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At 13, Germanotta wrote her first song. She began performing at open-microphone nights in coffeehouses soon thereafter. She was also cast in school musicals — mounted with a nearby all-boys school — most memorably the role of Adelaide in the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.

Based on Damon Runyon’s stories of colorful Times Square characters in the prohibition era — gamblers, horseplayers, hustlers — Guys and Dolls captures a certain New York swagger and rhythm that lives on to this day, equal parts chutzpah and heart. Adelaide is a plum comic role, the disappointed-in-love nightclub singer who belts the plaintive “Adelaide’s Lament.” It’s easy to imagine young Germanotta bringing the audience to its feet.

Lady Gaga‘s public persona today holds traces of this Great White Way tradition of heart and verve.

Germanotta took acting seriously — she remained in character throughout the rehearsal process, insisting that her fellow actors call her Adelaide — and spent most Saturdays in acting class.

Lesson: Focus is crucial to success. Germanotta never broke character because it would weaken her focus. Find concrete ways to strengthen and maintain your focus.”

—An excerpt from Gaga, Inc., out now on New Word Press. Photo: Giulio Pugliese