You probably know Kerry Washington from the hit ABC drama “Scandal.” Or maybe you recognize her from The Fantastic Four movies, or from Django Unchained, or even from Ray or one of her many other films. She’s one of the more prominent actresses working in Hollywood today, and she’s the total package: she’s talented, she’s gorgeous, and she’s incredibly smart. Her acting chops are matched by her social consciousness, and she earns a lot of respect.
Washington’s work has been acknowledged with four Emmy nominations, a BET Award for Best Actress, a Teen Choice Award, and a whole host of other awards and nominations. Plus, she made the Time 100 list in 2014 as one of the 100 most influential people in America. Clearly, Washington has found great success in her chosen field, and there are lots of lessons we can learn from this success. Whether you’re an actor, an entrepreneur, or just someone who’s looking to be inspired, read on for some stellar advice: here are the ten rules of success according to Kerry Washington.
1. Be the best you that you can be.
You can’t try to be someone else — it’s just no way to get ahead. What’s more, you can’t ever let anyone make you feel like you’re not enough, or that you need to be something more to be successful. Instead, just be the best version of yourself that you can be. Yes, it’s challenging, and yes, it requires a lot of work and dedication, but ultimately, everything you need to succeed is already within you. Now, it’s up to you to make it come out.
2. You’ve got to do what’s right for you.
You know yourself better than anyone, and you know which path will lead you to success. You follow that path, and recognize that others will follow their own path. Just like no one knows what’s going on inside your brain and your heart, you can’t truly know what’s going on inside someone else’s. Be true to yourself and do what’s right for you, and you increase your chances of success, no matter which field you’re in.
3. Be passionate and be committed.
You simply can’t do everything, and you can’t make every available option a priority. Instead, make a commitment to the thing you’re passionate about, and then stay with it; that’s what creates success. Washington’s commitment to the show “Scandal” and her passion for her work on it has meant that she’s had to say no to some other pretty exciting projects. She never got bummed about it, though; she knows she’s focused on her work now, and that other projects will come along when she’s ready for them. And yes, she has a hiatus every now and then, and she uses that downtime to work on side projects that she feels equally passionate about. The idea is to find your passion in life, and then commit to it. That’s what leads to success.
4. It’s essential to find a balance between hard work and true joy.
There’s no doubt about it: hard work isn’t always fun. Even if you’re working in your chosen field, even if you feel strongly about your mission and have passion for the type of projects you do, there are times when you have to be all business, and frankly, those times aren’t always fun. Washington gets that, but she also believes that you need to spend some time doing things that bring you joy, however you define that feeling. As for exactly how much time, well, it will differ from one person to the next. But ultimately, you know if you’re not getting enough true joy in your life; things will feel out of balance, and not in a good way. Be conscious about finding that balance between work and joy. You’ll be happier as a result, and you’ll be more motivated to achieve your goals.
5. Success can take time, so be in it for the long haul.
There really are no overnight successes, because success takes time. Plus, you have to do things that scare you a little in order to keep pushing yourself forward. It’s really easy to quit, but quitters never find success. Washington herself has felt like throwing in the towel from time to time, but she credits her patience and her persistence, along with God for sending her a challenging project exactly when she needs one, for her longevity.
6. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone.
Do things that are bold and challenge yourself in your career. This allows you to grow as a person, meet new people, improve your skills, and make yourself better in every way. Washington takes this rule seriously! After working on several TV programs and films, she decided that she wanted to do a Broadway show, and in 2009, she starred in the David Mamet drama Race. It was a real challenge to go on stage night after night in front of a live audience, but she felt it was a good way to get back to why she became a performing artist in the first place. The experience helped her connect with others, and even though it was a lot of work, it allowed her to reignite her passion in the arts and her commitment to performance.
7. Having mentors isn’t just a good idea — it’s crucial.
Mentors, heroes — look up to people who have broken the conventional molds of society and have found success similar to what you’re after. Washington admires women who have used their art to make the world a better and more socially just place for all people, such as Jane Fonda and Barbara Streisand.
8. Be the best you that you can be.
You’ve got to be yourself; there is great strength in honesty! You’re simply not going to find success if you’re pretending to be someone else or something that you’re not. Find your purpose in life, and honor it every day.
9. If you don’t go after your goals, you’ll never achieve them.
It can sometimes be scary to follow your dreams. In Washington’s case, she was genuinely scared to try to make a living as an actress; “Do people really do that and live comfortably?” she would ask herself. But, inspired by the presence of actors unions and a vibrant actors community where she lived, she decided to go for it, and the rest, as they say, is history. Similarly, if you’re an entrepreneur, it can be intimidating to bring your ideas to life and do all the work involved. However, if you never go for it, you’ll never reach success. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your potential and fulfill it!
10. Above all else, have fun.
Success is meant to be enjoyed, because all the good fortune in the world won’t matter if you don’t have a fun with it. Relax, and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself every now and then. There are lots of clips of Washington having a good time just being silly (check out her appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon”). She knows it’s important to have fun, and you should too.
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