The 9 Secrets of Betty White’s Success

April 12, 2010

By Carolyn Anderson MD

Betty White

Betty White
Photo from Sharon Graphics

At 88 years old, Betty White is more popular than ever. In the past year, she has appeared in a major film, The Proposal, starred in a popular Super Bowl ad for Snickers and has been featured on numerous popular talk shows. Thanks to a Facebook Fan page with over 500,000 members, on May 8th, she’ll be the oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live.

As a successful businesswoman and doctor who treats aging patients, I’m inspired by Betty White. I think her success can be attributed to 9 key factors. You can achieve your own level of success by following Betty’s example.

1. You’re Never Too Old to Embrace New Things

Betty told Larry King that she didn’t know the meaning of retirement. She is the perfect example that your career and your life are not over when you hit 65. 65 has always been an arbitrary number for retirement, derived from the average life expectancy back in the 1930s. Don’t ever think it’s too late to start a new career, take up a new activity or travel.

Staying active and involved keeps you physically and mentally young. There are mountains of evidence to support the notion that staying engaged and interested will help you live not only longer but healthier.

2. Build Your Brand

While Betty has appeared in numerous tv shows and movies she has always been able to keep her own personal brand. Fans know her as a sweet lady, but with a hilarious sense of humor and great comedic timing.

Make sure you are consistent in your personal and professional life. Nothing is more valuable than establishing integrity and authenticity. Be who you really are and shine in the world as your authentic and wonderful self.

3. Recognize Your Limitations

Even though she has been asked several times, Betty turned down a chance to appear on Dancing With The Stars. Even though she doesn’t look her age, Betty realized the demanding physical routines would be too hard on her. While it was a great opportunity, it wasn’t the right fit for her.

You don’t have to accept every opportunity. Some may not be worth your time and some may be beyond your capabilities. Don’t waste time doing things that aren’t your strong point. Do some soul searching and be honest with yourself about where your passions lie. Learn to say no to the things that you don’t really want to do, so you have time for the things that make your heart sing.

4. Branch Out

Although Betty White is best known for her roles in The Golden Girls and the Mary Tyler Moore Show, she has also appeared on games shows, movies and commercials.

Don’t confine yourself to one area of business. You never know what you will discover if you try new things. Although this can be anxiety provoking, it is worth it to step out of your comfort zone. Honestly ask yourself, “When was the last time I did something for the first time,” and make sure it hasn’t been too long.

5. Take Risks

Betty White had previously been offered a hosting position on SNL 3 times. This time she accepted even though she is “scared to death.” She told Ellen DeGeneres that you have to take it and do the best you can do with it.

Have you been holding yourself back because of an irrational fear? Don’t let fears hold you back from your true potential. As Eleanor Roosevelt so famously stated, “You gain strength, courage and confidence with every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face, you must do that which you think you cannot do.”

Remember, we never regret the things we tried that didn’t work out. We only regret the things we didn’t try, the chances we didn’t take and the things we did not do. At the end of your life, your level of happiness will be measured by the difference between what you were capable of becoming and what you did in fact become. Take a chance and close the gap.

6. Take the Small Parts

Betty was offered a guest role in the pilot of the new show Hot in Cleveland. After being so well received, she was written into the series as a regular cast member.

While you might not ever be offered a guest role on TV you may be offered a temporary position, volunteer role, internship or junior position. Don’t turn something down that is below you. If it’s for an organization you believe in, you should accept the position. Do your job right and it could expand.

7. Network

Betty White’s future appearance on SNL is because of over 500,000 fans that supported her. Betty White wasn’t even aware of the site until media outlets began reporting the group’s viral growth. As Betty White told the LA Times “I’m not fighting it – I’m loving it.”

Do you have supporters who can help you find opportunities? By networking and keeping in touch with influential people you’ll be the first person they think of when they hear of job openings and other opportunities. You don’t need half a million fans but having the right connections can help you land opportunities you may not have even known of.

Many people are uncomfortable networking. Try the positive networking approach: think of what you can do for the people you are meeting and sharing with. Don’t think about what they can do for you. Just connect and the benefits will astound you.

8. Stick to Your Beliefs

Betty White is well known as an animal activist. This sometimes came in conflict with her career and she once turned down a role in a movie where she felt an animal would be mistreated. While she missed out on a role, she stuck to her principles.

Don’t compromise your own values. It is possible to succeed in life and your career while maintaining your integrity. Nothing is more valuable than your good name. Know your values, keep them close to your heart and never stray from what you believe in.

9. Find Something You Love

If you’re doing what you love it will never feel like work- and if you haven’t found your passion yet, it’s not too late. Betty White doesn’t need to continue working but she does it because she enjoys her job.

The happiest and most successful people do what they have a passion for. If you don’t absolutely love, love, love what you do – greatness will always be just out of reach. When you bring your heart and soul to a job, or to your life in general, you can’t lose. If you don’t, you will always lose out to someone who does.

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  • Madeleine Kolb

    This is a terrific list. Betty White is inspirational, but, fortunately, she not the only old person who’s still doing great work and enjoying it immensely.

    I know a man who’s also passionate about his work. He first became invoved in his field when he was a teen-ager. He worked in that field for decades, becoming an internationally recognized expert in his specialties. His retirement last year lasted mere months before he moved 3,000 miles to take another job. He’s enjoying it so much that a colleague recently told him that he was “like a kid in a candy store.”

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