More than 10,000 women attended the 10th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women in Boston on Thursday. The keynote speakers included former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, and entrepreneurs Tory Burch and John Jacobs (cofounder of Life Is Good with his brother Bert Jacobs). 

Though Clinton's speech was the grand finale, Nyong'o charmed the audience by recounting the emotional ups and downs of her career, leading up to her 2013 feature debut in 12 Years a Slave. The first step was realizing she wanted to be an actress--despite the long odds of finding enduring work in the profession. "Without the possibility of being bad at something, you will never be extraordinary," she told the crowd.

At the Yale School of Drama, she learned to grow comfortable with failure. "It allows you to embrace vulnerability and surprise yourself," she said. On the set of 12 Years a Slave, she admitted she was nervous throughout the filming. It was her first feature and her fear of failure on the big stage was palpable. "It doesn't ever get comfortable. But it does get familiar," she concluded.  

In addition, she mentioned two books which had been especially helpful to her career journey. They were:

2. Map 4 Life by Glen Allen McQuirk. 

Nyong'o is also a believer in the basic act of writing down your ambitions. If you were in her shoes, you'd believe in it too. On May 4, 2012, she told the crowd, she wrote down the goal of making films that affect change. Nine days later, she got the part in 12 Years a Slave.

Of course, her fulfilment of the ambition was more than nine days in the making. It really began years earlier, with her initial decision to become an actress. She cried when she initially made that decision, and cried again in recounting the moment to the crowd, saying, "I wept just as I am now, because it was so hard to admit that I wanted to be something so improbable."