This article is adapted from one that originally appeared on the HuffPost Entertainment blog. It's reprinted by permission of the author.
He has starred in feature films, television series, and Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. He starred as Tupac Shakur in the feature film Notorious. He also played feature roles in 8 Mile, The Hurt Locker, Abraham Lincoln—Vampire Hunter, Million Dollar Baby, We Are Marshall, and most recently played the role of Falcon in Captain America. His name is Anthony Mackie (Group 30), and I recently sat down with the actor, artist, and achiever of huge dreams [who turns 37 this month] to discuss what it takes to realize your goals in a business with massive barriers to entry. What does it take to become a movie star? Here are his three secrets to reaching for and achieving big dreams.
Immerse Yourself Mackie originally went to college to become an engineer but was soon bit by the acting bug. He quickly made a U-turn in his education and found his way to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts where he would immerse himself in the art he was beginning to love. He absorbed all he could about his craft and eventually found his way to Juilliard. Mackie says that the number-one way to achieve massive dreams is to learn everything there is to know about what it is you're after.
Find Mentors Like most big achievers, Mackie has had mentors in his life. He says that it is essential to allow yourself to be molded and changed by the lives of others. Interestingly, some of his mentors have been the characters he has played throughout his career. For example, he played the role of Nate Ruffin in We Are Marshall. In 1970, Nate Ruffin was a 20-year-old defensive back on the football team of Marshall University in West Virginia. He had injured his arm two weeks earlier and was unable to travel with his team to Greenville, N.C., for a game. The team's flight crashed on the way home from the game, killing all 75 people including 37 of Ruffin's teammates. Mackie noted that playing that role had a profound impact on his own life. It taught him about the power we have to change our lives and it ingrained in him the gift of never taking life for granted. Mackie also starred in August Wilson's Fences and he says that role taught him so much about what it is to be a man. He acknowledges that each role he plays forever shapes who he is as a person both on- and offstage. In becoming the character, the character also becomes him.
Other People's Insecurities I asked Mackie what his number-one piece of advice is to someone who is just beginning their journey toward a huge dream. He said, never, never, never let someone else's insecurity define your passion. When you have huge dreams, people are going to tell you that you should dream smaller because your dream is impossible. Ignore them. He says people will try to define what you can do by their own insecurities. As Mackie says, nobody knows what you are capable of except for you. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do it. Just believe in you.