Dolly Parton is a country music superstar whose own dreams took her from a small town in Tennessee to the highest levels of music and acting success. In her new book, "Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You," Parton reveals how she achieved such success and how others can too, advising people to "Dream More," "Learn More," "Care More" and "Do More." Parton's book is based on a 2009 commencement address she gave at the University of Tennessee that became a YouTube sensation.
Read an excerpt of "Dream More" below and click HERE to find out more about Parton.
Don't ask me how I feel about dreaming unless you really have some time to listen.
Since my early childhood, I've felt like my dreams were the foundation of my drive to accomplish all the things I love. It was a dream that made me feel dressed up when I just had old hand-me down, ragged clothes. A dream that filled me up with desserts of candy and cake when all we had were sweet thoughts, cornbread and molasses.
Dreams took me from a shack at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains to Nashville and then to Hollywood. And then around the world, like Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother all combined, in glitter, high heels and hair.
It's a long way from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains to the top of the world, but I'm here— much to my delight and thanks to the love and support of many fine people. I don't take any of it or them for granted. I know that I am living the all-American dream. But chasing your dreams happens everywhere and there are dreamers like me all over the world. It makes me proud and humble to hear them say that my life has inspired them in some way.
While I'm proud of what I've done, the older I get, the more humble I feel. Yes, I've worked hard. Yes, I've been lucky. And yes, I've been truly blessed. But I always count my blessings far more than I ever count my money.
I asked my mother once why she thought God let me be so successful and didn't give the same opportunities to many of my family when some of them were far more talented than I am. She said, "God has his purpose for everybody. We all have our journey to walk." And she said she thought God knew that I'd be willing to share.
Well, I always pray that I have enough to share and some to spare. And so far, God has obliged me. I still struggle with how to help my kinfolks be more successful in music, and I suffer sometimes from a guilt complex about my own success, feeling that so many of them are so deserving. But I ask God to lead and to direct us all and to just let me be there when I'm needed, if I'm needed and as I'm needed. And I pray their dreams will eventually all come true.
I always dreamed hard and had a big imagination. When I was a kid, I used to put a tin can on a tobacco stick. I would jab one end of it into a crack on the porch of our old cabin. And those were not chickens out there in the yard, they were my audience. And that was no ragged dress I was wearing, it was a dress all aglitter with rhinestones. And it was made of the finest silk. Of course, in my mind's eye, I was standing onstage with my guitar and singing my heart out into a microphone, with thousands of people listening to me.
It was all a dream, but it was a dream that I just couldn't get enough of. I've held on to the dream every day of my life ever since and done everything I could to make it come true. I learned early on that I could get a lot of attention, especially from my Uncle Bill, by singing and writing little songs. And my Uncle Bill has been there with me all along.
I was gonna be rich no matter how much it cost. I 'uz gonna win no matter how much I lost. All through the years I've kept my eye on the prize. And yes, it's been worth the sacrifice.
The night I graduated from Sevier County High School back in 1964, all the graduates had been asked to stand up and talk about what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. Everybody had a different story. Some said they were going to get married. Others said they were going to take a job in Knoxville. When it came my time, I stood up and said, "I'm going to Nashville and I'm gonna be a star." Well, the whole place laughed out loud. I was so embarrassed. Why is everybody laughing? I thought. That is exactly what I want to do. I felt they were being really cruel. But as bad as I felt and as embarrassed as I was, that moment did not shake me from my dreams. I knew what I needed to do to make my dream come true.
The passing of the years gives you a clearer perspective, so now I really don't think the people were laughing to be cruel or making fun of me. They were just not used to someone dreaming that big or being that sure about it. I always believe that people with big dreams don't often announce them because if they fail, the whole world knows.
I'm sure you've heard someone accuse another person of being a dreamer. Unfortunately, the term "dreamer" is frequently associated with laziness or with people who wish they could do something but who aren't willing to get off their assets and put them to work. A dream can be a nightmare if you let it turn into one. If you just sleepwalk through this world, you're never going to accomplish anything. And the cold, hard facts are that not every dream comes true and not everything you touch turns to gold. But sometimes a failure is just a success dressed in different clothes.
Of course, you have to be careful. Do not confuse dreams with wishes. There is a difference. Dreams are where you visualize yourself being successful at what's important to you to accomplish. And dreams build convictions. Because you work hard to pay the price to make sure that they come true. Wishes are hoping that good things will happen to you. With wishes, there is no fire in your gut, pushing you to the limit to overcome every obstacle to reach your heart's desire. My desire to pursue my dreams has always been greater than my fear of not accomplishing them.
I thank God for my failures. Maybe not at the time, but after some reflection. I never feel like a failure just because something I tried has failed. To me, the secret is all in how you approach things.
Attitude, it's all an attitude. Just because you fail, don't mean you have to lose. But if you want to win, then here's the simple truth. You have to change your attitude.
The truth is, I have done lots of projects that were less than successful. By some people's standards, they were okay. But they were sure not what I dreamed they could be. I strive to do great things. Maybe that's what makes me work so hard and why some of the things I have done that have lived up to my dreams make up for the others that haven't. The dream that carried me from my mountain home to Nashville and beyond was to simply perform on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. Growing up, that's pretty much all I talked about, all I thought about and all I dreamed about. So when that moment finally came, I knew then that no matter what else happened in my life—good and bad—I had fulfilled my greatest dream. Of course, I went on to dream more and I am thankful that I've had many more dreams come true. But just knowing that my first (and maybe my most special) dream came true always eases the disappointment that comes from dreams that don't turn out the way I envisioned. In any event, I am my own worst critic and I really try to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I just don't talk about them. That sounds like a politician . . . brag about your successes and sweep your shortcomings under the rug. But thinking about what I did right and what I didn't do right helps me.
When things haven't gone well, it's very easy to start blaming others for what went wrong. Well, I'm human. I've done that, too. After all, I'm not perfect, even though I'd like to think my little nieces and nephews think so. After time, however, I start thinking about why and what lesson God wanted me to learn from it. Usually he slaps me in the face with something so obvious that I feel stupid I hadn't seen it before. Then I realize he was pointing it out so that I would not make the same mistake on the next, even bigger project. It seems that each project I take on is bigger and better than the last. (This does not include plastic surgery.) The key is to never be bitter.
Bitterness is usually caused by holding on to something far longer than you need to. I have learned to let things go, as I truly believe all things happen for a reason and know that just because I want something to happen, it doesn't mean that it should happen or that it will. So when something doesn't go my way or I stumble, I pick myself up, make sure I brush the disappointment off my rhinestones, and try not to harden my heart over it.
Instead, I set about trying to strengthen the muscles around it. Today I dream of making more movies, creating and producing more television shows, especially for children, and writing more children's books and music. I dream of writing my life story as a Broadway musical. I dream of my own cosmetics company. I dream of more Dollywoods and Dixie Stampedes. I dream that every child in the world will have an opportunity for their dreams to come true. Of course, to make all this happen, I have to dream bigger; I have to work harder. And that is fine with me. I never will retire. And I hope I won't ever go to seed. As they say, I would certainly rather wear out than rust out. I hope that I drop dead right onstage one of these days, doing exactly what I want to do. It might shake up the audience a little bit, but I hope everybody knows that's exactly what I want. And I want people to simply walk around me and say, "Oh, just look at her. Is she smiling? She looks so happy, like she's having sweet dreams. I'm so glad we were with her when she went."
I just hope it doesn't happen today or tomorrow—but I know it will someday. And when it does, just know that I went happy, because chasing my dreams is what I do love to do. I want you to chase your dreams. So if I have but one wish for you, it is to dream more.
Just look around at those on top. They held their dreams and never stopped. Planted them in fertile fields And watched them as they grew. Little engines proud and bold, Never faltered 'neath their load. Saw their destination through And you can, too. So celebrate the dreamer in you.