Massachusetts Conference for Women: Lupita Nyong’o’s 7 Tools for Fearlessly Following Your Dreams


Repost from Suzan Czajkowski, MA, PCC, of TheCommCoach. She can be reached by email at and found on twitter at @The_CommCoach.

1. Recognize and articulate your fears.

Earlier in her speech, Nyong’o talked about struggling with deciding what she would do with her life. Her passion to become an actor seemed unreasonable and scary to her, but when she tried on other prospective careers, they didn’t fit. She recalled her frustration: “I have a dream to be an actor and it dwarfs me, but it’s my dream, damn it!”

A dream can be intimidating, seemingly impossible and out of reach, but Nyong’o encouraged her listeners to reach for them anyways: “Our dreams derive from our imagination. We own them. We cannot let them defeat us.”

2. Reach out to your stretcher bearers… at least four who would carry you to safety and remind you that you aren’t alone.

Nyong’o explained that her “stretcher bearer” reference comes from a Bible story where two men carried their sick friend, bearing him on his stretcher, to a place where Jesus was healing the sick. Jesus saw how much the stretcher bearers loved their friend and all they had gone through to get him to that place, and so Jesus healed their friend.

She continues to embody this “tool” in her own life. Twitter and Instagram posts reveal that Nyong’o brought her mother to the event, and that she was texting with friends prior to her speech, staying connected with the familiar while she prepared to address the conference of 10,000 women.

3. Ask questions of yourself, for yourself – and listen for the answers.

“There is so much pressure to define ourselves,” observed Nyong’o. “We can and should be able to define ourselves by many things!”

4. Do not underestimate the power of writing your goals and dreams down.

As a poignant example, Nyong’o recalled writing in her diary about what kind of work she wanted to do. The list included her desire to spend two weeks in New Orleans. Mere weeks after writing that list, she signed onto the movie 12 Years a Slave, which required her to spend five weeks in New Orleans during filming.

5. Breathe. Meditate. Be still with your soul.

Throughout her speech, Nyong’o referenced the places she has turned for guidance in her self-exploration: her family, her faith, books she had read and quotations that spoke to her.

6. Go for it and always allow failure to be an option.

As we reach for what we want, we fear failure. We fear being told “no” and we fear not being good enough. But “without the possibility of being bad, you cannot be extraordinary.” Nyong’o encouraged her listeners to take risks as they dare to reach for what they want without expecting to be perfect. They should “always have perfection to work towards. It gives perspective.”

7. Step forward and repeat it all. With each step and challenge, expect to learn these lessons again and again.

“Step and repeat,” she said again. “It doesn’t get comfortable, but it does get familiar.”