Shonda Rhimes is a doer.
She grew up in Chicago with her two older brothers and three older sisters as the daughter of a university administrator and a college professor. She was always a storyteller and when it came time for college, she relocated to Dartmouth to divide her time between writing fiction, directing and performing in plays.
But then she went home. And stayed home. And dreamed about being a Nobel Peace Prize winner. That is, until she realized that dreaming wasn’t getting her anywhere.
That’s the message that the Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator shared during her commencement speech over the weekend at Dartmouth.
“Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward.” says Rhimes. “You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do.”
Rhimes says that she, like most dreamers, ended up in her sister’s basement. She’s not wrong; a new study from the University of Arizona found that over half of graduates are still relying on financial help from relatives two years out of college.
Her advice to people who become stagnant?
“So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.”
That’s what Rhimes did. She relocated to Los Angeles to study screenwriting at USC. She graduated at the top of her class with a fellowship award and a masters in fine arts. Now she is the creator of some of the most successful shows on TV.
Rhimes doesn’t just advocate “doing” for your career or adventure plans. In her speech, she also talks about hashtag activism and the delusion that tweeting about something is the same as taking action.
“Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.”
Instead, Rhimes suggests volunteering your hours to help a cause you care about — in real life, with real people.
All we know is that with Rhimes’s track record, we’ll take any advice she has to offer.