With a net worth approaching half a billion dollars, it is safe to say that Tyler Perry is one of Hollywood’s most successful actor/director/producers. But none of that happened overnight.
During a commencement speech at Tuskegee University in Alabama, Perry reflected on his much younger self, and the struggles he had to endure early on.
“I had just moved to Atlanta to try to launch this play, so I went to work,” he said. “I managed to save $12,000 and I put the show up … I thought 1,200 people would show up that weekend, but only 30 showed up. My car payment, rent, everything was tied up in it so I ended up homeless with no money and nothing to my name.”
Perry goes on to share that for years he would continue to put his plays on, but none of them would go on to major success.
“From 1992, to ’93, to ’94, I was doing one show a year. I kept on doing the play. Every year it would fail, until 1998, the seventh year of me trying. I was about to give up and walk away.”
Then, the younger Perry heard something that completely changed how he went about life.
Audience members who had seen his play were telling Perry that his messages were changing their lives for the better. It was at this moment that Tyler Perry realized he knew what he wanted to do with his life: to serve others.
“My life shifted after that. My intention became, how do I serve other people? How do I lift other people?”
One area was Perry’s successful string of films such as Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Love Thy Neighbor, For Better or Worse, and The Single Moms Club,which dealt with real-life emotional topics such as forgiveness, restoration and healing along with faith and humor, touching countless of lives throughout the years.
Aside from serving others through his films, Perry is also adamant about learning from past failures. A couple years ago he wrote an email to Black Enterprise magazine in which he discussed how his failures eventually led to his success:
“I thought I had failed, but the truth is, I never failed. Each and every time the show didn’t work, I learned something new. I learned what not to do and what I could do better. You have to understand that what you may perceive to be a failure may very well be an opportunity to learn, grow, get better, and prepare for the next level.
If you find the lessons in what you perceive to be failures, then you won’t ever fail at anything. Everything I learned during the ‘learning’ years (that’s what I call them now) has helped me in the ‘harvest’ years (that’s what I’m living in now). Don’t be hard on yourself. You haven’t failed. Find the lesson so you can use it when you get to your harvest.”
Tyler Perry is one of the richest, and most successful men in Hollywood, but he would be the first to tell you that the road isn’t easy, or mistake-free. The more you allow yourself to fail, the more you open yourself up to learning opportunities.
America needs more unashamed men of faith like Tyler Perry. Thank you Tyler Perry for such wise words, and for choosing to serve others!