Dreams without goals are just dreams.
I just can’t live my life based upon what other people think about me.
Something you don’t feel good about, then don’t do it.
How many ghosts are going to be around your bed when your time comes?
You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.
I got there just by workin’ hard.
To make sure you have something to fall back on.
There is no one discipline, there is no one gospel.
Well, I will hand you the cup, my dear, the cup will be there to be handed to you.
I wanted to say thank you. It was my way of saying thank you.
Denzel Washington’s Top 10 Rules For Success
Evan: He’s and American actor and filmmaker. He’s receiver two Golden Globe awards, a Tony award, and two Academy awards. In 2015, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 73rd Golden Globes. He’s Denzel Washington, and here are his top 10 rules for success.
Denzel Washington’s Rules
- Dreams need goals
- Aspire to make a difference
- Ignore the opinions of others
- Stick to your guns
- Bring your dreams to life
- Share your gift
- Work hard
- Fall forward
- Take what’s useful
- Tell great stories
Rule #1. Dreams Need Goals
Dreams without goals are just dreams. And they ultimately fuel disappointment. Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency. I pray that you all put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you got to get on your knees in the morning to find them.
Rule #2. Aspire To Make A Difference
Anything you want, good. You can have. So claim it. Work hard to get it. When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one, teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.
Rule #3. Ignore The Opinions Of Others
Interviewer: You don’t pay a lot of attention to reviews and those kind of things?
Well, you know, you’re always affected by opinion, but the more opinions there are of you, of me, the more I, the less I look at them, because I just can’t live my life based upon what other people think about me.
So I can’t concern myself too much with what other people think, you know? It’s just not healthy. I don’t think I could continue to do what I do if I was constantly worrying about what somebody thought about it.
“Something you don’t feel good about, then don’t do it.” – Denzel Washington
Rule #4. Stick To Your Guns
You don’t have to compromise yourself. You know? It’s something you don’t feel good about, then don’t it. The most important choices I’ve made was to say no. And I’ve said no many a time, to films that I just didn’t, especially early on. That I just didn’t feel comfortable with.
There was one script that was brought to me, I called it the nigger they couldn’t kill. ‘Cause they were going to like, he was accused of raping his wife, you know, in the ’40s, and they tried to hang him but he didn’t die. And they tried to electrocute him, and they were like, it’s a comedy! I’m like, it isn’t funny to me. Not funny to me.
So, I actually called Cyndi Porthia, who I was fortunate at that time, and still, to be able to call. And I said, you know, this movie’s making, I’m sick. And they offered me $600,000 to play the nigger they couldn’t kill.
That’s what I call it, . He said to me, and I’ll say this to you, he said, the first two, or three, or four films you make in this industry, Denzel, will determine how people see you. He said, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but remember that the first three, four, five films you make will determine how you’re perceived.
I turned it down, I turned the money down. I needed the money, I turned it down. Six months later I got Cry of Freedom. So, stick to your guns. If you don’t feel like you should do it, then don’t do it. ‘Cause you don’t want to be, you know, you don’t want to be a negative energy on the set, that’s how I feel sometimes.
I’m like, you know, I ain’t doin’ this ’cause I’m going to slap somebody the second day. So I just, you know. I think the most important decisions you could make as an actor, actress, is saying no. Is saying no. You don’t have to take your clothes off if you don’t want to, then do it.
Rule #5. Bring Your Dreams To Life
To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did. Les Brown’s a motivational speaker, he made an analogy about this. He says, imagine you’re on your deathbed, and standing around your deathbed are the ghosts representing your unfulfilled potential.
The ghost of the ideas you never acted on, the ghost of the talents you didn’t use, and they’re standing around your bed angry, disappointed, and upset. They say, we came to you because you could have brought us to life, they say. And now we have to go to the grave together. So I ask you today, how many ghosts are going to be around your bed when your time comes?
Rule #6. Share Your Gift
You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. I’ll say it again, you’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. Now I’ve been blessed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in my life, I can’t take it with me. And neither can you. So it’s not how much you have, it’s what you do with what you have.
And we all have different gifts. Some money, some love, some patience, some their ability to touch people, but we all have it. Use it. Share it. That’s what counts. Not what you’re driving, not what you’re flyin’ in, not what kind of house you bought your mama, but buy your mama a house.
“I just can’t live my life based upon what other people think about me.” – Denzel Washington
Rule #7. Work Hard
The one thing I’m the most happy about in terms of my career, is the fact that I got there with the grace of God, first of all, but short of that, I got there just by workin’ hard. Not partyin’ with the right people, not compromising myself in any way or cutting any kind of deals. Just by working hard, just by plugging along, sawing wood as I like to call it. I’m a 20 year old sensation.
Rule #8. Fall Forward
I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Nothing. Nelson Mandela said, there is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living. Now I’m sure in your experiences in school and applying to college, and picking your major, and deciding what you want to do with life, I’m sure people have told you to make sure you have something to fall back on.
Make sure you got something to fall back on, honey. But I never understood that concept, having something to fall back on. If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything except my faith. I want to fall forward. I figure at least this way I’ll see what I’m going to hit. Fall forward. This is what I mean.
Reggie Jackson struck out 2,600 times in his career, the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward. Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments, did you know that? I didn’t know that. Because the 1,001st was the light bulb. Fall forward. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.
Rule #9. Take What’s Useful
Bruce Lee, you know, studies many martial arts. He said, take what’s useful. So, I’ve taken from different styles, and, you know, my youngest daughter, Olivia’s an actress now. She’s at NYU. In fact, she just finished her first movie with Lee Daniels, yeah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I tell her that, you know, there is no one discipline, there is no one gospel when it comes to acting. So I take a little from this, take a little from that.
“Dreams without goals are just dreams.” – Denzel Washington
Rule #10. Tell Great Stories
I had breakfast with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and lunch with Nelson Mandela.
And actually, when he came to the States,
The last time he came, he came to California, came to our house.
Well that’s pretty good. Now, you see that’s…
I’ll tell you a funny story, too. He’ll be mad at me for telling this, but I’ll tell it anyway.
Sylvester Stallone, he lives up in the, we’re like in a gated community, he lives over there. And he wasn’t invited, I mean, I would’ve invited him, but,
We had about maybe 40, 50 people there, you know, and I had my children. I said you can invite one friend, and, you know, Oprah Winfrey, different people were there. And the security, I had security helicopters like it was the President.
They’re like, Mr. Washington, Rocky’s out front he’s pacing. He’s like, he’s like lookin’ in the gates. He’s like, should we let him in? I’m like, yeah, let Sylvester come in.
He said he was outside lookin’ sad, like,
Can you see Rocky?
Mr. Mandela, how you doin’?
Mr. Mandela, how you doin’?
Interviewer: How you doin’?
How you doin’? Yo, hey, Duran. It’s Mandela here, Mandela over here.
Thank you so much for watching. I made this video because Aurene Dark Knight asked me to, so if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next, leave it in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.
I’d also love to know which of Denzel’s top 10 rules meant the most to you, had the biggest impact, leave it in the comments and I’ll join the discussion. Thank you so much for watching, continue to believe and I’ll see you soon.
You will fail at some point in your life, accept it. You will lose, you will embarrass yourself, you will suck at something. There’s no doubt about it. And I know that’s probably not a traditional message for a graduation ceremony, but hey, I’m telling you, embrace it, because it’s inevitable.
And I should know. In the acting business, you fail all the time. Early on in my career, I auditioned for a part in a Broadway musical. Perfect role for me, I thought. Except for the fact that I can’t sing. So, I’m in the wings, I’m about to go on stage, but they guy in front of me, he’s singing like Pavarotti, he’s just . He’s just going on and on and on, and I’m just shrinking, I’m getting smaller and smaller.
So they say oh, thank you very much, thank you very much, and you’ll be hearing from us. So, I come out with my little sheet music and it was Just My Imagination by the Temptations, that’s what I came up with. So, I hand it to the accompanist, and she looks at it, and looks at me, and looks out at the director and is like, alright.
So I start, you know, I’m going to sing. I’m like, ♫ This is my imagination ♫ Once again ♫ Coming away with me And they’re not saying anything, so I’m thinkin’ I’m gettin’ better, so I just start gettin’ into it. ♫ It was just my imagination They said, oh, thank you, thank you.
I didn’t know about musical theater
Thank you very much, Mr. Washington, thank you. So I assumed I didn’t get the job. But the next part of the audition, he called me back. The next part of the audition is the acting part of the audition. Now I’m like, hey, okay, maybe I can’t sing, but I know I can act.
So they pair me with this guy, and again, I didn’t know about musical theater. And musical theater is big, so they can reach everyone all the way in the back of the stadium. And I’m more from a realistic, naturalistic kind of acting where you, you know, you actually talk to the person next to you.
So, I dunno what my line was, my line was, well, hand me the cup. And his line was, well, I will hand you the cup, my dear, the cup will be there to be handed to you. I said, okay Well, should I give you the cup back? Oh yes, you should give it back to me because you know that is my cup, and it should be given back to me.
Someone talked about it
I didn’t get the job. But here’s the thing, I didn’t quit. I didn’t fall back. I walked out of there to prepare for the next audition, and the next audition, and the next audition. I prayed. I prayed, and I prayed. But I continued to fail, and fail, and fail.
But it didn’t matter, because you know what? There’s an old saying, you hang around the barber shop long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get a haircut. So you will catch a break, and I did catch a break. Last year, I did a play called Fences on Broadway.
Someone talked about it. Won the Tony award. And I didn’t have to sing by the way . But here’s the kicker, it was at the Court Theater, it was at the same theater that I failed that first audition 30 years prior. The point is, and I’ll pick up the pace, the point is, every graduate here today has the training and the talent to succeed. But do you have the guts to fail?
Differentiate Between Life And Making A Living
I’m a father first. I don’t get life mixed up with makin’ a livin’. I was there for all four of my children bein’ born, when the first one was born, I recognized the difference between life and makin’ a living. They’re life, you know? Our family is life, you know, acting is makin’ a living.
Get The Energy
What do you think the biggest difference between doing a play and doing, I mean, it’s a cliched question, but I’d be interested to know your answer.
I think a part of what Viola just said is that you get to dig deeper, and you get another day.
And you get the energy. You do a movie and it’s 200 people that are used to it, and they don’t care. And everybody’s doin’ their job, and it comes into theaters somewhere, and you’re, you know, picking your nose at home somewhere, clipping your nails.
There’s no energy.
When I was on Broadway five years ago, Julius Cesar, I made a decision to sign autographs every night. Oh, what I did. It ain’t happening this time, no. Only as I rub my knees, only because my knees are bad, it’s hard for me to stand. But,
And why did you decide to do that?
Well, you know, I wanted to say thank you.
It was my way of saying thank you.
Audience Member: Yes.
And the first night, it was like 5,000 people out there, so okay, wait a minute. Everybody who has playbills for my show, so, so yeah, ’cause it was like, people would just wandering up the block. Hang on wait a minute, I forgot, I’m on, you know, 42nd street and Time Square. But honestly,
Interviewer: You were signing for weeks.
The energy, I was out there hour and a half every night, every show,
But the energy you got back, the stories, the five little old ladies who just drove in from Detroit, and I’m like well, what you all doing tonight? They say, we gettin’ back in the car baby, we got to go back tonight. And you know, a little 84 year old lady was like, baby, if I was three years younger. True story. True story. Then we had, and I say this also, ’cause I hope it happens with this play, we had some high schools come, we had one school from somewhere, I forgot where, and they were doing Julius Cesar, and some young kid was like,
Well, you know, my Brutus is a bit different, you know. He’s more of a classic stoic. But it was great to engage in the exchange with these young people, there was an energy. I got more from it than I gave to the people that I signed for, that’s, you know, you don’t get that. You know, the odd thing about success in film is the budget’s get bigger, you make more money, but they become more formulaic.
Interviewer: Mmm, yes.
So you don’t get the opportunity, so I, God willing, if I stay around long enough, this is what I’m going to be doin’.