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Lessons I’ve learned from Dolly Parton (and the value in having role models from afar)

Who inspires you? Here I’m sharing how one of my role models from afar, Dolly Parton, inspires me and the lessons she’s taught me.

A few weeks ago, I got to see Dolly Parton perform at the Grand Ole Opry to celebrate her 50th Anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member.

I’ve been listening to Dolly Parton my whole life, so seeing her perform live for the first time (and at the Grand Ole Opry, no less!) was a really special treat.

Besides loving her music, I also admire and respect who she is as a person. She’s such a positive role model. There are so many lessons I’ve learned from her that I aspire to apply in my own life.

Having role models can be powerful in both our professional and personal development and success. Role models can inspire us, teach us, motivate us, and broaden our perspectives and horizons.

By achieving a milestone you aspire to, they forge a path for you to follow and show you it can be done. And you get to learn from their experience through the wisdom they share.

In some cases, role models are people in your life — a parent, friend, colleague, etc. But a role model can also be someone you’ve never met, someone who inspires you from afar through their career, talent, accomplishments, interactions with others, or simply how they live their life. I call these role models from afar.

Dolly Parton is one of my role models from afar, so I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned from her and how she’s inspired me.

How dolly parton has inspired me as a role model

  1. Her sense of humor. She is so clever and quick-witted and has an awesome sense of humor. It reminds me to laugh more and not take things so seriously. Laughing brings you joy (as well as the people around you), reduces stress, and can help put things in perspective. And when it comes to the haters out there, keeping a sense of humor and not letting them get to you totally takes away their power (and keeps you sane).
  2. Her positive attitude. Dolly’s positivity just draws people to her like a magnet. I remember hearing her tell a story once about Christmas as a child. They were very poor and one of the special things they got at Christmas was oranges (or maybe it was tangerines?). It’s something most of us take for granted, but she said it was such a special treat for them to get an orange on Christmas morning, and now every time she smells oranges it reminds her of Christmas morning and happy times with her family, despite their financial situation. I love that she chose to focus on what they DID have instead of what they didn’t have.
  3. Her confidence. Dolly has the kind of confidence that I wish I (and every woman) had. It goes beyond appearance to the core of who she is. Her confidence is strong and unapologetic, but without being cocky or off-putting. To me, her confidence is the perfect example of how confidence in its truest and purest form should look and be.
  4. She’s a smart and savvy businesswoman. Because she’s so bubbly, it would be easy to think that Dolly is all rainbows and sunshine with her head in the clouds, but nothing could be further from the truth. As she says in her song, Dumb Blond, “Just because I’m blond, don’t think I’m dumb. ‘Cause this dumb blond ain’t nobody’s fool.” She IS rainbows and sunshine, but she’s also a really smart businesswoman who has managed her career wisely to withstand the test of time (over half a century!), built an empire, made tough choices to move her career forward, and she’s done it all with style and grace. She’s also used her good business sense and financial success to help others, both personally and through her nonprofit organization.
  5. She’s not afraid to take risks. I’m pretty risk-averse, so I really admire this trait in her. During the performance, Dolly told us about some of the risks she took in her career and how they benefited her in the long run. The risks she took showed so much courage, and I wondered if I would have the courage to take the risks she did.
  6. She follows her intuition. Some of the risks and decisions she’s made were things people strongly advised her not to do, saying she would be CRAZY to do them. But, in her heart and her gut, she knew they were the right moves and so she listened to that instead of what other people had to say. That’s not an easy thing to do, but listening to her intuition has clearly served her well.
  7. She doesn’t settle for less than what she wants and is unapologetic about wanting more for herself. Dolly told us about how she started her career partnering with Porter Wagoner. They had a really successful partnership. She easily could have kept going down that path and enjoyed the level of success she’d achieved. But deep down, she knew she wanted something more. She made the decision to split from Porter and branch out on her own. It wasn’t the popular decision, but she did what she needed to do to honor her needs and wants and to take control of the direction for her career. But in true Dolly fashion, she did it with grace and with gratitude for what she’d gained through working with Porter. And it clearly worked out in her favor.
  8. Longevity and aging so gracefully. Dolly is in her 70’s now, but her light shines just as bright as it always has. She has so much energy, her voice still sounds amazing, and her career is going strong. And she looks fantastic! She’s found a vocation she loves and created a life for herself that she loves. This and her other beautiful qualities are (in my opinion) what have enabled her to maintain her energy and grace, and continue living life to the fullest.

closing thoughts

Dolly’s music and her life have been so inspiring to me. She’s a role model from afar who has taught me lessons about intentional and intuitive living that I strive to apply in my own life.

I’ve never met Dolly and, while a girl can dream, realistically I probably never will. But, she’s been a role model to me simply through how she’s lived her life.

I think this is a real testimony to the power all of us have to influence others through how we live our own lives. We may not have the huge reach that Dolly has, but even within our own circles — both the people in our lives and the random people whose paths we cross — there’s always the opportunity to shine bright like Dolly and be a positive example and inspiration for someone else.

Thank you for these lessons, Dolly!

Who inspires you? Do you have any role models from a distance? Who are they and what about them inspires you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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