Even though he is only five foot four, actor, comedian, writer, and producer Kevin Hart has always lived large. Now he is adding author to his list of mega-accomplishments with the publication of I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons, cowritten with Neil Strauss, (Atria/37 Ink). Candid, funny, reflective, and heartbreaking, Hart’s book recalls how he overcame the huge obstacles of his father’s drug addiction, his mother’s rather intensive style of parenting, and lots and lots of failure to become one of the hottest comics in America.

This is not a celebrity tell-all or victory lap. Hart explains the lessons he’s garnered in his long climb up. “The inspiration for this book comes from wanting to give people insight on my story to hopefully inspire or motivate individuals to hang on tight to their dreams,” says Hart, “to let people know that anything is possible. When you speak of fulfilling potential and striving for greatness, it is an overwhelming task. Giving what I think is some sound advice that I learned the hard way allows readers to continue on their path with a little less heartache.”

Failure was a constant companion of Hart’s for a while, which will surprise his fans, who know him from his films (Think Like a Man, Central Intelligence, Get Hard, Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer, The Secret Life of Pets, and Soul Plane, among many others), which have earned more than $3.5 billion at the box office; his standup comedy tours, which have sold out arenas and stadiums; and as the creator of the BET show Real Husbands of Hollywood. Hart explains how important his early struggles were: “Failure is a necessary component of success that people don’t respect. As long as you learn from mistakes and apply those lessons, you will see that failure is the greatest teacher. It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to let your dreams end. It’s easy to let doubt destroy.”

As he says in his book, “At every moment in life you can choose to go right or you can choose to go left. Every right you take leads you closer to your best possible destiny; every left leads you further away from it. These forks on the road are not decisions that lead to actions like saying yes to a job offer, but thoughts that lead to beliefs, like blaming your father for ruining your life. Your life today is the sum total of your choices. So if you’re not happy with it, look back at your choices and start making different ones.”