Dolly Parton’s secret to success—the six words the country legend lives by

Dolly Parton’s secret to success is credited to advice her mom gave her

Dolly Parton shared her secret to success recently
(Image credit: Gary Miller/WireImage)

Dolly Parton is the definition of a success—from her artistic acclaim to her business savvy and her philanthropic nature, she is consistently raising the bar.

The country music icon has won GRAMMYs for her music, she has earned praise for her acting in movies like 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias. Alongside taking over the movie business, Dolly Parton’s book with James Patterson is yet another achievement to write home about.

With a career spanning decades with no sign of slowing down, Dolly continues to inspire and push her career and charitable efforts further, and this determination and drive she credits to the advice given to her by her mother.


When Dolly was young, her mother gave her a piece of advice, “Always keep something back for you.”

Those simple six words are what have helped the legend maintain her success throughout six decades of showbiz, Dolly told Apple Music Country’s The Kelleigh Bannen Show.

Dolly Parton

(Image credit: Denise Truscello/Getty Images for ACM)

The phrase, which Dolly applies both to her business dealings and her personal work/life balance, essentially means give to others, but don’t forget to look after yourself.

Dolly believes this mentality is what has kept her savvy, and hopes other young people can benefit from her mother’s words of wisdom.  

Speaking about the power behind those words, Dolly explained on the show, “You can give what you’ve got, but don’t give it all away. I pray also that God will, you know, give me enough to share and enough to spare when it comes to my money, but also to myself. Let me share everything I can, but let me keep me.”

Dolly also explained that her mother’s advice helped her learn what to keep private, which could explain why her husband is so rarely seen in public. 

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While connecting with her audience and establishing her career, her mother’s advice allowed her to avoid the traps that many celebrities fall for and become consumed by the spotlight.

By keeping parts of her life private, she was able to take ownership in what made her music—and stage appearance—unique.

“Even in the early days, a lot of people told me I should change my look or nobody’s going to ever take me serious,” Dolly said on the radio show. “I thought, ‘Yeah, they will, when they see [the talent] I’ve got.’”

And she applies the advice to keep the joy in what she does, never forgetting why she started in the first place.

“I take myself more serious as a songwriter than anything else. I always say I’ve written about 3,000 songs and three good ones, but I just love the joy of writing.”

Jack Slater
Jack Slater

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.


Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.