Will by Will Smith offers a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed in the business world. More specifically, the worlds of hip-hop and Hollywood.

The guy has deep roots in Pennsylvania. His father was born and raised in North Philadelphia, while his mother was born in Pittsburgh, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University. Born in 1968, and raised in the Wynnefield neighborhood of West Philly, Willard Caroll Smith II goes from rapper with hit singles to TV star with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to movie icon, culminating in the biopic Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, for which he earns Academy Award nominations for best actor.

Smith has broken box office records that few others can claim. He is one of the only actors ever to gross more than $100 million at the U.S. world box office in eight consecutive films. That occurred between 2002 and 2008.

Smith, alongside writing partner Mark Manson, himself a published author, offers us a multitude of universal business lessons. Below are key takeaways from the book.

1. Rockin’ Cowboy Boots and embracing the contrarian.

Smith writes about having a cowboy boot phase growing up. None of his friends wear cowboy boots. Smith doesn’t care. He feels cool and won’t let others’ perceptions influence him. Later, Smith decides not to go to college, knowing that this is critical for what awaits him professionally. Even in moments of doubt, Smith pushes onward, knowing that if he does not take the risk of deferring college, he’ll never achieve what is calling him: to be a performer.

2. The birth of hip hop duo The Fresh Prince & Jazzy Jeff.

A chance meeting at a house party in 1985 introduces Smith to fellow West Philadelphian Jeffrey Townes, better known as DJ Jazzy Jeff, whose MC is missing. Smith fills in, and the dynamic hip-hop duo of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince is born. Through Townes, Smith also meets James Lassiter, JL, who becomes their longtime manager. By age 20, Smith is known internationally as a rapper, and becomes a millionaire and a Grammy Award winner, after his first hit single, “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble,” in 1986.

3. Learning from youthful disasters.

That first album catches the attention of Russell Simmons, the legendary music producer who co-founded Def Jam Recordings, and Jive Records, which has produced the likes of Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, and Queen Latifah. Rock the House, the duo’s debut album in 1987, makes it to No. 83 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling more than a half-million copies. It’s followed by DJ, I’m the Rapper, in 1988, which earns Smith his first Grammy for best rap performance.

But the quick rise to fame at such a young age leads Smith to make disastrous decisions. He buys a collection of motorcycles and cars, fails to pay his taxes, and soon owes the IRS millions. His father’s criticism still stings. When Smith shows off three cars, Daddio replies, “You only got one ass.” And soon, Smith finds himself back to zero. He learns that “clarity of mission is a powerful cornerstone of success,” and this episode underscores that he needs to stay focused, or he can lose everything, again.

4. The ‘Fresh Prince’ takes a chance: The power of showing up.

An invite to Quincy Jones’ birthday party in 1990 flips the cards of fate for Smith again. While celebrating Quincy’s 1990 Soul Train Music Achievement award, Quincy hands Smith a script and asks him to perform live for a living room full of movie moguls and stars. Though he hesitates, Smith does it and receives a standing ovation. Little does he know he is reading a snippet of what would put him on the map as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Jones becomes Smith’s door to Hollywood, and a father figure and mentor whom he turns to time and again.

5. West Philly born and raised and how humor can unite.

Not feeling like other Black kids, but not being white, either, Smith discovers early on that he can unite the races through comedy. He attributes this to the mix of hip-hop and comedy, which he says makes him “untouchable.” Smith grows up in an all Black neighborhood. But he is also just one of three Black students to attend the local Catholic school, Our Lady of Lourdes. Black people can make fun of themselves, Smith writes, even while the show appeals to white America, too, resembling a middle-class family that many Black people were striving to create. Smith exposes how the power of finding commonalities between people is a key ingredient any leader must harness to propel a business forward.

6. Working hard and saying no.

Smith attributes his success to his relentless work ethic, sharing that no matter how many hours someone worked, he would strive to work just one more hour to stay ahead. In another example, when JL, or “the serious cat” as Smith calls him, receives a pitch for a film that Smith would be paid $10 million to star in, JL advises him not to take the role because it’s not the right fit. Smith doesn’t take the role and never forgets JL’s advice, even as he himself would have netted more than $1 million if Smith had signed the contract. You can’t let emotions or immediate financial gains distract you.

7. Mirroring Tom Cruise.

Smith studies how other Hollywood stars financially capitalized on their films. He soon discovers that world tours could generate substantial revenue in addition to U.S. box office movie ticket sales. In another vignette, he writes how he and JL studied countless scripts to understand what roles Smith would take or reject. These examples illustrate the importance of studying your craft, learning from your competitors, and not being driven by emotional decision-making.

8. How to be a better parent, ‘Dad bod’ and all.

When his daughter Willow Smith announces that she’s over her music career – her first single, “Whip My Hair,” went platinum – Smith cannot accept this. One day Willow appears with a totally shaved head, an act of pure defiance articulating that she no longer cares what the world, or even her father, wants for her. Smith finally gets it, and feels terrible that he had not heard Willow when she first confessed she wanted to move on from being a pop singer. Personal or professional, active listening is key to keeping your relationships strong.

9. Starring as Muhammad Ali in Ali and repping that on the set.

While shooting parts of the biopic, Ali in Africa, a white South African crew member assaults a Black Mozambican worker on set for not cleaning a toilet well enough. Smith demands that the white worker be fired. The white crew leader threatens to have the entire white staff walk off the set, a dire threat, as the 300-member crew was vital to the film’s shoot. Smith refuses to accept something that his character never would have tolerated. He decides to invest several million dollars to bring in his own crew to finish filming. What you tolerate in your business must not violate what you are trying to project in your work.

10. Jada Pickett Smith: An unconventional marriage.

Smith offers many examples of how his personal and family life suffered even as he became even more successful. He forever loses a connection to his first love after he sets all of her clothes on fire — to this day, she will not return his calls. Once, when his family is playing Monopoly during the holidays, Smith is more focused on winning the game than enjoying them. He recounts how, at times, his ambition and passion for everything he did also created tension between himself and his family.

11. The importance of making time for personal growth.

Performing becomes the greatest escape and closest to peace Smith gets. That is, until his 40s, when he begins to reckon with his own demons with some unconventional methods, such as working with a shaman and experimenting with ayahuasca, an hallucinogenic tea. Or, isolating himself for 14 days without communication, only using an iPad to read books he downloads. Smith forces himself to sit alone. In doing so, Smith salvages his bond with Jada and enters a new phase of his personal life. At the close of the book, Smith bungee jumps from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, finding fulfillment out of moments that have no purpose other than to experience life.

Evi Heilbrunn is a Los Angeles-based digital health founder, writer and investor who holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect that Will Smith won two best-actor nominations for the Academy Awards, but did not win the awards.