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Many of the successful people today started out with menial jobs, found success when others were retiring, never went to college, discovered their calling after circling through many career paths, struggled to make ends meet working multiple jobs or had to fight the world telling them they’ll never amount to anything. After all, even Lady Gaga got constantly knocked down — and who just snagged an Oscar? So what better source for career advice than the biggest stars of the moment?

Bill Gates: Never stop learning

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He may be 63. He may have founded one of the most successful companies and brands in the world that have quite literally changed our world. He may be at the helm of the largest private charity in the world with wife Melinda. He may be a synonym for success, wealth and intelligence. But Bill Gates is still learning.That passion to expand his horizons have been the key to his many achievements.

Even back in his college days, he constantly attended classes he wasn’t enrolled, even if, or rather because he had to study more than his peers. He even sat the exams for the classes he wasn’t signed up for, getting mostly As, he revealed during a Reddit Q&A. His passion for learning is so vast, that global education is one of the main recipients of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s funds.

Mindy Kaling: Create your own place

Write your own part. It’s much harder work, but sometimes you have to take destiny into your own hands. It forces you to think about what your strengths really are, and once you find them, no one can stop you.

Mindy Kaling

There may be more representation and diversity in the entertainment industry now — and plenty more needed — but when Kaling started out a lot of people had a lot to say about who she was and what she could do and especially not do. Among them was one of her first agents who badgered her to lose weight, because otherwise nobody would cast her.

But Kaling, blessed with immense self-confidence, threw the negativity aside, along with that agent, and decided if the entertainment industry didn’t have a place for her, she would make one for herself.

J.K. Rowling: Believe in creating a better world

J.K. Rowling needs no introduction. Creator of one of the most successful literary and cinematic universes, Rowling was not born into riches or success. The story of how Harry Potter’s world came to her at the lowest point of her life is well known.

While she may have worked incredibly hard for her immense success, going from being welfare to becoming the first billionaire writer, that never meant she wasn’t going to step up and help others. In 2012 alone she donated 16% of her fortune, a whopping $160 million to charity. Why? Because she believes in a better world. A world she can create. A world she did create in her books that brought her success.

Amy Poehler: Know your potential and recognize your limits

One of SNL’s most successful alumns and now a brand name in Hollywood, Amy Poehler steadily worked her way to the top and learned along the way. Two of her main mottoes in life? Don’t let people or yourself set limits to your success. Always be open to new and potentially scary things.

But belief in your potential should never get in the way of recognizing your limitations, no matter what they are. So be willing to admit your wrong, and don’t argue about something just to win, especially when others know better.

Idris Elba: You are your own biggest competition

A first generation Brit, Idris Elba knew hardship growing up. London’s Canning Town, where Elba went to school, remains of the the most underprivileged areas in the entire UK. But it was here at school he discovered his passion for acting. To support his dreams of breaking into the acting world, he worked as a cold caller, DJ, in auto shops and even took on night shifts in a Ford factory.

His truly big break came at age 30 with HBO’s The Wire, and he didn’t stop working hard at his ambitions after. He knew his path and never cared for competing with others. For Elba it was always about defeating his own limitation, whether it was trying for three years to learn an American accent or overcoming insecurities about his humble beginnings or knowing what success really is. “It turns out you make your own luck, but you work hard to keep it.”