This article is the third of a five-part series of talks delivered by Steve Harvey featuring themes of resilience, courage, faith, imagination, adversity, belief, destiny, and purpose. Part one hit on the importance of never giving up. Part two hit on the power of faith and imagination. I will continue to publish one article per day until January 7th instead of the usual 2 to 3 posts per week. Per his Wikipedia page, Steve Harvey is an American comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author. He has been described as “America’s comedian” for his high likability and down-to-earth demeanor. But what I like most about Steve Harvey is the vulnerability with which he shares the wisdom he has acquired over the years. I’ve transcribed the third segment on dealing with adversity entitled “When Life Breaks You.” In it, Steve Harvey tells how his decision to chase his dream of being a comedian left him homeless and alienated him from his friends and family.
I was miserable in my life. I didn’t like waking up. I ain’t have no purpose. I ain’t know what I was supposed to be doing. On October 8, 1985, I walked into a comedy club for the first time, signed up for the following week. The following week, a girl took me down there. She said, “You got to go to comedy club, you’re the funniest person I’ve ever met.” I’ve never even heard of comedy clubs, I’m 27. I walked in the comedy club. I sign up for the following week. I’m going to sit here and learn. I knew I was funny, I just ain’t know what to do with it. They had 10 acts go up, 9 of them went up. I didn’t laugh at one joke, just sitting there thinking “Man, I wish that was me. Man, they should have said this.”
Every joke they told I knew the punchline before they said it, and I wrote a better punchline in my mind–what they should have said. It got to guy #10, they called his name. He wasn’t there. They said, “Well, he’s not here. We’re going to go to next week’s list. Steve Harvey, where are you?” Long story short, I won amateur night that night. I won $50. It was a 45-minute drive to my house with this girl named Gladys. I cried 45 minutes. She said “What you crying for, it ain’t but $50?” I said “Nah, nah, you don’t even understand. I was born tonight. I now know what I’m supposed to do.”
I went to work the next day, October 9, and quit my job. With $50. I had nothing. I just never gave up. I’ma tell you something. That decision cost me everything I had. I lost everything. I lost my family. I lost friends. I lost everything. I became homeless. I lived in a car for three years, but I just saw this. I saw this vision. I just pursued it. I said “Wow, that’s it.” You have to take chances in life.
Life is about risk. If you play it safe in life, you ain’t going to have much of a life. If you play it safe, you won’t have much of a life. Life is risk. It takes courage to pursue your dream. Now it’s going to cost you something. Most people are not willing to pay what it costs to go after your dream because you’re going to have to hurt a little bit. And most people don’t like being uncomfortable. If you don’t want to be uncomfortable, please do not pursue success. Because success is a very uncomfortable feeling. And I just learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Life is hard. For every time you have a plan, a dream, an aspiration, or a goal–Do you know what happens every time you have one of those? This thing comes along called life. It happens to everybody. Life has disappointments, it’s got peaks and valleys. You’re going to lose somebody you care about one day. That’s a valley. Somebody is going to close the plant you thought was going to stay open so you could retire. That’s a valley. Somebody going to fire you for an unjust cause. That’s a valley. The people that got your credit card are going to sell they company. Going to sell they business to another credit card company. Your 18% [interest] go up to 26%. You don’t even know why now your minimum [debt payment] didn’t change ’cause it’s life. You can stop thinking that life finna [is going to be] easy because I got news for you–it ain’t. That’s a false hope to think that you’re going to have a wonderfully care-free life. That’s unthinkable.
We all live in this bubble. What you got to do, you got to put more air in your bubble. You got to blow your bubble up. Expand yourself. Take yourself out your comfort zone. Do not live in your bubble. Put some more air in your bubble. If you stay in your comfort zone, that’s where you will fail. You will fail in your comfort zone. Success is not a comfortable procedure. It is a very uncomfortable thing to attempt. So you got to get comfortable being uncomfortable if you ever want to be successful. Start putting some pressure on. Put some pressure on yourself. Get out here and get about it. Look, I’d love to sugarcoat this thing for you. I’d love to tell you, “Look, you can go out here get rich, do a couple things.” That ain’t happening. You got to get real dog-gish. You got to get downright funky if you want to make it.
Now like I was telling you before, if you want to be ordinary, you ain’t even got to listen to me. Just go on about your business. If you think ordinary is cool, ain’t no problem. There’s some really really wonderful ordinary people. But if you are sitting in this room and you have extraordinary aspirations, then you’re going to have to do extra. You put extra on top of ordinary, and you come up with extraordinary. It’s no other way. I’m sorry, but here’s the fact. All of you have extraordinary capabilities. All of you. You have to decide if you are willing to do the things to put you in that category.