that we were just playing all this time. Where are you all going?

What was the joke to me was never a joke to anybody else. I was the only one that the joke was being played on. So when I thought we were hooking and are cutting class, well, I thought we all weren’t going to work. I thought we all were getting by and just fucking off opportunities. Oh, it’s just me. Oh, you all have been doing your work this whole time? Oh, fuck. Huh. Wow.

University of, university of, university of — I was the only jackass that was going to community college. And that’s not to take a shot at anybody that’s going to community college, because those colleges are available for a reason. I was the only jackass that didn’t have a plan because I thought that was the cool thing to do. So I saw what not working hard got me.

I didn’t take my SAT. I did abracadabra going down guessing at it, because I thought that’s what we all were doing because we were hooking in class to go. I was the only dickhead that did it the other way, so that joke was on me. That to me, that was an eye-opener, man. Well, if I’m going to do something I should never do it halfway. That means that if I do want to do it that way, I just shouldn’t do it.

Am I going to do it to show what I can do the best? Then why am I doing it? If you ask me to come work out and you want me to come work out, and I bullshit the workout, why did I go work out? If you ask me to come see a movie and I go to sleep as soon as I get in there, well, why did I go to the movie? Why didn’t I just say I want to stay home? If you ask me to go and get up early with you so we can go look at these apartments or housing complexes, and I get down there and I’ve just got a negative attitude, why the fuck did I go?

What I’ve learned and how I operate is that you’re in so much control of yourself that it’s ridiculous. And sometimes it’s easy to put out excuses for yourself that make sense to you. We all know the fucking truth. We all know if we’re giving 100 percent. If we’re not, we all know. If you tell me to “Go outside and pick up the dog shit,” my wife tells me every morning, I don’t want to go out there and pick the dog shit. But I get up and do it. If I go out there and I take two steps, and I’m like, “Man, it’s too early, I’ll do this shit later,” then that means that I’m already compromising an action that I said I was going to do, that I’m not.

If I say I want to do something, I’m going to do it. If I don’t say it, don’t expect it from me. I never put my foot in my mouth, but why do you expect me to go do that? I never said I would do that. That’s the one power that I have. That’s the one thing that can never be taken from me. When I say I’m going to do, I do. And if I do do something that puts me in a position to be scolded because my actions weren’t correct, then I’ve got to stand up, and I’ve got to say that too.

“Hey, I said I was going to do X, Y, and Z. I didn’t do it.” I’ve got to wear that hat. Hit me with the stupid stick or the dummy hat, scold me, whatever you’ve got to do. I fucked up. I, out loud, said that I would do, and I didn’t. For that, I’m wrong. That’s the difference. That’s what I’m okay with. I’m okay with standing in the shit and smelling it if I have to. I’ll try my best to avoid it, but I’m not perfect. So if there’s ever a moment where that happens and it has to happen, well, I’m going to own it. But as I’ve gotten older, my word’s become more my bond.

“Hey, Kevin, man, I want you to come talk to these kids.” “Man, look, there’s a group of kids — ” “Hey, I can’t do that. Not because of the kids; I’m tired. Let’s find another time where I can.” There was a time back in the day Kevin would talk to — yeah, I forgot, and you can’t get me on the phone. Well, why did I say I could do it? I’ve learned from that. I don’t play those games. So if I say you’re going to get me, you’re going to get 100 percent of me. If I don’t feel like I can, then I’m not going to say it.

Tim Ferriss: Do you have other ways of saying no that you use as the default language, or anything like that? Because people see what you do. You have so much in the air and you’re getting so much done, but they don’t see the thousands of things that you say no to.

Kevin Hart: I can say right now, I am so honest right now. I’m so honest that it’s ridiculous. Right now, I am no. Kevin, can you do this? Absolutely not, no. I’m 40 years old. What do I got to beat around the bush for? No. Why? I just don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that. I shouldn’t have to explain why I don’t want to do something. I shouldn’t have to explain. That’s the thing that people have to overcome.

There’s a portion of life that you go through where you feel guilty for saying that you don’t want to do certain things. That’s not fair because when you do want to do things, it’s celebrations and it’s happy times. Because you’re allowed to not want to do. You’re allowed the option to say no. You say no to things that work for you, then good for you. You can be saying no to opportunity for all I know.

You’re allowed the option to say no and to not want to participate, or not want to do. That’s your choice in anything. I know that and I make sure that I use my nose wisely. There’s a lot of yeses. So when there is a no, understand that.

For example, I love my fans. I love my fans, I take pictures with fans all the time. I go back and forth for fans all the time. I make myself available before red carpets, after carpets. Movie premiers, not movie premiers, I’m out and about. I see them, stop, talk, pictures, videos. But if I’m with my kids, no. “Kevin can you — ” I said, no. I shouldn’t have to explain to you I’m with my family. I shouldn’t have to do that. I’m entitled to no.

That’s why you got two options. You got yes or no. Now you throw maybe in there, that’s your choice. I’m, is it yes or no? So, as you get older, you start to see that a little more clear, and I joke around about it, but it’s so true. You ever noticed how direct and honest old people are?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, for sure.

Kevin Hart: Have you ever noticed an old person does not waste time? No, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” No, “Get your ass up out of here.” Whatever it is, it’s direct because they don’t have the time. They don’t have the time to play those games. I don’t either. I don’t play those games anymore.

Tim Ferriss: One thing that you seem very good at is long-term investments and thinking, and I’ll give a few examples of that. If you look at the path of Kevin, which I’ve done to get ready for this conversation, I noticed these seemingly little things. For instance, you go from community college to, as I understand it, selling shoes, open mics. Eventually, you’re hitting the road and touring, gathering email addresses. You have your people putting cards on tables, you’re sowing the seeds of tremendous things later.

What I’d love to hear you maybe discuss a little bit is, how do you choose your opportunities so that they’re steps up and not steps sideways, or steps backwards? Because you have a lot thrown at you. How do you think about that strategically? Or how do you think about it at all?

Kevin Hart: Well, I think when you’re talking about opportunities in general, the best part about opportunities are figuring out what makes them an amazing opportunity for you. I think you’re extremely lucky if you’re doing something you love. If you’re doing something that may not necessarily be your passion, but it’s a job, the trick is to find out how to make this thing become a bigger thing for you, so that you’re able to go and do what you want to do. How do we use the things in life that are thrown at us as stepstones or baby pathways to the ultimate road?

For me, my tunnel vision is ridiculous. So if life was like if you could compare it to, let’s call it an Indy 500. These guys in race cars, when they’re racing in cars, they’re never looking right in front of them. They’re way up in the road. Before they make a turn, they’re looking at the time after that time to decide how to handle this turn, so that when they come out that turn, they’re on a straightaway already as to how they’re going to come out. You have to have vision that’s in front. That’s at least set as a goal, as a destination of where you’re trying to get. And once you get there, you can reassess.

The opportunities that I have were ones that were wanted back when? I want to be a standup comedian. Now I’m a standup comedian, I want to make sure that I’m telling jokes that can allow me to travel the globe one day. I want to make everybody laugh. If I can make everybody laugh, I will travel the globe. If I get the opportunity to travel the globe, that gives me the opportunity to start on that journey of making the world laugh. Opportunity one is getting to a position to perform outside of the US. That will be massive.

What’s my first opportunity? Doing something that’s considered international. What is it? Where does this exist? My first time going to Canada I didn’t know what to expect, because I’m a guy from North Philadelphia. What language do they speak? What’s going to happen? Jesus Christ. What’s going to happen when I’m here? I just land in fucking Canada. Oh, my God. “Hi, how are you? I’m looking for this hotel!” “Why are you yelling, sir?” Oh, English. He speaks English.

Whoa, I performed in Canada and people laughed. Is it like this everywhere? I go to London, holy fuck, I’m in London for the first time. Oh, my God, people speak English. I’m making people laugh in London. Oh, my God, the opportunity that I was talking about is now happening. It’s a reality. Man, what doors can comedy open up? Well, comedy got me to acting.

Eddie Murphy was a comedian, he started acting. How did he do it? What if I got it in me? Oh, my God, it got me the opportunity to act. Oh, my God, now that I’m acting, what if I can figure out an opportunity to create? Oh, my God, I created and showed me that you can write. Oh, my God, what if writing creates more opportunities? Holy fuck, that’s how you produce. Now I’m producing. Oh, my God, what if I can direct? Oh, shit.

Then you look all the way back behind you, it all started off with the goal of doing comedy. But the opportunities kept getting bigger because you kept looking past the first opportunity at what the what if was. That doesn’t mean that you’re not respecting the thing that you’re doing, it just means that you’re realizing why you should do this well. That’s what I do. So my tunnel vision is ridiculous. I’m always down the street no matter what.

Have you ever played Monopoly, and there’s a person that you play with? They’ll get the worst property on the game, and people go, “Why the fuck are you buying that?” Ugh, Baltic Avenue. Mediterranean? Yeah, I did. It’s the cheapest one, but I’m going to put all my houses and then put those in the hotels, and it’s cheaper. I now have money left. And hopefully, if I’m making money on this, I can go and get some of the nicer stuff.

I can go and get maybe the Boardwalks or maybe the Ventnors. Maybe some of the other more expensive, but I want to get my money right first, because I don’t have enough. Then you’ve got the people that go right and go, “Buy Boardwalk,” and then they’re stuck with $200 or $300 after. And they’re trying to figure out how to get houses, but they can’t really afford the thing they bought because they didn’t have a plan. There’s other people that put a plan together, that they’re trying to execute that can get them to the place that they want to be. I’m the guy with the plan, and whether I get there or not, I’m executing something that I’m vetting out. You know what I mean?

Tim Ferriss: I do.

Kevin Hart: I’m vetting it out and I’m trying my best to get there by checking all these boxes and building an amazing team around me of people that are more than qualified to help me on this journey. So it doesn’t become a Kevin-did-it thing, it becomes a we-did-it thing. Then before you know it, you change lives, and now you’re able to have a major impact not just with laughter, not just by providing content, but now you’re providing jobs, opportunities. Now you’re providing dreams, hope. It’s a bigger story to it. There’s a bigger story, there’s a bigger understanding.

Tim Ferriss: I would definitely want to talk about stories and storytelling. But before we get there, you were talking about this macro planning, vetting, and looking at opportunities. I’d love to look at the micro for a second. What does, say, the first 90 minutes of your day look like? Are there any components or routines that are particularly important to you in the first hour or two of your day?

Kevin Hart: 90 minutes of my day?

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, an hour or two, if there’s anything that is a constant for you.

Kevin Hart: The one thing that never changes is my workout regimen. I’m up at six. Well, since we’ve been quarantined, I’ve been working 7:00 a.m. every day. But before this, if I’m out and I’m working, I’m up at five, in the gym and very consistent about that. I don’t sway with it that. It’s how I start any and every day, and I’m just heavily into taking care of me. I’ve got a lot of people that depend on me. There are a lot of people that I feel need me, and also, that I need in return, but I can’t be the best version of myself if I’m not taking care of myself.

Tim Ferriss: What are some of the in your mind — because you’ve exercised a long time and very consistently, so you’ve had a chance to test a lot. What are some of the best bang for the buck exercises if you could only take a handful with you? Do any come to mind?

Kevin Hart: Nothing beats push-ups and sit-ups. I don’t care whether you’re at a gym or not. Push-ups, sit-ups, can’t beat that.

Tim Ferriss: That’s the core.

Kevin Hart: That’s the core. You can’t beat that. Ever.

Tim Ferriss: With stories and storytelling, what strikes me is you’re a student of history. You’re looking at what can become stories that are told decades, maybe 100 years after they happen. And you are in some respects, it strikes me, making your mark with an incredible gift and honed talent of storytelling when I watch you perform.

What makes a good storyteller? Are there any particular people you consider good storytellers? I know you’ve cited the Bible. There are certain stories that are more compelling than others, and certain storytellers. Are there any storytellers who stand out to you?

Kevin Hart: Minus what’s going on in the personal life of this individual, Cosby is probably one of the best storytellers within the profession of comedy. Like I said, making sure that it’s separate from — 

Tim Ferriss: Of course,

Kevin Hart: — this stuff. Eddie Murphy, amazing storyteller. Dave Chappelle, an amazing storyteller. You’re looking at people that have very unique styles and approaches to the craft of storytelling. Those are my favorites, and I’m going to tell you who else. He’s one of the best, or was one the best at storytelling. Bernie Mac.

Tim Ferriss: Bernie Mac, definitely.

Kevin Hart: Bernie Mac. Bernie Mac could tell a story, and I love it. I love the idea of telling a story. I love the idea of grabbing someone’s attention and holding that attention, and a person going on levels with you until the end. And at the end of it, getting an amazing payoff to where it’s like, “Oh, my God, I didn’t even see that coming. That’s crazy.” There’s something special about that. I’ve always been a fan of it. It’s a craft and a talent that I try my best to hone and work on.

Tim Ferriss: I want to talk about The Decision. This is an Audible Original, The Decision, and the subtitle is Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success. It seems like this had been in the works for a very long time, and then the launch got accelerated because there are certain things that you can’t do right now with COVID and quarantine. But there are things that you can do, like utilize audio. Could you speak to why you decided to push this forward now, and why you did it in the first place?

Kevin Hart: Well, I said basically right now, I think the crazy thing within the time is that you’re realizing the need behind content. You see what people gravitate towards when times are tough. There’s an escape that comes with good content. You’re able to get lost in something good.

I remember when this first hit and Ozark had came on, the season was available and I was like, I’m going to watch Ozark. I sat and I watched Ozark and for that time, I just enjoyed a good show. A good show was enough. It was enough for me and it motivated me. After watching, I was like, “I’ve got to get up and I’ve got to write. I’ve got to write, I’ve got to create. I’ve got to write.” Watching that show made me do that.

Now of course, this is my profession, this is what I do, so it’s where I can grab energy from. But there’s content all around that can amplify a person’s mood. There’s different types of content that’s good for whomever. You know what I mean?

Tim Ferriss: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kevin Hart: It’s a lot that you can go out and grab or read or see. It’s just a lot. So I told my team, I was like, “This is a perfect time just for me to release The Decision.” The reason why is because it’s not just informative, but it’s mental fitness. And when our mental is getting tugged on, just having information can be key. It’s just information. My way of thinking isn’t the right way for everybody. I don’t claim that, I don’t stand on that. It’s not my way or the highway. I’m just giving you an option. I’m just sharing wholeheartedly.

What has helped me in life and what has helped get me to this place, and how my thinking and thought process have played a major part, and I want to give you guys this information. You may gravitate towards it, you may not, but I’m going to give it to you in a way that nobody else can. I’m giving it to you with personality, I’m giving it to you with real-life situations attached, that you can look up and see, and I’m giving it to you from a guy’s perspective that has results.

So it’s not as if there aren’t any results in my way of thinking and in my way of decision making. You see what the results are, which is why I feel like the information is valuable. Guy, there’s chapters on positivity, there’s chapters on negativity, there’s chapters on cowboying up, there’s chapters on shoulder shrugging. There’s chapters on things that we overlook that are so small that I’ve made big.

A shoulder shrug is a motherfucker, man. The ability to shrug your shoulders, it can mean so many things. Shrugging your shoulders can mean I don’t care. You mean, I don’t know. Well, it can mean, oh, well, it is what it is. That ability to shoulder shrug, that’s a major thing. Because that’s also the ability to move on. That’s also the ability to go, “Well, I guess I got to keep going.” A shoulder shrug that’s what it is.

It can be taken as nonchalant, it can be taken as passive, it can be taken as so many different things. But nine times out of a 10 after shoulder shrug, you’re going to keep going. And these are the things that I’ve broken down in this Audible Original. It’s me giving you just a different way of seeing things, a different insight.

Tim Ferriss: And your memoir, if we describe it as that, I Can’t Make This Up, was extremely popular on audio. And is the way to think about this new Audible Original, I think the subtitle describes it well, Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success, a description of your tools and principles? Is it a distilled collection of your tools and tactics? Is that one way to think about it if people are wondering how it contrasts to I Can’t Make This Up?

Kevin Hart: I can say for me what I really, really love is when you look in my first book, Life Lessons, I really broke down my life in great detail. I just gave the stories of where I’ve come from and how I got to here, and major success. People loved it. They loved the honesty that came with it, and they just loved the stories. They loved hearing about my father, my mother, my brother. They just loved the overall story.

In this one, I wanted to go a step further because what I realized was I am privy to a lot of information, and I’m privy to a lot of different environments. I’ve been a sponge and I’ve soaked up so much information. Outside of my wife and kids, and some of my closest friends, am I just taking this information with me? 

What I’ve found is for me right now, if I were just to go and take all the information that I had, and just keep it and put in my pocket, that’s selfish. That’s extremely fucking selfish to not share. To not share any of this, I look at it as very selfish on my part. That’s why I want to share, I want to give information. But this information is to really help you understand how to maneuver in the BS that we all go through. And there’s people that really struggle with a lot of the BS that we go through.

There’s a real struggle that comes with thought process, with decision making, with do I make a right, do I make a left? There’s a real struggle that goes with that, and it just comes from lack of knowledge, or from thinking that you’re alone and that nobody else is the way you or thinks like you think. I can go down a list of things. When you’re able to open up and talk about things that most people don’t in such an honest way, it acts as a bonus.

There’s a piece in there where I’m talking about social media and how social media has been such a gift and a curse. I’ve been on the side of the gift. I’ve been on the side of the gift, it allowed me to connect and touch base with my fans in a way that I never thought that I would be able to. Then there’s this dark side to it that’s reared its head. And that dark side, just seems like it’s negative. But it only seems that way because there’s something in us as people to be attracted to the negative. We’re attracted to bullshit for some reason.

If there’s a story about a man that saved a kid, and at the same time, a story gets posted about a woman that cut her husband’s dick off, you’re going to forget about the man that saved the kid. Everybody is running to the story about the woman that cut her husband’s dick off. Nobody can answer that question of why. You can’t tell me why, but it’s true. It’s what we gravitate towards as people, so that’s why the Internet seems like a hub for negativity.

The news is on every night. There’s always a good story on the news, but you can’t tell me what it is. But you can tell me about all the people that got shot. You can tell me about the store that got robbed. You can’t tell me the good story. You can’t highlight the things of good, it’s because the volume is turned down. And that’s because we choose not to turn it up. So it’s not until you realize that, “Hey, you know what? I’m looking at this thing, man. There’s a lot of negative comments on here.” Well, how many of the positive ones did you actually see?

Tim Ferriss: Right.

Kevin Hart: Did you give that same attention? These are things that I’m given, and it all goes back to The Decision. There’s a decision that I’m making to speak on or to amplify what can be perceived as bullshit or negativity. I’m making the decision not to give the same energy and effort to the thing of positive. It’s there, but I’m making a decision to not realize it or see it.

I have tons, tons of this in this Audible Original, cowboying up. You make the decision to sit and bitch about what you can’t change. We talked about it earlier. That’s a decision. Or you can make the decision to say, you know what, I’m going to cowboy up. Cowboy up is a term. It’s a term that anybody can use, and cowboy up just means I’m going to strap on my boots and I’m going to get back to work. That’s it.

That work can mean anything. It can mean life, it can mean family, it can mean humanitarian work. Whatever that thing is, I’m not going to let the problems weigh me down to where I stop doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m going to make the decision to continue and keep going.

Tim Ferriss: The Decision, as you’ve mentioned, an Audible Original.

Kevin Hart: Yes.

Tim Ferriss: Releasing May 21st, Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success. I’ve been fascinated in the process of getting to know you through research for this conversation, and I’m excited to see it come out, and listen to it, I suppose more accurately. And people can find you, of course, you’re not hard to find on Instagram @kevinhart4real, the number four. On Facebook, that’s hartkevin and then on Twitter, same as Instagram, @kevinhart4real.

Kevin, is there anything else you would like to share before we wrap up? Any words of wisdom, favorite quotes, things you live your life by? Anything else?

Kevin Hart: You know what? I’ll say right now, I think the biggest and best thing is just to get people to understand that look, these times are extremely tough for us all. But there’s always sunshine behind the cloud. This is just a very dark cloud. We’ll get through it, we’ll get out of it. And when we do, let’s be better than we were when we went in there.

What I think is really dope that I was able to see and that I was able to hold on to, and gravitate towards is how so much money has been raised to solve and help for world hunger, but it took a pandemic. And it shouldn’t have to be because of a pandemic that we’re all conscious of the needs of others. It’s something that should be more of a priority. And when you see these hundreds of millions of dollars that have been raised within the two-month period of time, it just raises the question of why is this so far, few, and in-between?

It shouldn’t take a pandemic to make us all aware. Let’s open our eyes and start to just once again, look beneath the debris and let’s get to these other real things that come out of this, that we can hold on to and make other people be responsible for in the future. You know what somebody said that really made me go “Wow?” We’re solving world hunger and raising hundreds of millions of dollars, but for Flint, Michigan, clean water has been a problem for how many years? And it’s a how many million-dollar fix?

Tim Ferriss: Time to cowboy up, it seems like.

Kevin Hart: Yeah, let’s see cowboy up. Let’s look on the bright side, man. This has been a great conversation, dude. Great conversation.

Tim Ferriss: Thanks so much.

Kevin Hart: Thank you.

Tim Ferriss: I’ll certainly put all these links also in the show notes for people at tim.blog/podcast. Kevin, a real pleasure to connect.

Kevin Hart: Thank you.

Tim Ferriss: Thanks for taking the time.

Kevin Hart: Hey, man, thank you. I appreciate you. Anytime.

Tim Ferriss: Yeah, you too, my man.

Kevin Hart: All right, bye, bye.

Tim Ferriss: All right, be safe. Bye, bye.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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