I don’t take advice from just anyone. Rather, I adhere to a “hold your tongue if you haven’t walked in my shoes” mentality. This is especially true of celebrities — what does someone with a beach house, a country house, a ski chalet, and a yacht know about my life?
I do, however, make one exception to this rule: Dolly Parton can give me advice any day of the week. The country music legend might be a multi-millionaire and the very definition of celebrity (just look to the Dollywood theme park for proof), but her humble roots, passion for philanthropy, and creative spirit tell me that she knows a thing or two about love, perseverance, and finding joy despite hardship. If personal and professional success are the metric, Dolly Parton is the epitome of pulling through. Whether she’s dominating the music business in Nashville, Tennessee or dispelling the infinite dumb blonde jokes she’s endured through the years, the queen of country music knows just what to say to make me dream more, become an excellent leader, and dig deep into my “imagination library.”
No matter the path, Dolly Parton has words of wisdom for us all. Her quotes have gotten me through countless tough times, and most everyone I know says the same. Here are five Dolly Parton quotes — my personal favorites — that encourage me to love more, laugh often, and trust my life’s path.
“After you reach a certain age, they think you’re over. Well, I will never be over.”
There are so many reasons I find this quote inspiring. As we age — especially as women — it can feel like we become invisible to the rest of the world. Gray hair and wrinkles? Yikes! … Everybody run! This feeling likely resonates with women everywhere, but it’s prolific in the entertainment industry, where appearance is everything. Botox and good makeup can go a long way, but your Wikipedia page tells the truth of your age. Dolly Parton, though, finds these shallow prescriptions meaningless. The “Jolene” crooner boldly declares that, no matter her age, she will never be over. (Later in the interview where this quote was rendered, she adds that she’ll sell music out of the trunk of her car if she must.)
I just love this mindset. It shows that she doesn’t care about what society or the entertainment industry thinks she can do; she’s focused on her passion for music and her confidence in her abilities. She’ll make country music until she physically can’t any longer — and thank God for that!
“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
If you know anything about Dolly Parton — outside of her original rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” of course — you probably know about her work ethic. Dolly wasn’t born into fame and wealth. In fact, she was one of twelve children in a self-described “dirt poor” Appalachian family before she made it big and built her rhinestone world from the ground up. Unlike many songwriters and celebrities, she knows what it’s like to struggle. In fact, one of her biggest hits, “9 to 5,” is about the hustle of the office grind. Despite her commitment to doing everything 110 percent, the rhinestone queen hasn’t forgotten the importance of making space for life outside of work. After all, it’s the small, everyday things that happen outside of work hours that make life worth living. And if this singer-songwriter superstar can make time for things outside of work, then surely I can, too.
On Hard Times
“If you want the rainbow, then you’ve got to put up with the rain.”
I remind myself of this Dollyism every time things get tough. It’s so true: In nature, rainbows only appear after a hard rain. It makes sense that the same thing holds true in life. If you want the best parts of life — the rainbows — you have to endure a few clouds.
This particular Dolly Parton quote has resonated with me in the past few years, in particular, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the lives of so many people I love. But what Dolly has to say about getting through the rain proved to be true — spending so much time apart from my family actually brought us closer together. We developed new traditions and a new appreciation for each other.
This quote is meaningful at face value, but it becomes even more profound when I consider how Dolly Parton struggled with poverty and other difficulties in her life. She might be a Grammy award-winning country music star now, but she went through the wringer to get to that point, which makes this quote even more inspirational to me.
On Taking Risks
“You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”
Of her many famous Dollyisms and inspirational quotes, I think this one has stuck with me the most, because it’s so clear and true. Without being brave and taking risks, we can never reach our full potential and achieve all of the things we want in life. For instance, one of my goals right now is to run a 5k, and the biggest obstacle preventing me from getting off my couch is fear of getting injured. It’s true, of course, that once we hit a certain age, the chance of injury during exercise (or not being able to exercise in the first place) is a lot more likely. But if I heeded every risk, I’d be riddled with fears and doubts. I might never step foot outside my front door. Listening to Dolly, though, I know that I can’t let fear prevent me from living my life, and at least trying to reach my goals. Maybe I won’t be able to run a whole 5k — but I’ll still be running, which is a lot more than I’d be able to do if I never tried at all.
On Our Journey Through Life
“Everybody has their own journey, they have their own way of doing things.”
This quote means so much more to me when I think about Dolly’s journey through life and how her level of success and fame would be pretty much unthinkable to anyone who knew her while she was growing up. It’s hard to take a path in life outside of the expectations the world has of you — it takes courage and a strong sense of self. But when you do, it can be so much more rewarding.
I remember when I was much younger and fresh out of college, I took a job that temporarily located me in the UK. No one in my family had ever moved away that far before, and it was very intimidating. No one had taken that path before me, and I didn’t have any idea of how it would impact me — whether I would be terribly homesick, or if I would even make it all the way through the work’s duration in London. Looking back, I couldn’t be more glad I took that job. It was scary, yes, but it was also exhilarating, and one of the best experiences of my life. Dolly was exactly right: Focus on your journey and your own way of doing things, and you’re sure to be fulfilled.
Dolly Parton: Living Legend
As I said at the start: I don’t take advice from just anyone. The exception is Dolly Parton. From overcoming poverty to fighting stereotypes in the country music industry, Dolly’s career is a lesson in perseverance and sticking to your dreams. This has led to some of the best quotes about being a human being I’ve heard from just about anyone.
The next time you’re struggling with a tough decision, questioning your path in life, or trying to figure out what you want to do with yourself, reflect on what Dolly Parton has said about life’s journey. I guarantee the rhinestone queen will have something touching, wise, and relevant to say — and it just might make all the difference for you.