Whenever You See Me Somewhere Succeeding In One Area of My Life, That Almost Certainly Means I Am Failing In Another

Shonda Rhimes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The acclaimed long-running television series Grey’s Anatomy was created by writer and producer Shonda Rhimes. Her company Shondaland has successfully produced many lauded shows. Predictably, Rhimes leads a very busy life.

Unpredictably, she was willing to speak with complete candor to graduating Ivy League students. What sobering message did she deliver about the inevitable tradeoffs that an enterprising person must make?

Quote Investigator: Inspirational speakers prefer to present the upbeat message: You can have it all. When Shonda Rhimes delivered the commencement address at her alma mater Dartmouth University in 2014 she offered a different lesson: If you are living fully it is impossible to meet all the demands on your time and energy. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Shonda, how do you do it all?” The answer is this, “I don’t.” Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home . . .

That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother . . .

And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them.

A video of her speech is available on YouTube here. 2

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  1. Website: Dartmouth University, Article title: Shonda Rhimes ’91, Commencement Address, Article author: Shonda Rhimes, Speech delivered: June 8, 2014, Website description: Information about Dartmouth University. (Accessed dartmouth.edu on October 16, 2019) link
  2. YouTube video, Title: Shonda Rhimes ’91 Delivers Dartmouth’s Commencement Speech, Upload date: June 9, 2014, Uploader: Dartmouth, Date of speech: June 8, 2014, (Quotation starts at 17 minute 54 seconds of 24 minutes 01 seconds) Description: This video shows the Commencement Speech delivered by Shonda Rhimes at Dartmouth University on June 8, 2014. (Accessed on youtube.com on Ocotober 16, 2019) link