“For every reason that I did poorly in school was the reason why I was going to be a good actor.” –Jessica Chastain

After seeing a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with her grandma, seven-year-old Jessica Chastain realized that acting was a bonafide profession, and was determined from that point on to become an actress who could make a living from her work. But with years of struggling with schoolwork and academic testing, Jessica didn’t qualify for graduation in her senior year. And she had no connections into the business. Still, Jessica steadfastly took any opportunity she could to advance toward her acting goal. Cut to years later, she’s an A-list actress who’s displayed a variety of characters and celebrated performances in films such as The HelpZero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, and A Most Violent Year.

So how did she transform from being a poor student to begging for years and years to get an audition to becoming a multi-award-winning actress? “I didn’t know what my path was going to be, I just knew what I was going to do….I believe in signs that come to you. And if you leave yourself open to things that are in your life, you can find an incredible path.”

For Chastain, that meant attaining an adult diploma, attending college, and joining a professional theater company in San Francisco. While playing Juliet, her acting partner was accepted into the prestigious Julliard School in New York to study drama. “And that’s what made me go…I thought, ‘Wait a minute. If he got in, maybe I should audition because maybe I could get in since we’re playing Romeo and Juliet together.’ Before that I never even imagined that I could get into that school. So I just kind of followed these paths that showed themselves to me.”

Yes, she was accepted into Julliard. But Jessica was the first person in her family to attend college, and her family didn’t have the money for such an expensive school; indeed, she has five siblings. Amazingly, a scholarship by Robin Williams provided Jessica with the funds to attend. In the years to follow, she continued to remain open to any signs that revealed themselves, continually climbing the ladder of playing small, eccentric TV roles, and eventually landing her film debut in Jolene.

Jessica Chastain excelled in one of the most competitive industries in the world because she left no stone unturned. She was patient, and seized every opportunity afforded to her. She refused to believe she was only as worthy as her test scores, or accept that she’d forever be shut out from the kinds of auditions she hoped to get. And when she ran into good luck she seized it too. Here’s to you finding many signs along your actor’s journey as well!