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7 Genius Life Lessons, Courtesy of Viola Davis

7 Genius Life Lessons, Courtesy of Viola Davis

All hail, Viola Davis!

Today we celebrate her 50th birthday by highlighting some of the wisdom she brings to the entertainment industry. Read on for life lessons from this beacon of Hollywood brilliance.

1. On maxing out your potential: "My manager called me and said, 'You're always talking about women of color not being messy enough, not being mysterious, being more sexual. Well, this is a role for you where you’ll get a chance to do all of that.' There's a famous saying that says, 'Potential has a shelf life.' And it does. I didn't want to end up in my grave, and my legacy being, 'Oh, you never could see what she could fully do. She always had more in her, but you could never see it because she didn't have the opportunities.' This was my opportunity to show what I can do." —Vulture, 2014

2. On the importance of role models: "I was 8 years old when I decided to be an actor. I am so privileged to be gazing on the beautiful face of the woman who inspired me that beautiful day, and that's Cicely Tyson. When I woke up and realized how difficult it was to be an actor and how the rejection was so high, another beautiful face graced the screen when I was in college. That was Meryl [Streep], who just always inspires me. There are so many people involved in "The Help." In lieu of mentioning all of them, I just have to say, what is there but a dream? You can’t trade in your dream for another dream. I am so proud to be an actor, and I thank the Screen Actors Guild for this award. I have a special, special note to the kids in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and Segue Institute of Learning in Central Falls Rhode Island, to dream big and dream fierce." —Screen Actors Guild Acceptance Speech, 2012

3. On the inevitability of failure: "One thing that is missing from the vision boards is what happens when you don's get what you want. Your ability to adapt to failure, and navigate your way out of it, absolutely 100 percent makes you who you are ... I tell my daughter every morning, 'Now, what are the two most important parts of you?' And she says, 'My head and my heart.' Because that's what I've learned in the foxhole: What gets you through life is strength of character and strength of spirit and love." —Glamour, 2015

4. On accepting yourself: "I think I come off as probably more confident than I actually am, but I think it's the lack of choice I have. I don't fit the mold, anyway. And at close to 50, I'll be 50 soon, that because I know that no matter how much I alter myself, that I'm not going to fit that mold, that it’s forced me to just step in to who I am. And in the stepping into who I am, I've realized that that was the most progressive thing that I could do." —The Wrap, 2015

5. On leaps of faith: "I didn't know how to get into the business. The only thing I had was a desire, and people thought I had talent. But then what? How do you get a job? How do you audition? I didn't come from people who could pay my bills. So I dove in. When your passion and drive are bigger than your fears, you just dive. I've been on my last unemployment check before with no way to pay my bills, but we stay in it because we all know it’s an occupational hazard." —The Hollywood Reporter, 2015

6. On treating every job like your big break: "I always got the phone call that said: 'I have a great project for you. You're going to be with, hypothetically, Vanessa Redgrave, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening. Then I get the script, and I have a role that lasts for a page or two ... [But] even when I get the fried-chicken special of the day, I have to dig into it like it’s filet mignon." — The New York Times , 2014

7. On self-acceptance: "[I used to look at photos of myself and think], 'Look how fat I was,' or 'My goodness, look at my hair!' What I saw was dark skin, being poor and all the things that come with poverty — smelling and being unkempt ... [Now I see] how passionate I was, how much I dreamed, and what a good and loyal friend I was ... Turning 50 is making me reflect on my life in a way that's more compassionate and forgiving. I'm able to almost accept the old me." — AARP, 2015

More From Levo:
•  Life Lessons From Tina Fey
10 Life Lessons from Mindy Kaling
6 Life Lessons from Lilly Pulitzer

Photo Credit: Gregg DeGuire via Getty Images

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