Steve Buscemi makes acting look easy. His performances are always memorable whether it be character roles like the tip-evading Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs, the talkative kidnapper Carl Showalter in Fargo, or leading roles such as the corrupt treasurer of Atlantic County, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in Boardwalk Empire. No wonder top filmmakers like the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Robert Rodrigues, and Jerry Bruckheimer have sought to work with him.

But how easy was it for him to become an A-list actor? Were his parents involved in the business and able to open doors for him? Well, his dad’s job was to clear garbage for the sanitation department, and his mom worked as a hostess in hotels. His early years included incidents like fracturing his skull after being hit by a bus, and later he was hit by a car while chasing after a ball that had rolled into the street–fortunately only receiving cuts and bruises that time around. Not to mention he was born on Friday the thirteenth.

But young Steve would hear his mom talking with relatives about an emerging talent she noticed in her son as he played with puppets. “And it made me realize, ‘Oh, maybe I do have a talent for something,'” Steve once said. But it was his senior year in high school when he was bit by the acting bug while participating in the drama troupe.

So was his proficient talent immediately acknowledged by all the world at that point? Well, after graduating from high school in 1975, he briefly attended community college. “At nineteen, I was truly directionless, living with my parents. I was driving an ice-cream truck and working at a gas station. There’s nothing wrong with those jobs–it’s hard work. But my boss at the gas station was grooming me to be a mechanic, and that’s not what I wanted. The drinking age was eighteen then, so I spent every night hanging out with my friends in bars, drinking,” Buscemi said. “I was going to buy a van and move to LA so I could secretly pursue acting without any of my friends knowing,” he also once acknowledged. Other jobs Steve held were an attempt at stand-up comedy, working in a department store, and he proudly worked as a NY City firefighter for four years. When living in Manhattan, he studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute. “My real training as an actor was when I started doing theatre,” he stated. He paired up with a fellow actor, Mark Boone Junior, and they wrote original theater pieces to feature their own acting talents. Good move. Buscemi’s talent was recognized, and he was then cast in his first lead role in the movie Parting Glances in 1986.

After being cast in several movies thereafter, Buscemi caught the eye of Tarantino who selected him to play Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs in 1992. This role catapulted his career, making him a favorite cast member for top directors to this day. His trademark slender build, somewhat bulging blue eyes, pale skin, and often neurotic, shifty, fast-talking characters can’t be missed in adult and children’s cinema and television. He even made a directorial debut in 1996 with Trees Lounge based on his own life and in which he had a starring role, and went on to direct other projects including numerous TV episodes for shows including The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie, and 30 Rock.

So from there he lived happily ever after? Well, in April 2001 while shooting the film Domestic Disturbance in North Carolina, Buscemi was stabbed in the throat, head, and arm when intervening in a barroom brawl. The result was a deep cut to his face, and he has a distinct scar on his cheek. If you’ve never noticed it, that’s because make-up artists use heavy make-up to conceal it in movies.

“I could never have imagined the films I’ve done and the people I’ve worked with when I was starting out; I certainly did not have a career path,” Buscemi said of his career.

It would seem Steve Buscemi didn’t have a lot going for him early on in his career. He had a series of dead-end jobs, he drank too much, and he was insecure about his fledgling acting career. But he had drive and talent–and that was enough to get him all the way to the top. Sound familiar? Do you have drive and talent? Have you worked jobs that sucked up your energy and challenged your will? Of course you have, and that’s precisely why you have the ability to succeed. It’s our challenges that make us strong and inform our art. It’s the hardships that burnish our passions and clarify our goals. Every difficulty you have in your life right now can be a catalyst for your success. You just have to see it that way. Steve Buscemi did–and look at him now!