10 Life Lessons From Earl Sweatshirt’s Interview With Mike Tyson

Finding happiness, learning from competing, and watching The Notebook.

Photographer Michael Schmelling
December 17, 2014

Earl Sweatshirt interviewed Mike Tyson. Say that out loud, let it ring in your headspace for a minute, maybe read the phrase to yourself again—Earl Sweatshirt interviewed Mike Tyson. We truly do live in marvelous times. The meet-cute took place over at Citizens of Humanity, where Earl and Tyson had a very deep conversation about the nature of life—getting older, keeping friends, finding happiness, and of course, what you can learn from watching The Notebook. We've rounded up ten of the most thoughtful exchanges below; head here to read the whole interview—it's very much worth the read.

1. Even as adults, we're constantly learning

Earl: ...I swear, I was talking to someone yesterday, and I said the mark of me being an adult was when I got to the point where I realized how little I knew.

Mike: Oh, man. I'm humbled with that every moment of my life. I think I know a lot, but I don't know anything. I think I know a lot; they talk about a lot of subjects and issues but in the scheme of the world, it's really not even a grain of salt.

2. Nothing is ever as it seems

Mike: None of us are really who we appear to be. Like me talking to you, this is not who I am.

Earl: Right.

Mike: We're in an interview. This is not who you are. We are never who we appear to be.

3. Dignity is hard-earned

Mike: ...I never really knew what dignity was until recently. And I realized that more so not because of myself but the response I get from people, you know, a woman won't have to worry about talking to me and worrying about me hitting on them anymore or anything like that.

Earl: And that's gotta be the best feeling.

Mike: Yeah, it makes me feel good, because when you sleep with so many people, all my life I thought that was adding to who I was, but it takes so much away from you.

4. Fighting is spiritual

Mike: I think war is led by faith. I never think of physical fighting. It's always spiritual. Fighting is spiritual.

Earl: Absolutely. Yeah. I got familiar with that concept early, just because my mom, she was always working, so she dropped me off at this martial arts dojo. And the dude instilled – we had to meditate for an hour every time, before we did anything. We would meditate. Just to connect to the spiritual side of it. And like, going inside of yourself and realizing the immense power that lies within you, just as a person.

5. Be generous to your friends

Mike: I ain't never loan friends money; I give it to 'em and I don't expect to get it back. Even when he says, "I'll pay you back," I never expect it. If he gives it back, then hey, that's a feather in his cap, but I don't expect to get it back.

Earl: That's where I'm always at. I'm never…I was never even mad about it. I was just… way more obsessed with preserving the friendship.

Mike: Listen, you know sometimes that's a really an intense word, "friend." You know sometimes during a relationship, a friendship, a friend's gonna have to prove their your friend, and you're gonna have to prove you're their friend. You know, sometimes, the people we invest the most time in disappoint us the most.

6. Competition is healthy

Earl: ...One thing I always try and tell dudes that are younger than me is that because of the Internet everyone can just be by themselves doing something, but the importance of a group is being able to have some sort of competition.

Mike: No doubt about it. You know, times have changed now because I grew up pretty much in the '70s, late, middle '70s. I met all my friends in the early '80s and met all my friends from fighting with them.

7. Nothing is more important than common sense

Mike: Common sense is so very simple but very difficult to grasp.

Earl: Psh! Tell me about it. It's crazy how many people are absent of common sense.

Mike: It's all about the basics. If you can't remember the small things, how are you going to remember the big things? Man- you know The mind is a real dangerous neighborhood to travel by ourselves. You think the hood is bad? Try hanging out here by yourself.

8. You can learn a lot about fear by watching The Notebook

Mike: There's nothing to fear but fear itself. It's an illusion of fear. Fear is an illusion. If you gonna die, you gonna die anyway; it's not something to fear, fear is not gonna help. It's going to be over soon. Somebody's going to die, or somebody's going to get sick, someone might leave. It's not going to last forever. You know, it's going to be over soon. You know, the thought of that never enters my mind. This is the reality of life. I watched that movie The Notebook. You ever watched that?

Earl: I haven't watched it.

Mike: Ah, young man, I don't even know if you understand that stage of life yet. Very interesting thing about that movie, very interesting, it's one of the movies that makes me really vulnerable. It makes me very vulnerable, because you work so hard for something and you don't want to let it go.

9. Happiness is relative

Earl:...One of the things I thought was really interesting you said in your documentary was: "There's nothing like being young, and happy, and fighting." It sounds like such a contradiction, you know, to be happy and fighting.

Mike: Right you know this is interesting that you say that. That's wild. Because when people see me and they say I'm coming back from what they say is the doldrums, or disaster, or something. But listen, you've got to be happy now. I'm not happy because I have received such success, I'm happy because – I'm not doing anything deceitful, I think, to my family. I'm successful because I don't have to sleep with one of my friends' girlfriends or wife or something. That's why I'm successful, that's success to me. I'm not dead, I'm not in the gutter – that's success to me.

10. Being a parent is a lesson in itself

Mike: I look at my beautiful son, he's so beautiful and handsome. And I think what a guy like me would do to this face. I would choke it, take a chunk of meat out of his head, bite his beautiful face. I would hurt him, and I'm just looking at him and I'm thinking your dad was one of them animals out there. I don't expect my kids to be "fighters"; my kids never lived in a condemned building with their family. Most of them are at Ivy League schools, their mothers are good mothers, you know, they do good stuff with them. I don't want my kids to be like me, I don't want my daughter to date the guy like me. You know, a guy like me success is to take care of my children to take care of their life and make 'em cushioned. I don't want them to be around a people like me. You know, success for me would be that they never have the opportunity of being in the presence of someone like me.

10 Life Lessons From Earl Sweatshirt’s Interview With Mike Tyson