“You can make it if you try, push a little harder, think a little deeper.” –Sly Stone

You see it time and time again, behind every success story is a tale of hard knocks that threatened to terminate that success. And whatever the challenges happen to be, they are often accompanied by persistent negative thoughts and feelings of dread, which have the potential to impede anyone from taking risks, achieving goals, and growing as a person.

The Help’s Voila Davis endured abject poverty as a child, but still achieved tremendous success. She is the youngest of six children; her mother was a maid and her father a factory worker. Ironically, her impoverishment helped to inform the actors’ breakout role, and establish her as a Hollywood heavyweight. She describes the hardship of starting out as an unknown actress, “I did a one-woman show where there was one woman in the audience, I’ve been attacked by dogs while performing, I’ve done it all. But when you fall in love with something, you understand the commitment to it. With commitment comes the knowledge that it is the journey you’re in it for. And the journey isn’t always going to be nice and smooth.” 

Goldie Hawn never let self-doubt stop her. “I always had self-doubt. I wasn’t good enough; I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.” Not only did she make it, she managed to pass on that dogged determination and powerful Hollywood lineage to her daughter, Kate–a Hollywood mogul in her own right.

Pushing yourself can also be about pushing through a bad performance. Nobody’s perfect, and everyone has a bad day. Christopher Walken has said, “When you’re onstage and you know you’re bombing, that’s very, very scary. Because you know you gotta keep going – you’re bombing, but you can’t stop. And you know that half an hour from now, you’re still gonna be bombing. It takes a thick skin.” From this perspective, it could be argued bad performances are actually necessary before one can create genuine performances.

And sometimes one’s obstacles are about pushing through the dark times. On 60 Minutes, Angelina Jolie recently spoke of pushing through heavy, darker times of self-destructive behavior. “I didn’t die young. So I’m very lucky.” When speaking about her swtich from acting to directing, she commented, “I mean, I think what’s risky is living your life and never trying for anything, and never doing something brave and never getting yourself scared.”

So, challenge yourself not to believe everything you think. Only you are in control of your thoughts and what you do. Learning to control how you think is one of the most important lessons life can teach you, as it strengthens your determination and helps you move toward your goals.

How are you overcoming the obstacles you face in your acting career?