Icebergs are formed when huge chunks of fresh water glaciers break off into an ocean. They are commonly found in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. Roughly 10% of an iceberg’s volume can be seen above the ocean surface with most of the ice submerged below the water. Success is like an iceberg. On the surface of a successful life people see the things generally attributed to being successful – fame, fortune, position, power. What they don’t see are all the things below the surface – failure, disappointment, discouragement, discipline, determination, detours, dreams, hard work, persistence, and sacrifice.
Critically acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman’s theater, television, and movie career has spanned more than five decades and 70 films, and his success today is obvious to all who watch his movies. But many don’t know that movie stardom for him did not arrive until age 50 – an age when most in the acting business have moved on to other pursuits – and he did not win an Oscar Award until age 67.
Freeman dreamed of being an actor from the day he saw the movie King Kong at age six. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, the youngest of five children, he was raised in tiny Charleston, Mississippi, by his grandmother when his parents migrated to Chicago to find work. When he was 12, as punishment for pulling a chair out from under a girl, Freeman was made to participate in the school’s drama competition. To the teacher’s surprise, he won, and went on to win the state competition. After graduation from high school in 1955, a tour in the Air Force cooled Freeman’s ambition to become a fighter pilot and convinced him to pursue an acting career. With no money, no car, and no place to live, he left the Air Force and took his dream to Los Angeles.
During the era of Jim Crow laws, there were few parts for a black actor from Mississippi with no bona fide acting credentials. Freeman bounced from job to job in Hollywood making just enough money to survive. He later moved to New York City and in 1967 he landed a part in an all African-American Broadway production of Hello Dolly. In 1971, he became a regular on the PBS series, The Electric Company, a show that taught children how to read. When the show was canceled in 1976, tired of the grind of television, Freeman shifted his focus to movies.
In 1987, after 11 years of bit parts, 50-year-old Freeman finally got on the movie radar when he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Street Smart. Two years later, Freeman earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and received his second Oscar nomination for his role as the chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy. In 1994, he was nominated for a third Oscar, this time for Best Actor in The Shawshank Redemption. It was ten years, and a handful of movies later when 67 year-old Freeman finally won an Oscar for his role in Clint Eastwood’s movie Million Dollar Baby.
In 2012, Golden Globes presented Morgan Freeman with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” Today, at age 79, Freeman is a director, producer, and one of Hollywood’s most respected and versatile actors. He struggled for years in theater, television, and movies before gaining success, and is a great example of “sticking with it” until he finally achieved his dream. When Freeman is not working, he lives on the farm where he grew up in Charleston, Mississippi. He has no plans to retire.
Well diggers are the only people who start at the top. Instant successes in this life are exceedingly rare. Most overnight successes were many hard, difficult years in the making. When we view the success a person has achieved, we are looking at the tip of the iceberg. There is more there, than meets the eye.
“As everyone points out, I developed late, but I don’t know that was necessarily a bad thing. There are always obstacles. When you struggle and put in your time, if you keep scrambling, if you keep going, someone will always, always give you a hand. Always. But you gotta keep dancing.” Morgan Freeman