I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.I Can't Make This Up by Kevin Hart
Published by Simon and Schuster on June 6th 2017
Genres: Self-Help, Motivational & Inspirational, Humor, General, Biography & Autobiography, Rich & Famous
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Every experience is a potential life lesson. Even if you don’t appreciate it at the time, each struggle in the present is preparing you for something else in the future.
Almost everyone knows Kevin Hart’s name by now, but that wasn’t always the case. In his memoir, he tells the story of how he became an “overnight success that was only sixteen years in the making”–from a shoe salesman whose biggest dream was to become a Nike rep to a world-famous comedian. It wasn’t always a smooth, upward trajectory and there were many lessons to learn along the way.
It just takes one person to say one thing, and your whole life can change. If success happens in part by chance, then the more you expose yourself to it, the luckier you will be. I worked hard in order to get lucky.
I don’t follow Kevin Hart’s career closely, but he’s one of those comedians that makes me start laughing the moment they appear because I know it’s about to get hilarious! This book will be most interesting for Kevin Hart fans and those who are interested in the lives of stand-up comedians, but his insightful advice is relevant to anyone seeking success. At 400 pages, it was denser than most celebrity memoirs I’ve read. Hart outlines every pivotal step of his career and the teachable moments he encountered along the way. There are funny parts, but it’s more serious than I expected. As a warning, he gets a little personal sometimes and there were parts that were a little TMI for my tastes. My favorite part was Kevin’s positive attitude. He says one of the traits that served him best was the ability to “shoulder shrug”– being able to see the big picture and not hold on to any negative emotions.
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.
“Growing up, the best thing I ever had was nothing.” I grew up with a strict mom and no freedom, so the parts about his childhood resonated with me the most. I would’ve found these sections very reassuring as a teenager! His mother was a strict disciplinarian who was determined to not repeat her earlier parenting mistakes. She developed a regimented schedule that made it impossible for young Kevin to find trouble. His dad was an unpredictable man who struggled with drug addiction. He was always putting Kevin and his brother into dangerous situations. One of my favorite parts was when Kevin had to choose between the “comfortable dictatorship” of his Mom’s home or “uncomfortable anarchy” at his Dad’s home. It wasn’t always easy to see at the time, but the trials of his childhood helped him develop a strong work ethic: “It turns out that the things I hated most as a child are the same things that serve me the most as an adult.”
I’ve learned so many valuable lessons in my life, and this was one of the most important: Do your best, always. Because you never know who’s watching.
Kevin admits that his comedy material wasn’t always ready for the big-time. It took a lot of practice and studying of other comedians to refine his act. He had the key realization that “an entertainer makes you laugh, but an artist makes you understand.” To fully grow as an artist, he had to stop hiding behind the character of “Lil’ Kev the Bastard” and develop his own voice. He also emphasizes the importance of constantly learning and remaining ready for anything, so you can seize all the opportunities that come your way. There are so many instances in his career where the big jobs fizzled, but the least exciting offers and meetings propelled him further into success. He reiterates how important it is to treat others with kindness because no one finds success alone. In a creative field, it’s not always going to be applause and accolades. After he finally experienced some mild success, he also got to experience becoming box-office poison. He recounts many of the low points and how he learned to overcome knee-jerk defensiveness to handle unsupportive friends and family, difficult crowds, and rejection more effectively.
While he had high standards for his career, he didn’t always live up to those same standards in his personal life. He writes honestly about his most shameful moments: his toxic marriage that became violent and a DUI. He realized that he was repeating his parents’ mistakes and exposing his children to some of the same hardships that he and his brother had to live through. Fortunately, he was able to learn from his mistakes and break the cycle.
In most action movies, one person rises out of a humble beginning to discover that they have been chosen by destiny to save the world. But that’s not how it works in real life. You rise out of your humble beginning to become part of a community, and it is only together and as equals that we will save the world.
I got a lot of value out of Kevin’s worldview and life advice. After reading his memoir, I would describe Kevin Hart has a hard worker with a positive attitude. His persistence, commitment, and adaptability helped him find success in a competitive field. The tale of his journey to success is a reminder that what may look like a series of consistent successes from a distance is actually a never-ending emotional roller coaster full of ups and downs. I have to end this review with one of my favorite Kevin Hart bits: Ostriches. It cracks me up every time!
Success is not an excuse to stop; it’s a reason to move the goalposts farther out and accelerate. There is no destination, just a journey. And that journey is to keep building on top of what I’m building.