Shonda Rhimes is unstoppable. For more than a decade she has introduced us to a range of exciting and conflicted characters. The public fell in love with Grey’s Anatomy, was thrilled by Scandal and was hooked by How to Get Away With a Murder.
She has a net worth evaluated at $135 million, is the highest-paid showrunner on television and also owns Shondaland, a television production. There is a lot we can learn from her. And she is willing to share her experiences on books, lectures and many interviews. Here are a few secrets that led Shonda to the top of her business.
10 She Is Confident
Knowing you are talented is the first step to become well succeed. Shodan Rhimes always had the feeling that she could be anything she wanted and her father helped her to build her confidence.
“The only limits to your success are your own imagination.’ My father said that to me so much I could say it in my sleep”, she told Variety. “I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to be an Olympic figure skater right now — if I started working, I could do it. And I’m not joking. I have that much belief — that if I believe I can do it, I can do it. Now I’d probably be terrible at it, but I believe that I’d probably make it.”
9 She stands up for her ideas
Shonda Rhimes has a great sense of what the public wants. If she has a good idea, she won’t let it go. The first scene of Grey’s Anatomy is Meredith Grey waking up from a one night stand. Not everybody in the room agreed this was a good idea.
“I remember somebody saying to me, ‘I don’t know if America’s going to like a woman who has sex with a man the night before her first day of work as a surgeon,” Rhimes told during an interview with Fortune. “Well, that’s what was going to happen. That first year I was doing Grey’s I didn’t know it was possible to fire the creator of a show off their own show, so I didn’t behave like somebody who was afraid of being fired.”
8 She knows what the executives are looking for
Back in 2003, Shonda Rhimes was working on a pilot about female war correspondent. ABC declined the idea after the US went to was. However, Shonda didn't give up and asked what the studios were looking for and heard they wanted a medical drama.
Shonda went home and came up with the pitch of Grey's Anatomy. There were a lot of changes, but the soul of her original idea was still there: strong female characters "that were really good at their jobs, really worked hard, had a lot of fun, and loved what they did."
7 She knows the TV shows business is not about her
Being a writer often means that you're attached to your storyline. When you become the highest-paid showrunner on television, people assume you can write anything you want. It doesn't work like that - even if you are Shonda Rhimes.
"You don't just get to write whatever you want and then somebody magically puts it on the air. We're not princesses, we're not wearing tiaras — it's not the world. We all have to feed ourselves," she told Variety.
It doesn't matter what is your profession, being mature enough to know the business is not about you, saves a lot of frustration along the way.
6 She Has A Strong Sense Of Self
There is no doubt Shonda Rhimes is one of the most confident women in showbusiness. In many interviews, she revealed this quality brought her to the position she is today, but it is essential to have a sense of self in anything you do in life.
"I don't know how people don't have that idea," she told Business Insider. "Having a strong sense of self is fundamental to you, no matter what you're doing. I don't care if you're a stay at home mom raising kids or if you're the CEO of a corporation. It's really important for your survival."
5 She wrote stories she would love to watch
Numbers are important. However, when Shonda started writing, she wanted to tell a story she would like to watch and with people who looked like her.
"I don't think I ever sought out the idea, 'We're going to show a diverse group of people!'", she told Business Insider. "I wanted to see people on television who look like me, and I wanted to see people on television who look like my friends. And I didn't relate to a lot of the women on television because they didn't seem realistic. It was just about writing people I wanted to watch, and writing people who felt like the people I knew. That's what we ended up doing."
4 She doesn't work as much as you think
When we see everything Shonda Rhimes has achieved and the empire she built, it is easy to assume she works 24/7. But it is not like that - at least not anymore. Shonda receives over two thousand emails per day and it is impossible to handle it all. She also has a rigorous rule: she doesn't answer emails after 7 pm.
"My email signature says, 'I do not answer calls or emails after 7 pm or on weekends, and if you work for me, may I suggest that you put down your phone", she told CNBC.
3 She works with people who are different from her
Shonda doesn't create the shows and the storylines alone. However, she is cautious with the people she chooses. Besides talent, she also aims to have a team with people with different background and opinions. That's how she makes sure that more people can relate to the story they create.
"You have to have more people who don't look like you in the writer's room", she said during an interview with Business Insider. "I try to have some people who don't look like me in my writer's room. I think it's important to have a group of voices, of people who can dissent".
2 She doesn't have all the answers
During an interview for her website, someone asked Shonda what she wished someone told her about adulthood. Her answer was simple: "Nobody actually knows anything."
Being aware that you won't get all the answers when you are older and have more experience can be a relief. "You don't feel more knowledgeable or wiser when you're 25 or when you're 35 or when you're 55," Rhimes added. "You don't feel like there's any more wisdom. You just stop caring what people think."
And once you stop caring to other people's opinion, you find the freedom to follow your own path.
1 She brags about herself
Shonda Rhimes not only brags about herself, but she wants other women to celebrate her achievements too. She gave a remarkable speech during the ELLE's Women in Hollywood in 2018. "I will not hide. I am going to brag. I am the highest-paid showrunner in television", she said.
It is not about ego, but it is a way to let the world know that you are outstanding in what you do. It will also influence other women to do the same.
"I tell you this for two reasons," Shonda added. "One, I'm awesome. And I work with a ton of other equally awesome women. And women do not brag enough. The other day I came to this conclusion that men brag and women hide. Even when they don't deserve to brag, men brag"