2 Sentence Summary
“Straight Shooter” by Stephen A. Smith is a deeply personal and introspective book that explores the author’s life, struggles, and triumphs. The book is a testament to his resilience and determination to overcome the challenges he faced growing up and his journey to success.
Summary Read Time: Less than 6 minutes
Actual Book Length: 288
First Published in: 2023
Key Learnings from The Book:
- The Power of Perseverance
- The Importance of Humility
- The Role of Support
- The Significance of Self-Awareness
- The Role of Mentorship
- The Influence of Personal Relationships
Below is the detailed yet quick Straight Shooter book summary covering each learning:
Learning 1 – The Power of Perseverance
Stephen A. Smith’s life is a testament to the power of perseverance. His journey began in a cramped, unheated house in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens, where he was left back in the fourth grade because he read at a first-grade level. His father told his mother, “He’s just not that smart. He’ll never succeed. Just accept that.” This statement, along with the humiliation he faced from his friends for being the only one who got left back, deeply affected him. However, instead of succumbing to these negative experiences, he used them as motivation to prove them wrong.
Smith’s story is about a boy who endured peer pressure, cruelty, doubts, and bigotry, as well as temptation from the wrong side of the tracks. Yet, he came out on the other side, in part because of assistance from the very people on the wrong side of the tracks whom he grew up with, as well as a mother’s undying love and devotion, and the numerous folks—white and Black, friends and loved ones—who supported him. He learned that love, belief, perseverance, self-awareness, family, friendships, and mentorship can take you places you’ve never been. This is the power of perseverance, which is a core learning from Smith’s life.
Learning 2 – The Importance of Humility
Despite his success, Smith has always remained grounded. He attributes this to his mother, who instilled in him the importance of humility. He believes that humility is a mandate, not a choice, when you’re blessed with a great mom. Everything good about him, everything he aspires to be, is because of her. She is his personal angel, hovering over him at all times. He has lived his whole life aspiring to make her proud; falling short more often than she’d have ever preferred, but rarely for a lack of effort.
Smith’s humility is also evident in his interactions with his friends and loved ones. He appreciates the people who care more about who he is than what he does. His childhood buddies always remind him that no matter how high he climbs, he’s not worth a damn if he forgets home, and his homeboys. They don’t know who Stephen A. is; to them, he’s just Steve. This shows that despite his fame and success, he has not let it get to his head. He remains humble and grounded, always remembering where he came from. This is the importance of humility, which is another core learning from Smith’s life.
Learning 3 – The Role of Support
Smith’s life story is a testament to the value of support. He acknowledges that none of what he’s accomplished in life would have been possible without the support of his family, friends, and mentors. His mother, sisters, childhood buddies, and mentors have all played a significant role in his journey. They have been his ultimate protectors, guiding and inspiring him, and keeping him balanced. They have cared more about who he is than what he does, and have always reminded him of his roots.
When Smith faced challenges, it was the support from his loved ones that helped him overcome them. For instance, when he was criticized for writing a column suggesting that his coach should retire due to health issues, it was his coach who came to his rescue. His coach defended his right to express his opinion as an aspiring journalist, even though he disagreed with it. This incident not only validated Smith’s no-nonsense approach but also highlighted the importance of having supportive people in one’s life.
Learning 4 – The Significance of Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is a crucial aspect of Smith’s life and career. He learned the hard way that his public persona could affect his personal and professional relationships. His bombastic and demonstrative diatribes on TV had become one with his interactions with others off the air, and this had happened often enough that the perception of him as bombastic had seeped through the screen and into executive offices throughout the business. He was now persona non grata because of it.
Smith realized that he was the one ultimately responsible for perpetuating a false narrative about himself. This realization led him to conclude that he needed to change this narrative—and fast. It wasn’t who he was, as a professional or as a man. He was determined that his career wouldn’t end like this. His firing would not be his epitaph. There would be a new beginning. He’d see to it.
This self-awareness, this ability to reflect on his actions and their consequences, and to make changes accordingly, is a key learning from Smith’s life. It shows the importance of being aware of how our actions and words can affect others and our own lives, and the need to take responsibility for our actions and make changes when necessary.
Learning 5 – The Role of Mentorship
Mentorship played a pivotal role in Smith’s life and career. He was fortunate to have several mentors who believed in him, guided him, and held him to a higher standard. One of them was Mr. Hindsman, who ripped into him when he quit on himself. This was a defining moment for Smith as it taught him the true meaning of accountability. He had to prove that he was an ambitious young man aiming to make a difference, not one who would flee the moment times got rough.
Another significant mentor in Smith’s life was Robert DeVaughn, who mentored him into adulthood. DeVaughn elevated Smith’s confidence, implored him to be all he could be because he believed Smith could be as great as he wanted to be. Smith thinks of DeVaughn every day and smiles when he does so. No one in this world understands what DeVaughn still means to Smith, even though he’s gone.
Smith also acknowledges the role of his professors in his journey. They cared about him, were demanding of him, let him know they expected big things from him and wouldn’t let him take any gifts he had for granted. They all saw something in Smith and let him know it. They held him to a higher standard.
Learning 6 – The Essence of Ambition
Ambition is a driving force in Smith’s life. His journey from a cramped, unheated house in the Hollis neighborhood of Queens to becoming one of the most-watched, sometimes most-reviled, but ultimately one of the highest-paid TV sportscasters at the biggest sports network in America is a testament to his ambition. He was a kid who was left back in the fourth grade because he read at a first-grade level, a kid who was told by his father that he was not smart and would never succeed. Yet, he refused to accept this narrative and was motivated to prove them wrong.
Smith’s ambition is also evident in his career. He was hungry, determined, and indefatigable. He didn’t care about what anybody said. He showed up on-air more than twice as many times as his contract called for in his first year at ESPN. He was an expert on the NBA, had sources in every locker room in the league, and was not afraid to express his true feelings. He didn’t leave anyone guessing what he felt. This raw and authentic approach to his work, coupled with his ambition, helped him achieve success in his career.