Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

April 7, 2018


It’s easy to get discouraged when you have a bad day and things aren’t quite going your way. 

Imagine being a 4 foot 5 inch man and trying to survive in a world of 6 foot tall actors. 

Peter Dinklage doesn’t have to imagine. 

He has lived it his whole life. 

Born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, Peter was not like the other children. Not at all. 

He had to undergo painful surgeries to prevent scoliosis which created difficulty walking.

He was forced to shuffle around on bent legs

To try to make his life a bit less miserable, Peter had the bones of his legs shaved down. A procedure that caused him crippling pain. When that didn’t work as planned, doctors tried to stretch his legs and his arms in an attempt to cure his incurable condition. 

Of course, it didn’t work. 

Peter’s parents knew they wouldn’t be doing him any favors by treating him differently.

So they just pretended like he was a normal kid trying to normal things. It was on him to figure out how to get his favorite cereal down — even when it was on the top shelf pantry.

His parents didn’t mention his diagnosis. Or try to comfort him about his condition.

He didn’t even realize he was that much smaller than everyone else around him until high school when he saw himself in a play with other kids his age.

That’s when he realized they were all so much bigger than him. 

But he wasn’t about to let that stop him.

Peter was in love with the stage.

Throughout his school years, he performed in numerous plays and productions. He was always part of the drama club. A full-on performance geek.

If that alone wasn’t cause for bullying from the jocks at his school, his small stature definitely was. 

High school was pure terror for Peter.

He tried his best to stay away from the bullies. But they terrified him to no end. He made up for it with a close-knit group of friends who had his back. 

And a sense of humor that could not be rivaled. 

He took that humor with him to Bennington College in Vermont where he majored in drama and continued to foster his love for acting and being on stage.

But that came with a dark side. He developed some personal demons.

It was Bennington College where Peter started having panic attacks.

Out of nowhere. They just hit him. And hit him hard. Instead of looking for help, Peter spent his college years self-medicating with marijuana, listening to music and acting in plays.

It was his way of coping and it got him through. 

After graduation, Peter headed to the big city.

But it was anything but glamorous.

He moved into a little rat-infested apartment in Brooklyn where he was determined to start a theatre company.  

But things don’t always work out the way we plan. 

Sometimes they work out even better. 

Peter had no desire to be in film. The stage with his passion. He didn’t even watch TV. And he refused to play parts that were made for little people.

He was adamant about not taking the roles that were made for “dwarfs.” Especially the ones where the dwarves spin magic, wear pointy shoes, or follow a Disney princess around whistling.

He only wanted to act in roles that were written for people. Any people. Not written with a predisposed inclination of how tall (or short) the character should be. 

His passion and artistic integrity pushed him out of a lot of opportunities

Plus, it’s hard to find acting roles on the big screen when you don’t have an agent.

And Peter didn’t have one. And never has since.

He was never able to find an agent with an imagination. One who would look past his height and send him out to auditions that weren’t just for little people.

Instead of selling himself short, Peter declined those types of roles and accepted his fate as a starving artist. A theater actor. 

It wasn’t until he turned 30 that Peter started making any money at all acting. And then he started getting roles that meant something to him. Roles that allowed him to spread his wings. Roles that didn’t force him into that “little people” category. 

And his hard work and dignity paid off.

When Game of Thrones was being developed, Peter was not just cast in the role of Tyrion Lannister, he was the only person called in to play the role. It was written for him specifically.

There was nobody else. He was Tyrion from day one. His wit. His humor. His unfailing devotion to the arts. His talent to become Tyrion made him the only man for the job — at a rate of $1.1 million per episode.

Now, he’s a household name. He has fame he never even dreamed of (and maybe never wanted). 

Fame has not gone to his head. He keeps himself grounded in reality. He prefers it that way.  He still likes his privacy.

He doesn’t even live in the big city anymore. Instead, he’s got a small place in upstate New York where he hides out with his wife and two kids when he’s not working.

But none of that was easy. A lesson we could all stand to learn. 

What are you reaching for in your life? What are your expectations for you? For the rest of your life?

If you have a dream that you have yet to realize, take some time to think about when you stopped reaching for it and why.

All of us have obstacles. Sure, it seems like some people have more than others. But you don’t have it any worse than anyone else. 


So it’s time to stop being so damn comfortable where you are.

It’s time to remember that you still need to do those things that scare you. Those things you think you might fail at.

You need to do those things you always thought you would do until you realized how hard it would be. 

It’s time for you to set higher expectations for a big life.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.