Biographies and autobiographies hit a sweet spot for me — they’re much lighter than many thought-provoking or educational non-fiction books yet much more substantive than “beach reads” or pure fiction. As a result, I can indulge in leisurely reading without any guilt and always take away at least one life lesson when reading another’s story.

My latest devouring was Viola Davis’ Finding Me. The award-winning actress chronicles her upbringing and vividly describes the H.A.R.D. life she led: scores of rats in their home, no running water, often no electricity or heat, bullying, constant hunger, and the ever-present smell of urine. It was rough.

Viola found her escape through an Upward Bound program that became a portal to theatre, competitions, scholarships, and a way out. She was warned that a life in show business was hard but she had already conquered hard. She turned that perseverance into a work ethic and determination that propelled her acting career.

When we face situations that are difficult or even brutal we have a choice to define them as either motivators or barriers. Hard experiences can prepare you to face other challenges as a survivor, knowing that you are able to persist despite the circumstances. Like Viola, allow hard to harden your resolve, not your soul.

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