Unless you have been living under a rock, or generally lack interest in everything pop culture related, you’ll have seen or heard about one of these shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice or How to Get away with murder. The brain behind all of these television gems is Shonda Rhimes, the most powerful woman in television. She’s the first African American woman to run three consecutive shows on television’s most expensive real estate: Thursday night.
More than being an incredible writer, Shonda is also an example of what it means to be a badass leader and how to turn your dreams and aspirations into reality. She wrote a book recently called ‘Year of Yes’ and it is not only incredibly moving and hilarious. It also teaches many lessons about getting to the top in your respective field.
Here are 5 lessons from Shonda and her incredibly written female lead characters: Annalise, Olivia and Meredith.
Annalise Keating – Think on your feet
For those who follow HTGAWM (How to get away with murder), if there’s one thing we can learn from Annalise it is the ability to think on your feet. She is the fast-talking attorney on the show and is quick to come up with arguments to defend her clients. She ultimately created the twisted story that let her students get away with the murder of her husband.
Though a bit dirty and twisted, I still think there is a lesson here. In whatever field you are in, immerse yourself in it, so that you can draw from different aspects when you need to. Annalise knows the LAW. Therefore, she knows how to get around it and make it work for her.
You want to be an entrepreneur, but do you know the rules of the game? When you find yourself in a difficult situation, it’ll be those moments you had invested in knowing your craft that will get you through. Do the work, and when you do, be better than Annalise, and use it for good.
Olivia Pope – He is not the sun, you are
Arguably one of the most drawn out love stories in television history took a turn for the crazy when Olivia moved into the white house to be Fitz’s girlfriend. For those of you who don’t understand why this broke all of our hearts, it would be the equivalent of President Clinton moving Monica Lewinsky into the White House as his girlfriend at the height of the scandal. Yes, it was that crazy.
Although there is no doubt that Olivia loved Fitz, what became clear as she lived out the role of First Lady was that it was not who she was and she had the courage to do what she knew she had to: end it and move out.
The truth is, sometimes love is not enough. Your life goals need to be aligned with your partners, otherwise you will be betraying yourself. He is not the sun, you are!
We need to internalise this to be the Motherland Moguls we can be. There will be times when you will have to make sacrifices, but you should never have to sacrifice yourself. Remember that .ladies, and choose wisely. (Preferably not a married president like Olivia. Let’s try to keep it drama-free.)
Meredith Grey – It takes a Village
The saying ‘no man is an island’ has taken on new meaning as I have spent the past 11 seasons watching Meredith Grey go through all sorts of heart shattering life events in Grey’s Anatomy. Most recently (spoiler alert), she gets attacked by a patient and loses her hearing and her ability to move for weeks. She has 3 small kids! How will she survive? The answer is simple: she has a village of people who will do whatever it takes to look after her.
As I wiped my tears watching all of her friends step up to look after her and her family, I was reminded of how she did the same for each and every one of them at a different time. It makes sense. We cannot rise to the top alone, we need to realise that the people around us have a serious effect on our ability to reach our goals. Get your immediate circle right. And the best way to do that is to be the type of friend you wish you had.
This will heavily pay off in the future. Life is full of uncertainties and we cannot control what will happen. All we can do is put ourselves in the best position possible to deal with whatever life throws at us, and a huge part of that is the people you can call on no matter the situation.
Do you have those people? If not, are you that person to anyone?
From creator, Shonda Rhimes – Dreaming is for losers
This point for me was very difficult to internalise. I am a dreamer, it is in my blood. The phrase: ‘dream come true’ is featured on my blog over a gazillion times. Shonda as the badass leader that she is really burst my bubble on that one. The people who get things done are not the dreamers, they are the doers. Shonda explains:
‘I wanted to be Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. That was my dream. I dreamed and dreamed, and while I was dreaming, I living in my sisters basement (FYI dreamers always end up in a relative’s basement). I actually couldn’t be Toni Morrison because she already had that job and wasn’t planning on giving it up! One day I read an article that said it was harder to get into USC film school than Harvard business school. I could carry on dreaming or I could do. At film school, I discovered an entirely new way of telling stories… a way that flipped this switch in my brain. Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison. All she wanted to talk about was Grey’s anatomy. That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.
Rather than spending time dreaming about how we can be like the amazing women we admire, let’s get busy becoming our true authentic selves and doing things to bring our dreams to life. If you want to be an actress, rather than dream about it take classes. Are you putting yourself out there? If you want to grow your business into the world-dominating company, are you taking the necessary steps to get it there?
And lastly, a point from me.
Seun Awolowo- Be your own reference point!
There doesn’t have to be precedence for your idea or career path! No one knew a show with a diverse cast would last but Grey’s Anatomy is going on 12 years. There hadn’t been a black woman as the lead character on television since the 1960s, yet Scandal is a hit.
You can start your own first! You just need the right attitude, and the correct Shondaland tools in your toolbox to make it happen.
Superwoman your way to badassery ladies! If Shonda can do it, so can you.
Ps: Badassery= new word meaning knowing, accepting, and celebrating your gifts, living life with swagger, and not caring what anyone thinks about you. Add it to your dictionaries! It’s in mine.