Shonda Rhimes’s Top 10 Rules For Success (@shondarhimes)


– I always knew as a
kid that I was a writer, but I never really knew
what I wanted to do. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life,
that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. Literally not allowed to
play Scrabble in my house (audience laughs) because of fights that break out. I tried to write a novel, like a really intricate
Toni Morrison-esque novel, and it is terrible. – She’s a television producer and writer. She’s a creator, head writer,
and executive producer of the hit medical drama
series Grey’s Anatomy. She was named one of Time
Magazine’s 100 People Who Helped Shape the World. She’s Shonda Rhimes, and here’s my take on her
top 10 rules for success. Rule number 10 is my personal favorite, and I’m curious to figure out which one you guys like the most. Also, as Shonda’s talking,
if she says something that really, really
deeply resonates with you, please leave it down in the comments below and put quotes around it so other people can be inspired as well. (whooshing) (soaring music) – I spent a lot a time, and a lot of people spend a lot a time, thinking of all the things they want to do and talking about it. But the idea that you’re
not actually doing anything to get to where you want to go, you’re waiting for some
sort of big magical moment or some door to open
or some, I don’t know, some interesting,
illuminating thing to happen is very different from the hard day-to-day slogging through step by step,
I’m going to climb this ladder, here’s an opportunity,
I’m going to run for it, any little small moment. Oh, I want to be a writer. Somebody wants me to be an intern at their production company. I will go do that. Somebody wants me to go work at this job, I will do that. Oh, I’m going to go work
at this sort of awful job because it’s going to pay the bills so I can write at night,
well, I’m going to do that because that’s a way to
get where I want to go. People don’t want to do those things because they think that they’re
waiting for their big break, and I think that hard
work and being a doer and taking every opportunity
that comes your way, whether or not it seems
like the most amazing one is the way to go. I always knew as a kid
that I was a writer, but I never really knew
what I wanted to do. I always believed that
that wasn’t a real job. So I thought that all of the
things that interested me, like maybe I’d be a doctor,
maybe I’d be a lawyer, maybe I’d go work in Washington. I always thought that
those were the things that I actually wanted to do for a living instead of understanding
that those were the things I wanted to research and
write about for a living. As you try to figure
out the impossible task of juggling work and family and you hear over and over and over again that you just need a lot of help, or you just need to be organize, or you just need to try
a little bit harder, as a very successful woman,
a single mother of three, who constantly gets asked the question, “How do you do it all?” for once I’m going to answer that question with 100% honesty here for you now because it’s just us, ’cause
it’s our fireside chat, ’cause somebody has to tell you the true. Shonda, how do you do it all? The answer is this. I don’t. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life,
that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a
Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath
and story time at home. If I’m at home sewing my
kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I’m accepting a prestigious award, I’m missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I’m at my daughter’s
debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade off. That is the Faustian bargain
one makes with the devil that comes with being a
powerful working woman who’s also a powerful mother. You never feel 100% okay. You never get your sea legs. You are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost. Something is always missing. And yet, I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are
when they come to my offices and know that they come to ShondaLand. There is a land and it is
named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers
own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because
I get to run ShondaLand because I get to write all day, because I get to spend
my days making things up, that woman is a better
person and a better mother because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to get to
know the me who wasn’t doing. So lesson number three is
that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar. – That inner critic,
you’re not good enough, you failed, you’re not
a good enough mother, you’re not a good enough person is rampant or was rampant in you. How did you silence that? So, like, you ate the
fried chicken, you suck, like, I would do that. (audience laughs) Yeah, and then you’re like,
okay, I ate the fried chicken, I might as well eat a pint of ice cream, then I might as well, yeah, and then the circle begins. I can’t do anything, I’m a loser, and then there it goes. – But it’s true, I think
we all have that in us, and I am an extraordinarily
competitive person. I come from, so many similarities, I come from a big family. My big family is very competitive. We’re literally not allowed
to play Scrabble in my house (audience laughs) because of fights that break out. My mother’s like, “You’re not allowed.” And because of that competitiveness, I’m really hard on myself,
and I’m the youngest of six, so I’ve sort of been the
bottom of that competitiveness, and so you’re always pushing harder. That thing makes you intense, and it makes you really,
really sort of OCD and hard on yourself. Part of what I tried to do was let it be okay to mess up and give myself permission and think how would I treat somebody else. Why could I treat other people better than I could treat myself? ‘Cause I could fight for
anybody who worked for me. I could gladiate for anybody at work and tell anybody off for anybody else. I could treat anybody else wonderfully. But when it came to myself, I
let people treat me like crap and I treated myself that way, and it felt like I
respected myself far less than I respected everybody else. And so I just tried to respect myself. – Easier said than done. How do you begin to,
quote, “respect yourself?” – A little bit was the self care. The more you say yes and the more you realize
that you’re succeeding and that you’re overcoming something, the better you feel, the
more powerful you feel, the more successful you feel, and the better you feel
about yourself honestly. When I conquered being
afraid of public speaking, I started to feel like,
oh, I’m good at that. Okay, well, it works. You start to feel like you’re in control, as opposed to feeling like it’s just set that you’re
a loser or something. I’m a writer, I’m supposed
to be behind the scenes, and everybody else is supposed
to be in front of the stuff. – Now she’s finally in
front of the cameras. The famously private woman
talking about her epic struggles with anxiety and her
fear of public speaking. What physiologically happens when you’re having that
stage four panic attack? – There’s a little bit
of panicked breathing. There’s a lot of pacing back and forth and mumbling to myself. – [Interviewer] Despite being invited to every glamorous party in Hollywood, she’d make excuses, saying
she was just too busy until one day her sister provoked her. – I was sort of going on and on and on about like all of the
invitations that I’d received and my sister finally
sort of cut in and said, “Are you going to say yes
to any of these things?” And I remember being very taken aback and saying, “No, I’m busy, I can’t.” And her sort of looking
at me like that’s insane and at some point just saying, “You never say yes to anything.” And those words really sticking with me because she was right. – And so this became a campaign to say yes to the things that scared you. – Yeah, to say yes to
things that freaked me out. – And when you started saying
yes, what started to happen? – It’s the doing of the thing that sort of undoes the fear. The idea now to me that I
wanted to be Toni Morrison seems very sad really ’cause, right, Toni Morrison’s
not giving up her job. Toni Morrison’s busy being Toni Morrison. That job opening is not available. And it sort of led me to being more authentically me actually by really just sort of finding a path that was like here’s an opening,
I’m going to go for that, and that’s how I discovered
writing in television and that’s how I discovered
what kind of writing fit me. – Yeah, ’cause you
didn’t expect to do this when you were at Dartmouth. – No, and let me tell you,
I tried to write a novel, like a really intricate
Toni Morrison-esque novel, and it is terrible. I am not Toni Morrison. But this feels right to me, and when I started writing
television, it felt like, oh, this is what I should’ve
been doing all my life. It was like a light bulb went off. – What makes a good leader in your mind? What have you learned about leadership and what is a takeaway for people here about a first step towards
being a better leader? – I don’t think that you have to be me. I really only feel like
I started truly learning how to be a leader about
two or three years ago partially when this process started when I got braver about it. I think it’s a willing to
really delve into this stuff, to have the difficult conversations, that’s another part of the book, of really being willing to
have those conversations that nobody wants to have that we spend all of our time avoiding, sitting down with the people you work with and saying, “Here’s the
deal” or “What’s going on?” Or all of those things that we spend all of our time avoiding,
just jumping right in, and those things solve problems. Those things make life so much easier. Those things cross bridges in ways that you never thought would happen. That for me has been the
single greatest thing that has changed the way
I work with everybody because now everyone feels like, A, I’m going to tell them the truth, and, B, they can tell me anything. I love the idea that I’m not somebody that they’re afraid of. There’s some weird world in which anybody gives you a compliment your response is, oh, it’s
not that big of a deal. – And even you, Shonda Rhimes, creator of all this fabulousness, was like, oh, no, I was lucky. – It makes you feel arrogant to sort of somehow acknowledge
that you had some part in it, which is ridiculous. Own who you are and what you’ve done. Be proud of it. – You talk in the book
that you used to shy away from difficult conversations
and that you realized that the more you wanted to say something but you didn’t so you ate it, literally, you ate it to numb it, right, and that the first time you actually said to somebody like, “That
doesn’t work for me” or you gave yourself permission to say no in the year of yes, that all
of a sudden you felt free. People are afraid to say,
“That doesn’t work for me” or “No” because they’ll lose a friend, they may lose a spouse,
they may lose a child. Tough love, as we call it, or saying, “That doesn’t work for me” is a really hard thing to say. – But the thing that we fear will happen, you’re still fearing it
while you’re avoiding it. So the entire time you’re
not having the conversation or saying the thing you need to say, you’re basically terrified that
that thing’s going to happen. So it’s in there and on
you and pressing on you, and for me, I was just
eating a whole lot of stuff. But once you have the conversation, I had one really hard conversation that ended with a really
close friend of mine just saying some of the worst things to me I never heard anybody say, and instead of feeling awful, I found myself feeling
invigorated and relieved and a little bit exhilarated because I had told her how I felt and she had told me who she was and now that I knew that, I was like, this is like a superpower (audience laughs) because you unmask people immediately and that was such a
relief and felt so simple. Across the field of a difficult
conversation lies peace. So a while ago, I tried an experiment. For one year, I would say yes to all the things that scared me. Anything that made me nervous, took me out of my comfort zone, I forced myself to say yes to. Did I want to speak in public? No, but yes. Did I want to be on live TV? No, but yes. Did I want to try acting? No, no, no, but yes, yes, yes. And a crazy thing happened. The very act of doing
the thing that scared me undid the fear, made it not scary. My fear of public speaking,
my social anxiety, poof, gone. It’s amazing, the power of one word. Yes changed my life. Yes changed me. But there was one particular yes that affected my life in
the most profound way, in a way I never imagined, and it started with a
question from my toddler. I have these three amazing daughters, Harper, Beckett and Emerson,
and Emerson’s a toddler who inexplicably refers
to everyone as honey as though she’s a Southern waitress. (audience laughs) “Honey, I’m going to need
some milk for my sippy cup.” (audience laughs) The Southern waitress
asked me to play with her one evening when I was
on my way somewhere, and I said, “Yes.” And that yes was the beginning of a new way of life for my family. I made a vow that from now on, every time one of my
children asks me to play, no matter what I’m doing
or where I’m going, I say yes, every single time. Almost. I’m not perfect at it, but
I try hard to practice it. And it’s had a magical effect on me, on my children, on our family. But it’s also had a stunning side effect, and it wasn’t until recently
that I fully understood it, that I understood that saying yes to playing with my children
likely saved my career. See, I have what most people
would call a dream job. I’m a writer, I imagine, I
make stuff up for a living. Dream job. No. I’m a titan. Dream job. I create television. I executive produce television. I make television, a
great deal of television. In one way or another, this TV season, I’m responsible for
bringing about 70 hours of programming to the world. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV. (audience applauds) Three shows in production
at a time, sometimes four. Each show creates hundreds of
jobs that didn’t exist before. The budget for one episode
of network television can be anywhere from three
to six million dollars. Let’s just say five. A new episode made every
nine days times four shows, so every nine days that’s $20
million worth of television, four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production
at a time, sometimes four, 16 episodes going on at all times. 24 episodes of Grey’s,
21 episodes of Scandal, 15 episodes of How To
Get Away With Murder, 10 episodes of The Catch,
that’s 70 hours of TV, that’s $350 million for a season. In America, my television shows are back to back to
back on Thursday night. Around the world, my shows
air in 256 territories in 67 languages for an
audience of 30 million people. My brain is global, and 45
hours of that 70 hours of TV are shows I personally
created and not just produced, so on top of everything
else, I need to find time, real quiet, creative
time, to gather my fans around the campfire and tell my stories. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production
at a time, sometimes four, $350 million, campfires
burning all over the world. You know who else is doing that? Nobody, so like I said, I’m a titan. Dream job. (audience members cheer) Now, I don’t tell you this to impress you. I tell you this because
I know what you think of when you hear the word writer. I tell you this so that
all of you out there who work so hard,
whether you run a company or a country or a classroom
or a store or a home, take me seriously when
I talk about working, so you’ll get that I
don’t peck at a computer and imagine all day, so
you’ll hear me when I say that I understand that a dream
job is not about dreaming. It’s all job, all work, all reality, all blood, all sweat, no tears. I work a lot, very hard, and I love it. When I’m hard at work,
when I’m deep in it, there is no other feeling. For me, my work is at all times building a nation out of thin air. It is manning the troops. It is painting a canvas. It is hitting every high note. It is running a marathon. It is being Beyonce. And it is all of those
things at the same time. I love working. It is creative and
mechanical and exhausting and exhilarating and
hilarious and disturbing and clinical and maternal
and cruel and judicious, and what makes it all so good is the hum. There is some kind of shift inside me when the work gets good. A hum begins in my brain,
and it grows and it grows and that hum sounds like the open road and I could drive it forever. And a lot of people, when
I try to explain the hum, they assume that I’m
talking about the writing, that my writing brings me joy. And don’t get me wrong, it does. But the hum, it wasn’t until
I started making television that I started working, working and making and building and creating
and collaborating, that I discovered this thing, this buzz, this rush, this hum. The hum is more than writing. The hum is action and activity. The hum is a drug. The hum is music. The hum is light and air. The hum is God’s whisper right in my ear. And when you have a hum like that, you can’t help but strive for greatness. That feeling, you can’t help but strive for greatness at any cost. That’s called the hum. Or, maybe it’s called being a workaholic. (audience laughs) Maybe it’s called genius. Maybe it’s called ego. Maybe it’s just fear of failure. I don’t know. I just know that I’m
not built for failure, and I just know that I love the hum. I just know that I want
to tell you I’m a titan, and I know that I don’t
want to question it. But here’s the thing. The more successful I
become, the more shows, the more episodes, the
more barriers broken, the more work there is to do,
the more balls in the air, the more eyes on me,
the more history stares, the more expectations there are. The more I work to be successful,
the more I need to work. And what did I say about work? I love working, right? The nation I’m building,
the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the high note, the hum, the hum, the hum. I like that hum. I love that hum. I need that hum. I am that hum. Am I nothing but that hum? And then the hum stopped. Overworked, overused,
overdone, burned out. The hum stopped. Now, my three daughters
are used to the truth that their mother is a
single working titan. Harper tells people,
“My mom won’t be there, “but you can text my nanny.” And Emerson says, “Honey, I’m
wanting to go to ShondaLand.” They’re children of a titan. They’re baby titans. They were 12, three, and
one when the hum stopped. The hum of the engine died. I stopped loving work. I couldn’t restart the engine. The hum would not come back. My hum was broken. I was doing the same things I always did, all the same titan work, 15-hour days, working straight through the weekends, no regrets, never surrender, a titan never sleeps, a titan never quits, full hearts, clear eyes, yada, whatever. But there was no hum. Inside me was silence. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production
at a time, sometimes four. Four television programs, 70 hours of TV, three shows in production
at a time, sometimes four. I was the perfect titan. I was a titan you could
take home to your mother. All the colors were the same, and I was no longer having any fun. And it was my life. It was all I did. I was the hum, and the hum was me. So what do you do when the thing you do, the work you love, starts
to taste like dust? Now I know somebody’s out there thinking, “Cry me a river, stupid
writer titan lady.” (audience laughs) But you know, you do, if
you make, if you work, if you love what you do, being
a teacher, being a banker, being a mother, being a
painter, being Bill Gates, if you simply love another person and that gives you the
hum, if you know the hum, if you know what the hum feels like, if you have been to the hum, when the hum stops, who are you? What are you? What am I? Am I still a titan? If the song of my heart ceases to play, can I survive in the silence? And then my Southern waitress
toddler asks me a question. I’m on my way out the door, I’m late, and she says, “Momma, want to play?” And I’m just about to say no
when I realize two things. One, I’m supposed to
say yes to everything, and two, my Southern waitress
didn’t call me honey. She’s not calling everyone honey anymore. When did that happen? I’m missing it, being a
titan and mourning my hum, and here she is changing
right before my eyes. And so she says, “Momma, want to play?” And I say, “Yes.” There’s nothing special about it. We play, and we’re joined by her sisters, and there’s a lot of laughing, and I give a dramatic reading
from the book Everybody Poops. (audience laughs) Nothing out of the ordinary. And yet, it is extraordinary because in my pain and my panic, in the homelessness of my humlessness, I have nothing to do but pay attention. I focus. I am still. The nation I’m building,
the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the
high note does not exist. All that exists are sticky
fingers and gooey kisses and tiny voices and crayons
and that song about letting go of whatever it is that Frozen
girl needs to let go of. (audience laughs) It’s all peace and simplicity. The air is so rare in this place for me that I can barely breathe. I can barely believe I’m breathing. Play is the opposite of work. And I am happy. Something in me loosens. A door in my brain swings open,
and a rush of energy comes. And it’s not instantaneous,
but it happens, it does happen. I feel it. A hum creeps back. Not at full volume,
barely there, it’s quiet, and I have to stay very still
to hear it, but it is there. Not the hum, but a hum. And now I feel like I know
a very magical secret. Well, let’s not get carried away. It’s just love. That’s all it is. No magic. No secret. It’s just love. It’s just something we forgot. The hum, the work hum,
the hum of the titan, that’s just a replacement. If I have to ask you who I am, if I have to tell you who I am, if I describe myself in terms of shows and hours of television and how
globally badass my brain is, I have forgotten what the real hum is. The hum is not power and the
hum is not work-specific. The hum is joy-specific. The real hum is love-specific. The hum is the electricity that comes from being excited by life. The real hum is confidence and peace. The real hum ignores the stare of history and the balls in the air and the expectation and the pressure. The real hum is singular and original. The real hum is God’s whisper in my ear, but maybe God was
whispering the wrong words, because which one of the gods was telling me I was a titan? It’s just love. We could all use a little
more love, a lot more love. Any time my child asks me
to play, I will say yes. I make it a firm rule for one reason, to give myself permission, to free me from all of
my workaholic guilt. It’s a law, so I don’t have a choice, and I don’t have a choice,
not if I want to feel the hum. I wish it were that easy,
but I’m not good at playing. I don’t like it. (audience chuckles) I’m not interested in doing it the way I’m interested in doing work. The truth is incredibly humbling
and humiliating to face. I don’t like playing. I work all the time
because I like working. I like working more than
I like being at home. Facing that fact is incredibly
difficult to handle, because what kind of person likes working more than being at home? Well, me. I mean, let’s be honest,
I call myself a titan. I’ve got issues. (audience laughs) And one of those issues
isn’t that I am too relaxed. (audience laughs) We run around the yard, up
and back and up and back. We have 30-second dance parties. We sing show tunes. We play with balls. I blow bubbles and they pop them. And I feel stiff and delirious and confused most of the time. I itch for my cell phone always. But it is okay. My tiny humans show me how to live and the hum of the universe fills me up. I play and I play until I begin to wonder why we ever stop playing
in the first place. You can do it too. Say yes every time your
child asks you to play. Are you thinking that maybe
I’m an idiot in diamond shoes? You’re right, but you can still do this. You have time. You know why? ‘Cause you’re not Rihanna
and you’re not a Muppet. Your child does not think
you’re that interesting. (audience laughs) You only need 15 minutes. My two- and four-year-old
only ever want to play with me for about 15 minutes or so
before they think to themselves they want to do something else. It’s an amazing 15 minutes,
but it’s 15 minutes. If I’m not a ladybug or a piece of candy, I’m invisible after 15 minutes. (audience laughs) And my 13-year-old, if I can get a 13-year-old
to talk to me for 15 minutes, I’m Parent of the Year. (audience laughs) 15 minutes is all you need. I can totally pull off 15 minutes of uninterrupted time on my worst day. Uninterrupted is the key. No cell phone, no laundry, no anything. You have a busy life. You have to get dinner on the table. You have to force them to bathe. But you can do 15 minutes. My kids are my happy
place, they’re my world, but it doesn’t have to be your kids, the fuel that feeds your hum, the place where life feels
more good than not good. It’s not about playing with
your kids, it’s about joy. It’s about playing in general. Give yourself the 15 minutes. Find what makes you feel good. Just figure it out and play in that arena. I’m not perfect at it. In fact, I fail as often as I succeed, seeing friends, reading
books, staring into space. “Want to play?” starts to become shorthand for indulging myself
in ways I’d given up on right around the time
I got my first TV show, right around the time I
became a titan-in-training, right around the time I started competing with myself for ways unknown. 15 minutes, what could be
wrong with giving myself my full attention for 15 minutes? Turns out, nothing. The very act of not working has made it possible
for the hum to return, as if the hum’s engine could
only refuel while I was away. Work doesn’t work without play. It takes a little time,
but after a few months, one day the floodgates
open and there’s a rush, and I find myself standing in my office filled with an unfamiliar melody, full on groove inside me and around me, and it sends me spinning with ideas, and the humming road is open, and I can drive it and drive
it, and I love working again. But now I like that hum,
but I don’t love that hum. I don’t need that hum. I am not that hum. That hum is not me, not anymore. I am bubbles and sticky fingers
and dinners with friends. I am that hum. Life’s hum. Love’s hum. Work’s hum is still a piece of me, it is just no longer all of
me, and I am so grateful. And I don’t give a crap
about being a titan, because I have never once seen a titan play Red Rover, Red Rover. (audience laughs) I said yes to less work and more play, and somehow I still run my world. My brain is still global. My campfires still burn. The more I play, the happier I am, and the happier my kids are. The more I play, the more
I feel like a good mother. The more I play, the
freer my mind becomes. The more I play, the better I work. The more I play, the more I feel the hum, the nation I’m building,
the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the
high note, the hum, the hum, the other hum, the real hum, life’s hum. The more I feel that hum,
the more this strange, quivering, uncocooned, awkward, brand new, alive non-titan feels like me. The more I feel that hum,
the more I know who I am. I’m a writer, I make stuff up, I imagine. That part of the job,
that’s living the dream. That’s the dream of the job. Because a dream job should
be a little bit dreamy. I said yes to less work and more play. Titans need not apply. Want to play? Thank you. (audience applauds) – Thank you guys so much for watching. I made this video because
Tahera Barney asked me to. So if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you would like me to profile next, please leave it down in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do. I’d also love to know, what did Shonda say that really had a big impact on you? What was your favorite clip? What lesson did you learn and why? Please leave it down
in the comments below. I’m going to join in the discussion. Thank you again for watching. I believe in you. I hope you continue to believe in yourself and whatever your one word is. Much love, I’ll see you soon.

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