Every actor who’s managed to break into the entertainment industry has a unique, individualized story. Here are some words of wisdom shared by actors Omari Hardwick, Masiela Lusha, Edie Falco, Samira Wiley, LaKeith Stanfield, and Mandy Patinkin revealing empowering mindsets for aspiring talents.

Omari Hardwick portrays the nightclub owner James “Ghost” St. Patrick in the Starz network series Power. Hardwick tells Film Courage, “My wisdom and advice was always first and foremost: If you can wake up without wanting to do this—you have one morning where you wake up and go, ‘Oh, I don’t really want to do this’—I would say get out because it’s way too difficult … But I think in terms of [trying to find] representation, I decided to not worry about it.” Instead, Hardwick dedicated himself to learning the craft of acting and supplemented with martial arts training and piano lessons to increase his chances of being cast in roles requiring such abilities. He assures aspiring talent by saying, “Just work on the craft and don’t necessarily worry about the representation. It will find you. The right agent will find you. The right manager.”

Masiela Lusha is known for playing Carmen Lopez in the sitcom George Lopez which established her as a television veteran by the age of 20. In speaking about what it takes to make it in the entertainment business, Lusha said: “[Living and working in the industry] is work. And it’s defined by an incredible work ethic. And to this day, the most successful people that we’ve had the pleasure of working with are the kindest—they truly are the kindest. And they are the hardest working. To be the lead in a film or TV show, you’re usually the first one and last one to go, and you have to be cheerful because, in some sense, you’re defining what that energy will like on set.”  

Edie Falco is famous for her roles as Carmela Soprano in The Sopranos and Jackie Peyron in Nurse Jackie. While addressing aspiring performers in a Vanity Fair interview, she said, “Boy, the getting representation thing is so complicated. It took me a long time because, for the most part, people don’t necessarily want to work with you unless you have some credits to your name. And you can’t get credits to your name without representation. You know, one of those catch-22 things. I just say work. Work, work, work! Get a magazine, do plays with friends, do the student film from Columbia. Just make sure you’re always working on something—representation or not.”

The Handmaid’s Tale actress Samira Wiley told The Cut, “A lot of times I get people coming into audition rooms, and they come back out and talk to me about it and say, ‘I tried to do this’ or ‘I thought they wanted this.’ Sometimes they don’t know what they want. You have to just show them what you are and not be ashamed about that. The right job wants you for who you are.”

Get Out, Snowden, and Atlanta actor LaKeith Stanfield revealed in a Film Courage interview: “One thing I think is important to being an actor is always keep an open mind, always be willing to learn, and don’t reach a point where you feel like ‘I’ve learned enough and now I don’t need to know anything else.’ Because your talent will take you so far, but you need to be constantly trying to develop skills and learning how to access these characters and analyze these stories and tell them in the most authentic way … You need to constantly stretch yourself, travel, meet new people, engage in new experiences fearlessly, and sort of download that information into creating what you want to create … and remember this game is not a competition. It seems like a competition, but it’s not. The only person you’re in competition with is yourself. And if you think can’t do a certain thing, you can’t. And if you think you can, you can. You’ve just got to push yourself.”

And last but not least, Mandy Patinkin portrayed the oft-quoted character Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride and, more recently, Saul Berenson in the Showtime series Homeland. When Vanity Fair asked him to share advice to aspiring actors, he replied: “Here’s my best thing I’ve ever heard that my wife said, ‘Don’t [pursue acting] unless you have to.’ And I would add to that, if you are thinking about it or dreaming about it, don’t not try. Because time is short; life is short. Give it a shot. See what happens … don’t give up, try for as long as you have the energy to try, and then be gracious to yourself whether you succeed or you don’t. And be glad you were alive to try. It’s the gift of being alive—trying.”