Steve Harvey on Finding Forgiveness from His Daughters After Leaving Them to Chase His Dream of Becoming a Comedian

"I didn't have an inkling or a clue of how to ever get on TV," Harvey admits to PEOPLE

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Steve Harvey wasn’t always the successful comedian fans have grown to love – he had to make some tough choices along the way to get to where he is now.

One thing is for sure, the best-selling author knew he belonged on TV, but he just didn’t know how to actually get there.

Growing up, “I had a stuttering problem, and I was from the ‘hood.’ ” the Little Big Shots host tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. He was a 28-year-old college dropout who was working as an insurance salesman, but that didn’t stop him from trying standup for the first time.

“I had never even heard of a comedy club,” he said. “I didn’t even know they existed.”

For much more on Steve Harvey’s life, pick up the upcoming issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Harvey won the $50 first prize during his first shot at performing, and he quit his job the next day. That decision did not go over well with his wife and the mother of his two daughters, Marcia.

“I’m married, I have twins [Brandi and Karli, now 33]. I’m supposed to provide for them, but I had to take this chance,” he recall.

Harvey continued to struggle and only made $3,000 as a comedian in his first year. He and Marcia went on to separate and eventually finalized their divorce in 1994. His relationship with his daughters fell apart, something that took a huge emotional toll on the comedian.

It wasn’t until they got older that Brandi and Karli were finally able to understand why their dad needed to pursue his dreams.

“Years later they said to me, ‘Dad, we didn’t understand why you left us, but we know now you had to go. You didn’t just belong to us. You belonged to the world,’ ” Harvey said.

Admits Harvey, “That was emotional for me.”

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