See This Guy: Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

I've always wanted to do right in life. But the wanting and the doing aren't quite the same thing.

Sometimes in life, you have to learn a hard lesson before moving past your circumstances.

Mark Wahlberg is one of the most famous and successful people in Hollywood history. Yet was headed for an early death or a life behind bars if he kept on the same path he started as a teenager.

A lack of parental supervision created a descent into juvenile delinquency. The youngest of nine children, Mark dropped out of high school to make a living on the streets of Dorchester, a touch district of Boston. He stole cars, sold drugs and developed an addiction to hard substances himself.

After numerous run-ins with the law, he violently beat a middle-aged man. He was charged with attempted murder, pled guilty to assault and was sentenced to two years in prison -- at age 16. Although he served only 45 days of the sentence, he knew this was likely his last chance to change his ways.

There was always a voice in my head telling me I was going to end up in jail. Three of my brothers had done time. My sister went to prison so many times I lost count. Finally I was there, locked up with the kind of guys I'd always wanted to be like. Now I'd earned my stripes and I was just like them. I realized it wasn't what I wanted at all and I never wanted to go back.

Upon release, he took a honest job (as a bricklayer’s apprentice) and began a serious workout regimen.

Then fate intervened.

Several years earlier, Mark was in a singing group with his older brother Donnie. And while Mark dropped out after a few months, Donnie stayed the course and became a star as a member of 1980’s pop idols New Kids on the Block.

Donnie helped Mark get a record deal and produced his first album. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch had a platinum debut and a smash #1 single in 1991 with “Good Vibrations”. That success led to a lucrative contract with Calvin Klein as a featured model.

Immature behavior and the failure of his second album were setting up Mark for a quick exit from early stardom. And that’s when he made a decision that would one day make him one of the most famous people on earth; he turned to acting.

Small jobs led to bigger ones, including his breakthrough roles in The Basketball Diaries and Boogie Nights. Within a few years, he matured into an A-List leading man (picking up an Oscar-nom for The Departed), a massively successful television producer (most notably, Entourage, which was loosely based on his life) and entrepreneur (Wahlburgers chain, Marked sports nutrition supplements).  Plus, he just landed a $10 million contract as a spokesman for AT&T.

The most important thing is that ever since I realized all the wrongs that I had done, I have been trying to correct them for the past 27 years.

We won’t all end up as international superstars, but we can learn an important lesson from Mark Wahlberg: with willpower and work ethic, we can always overcome our circumstances.

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John Lavallo57 Posts

John is Columbia Business School MBA with expertise in marketing, business leadership, and law. John is a successful entrepreneur who took his first company public. He currently resides in New York City.