1. Begin with the moment in mind. To live a life in which you are true to yourself, the truth you seek can be found in your emotional reaction to specific moments in your life. Pay attention to these moments and you will find your way forward.

2. Always sweat the small stuff. When Anna took the Strong Life test , her lead role was Advisor—she draws strength from believing that, in any situation, she is the expert—but the real power came from diving into the details and figuring out which kinds of decisions she truly wanted to be an expert in.

3. Attention amplifies everything. Focus on a problem and the problem will get bigger. Focus on what will fix the problem, and change will follow the focus of your attention.

4. Always work hard. Intensity clarifies. It creates not only momentum, but also the pressure you need to feel either friction, or fulfillment.

5. Always keep yourself in the equation. Whether negotiating with your spouse or your company, your own strength and satisfaction must be your starting point. When you know what moments strengthen you, you are in the best position to figure out how to support all those who rely on you. In the short term, this may require self-sacrifice, but as a long-term strategy, self-sacrifice serves no one you love.

Anna is a Hollywood agent. When you think of her, don't imagine a slick, Gucci-clad, deal-making shark. Instead picture a tall redhead who's quick to smile and has a hearty laugh. A woman who doesn't necessarily demand your attention when she walks into a room, but who reveals her strength and self-assurance in each subsequent meeting. She's competent, and she knows it, yet not arrogant. Her manner is so open, candid, and unguardedly optimistic, she leaves you feeling that she would be a great best friend. You know you would trust her with your career, and more. And as you chat with her, listening to her self-deprecating stories of motherhood and movie-land, you can't help but ask yourself, How does she do it?

Don't imagine that Anna has led a picture-perfect life, a life that you or anyone else should copy. It's been a regular sort of life, with confused beginnings, long stretches of "What am I doing with my life?" and the occasional "Oh no, what have I done?" The lesson from Anna's life is not that she never felt confused or lost or weak; instead, the lesson lies in the choices she made whenever these feelings came upon her.

Contrary to initial impressions, Anna Carson didn't grow up under the shadow of the Hollywood sign, but in the cornfields of Iowa. Her dad was a farmer, and her childhood address was the kind of thing you make up when you're making up stories about farmers: The Carson Farm, Rural Route 1, Iowa City, Iowa.

Anna was the fourth child out of six, the girl in the middle, and her family was tight-knit. So when she was ready to go to college, she chose the University of Iowa. It was home.

And she did well. She graduated with a degree in business administration, which she used to get a job as a district supervisor for a high-end grocery chain. That seemed the right thing to do at the time. It gave her a car, a steady income, a place to live close to her family, and a future that was already mapping itself out.


Next Story